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Author Topic: Spain, Catalonia - The yellow ribbon road to social confrontation  (Read 94 times)
DdmrDdmr
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August 27, 2018, 02:51:59 PM
 #1

L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz features the yellow brick road as a path that leads anyone who follows it to Emerald City, the capital of Oz, ruled by the Wizard who is venerated by the city and the kingdom. Of course, we all know that he was really a conman that preyed on other’s will to believe, and not upon factual reasoning.

In Spain, Catalonia (Cataluña/Catalunya) is an autonomous region whose capital is Barcelona, and is de facto one of the richest parts of Spain. It also has a local language, Catalan, which is formally a co-official language in Catalonia. As of late, Catalonia is flooded with yellow ribbons left and right. The ribbon is a symbol that represents a protest against the Spanish state for imprisoning a bunch of Catalonian local authorities, as well as forcing some of them to exile in order to avoid being imprisoned for celebrating a referendum to determine the will of the residents of Catalonia in relation to creating an independent republican country, and actually proclaiming the republic a few days later. Nice and romantic.

Of course, there are always two sides to the story… The Catalan authorities (Carles Puigdemont – ex-president, and quite a few of the equivalent to ministers) celebrated last 1st of October 2017 an illegal referendum to determine the will of Catalan locals to create an independent country from Spain. The fact that Spanish law does not allow for such referendums to be held under their constitution did not matter. The referendum took place (amongst some gruesome images of police brutality which were hyperventilated by the media and were rather much an exception under extraordinary circumstances).

The vote was unanimous in favour of independence, and the Catalan authorities took it as a mandate that had to be seen through at whatever the cost. Here again, the other side of the story tells us that basically, only those in favour of the independence actually went to vote, so the result, aside from being illegal, is totally biases.

The fact is that Catalonia is socially and politically fractured, with just under 50% in favour of independence and just above 50% against (whilst the immense majority of Spain is against it).

The Catalan government has managed to play the role of the Wizard of Oz, promising that an independent country is what the Catalans need, and actually managing to amass followers to their cause from all sorts of social classes and political ideologies. The common objective is above everything else, and the Catalan Government has one and one only objective in mind: Independence. If fact, they proclaimed a republic last 10th of October 2017, which lasted for around 8 seconds before declaring it left on standby, until it could be fully developed.
This lead the Spanish government to articulate constitutional article 155, an exceptional rule never applied before, and through which the Spanish government dissolved the Catalan government and held new elections to the Catalan Parliament (with no real change in it’s composition, being the pro-independence faction the ruling one by a tight margin).
In the meantime, the core nucleus of the Catalan government that proclaimed the so called 8 second republic, were either imprisoned or fled the country (and here we could go on about how Europe is joke in terms of common laws, but let’s skip that for now). The referendum and the later events that took place are seen my many as a coup d’état, carried out from within the Catalan institutions.

The Catalan pro-independence society stared the yellow ribbon campaign as a means to express their disconformity with the imprisonments and exiles. Yellow ribbons are displayed everywhere: people wear them on the street, balconies are covered by them (along with pro-independence flags and free political prisoners slogans), fences, roundabouts, town-halls, official government buildings, etc. You name it).
The yellow ribbon has spin-off derivatives such as yellow crosses (to be placed on the beach emulating a graveyard scene, after marching along the streets in procession), yellow sunshades (to be placed on the beaches packed together), yellow hats for summertime holiday traditional celebrations, and so on. Basically, every public act, feast or manifestation of any kind is now politicized with the everlasting presence of the yellow ribbons and their derivatives.

Now, as I’ve stated above, society is currently divided by half on the matter, so these symbols bare a strong resent on the half of the Catalan population which is in favour of remaining part of Spain. The yellow ribbons are heart-felt on both sides: for some it’s a use of their freedom of expression, for the others it’s an offense.

The yellow ribbons have been the centre of multiple social squabbles over the past few months, with fights on and off in relation to ribbons. Just this week, a Russian woman (who lives with a Spanish partner) was punched in the face in Barcelona by a guy that reproached the fact that she was taking ribbons off a fence. There are people that organize groups to clean public places from these yellow ribbons, often with a hood or handkerchief to cover their faces in fear of reprisals from the pro-independents.
Institutions such as town halls and government buildings should really remain neutral on this matter, but they play along and promote the yellow ribbon cause by placing gigantic ribbons (and pro-independence flags) on their buildings. 50% of the population is therefore completely ignored by the institutions in favour of the other 50%.

