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Fes una piulada

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We have a dream

You don't know me. For all you know I may be a psychopath, a pipedreamer or simply round the bend.

I could try and counter that, saying my grandfather was a world-famous doctor, shortlisted for a Nobel prize and an Oxford professor in orthopaedic surgery. Or that my father was a successful businessman who didn't flinch when it came to serving his country as an RAF reconaissance fighter pilot in the War. And you could say that even if what I claim is true, kids of highly distinguished parents have become infamous as thieves, serial murderers and fanatics... Or the converse: looking at his parents, noone would have given a penny for young Ludwig van Beethoven's professional career. True.

Let me try on another front. Have you ever dreamt of your local fourth division football (or basketball or baseball) team being about to play the continental final? Unbelievable? Can you imagine what the Afro-American slaves (or the Jews in Nazi extermination camps) must have felt when the rumour reached them that they might be freed? What must the passengers in a stricken aeroplane feel when through the flames on the burning wing, at long last they see the lights of the approaching runway just before the emergency landing? Or the feeling of having a lottery ticket and waiting for the very last number to be chosen to see if you have won more than you've earned in your whole life? Do you get my present state of elation? 

Well, why?, you may ask if you've read this far. And I must say I'm very glad you've asked me that question!

Let me start my answer by saying that I'm not on my own. Not exactly. In fact several million people (though I must confess I don't know them all, surprising as that may seem) share my state of mind. I'm absolutely certain. 

Several million people are fed up, and have been increasingly so (in quantity and in motives, for years. They would simply like to be able to decide their collective future, as a nation. You probably take it for granted in your case. How lucky you are! 

Noone I know of has listed the motives so that they can be explained in a short paragraph. The truth is, there are so many grievances it is hard to know where to start. Some affect social welfare and the economy, some affect the things we are not allowed to decide for ourselves. Others are simply insulting and unacceptable in a modern (and purportedly democratic) country.

Our leader has called an election to organise, if the new parliamentary majority so decides, a referendum on independence. Sounds reasonable and civilised, doesn't it? Maybe to you, but some leading politicians and newspapers, most of them owing their allegiance - or actually based - elsewhere, are not sympathetic to the idea, and talk of applying the penal code to our leaders, of confiscating our taxes, of taking over our political institutions, of even calling in the military. Some see independence as an impending catastrophe (which means they at least think it is possible). That same group says that we would be expelled from the European Union and would never ever (the expression is a minister's) be readmitted. They say industry would collapse because our firms would lose what is, overall, a quarter of their sales. You don't believe me? Well, read the papers, and especially some written in Spanish. 

That's why I also feel like a castaway that has drifted aimlessly for months on a raft until, one day, before the morning mist clears, when he is woken by the sound of gentle waves lapping on an unknown shore, he can also hear voices shouting menacingly at him: "Don't jump! Come what may, do not jump!". 

Not a word of conciliation have we heard. No admission that Spain has failed to listen to several generations of Catalan politicians who have made it abundantly clear that without a deeply federal conception of what is, after all, a plurinational polity, we cannot be comfortable in Spain unless we cease to exisrt AA a people. On the contrary, over the past 15 years or so Spanish leaders (political and columnists) have become steadily more intolerant and less willing to discuss, let alone negotiate, a better, more satisfactory deal for the Catalans. And now their reaction is to threaten the Catalans, or preach Doomsday if they think Catalan independence cannot otherwise prevented. And surveys and polls show a steady drift apart of those who say they would vote for independence, and those who would vote against. Right now the former lead the latter by fully 30 points, and amass 51% of the electorate: now political party has ever achieved such an overwhelming lead.

From what I have said, you might think that those millions of people, that filled the streets of Barcelona on our National Day, September 11 (commemorating a particularly severe military defeat in 1714) in what proved to be the largest demonstration in Catalan history, or else followed the event incredulously on TV across our country, are furious, warlike, vengeful. But I can assure you that day was a joyous party, a popular festival, which raised our spirits no end. It isn't just that the independence flags (with their star) in their hundreds of thousands replaced the vast numbers of Catalan flags waved two years earlier in another huge demonstration which, though defending greater home rule, had turned into a massively chorussed call for independence. It showed the incredible organizational punch of the Catalan National Assembly, publicly launched just a few months ago, and with local assemblies in several hundred towns, mostly places where popular referendums for independence were held over a period of 18 months after Arenys de Munt paved the way on September 13 2009. The other organiser of the demonstration was the equally young Municipalities for Independence movement, to which over half of Catalonia's local councils already belong.  

Nowhere in stricken Europe is there so much enthusiasm and hope for the future. Nowhere. And it is our hope that the European Union's commitment to democracy will be sufficiently visible in its backroom diplomacy to prevent our political leaders being sent to jail, and our regional authority being taken over, by the Spanish authorities when the referendum is announced after the November 25 election in which, at long last, independence is no longer a marginal issue ignored in most parties' election manifestos. This time it is the central crux of the whole process, the mainstream issue.

The Catalans have a dream... and hope to make it come true. 

Originally published on 
Help Catalonia website, November 13 2012.
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