Last Saturday I was shopping in Barcelona when I heard a thumping bass. I looked across University Square and saw a podium with a DJ on it. There, right in the city center, was a transwoman playing a set for STP day (Stop Trans Pathologization). A streetbar had been set up by the council and hundreds of transpeople danced as policemen looked on and chatted.
Barcelona is one of the best places in the world for transgender and gay people. It’s not just that the law protects you and the government promotes your cause, it’s that the local people really don’t give a fuck: they won’t bat an eyelid at anyone. This is because Barcelona is one of the most liberal and peaceful cities in the world. That’s why it breaks my heart that its peaceful image is being sullied.
Here are 5 points you need to consider.
1. Catalonian independence: it’s complicated!
This video demonstrates exactly why journalists like Owen Jones are incapable of understanding Catalonian independence.
To your average liberal it all sounds completely logical…
BUT IT’S NOT!
The problem is that Owen Jones (and the rest of the world) think that Catalonia is like Scotland…
Scotland was a sovereign nation that entered into an Act of Union with England and Wales in 1707 to form the United Kingdom. Therefore, as a sovereign nation it has every right to call a referendum to leave the union.
Catalonia has never been a sovereign nation…it is one of 17 regions of Spain, and has as much right to call a referendum as London has on leaving England or Texas on leaving the United States.
If we follow Owen’s logic then every single one of the 17 regions of Spain has the right to ‘national self determination’ whenever they feel like it. A recipe for anarchy. Also, I would love to know why Owen Jones thinks he’s the one who decides who gets a vote of self determination and what his criteria is.
- Do the Sioux nation have a right to declare independence from the United States?
- Do Catholics in Northern Ireland have the right to a referendum on belonging to Northern Ireland?
- Do the aborigines have a right to secede from Australia?
- Do French speaking Loisianans have a right to start their own country?
These questions are devilishly dificult and Jone’s simpleton summary is the sort of dumbing down that we saw with ‘Take back control’ (Brexit) and ‘let’s make America great again.’
Instead of Scotland, think of Texas as a better analogy for Catalonia. When Texans tried to unilaterally declare independence from the United States, the supreme court ruled (Texas versus White) that individual states did not have the right to secede from the union. Once it became unconstitutional then politicians actively pursuing secession using tax payers money (what the Catalan politicians did) would have been comnmiting a crime and would have gone to jail.
Of course, some people will now be jumping up and down in their seat crying…”Yes, but the Catalans are a distinct people/culture/race whereas the Texans aren’t.” Seems like a good point…
BUT IT ISN’T!
2. The truth about Catalan ‘culture’
Kurds are a distinct people/culture from Iraqis. (Ethnically amongst other things).
The Irish are a distinct poeple/culture from English (Celts – Anglo Saxon, Catholic -protestant, Gaelic – English.)
Native Americans are a distinct people/culture from Americans.
Catalans share the same religion, ethnicity, customs, language, passport, sports teams and diet as Spanish people. The only point of difference is that they are bi-lingual and speak a language that is – unlike Gaelic and English, Kurdish and Arabic – a close relative of the central government’s language.
Yes, you can find some distinct Catalan customs and dishes – just as you can get parma ham from parma and Cockneys tend to be a cheerful bunch compared to northerners (stupid analogy, but just as stupid as claiming Madrileños are different from people in Barcelona).
3. Being ‘Catalonian’ can mean anything from being Pakistani to Andalucian
Furthermore, Catalonia is extremely diverse and has 1.5 million immigrants, internal migrants from other parts of Spain, and millions of Catalans who see themselves as Spanish.
The people who want Catalan independence are approximaterly half the population…so the idea of some homologous mass of people called ‘the Catalans’ – 90% of whom are clamouring for independence – is a complete fiction. There was only 43% participation in the illegal referendum because half the population rejects independence.
And while it’s true that Madrid’s actions will increase support for independence, a lot of Catalans are now hesitating after 2000 companies changed their headquarters to other regions of Spain (because they do not want to operate under a Catalan Government.) Furthermore, they are now seeing the polarisation that Brexit and Trump wrought on us. Last but not least, there’s the humiliation of nobody recognising their declaration except Putin, Maduro and Farage.
So…please stop equating Catalan independence with Scotland…it’s a different context in which the main motivation is not culture or ethnicity or oppresion…but economics: they don’t want their taxes going to the poorer areas of Spain. Barcelona is one of the most liberal cities in Europe and the only people who are fucking with democracy are the renegade politicians who – with a tiny majority in parliament – avoided due process to force through a referendum and a declaration of independence that were unconstitutional and did not have majority support.
4. There is no ongoing violent conflict
Also, references to ‘living in hell’ are absurd. People in Britain and the States seem to think there’s some ongoing violent struggle going on. There were sporadic outbursts of violence on ONE DAY! (The referendum).
Police were supposed to enter schools to confiscate ballot boxes and people staged sit-ins to not let them pass or refused to leave public buildings they were told to leave. Obviously there were clashes…but you will not find a single case of broken bones or serious injury. However, NOBODY DENIES THAT THIS ONE DAY OF VIOLENCE WAS WRONG AND INAPROPRIATE! But it did not happen again… it was one day…meanwhile, life continues as normal: it’s not just transgender people who are partying in Barcelona…everybod’s partying…this is the city that never sleeps (except a siesta).
So, please understand Catalonia is not a sovereign nation but one of 17 regions of Spain. In 1978 those regions commited themselves to the indisoluble unity of the Spanish constitution and the Spanish nation – and this commitment was confirmed by a national (i.e. all of Spain) referendum which received overwhelming support in Catalonia.
So, Owen Jones, just because you went on a weekend break to Barcelona doesn’t make you an expert on Spain. The only thing that should send a chill across Europe is intelligent liberals pandering to a cause that has Europhobes like Farage salivating with glee.
Spain – like all countries – has the right to protect its sovereignty, territorial integrity and the interests of the 46 million people who live within its borders. Anybody that executes sophisticated conspiracies to fuck with that territorial integrity is liable to be charged with rebellion and the misuse of public funds if they used public money to do it. For two years the seperatists formed an elaborate plot to set up a parallel state and set up secret commitees of researchers and tecnocrats (paid for with taxpayers money) to execute their plan.
Personally, I hope that the Madrid government stops acting in such a rigid manner and that the two sides enter into dialogue. Who knows…maybe they should even get independence. But please…make no mistake…what Puigdemont and his collegues did was not the way to go about it. What they did was underhand and undemocratic and has caused division the likes of which have not been seen for decades. Yes, I hope they will soon get an amnesty…but for the moment the state must check them and assert its authority.
There is no oppression in Catalonia…not for transgender people or anybody else…and this was confirmed by amnesty international two days ago when they declared that the Catalan politicians were neither political prisoners nor prisoners of conscience. So, don’t cancel your trip to Barcelona…sell your house and come live here. Then you get the best benefit of all…
…you can be friends with me!