Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Competing road maps in the Catalan family: get over it!

On the last two Tuesdays, Catalan President Artur Mas and the ERC leader Oriol Junqueras offered opposing views on the best way forward for Catalonia's independence process. Each presentation was given to a crowd of supporters, and each attended the other's speech. You can read my live-tweeted, translated version of their presentations here and here.

But this is what I think (versió en català al final):

The Catalan President gets up on stage, suggests a single party list with a mix of politicians and community representatives with a single objective: the independence of Catalonia. He says it's time to take the long view, put local politics on hold for 18 months, and tackle the construction of the necessary state structures for the new Catalan Republic. In order to prove his 'sense of country', he offers to give up top spot on the list, and be last instead, and promises as well that he will not run again for presidency after independence.

Critics say he's protecting himself and his party by insisting on unified list, that it's impossible to create state structures within Spanish State, and that you can't preach unity if you appear solo on stage. Pretty much all of the other parties have already rejected such a unified list, and we're left wondering who would join.

Catalan Republican Left leader Oriol Junqueras takes the stage a week later, espousing value of diversity, and suggests joint campaign, platform plank for independence, community representation, Executive, and name prefix but separate lists. Says this is the way to make sure not a single pro-independence vote is lost.

Critics say he's protecting himself and his party by insisting on separate lists, that it's impossible to achieve clear democratic mandate without unified force, and that you can't preach unity if you appear solo on stage. It's not at all clear if other parties would be able to agree on single independence plank, and thus we're left wondering how we (and the world) would know which votes were for independence.

Meanwhile, the people look on with increasing frustration. Scuttlebut points to lots of backstory and old wounds that have never healed. Accusations fly and many are true. This party was in power for X years and never lifted a finger for independence. This party made Y deals with this Spanish/pro-unionist party to save their own power. This party hasn't fulfilled commitments to create state structures. This party has taken advantage of the moment while we take our political lumps.

It's like watching siblings fight: she hit me first, he called me names, she thinks she's better than me, you love him more.

We the people are the parents. First, no hitting, use your words. Next, remember that it's not just today, the back story exists. We got to this point because of all that has gone before. No one is blameless, we are all responsible. Be generous.

And if you can't figure it out, we parents will have to step in. We'll hold your hands and show you just what we want you to do: win independence.

Now, go back to your room and don't come out again until you have a plan that you can present all together. You've got until dinnertime.



El president català, Artur Mas, surt a l'escenari, suggereix una llista unitària, amb barreja de polítics i representants civils amb un sol objectiu: la independència de Catalunya. Diu que és moment de mirar a llarg plaç, de posar la política local al congelador 18 mesos, i posar mans a la feina de construir les estructuras necessàries estatals per la nova República Catalana. Per evidenciar el seu sentit de país, ofereix deixar espai a dalt de la llista i ocupar l'últim lloc, i a més promet que no tornarà a presentar-se com a president desprès d'assolir la independència.

Els crítics diuen que es protegeix a ell mateix i al seu partit insistint en una llista unitària, que és impossible crear estructures d'estat dins l'Estat Espanyol i que no es pot demanar unitat apareixent solet a l'escenari. Pràcticament tots els altres partits ja han rebutjat la llista unitària i ens queda el dubte de que s'hi apuntaria.

El líder d'Esquerra Republicana, Oriol @Junqueras surt a l'escenari una setmana després, explicant com és de valuós la diversitat, i suggereix una campanya, un punt sobre independència, representació civil, un govern, i una part del nom en comú, però llistes separades. Diu que aquesta és la manera que assegurar-se que no es perd ni un sol vot independentista.

Els crítics diuen que es protegeix a ell mateix i al seu partit insistint en llistes separades, i que és impossible aconseguir un mandat democràtic sense la força unitària, i que no es pot demanar unitat apareixent solet a l'escenari. No queda clar si els altres partits es posarien d'acord sobre un punt comú sobre independència i ens quedem preguntant com sabríem (nosaltres i el món) quins vots serien a favor de la independència.

Mentrestant, la societat civil observa amb frustració creixent. Les xarxes i les veus en off senyalen molta història i ferides velles que no s'han curat mai del tot. Les acusacions són múltiples i algunes sabem que són verídiques. Aquest partit estava al poder durant anys i no va aixecar ni un dit per la independència. Aquest feia tractes amb els unionistes per protegir-se els escons. Aquests no han complert amb les estructures d'estat. Aquells se n'han aprofitat del moment mentres menjem els gripaus. Ad infinitum.

És com veure germans barallant-se: ella m'ha pegat primer, ell m'ha dit paraulotes, ella pensa que és millor que ningú, tu l'estimes més a ell.

