Skal der være plads til at alle kan ytre sig – også de dumme? Filosof og forfatter Finn Janning har fulgt voldsomme demonstrationer i sin hjemby Barcelona til fordel for catalanske rapper Pablo Hasél, der har fornærmet ekskongen. Lytter du efter, viser det sig, at Hasél blot fremstår som en tarvelig voldsmand – og så rammer sagen et ømtåleligt punkt.

Læs resten af artiklen her.

Spain: between two extremes

Albert Camus once described a nationalist as someone who loves their country too much.

I recently wrote a small reflection on Catalonia based on my experiences of living in Barcelona for more than ten years. This reflection was not – contrary to what some might think – motivated by a certain political position. I think all political positions are legal, but not all are equally reasonable.

Instead, I wrote it because I am professionally interested in how a group of people finds ways to feel superior to another group of people. It happens everywhere, not just in politics, not just in Spain. This, for me, is the lowest part of what makes us human: the need to discriminate, to find someone else to put down.

It’s a tendency practiced by Catalan separatists – not by all Catalans as such. That is to say – with emphasis – Catalonia does not have a problem with Spain, but some people in Catalonia do.

The Catalan separatists or nationalists, however, are not alone. There exist at least two extreme groups in Spain. On one side, you have the Catalan separatists, who see themselves as victims superior to the rest of Spain. They operate with one logic: regardless of the problem, it’s always Spain’s fault, and independence is always the solution.

Such logic is convenient because it hinders any kind of critical self-reflection.

One the other side, the extremists are Spanish nationalists, who use more or less the same rhetorical strategy: an emotional, almost sentimental tone, self-victimization, and self-righteousness.

In between the two extremes exist many critical, nuanced, reflective voices full of compassion and respect. They exist in Catalonia and the rest of Spain. Unfortunately, many journalists tend to focus on the drama of the extremes – perhaps myself included in my previous opinion.

During my stay in Spain, I have travelled around this beautiful country and spoken with people in different cities, such as Santiago Compostela, Vigo, Girona, Valencia, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, and Madrid, and many small pueblos. I’ve seen the flourishing of ecological and feminist awareness. I’ve seen willingness to explore and reconcile with the country’s past.

Travelling around Spain, I have met people who are proud of the divergence and plurality of customs, languages, and cultures in their country. They are proud of being part of something richer than their own region. It’s something rather special. It recalls what French philosopher Gilles Deleuze aimed at when he spoke about how we can maintain our singularity and still be part of something bigger: not by reducing these differences, not by becoming the same, but by nurturing our differences with respect for others’ differences. There is something generous in this approach.

A possible road away from these two extremes might be to implement teaching of philosophy and critical thinking in public schools. Educate empathic, kind, critical citizens who respect different opinions but always question from where they emerge, while appealing to the good in your opponent’s human qualities. Make sure that future citizens have both the knowledge and the courage to use their minds. Today, many people tend to only listen to opinions that suit their own beliefs.

Another important element is to cultivate a more critical journalism that avoids being seduced by the populistic rhetoric of the Catalan separatist as well as the Spanish nationalist. Instead, journalists can try to unfold the plural voices guided not by resentment but by curiosity and compassion. Critical journalism can help us reflect by asking the right questions, not by giving solutions. Consensus never guarantees truth; instead, what I aim at is a pluralism that unfolds any given situation in various perspectives. Critical journalists can emphasize that being against Spain per se (or any other group of people) is literally being against everyone and everything but yourself. It’s discrimination. It’s narcissism even.

‘The problem is the big, fat ego,’ as the philosopher Iris Murdoch once said. Or, as I would put it: holders of all extreme positions are, by definition, either too lazy to think or too ignorant to do so!

I’ve seen all kinds of people living here, all forms of life. Spain is not a perfect democracy (if such a thing even exists), but between the two extremes, a generous and kind people emerges. They are the reason why I live here.

Finn Janning, PhD, is a writer and philosopher.

First published in Spain in English.

When I Am Gone

In the late spring of 2014, I left my home in Barcelona to walk in Norway for twenty days with my friend Jeppe. We planned to follow the last 300 kilometers of the pilgrim path to Trondheim, St. Olav’s Way, named after the Norwegian king who brought Christianity to Norway in ad 1033. 

