I haven’t commented on the current situation in Cataluña yet.
I suppose that some might think that strange, given my previous comments on other referenda, such as the Scottish one, and my advocating for a yes vote on proclaiming independence.
This is a little bit more complicated.
And not just because I live in Spain, where some of my friends and family would be of the opposite opinion, and I can do without the aggravation
It’s complicated because the Spanish are, to throw a stereotype out there, bloody stubborn and ill-disposed to listen to the opposite point of view with much in the way of tolerance. Just a few minutes watching any chat or panel show will show you that. They can’t stop shouting over one another even when they’re paid to give their considered opinion.
This means the Catalan question has the potential to get worse, in a way nobody wants, but well, shit happens, and has happened.
People get entrenched.
Of course, my reticence on the subject doesn’t mean I haven’t been asked my opinion, usually with the anticipation that I’ll agree with the inquirer’s point of view.
I have tried to be diplomatic in giving that opinion. But give it I have, for I never learnt one of my father’s lessons – only say something if it’s to your advantage. I can’t hold back the truth. There are too many wankers walking around our world, walking on our world, because people have been reluctant to cause offence or call them out on their bullshit.
I went to Cantabria last weekend. Wonderful. But a small blemish on the experience was seeing the Spanish flag draped from many balconies. Some of these balconies were on the houses of Guardia Civiles stationed in the towns, others were on working class blocks of flats.
The thing is, that Cantabria is in the opposite direction from my house to Cataluña. Santander is three hours west, Barcelona five hours east. What the fuck the Cantabrians think they’re doing with the flags that the Catalans will feel any emotion whatsoever is beyond me. Nobody in Barcelona gives a toss if some lad in Santander sticks a flag out his window. At least, they shouldn’t.
But this is how entrenchment starts. First it’s the fucking flags and the waving them and the burning of others’ flags. Next thing you know, you’ve got the Guardia Civil staring across a barricade at a hastily formed citizen’s militia.
I’ve never been one for flags. Nor football jerseys. I can’t see the point of them outside the Olympics, to be honest.
There were several mass demonstrations in various cities across Spain (and I include Cataluña for brevity) over the last couple of weeks. Most of them had flags waving. There were thousands of people in Madrid waving their flags under the biggest Spanish flag ever in the Plaza de Colon, singing Yo soy Español. Amazing. We know you are. You’re in fucking Madrid – the capital of Spain. What the hell has that got to do with Cataluña seeing independence? They aren’t trying to make you a fucking Catalan. How could that demonstration help in the slightest? Or how, pray tell, is bussing thousands to Barcelona from all over Spain to do the same thing going help in the slightest?
It only serves to entrench.
There was one cross-country demonstration where everyone dressed in white and waved white placards. I liked that demonstration. The idea was that the politicians should fucking talk (‘cause you’d be surprised that a group of people employed to talk to each other could hide so efficiently from one another, or from the media for that matter. But Rajoy is a master at staying at home watching football while the country he’s supposed to be helping falls apart at the seams.). Needless to say, it had little impact. Because the politicians get elected by the people in the trenches.
They don’t care if that leads down the road to shitville. They don’t go to war, their kids don’t go to war, they are of the elite to whom this shit just doesn’t stick. And while we’re all in a fluster, they’re quietly getting away with the frauds they’ve been perpetrating this whole time. Both sides are as corrupt as the other.
So here’s my own opinion. which has changed little since last time the Catalans were looking for a referendum…
I would like to see Cataluña remain as part of Spain.
But only on their terms.
If they want to go, the rest of Spain has to let them go. It’s that simple. Anything else is just bullshit. And bloody bullshit if things go awry.
I would like to see true European integration. I bought that idea way back. My kids are trilingual, have two passports and I think we should move to whatever country we like for as long as we like, because we like, and not because some places have better jobs and better wages and their politicians grind other places down to keep things that way.
But the small-minded, short-term thinking of politicians has shown that to be a dream – hitherto fore, anyway.
Until then, though, each community should have as much say about its own destiny as it can get for itself. George Monbiot has been talking about the benefits of the commons in recent weeks. The smaller the group holding the purse strings, the better.
Now, the Catalans have been getting a bad deal compared to other parts of Spain, at least in their view – and let’s face it, it’s their view that counts. So an ever-greater proportion of the population has decided that it’s time to take not just the purse strings into their hands, but the reins and to hell with the rest of Spain.
Once that proportion of the population becomes big enough, then you have to listen to them. You can’t just ignore them as crackpots or begrudgers or whatever else you want to label them.
Sending in the cops against some hippies might work, but sending the cops in against a million people taking to the streets is just not on. As we have seen. I’ve witnessed National Police do similar shit to people in the past, but when they did it to thousands on October first, they got a media backlash that had just the opposite effect to that desired. To quote Peter Gabriel in Biko, “you can’t blow out a fire.”
Had the Spanish government given some certain concessions, perhaps the numbers looking for a referendum. But they didn’t do that. And look where it got them.
If a part of the population looking for independence reaches a critical mass, you have to give them a referendum.
Had the Spanish government done that a while back, well, everybody who knows anything says that the No vote would have easily won.
Look what happened in Scotland, even though we were all sure it would go the other way.
But they didn’t do that.
And look where it got them. Exactly where anyone who knows anything knew it would.
