No, there is no crisis of coexistence in Catalonia

'Crisis', 'division' and 'conflict' give the impression of a society in which violence is an everyday occurrence


In his Madrid speech, Catalan president Quim Torra delivered a message he has repeated on previous occasions and which is an important one: in spite of what PM Pedro Sánchez and his caretaker government declare at every opportunity, there is no crisis of coexistence in Catalonia. No such crisis exists, and it’s not because Quim Torra says so, but because it’s obvious to anyone who takes the trouble to find out what’s really going on in the cities and towns of Catalonia, beginning with Barcelona and ending wherever they wish. Words are of the utmost importance in politics, and a "crisis of coexistence" is nothing more than the socialist’s version of the "social breakdown" and "civil unrest" that the PP and Ciudadanos have so often bandied about. All such words ('crisis', 'division', 'conflict') conjure up the image that Catalan society is unliveable, a place where abuse and violence of all kinds are everyday occurrences. It is the idea which Spanish nationalism has been spreading for years via its political parties and its mass media, both inside and outside Spain. Civil unrest, on the brink of war, half the population living in fear, children who are spied upon and persecuted because they speak Spanish: these are all words and images we have heard or read endlessly since before the 1 October referendum on independence.

It would be mistaken to characterise Catalonia in such a way. There is one question, regarding independence, which supposedly divides public opinion in two, and another, the right to self-determination, which around eighty percent of Catalans allegedly support. I say ‘allegedly’, based on opinion polls, surveys and election results, but we don’t really know or can’t know for sure, since the Madrid won’t allow a legal referendum on the issue, which would be the best way to find out. Nevertheless, if these were the true figures, one would be lying if one were to claim that if the public opinion is split over an issue (even with diametrically opposed positions, as is the case), that is akin to a crisis of coexistence. Fortunately, social concord can withstand this and much more, since the public often show more common sense than their political representatives. The reason why democracy exists is precisely so that the public can resolve their differences of opinion, as inflamed as they may be, in the most civilised way possible: by voting.

Torra points out that, if anything, what we are facing is a "crisis of democracy". What is certain is that it has been in decline in Spain in recent years together with a weakening of civil liberties and civil rights. This affects Catalonia directly, as well as education, social equality and the freedom of expression. In addition, there are right-wing, or far-right political parties which paint an image of an apocalypse and civil war, and a socialist party which takes advantage of that by taking it down a notch to a crisis of coexistence, which doesn’t sound as bad. As a result people get used to the phrase and it enters the public debate.

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