I am not a religious person; I do have not faith in any of the marketed Gods but a strong belief in life. And yet, during this journey, I experienced an encounter with a muskox that I can only describe as healing, perhaps even spiritual.

Read the rest of my essay in Amethyst Review.

How will I be remembered?

He sits on the sofa and looks at their wedding pictures. It was three years ago. Not even three years, he thinks. They both looked so happy. Drunk. Elegantly wasted, as they had been so many times before. And later. Everything was later for them, postponed. For nearly thirteen years they had been together. That’s a long time. At such an age, most kids would be baptized.

Was it too long?

Read the rest of my short story in Daedalus Magazine.

Philosophy in dark times

Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Only when it’s dark enough can you see the stars.”

I like this quote; it consists of several interesting elements. Most obvious is the ambiguity of stars: they can both guide us and blind us. I’ll get back to that.

We live in dark times, where terrorism, fascism, racism, sexism, and rigid nationalism seem to flourish everywhere. In addition, I am not even mentioning the environment, that is, how we treat this lovely earth that we are lucky enough to inhabit for a time. We live in a time where egoism has hindered us—that is, all sentient beings—from seeing how we are all interrelated.

Just a few days ago, the city where I live, Barcelona in Spain, suffered an awful terror attack, like so many cities before it. It happened in La Rambla, a commercial and touristic area characterized by its openness.


People come and go; even the locals that tend to avoid it have to pass through or by it, stroll along for a while when they go to the theater, the market, the museums, bookstores, cinemas, etc. It’s an intersection where all paths in Barcelona are fated to pass, once in a while. What happened in Barcelona was, of course, just one of far too many murderous attacks on innocent people, which has happened, and continues to happen, all around the world.

But let me step away from the street and over to an important and relevant book in these dark times. Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism opens with a German quote from Karl Jaspers. In my English translation, it says something like: “Don’t give in to the past or the future. Be entirely present is all that matters.” Or, “What matters is to be entirely present.”

The moral is clear: to pay attention to the present moment, that is, to what happens right now. Totalitarianism emerges because of our ignorance, our lack of awareness of what is taking place right here and now.

This Jasper quote makes me recall the story of Oedipus, who, after realizing that he had killed his father and made love to his mother, tears out his own eyes. He couldn’t take or carry the pain. For me, philosophy is about trying to become capable of carrying, that is, live on with pain. In Barcelona, like so many other places, people screamed, “We are not afraid!” I share this but yet, I am afraid … afraid that we don’t learn to see better, that this act of terror will not sharpen our senses, afraid that we will still neglect to deepen our questions about ourselves, involve ourselves. I’m also afraid that this tragic event might be used strategically by Catalan nationalists …

If Oedipus were a philosopher, he would not have blinded himself but looked the fear and pain right in the eyes.


Let’s return to Dr. King’s quote emphasizing how we ought to look into the dark, perhaps to reflect why we didn’t notice the stars before it became so dark. Apparently, terrorism, racism, fascism, hatred, stupidity, etc. were already there; yet, how come we didn’t see them, just ignored them? Yes, many of the elements on my list have been very overt in many places in recent times, and still, how come so many didn’t notice the hate? Here, of course, the stars don’t refer to anything heroic—quite the contrary: they blind some, they seduce some with their too naïve logic. No one is born hating another person because of the color of her skin, as Barack Obama once said. It is easy to stigmatize. They appeal – those hateful ideologies – because they don’t require the hard work related to thinking, analyzing, etc.

A simple example is how changes in society happen gradually. Some people use diminishing and hateful words to describe other forms of life; some make jokes about minorities. And people let these pass. “It’s nothing,” they say. And yet, gradually what began with us not paying attention to how people use language strangles us.

On a more positive note, when it is dark we can see the stars, referring to those who are already fighting back, resisting stupidity. Those stars guide, inspire, or challenge us to think. It can be through demonstration (recall the women’s march soon after the election of Trump), humor, as well as serious and thorough in-depth journalism that allow readers to sharpen their vision. Those who meet hate with hate are not the stars. Hate is too easy. Instead, the stars are those who are capable of creating alternative ways of living, who are open to more compassionate and loving paths, who establish sustainable futures where we all can live together without being reduced to the same. We must take direct action. Question the dominant worldview in our culture such as neoliberalism, white supremacy, sexism, rigid religious interpretations, etc.

