“Patria and Patrimonio” is the third essay in a sequence that explores the current Catalan independence process. This essay characterises state.
In September 1923, Miguel Primo de Rivera, the Captain General of Barcelona, lead a successful military coup d’etat for control of the Spanish government. Spanish society had never recovered from the humiliation of the “Disaster of 1898“, not least the Catalans, whose textile industry had previously benefited from favourable trade with what had remained of the Spanish Empire – a policy that had done nothing to assuage the Cuban separatism at the heart of the Disaster. Primo de Rivera’s paternal dictatorship manifest a pragmatic economic nationalism, in which government gave to the “working” population only in so far as it did not take from the “landed” interests of the elite. An improvement on Cánovas’ policy of absolutist suppression, that had contributed to 1898, but ultimately insufficient to avert the rise of the Second Republic, subsequent civil war, and altogether harsher dictatorship of Franco.
The railways of Spain mimic her geopolitics. That’s as true today as it was when the centralist government of Isabel II first offered state support in 1855, explicitly for new railways emanating from Madrid. An imbalance between the centre and periphery redressed in the 1870s and 1880s by the gradual formation of a near-perfect duopoly of the two dominant railway companies: Centrally-focused MZA and more peripheral Norte. The exception of Andalucía from this duopoly is notable for suggesting the geopolitics of Spain are not quite as simple as centre vs periphery: Not just that the regionally dominant “Compañía de Ferrocarriles Andaluces” remained outwith the duopoly, but that its ownership so closely mirrored wider political history – from primarily French investors in the 19th century, to Catalans in the 1920s, before collapsing into the state in the 1930s. While Spain’s railways were built as commercial concessions (the profit from their operation expected to fund most of the cost of their initial construction), the materials shortages caused by World War One had pushed operating costs beyond revenue. The creeping nationalisation of Spanish railways, which had started at the turn of the century as state protections for the railway industry, was looking increasingly inevitable by the 1920s. Sufficiently inevitable that the Spanish state could engage in railway building without incurring the wrath of the elite, just not yet in the more commercial territorial cores of the centre and periphery. Enter the era of the Explotación de Ferrocarriles por el Estado (exploitation of railways by the state), and the Málagan engineer Rafael Benjumea y Burín, the Count of Guadalhorce.
Ostensibly aimed at integrating Spain’s railways, the Guadalhorce Plan of 1926 primarily fulfilled Primo de Rivera’s policy of building “economic” infrastructure, albeit only in so far as it did not impinge on the interests of the elite – a caveat that essentially excluded economically beneficial railway investment. The fatal flaw in Primo de Rivera’s economic nationalism was his inability to apply it to the most commercial areas of the Spanish economy, commerce indicative of economic (especially industrial) benefit, because such areas remained wedded to the untouchable landed elite. Primo de Rivera’s policy none-the-less established a precedent for the state to provide infrastructure for the people, even if that infrastructure serve almost none of its implicit economic function. Most evident in railway policy, but presumably true of wider communications including power, this precedent combined with the 19th century expression of (especially central) authority through railways, an absolutism vested in God: As explained in 1714 and All That, the idea of Spain maintains the external as a god in nature, so to this way of thinking, railways serve as the physical manifestation of the external. The contemporary AVE high-speed Spanish railway network is built thus: The external, a (Bourbon legacy) mirage of France’s TGV, physically manifest for the people of Spain with scant regard for economic performance. The radial AVE network was delivered geopolitically over three decades due to the immense cost of railway construction to an internal economy which is not as strong as its external ilusión portrays. For now, radial only, the traditional peripheral counter-balance temporarily lost in a quagmire of regional autonomies that struggle to stand together against the centre, evident from the Mediterranean Corridor. Prediction, of operating costs and revenues, little more than a charade for soon-to-be bankrupt international investors, the bane of operations in a culture that can only comprehend mega-project solutions to its operational problems, but not a philosophical tenant of the idea of Spain, and thus to misunderstand ilusión – a hope to be lived.
