As a non-Catalan Spanish, I would like to write a few words about this topic.
I cannot fully describe what I feel these days. The disaster that I see, how a society that lived together for generations now cannot continue that way. The fact that we have many more things in common than differences. What is happening is unbelievable. I feel sorrow.
Let me start emphasizing the lack of skills of the Spanish central government. A government that only considers the “rule of law”. This is a required ingredient of the recipe, yes, but it is not enough. The full clash is about feelings, and they failed to counteract feelings. The central government is composed of old lawyers, and they lack the skills for this purpose.
But although I complain a lot about the central government, let me as well indicate that there is something worse: Catalan politicians.
Catalonia, which is among the wealthiest regions in Spain and the European Union, got different extreme left parties in their parliament that claim that they are “poor” because “Spain steal their money”. Can you believe this? A society that gets taxes from its citizens according to their income, and redistributes it to regions according to their population. This is not to steal, this is solidarity. This should be clear for self-defining left-wing parties and voters.
Spain is a country where there is way more diversity than in many other countries, a place where almost half the population live in bilingual areas (Catalonia, Basque Country, Valencia, Balearic Islands, Galicia, and other at a lower level). A country like this is apparently “totalitarian”. I think Catalan politicians do not have a clear idea about what totalitarian means.
A country where different communities have been living together for 500 years, having multiple ties together, multiple Catalan prime misters (example: Estanislao Figueras and Francesc Pi i Margall). Now, from one day to the other, we are enemies. I cannot believe this.
A region with one of the largest levels of autonomy of the world. All elements of society are directly under control of the Catalan government (education, police, transport, health, etc.). Only the army is missing. Never in history of Catalonia it had a level of freedom like this. However, their politicians claim that they are a “colony”. And this is not said by the average Joe, but by top level politicians.
A region that is bilingual, where everybody speaks in the street the language that they want. And there, it is forbidden for teachers to speak Spanish at school, and business must provide information to customers in Catalan and not Spanish. Amazing. Ok, I do not live there and it is none of my business. But it is quite interesting that the same “freedom” that is requested to say “yes” in a referendum, is negated to parents to decide the language to teach their children. Wasn’t all this about freedom? Isn’t this obvious inequality?
A Catalonia which is divided in two groups. The wealthy Catalan elite, owners of companies, working in public jobs, and keeping control of the Catalan state; and the poor immigrants from the rest of Spain, Spanish speakers. This psychological difference is something that would require some time to be explained. Anyway, wasn’t society about helping the poor and keeping those in power under control? Is Catalonia an exception?
Now, suddenly, the feeling of hate is unstoppable and there “must be” a Unilateral Independence Declaration. Imagine a “couple” after living together for years, that suddenly is unable to break-up friendly, facing a “divorce” full of grievances. Everything must terminate in days, quickly, without any plan. Really? I do not understand.
Catalonia politicians arrive to the XXI century with a XIX century mentality. One country, one language, glorious history, extended borders. Have a look to the “local” weather forecast of typical Catalan newspapers (example: Avui or Ara). Their Catalonia does not match current borders between countries. An independent Catalonia means international conflicts with all nearby countries (Aragon, Valencia and Balearic Islands in Spain, Rosillon in France, Alghero with Italy). Do we really want to have territorial conflicts in Europe, like during the XIX and XX centuries?
The European Union was created to prevent this. After generations and generations of French and Germans killing each other in their wars, that became World Wars, they now live in peace. It is not the free market what makes EU great (but it contributes), it is the fact that country borders are irrelevant. The creation of additional countries and international boundaries is against the deepest reason of the existence of the European Union. EU cannot accept it.
Catalan politicians decided to set Catalonia outside international legality. The feeling for independence is so strong that it does not matter that Catalonia could be left outside of the international organizations, like the European Union, the Schengen area, Eurozone, UN, NATO, etc. All common sense is lost. Catalonia would have to apply again to become a member in these institutions, and it could take time. Specially considering that it is not a peaceful separation. Do really Catalan citizens want to be out of all these international organizations? I do not think so, they are very cosmopolitan, and this is an unfortunate step back.
The economy of an independent Catalonia is a disaster. Daniel Lacalle gave some examples here. Do nationalists really want to suffer? I do not think so. Currency devaluation, lower salaries, expensive goods. Low-income people will suffer. I do not want that. Why Catalan politicians do their best against their poor citizens?
What is democracy? Could we vote anything? Is it possible to be “judge and jury” in a referendum; the same interest group organizing, voting, supervising, and counting the ballots? Could we decide not to pay the debts (like in Greece in 2015)? Is Brexit a good example of referendum? Is Donald Trump democratic?
Finally, there is a nice joke in Spain these days: “Voting is like having sex. It is really good and everybody likes it, but you have to agree on it before otherwise it is a rape.”
I hope this post helps to explain the situation. And in any case, my best wishes to Catalan citizens.