‘It is happening again,’ says the giant to FBI Special agent Dale Cooper in David Lynch’s mystery series Twin Peaks. This sentence came to me today, as the trial against 12 Catalan separatist leaders began in Madrid. The sentence made me reflect:

Witnessing the Catalan separatists’ campaign for independence, I couldn’t help but recall the warning signals revealed by my old German teacher when he showed us the symbols and manipulation used by German supremacists.

What concerned me was not just the flags; rather, it was their degradation of the rest of Spain while simultaneously elevating themselves. Similarly, when the separatists claimed to be victims, suppressed as an endangered species, I saw no real victims, only a very calculated form of control (I don’t refer to the unnecessary police brutality October 2017, but to life in general in Catalonia, see also Compassion in Catalonia).

I think that the mixture of creating a culture of victimisation combined with establishing a society of control, where our minds are controlled through unconscious social conditioning, is what makes the Catalan separatists powerful, but also scary if one casts an eye over history.

It’s common to view what is happening in Catalonia through the lens of history, especially the Spanish Civil War, which took place from 1936 to 1939. And it goes without saying that General Francisco Franco ranks among the worst dictators in human history.

Still, some simple facts should be pointed out: today, Spain is not a totalitarian regime; Spain is no more Francoland than Germany today is Hitlerland. Contentions to the contrary are as incongruous as they are wrong.

To clarify another fact: the Catalan language and culture are not under threat today. On the contrary, instead of giving children the opportunity of a bilingual education, most schools in Catalonia teach only in Catalan. Spanish is being taught as a foreign language. Through this, a basic right is being taken away from Spanish citizens.

For the separatists, language is not a means of communication, but an identity marker; it’s a password that separates ‘true’ Catalans from those Catalans who feel Spanish. Hereby, the separatists have – quite paradoxically, in the style of Franco – created a control system that differentiates and categorizes people.

What is needed is not more communication for or against; rather, it’s noncommunication; a reflective pause that eludes the current communicative control in which people blindly say and do what they say and do because this is what other people say and do.

Unfortunately, such a break seems unrealistic. The PR campaign of the Catalan separatists can’t stop without everything collapsing. To make things even worse, the turbulence of the last few years has awakened other nationalists in Spain, such as the political party Vox.

Perhaps, here we are at the core of the problem: All identity markers, whether national or cultural, are prisons. Nothing more than fictions. The problem with the novel written by the Catalan separatists is not that it is full of lies and exaggerations; rather, that it’s provincially tiring because all the characters are stereotypical and far too predictable. It’s a fantasy that has lost its grip on reality.

The challenge in Catalonia – and elsewhere in the world – is to regain trust in humanity. So far, the separatists have mostly promoted distrust in everything and everyone but themselves and their world view. Yet, without basic trust between humans, life cannot function.

Democracy is the ongoing organisation of disagreement. For example, I disagree strongly when artists and comedians in Spain are hindered in their right to express themselves freely – including when they criticise nations, politicians, and religions. But I also believe that people who deliberately violate the laws of the constitution should be held juridically responsible. To violate the law is to disrespect the principle of the equality of all citizens. Since all human beings are, by definition, different, the only thing that makes us the same, socially, is the law.

A democracy stresses that we are in it together. All of us. Equally. Here and now. It doesn’t matter if you’re Catalan, Danish, a man, a woman, white, black, speak this language or that. Writing this seems embarrassingly banal, yet I see many around me who appear to have forgotten this fundamental concept. For this reason, ‘it is happening again’: the victimization, the exaggerations, the lies …

This opinion was first published in Spain in English, 17th February 2019