The Guadalhorce Plan’s most infamous project was a transversal railway from south to north – Baeza in Andalucía to Saint-Girons in France – avoiding all the major cities of Spain – Seville, València, Madrid, Barcelona. Economically and operationally, such transversal railways are difficult projects to justify, even in densely populated, highly industrialised countries – a rational nonsense for relatively agrarian Spain. Yet perfectly suited to the geopolitics of the moment. In the nature of ambitious construction proposals, the Baeza-Saint Girons project outlived its moment: The project persisted (with a break in the 1930s, when Guadalhorce was in exile) until Franco’s post-isolationist stabilisation plan of 1959, which briefly injected American economic “sense” into Spanish railway development, directing investment into the productive core of the railway network. The only section to have opened, Lleida to Pobla de Segur, a glorious white elephant – that with the greatest of respect to Pobla de Segur (population three thousand), goes nowhere that warrants the cost and capacity of a railway. Spanish enthusiasm for underutilised geopolitical transport infrastructure evidently predates the “ghost airports” of the early 2000s.
Left to the tyranny of post-Francoist Spain, RENFE (Spain’s nationalised railway company) would have closed the Lleida-Pobla de Segur railway as part of their 1984 route rationalisation, a Beeching-esk response to financial deficits. Apparently under pressure from local people to save the line from closure, the autonomous community stepped in. By operating subsidy since 1984, ownership since 2005, and complete control since 2015 – the latest notable for de-implementing European policy, a shift in policy focus from national to regional, an unintended acknowledgement that the line’s original cross-border ambition was over. In addition to paying an operating subsidy of almost 2 million Euros a year, between 2006 and 2016 the Generalitat de Catalunya (the government of Catalunya, via its railway subsidiary FGC) invested 45 million Euros in the route, including a pair of new trains – which subsequently improved frequencies and patronage, albeit from a pitifully low base: Average daily passenger journeys (factoring in occasional tourist trains) had fallen as low as 200, strongly skewed to the short southern section between Lleida and Balaguer.
The epitome of politicised infrastructure, the very manifestation of the geopolitics of Spain, the Pobla de Segur railway was surely destined to illustrate the Generalitat de Catalunya’s publicity for the Act of Referèndum. The sidings at Sant Llorenç de Montgai station repurposed under the banner, “you were born with the capacity to decide – will you give that up?” With little visual pretence of neutrality, indicative of the politicisation of Catalunya’s principle civil institution, the citizen of the upcoming state of Catalunya is presented with a choice between the straight track ahead and the siding to the right. Humorous deceptions all: The straight track continues to Pobla de Segur, as close to nowhere as Catalunya’s railway network goes. The sidings have been airbrushed to show just one, avoiding any suggestion of the plural reality beyond. And not one of the two trains is in sight, the impending “choque de trenes” (socio-political train crash) left in the eye of the beholder. With specific historical context, the poster represents the perpetual geopolitical struggle that is Spain. Without, the enticing vision of a future on an empty set of railway tracks, reveals much about the relationship of people and state.
Riot on an Empty Street
Two wrongs don’t make a right. And regardless of the merits of your argument, part-way through your bank heist is not the appropriate moment to argue the moral case against capitalist modernity. Spain as its Constitution, and to a good degree population, considered the Act of Referèndum a bank heist, and reacted accordingly. Which is not always the same as appropriately. Constitutional power observed a crime in progress and attempted to stop it – the modus operandi of the two Spanish police forces, the Guardia Civil and CNP, is simple, but also simplistic. Pragmatic community policing, as in the same moment demonstrated by Catalunya’s regional police force (Mossos d’Esquadra), is more balanced, not so strictly fixed: The balance of law, what is acceptable behaviour and not, in practice shifts to reflect the group that is being policed. To Constitutional Spain, the Mossos d’Esquadra can seem complicit in the orderly “criminality” inside the besieged bank.
