Since 2012, the situation in Catalonia has steadily been getting worse. On one side, the Spanish government, led by Mariano Rajoy, is unable to defend the Spanish nation, whereas the leader of the opposing side, Artur Mas, has tried to become the savior of the Catalan fatherland. The situation in the street is not too different; the Catalan society is dangerously divided and a war of emotions is brewing. Meanwhile, the largest Spanish parties are also divided between different solutions such as federalism and immobility. Do the differentiating sides really have legitimate reasons for their opposing positions, or they are simply basing their arguments off what their emotions are dictating?
As we have seen before, we have two strong sides: the Spanish Constitutionalist-Conservative band from one side and the Catalan, self-autonomous, government at the other. Both have strong arguments for their reasons and believe try to enforce their opinion, claiming that it is the correct one. From an empirical point of view, neither of them has more reason than the other and we do not know if the people of Catalonia will be better or worse off in terms of general wellness, should the separatist movement succeed. However, I still believe that there is a significant portion of the population that does not want to pick a side. In fact, I hope that they don’t trust anyone’s promises and know that what the thing parties want is actually, power, no matter if it’s in an independent republic or corrupt monarchy.
However, what has gone unobserved in this conflict is the use of concepts. Every time I turn the television on, I watch politicians from both sides speaking with the same words. As a result, words such as nation or country are being used as mundane vocabulary. They discuss “identity” or “nations” without knowing what they really are. They simply sit down in their comfortable armchairs and start to influence other people’s minds with complex concepts attempting to alter the viewer’s’ ideas. As some would say, they are sophists; they don’t look for the unbiased, true beyond any doubt, stable basis of the concept, and instead purely use the generalized meaning of these words in a manipulative way to affect people’s feelings. Thus, the needed debate is not about concept presentation, it’s about concept essence. What our society really needs is to know the basis of both speeches, sadly, they are given concepts.
The words that politicians have been constantly using the most are nation and country. Although many think that these two words are identical, the truth is that one represents a broader feeling of belonging, culture, customs and society cohesiveness, whereas the other one is narrower, referring a system of organization of a nation with clear borders, rules, law and diplomacy. The word nation is a common term used by almost all radical nationalist groups, such as “Front National” in France or by General Franco’s dictatorship in Spain in the past. Nation is the union of sense of identity for them and other common nationalist symbols like flags or shields. As we can observe, every component of this word is artificial, but it doesn’t mean it is harmless. The most dangerous component of a nation is the sense of identity, which paradoxically is it’s pylon as well. When a new citizen is born, he doesn’t feel uniquely Catalan or Spanish as he purely doesn’t have this sentiment. While this new person is growing, his society gives him a flag, a national anthem and a race. In short, they give him a national identity. At the end of this diabolical process, the person feels that he cannot be, without a national identity, and, as result, will do whatever it takes in order to defend his nation from foreigners. The real concept of nation is the starting point for xenophobia, which occurs when the people of a nation, such as Spain or Catalonia, feel that they are not the same as “foreigners”, or in some situations, that they should be independent from a lower state.
Another substantial concept in this conflict is the word country. In my view, this concept is considerably less dangerous that the previous one. Although a nation needs a country, a country doesn’t necessarily need a nation. Basically, a country is a territory that unites in order to facilitate the administration of its population. As you will have noticed, by avoiding the term ‘sense of identity’ in this definition, we hopefully eliminate the most powerful part of a nation. For the people who only believe in this kind of territorial structure, people’s origins don’t matter and the essential condition is the willingness to make a fair egalitarian country. In the Catalan current scene, society must be careful as some politicians are trying to equate the concepts of country and nation. For now, we have never had a country without a nation.
Based on the previous definitions, the questions that arise are moral. Who has the right to decide where a country should be or why some territories such as Catalonia shouldn’t be independent? “Nobody” is the answer to the first question. Nobody has the right to decide where boundaries should be, as the responsibility of this monumental decision lies on the people. Democracy should have the right to choose with whom we should build a country. A very extreme theory in this regard is one that suggests a planet with the fewest number of borders possible, a belief that I personally share. As a result, countries that currently exist would have the right of voting, long so as every minority lived in peace and with the same rights as the citizens who belonged to the controlling group. For example, the Saharan people in Morocco are a repressed group as they don’t have a relative self-government and they are not respected by the Moroccan authorities. At this junction, they have the right of self-determination. The situation in Catalonia is completely different. They own an important portion of autonomy and the Spanish government, at the moment, respects them for their language and their traditions.
The people of Spain need to realize that there should be no debate between two sides that are defending radical nationalism, two sides that are permanently playing with our feelings, or, finally, two sides that are hiding behind nations in order to increase their power in our lives.