“And don’t say anything. Think of your children,” a woman close to me said.
The woman was not the first and probably will not be the last to tell me not to participate in the debate about what takes place in Spain and Catalonia.
I have lived in Catalonia for almost a decade, my children go to school here, and I love the Catalan and Spanish people here and the mixture and humor they create due to the small differences between them. Yet, I miss critical thinking. I miss that you don’t have to defend yourself constantly, I miss a world where things are not always either black or white, I miss breathing and thinking without all these limitations caused by rigid identity markers.
Let me be very clear: I am against all kinds of police violence, I think that the Spanish president Rajoy is incompetent to the level where I am tempted to call him stupid. But I am not in favor of a Catalan nation, I am not an independentista. And this is where the problem begins. Because if I am not for it, then I must be a fascist, or in favor of state brutality, etc. But I am not.
This very simple exercise is difficult for many to grasp.
The Catalan schools and especially the media have played a very unfortunate role in the creation of a Catalan narrowmindedness. The output of the Catalan state-owned television channel TV3 resembles state propaganda. In order words, what is unfortunately very difficult to find in this region is reflection, self-critique, or even self-irony.
Let me recap once again, I don’t want to be labeled a fascist.
I am for a legitimate referendum. I think that Rajoy should resign and I hope he will. I have always been against monarchy (also in Denmark), so seeing the king speak to the Catalans almost turned me into an independentista: the king was embarrassing for all thinking human beings. And, just to stress once again, I hate violence. Instead I am for compassion, understanding, and love. These are the remedies for thinking, for democracy. I see that there is a lot of unity in Catalonia and Spain, but unfortunately there are also militant and hateful forces – on both sides. Some people in Catalonia were happy that the police showed a violent side, whereas for many it was humanity that was losing; some people in Madrid hope that the Catalan president will remain stubborn so they can put him in prison.
Still, I ask myself, is it my responsibility to participate? I am just a tourist from Denmark, who happens to live here. I think it is. I think it is almost all people’s obligation to participate. I have no hidden agenda. On the contrary, I have listened to the independentistas’ arguments for nine years. The arguments are emotive and touching in their historical references, but they also rely on stereotypes and are often unjust (e.g. the civil war was not “Barcelona versus Madrid” but was in fact Spain being at war with itself; Madrid was the last city to fall for Franco’s regime. Or the claim that Catalonia today is oppressed or even colonized, I believe the living standard in Barcelona is quite high and liberal). At worst, however, the arguments are nationalistic, protectionist, and capitalistic, three things I can’t see anything positive in. And yet, it’s the hate that affects me most. I do not doubt that there are Spanish people who hate Catalans, just as I have witnessed many Catalans who hate everything related to Spain. Luckily, these are two extremes, because every day I also see and meet caring people who see themselves as both Catalan and Spanish. Unfortunately, many of these are silent because of a mental or even moral pressure that implies everything independent is good. I am, like many here, a feminist, an ecologist, and a cosmopolitan, yet I am still not an independentista.
The debate culture, if it exists at all, is claustrophobic. I have spoken with school teachers who are against independence but who say to me “don’t tell anyone, I might lose my job.” I have spoken with people who feel like putting the Spanish flag up on their balcony, but are afraid of being thrown out of their apartments. I have spoken with several people who just tell me to shut up.
I don’t believe that I know the truth; rather, in a very pragmatic way, I think that we gradually become wiser by sharing and debating openly and honestly. The crucial element is that all should be free to speak, and should not be afraid, should not feel “forced” to vote, as some people have told me they felt.
So, yes, there is something rotten in Spain, but there is also something rotten in Catalonia. It’s a utopian island located in an ocean that doesn’t exist, a seductive dream. But as the philosopher Gilles Deleuze once emphasized, the real utopia is “now-here”. Start acting, living, thinking with love, por favor.
I write this love-letter because I love more than a handful of pure-blooded Catalans and a few Spanish people, and I see that there is much more bringing them together than separating them. I am tired of the propaganda, tired that neither the arguments nor the premises or logic behind them are debated, tired of being wrong simply for not being in favor of independence. George Orwell could not write his Homage to Catalonia today, but would find much inspiration for a new edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
So, let me now step down in the hope that Rajoy and Puigdemont will do so as well. No more rigidity, no more violence. There is so much love in Spain. People don’t come here for the sun, but for the alegria, the pure joy of life.
Should the majority of people – not just 40% – wish to develop a new state, then I will follow, gladly, and my gift to the new state would be free courses in critical thinking. Something that has apparently never been taught in Catalan schools before.