The extent to which a larger group’s corpus of law is actually enforced upon a smaller reflects the characteristics of their host society. For example, the application of civil law in the United States is skewed by its capitalist plutocracy (legal cases cost the individual money to pursue), while the more social inclination of European states leads them to protect their citizens (most obvious in consumer protection). The extent to which that corpus of law represents a fixed moral code also varies greatly. Those imbued with bounded tolerance – notably of a Protestant, not least Calvinist, heritage – can be genuinely confused to discover large gaps between corpus and enforcement. Spain, in the widest sense, bridges a veritable chasm between the apparent power of its centre and the virtually self-policing nature of its people. Broadly that between society in hierarchy and society in family. As often noted in this sequence of essays, Spain’s answer to this, which is essentially Spinoza‘s ethical paradox, deus sive natura, is both: Management by perception. Such sense of state is not a uniquely Spanish solution. But where Anglo-Dutch Enlightenment Empiricism sought God by a system of knowledge built on physical objects, the idea of Spain (in which God is the external) sought God by the manifestation of the external in the physical. Both systems are necessarily flawed means of managing human society – Empiricism by Leibnizian perfection, Spain by a more Quintradian set paradox – the necessity of that flaw (broadly the human need is to feel, not actually achieve), and the meaning of the “idea of Spain” and Quintradian, were introduced in 1714 and All That. An essay which highlighted the conflation these two social systems in contemporary Catalunya.
The physical is most easily sensed at the smallest scale of society: Family, workplace, and to a lessening degree, place of residence and local community. In Anglo-American terminology, the people who one physically encounters with sufficient regularity to assign a consistency called “knowing”. Yet such definition betrays its objective philosophy. Even at this small scale, Catalunya’s society demonstrates Baudrillard’s “Simulacres et Simulation”, an importance placed on how one “is seen” by others, that contributes to and ultimately supplants reality. Catalunya’s system of signs and symbols is far more nuanced, varied, and altogether less excessive and objectified than the superficial structure of social status pursued by the nouveau riche of Britain.
Where the state – as in condition – of knowledge of people is in objects, the state – as in nation – scales up mechanically: The humanity within reduced to mere mathematics. Individually rooted responsibilities transact as formulae. The balance of power but an algorithm. No panacea, because the closer to God the knowledge system becomes, the more impossibly complex the operation of the machine. The case is stated because it highlights how slippery the concept of state can become when not so obviously rooted in objective concepts: The fluid state may be more natural than that which is supposed immutable, but it is not as straightforward to rule. The family-centric model of social interaction (sense, knowledge) scales into broader aspects of wider Spanish society – both political and commercial – but with limitations that inhibit the distribution of responsibility, foster a clumsy balance of power, and tend to result in a disconnection between state as civil society and state as authority. Function and limitation apparent in corruption:
The state within Spain, most obviously as authority, rewards participation with the ilusión of the external, specifically the manifestation of the external in the physical. At the grandest scale, Barcelona’s Olympic legacy of international tourism, or the national “economic” infrastructure of Primo de Rivera. The physical thus common to all states, from small-scale family to large-scale nation. In theory common physicality allows the family-centric model to operate across all states – all of the state. In practice the whole state is too complex to know (understand, relate) as family. The Spanish state is not fundamentally corrupt – bribes are not paid for mundane government services, nor is allegiance bought directly. Rather Spanish corruption primarily reflects a difficulty, inherent in the structure of state, in differentiating the state from those within it. To someone that has worked tirelessly for the state it can seem perfectly natural for that state to fund a family wedding (as at Barcelona’s Palau de la Música) or private bank card (as at Caja Madrid).
Most cases of corruption are petty – non-violent, typically financial, crime. However much the same pattern of human confusion in differentiating the state from those within it can be exposed in more extreme cases: For example, the case of Asunta Basterra demonstrates how those with elevated social status can mislead themselves into believing they are above the law: A respected lawyer who murdered her adopted child in the apparent expectation that her social connections would lead to her acquittal.