Once you deny a large group something, and especially if you go about it aggressively, without talking, with the heavy hand, the hard boot, well, all of a sudden other people outside that group will ask why the fuck you are denying their fellow citizens, and who the fuck you think you are denying them, and well, hell, they might just ask for the same thing themselves, just to piss you off, you prick.
It’s called History, Mr Rajoy.
So now you have a growing independence movement and a government still saying there’s no way in hell they’re going to get independence. And in fact, some of them are going to jail for sedition.
Easily solved, I think not.
The only option is talking.
There are other options, of course. Like what happened in other countries which became independent. History has lots of those examples.
And at the same time, history means fuck all to the future.
The fact that there was no Catalan kingdom before is irrelevant. The fact that Ireland was never joined as one country before the English invaded was irrelevant. The fact that half of a currently designated area is in favour of separation and the other half isn’t doesn’t mean that they either stay or go – they can split. Look at Ireland – though I know that was a bit of a fudge/fuckup. Belgium can become two countries, if they want, just like Czechoslovakia did. Cataluña might not all become independent. It’ll depend on what the local people say, and how many of them say it.
And everyone else, who doesn’t live in Cataluna can keep their noses out.
Except the goons in government. They need to get fucking talking.
So let’s see more flowers and fewer flags on people’s balconies, please.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I feel like there are so things that need to be called out. Some might say it’s all just fun, but what kind of fun? The fun that makes fun of the weak, the fat, the gay; is that funny?
Spain is famous for being tolerant of the gay community, making gay marriage legal a decade ago. Almodovar made movies in the 80s and 90s that other countries wouldn’t have dreamed of putting out – at least the one I was in then.
But at the same time, there are lingering elements of chauvinistic movies of the 70s, where girls in bikinis were ogled by old men in tweed and cloth caps. And of stuff I for one just don’t want to see.
Two recent examples of, to me, unacceptable behaviour have been brushed aside by most people I’ve talked to, as just a bit of a laugh, not to be thought of as serious.
The biggest box office draw of the history of Spanish film industry – Ocho Apellidos Vascos, or “Eight Basque Surnames,” was on the telly the other week. I’d seen it in the cinema and had forgotten one of the things I hated about it.
In the first scene, a girl who’s a little drunk and verbally abusive is manhandled out of a bar while her girlfriends and the rest of the clientele look on as if that’s perfectly okay. Her friends don’t even follow her outside. Instead, she snogs the guy who dragged her out and ends up sleeping in his house (they fall in love at the end of the movie, so that’s okay…). John Wayne would have been happy in that role back in the fifties.
However, in my worldview, you just don’t fucking do that.
I’m writing and editing the second and third novels in my werewolf trilogy Silver Nights Trilogy, and the characters, though one female character calls them the poster boys for chauvinism, wouldn’t dream of manhandling a girl like that – unless she specifically requested it because she liked it.
And however funny the film might have been after that, it doesn’t make it okay. Not in a country with such a huge problem of violence against women, with hundreds killed every year by their current and ex-partners.
Scene 2… Make up your own mind…
The other example was just yesterday when we saw on the television, scenes of the president of the country on a football commentary show with his son, who seemed around twelve. It’s hard to his age exactly, say as minors aren’t allowed to be shown in that situation (where his parent is famous), so he was pixilated out. In the photo below, which I didn’t see till just posting this, he looks around ten or twelve.
What wasn’t pixilated out, however, was his dad slapping him twice across the head for giving a truthful answer about the quality of some video game, saying he thought it was rubbish. The blows weren’t hard, but instead of giving him a nudge on the shoulder or a light poke with a finger in the ribs, a slap to the head is a completely unacceptable thing to do, much less on national television, much much less by the supposed president (I say supposed, because he does fuck all, really – he says he can’t find time to be present in the pre-election debates, but admits he watches two or three football matches every weekend).
More than a year ago I wrote a blogpost about Jeremy Clarkson and dumping sheep carcasses, and I said we don’t to that shit any more – animal cruelty and racist comments are unacceptable, and give that another order of magnitude when it comes to dragging girls around and slapping kids around the head. If Jeremy Clarkson did it we’d be upset, but not so surprised (well, I am not actually surprised Rajoy slaps his kids; I am surprised, still, that such a guy ever got to be the leader of a country).
We all know that abuse victims go on to abuse others. Many of the aggressors against women were abused themselves as kids. I’m not saying that the son of the president is going to become an abuser, but it sends a signal to the country that it’s perfectly okay to give your kid a slap if you don’t like what he says. And there will be many who will put a bit more force into their slaps, and give a few more than two.
What sort of example is set? (Again, I’m not saying the president is any sort of example – he’s a fucking embarrassment, to be honest).
How do we propose to make a less violent society if we allow such incidents to go unquestioned, and uncriticised?
Perhaps I’m over reacting. Spain is paradoxically a fairly peaceful place – though I have to shout more in my school classes to be heard, and asking politely doesn’t get half the speed of reaction that a stern rebuke does, I don’t see the same number of fights and brawls that I used to see in Ireland. When a German newspaper article praised the Irish football fans for being a bright spot in the European games next summer, as they are so jovial and peaceful, I asked myself where those self same football fans are on a Saturday night on O’Connell Street.
It’s possible the chauvinism and abuse people see on the telly doesn’t translate to the street, but I don’t think we should have to hope that.