Wednesday, August 1, 2012

States, Nations, and the Land of the Free



Ramon Massana
Antropologist


People and society have, in every attitude and gesture, their past written in stone. The individual and his circumstances, society and its circumstances. We Catalans are as we are because of all those episodes we've lived through history. A history that has led us to be part of a Spanish state that suffocates us and has always wanted to assimilate us. Actually, this is not strange if we understand they have a very nationalistic point of view.


Approximately two centuries ago the world saw the beginning of the nation states, and as every other state, the Spanish national project was born right then. Today, the world knows about a Southern European country named Spain; Catalans live in this state, although we are not seen. Spain hides us and denies us. But, has it been always like this? From the very beginnings of the Spanish national project, most of Spain's history has been dominated by absolutism or totalitarianism, and mixed with constant wars, that is, using constraint and weapons to replace the lack of a vision about a grassroots national project. Violence has become the only way to create a national Spanish state which has, nevertheless, never materialized.


Two centuries ago, in the first attempt by Spain at having a constitution, they would claim that “the Spanish nation is the gathering of the Spanish people from both hemispheres, present in three continents,” which they called Las Españas—‘the Spains’. But precisely during that time the Spanish empire was being dismantled, and most of the colonies became independent. Still in 1873, as defined in a federal republican constitution draft, Spain was defined as made up of seventeen states. A few years later, two of those seventeen states, Cuba and Puerto Rico, and some of the territories (The Philippines) became independent as well.


What I mean by all of this is that the Spanish project has never been shared by the territories or individuals not belonging to the metropolis. It has always been a reincarnation of the empire. Anyway, the Catalans still have to live under a deeply nationalistic Spanish state, heir of a long and harsh fascist dictatorship that lasted forty years, heir of the genocide, exile, censorship, indoctrination, torture, and death.


Spain has never made amends for all the harm caused by totalitarianism, as the Germans did after the Nazi period, or Argentina after its dictatorship. Without a politics of redress, it’s not possible to overcome totalitarianism, which has been spreading its evil shadow for decades. Our parents use to tell us “don’t get involved in politics,” “you can think whatever you want, but keep it to yourself.” Is it possible to have a democracy where people have to keep quiet? Is democracy even possible in a country where a whole generation was educated under a strict, censoring dictatorship? Is it even possible when people are in constant fear of losing their liberties, of a new coup d’état, of a civil war, or a return to a military dictatorship? The answer is No. A dictatorship doesn’t end with the end of the regime, its specters last for a lont time. Even more so when the end of the dictatorship is without consequences. Even more, I must say, when the regime itself is the one that mutates into a democracy.


In Spain, the very policemen, judges, soldiers, and dictators responsible for the torturing and jailing, the censoring, the suppressing, and the all the killing, suddenly became the policemen, judges, soldiers, and leaders of democracy. Unfortunately, these are the foundations of the current Spanish parliamentary monarchy, forced upon us by the dictatorial establishment. General Franco's fascist regime was a new attempt at making a nation out of Spain, and his plan is being implemented to this day.


However, the will of the Catalans is still unbending. Today, the Spanish Constitution defines  us as Spaniards, in the same way people from Cuba, Argentina, Guinea, and the Philippines were defined as Spanish by constitutions from the past. Taking these precedents into consideration, we can’t avoid smiling when we notice that the aforementioned constitution is based on “the indissolubility of the Spanish nation, homeland to all, and indivisible of all the Spanish people.”


In the end, societies decide their political organization. During all these years, the Spanish nationalistic political project has revealed itself, and excludes many us Catalans. It’s an excluding, supremacist project, marred by colonialism and fascism. The founder of the Partido Popular, and Franco's former Secretary, Manuel Fraga, said in 1968: “Catalonia was occupied by Phillip V, who defeated it; it was bombed by General Espartero, who was a revolutionary; we occupied it in 1939, and we are willing to occupy it as many times as necessary.” Yes, he was an ultra-conservative, and he uttered these words during the dictatorship years, but he never retracted from his words. Let’s remember what the late Gregorio Peces-Barba, member of the Spanish Socialist Party and father of the 1978 Constitution said just a few months ago in Congress: “I always wonder, jokingly, what could have happen if we had kept the Portuguese instead of the Catalans. Maybe everything would have been better.” Yes, you can clearly see the colonial way they have of treating us. And yet he still added, wondering about Catalan separatism: “I am not pessimistic. Nowadays we are in a better position than years ago. I can't remember how many times we've had to bomb Barcelona (…) I think this time it will be settled without needing to bomb Barcelona.”


This is the “progressive” face of the Spanish nationalism! Catalans are the children of a time and a country, born on a piece of land, and part of the history of their people. Just the same as the rest of the world. We are at the mercy of the Spanish nationalists, enduring our daily struggle for our civil and collective rights. A struggle for dignity and equality, a fight for human rights. That’s why we are headed for political independence which might allow us to live peacefully and honorably, in equality and fullness. And we do it just because. We have a sense of being a nation, and that’s a thing that Spain has never achieved, not even with laws, bombs, dictatorships, and torture. Is a fight for freedom, for our right of self-determination, the sole foundation upon which free countries are built, in accordance to universal human rights. A Catalonia for all the Catalans, no matter where we are from, without discrimination, hate, or disdain. A Catalonia that is taking charge for its freedom and self-determination, and that is turning these principles into the foundation of a free and honorable country, a shared dream. As Lluís Llach sings:
“We come from the north, we come from the south, from inland, from overseas… and we are not driven by any flag other than Freedom's.”
Who could be against this?

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