No accident that Spain’s governing traditional right-wing “Partido Popular” (People’s Party) is awash with allegations of corruption, not least the Gürtel case which is investigating a web of suspect financial transactions: It is an intuitive means of scaling up the family-centric model. Nor that PP‘s diametric opposition, Podemos directs much of its campaigning to the topic of corruption: That corruption is somehow necessary for the state to function in Spain, yet not publicly desirable, represents a crucial balance of power within the political system.
While the lack of transparency inherent in corruption points directly to a distrust in state, corruption should instead first be characterised as inadequate for managing state. That inadequacy – not just in corruption, but in the wider attempt to scale the family-centric model – has disconnected state as civil society from state as authority. Critically, such a disconnect breaks the chain of responsibility that otherwise scales through state – a chain the mechanised model of state presumes. What should be a transactional relationship between person and totality (for example, citizen and government), is instead directed into a nebulously void called “state”, somewhere in between. That is reflected in the widespread Spanish expectation that “the state” should be responsible for just about everything, in stark comparison to much of Europe. It lurks in the nightly howling at moon that is the banging of pots from domestic balconies, and underpins the post-Referèndum general and national strike in Catalunya – which first and foremost renders Catalunya dysfunctional, not the Spain at the heart of the dissent: A legitimate frustration whose public reaction bares no direct relation back to its cause. At its worst, a deep distrust of state weakens the social system of knowing, and engenders an internalised persecution complex – that the state is somehow “out to get its citizens”, even though its citizens are the state. Add a little distorted history, and the Spanish oppression of the Catalans becomes all too real.
That much is somewhat manageable. What the disconnected state genuinely cripples are rights: Rights, as understood by traditional liberalism, are balanced with responsibilities. But with no transactional chain of responsibility, there can be no complementary transaction of rights within state. Hence in Spain, rights exist in an apparently fixed form. The nature of this form, which is actually not-so-fixed within organic law, is explored in the next essay, Absolute Devolution.
Where the cause of Independència did almost nothing on the streets of Barcelona that wasn’t bused in from the country, the perceived attack on “rights” (often referenced as a wider principle of having rights, not any specific right) inflicted during the bank heist called Referèndum polling day, galvanised hitherto disinterested elements of the city’s population – both for, but primarily against, swelling protests significantly. No mean feat with almost all the city’s public transport on strike. Where “tablets of stone” like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can appear inflexible and unnecessary adages to British democracy (which manages rights and responsibilities within state), such formalised rights are fundamental in Spain, holding up the very edifice of democracy. Such rights derive from the external, a quintessentially Spanish deus sive natura, the combination of the divine with natural law, embedded in the Constitution. The Spanish Constitution.
Mass, and especially social media inevitably emphasised the extremes – the blood-splattered granny, or policeman under chair assault, or even something from 2012, depending on the implicit bias of one’s tribe. Most policing was consensual, and most of the reported 2.2 million votes were cast without engaging Spanish riot police. The voters I observed mostly ran the gauntlet of congratulatory cheers from those still patiently waiting to vote – the closure of neighbouring polling stations reflected in lengthy queue times. Where there were unpleasant violent incidents, there is scant judicial evidence that the Spanish police acted with disproportionate force or inhibited legally recognised civil society, although the majority of people in Catalunya disagreed, and the actions were regarded as a political failure by those in Madrid, splintering support for future hostilities. Police intervention primarily served to muddy the legitimacy of an already pretty illegitimate poll: For every reported case of multiple voting by the same person at different locations, or unmoderated voting in the middle of the street, it can be countered that police aggression prevented or dissuaded citizens from voting, contributing to the low turnout of 43%. What was always destined to be a charade of a referendum just got a little bit harder to interpret – the headline “90% in favour of independence” forever lost in the eye of the beholder.