So, in dark times, like in all times, we need philosophy. Luckily, philosophy is for all. No discrimination here (see more here). Furthermore, love and thinking have always walked hand in hand in philosophy; if you’re not capable of loving, you’re not capable of thinking. That is why you find no convincing philosophy among political and religious terrorists, fascists, sexists, or racists. Socrates, one of the first philosophers, interacted with people out of love, and he cared for their reasoning, as if he knew that depression, unhappiness, or feelings of inferiority were symptoms of mental illness.

It is as if people who can’t think are responsible for what we call “evil.”

Grumset catalansk nationalisme

Den 11. september 1714 blev Barcelona besejret af den spanske hær; en hær, der blev ledet af den spanske konge Philip den V.

Siden denne skæbnevanger dag har den 11. september været Cataloniens nationaldag. Skønt Catalonien ikke er en nation. Endnu.

Cataloniens historie er fuld af krige. Regionen har været underlagt Rom, muslimer og Spanien.

I 1137 blev Catalonien en del af det spanske rige. I de følgende mange år var Catalonien en spansk region med særlige rettigheder.

I 1701 udbrød der krig om den kongelige spanske arvefølge. Her valgte Catalonien at heppe på Østrig, hvilket var en strategisk dårlig beslutning. Eventyret sluttede for alvor i 1714, hvor regionen mistede sin særstatus.

Kigger man nærmere på historien, er det dog ikke sådan, at Catalonien ikke selv har udlevet imperialistiske drømme.

Eksempelvis tales der catalansk visse steder i Frankrig, Spanien, Andorra og Italien. Catalonierne truede de steder befolkningen med fængsel eller døden, hvis de ikke talte catalansk.

Faktisk er der steder i Sicilien, hvor forældre siger til deres uartige børn: »Opfør dig ordentligt ellers kommer catalonierne.«

Historien er altid mere grumset end en fodboldkamp.

Den spanske borgerkrig, der hærgede i landet fra 1936 til 1939, var eksempelvis ikke en kamp mellem Madrid og Barcelona. Sådan bliver det nogle gange udlagt – måske især af F.C. Barcelonas fodboldtilhængere, der dermed overser at Madrid var den sidste by der faldt for Francos tropper.

Borgerkrigen var en lidelse for mennesker alle steder i Spanien.

Spoles tiden frem til Catalonien anno 2014, er historien ligeledes kompliceret. Det skyldes til dels at historien altid er til debat qua kilder og metoder, men også at historien ofte anvendes politisk.

Der er eksempler på konferencer, hvor historikere, som er fagligt uenige med hensyn til den catalanske nations undfangelsesdato, ikke er blevet inviteret. Der var altså ikke tale om forskning, men om propaganda, idet resultatet var givet på forhånd.

Fornylig holdt museet og kulturinstitutionen CCCB i Barcelona en debataften, der handlede om den catalanske selvstændighed og identitetsdannelse. Her var alle de inviterede talere enige om, at det var det rigtige at blive en selvstændig nation.

Flere, som jeg talte med, virkede frustreret over den manglende debat i CCCB.

Propaganda og kontrol er der nok af. Eksempelvis har den catalanske præsident Artur Mas, som har regeret siden 2010, bedt det lokale styre – la Generalitat – straffe tre lokale radiostationer med en bøde, fordi de ikke reklamerede for proforma valget den 9. november.

De fleste nærer en vis sympati for en sag, når de hører, at den handler om frihed. Frihed er et positivt begreb – om end et begreb, der kan være svært at definere uden at ødelægge begrebets kraft.

Catalonien vil gerne blive fri fra Spanien. Faktisk er hele den catalanske identitet knyttet op på ikke at være Spanien.

Catalonien er ikke Spanien, står der på bannere, når Barcelona spiller vigtige fodboldkampe. Det er en negativ identitet, som – sådan vurderer de fleste iagttagere – kan mønstre cirka halvdelen af Cataloniens befolkningen. Regionen er tvedelt.

