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The observer

Between the revolution and the summer holidays

Extraordinary events occur within an apparent normality and this is what we are all going through at the moment

Though it may not be immediately apparent, the events that mark our lives don’t come with a soundtrack. There are no violins or mariachis, there’s no drumroll before the trapeze artist falls to their death or is heroically saved at the last second.

Extraordinary events occur within an apparent normality and this is what we are all going through at the moment. Companies innovate, others close, people start to find work, the economic recovery does nothing for people’s salaries, the air conditioning breaks down, a decimal point here or there determines our children’s futures and hospitals continue with their life and death struggle. According to the national stereotype, historically, after every victory or great defeat we Catalans promptly return to business as usual. In mid-July 2017, while many Catalans are planning their summer holiday, the political temperature is rising and they are realising that at some point they will have to show their support for their political leaders. It’s a good thing that life should prevail over politics, as it acts as an antidote.

Here at ARA, we have started our summer format and today's dossier has been made in collaboration with our readers. It is a journey through decades of summer holidays, of people and places, those moments of happiness which connect us to our childhood and those summers in which we see ourselves reflected. I invite you to read our readers’ stories on our website and I am sure some will resonate with you. I remember a car piled high with suitcases and family members, playing a Ray Conniff tape that had to be turned over. Me sitting between my siblings, with a canary cage balanced on my lap all the way to Viladrau. I remember the smell of the trees, the flowers in the courtyard of Mrs Assumpció de Cal Sastre and the cakes from Font, the local pastry shop. The security surrounding the candy cupboard was as tight as in Fort Knox.

You may be on holiday, but we will continue reporting on any new developments regarding the referendum on independence.

We are facing a political challenge of the first order, one that is changing the way in which we have analysed the world up to now.

From cooperation to confrontation

The majority of Catalan society has shifted from supporting some degree of home rule to being pro-independence, with a brief sojourn in the fiction of federalism or the substitute for the Statute. A return to an asymmetric Spain might be achieved in the future by a sector of Catalunya en Comú, who intend to win over the majority with their proposal of transforming Spain together with Podemos. However, many of their voters and the majority of the CDC, ERC and the CUP’s voters (and some of the PSC’s) have come to the conclusion that the inferiority complex displayed by the Catalan industrialist in the Spanish movie La Escopeta Nacional [The National Shotgun] died along with the much-admired José Sazatornil, the Catalan actor who played him on screen. They have concluded that, politically and economically, Catalonia will not receive the recognition it deserves.

An impotent state

The difference between politicians and true leaders is the latter’s capacity for transformation and consensus-building, as well as strategic thinking, taking a long-term view. Unable to make an attractive proposal, Madrid acts with contempt and the desire to obtain a resounding victory. The main issue is the absolute rejection of the "bilateralism" that so irritates the uncompromising Partido Popular.

It is not possible to agitate on a permanent basis. A solution must be found to the situation. The state has not been clever enough to leave some room for dialogue. Possibly it is unable to do so, since the disagreement is fundamental. The state has no wish to recognise Catalonia as a political subject and a large section of our nation has ceased to ask for permission to exist, disconnecting itself from what it does not consider its own.

Negotiating from a position of strength

Now that the framework for the referendum has become consolidated, so too has the feeling that a clash of legitimacies is inevitable and, likewise it appears impossible to agree to the speed of the impact. Around many tables, people are asking themselves which interlocutors will be able to speak on 2 October and what backing they will have attained. In Catalonia, the government’s only asset is the size of a mass vote, something which requires the participation of the moderates, of those who will also vote ‘no’ and those who are legitimately worried by what is heading their way. As a result, the Catalan government needs to be very careful with every step it takes. During the recent recession, they also learnt that euphemisms do not work when the players and the voters need to take a real step forward. At present, there is no alternative to holding a referendum and it can’t be done without moving beyond the current legal framework. The state has busied itself with putting an end to every opportunity for democratic reform and of a bilateral, respectful dialogue. Let no one be fooled: the journey will be a complicated one, but the alternative is for us to become residual in a state without a project to speak of.

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