I wrote this about a week ago in response to the build up to a march for Catalan independence on the 11th of September, or Catalonia day.
Having lived in Barcelona for almost four years now, I feel like I’ve got a feel for the Catalan culture and independence movement. Perhaps now is an auspicious time to publish this article, as I’ll be leaving Barcelona for Berlin in just a couple of weeks. (Perfect to avoid being mob-lynched).
I’m an idealistic person and ready to jump on any activism bandwagon if it feels right, but the Catalan cause leaves me cold. I saw an image of the Catalan flag assembled out of lit candles, which felt unshakably… *creepy* to me, somehow. The idea that a flag could merit the same symbolic item we use to commemorate dead people or large scale tragedy.
The idea, then, that a flag, an identity, could be seen as being as important as a real life or death. History has shown us that people really do take national identities that seriously – seriously enough to act as if our lives have been taken – seriously enough to feel we’re justified in taking lives.
So, what I wrote before:
I do *not* support the most recent push for Catalan independence.
Catalan independence is for me neutral at best. I think Catalonia has enough political power to protect its culture and language. A new political entity does nothing for Catalan culture.
A political entity is not a people. It is an institution. There’s nothing glamorous about it. Like any other political entity, it will likely work for small, selfish interests and require a lot of pressure to be made to support the people it’s supposed to represent. It’s doubtful it’ll be better than the Spanish government. It could swing either way, better or worse, and we could use the same energy on pressuring the Spanish government to improve without Catalan independence.
At worst, Catalan independence supports the illusion that we are seperate and wastes our energy. Everyone who is using their idealism on creating change in this area is responsible for the loss of all the benefits that could be created by focusing on something else. What if all the energy used on promoting Catalan as a language was used to promote Esperanto or English as an international language? What if all the energy used on creating a new political border were used on breaking down other political borders?
Pushing for a reduction of borders in Europe and the world would actually help Catalonia. Less borders would mean Spain would be less of an influence on Catalan culture. Spain would be just another part of the larger land we are part of. England, France, Germany, Spain and Catalonia would all be on the same level – different cultural and linguistic areas within a larger Union.
Finally, I want to point out that in defending their culture, a lot of more extreme Catalanists become new oppressors on a small scale. By requiring foreigners to learn their language in order to get work despite it not being useful or practical, they are pushing their language on others. By insisting that they are Catalan to the exclusion of Spanish people and others, they alienate people, create cliques and seperation where there could be inclusion and friendships.You can defend your culture without pushing it on people. If you have a problem with Spanish being used as an intercultural language within the Spanish territories, why don’t you promote English or Esperanto as international languages? If everyone knew Esperanto, there wouldn’t be such a need for people to learn Spanish when they came to Catalonia as an intercultural language. People could use Catalan and Esperanto as they chose without the impression being given that they’re trying to force Spanish on you.
Because most people learn Spanish just because it’s useful; they don’t do it because they hate Catalan. By having a neutral language like Esperanto as a facilitator, that illusion could disappear and the Catalan language could be kept for its cultural/human value.
I realise that this is an impractical proposition, at least in the short term, but that’s just it: if you put the sort of energy you put towards reinforcing language seperation into promoting Esperanto, it wouldn’t be an impractical proposition. Huge amounts of energy are being used on this political cause, energy that could make the impossible possible.
So think about it. Forgive the Spanish and stop trying to one-up them by breaking free of their dominion. Instead, help dissolve dominion into a wider, worldwide Unity. That’s how things are moving anyway. No border is forever. But evolution is.