Another Skirmish In The Battle

Observatory

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I sometimes think I am fated to live at the heart of terrible life-changing events, always in cities caught up in change. Never having been one for a quiet life in the country, I’ve been too close to too many epicentres for comfort, but tonight is one that stirs the heart.

In Barcelona I live beside the building above, the psychological centre of Catalunya, a converted market which houses the archeological remains of Old Barcelona, and the spot where Catalans were defeated by the Spanish 400 years ago. Now it’s where protests, rallies and celebrations are staged beneath the biggest flag I’ve ever seen.

Tonight, on the eve of the Diada, the day that commemorates the fall of Barcelona, there is a classical concert for its people so rousing that I’ve given in to it, turning off the TV and opening the doors to allow the vast chorale works to flood through the flat.

There is less than one month until October 1, a day marked in red here. The country’s government is planning to hold a referendum, but it is still not clear if it will take place or how will the international community react to it. Typically, nothing is clear, especially in terms of logistics and legal framework. The Spanish government says that such a vote will not be allowed, but its cabinet hasn’t disclosed how it will stop the referendum either.

All day planes have been flying overhead pulling banners emblazoned with ‘Si!’ – Vote yes. But if Catalunya holds a referendum in which the populace vote ‘Si’, Spain will not grant any power to it, because by doing so it will spark a chain reaction of breakaway nations from Galicia to the Basque country.

This is the second referendum here. In Britain there is to be no second referendum on the divorce from Europe, even though its populace was tricked by dishonest politicians who lied about the consequences. Nigel Farage lied, Boris Johnson lied and honest people were deceived, so much so that one cannot blame them for the disastrous mess it caused.

All over Europe the problem is growing as extremes are explored; in Poland, Germany, Latvia and the Ukraine the far right is ignoring the lessons of the past and tightening its insidious grip. Let’s not touch on what’s happening in Venezuela or America. In Spain, at least, the memory of fascism is strong enough for all sides to demand a democratic approach. In the UK this means no to a second vote. Perhaps the Catalans are more proud and determined than the British, who seem to just want a quiet life. I have Catalan friends who utterly determined in their convictions, but none is as out of touch as Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory candidate so emasculated by his Catholic beliefs that he is prepared to condemn those who do not share his fantasies.

My point? In the broadest and deepest sense this global pandemic of uncertainty is about the oldest battle in the world, between Christianity and Islam. As an atheist I understand the how but not the why, especially at this time, when rational understanding of the world should have replaced wish-fulfillment.

As the music swelled once more and the flat filled with hundreds of voices, I thought that we had to decide on the consequences of ignoring them or listening. But this state of affairs has been there since the eighth century, sometimes surpassed, sometimes simmering, sometimes boiling over. This is simply another of those later times. This is not the end of days. It’s just another skirmish.

7 comments on “Another Skirmish In The Battle”

  1. Allan Lloyd says:

    I think that the most worrying thing about politicians telling lies to the public is not that they do it. It is that there is no shame when they are found out. The only thing that I agree with Trump about is that we are living in a “post-truth” world. No-one cares if a fact is wrong as long as it reinforces their world view. This applies as much to Corbyn and Abbott as it does to May, Farage, Gove, as well as Trump’s cronies. The strength of our political system used to be that if people were discovered to have told deliberate untruths they used to resign.

    The idea seems laughable now.

  2. Rachel Green says:

    Well said, sir. I despair of our future.

  3. John says:

    Brooke here. Signed in under different name so that Admin can edit/delete the following.
    The comment …”this global pandemic of uncertainty is about the oldest battle in the world, between Christianity and Islam.” is worrisome. The Christianity and Islam conflict is not the oldest battle in the world. And I think it is very unwise to play to current propaganda. I would argue instead that uncertainty is a symptom of deeper anxieties about our economic futures, whether or not we will have work, and consequently our identities of privilege (compared to all those other people). But perhaps I mistake your point of view.

  4. admin says:

    A bit of a hot-button topic here. Brooke, perhaps I should have said ‘one of the oldest battles in the world’ (1400 yrs by my count). My main point was that nothing really changes. Outside my window tonight are half a million people (starting from the head of the protest movement and flowing back through the streets for miles) trying to push through an independence referendum that has been a source of discontent for 400 years. I never delete comments, BTW. Democracy.

  5. Brooke says:

    Hot button topic everywhere. I may be overly sensitive today as I remember NYC horror.
    BTW– democracy is fine but it’s your site and other people may not want to hear this.

  6. Peter Tromans says:

    What is democracy without education?

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Hot button or not, I think you are right Brooke. I don’t think that is the battle that’s being fought at all. People are much more afraid of their own personal future and whether they’ll have one than which belief system dominates (and the atheist one seems to be dominating currently). Most fights come down to economics in the end. “Those people” don’t understand us and we’re not getting a fair shake so let’s make “them” go away so we can run things to suit “us”.

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