The Crisis in Catalonia: Perspectives on Europe

Image credits:

The​ ​Catalan​ ​Crisis​ ​is​ ​a​ ​story​ ​of​ ​incompetence​ ​and​ ​arrogance​ ​on​ ​both​ ​sides.​ ​The​ ​Catalan​ ​Assembly​ ​acted petulantly​ ​and​ ​rashly​ ​in​ ​holding​ ​an​ ​un-sanctioned​ ​referendum​ ​whilst​ ​the​ ​Spanish​ ​government exacerbated​ ​the​ ​situation​ ​by​ ​using​ ​force​ ​to​ ​prevent​ ​people​ ​from​ ​voting.​ ​The​ ​situation​ ​now​ ​has​ ​appeared to​ ​have​ ​stabilised​ ​in​ ​a​ ​large​ ​part​ ​because​ ​the​ ​crisis​ ​exhausted​ ​its​ ​peak​ ​media​ ​attention​ ​and​ ​the​ ​world​ ​has started​ ​to​ ​look​ ​away,​ ​such​ ​is​ ​the​ ​cynicism​ ​of​ ​the​ ​global​ ​attention​ ​span.

The​ ​nitty​ ​gritty​ ​details​ ​of​ ​who​ ​held​ ​the​ ​moral​ ​high​ ​ground,​ ​who​ ​threw​ ​the​ ​first​ ​punch,​ ​who​ ​acted​ ​more inappropriately​ ​are​ ​unimportant.​ ​The​ ​crisis,​ ​in​ ​my​ ​view,​ ​is​ ​only​ ​a​ ​glimmer​ ​of​ ​what​ ​is​ ​to​ ​come​ ​across Europe​ ​and​ ​across​ ​the​ ​world:​ ​globalism​ ​through​ ​localism.

Artur Mas

Photo credits: Emilio Morenatti/AP

The​ ​British​ ​Isles,​ ​whether​ ​we​ ​like​ ​it​ ​or​ ​not,​ ​is​ ​slowly​ ​fracturing.​ ​All​ ​it​ ​takes​ ​is​ ​one​ ​major​ ​event​ ​that​ ​the Scots​ ​disagree​ ​with​ ​and​ ​Scottish​ ​Independence​ ​is​ ​back​ ​on​ ​the​ ​table.​ ​The​ ​Catholic​ ​population​ ​of​ ​Northern Ireland​ ​is​ ​slowly​ ​increasing​ ​at​ ​a​ ​rate​ ​faster​ ​than​ ​the​ ​Protestant​ ​population,​ ​many​ ​experts​ ​think​ ​when Catholics​ ​outnumber​ ​Protestants​ ​they​ ​will​ ​vote​ ​for​ ​Union​ ​with​ ​Ireland.​ ​And​ ​then​ ​what?​ ​Will​ ​Northern Ireland​ ​seamlessly​ ​integrate​ ​into​ ​the​ ​republic​ ​or​ ​will​ ​it​ ​retain​ ​a​ ​significant​ ​individual​ ​identity?

The​ ​list​ ​of​ ​secessionist​ ​and​ ​autonomist​ ​movements​ ​that​ ​exist​ ​across​ ​Europe​ ​is​ ​staggering,​ ​admittedly they​ ​operate​ ​with​ ​varying​ ​degrees​ ​of​ ​support​ ​but​ ​there​ ​is​ ​clearly​ ​a​ ​disposition​ ​towards​ ​local​ ​politics​ ​that is present.​ ​Those​ ​who​ ​don’t​ ​support​ ​independence​ ​movements​ ​often​ ​cite​ ​reasons​ ​of​ ​political expedience​ ​​-​ ​it​ ​is​ ​better​ ​to​ ​be​ ​part​ ​of​ ​a​ ​strong,​ ​large​ ​state​ ​than​ ​to​ ​be​ ​negotiating​ ​all​ ​by yourself.  What​ ​if​ ​this​ ​were​ ​not​ ​the​ ​case?​ ​What​ ​if​ ​all​ ​of​ ​Europe​ ​could​ ​unite​ ​under​ ​an​ ​economic​ ​system​ ​that​ ​worked for​ ​everyone?​ ​(All​ ​those​ ​reading​ ​who​ ​think​ ​I​ ​am​ ​going​ ​to​ ​explain​ ​an​ ​economic​ ​system​ ​that​ ​works​ ​for everyone​ ​across​ ​a​ ​whole​ ​continent​ ​can​ ​think​ ​again.)

My​ ​argument​ ​is​ ​essentially​ ​that​ ​large​ ​states​ ​with​ ​long​ ​borders​ ​and​ ​huge​ ​populations​ ​lead​ ​to​ ​unwarranted pride​ ​in​ ​the​ ​‘culture’​ ​and​ ​shared​ ​memories​ ​of​ ​a​ ​nation.​ ​This​ ​pride​ ​then​ ​facilitates​ ​unhelpful​ ​cooperation with​ ​neighbouring​ ​nations​ ​as​ ​all​ ​large​ ​states​ ​like​ ​to​ ​flex​ ​their​ ​muscles​ ​and​ ​show​ ​how​ ​large​ ​they​ ​are.​ ​The most​ ​baffling​ ​thing​ ​is​ ​that​ ​when​ ​we​ ​look​ ​internally​ ​at​ ​these​ ​nations​ ​we​ ​observe​ ​distinct,​ ​regional​ ​cultures that​ ​are​ ​far​ ​stronger​ ​than​ ​the​ ​superficial​ ​national​ ​culture​ ​and​ ​are​ ​based​ ​on​ ​natural​ ​affinities.