La gent som els pares d'aquests nens. Primer, no us pegueu, feu servir les paraules. Ara, recorda que no només és el que ha passat avui, la història existeix. Hem arribat aquí per tot el que ha passat els altres dies. Ningú és totalment net, som tots responsables. Sigueu generosos.

I si no podeu ser generosos els uns amb els altres, els pares haurem d'intervenir. Us agafarem per les mans, i us ensenyarem exactament el que volem que feu: que guanyeu la independència.

Va, cap a l'habitació i no torneu fins que tingueu un pla que podeu presentar tots junts. Teniu fins l'hora de sopar.

Friday, October 31, 2014

President Mas says Catalan vote on political future will go on

Catalonia's President Artur Mas called a press conference at 6:30pm this evening in the Catalan Government Palace of the Generalitat to respond to the announcement by the Spanish Government that it would bring legal challenges against the new formulation of Catalonia's "participatory process" to ask the people their opinion on their political future.

Here is a video of the full press conference, mostly in Catalan, with a few Spanish questions near the end and one question (and answer) in English at 1:01:22.

I'll start with a rough translation of the introduction, which explains the general reaction to the Spanish Government's actions. I then live tweeted the central portion of the press conference, and finally offer a transcript of the English question at the end of this page.

I'll try to be brief so that people can go on with their preparations [for the holiday tomorrow]. But it seemed necessary to respond to the fact that the Spanish Government has presented a new legal challenge before the Constitutional Court, and explain what that means, and what decisions we've made about it.

The first thing I'll say is that on October 14, I announced two significant decisions: first, that we would not apply the decree convoking the consultation, that I myself signed, because of the legal challenge that the Spanish Government had brought before the Constitutional Court. I said we wouldn't apply that decree, even though we wanted to very much. And the second decision was that we would continue forward with respect to November 9th, with a participatory process, with the same aim of finding out the opinion of the Catalan people about their political future, based on the powers that the Catalan Government has with respect to citizen participation. So, therefore, the consultation that was to be called with a decree was substituted by a participatory process, that as you know is in full swing, with many decisions already taken, and that has the same objective, which is to know the opinion of the Catalan people with respect to their political future. But in this case, based on general powers of the Generalitat de Catalonia with respect to citizen participation.

The central government celebrated, at that time, two weeks ago, the suspension of the decree. I remember it perfectly. With grandiloquent words. They even lauged at what we were trying to do. They made fun of it in public. They said it was a fraud, a happening, they used a long series of descriptions to belittle what we had announced as a substitute of the decree that could not be applied, and the intention of keeping on with November 9th as a participatory process.

I want to make it clear that after this first reaction of the Spanish government, two weeks later, they have gone from making fun of it, to bringing a legal challenge before the Constitutional Court. That is, they have crossed the line of ridiculousness. When a government, the Spanish State, two weeks ago, laughs at what we're doing, ridiculizes it, publicly, makes a big joke out of it, and then only two weeks later presents a challenge to the Constitutional Court, it's a government that has clearly crossed the line into ridiculousness. If what we are doing is so serious, why wasn't it so serious two weeks ago? On October 14, I explained exactly what we were going to do, and that is exactly what we've done. If that was so serious as to warrant a legal challenge before the Constitutional Court, why did they take two weeks before making any decision, meanwhile laughing at us, making fun, ridiculizing us?

In addition, besides being ridiculous, the Spanish Government is abusing its power, and abusing the law. Both things at the same time. It is using the Constitutional Court improperly and incorrectly. Giving it a role that does not correspond to it. It is not the role of the Constitutional Court to resolve political conflicts and a court like the Constitutional Court should not be used to solve problems that others cannot solve. These actions make it clear that the Spanish Government is incapable of solving its own problems politically without presenting legal challenges before the Court which hide the inability of the Spanish Government to find solutions to problems it is faced with. By doing so, I think the Spanish Government uses the Consitutional Court in an almost obscene fashion, because it doesn't make sense to use the court this way, nor is there any reason to do so.

The rest of the conference was live-tweeted:

(Note there are two page of tweets.)
Q: What is the vision that the outside world has right now of the Spanish Government?

#CatalanPresident: I don't know what the opinion is in foreign countries. This is something you have to ask other people. But my impression is that probably in the world they can realize that the Catalan people want to vote. We have the will to vote. We have the will, the real and strong will to decide our political futre as a nation, as a country. This is the reality. And this is something that all the people in the world should know. And we are trying to do so.

We have very big difficulties, very big difficulties because it is almost impossible to sit at the table with the central government and agree to terms for the consultation in Catalonia. We have recent events in this sense, recent examples: what happened in Scotland some weeks ago. There was an agreement between the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish leaders and the British Government. And the British allowed the Scottish to vote. The British allowed the Scottish to decide their political future. And the British won! But that's democracy. You can win and you can lose. This is real democracy.