Quim Torra, current Catalan president and virtual proxy of former president Carles Puigdemont, is one of those characters that clearly hates Spain with all his guts. He’s been attributed tweets and phrases in interviews stating thing such as:

- "No, it is not natural to speak Spanish in Catalonia".
- "We need to confront Spain until it’s last consequences, until the end, without truce and without hesitation".
- "The Spaniards that do not acknowledge Catalan as a language are beasts with a human form".

Actually, Catalan schools by law should have 25% (only!) of the subjects taught in Spanish. In practice, Spanish is used only to teach Spanish language/literature, being all other subject taught in Catalan. Catalan government employees address you normally in Catalan and often do not switch to Spanish if you address them in Spanish. Official documents are in Catalan and normally not translated into Spanish. The list goes on. Catalan language has no issue whatsoever in day to day usage.   

Catalonia is still at what we could call the low end of a social confrontation scale, but things could pick up the pace in the coming months with what the pro-independent are calling a “warm autumn”. There are plans to create situations that will have an international impact (an everlasting aspiration and need is to move this conflict on to an international scale). Local press has pointed out planned actions to collapse Barcelona, by camping on the streets and blocking-off traffic and infrastructure such as trains, ports and access to airports for days on end. This would also affect other major cities and the frontier with France.

The yellow ribbon could turn red at some point if social confrontation scales. Let’s see how events roll-out, but I’m certainly not too optimistic seeing how things are and how they are foreseeably going to scale.

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August 28, 2018, 12:06:23 AM
 #2

same issue in italy north vs south, and same issue in uk scotland vs. england. if the economies of regions differ. they are getting into confrontation. if they are forced together into a currency union.

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August 28, 2018, 11:16:53 PM
 #3

I have mixed feelings about Catalonia. I want independence of Catalonia because I think that Spanish government doesn't behaves fairly with Catalonia. Catalonia is richest region of Spain, but a lot of money in form of taxes and similar ways goes to Madrid, while Catalonia don't get much in return.
But only half of Catalans want independence. And indpendence of Catalonia may have negative impact to the whole Europe. Then other regions of Europe like Basque country, Transistria may start to to require theirs independence and it may cause bigger or smaller chaos in Europe. Also, it would be useful for Russia - we may see more "referendums" informer USSR countries like we had in Crimea.
same issue in italy north vs south, and same issue in uk scotland vs. england. if the economies of regions differ. they are getting into confrontation. if they are forced together into a currency union.


Good point. I can also mention Eastern and Western Germany. Despite that 30 years after fall of Berlin Wall passed, economic difference between these regions are still huge.

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August 29, 2018, 12:22:12 AM
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 #4

Nice and romantic.
Precisely. Nice and romantic, for all the idea was a pre-selled-caged situation in which the people against the independence were unable to go and vote and a voting situation in which you can vote twice or everytime you wanted. That was a joke, from my perspective, and, as you have described well, there are two sides of the history.
(amongst some gruesome images of police brutality which were hyperventilated by the media and were rather much an exception under extraordinary circumstances).
Absolutely, it was a circus. I still remember that girl screaming "They touched my boobs and broke my fingers one by one", and how it became mainstream, even when it was a lie. After that, the girl appeared on TV and confess that it was an exaggeration, but that video didn't become mainstream. What a surprise!!


The fact is that Catalonia is socially and politically fractured, with just under 50% in favour of independence and just above 50% against (whilst the immense majority of Spain is against it).
That is the better resume of the situation. The people are fractured and influenced by the propaganda. The 2008 crisis was a huge one, and when money is lacking surprisingly the people become xenophobic and more and more hate speeches rises.


I have mixed feelings about Catalonia. I want independence of Catalonia because I think that Spanish government doesn't behaves fairly with Catalonia. Catalonia is richest region of Spain, but a lot of money in form of taxes and similar ways goes to Madrid, while Catalonia don't get much in return.

Yes, the Catalonian pro-independents always fill their mouths with that, but they seem to forget how since the latest 70`s they did receive the biggest inversions. If Catalonia is the richest place in Spain is because all the money they have been receiving for the last 40 years. Of course, the debt should be high if they decide to leave.

Now, I do think that this problem is happening actually worldwide. Given the economic crisis, the people seem to be more and more scared of "outsiders" and want to keep from themselves all they can. This is when extremists thoughts rise and the people delegate their own criteria in extremists governments. The situation in Europe remembers me quite the "in between wars" (the WWI and the WWII ones) from the first 3 decades of the XX century. Have we learned nothing?

