Forwards or Backwards

There comes a time in life when if you don’t make a decision, you sink and are done for. If all you do is let yourself get carried along with the rest of the crowd and your innocent yet easily manipulated desire to help, the result is that little by little lose energy, your capacity to react declines, and in the end you are overcome by irresolvable depression. Indeed, you become trapped in a sort of labyrinth that doesn’t let you think or react to problems. You end up essentially paralyzed. When something on a personal level happens to you, the only solution is to face the truth head-on, with medical help or without it. Self-delusion can be lethal; it leads you down the road to a sense of personal defeat that is usually accompanied by a lack of self-esteem. Although countries are not living beings, because citizens are what make up those countries, the attitudes of the people and the groups that act within them are crucial. When planning a country’s future the actions of politicians are as important as the attitude of civil society and even of citizens in general. Evidently, making decisions is not easy, but it is something that cannot be delegated forever. We need to establish an ongoing dialogue with all of the actors involved in order to better determine what is happening, what situation we are in now and what (and whom) has pushed us to this breaking point.

Catalonia is going through one of these moments. The economic crisis has revealed the political weakness of autonomy. It has underlined the limits of this autonomy, to the point that, trapped between the centralist stinginess and the irresponsible behavior of the Catalan leaders who acted like this country could pick itself back up with its flimsy autonomous instruments, the crisis of the self-government model is now irreparable. Either we decide to move forward or we will sink like the depressed and we’ll be done for. And believe me, there is still a long way to go on the road to independence. In my opinion we are going through the worst political crisis since the reestablishment of democracy. Worse than the one in 1982, when we were facing the effects of the coup d’état attempt. At that time the centralist “tradition” ran up against a solid Catalan resistance, one based on Catalanist optimism, which united people of all backgrounds and beliefs to defend autonomy, as limited as it may have been. After all, it had only been three years since that Catalan Statute had been approved and two since the constitution of Pujol’s first government. The strength of the Autonomous project had not shattered yet. The debate of the 2006 Statute encouraged us to believe that we were able to change things in Spain. And we underestimated the enemy’s strength and our own weakness. As I said at that time —and I was heavily criticized for daring to say it, I would like to point out—, it was enormous mistake to attempt to transform Spain, and more specifically the Spanish Constitution, through a reform of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy. We put ourselves on the edge of a cliff and we very nearly committed suicide. That huge internal fight among Catalans, encouraged by the false promises of the then leader of the PSOE, did not let us think clearly. We ended up having to retreat and salvage the situation as best we could with little dignity and a lot of ill feeling among us. Since that unproductive campaign all we do is insult each other.

The deplorable autonomous financing is the rotten tooth that has infected the self-government ideal. The worst thing is that everyone who has made a pact that heralded an improvement –real or imaginary— has marketed it as the best agreement in history, corrupting the meaning of the term. This is unfortunate. It is the self-deception of a person who is unwell who is happy because the temporary remedy has an initial positive effect. None of the political leaders that have come back from Madrid feeling triumphant about a few small wins that patched up a couple of holes could have honestly believed they were making history. Regardless, they made necessity a virtue, because the mission of leaders is not to make those they administer even more depressed. We have been plugging along as best we can over the years, without too much tension building up, yet afraid to set off a real earthquake. What finally did set it off was the world economic crisis, but specifically the Spanish crisis, which has built up a level of tension that we have never seen before. When President Mas announced that the deficit of the Generalitat would have to be adjusted because otherwise we would be heading over a cliff, the blame was directed internally, especially at the political parties and the unions that had celebrated the constitution of the two tri-party governments, squanderers by nature. The reality is that the onset of the crisis, the nonfulfilment of the financial transfers and the structural deficit have let all hell break loose. Things are not necessarily apocalyptic, but at least let’s be realistic here. We are economically drowning, we have no international credit, and in addition, the famous rating agencies have downgraded us to junk status. What an outlook, eh?

The PP’s strategy of attributing the extremely poor situation of the Spanish economy to the autonomies is, it goes without saying, one big trick. And everyone can see that the conservatives are seizing the opportunity to recentralize powers, interfere in the self-government of the autonomies, and what is worse, impose an unbearable social model. And the two most emblematic cases are the measures applied to education and research promotion and the drastic reduction in support for work placement for handicapped people. Those that don’t move forward are done for. And here we are, at a crossroads that forces us to decide if we will move forward or resign ourselves to the situation. Resignation means admitting that we will go backwards. Now: it would be better to not make 2006.

Published in InTransit, 06/07/12

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