Misc 06/01/2015

Idealistic times

Santi Vila
3 min

I want to clarify from the outset that in general I have always been suspicious of those who overestimate the importance of the future. Actions speak louder than words, and it’s clear that some people talk a lot but, all things considered, have not done anything yet. As Lewis Mumford wrote, my utopia is real life, here or anywhere, taken, however, to the limits of its ideal possibilities.

I don’t trust those who, in the name of a sought-after better future, brashly propose risky decisions and are even willing to impose major sacrifices on today’s generations, who are very much here and now. In the words of Todorov, save us Lord from those who would have us make a mistake, but save us even more from those who would wish to impose on us the unambiguous and indisputable truth. History is full of bloodbaths, always justified by a noble cause, but it’s not certain that the objective couldn’t have been reached without riots, but instead via negotiation and pacts, following our most cherished traditions.

Having said that, I sympathize with the Catalan independence process --to the extent that it could be included in the family of reconstructive utopias-- for five reasons. Firstly because, here and everywhere, to dream of a better future has always made daily life more tolerable, especially when it is full of hardships and sacrifices. How else could this country have tolerated the budgetary adjustments in the Generalitat of more than 6.3 billion euros since 2010?

Secondly, utopias, to the extent that they are critical of the present and ambitious for the future, are always instruments of social progress and change. They are rebellious and non-conformist, and as such can only be greeted with joy by advanced spirits. It should not be surprising that in autumn times and with the exhaustion of the existing constitutional framework, as with the frustrated expectations for a market economy that seems incapable of putting itself once again at the service of society, that the independence of Catalonia would be seen as an opportunity for a truly foundational moment.

I am also interested in the movement’s appeal to a personal moral responsibility, its demand for determination and civic commitment from all citizens. Thus, the continued leading role of civil society in confronting institutions and especially the political parties is a clear means for society to demand a definitive way out of its own self-imposed adolescence.

In this sense, and this is the fourth reason that makes me empathize with the process, a utopian independence is an opportunity to clean house. It’s a good way to regenerate institutions and leave behind protectionist times and practices, with despots and corrupt players who don’t hesitate to manipulate the most valuable national symbols in order to twist them to their advantage and even to personal enrichment.

And the fifth and final reason, given the inability of the Spanish state to regard diversity as a value and not a problem, is that to give ourselves our own state becomes a moral imperative necessary for protecting a language and an identity with deep historic roots that refuses to disappear, despite the continuous attacks and discriminations that it has suffered. A moral imperative that not only has to ensure that the new state defends its own language and culture, but also that it guarantees diversity and coexistence between the different communities living in Catalonia today.

However, making an omelette without breaking a few eggs --as some intend to do-- is an almost impossible mission. It’s clear that a process of rupture with Spain can only be traumatic, as it is evident that Spain would struggle to remain viable without Catalonia.

But however events pan out, what is unquestionable is that the ethical, aesthetic, and truly epic mobilization that hundreds of thousands of Catalans have led is a magnificent opportunity to leave behind that which bothers us, and create a new pact between citizens and institutions.

Clearly I don’t believe in an idealized future, nor in the charlatans who predict a Heaven on Earth. It’s clear that we don’t live in dreams, but without dreams it is not worth the effort to live, nor are we likely to improve our lives and those of our fellow citizens. Therefore, I call for the closest possible bond between the achievement of utopia and reality, fully aware of what we want and what we have to win, and what we are not willing to lose!