There is a real temptation to talk about the fact that today was hot enough for me to sunbathe on the terrace of the third floor; or bemoan the narrowness of parking spaces in our local shopping centre; or the fact that imitation Post-It notes do not stick as well as the real thing, or any damn thing other than the one thing that I should be writing about - the situation in Catalonia.
It is too easy to ignore the big bad world when you live in a seaside resort where you can see the horizon. How many city dwellers actually get to see a real horizon, a natural horizon, rather than the artificiality of the barrier of construction? And life goes on. After all, people come here, have a walk, have a meal and then go home to real life. Real life, for them is elsewhere - not here, by the side of the sea.
Barça are playing Athletico Madrid and are one down. At the moment that seems more real and more important than all the crucial decisions and actions that are going to inform the development of Catalonia over the next few days.
And it is days. The day after tomorrow the Catalan government can issue the already signed declaration of independence. In five days time the Spanish government could declare that section 155 of the constitution has been brought into play and the government of Catalonia is now in the hands of the government of Madrid.
Or they could declare any one of a number of ‘states’ from ‘alarm’ to ‘emergency; or they could declare martial law; or impose curfews; or bring back the Guardia Civil and the Spanish national police onto the streets. There could be further (one has happened already) roundups of political opponents; there could be jailings; there could be an all-out national disaster.
And, although the EU is still sticking to the idea that the Catalan Crisis is a ‘local’ problem for the Spanish government, anything really bad that happens in Catalonia will impact directly on Spain and then indirectly and directly on Europe and the EU. The value of the Euro will respond to the situation in Catalonia and that will have a direct affect on the 27 other nations. Instability is catching, and there is a price to be paid for it.
Political debate in Spain at the moment is only a little step below racism. We are watching ultra right wing demonstrations with Franco versions of the Spanish flag, with fascist salutes, with hate slogans taking place. We are hearing political debate reduced to simplistic nationalistic slogans. We are seeing sides forming.
In my heart and in my head, I know that I prefer to see unity rather than division. With all its faults I celebrate the reality of the EU as a way of bringing something like community to one of the most powerfully dysfunctional continents in the world. We tut-tut about the multiple failures of Africa; we shake our heads at the rampant corruption of South America; we throw our hands in the air at the inability of the Middle East to sort itself out; we chide Asia for its misuse of power; we sigh at the ignorant boorishness of the present POTUS and yet, if we look carefully at what our oh-so-civilized continent is doing and not doing we should be ashamed at our inability to subscribe to a coherent system of fair government.
I am reminded of a film in which an American hangdog comic character plays a millionaire (I’ve just remembered his name, Walter Mathieu) who has lost all his money. His bank manager explains to him that he is poor and there is nothing in the bank. Mathieu listens patiently and then asks the manager why he has not cashed his check. It is a variation on the TV sketch about a British soldier lost in the jungle and, after years of hiding, not being able to understand that the war was over. It is the perennial problem of not being able to see what is in front of one’s eyes.
Mismanagement, corruption, theft and lies have been the stock in trade of politicians throughout the years as Spain has made the transition from dictatorship to democracy. We are now living in a country where the fundamentals of decent government have been tarnished and subverted. The fact that after years of unrelentingly appalling revelations about the criminality of PP, the minority right wing governing party, the fact that 30% of the voting population of the country would still vote for them tomorrow is, to put it mildly, depressing. In spite of literally hundreds of members of the party and their supporters being indicted for criminal behaviour that the country still votes for them and makes them the party with the largest share of seats in parliament is astonishing. But significant.
If the torrent of accusations, the clarity of the corruption and the arrogance of their defence is still not enough to get their base to turn away from them to a more congenially democratic and law abiding party, what will? We are looking at a Spain that threatens to be governed in perpetuity by a party that thinks only of itself and nothing for the gullible who vote for them. For people who look for hope for a better system to the present main political parties of PP, PSOE and Cs, I have to say that they are deluding themselves and ignoring the immediate past history of their political activity.
Spain desperately needs a radical rethink about the way that it governs itself. Not one of the parties mentioned in the last paragraph seem to me to offer the slightest shred of evidence that they are up to the job of rewriting the constitution and producing a society that is more equal and lawful.
Catalonia is not without its own problems. Corruption cases have to be sorted out. The past president with his 3% and his mafia like family all have to be dealt with. Everyone knew about the 3% and those who condoned this abuse must be rooted out of the political life of the country. But, perhaps, with independence Catalonia might have a chance to achieve a more equal society. Linked with the poisonous corruption of mainstream Spanish political life, it has no chance.
Perhaps Catalans are prepared for the financial, social and political problems that will be their if they call for an independence that is going to be resisted with all means possible by the central government. Perhaps they are prepared to fight for their ‘freedom’ in spite of the economic and social cost involved.
The next seven days could be decisive in the way the country or region goes forwards or slumps.