The Undiagnosed Patient
Can you imagine a group of doctors screaming at each other or openly ignoring each other while the patient waiting for a diagnosis bleeds to death in front of them? It is not an unimaginable scene, but the strength of medical protocols, the technical competence of a meritocratic profession, the principle of hierarchy and the fear of professional and personal consequences limit irrational and irresponsible behaviour towards a dying patient. Just like a doctor, an architect pays dearly for the collapse of a building, an engineer for a bridge falling down and a bus driver for an accident. Exactly the opposite is what happens in Spanish politics, where there is an atmosphere of irresponsibility, and progress is blocked by the inability to make even a diagnosis that respects the facts and allows policies to be implemented in order to lift us out of our current quagmire. It does not seem very useful to describe this process of degradation into which politics is falling, but it can be useful to put forward a diagnosis that can be discussed and debated with those who are interested in moving beyond paralysis and trying to save the dying.
The president of the Royal Spanish Academy, jurist Santiago Muñoz Machado, admitted this week that the Constitution is "very invalid", "very defective". Unfortunately, this diagnosis is considered a deadly sin by the traditional press and few Spanish voices of his prestige dare to admit that the Constitution is sclerotic after more than four decades unchanged and the involution of the constitutional spirit imposed by the rightwing People's Party. There is not yet the critical mass required to allow the Constitution to be adapted to reality in a way that does not entail further territorial involution.
The judicialisation of politics is eating away at the third pillar of the State, and one does not have to be in Catalonia to notice it, nor to be aware of Spanish justice's worsening image in Europe. In a survey published this week, the judges themselves say that politicians are shirking their responsibilities and opting for the judicialisation of complex cases instead of reaching agreements (88% of judges think so).
In Catalonia, the distrust of justice is deep. It is three years since two social activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, were handed prison sentences that are not only unjust but also pose a dangerous threat to any civil cause, whatever its origin. Spanish intellectuals' acceptance of the abuse of power aimed at the pro-independence movement is one of the most disturbing symptoms of the democratic disease affecting Spain.
Obstructionism and counter-reform
The qualified majorities needed for reforms and for the appointment to key bodies are incompatible with obstructionist opposition. Polarisation blocks the renewal of important institutions such as the General Council of the Judiciary. Pedro Sánchez's coalition government is experiencing a relentless operation of harassment by rightwing media, and the poker player is threatening to change the law to the delight of Hungary and Poland.
Many organizations are stuck in Catalonia too. The situation of the Catalan media corporation is a paradigmatic example of this, as the president and all but one of the directors have a mandate that expired in March 2018.
The inability to make joint decisions also affects the continuity of policies beyond legislatures on issues that are crucial to progress, such as education, the fight against youth unemployment or the survival of the welfare state.
Madrid: the black hole
Catalonia historical complaints about the resources devoured by Madrid, which acts as a black hole, are beginning to be shared by Valencia, the Balearic Islands and other communities that were more focused on individual enrichment than collective progress when under the People's Party's rule. Perhaps someday in the future, the shamelessness of Ayuso-style Madrid will generate a federalist reform movement. Will it be too late for Catalonia? Seen today, the bid for independence is over, but the last few years have profoundly transformed Catalan society, and there is a majority that does not want siren songs but recognition, respect and fair treatment, not colonial treatment. The majority is emotionally light-years away from letting themselves fall in love again with a joint project with Spain, as the President of the Royal Spanish Academy called for.
Any future, however, will pass through negotiation, and the sooner the foundations of diagnosis and mutual recognition are laid, the sooner we will rise out of the quagmire. It's yes to negotiation, but no to infatuation.