For the “revolution of smiles”, those flower-power Catalans that believed they were participating in a “democratic vote”, and not a bank heist, any police intervention would quite reasonably represent an intolerable tyranny. In these cases the notion of “right” becomes bewilderingly nebulous: A supposed “right to decide” that isn’t acknowledged in the applicable legal structure of rights, which is implemented as Spain. An act that seeks to disavow itself from that legal structure of rights, while simultaneously expecting them to be held in authority – a contradiction implicit in the disconnected state that cannot balance rights with responsibilities. For a society that has come to expect precisely administered rights, rights which are the very edifice of democracy, the state of “bewilderingly nebulous” is potentially catastrophic. The hope of European intervention offers solace to Catalans: Real or imagined, Independentists expect to remain within the European Union. And failing that, since the pre-referendum law implies all Catalans will retain Spanish citizenship, individual Catalans would remain within the Council of Europe, and thus under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. More urgent would seem to be the transference of rights, which implies their re-implementation in Catalunya, even if those rights are identical to those already enshrined by the Spanish Constitution. While the Spanish Constitution transfers, it is not itself transferred: It remains resolutely at the pinnacle of modern Spain. Not a state that logically tolerates coexistence.
The bank in the bank heist is the state. An appropriately physical manifestation in schools hosting Tupperware parties – “Tupperware” a comic codeword for the Referèndum’s urnas, the plastic ballot boxes held or seized like trophies in a game. The cops and the robbers dependant on perspective. The state both the target of the heist, and its defense. The physicality of this underlying multiplicity is the basis of rhetoric, but instead of rushing to apply the causal analysis of “dialogue”, or perhaps hoping someone else will, consider how unimportant the physical actually is to society in Catalunya and Spain. Indeed, post-referendum dialogue quickly morphed into a Chalcedon-esk stalemate, in which Catalunya appealed to her god (the external, primarily the European Union) for mediation, but her god simply reaffirmed the divine right of the idea of Spain, the very manifestation of her problem. Whither silence, Sophia?
The Generalitat de Catalunya’s own mediation advice reminds its Català readers that, “parlant la gent s’entén” – by speaking, people understand. Reassuring words for those in the midst of an abusive separation, no doubt, but words that betray the naivety of presuming that by speaking a language, one can understand a culture, one can be in a society. A presumption that the unexpectedness of Brexit exposed for many English-speaking Europeans. Catalunya’s bilingualism may engender the elaborate dual-perspective solution mooted by the Act of Referèndum, but language itself seems quite inadequate for reaching any solution. Responsibility in society is, perhaps more than anything else, the ability to live with one another. At the small scale of family, that responsibility is intensely felt in Catalunya. Yet while the family model fails to manage the scale of the totality of state, and consequently renders a disconnect between state as civil society and state as authority, responsibility cannot flow properly within society. The easy solution is to make the state smaller, which genuinely does become smaller through the prism of the idea of Spain, because whatever is external can safely be ignored. Unfortunately making the internal slightly smaller – Catalunya instead of Spain – is unlikely to be small enough to reanimate the state: Corruption already occurs inside Catalunya, thus evidently not purely a function of a bloated Spain. Fragmentation begets fragmentation, until Catalunya is but a collection of isolated Iberian villages.
Traveling with Karma
Barcelona’s Institute of Theatre had been restaged on the concourse outside as the Cata-Castellano “Institut de Diálogo”, a resolutely student affair of much sitting, the four speakers on the platform sustained by the collective’s intermittent applause. Next door the alumni were silent. Contemporary dance is nothing but perception. An unspoken poetry, a raw sense that invites the audience to re-map reality. The prelude to 1-O, polling day, surely a commentary upon it: The juxtaposition of Roser López Espinosa‘s “L’Estol” (Flock) and Thomas Noone‘s “Many”, both choreographers global-local. The first a deconstruction, by perpetual experimentation of unity and disunity, of the sole absolute and the duality of humanity below. The second a reconstruction from the extremes of that human duality into a quite different reality, wrestling the power of human emotion with no discernible absolute. One wonders what they made of it in Amsterdam.
