Should We Care about Catalonia?

Spain may be on the brink of losing one of its wealthiest regions and its second largest city, but what does this mean for people outside of the Iberian Peninsula? It could mean that other marginalized groups and regions of the world will follow Catalonia’s model and excuse themselves from oppressive national governments. More importantly, this issue represents a conflict between two mentalities common in the twenty-first century. That is, on one hand, we want to ensure that there is continuing globalization, consolidation of governmental power, and centralization to keep order. Yet, on the other hand, we want to keep our national and local identities and ensure that the people retain the ability to pick their leaders and form of government.

The former view seems to be the most dominant as people flock to the convenience of technology (and the lack of privacy that comes with it) and allow the government more elasticity in decision-making. In exchange for giving up some rights and enriching politicians, people receive benefits. It seems like a win-win for everyone, until you begin to see the corruption that is built up around it. Once you give up some of your rights for so-called security or welfare, you will never get them back, save for a revolution. The government tightens its grip like a python until you are no longer free.

So, what does this have to do with Catalonia? The government of the autonomous region decided to hold a referendum for independence, and like any other centralized government, Spain is waiting to strike the Catalonian people with its military might should the region actually make a move towards independence. Considering that the Spanish police took several measures, including the shutting down of the internet, the physical prevention of access to polling stations, and the threat of arrest, to prevent the vote from happening; the overwhelming majority of those who did make it to the polls voted for independence (by a margin of ninety percent). If the people of Catalonia decide to proceed with the results of the vote, a decision that will likely have to be made soon, hardship will ensue. The Spanish government will wage war and replace the Catalonian government with a more subservient one. The autonomy of this region with its own unique culture and history will become a thing of the past.

Today, we do not really have a stomach for secessionist movements, unless it benefits our own government in some way. Americans are accepting of break-away regions like Kosovo or South Sudan, but are less likely to accept those that are allied with our enemies, such as Donetsk and Luhansk. This inconsistency creates a problem. We are less inclined to believe in the right of the people to choose their own form of government and more willing to desire what is in our own national interests at the expense of the people living in those parts of the world. In doing so, Americans, in particular, forget their own history, which began with secession from the British Empire. We tend to believe that our founding fathers were justified in rebelling and illegally exiting a sovereign country, but when we get to the American Civil War or modern history, self-determination becomes a negative thing. We like to cherry-pick the rebels that are most pleasing to our eyes.

Geographical differences exist within many political entities. Even within my home state of New York, the mega-urbanized region of New York City and its suburbs (an area making up roughly five percent of the land area but sixty-four percent of the population) contrasts with the much less densely populated upstate region (home to forested hills, small towns and farms, and many lakes). I just moved to rural Rensselaer County, which contrasts with the urban-suburban Albany-Schenectady area where I lived for most of my life.

Differences in culture or geographical areas do play a large role in how people perceive the world and wish to subsist, but they do not necessarily have to be a dividing factor. In fact, diversity in ethnicity, religion, etc. can lead to the strengthening of a society and a better understanding of people in general. However, there may be times when marginalized people need to separate themselves from the existing political structure. It does not even have to be to the extent of George Washington and Mohandas Gandhi igniting the fire of a new country, but instead, it could be Martin Luther King, Jr. fighting for what is right and helping to bring about a separation from ineffective and unjust policies and practices.

As we watch the events unfold, let us not overlook the deeper issue at hand. Catalonia has believed that it has contributed more to Spain than it has received, and perhaps it is time for the two nations to part ways. Whatever your views are on this, try to remember that from the perspective of the Catalonians, this is a struggle between whether people are free to choose their own government or are forced to remain compliant to an ever-growing centralized authority.

Thank you for reading this blog, and please check out my book, The Global Bully.
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Published on October 18, 2017 03:29
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