Sunday will be a sad day. The illegal referendum called by the Catalonian authorities will come to a head. The Spanish state, and its executive, legislative and judiciary branches cannot and will not stand in the sidelines whilst the country’s constitution is flagrantly violated.
This means that, in all likelihood, we will witness street unrest and possibly even violence. Police repression of unarmed protesters is hardly ever a pretty or desirable sight, particularly when the issue at hand appears, prima facie, to be as harmless as defending people’s right to vote.
However, I refuse to be fooled by the tons of independentist propaganda. This is really about ‘some’ claiming an improper right to place themselves above the law, i.e. above ‘all’. As a citizen, I will always defend and stand behind my democratic institutions’ obligation –not mere right!– to defend and enforce the rule of law. I know no other cornerstone of democracy. And I, for one, still have not come up with a better system to articulate our lives together as community-oriented social beings.
It has always surprised me how most people’s intuitive synthesis of democracy immediately points to the majority decision rule. Not in my case. I am much more interested in the minority protection rule. The fundamental value I attach to democracy is its capacity to temper the brute.
When I joined Ciudadanos in 2006, right after being released from hospital post a double lung transplant, and as the party was just being formed, many friends showed their surprise. You are from Vigo. You live in Madrid. Is pushing back on nationalism in Catalonia really an agenda you now want to focus your energies on?
Hell yes it was. And still is. Nationalism, all nationalism, is a harmful virus. Bred from the family of political romanticism, as Isaiah Berlin dissected. If let alone it will escalate, not recede. Its nature is expansive, not about self-limitation. To me being anti-nationalist is as straightforward as being anti-racist, anti-chauvinistic or anti any worldview that places the being above the doing, creating closed, subordinated categories of people along the way.
What to do ahead of Sunday? Some have pointed to displays of the Spanish flag, as an emblem and rightful symbol of the, despite its many imperfections, constitutional democracy we live in. Legitimate, of course, but not my choice.
I simply treasure the way in which our imperfect institutions can shield us from the hysteria. With professionals doing their jobs, I will spend the day with family and friends, paying a tribute to democratic normality, thanking the tens of millions of fellow citizens as co-guarantors of my negative liberty. One that I will direct towards sketching some notes on the Identic Games, an idea I have been playing with as the natural future decantation of the Olympic Games. A simple paradigm shift required: away from nationalities, participants would self assemble in competing teams that best represent their multi-dimensional identities.
In our lives we have all faced and, quite probably even staged –I know I have!–, gross displays of immaturity. Fits of ill-constructed rage, lashing out in random directions, against everything and everyone. And over time, hopefully, we have been able to detect them and learn from them; redirecting the question towards the true origin of frustration, almost always internal. Come Monday I sincerely hope we can jot down this illegal referendum business on that long list. Critical introspection is a more fertile ground to build the future than pointing to any handy scapegoat. We are what we choose to do and learn from, after all.