Bombage To Catalonia
Only one thing could mess up my travel plans.
Summer dies. Autumn storms sweep in. It’s still around 24C in Barcelona, but it’s wild and wet, with the kind of thunderstorms that usually only occur in horror films.
The local ladies are now wearing their autumn outfits, which involve padded jackets and layers of scarves. I’m typing this in shorts, mopping my forehead, they’re pottering past in balaclavas.
It’s been tranquil and chilled here with a whole bunch of friends visiting, and now we’re about to go our separate ways; them to San Diego, London and New York, me to Cambridge to do an event at Heffers with the excellent crime expert Barry Forshaw.
I like Barcelona airport. It has a Miro mural, and is very orderly and quiet. Only one thing could mess up my travel plans. And that’s this.
The sentences handed down to the Catalan seditionists who fomented province-wide protests are steep, the longest being 13 years in jail. The sentences are an outrage, the result of a democratic government trying to maintain order in precisely the wrong way. I should have remembered what happened last time; a three-day lockdown, the airport and all major roads and transport links blockaded.
This time promises to be worse; the pro-independence protestors from five Catalan cities are rallying here to really blow the doors off on Friday. On Thursday I’m meant to be in Cambridge.
This has happened to me all my life, coups, bombings, floods, a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Only half of Catalans want independence (sound familiar?) but their cause is not simply the centuries-old war they decisively lost against Spain. Naturally I happen to live at the Ground Zero of the independence movement, just a gas grenade away from the Catalan epicentre.
The wealthiest region feels it has been treated unequally. It does not want its money to go to the rest of Spain, which is poorer, so that rather makes proud socialist Catalans appear to share their beliefs with the Conservatives (contain the wealth, lower the taxes).
Presumably the Guardian’s Owen Jones, who recently appeared at the Catalan centre for independence, must have tied himself in knots over that ideological conundrum. I didn’t hear him campaigning to break up the UK in order to limit wealth-distribution. At some point any kind of political stand forces you into a paradox.
The Catalan problem has undoubtably been exacerbated by the Spanish government, and it doesn’t help that the former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is still heroically shouting encouragement from his current hiding place. Clearly he’s not willing to test his convictions with a conviction.
There’s no parallel with Hong Kong here; they’re not locking up journalists in concentration camps. In most ways Spain is an incredibly liberal country, but it has an old, old problem – five regions united under one flag, and if concessions are made to one they’ll be demanded by all.
I struggle to think of countries that split up to become stronger. The collapse of the former Yugoslavia resulted in untold horrors, while the uniting of Germany has proven a great strength. Catalonia’s gain would be at Spain’s expense, but both sides are in intractable positions.
None of which helps me get to Cambridge. Watch this space.