Counter-current awareness

Impressive. So many people! How cool! The most highlighted characteristic of the civic movement for Catalan sovereignty is, without a doubt, its enormous capacity for mobilization and self-organization. The successive demonstrations of force have had visibility precisely because of their inarguable representativeness and their exceptional power for bringing people together and organizing multitudes. External observers who have attended the major rallies have all remarked on it. And they followed that up by pointing out their civic and festive nature (a multitude that expressed itself and demanded the right to decide with arguments and enthusiasm, not with irritation); their broad-based nature (social, generational, and cultural); the sense in the proposals (a new European state, cleaner and more just); a scrupulous commitment to democratic procedures; and a firmness in the assumption of a direct political leading role.

Both the capacity for self-organization and the civic and democratic virtues that those involved in the process have made their own refer, however, to one basic factor: a change in the conception of many, many people. There is a change of huge proportions in the consciousness and mentality of a very broad range of social sectors in Catalonia. Long incubating, but accelerated since 2010, this change in mentality is the element that has predisposed hundreds of thousands of people to take a step forward and adopt new attitudes. To dare to think in different terms, and to want to do so together with those who have shared the discovery and the route that brought them there. Without any prior rehearsal, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances have recognized this, whistling and humming a similar tune. Above the chaos and dissonances, one can detect a certain harmony. It much more than what we had before. We have tasted the sensation of an incipient mental harmony, of some basic common factors that had not flourished before and are now blossoming. And the loss of inhibitions by some has stimulated the same in others, which in turn has reinforced the first group. This will not be forgotten, and is a solid base for the unity that will be needed and that will come.

Some commentators underestimate this explanation centered on a change in mentality. They deem it a simple derivation of the hypothesis of the decline of the traditional leading class in Catalonia, who lack a project. They don’t accept that a shift in social hegemony may have occurred, or that a new Catalan historical and political bloc has emerged that could be sustained and recognized in a new collective consciousness, still in the process of forming. They believe that the process has a precarious social base, or that it is much simpler and more inconsistent than it seems. They say that the analyses that talk of a change in hegemony are hasty and mere wishful thinking. That it will not be possible to maintain the popular initiative for the process ahead, or beyond the known political groups and leaders. Soon we will have more indications. In a few months we will have within our reach more elements of judgment and a little longer-range perspective. But I see this change in mentality as being indisputable. The most recent 11 September celebration and, despite its problems, the extraordinary success of 9-N should have proven sufficient. September 27 will also be so, and I am counting on more decisive consequences.

I would like to highlight two signs that could provide an idea of the depth and reach of this change of mentality. First, that it has occurred on a grand scale, with firmness and with practical effects that far surpass the extent of previous known shifts, and it has produced new connections and behaviors in public spaces. Second, and most importantly, it has been produced against the flow of an overwhelmingly dominant current in the media ecosystem. The aggregation of television audiences and newspaper readers in Catalonia reveals the predominance of Spanish television and a few local newspapers that are not very enthusiastic about the independence process. The channels for expressing pro-sovereignty opinions continue to be in the minority inside Catalonia and almost non-existent outside.

The pro-Spanish viewpoint has not been a victim of any "spiral of silence", but its own lack of proposals and its reductionist denials of the process. It has always had at its disposal an incomparably superior number of platforms to defend its positions. On the other hand, though, the broad-based popular support for sovereignty --against the odds-- has been able to read reality in a new way and has decided to transform it. And even though it continues to swim against the current, if it continues to expand its own social roots, it will triumph.