Thursday, March 4, 2010

Catalan Reality versus Spanish Spin

Albert Montón is a producer and screenwriter of documentary films. This originally appeared on his blog.
The 28th of February has gone by, the second wave of referendums on independence with a slightly lower turnout, and the Spanish media—the media, not the State, which has decided to be symptomatically quiet—has come back again with their habitual litany of slights and sarcasm. "Emaciated" and "ridiculous" are the kindest adjectives that the turnout received in the headlines (!) They even dared to declare that the turnout had reached just 21%, "despite the fact that anyone over 16 and even registered immigrants could vote". As if the fact that making the census bigger would facilitate a bigger percentage, which of course, is always relative. It's obvious that allowing immigrants to participate must always bring with it a lower turnout by percentage, since their connection with the country is lower. But this is the level of discourse that the brunete* offers its disciples.

What it seems that they don't get is that comparing the turnout of the referendums with any election promoted by the State and then boasting about data pre-cooked to their taste is nothing more than an exercise in self-delusion that can be very dangerous for those who practice it. And it is then that the Spanish spin differentiates itself slowly from the Catalan reality. A reality that is light years away from a supposed radical minority that throws bricks and burns dumpsters and pictures of a Borbon. In that sense, this documentary that we will premiere soon called “Vilafranca says YES” about the referendum on December 13 in Vilafranca del Penedès, shows the reality of a socially diverse independence movement that is nourished by the most prepared and involved members of society.

That the Spanish spin resists looking at the reality in Catalonia without prejudice needn't worry us unduly, rather the reverse. Each time more Catalans will find the version of events that arrives from Spain so distorted and offensive that it will be hard not to end up embracing the sovereigntist path. I said, though, that the State has been quiet, because there are people there thinking, and a lot at that. And they see that in a series of referendums organized with not a few well-known problems, that one of every four Catalans still said yes, without reservations, to independence. Not even the most optimistic polls have given results like these in the past five years. And the movement is growing by leaps and bounds, because the people feel assailed by the Spanish spin.

In Valencia, during the last 30 years, a saying has been going around that Eliseu Climent—as the principal representative in the media of Catalanism—made 100 blavers for every Catalanist that he converted, they call them "valencianistes", without blushing, despite the fact that they rarely speak in Valencian. And although it's a bit of an exaggeration, the refrain holds a grain of truth. Throughout the twentieth century, Catalan consciousness in Valencia Country has been rather meager. It was pretty easy for the Spanish to scare the people with the specter of Catalan imperialism. Many Valencians—or "valencianos"—felt assailed, in the same way that Catalans now feel attacked by Spanish spin. All things considered though, the difference is that in the Valencian case the supposed aggressors were in the right and in the case of the Catalans, it is the other way around.

It's for that reason that I always like to remember an article by Joan Francesc Mira—even though I don't know where I found it—where he detailed one of the realities that most affirm the "everything's fine" attitude of the valencianos: 60% of Valencians consider Valencian and Catalan to be different languages. And Mira had another piece of data: 100 years ago, except for a few intellectuals, almost all Valencians lacked a consciousness of linguistic unity. In fact, they had never even thought about the problem. Despite the lack of resources and political power a century later, concludes Mira, he would be more worried about Valencian nationalism if he was a blaver*. Reason wins out in the end, sooner or later.

In Catalonia right about now, we're counting on reason, and with the natural reaction of one who feels attacked. And the State is quite worried. In Spain, though, the common folk, and the media that feeds them, act like they don't get it, or that they don't want to get it.  It's easier to hunker down in their prejudices. We shouldn't be worried. The fall will be worse. We're doing fine.

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