The Act of Referèndum

Campaign posters for the Catalunya 1-O Referèndum

Foreign observers are easily confused by the Catalan referendum, the supposed 1st October 2017 (mischievously notated “1-O”) self-determination of the hitherto Spanish region of Catalunya. The British libertarian press, whose readership naturally warms to stories of plucky little Catalans struggling against the oppression of the Spanish Empire, is invariably befuddled by the lack of political plurality in the process. The very observed absence of such plurality, on a topic that routinely divides the population of Catalunya, itself reveals the “Referèndum” as the action solely of the independentist cause, not the holistic process of resolving the actions of all parties, which is what the word referendum usually indicates. The linguistic deception hidden in plain sight remains remarkably enduring propaganda.

The Referèndum script is similarly obvious to those who would see: The Parliament of Catalunya is the elected assembly intended to legislate for the autonomous region of Catalunya, to legislative principles established by its Statute of Autonomy, which derive from the post-Francoist Constitution that embodies Spanish democracy. The Parliament has no power by Statute to legislate on independence from Spain, but that doesn’t physically stop the Parliament from passing laws to establish both the referendum and the template for an independent state. The Spanish Constitutional Court may promptly declare the legislation unconstitutional, but no punishable offense occurs until a law is acted upon. This is a common principle in Spanish law, and to a good degree wider culture (reaction, rather than prediction), but is reduced to farce by an act that frees itself from the authority binding it. The deception at the heart of the Spanish Constitution, its unchallengeablity, challenged. Clever Catalans.

In the meantime a wild goose chase commences, in which the Spanish authorities attempt to stop acts related to the referendum. In practice that results in a lot of incendiary media coverage, as the Guardia Civil (one of the national Spanish police forces) impounds harmless pallets of contraband referendum publicity. The detention of the civil servants responsible just increases the stakes. Such Spanish oppression of human rights, free speech, democracy, autonomy, you name it, is actually in defence of just that – the Constitutional imperative that is protecting those principles on behalf of the entire Spanish population. But because the crime is called Referèndum it looks quite the opposite. Again, the deception hidden in plain sight.

Spanish adherence to Constitution is not dogmatic pedantry. Not merely a convenient mechanism for Spanish government to counter the separatist threat without actively engaging in political discourse. As the collective memory tells it (which is not always the same as what actually happened), all the communities comprising Spain fought (Francoism) to establish democracy, and it is that collective contribution that is now being disrespected by the Catalans. An insult to both modern democracy and the shared notion of equality between communities, a notion found in the 1812 liberal constitution of Cádiz that continually bubbles to the surface without ever properly overcoming absolutism. This is no small reconciliation that you ask.

Assuming the rule of law holds its nerve until polling day, the choice is expressed primarily in attendance, not the position of the cross on the ballot paper: It is a conflicted, certainly brave, possibly stupid, citizen who knowingly performs an unconstitutional act in order to register, in effect, their support for the very constitution they’ve just broken by their act. That’s the kind of moral legal argument that won’t trouble most of the populace of Catalunya, but it serves as a stark explanation of why the Referèndum is for those that wish to vote Sí, and why a genuine referendum could only be organised under the auspices of the Spanish Constitution. Albeit, as explored later in this text, logically impossible to organise as the idea of leaving Spain from within Spain undermines the very idea of Spain. Details, details. Surveys typically suggest a clear majority of those against independence will not vote, yielding a strong vote in favour of independence on a turnout of 50-60%. Turnout isn’t considered by the law (of the Parliament of Catalunya) that creates the independent state two days after a yes vote (Catalan politicians typically cite constitutional changes passed on similarly low turnouts, although that rather understates the magnitude of this change). So, like clockwork, Referèndum will deliver the Brave New Republic of Catalunya in the middle of the first week of October 2017. Historians may later judge this Referèndum to be a coup. A propaganda coup, obviously, because a coup d’état wouldn’t be very democratic.

