Another Skirmish In The Battle
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.