Almost exactly a year ago I suggested the Scots take their chance at independence like a wide receiver clutches an American football to his chest and legs it.
I stand by that.
At the moment, the Catalans – the people of the region of Cataluña or Catalonia in the North east of what we call Spain – are pondering a similar question.
It’s not quite the same because there will be no referendum.
The right wing government in Madrid are insisting such a referendum would be illegal, clinging to a constitution made when everyone was not quite sure some follower of Franco wouldn’t take over and return the country to Fascism for another forty years, so it was best not to ask for too much. They tried, actually, not many years later, on February 23rd 1981 (I know that because my daughter was born on the 23rd of February and everybody makes a comment; not far from the mind of people even now).
So the pro-independence parties of Catalonia have decided that if they get a broad support from the populace in their regional elections this month, they’ll go ahead and announce independence anyway, to come in after eighteen months of negotiations and preparations.
The answer is the same. Yes.
I fully expect them to get the support they want. If there had been a referendum, I reckon the Catalans would have voted to stay inside a federal Spain, albeit with more autonomy. But they weren’t given that option, and when some powerful fucker from somewhere else says you can’t have something, then it’s not too uncommon for the common folk to say, fuck you, I’m going to take it.
The question you might perhaps be asking is if I just last week said it was time to get past this silly notion of nationality, how can I suddenly support the separation of a part of a state from the rest based on that same idea?
I implied patriotism for a place that is just as good as any other place, with people who are just as good, and bad as (equal to, in fact) you and me is a load of wank, there to empower only a few dodgy politicians.
And I stand by that.
And the Catalan question involves a fair few politician of the distinctly dodgy persuasion, who have thus far got fairly rich (actually very fucking rich) off their positions, and a decent handful of whom are being investigated for fraud and corruption and all that good stuff, while they all touted how bad they and their fellow Catalans were being treated by the big bad government in Madrid.
Because the shittiness of their politicians does not negate the Catalan’s right to self-determination. They deserve to decide if they will be a separate country, and they deserve to determine how that country will be run; if it will involve the same kind of structures used up to now or if they’ll try out a whole different thing – or even return to the way things were done during the heady days of 1936 when George Orwell was marvelling at the anarchists of Barcelona, before the war was taken out of their hands by the Nazis and Stalinists.
The patriotism of the Catalans is not better or worse on its face than that of Americans or Afghans. But in the greater scheme of things it will be more positive if we end up with a situation where people are able to run their own small patch of land. I don’t want to say that they’re governed by people closer to them, because I don’t think they should be governed necessarily – I prefer to see politicians as citizen representatives than leaders; which they jolly well should be, to put it nicely.
If the world, or in this case, Europe, was broken up into smaller and smaller pieces then people would have more control over their politicians, would be able to keep closer tabs on them, and make them do what they are supposed to (forward the good of their fellow citizens and the area as a whole) rather than get rich helping out big corporations. Iceland got itself out of debt because the politicians could not hide from the population, and had to do what the citizens said – which in this case was don’t pay those fucking leech banks. Ireland didn’t do the same because our politicians are separated, just a little bit too much, from their constituents, and because they know we’ll vote them back in in four or eight years because we’ve short memories and we’re a little stupid at times, and since we had our independence and a civil war we’re reluctant to go on the rampage again (by we I mean those still keeping their heads above water by keeping their heads down, to mix a metaphor).
Even though Ireland is run by a bunch of arseholes, they haven’t fleeced us as much as the corrupt pigs in Spain have, simply because they couldn’t get away with such opulence if they took all they could. We’d notice if they suddenly had their own helicopters and yachts and private islands. The Spanish have been used to rich nobility for ages, what with that old woman who’d more titles than the queen of England. There is a social circle to which the politicians can aspire, which is kind of lacking in Ireland. Saying that, we did have Charlie Haughey in Ireland, who had his own private island and boat and all that gear, and it took us a long time to ask the question, “how the fuck is he able to afford race horses and the like, and just why is our prime minister called Champagne fucking Charlie anyway?”
But that’s the Irish for ye.
Back to the point.
If Europe is a band of tiny nations, it’s less likely that one arsehole can just do that the hell he wants. Putin rules one huge country, and as such, has power. If we could knock Russia back into a plethora of small principalities (not calling them that, though, since we’d rather not have any princes running them) then he’d only be in charge of one.
It’s hard to do with Russia, but the nationalistic movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that unified Germany and Italy, and Spain and France, too, can be turned back now. It was all well and good (actually, it was shit, cos it caused two fucking world wars) for a while, but we’ve gone beyond that now – we have a unification of Germany WITH Italy and Spain and France into mother Europe, and so it’s fine to go back to having Bavaria and Prussia and Lombardy and Galicia, etc. If Mrs Merkel was the leader of just one Germanic region (not sure where she’s from), then she’d not be able to frog march us all into eternal debt. She’d have to find consensus. And that would be harder to find (a consensus that we all pay back huge banks money they don’t deserve and we didn’t lose) when every other leader had to answer to a population he or she was forced to live closely among.