I​ ​have​ ​a​ ​vision​ ​of​ ​a​ ​Europe​ ​of​ ​small,​ ​similarly​ ​sized​ ​regions,​ ​all​ ​very​ ​conscious​ ​of​ ​their​ ​relatively​ ​small size​ ​and​ ​therefore​ ​very​ ​much​ ​enthusiastic​ ​to​ ​cooperate​ ​with​ ​their​ ​neighbours​ ​to​ ​maximise​ ​the​ ​economic benefit​ ​of​ ​all.​ ​Furthermore,​ ​the​ ​beauty​ ​of​ ​this​ ​arrangement​ ​is​ ​the​ ​likelihood​ ​for​ ​much​ ​more​ ​extensive cooperation.​ ​For​ ​example,​ ​a​ ​Frenchman​ ​from​ ​Alsace​ ​is​ ​much​ ​closer​ ​culturally​ ​to​ ​a​ ​German,​ ​than​ ​to​ ​a Frenchman​ ​living​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Basque​ ​country.​ ​Focusing​ ​on​ ​localism​ ​makes​ ​cultural​ ​differences​ ​less exaggerated.


Credits: Shutterstock

In​ ​the​ ​UK​ ​there seem to be national​ ​rivalries​ ​between​ ​Scotland​ ​and​ ​England, ‘the​ ​Scots​ ​hate​ ​the​ ​English’,​ ​as​ ​the saying​ ​goes- nonetheless this is a generalising statement, and not the case for all Scottish people.​ ​What​ ​if​ ​the​ ​British​ ​Isles​ ​was​ ​suddenly​ ​just​ ​a​ ​collection​ ​of​ ​regions- would​ ​all​ ​Scottish​ ​regions dislike ​all​ ​the​ ​English​ ​regions?​ ​England​ ​is​ ​divided into​ ​the​ ​so-called​ ​North-South​ ​divide; yet do the​ ​Scottish​ ​regions​ ​feel​ ​sympathetic​ ​towards​ ​their Northern​ ​neighbours? ​Perhaps.​ ​Would​ ​those​ ​regions​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Highlands​ ​even​ ​concern​ ​themselves​ ​with​ ​a rejection ​for​ ​things​ ​that​ ​took place down south?​ ​Potentially.​ ​Moreover,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​south​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​clear​ ​cultural​ ​divide between​ ​the​ ​rural​ ​countryside​ ​and​ ​the​ ​city​ ​of​ ​London.​ ​Is​ ​the​ ​Scottish​ ​anger​ ​directed​ ​at​ ​the​ ​countryside​ ​or at​ ​the​ ​city? ​(For the two are in fact, very different). ​ ​Indeed,​ ​the​ ​region​ ​of​ ​Cornwall​ ​may​ ​join​ ​the​ ​Scottish regions​ ​in​ ​disliking the​ ​English​ ​(which​ ​English​ ​we​ ​aren’t​ ​quite​ ​sure)​ ​and​ ​create​ ​a​ ​cultural​ ​affinity​ ​between them.​ ​Where​ ​do​ ​the​ ​Welsh​ ​fit​ ​in​ ​in​ ​all​ ​this?​ ​The​ ​point​ ​is,​ ​the​ ​hugeness​ ​of​ ​current​ ​states​ ​exacerbates cultural​ ​differences​ ​both​ ​regionally​ ​and​ ​nationally.


Photo Credits: Lesley Martin/ Getty Images

If​ ​we​ ​refer​ ​to​ ​Benjamin​ ​Constant’s​ ​ideas​ ​on​ ​ancient​ ​and​ ​modern​ ​liberty​ ​we​ ​can​ ​see​ ​how​ ​increased localism​ ​will​ ​create​ ​a​ ​situation​ ​where​ ​people​ ​are​ ​able​ ​to​ ​express​ ​themselves culturally and politically both​ ​with​ ​ease​ ​and​ ​enthusiasm. Smaller,​ ​more​ ​local​ ​political​ ​spheres​ ​that​ ​deal​ ​with​ ​social​ ​issues​ ​will​ ​engage​ ​the​ ​local​ ​public​ ​and​ ​allow them​ ​to​ ​express​ ​their​ ​ancient​ ​liberty​ ​in​ ​a​ ​body​ ​politic.​ ​Economic​ ​issues​ ​would​ ​be​ ​managed​ ​by​ ​a governing​ ​body​ ​within​ ​a​ ​huge​ ​federation​ ​of​ ​European​ ​regions​ ​with​ ​the​ ​aim​ ​of​ ​ensuring​ ​prosperity​ ​for​ ​all.

Returning​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Catalan​ ​crisis.​ ​My​ ​hopes​ ​of​ ​independence​ ​for​ ​Catalonia are quickly fading, but​ ​I​ ​sincerely hope​ that ​it​ ​happens.​ ​Not​ ​just​ ​because​ ​of​ ​my​ ​optimistic​ ​vision​ ​of​ ​a​ ​European​ ​federation​ ​of​ ​regions,​ ​but​ ​also because​ I believe ​all​ ​people​ ​have​ ​a​ ​right​ ​to​ ​self-determination.​ ​Catalan​ ​independence might ​encourage​ ​Basque independence​ ​and​ ​who​ ​knows​ ​what​ ​could​ ​happen​ ​after​ ​that.


By: Finn William Grant

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s