To an English audience, Ewan McGregor’s Trainspotting diatribe, “It’s shite being Scottish”, is comic – delivered, as it is to the majestic backdrop of Rannoch Moor: “Some hate the English. I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonised by wankers. Can’t even find a decent culture to be colonised by. We’re ruled by effete assholes.” To laugh at one’s self is a hallmark of maturity, here meaning an equality in history – that it no longer matters who won the War of the Roses, only that Lancastrians and Yorkshire folk can make fun of one another. Yet in a cinema in the city Trainspotting purported to portray, one could hear a pin drop. The stony silence confirming none of the supposed equality of this particular history. A decade or two may have passed, but the film’s cast were still very much alive – if not strictly well – in certain Edinburgh tenements. The intoxication of the evening’s Celtic game both indicative of their struggle with the inanimate reality of the homecoming stair, and of Scotland’s sectarian struggle with itself. The ugly side of “Scottish” nationalism, suppressed because it might be better described as Irish – and nobody in Scotland wants that kind of independence struggle. Even in the civic nationalism of egalitarian Scotland, the passionate struggle for nation can lay bare and vulnerable the inequalities within. To anglicise Miguel de Cervantes, all’s fair in love and war.
Early on the morning of the first, plurality, already absent without leave, descended to a new low. Not the stark (yet very Barcelona) juxtaposition of Catalan independentists holed up overnight in their local school-cum-polling station lest it be captured by Spanish invaders, to those of Galician heritage celebrating the festival of San Froilán by dancing the night away to popular Andalusian music. But the graffiti in the lift. Street art is a constant chaos upon the unseen faces of the city, the shutter that guards commercial premises only when no customer is looking, so matters not. This was not that: Private, visible, a communique to the vertical community served, that the gatekeeper, cleaner, agony-aunt and all-round concrete gardener called Carmen had torn down Referèndum publicity from the building’s shared spaces. Outed, ostensibly for doing their job, by someone they lived with. The social model now so dysfunctional than a community of a hundred people had resorted to megaphone diplomacy to manage their differences. The voices of dialogue would be better informed by traveling with Carmen.
In Catalan stereotype Carme is one’s benevolently authoritarian grandmother. Barcelona public transport operator, TMB, combined the character of Carme with the Indian social causal model of Karma, to promote proper behaviour on and around its vehicles under the title, Travel with Karma: A modern incarnation of Billy Brown of London Town, whose poetic advice to wartime travellers echoed a bygone era of British social deference to authority, that inevitably evokes Radiohead’s Karma Police – “this is what you’ll get, when you mess with us.” Public transport is a state within a state: Forever somewhere between where one got on, and where one got off, often with little opportunity to learn of whom one accompanies. In Spain, that state offers both practical service and (meta-)physical reassurance, a broad state indeed. Like many public transport operators, those in Spain struggle to constrain the social ills (which also make society) of manspreading or unruly youth. TMB’s promotion of traveller responsibility is through an authority rooted in an idea of family, avoiding the pitfalls of absolute authority where state as civil society and state as authority are disconnected, while stressing the underlying family-centric model of society. Of course not every family provides a model of “correct” behaviour, nor should a diverse society expect to produce such uniformity. TMB’s approach simply stresses that which best reflects wider society. To travel with karma is not to actually obtain the perfection it seeks, merely to moderate the excesses – a state suddenly unfamiliar to poor Carmen.
The bank in the bank heist that is the Referèndum, is no mere metaphor for state. That’s supposedly how it looks in Andalucía, that which can seem to habitually over-rate equality, a residual fear of de–conquista, that binds her to Spain and provides the vital left-wing counterbalance to the right of the Spanish core, which perpetuates democratic politics regardless of whatever forest fire the Pyrenees spawns. It is hard enough to tell the wood from the trees in Catalunya. The obvious answer to the question, why raid your own bank, is that you value your local tribe over those you share the bank with. The communal sense of equality has always been just that, and greater inequalities exist within Spain’s autonomous communities than between them – transparent in wage differentials. That said, the broad policy of manifesting the external in the physical can promote geographic inequality, as sufficiently grand physical infrastructure implies sparse geographical distribution. Tourism a more sustainable model than high speed railways, but the pre-requisite Olympics even less pragmatic.
