Politics is currently being swept along on a wave of emotions in which slogans, ready-made phrases which pack a punch and 140-word ideological soundbites are more effective than dialogue and nuance. Tough times face people in many places round the world and they pose a challenge to critical thinking. We need to protect ourselves to ensure we don’t fall prey to populism, dogmatism and lies, and lest we should join the uncritical masses or the politically cynical. In the coming weeks, the complexity of reality will require us to act as political citizens and we can only do so by following reflection based on true, courageous reporting guided by freedom which is free from manipulation. When the going gets tough, we need a survival manual more than ever.
No concessions to violence. At no time in its history has the independence movement been violent and any attempts to associate independence with violence is a dirty tactic designed to discredit a democratic, social and political mass movement. Equating independence with terrorism is the objective of supposedly constitutionalist parties which seek to justify the application of the Basque model in Catalonia: repression, the banning of political parties, control over the Mossos d’Esquadra, silencing the media and other means of suffocating people’s desire for emancipation —a desire which is legitimate since it is both democratic and peaceful. Nevertheless, in present day Catalonia, one cannot rule out the possibility that there are provocateurs working outside the movement who seek to criminalize it. Nor can we ignore the fact that there may be activists who are willing to ramp up confrontation with the state through the use of violent means. Overtaken by the intensity of their emotions and lacking in intelligence, they would be committing a dangerous error which would result in the death of the independence process since it would immediately lose public support and legitimacy. No movement, including the independence movement, is immune to the existence of such radicals.
Regard for one’s adversary. We are participating in a political marathon that can only be won or lost at the ballot box, which means the only legitimate tactic is perseverance, engaging in debate, persuasion and the condemnation of lies. Whatever happens. Even in spite of the judicial invention of a coup d’état without violence and terrorism without terror, employing the tools of the state to achieve partisan ends and the silencing of dissent in a perverse attempt to equate activism with terrorism.
The importance of government institutions. It is vital that we preserve spaces for debate such as Parliament and that the government governs in such a way that it convinces the public of the value of politics in our daily lives. Countries need budgets and the effective management of public resources so that a lack of leadership does not increase political apathy. Government institutions are fundamental and their preservation and importance is grater than the individuals who temporarily represent them and who ought to act to protect them.
Respect for others. Disagreement and dissent are not betrayal. Freedom does not sit well with fear. Too many politicians ride roughshod over public opinion, treating us as if we were children. Polarization and greed cause those who are already convinced to double down on their opinion, yet they reduce the overall democratic quality of our society.
Manage indignation. The upcoming verdict will test the maturity of Catalan society and its political and civil society leaders. Indignation, anger and rage must be channelled democratically if the trial ends in a guilty verdict. The seeds of discontent are sown throughout a general election campaign in Spain.
The campaign is all about raising the spectre of Article 155 [direct rule] once again, while manipulating the situation to create the conditions under which it can be applied, either directly or indirectly.
The response calls for someone with authority who knows how to channel it. However, at the end of the day everyone will have to ask themselves whether they’re up to the challenge or, as Gandhi put it, if they obey the ultimate truth, which is none other than "the voice of one's conscience". In the words of the Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, a regular contributor to ARA, "in the collective fight in defence of the human condition, of rights and freedoms, when social and democratic conquests give way to the discourse of hatred, to growing inequality or to the gradual destruction of the planet, nonviolent action and civil disobedience are a moral obligation to take back the present and protect the future of those who will come after us".
Democratizing democracies is everyone's job and calls for people to think for themselves and act with civility, but above all, it calls for political intelligence and farsightedness from our public representatives.