THE OBSERVER

Don’t vote

The threat represented by the right is very real and the return to the dark days is no exaggeration

"Your cleanest, most cheerful word,
because it is the joyful time of clean words.
The vultures have lost their carrion of fear.
It seems they have nowhere to go,
and fly away to hide,
to hide,
far from us,
in the coldest tomb of the past"

('Democracy', Luis García Montero)

Facing the mirror with puffy Sunday morning eyes, today you won’t be able to fool yourself. Alone in front of the mirror, wearing glasses, the women’s hair unkempt and the men unshaven. Many will ask themselves if it’s worth voting in a climate of discouragement, frustration and a vague feeling of impotence. Democracy is not particularly epic when it works, but after adolescence, we know that when it breaks it can send us down a slippery slope to hell. Our forebears knew full well that the worst part of Spain's history wasn’t boredom or frustration, but the recklessness of the fanatics, who have historically denied dissidence, diversity and freedom, while imposing their version of the truth through violence and fear.

After forty years of dictatorship, with a useful Transition led by a political class who were heirs to the Franco regime and motivated by a fear that the ghosts of the past might return, democracy has grown stronger thanks to a consensual amnesia regarding justice and by forgetting the bones lying in the mass graves of the forgotten cemeteries. Spain has grown, has sent its children to university, has travelled across Europe, but the strength of the reaction manifests itself in the political inability to admit the diversity, the plurality and the yearning to exist of a significant part of Catalonia. The will to be is proven by more than two million people at the ballot box. Democratic Spain has only succeeded in very imperfectly becoming a meritocratic nation in which the state is not a black hole that swallows resources and imposes itself on diversity. Meanwhile, the Catalans have not stopped being "sentimental", as Azaña [a Spanish intellectual and the last President of the Republic] called them, nor do they understand the "severe, abstract and impersonal presence of the State" of which he spoke. The result is that today, Spain is —once again— facing the vultures which historically have been fuelled by the fear, misery and connivance of the Church and by the corruption of the political class, which has also seriously affected Catalonia.

The problem is Catalonia (stupid!), as it always has been in history. Today, the situation unfortunately reminds us of the state of affairs during the 1930s and it would be wise to listen to Ortega [José Ortega y Gasset was a Spanish philosopher and essayist] and his concept of "toleration" and even more so, Miguel de Unamuno [a Basque essayist, novelist, poet, playwright and philosopher] when he said that Spain deserved to "lose Catalonia" to a large extent thanks to the obtuse Madrid-based press. "That damned Madrid press is doing the same it did with Cuba. It has no idea. It's the barbaric Castilian mentality, they are nuts (they have testicles for brains)”.

The threat represented by the right is very real and the return to the dark days of Spain is no exaggeration when the far-right brandishes speeches and symbols which are typical of homegrown Francoism and the fascism which grows in neighbouring countries. No one can claim they were unaware of the threat they represent. A far right which has had the invaluable support of the right, which has acknowledged it and given it respectability instead of isolating it in a brave, radically civic and democratic manner. The right is responsible for buying into the far-right’s agenda on issues that do not respond to the real concerns of the Spanish people, but which foster demagoguery and feelings of grief. A rather cowardly right and left which have contributed to a dismal election campaign which has not centred on the debate involving the lack of respect for justice or the shocking evidence that Spain has the highest school dropout rate in the EU, instead stirring up base instincts against immigration and sovereignty, which always serve as an excuse not to have to think or make constructive proposals.

Many today do not know who to vote for and doubt whether it's worth it. If you’re a woman, don’t vote if you want repulsive men with their beer breath or the representatives of "real" women or those who can’t understand why we still need to protest to defend ourselves, to get into power and send us all forty years back in time. Don’t vote if you believe that Spanish justice is fair and functions free from political influence, if you think that remanding people in custody is used in a balanced way. Don’t vote if you think that politicians are all the same and that those who risk everything for their ideas are the same as those who are sent to prison for having engaged in systematic corruption. Don’t vote if you think that how we run prisons, the police, schools and state media isn’t important. Don’t vote if you think there is any other way to make democratic progress, aside from the ballot box.

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