The smaller the country, the more accountable are the representatives.
And the more necessary for such small nations to band together to pursue common goals.
And those common goals are less likely to be sucking the bell ends of banks and corporations.
So go for it, Cataluña. What have you got to lose? EU membership? Nah. They need you more than they need the Greeks, or the Irish for that matter. Just come back in under better terms.
Europe is in crisis. Again. For a better reason this time than most times. At least this is something serious, with people who really need help (sorry, the Greeks did/do need help, but it seems these guys are more photogenic). But seems like there’s less political will to spend money on helping people fleeing war zones than bankers fleeing bad loans.
After a couple of weeks of wringing hands (and lots of xenophobia, as you do) a few governments are willing to actually accept the idea of accepting “their fair share” of refugees from Syria.
It’s hard to figure out exactly what we should do, though we know what we should not do. We should not leave people in the position they are currently in.
One thing is clear, however; it is time to re-evaluate Europe.
We can see that the idea of Europe, a European Union, as touted to us all those years ago is bullshit. As someone who lives as a European – i.e. out of his own country in a new one with a different language (an “ex-pat,” don’t you know) and a child (and one on the way) who’s got two nationalities, I really think it’s time to do away with the whole idea of nationality, or at least try to. Doing away with religion would also be a big fucking step, of course, but that’s going to take a bit longer.
I am “proud” to be Irish. I mean, I know where I am from. If I could transport myself via google maps to the hills of Wicklow I’d smile and take a nap, knowing I’m home.
But I don’t feel the need for an Irish football jersey or anything of the sort. Never have.
And I certainly don’t feel the need to protect Ireland from infiltration by others (it would be a bit hypocritical if I did, I know). Any man or woman, of any colour or creed can stand on Djouce or Lugnaquilla and say, with the same feelings as I (of the clan O’Brien, don’t you know), “I fucking love this landscape (despite it’s ecological failings and my avocation of complete transformation via rewilding…).”
The above image, posted on the Irish Worker’s Solidarity Movement facebook page, is completely right.
I pondered the future of these nations, our worries that our cultures might disappear under the weight of numbers somewhat facetiously, in my short story, The Bottleneck (soon to be published in my first collection).
The current spate of stupid posters and photos on the internet saying we should look after our own before we look after refugees (well, they don’t call them refugees, but other names like “illegals,”) are an embarrassment to any person of any nationality. Let’s be clear – the fact that our own homeless are not being taken care of is down to the pack of wankers called politicians supposedly running the country (any country, not just Eire. I admit I don’t know the leaders of all nations, but the four I know fairly well – Ireland, Great Britain, America and Spain are all the same; filled with the kind of creeps you wouldn’t let into a career guidance seminar at your kids school. Of the English-speaking countries, Australia seems to be in a league of its own when it comes to being run by dickheads, as far as I can see, but Hungary is around about there) who don’t give a fuck about our (their?) own. They don’t give a fuck about us, you and me, never mind the homeless, and certainly not the refugees. They are the only ones who really stand to gain from this clinging to “our own” and our nationalities.
If the nations of the earth were merged, who would need all these assholes? We’d get by with a hugely reduced set of assholes, like when two companies merge.
Why is this merging of nations, or blurring of nations, or complete rubbing out of nations necessary?
Because this crisis our leaders are wringing their hands about is only one country, one war we are kindasorta responsible for (yes, all of us westerners), and there are so many more.
Let’s skip over the fact for the moment that people have been drowning in the Mediterranean for years (talked a little about that a few months back) and Europe has done fuck all but hand-wring and the citizens weren’t quite as mobilised till a fairly pale-skinned child was washed up (no disrespect to the child or his family, and I know that sometimes we (humans) need an image we can actually get our heads around rather than statistics to really understand how fucked up shit is). The Syrians and Afghans have been able to trek on foot to the “Doors of Europe.” Those who tried our shores instead of doors are still ignored, at least here in Spain, where they were shot at to keep them in the sea just a couple of years ago.
Africans have been making a trek from equally war-torn and dangerous places for years. And most of those wars have to do with drought and famine caused by climate change.
What will our glorious leaders do when faced with actual “hordes” (yes, I used that word, because we need to visualise the reality, not a few thousand people in Calais, but hundreds of thousands and millions of people on the move, with no home to go back to even if these constant wars stop) made homeless by global warming (also caused kindasorta buy us westerners) make their way to our little fake continent?
They will find out that their charade can’t continue. There can be no us and them on a planet sinking into meltdown. The only us and them that actually exists – no the ones propagated in this look after our own before we look after them nonsense – is the us who are poor and the them who control the resources of this planet until we take it back from them.
When the real exodus arrives, we (Europeans) will either spend more money than we spent on the banks trying to close a border that will not be closed, to a mass of humanity that will not be stopped, or we will welcome these fellow humans in to our lands (the part not also swamped by rising sea levels) where they can seek a better life.
Perhaps in the process, our lives will become less rosy and super-eiderdown-duvet comfortable, but there can be no equality without us stepping down off our velvet seats, since the planet can’t sustain our level of bullshit in any case.