And there is a lack of high-quality democracy in Spain. As you can realize, because although the Catalan government and the Catalan institutions are doing their best in order to reach agreements with the central government in order to sit at the table to try to reach these kinds of agreements, it is not possible, because they say No to every proposal, to every suggestion we send from Catalonia.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Jordi Savall rejects Spanish prize citing government's indifference to the arts

Today, Jordi Savall, master of early music, formally rejected the prestigioius 2014 National Music Prize awarded by the Spanish Government's Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport (along with 30,000€). His letter explaining the rejection is a poignant portrait of the state of culture in Spain today. (The translation is mine, and a bit rough.) Catalan version here.

Mr. José Ignacio Wert
Minister of Education, Culture and Sport
Government of Spain

Distinguished Mr. Wert:
Distinguished Members of the Jury of the [Spanish] 2014 National Music Prize

Receiving the news of this important prize has generated two profoundly contradictory and altogether incompatible feelings: first, great happiness for the overdue recognition of forty years of passionate, demanding dedication to the spreading of music as a power and language of civilization and harmony, and second, an immense sadness because I feel that I cannot accept the prize without betraying my principles and most sincere convictions.

I am sorry to have to tell you, then, that I cannot accept this distinction because it is awarded by the institution in the Spanish State that is principally responsible, in my opinion, for the dramatic indifference and gross incompetence in the defense and promotion of art and its creators. A distinction that comes from the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports which is also responsible for relegating to oblivion an essential part of our culture, a thousand year old Hispanic musical patrimony, while also scorning the vast majority of musicians who with great sacrifices have dedicated their lives to keeping it alive.

It is true that in a few specific occasions over a forty year career, I have been able to benefit from some institutional collaborations: the celebration of the 5th Centennial of the Discovery of America, the small grants for international tours, and recently the invitations from the Centro Nacional de Difusión Musical to present our projects in Madrid. But like the vast majority of musicians and groups in the country, I have forged ahead solely with my own personal effort, without ever being able to count on any stable institutional support toward the production and materialization of all my musical projects. It has been way too long since the offices of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport that you preside have gone along without giving the necessary push to all those disciplines of cultural life in the Spanish State that currently are struggling to survive without institutional support or even a sponsorship law that would help them, without a doubt, finance themselves and consolidate.

We are living through a very serious political, economic and cultural crisis, a consequence of which is that one fourth of Spanish citizens find themselves in a precarious financial situation and more than half of our young people don't have any possibility of finding a job that would ensure them a minimally dignified life. Culture, art, and especially music, are the basis of an education which allows us to find ourselves personally and at the same time, be present as a cultural entity in an increasingly globalized world. I am absolutely convinced that art is useful to society and that it contributes to the education of the young, and to elevating and strengthening the human dimension and spirit of human beings. But how many Spaniards have been able, some time in their lives, to listen live to the sublime musicians Cristóbal de Morales, Francisco Guerrero, or Tomás Luis de Victoria? Maybe a few thousand privileged people have been able to attend a concert as part of the very few festivals that put on this kind of music. But the vast majority will never be able to benefit from the fabulous spiritual energy that is transmitted by the divine beauty of these musicians. Could we imagine a Prado Museum where all of its historic patrimony was not accessible? Well, that's what happens with music, because music lives only when a singer sings it or when a musician plays it; musicians are the actual living museums of musical art. It is thanks to these people that we can listen to the 'Cantigas de Santa María' of Alphonse X the Wise, the "Villancicos" and "motetes" of the golden centuries, the "Human, divine tones" of the Baroque period... That is why it's so necessary to give these musicians a minimum of stable institutional support, because without them, our musical heritage will continue sleeping the sad slumber of ignorance and ignominy.

Ignorance and amnesia are the end of every civilization because without education there is no art and without memory there is no justice. We cannot permit ignorance and a lack of realization of the value of culture of those responsible at the highest positions in the Spanish Government to erode with impunity the hard work of so many musicians, actors, dancers, film makers, writers, and artists who determine the true standard of culture and who certainly don't deserve the treatment that they receive, since they are the true protagonists of the cultural identity of this country.

For all these reasons, and with profound sadness, I must repeat that I renounce the 2014 National Music Prize and I hope that this sacrifice is understood as a wake up call in defense of the dignity of artists, and that it can, perhaps, serve as a reflection toward imagining and constructing a more hopeful future for our youth.

I believe, as Dostoyevski said, that beauty will save the world, but for that to happen, one must live with dignity and have access to education and culture.


Jordi Savall