Even more insightful is that the bank is a more trustworthy state than the political state that more often bares the name. As the harsh reality of capital flight dawned on the Brave New Catalunya, and even the ubiquitous Caixa loaded its social piggybank onto a boat bound for the relative certainty of the Balearics, the true breadth of state became apparent to Independentists. Catalans, the Yorkshiremen of Spain, suddenly became the butt of a whole new raft of stereotypic money-hoarding jokes. The Spanish political state is facile, the stunt double that takes the fall. None trusts the democratic state – how can they – it’s an edifice, shot full of holes. By rights none should trust the banks either, having taken the bullet for the monetary excesses of the early 2000s and the subsequent Crisis meltdown. That banking represents certainty to a society beset by hope is a shocking analysis of the excesses of contemporary Catalan hope. The perpetual circle, first Crisis, now Independence, in which the hope repeatedly destroys itself. What state lies beyond banking thankfully remains unseen – the theocratic and military interests of past Spanish revolutions ostensibly replaced with money. In the martyrdom stand-off that is the Independentist attempt to write another chapter to 1714 and All That, and Spanish attempt not to yield too many opportunities, it is easy, especially within the idea of Spain, to get distracted from external game: Globalised capitalism has unwritten rules which ensure trust – foremost stability of state. Go ahead and break them, but please don’t expect your pension to be honoured or your import-powered lights to stay on. If the idea of Spain is robust, then the game of globalised capitalism is no slouch either. For the more anarchist fringe, not least the CUP, escaping capitalism to experiment with the idea of state was always the aim. But for “Junts pel Sí”, brinkmanship must be limited to the political state. Artur Mas, generally assumed to be the power behind that throne (just legally barred from sitting upon it, after organising a similiar unconstitutional referendum in 2014), duly yielded to the impending unilateral declaration of independence, opining to the British press that Catalunya was “not [yet] ready for real independence“.
Égalité, like the fraternité and liberté discussed in this and the previous essay, 1714 and All That, is to be felt, but not actually achieved. Such is its deployment in modern political society, as a largely effective means of managing society. Just as economic activity ostensibly serves to keep us busy. This is life, and those who hope for more might be reminded the pattern applies to that too. Such a bleak, cynical analysis, should not be for those within, whose understanding renders them without. That is not to repeat the mantra ignorance is bliss, rather to emphasise that – in state – knowing is social. In times of crisis the tide rolls down the Dover Beach, exposing a little of what lurks below. Nebulous, frightening, there’s surely only so much exposure a society can take to itself.
In practice the bank heist that started with the Act of Referèndum represents a difference in perception, that the void in transactional responsibility within state makes it difficult to resolve without substantially reanimating state. Catalan acts highlight the problem in state without necessarily representing the solution. Yet in highlighting the problem they also expose it to themselves, underlying that ultimate necessity. As a geopolitical power play, one suspects there never was a solution, the aim to inflict as much damage on the exposed wound of the Spanish state as possible, before a truce is called and the state bandaged. As genuine philosophical independence, Catalunya’s wider matrix of dualities and mixed models of hope give scope for novel solutions, but as such are hostile to established political norms, and thus unlikely to be allowed the air to breath. The Catalan Bourgeoisie have an uncanny historic knack of surviving political tumult, and one wouldn’t bet against everything changing while everything stays the same. Still, it remains unclear whether the Independentist movement understands the nature of the harm being inflicted, and more importantly, how to reanimate the corpse afterwards.
“Patria and Patrimonio” is the third essay in a sequence that explores the current Catalan independence process. The first essay introduces The Act of Referèndum. The second, on hope, 1714 and All That. This essay characterises state. The fourth essay in this sequence is Absolute Devolution. It characterises power.