Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Tuesday, 1 september 2015


"The Catalan desire" by Suso de Toro

Analyses based exclusively on the economy, sociology, or the struggle between ideologies and parties cannot explain history. This is the case with the current political process in Catalonia. The driving force behind the debate in Catalan society on its future was born of the sudden release, like a spring, of a desire that was repressed. I’m not talking about a part of society; I’m talking about a part inside of people that for many years, even for entire lives, repressed the awareness and the desire to be simply, fully, and exclusively Catalan. It is about desire, and desire exists first, only to be followed by calculation, the contrast with reality. The Catalan political process has deep roots within many people.

Seven years ago the Catalan Parliament was kind enough to invite me to some sessions about media and social responsibility. I don’t recall what I presented in the session on this topic, but I do remember what I said at a lunch afterward with MPs and representatives of the various political parties. And I’m not sure if I feel proud (never offer me more than two glasses of white wine: otherwise, my "demon" gets freed, I go beyond my normal impertinence to play the fool, and the wine doesn’t even afford me the balsam of forgetfulness afterward).

At that time, in 2008, two years had passed since the new Catalan Statute had been approved by the Catalan Parliament and appealed to the Constitutional Court by the PP; it would be two more years before the Court ruled that several parts of the text were unconstitutional. The decision went much further that what was strictly legal and had a very clear political and ideological character. And I seem to recall that what I said to those people that had wined me and dined me was more or less the following: "Catalonia has the economic and human resources to be an independent country. You have the preliminary institutions, the political instruments, the staff required to set up an administration ... And what’s more, not only would it be a viable country, but a prosperous one ... and you know it. But it can’t be. It’s impossible. Spain won’t let you.


The uncomfortable silence that followed my little speech was due, I believe, not only to the fact that they were from different parties, people with different and even opposed views, but also to the fact that it exposed a sense of helplessness that was shared by everyone there. I had told them that, whether they sought independence or not, they were powerless to achieve it.

I can think of no greater impertinence or lack of respect towards those who invited me to their table. I have to wonder about my own attitude. What was I thinking --with the intercession of the white wine-- in forcing other people to look at themselves in an uncomfortable mirror against their will? There was something more in it, besides acute exhibitionism and a desire to play with the emotions of others. I think that there was also a desire to provoke a reaction. By that I mean that those people --whom I didn’t know--  were important to me. Catalans were important to me. Still, that does not excuse my impertinence (in any case, if you don’t want to suffer impertinence, you shouldn’t deal with artists).

But the important thing was that confused silence itself, which was the recognition of a situation of impotence. When the Court ruled two years later, and in the way that it did, the subsequent reaction of the Catalan people was much bigger and more decisive than a political response. It was an emotional response. A desire that was expressed freely. A spring coiled for so long had eventually sprung. And that spring cannot be recoiled again.

The State intervened and will intervene with all means at its disposal to muddy the waters and coerce in the coming weeks of the Catalan election campaign, but this coercion will not succeed in dissuading the many people who have freed their repressed emotions and are now different than they were a few years ago. 

I’m not aware if there has been an analysis of the personality type that Catalans have been constructing during the last one hundred years as guests in a Castile-Madrid dominated Spain. I know about distortions of personality that go along with a stigmatized identity: I’m Galician, and I know about the colonial relationship between master and slave, but can only guess at the equilibrium and ambivalence of the Catalans.

It is the ambivalence of people who feel that they belong to a cultured nation, one fully capable of moving forward and providing housing and work to its inhabitants, but one that must subject itself to the limits of growing only inside a mold. A nation that can only express itself discreetly so as not to bother the institutional powers. People who have to pretend, to lower the profile of their identity to avoid harming their own legitimate interests, to go to Madrid and tiptoe around so as not to be noticed, to believe that they are in many ways superior to those in power, yet always having to assent and be humble .... It is clear that this must also cause distortions of personality and a kind of repressed violence. This game of internal balance, of repression, is an unstable mix that can blow up at some point. We have had a bit of that happen.

In any case, the rage caused by offenses, repressed for so long, is dangerous for those who experience it, especially because Spanish nationalism is expert at managing desperation and negative feelings. This is their field of expertise.

Until now, the powers that the State wields have dealt with Catalans in a game of cunning, guile, and indignity, a perverse relationship from which Catalonia has certainly freed itself. From now on, regardless of the new level of self-rule that Catalonia achieves, the relationship will no longer be one of submission. It will be based on agreements between political subjects that recognize one another. But this is not the most important thing-- the most important thing is that today the Catalan people are freer, happier, fuller. If they were to again hear my impertinences from seven years ago they would not remain silent, but laugh loud and long. Regardless of the uncertainties of the future, they will be freer people. And this is a reason for celebration, right?

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia