Catalonia – “Propaganda thrives in a crisis.”

Guardian columnist Natalie Nougayrède is hoping for a Pedro Almodóvar inspired ending to the wild, dark comedy that characterises the current impasse between Catalonia and the rest of Spain.  From the Guardian article

However, the 1 October referendum was hardly a model of sound, democratic expression. Only a minority of Catalans took part (turnout was 43%), and its organisation ran counter to Catalonia’s own legislation. The two laws that led to it were voted through without the two-thirds majority the Catalan charter (the Estatut) requires for such a momentous reform process. Nor was the vote overseen by the regional constitutional court. The Council of Europe, Europe’s democracy watchdog, said it did not abide by its fundamental criteria. Reporters without Borders, an organisation that scrutinises freedom of the press, denounced the harassment and intimidation – sometimes physical – of reporters who did not toe the pro-independence line.

These points often get drowned out in the romantic wave of commentary that Catalonia and its history can understandably inspire, within and beyond Spain. Catalan radicals have taken to social media to try to raise support across Europe, using English-language videos. They are fronted by a young woman with pleading eyes who describes a small nation that has come under the juggernaut of a quasi-fascist central government. She says “all [Catalan] values are under attack right now”. She says the Catalans on 1 October did “just like the Scottish not long ago”. “Help Catalonia, save Europe,” is the message. Propaganda thrives in a crisis.

The script of this film is one that leads to two separate nationalisms heading for a monumental showdown. No matter what colours you may want to drape it in, nationalism can hardly be good for anyone in Europe, especially now. Rajoy is no Franco. Puigdemont is no Mandela. Spain is not an oppressive state but a democracy. The Scots voted in a law-abiding process that had been agreed with London – not in a sequence of events specially designed to produce rupture.

Support for Catalan independence may now skyrocket, centred on a narrative of victimhood and in an atmosphere that’s become unhinged. Which brings us, in a way, back to Almodóvar. Born in 1949 in a poor family, he became the best chronicler of Spain’s transformation as it freed itself from the Franco era (with, by the way, Catalonia’s autonomy and economic success as a showcase for the whole country). Almodóvar’s work reflected the festive, frenetic spirit of a nation liberated from the past, from its suffering and its entrenched rigidities.

In some of Almodóvar’s wild, dark comedies, the scenario reaches a point where the viewer thinks only folly is left. But then something happens, a realisation, a cathartic moment of understanding and, yes, love. Self-destruction is averted. Feuds end. There is reconciliation. May the dizziness around Catalonia be like an Almodóvar movie.

Read the whole thing.

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