Misc 31/01/2016

From Canada, with a fly's eyes

The idea of homeland is a concept that stems from the acceptance of a shared symbolic father figure, an idea that is past its sell-by date in an age marked by diversity

Marta Marín-Dòmine
3 min

Of all the experiences granted by exile --whether voluntary or forced-- one stands out for being unforeseen: realizing that there is a moment when your way of experiencing the world changes forever. Suddenly, you begin to see things from the perspective of an emotional relationship with two (or more) countries, two (or more) cultures, and two (or more) languages. This condition, painful at first but eventually liberating, has a logical consequence: a critical confrontation with identity-based narratives built with a single-view lens.

It has been my fate to follow the recent developments in Catalan politics from Canada, a country that has forged the concept of multiculturalism. And thanks to my double status as a Catalan and a Canadian, I can see, as if I had the compound eyes of a fly, the potential effects of the placement of the first symbolic stones in the re-founding of the Catalan nation. Setting aside for now any evaluation of a strictly ideological nature, what particularly calls my attention is the frequent reference throughout the entire pro-independence political spectrum to a supposedly shared national past; that is, to the events or characters that make up an "imagined community", according to the concept elaborated in 1983 by the political scientist Benedict Anderson.

Although frequent, the use of a past taken out of its historic context is not something that should leave us indifferent. To pretend that the past can explain the present is only true if we understand the present as a consequence of the actions that took place in the past, but the past can never extend, untouched, into the present. To try to show, for example, that between the first president of the Generalitat and the present one there is an alpha and omega of a continuous historic arc is to erase the enormous political, ideological, symbolic, and existential differences between different historic periods. To do this in an attempt to consecrate a past --all pasts— that demands a permanent, critical analysis.

A 2013 report on the integration of immigrants to Catalonia offered some insight into the evolution and the situation of foreign residents in Catalonia from 2000 until 2012, from the symbolic and cultural universe through their economic situation, including the perception of politics and the level of assimilation —desired or permitted— into Catalan society. The survey revealed a very low level of identification with Catalan politics on the part of these foreigners, and also a low level of integration of the values of the host society.

If we take into account that the age range of most foreigners living in Catalonia is 16 to 30, it is easy to deduce the specific influence of these young people and their children a few years from now, all of them citizens with full rights, in the configuration of this new state, or of this new nation.

Although there is no exhaustive study detailing possible changes in position of these foreigners in the last three years, both the report and the very scarce representation of foreigners in Catalan politics makes a revision of the current patriotic speech imperative, and not just for the simple compulsion towards political correctness. Let’s not forget that, after all, the idea of homeland is a concept that stems from the acceptance of a shared symbolic father figure, an idea that is past its sell-by date in an age marked by diversity. Reality likely demands the construction of a contemporary nation arising from the mourning for the patriotic narrative. It would be good, therefore, to open a debate, both intellectual and emotional, so as to begin to sketch out a national discourse that takes into account all kinds of diversity --cultural and ethnic, of gender, and of class. In short, it would be about building an ethical nationalism that includes renouncing a few things. Giving up the notion of a homeland understood as a closed, uniform entity. What would emerge would be a more unstable and, therefore, less comfortable narrative, but undoubtedly one that would be more creative and above all more just and courageous. A fly's eyes on the present.