Cue the musica epica, as the Spanish tanks roll down the Diagonal, and those plucky little Catalans make one glorious last stand against their oppressors… Simultaneously resolving the independentists’ problem with Spaniards – and Barcelona’s problem with turismos. Such legends are more attractive in the telling than the living. If anyone in Catalunya genuinely has the stomach for that, again, they are not obvious in the mainstream of independentists: Those whose demonstrations encompass a family picnic in the park, before standing politely where they are told and gesturing appropriately at the camera when instructed by the director. More plausible to picture a pair of rutting Stags, mammalian heavyweights keen to assert themselves in the herd, yet not so keen as to lose their antlers, and well aware that when the rut ends they’ll have to learn to live with one another. The Familia España may have a few more fraught years of Catalan angst to deal with, but ultimately All’s Well That Ends Well. And no, that doesn’t imply the return of “Catalunya Nord”, as Catalunya’s public television clone, TV3, affectionately refers to (contemporary French) Roussillon.

Continue reading “The Act of Referèndum”


Fluidity and Good

Calton Hill

If I am disinterested in ethics it is not because I am disinterested in humanity, rather that I make no distinction between the moral (human) and the metaphysical (divine). Syncretism, that Platonist disease. Murdoch (Sovereignty of Good) jokes that the asylums are full of people that consider all to be one. The singular idea is surely an impossible edifice for any human mind to maintain – such minds being within the very one they claim to conceive.

The idea of perfection (to borrow from Leibnitz) describes principles, not a particular construction. This distinction is essential given the arbitrary nature of any (logical) position that might be adopted (Godel in mathematics, maybe Bergson in philosophy, perhaps Kuhn or Popper for practical science). Arbitrary is not code for despair, that we should confine metaphysics to the realm of “don’t know”, or append the word belief, in the knowledge that we can’t do without. The least arbitrary is that which creates itself, that which we have as good an insight in as any.

The thing of itself echoes Husserl, the contemporary, anthropological auto-genesis. Modern accounts are prone to emphasise action – the very language of creation is tainted by perception. Irony: We can only but hope to apply such methods to our understanding while time marches ever forward. Continue reading “Fluidity and Good”

On the Creation of Reality

“At some point we must content ourselves with ‘and so on’.” – Russell [Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy]

Every one who speaks washes up against the same beach [c1]. Some as pebble, some as wave, some as the very swirling sea. That they do not hear this same is witnessed by how few attend all. A function of the contemporary structure of knowing, our protection from lunacy, that the attraction of the cosmos exceed that of one another. Yet the relation is more fluid, dynamic, temporal than we are inclined to comprehend [c2].

In the semi-autobiographical “VALIS” [c3], Dick explores the existential crisis through the prism of Gnosticism. This journey from the surface eventually encounters with the Lamptons, who are communing with Sophia [c4] through their toddler, symbolically aided by audio equipment that ultimately kills her. The realisation that, “the Lamptons are nuts,” is, for Dick’s neurosis, the much needed recognition of a boundary to his reality. Albeit one that is still far broader than most, just narrower than some, of those he shares his world with. A pluralism – multiplicity – that should remain unresolved, because the act of resolution would be to flatten its very reality [c5].

The core of this text maps, to use modern terminology, complexity. The relation of apparently quite different perspectives in a pattern of commonality. The aim of this exercise is not uniformity. Indeed, the notion of a singular conclusion is to misread the map as static. This beguiling reality is one we struggle to inhabit: Constrained by time, we can never quite master it. That, “time may change me; but I can’t trace time” [David Bowie, Changes].

This text should not necessarily be read as the logical conjecture of its presentation [c6]: Language here tends towards the poetic the moment it is not held in absolute. Such tension in the midst of communication is revealing of the topic itself. The scattered character of the paragraphs, each upon a different topic, is intended to communicate a pattern – a pattern that could be formed in many different ways [c7]. Continue reading “On the Creation of Reality”