Catalonia is a good example of how the people want to believe anything. This video I was talking about was kind of hilarious: you could see that, actually, nobody was touching no boob, but everybody just wanted to believe that. Why? Because police brutality is fancy and justified any built speech. Of course, the video with the girl saying that it wasn't true, well, that is not so fancy, this is not morbid at all, so, this is boring.
The social-morbid situation we are living in is just hilarious. The Catalonia issue, from my perspective, just shows how the people have a really short-memory (regarding all the investment the Spanish government made in this region for it to become economic strong), and how, when there is social despair, the people tend to hate others and to believe any speech of hate, no matter how blinded it is.

Of course, the situation in Catalonia has its historical issues, but it was when Franco was alive. Yes, ok, they couldn't speak Catalan when he was in the power, but the homosexual people were being killed and they are not asking about independence now. Besides, the Vasconian region was also really constricted by the dictator, as well as other regions, used as a barn to feed the investment in Catalonia, like Andalucia, raped and raped.

So... yeah, it is complex.

I don't like the idea of the "warm autumn". They are losing it.

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August 29, 2018, 08:54:05 PM
 #5

The ribbon war is one of the opening topics on the news day on and day off. The ribbon itself is rather banal per se, but it has a deep symbolism, to the extreme where people are placing them by day and other removing them by night in a never ending cicle with a biased attitude on behalf of Catalan police force towards the ribbon removing citizens. In fact some people removing the ribbons have been identified recently by the Catalan police, and are confronting a possible administrative fine for doing so.

It does look like things are going to build-up again, specially from the 11th of September onwards (Catalan national day). Plans are not being made too public, but the intention to go full force into creating a lot of noise and chaos are being aired by the diverse zoo of organizations that the pro-independence movement manages.

When it comes to people’s motives for wanting the independence, these vary amongs a wide spectrum of reasons such as:

- Inherent hate of Spain and Spaniards.
- Historical facts/misconceptions.
- Believe that the central government has been stealing from Catalonia to fund other Spanish regions.
- Believe that they will become richer overnight.
- Thinking that they will be able to nullify their personal debts (mortgages and loans for example).
- etc.

The fact is that everything is heart-driven. The lack of a decent public economical analysis of what independence would mean, along with a feasibility breakdown, is not on people’s minds. Blind faith in the cause and a decent twitter account following the main leaders and organizations is all it takes to move masses that are moved by sentiment and not by reason. Having a distinct language is a core driver in all this process, not just the economical reasons.
Strangely enough, many pro-independent are second or third generation immigrants from other regions of Spain, having therefore bonds with people all over the Spanish geography. Others are descendants from a long line of Catalan-only speaking relatives. The mix is quite surprising, but I think the overwhelming use of the Catalan language in schools and public institutions serves the way to the yellow ribbon road.

Tactically, the pro-independent manage way better the media and mass mobilization that the unionists, and have a lead when it comes to capitalizing those elements even if some of the images are often taken out of context or are based on fake news that have a right ring to them.

It’s also amusing to see how extreme left wing are often behind the scenes moving the masses in Catalonia, while their right wing allies capitalize the political scenario and preside the regional government. A marriage of convenience in all it’s splendor, with a yellow glow and a strange smell to it ....

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August 30, 2018, 06:00:22 AM
 #6

Whatever a people wants is what it should have.

"All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."
(Article 1, pargraph 1 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)

The people are divided but let's remebernhow tight the score was for Brexit. I wish Brexit didn't happen.
DdmrDdmr
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August 31, 2018, 12:45:17 PM
 #7

Whatever a people wants is what it should have.

"All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."
(Article 1, pargraph 1 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)
<...>
We cannot take that literally though, and everything has it’s content. For example, I cannot use the above article to claim rightfully that I’ve decided not to pay taxes as I have self-determined not to do so.

On the topic at hand, the real social issue is that the Catalan society is completely divided in half. Being part of Spain is the current Status Quo, so 50% cannot impose the creation of a Catalan Republic over the other half (and that’s not even taking into consideration the opinion of the remaining 40 million Spaniards).

There’s a Platform that has been created by some non-independents called Tabarnia, which goes to show, by means of a parody, how the issue could actually have a Matryoshka embedded effect. Tabarnia is the name given to the set of Catalan territories, that are for the most in favour of remaining in Spain. The parody, which has actually been taken as a serious option by some, highlights just how the concept of independence could be dissected recursively, and result in parts of Catalonia forming part of Spain, and others part of a (very) hypothetical Catalan Republic.

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