Proforma valget den 9. November gav et klart ja til selvstændighed, men valgprocenten var lav – omkring 32%. Den lave valgdeltagelse skyldes angiveligt, at valget ingen juridisk eller demokratisk kraft havde.

Så frihedskampen fortsætter. Præsidenten Artur Mas har satset hele sit karriere på selvstændighed. Han er stædig.

Uagtet, hvorvidt et flertal ønsker selvstændighed eller ej, går projektet ud på at blive en selvstændig nation.

Den anerkendte spanske og catalanske filosof Victoria Camps har udtalt i avisen El Diario, at »det største problem ikke er flaget, men pengene.« Selvstændighedskampen er motiveret af penge.

Catalonien er Spaniens rigeste region. Et industrielt og turistmæssigt lokomotiv.  Når vi i Danmark – nok mest i sjov – siger om spanierne, at de altid siger: Mañana mañana, så gælder det ikke catalonierne.

I hvert fald ikke ifølge catalonierne selv. De siger nemlig det samme om spanierne. Siesta er ligeledes et spansk fænomen. Tid er som bekendt penge, og penge er vigtige i Catalonien.

Catalonien er den region i Europa, hvor udbredelsen af private uddannelser er størst, fx privatskoler. Andelen af privatskoler er på mere end 40 procent.

Når friheds- og selvstændighedstrangen er motiveret af penge, hænger det blandt andet sammen med at regionen betaler flere penge end andre regioner i Spanien til Madrid, som derefter distribuerer dette beløb til resten af Spanien, fx til de mindre rige regioner.

Det irriterer flere cataloniere – især nu, hvor der har været finansiel tørke. Og det bekymrer dem, fordi de ikke føler nogen solidaritet med resten af Spanien. Tværtimod. Der er flere som føler, at Catalonien er okkuperet af Spanien.

På den catalanske nationaldag i år, mødte jeg en mor fra min søns klasse. Hun var højgravid. Henover sin udspændte mave stod der: »Jeg håber, at vokse op i et frit land.«

Det kan være svært at tage helt seriøst, hvis begrebet frihed skal have nogen mening. Catalonien er ikke just Afghanistan (og Afghanistan er ellers ikke Spanien, hvorfor netop dette land ifølge den catalanske definition burde være frit, som alle andre lande, der ikke er Spanien).

Som de fleste ved blomstrer retorikken lystigt i politik. Desværre overser mange, at sproget farver vores blik og tanker. Jeg spurgte hende, hvad hun helt præcist mente, hvortil at hun svarede: »Det hele er meget kompliceret og følsomt.«

Sådan svarer de fleste. Der er ikke en decideret debatkultur i Spanien. I hvert fald siges tingene typisk så tilpas vagt, at ingen reelt ved, hvad der siges.

Victoria Camps siger det dog klart: »Uafhængighedsprocessen er styret af noget indre mere end dømmekraften.« Det er kompliceret.

Jeg har talt med ældre i Barcelona, som med tårer i øjnene mindes, hvordan de blev kaldt rotter, fordi de talte catalansk. Ligesom jeg har talt med ældre, som på trods af borgerkrigens rædsler også havde et positivt billede af General Franco, fx hans stærke katolicisme og familieværdier, sågar hans forbedringer af sundhedssystem.

Det er grumset. Og derfor vælger mange – desværre – at undlade samtalen eller debatten. Det hele bliver enten-eller.

Victoria Camps udtaler i samme interview, at selvstændighed, nationalisme og eksklusion er en tendens, der florerer i Europa, hvor immigranter blandt andet holdes ude. Nationer er per definition egoistiske, siger hun.

Det betyder blandt andet, at de catalanske politikere (og medier, hvoraf flere er kontrolleret af politikerne, fx TV3) ikke beskæftiger sig med meget andet end dette spørgsmål. Det minimerer muligheden for en dialog internt i Catalonien, men også i Spanien, hvor det hele reduceres til for eller imod.

Selvstændighedsprojektet er altså ikke en fortsættelse af de røde rebelers frihedskamp mod nogle fasister, der sidder i Madrid og styrer det hele.

Historien gentager sig til dels, men med omvendt fortegn.

Den catalanske forfatter Nuria Amat har i et længere indlæg i avisen El Paissagt undskyld til George Orwell.

Orwell beskrev i bogen Homage to Catalonia [Hyldest til Catalonien] situationen i Barcelona under borgerkrigen. Han hylder frihedskampen og arbejderklassens sammenhold.

Tingene har ændret sig. Amats konklusion er, at det catalanske selvstændighedsprojekt har nået nationalistiske, ja, nærmest fascistiske højder. Det er et patriotisk projekt.

De nationalistiske separatister har forsømt at læse Orwell, skriver hun.

Er Catalonien blevet et eksempel på hvad George Orwell i et senere værk kaldte »dobbelttænkning«? Taler man om fasisme og manglende frihed, mens man selv er ekskluderende?

Er der tale om »newspeak«, når Madrid kaldes korrupt, mens den tidligere catalanske præsident gennem 19 år, Jordi Pujol er Senor Corrupción per se? Ikke desto mindre sidder han i en fin lejlighed, og ikke i et fængsel. Hvad er Artus Mas rolle?

Der snakkes i krogene med lav røst, hvilket selvfølgelig hænger sammen med den manglende tillid til systemet.

Mistroen hænger også sammen med det, som den franske filosof Gilles Deleuze betonede, da han sagde at minoriteten ikke er et spørgsmål om antal, men om magt og kontrol.

I Catalonien er det spanske sprog en minoritet. Tilhængere af Spanien er en minoritet, selvom forholdet er cirka 50/50 for og imod.

Sproget, det catalanske, anvendes strategisk. De, der taler spansk i stedet for catalansk – især, hvis de reelt kan tale catalansk – må forklare sig.

Medierne er ikke neutrale. Det catalanske flag blafrer fra balkoner, avisstandere, biler og rundkørsler i hele regionen. Ingen er i tvivl: Dette er ikke Spanien.

En anden forfatter, den berømte og interessante Javier Cercas, taler i tidsskriftet Letres Libres om, hvordan hans generation, det vil sige generation X eller den generation, hvis forældre og bedsteforældre var involveret i borgerkrigen, har opført sig uansvarligt. De har undgået samtalen.

Der er korruption – både blandt spanske og catalanske politikere, påpeger han. Der peges fingre, siger han.

Cataloniens finansielle krise er Spaniens skyld, ikke Cataloniens, siger catalonierne. Denne uansvarlighed har ingen ende, skriver Cercas. I Frankrig er det Bruxelles skyld. I Danmark er det Sveriges skyld. Der mangler en form for selvkritik i den catalanske region.

Det er igen den manglende dialog; den manglende evne til at se sig selv i øjnene uden at de løber i vand af selvtilfredshed.

Antropologen Maria Teresa Giménez Barbat, ligeledes i Letre Libres, beskriver hvordan hun er bekymret for denne hang til nation-dannelse.

Hendes tese er, at der er belæg for at sige, at der i dag er færre krige i verden på grund af en reduktion af nationer.

Eksempelvis har det catalanske styre ihærdigt fremmet en nationalidentitet i skolesystemet ved gradvist er eliminere det spanske sprog. I stedet for at få tosprogede børn, uddanner Catalonien i dag børn i catalansk. Første andetsprog er engelsk. Dernæst spansk.

Relationen til Spanien ødelægges bevidst, fordi den catalanske identitet er negativt defineret. Eller i hvert fald fremstår sådan. Desværre.

Uanset om man er for, imod eller neutral med hensyn til catalansk selvstændighed, kan man kun håbe, at 2015 vil bringe mere debat og dialog. Det vil give projektet en mere positiv positionering, men også fremme forståelsen og minimere de mange misforståelser.

Spanien, som Catalonien stadigvæk er en del, er en såret nation, der trænger til at blive helet. Catalonien, som stadigvæk er spansk, er en region fuld af ressentiment.

Finn Janning er forfatter og filosof bosat i Barcelona.

Artiklen blev oprindeligt bragt i Modkraft den 12. december 2014.


Jeg befinder mig et sted højt oppe blandt hvide skyer. Midt imellem København og Barcelona. Jeg er på vej hjem til Barcelona. Svævende i den tynde luft rammes jeg af en sentimental tanke … læs det fulde essay her.


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