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With rising tensions in Catalonia, coexistence must be protected

Harassment of those who are not in favor of the independence movement must immediately cease

The tensions between pro-Catalan independence forces and the rest of society were contained over recent years, albeit while still being obvious to everyone. But for some time now these excesses have no longer been unusual and the passions of the former have derived into harassment, finger-pointing, insults, exclusion and abuse of the latter – all of which must immediately cease.

Hundreds of people congregate at a courthouse in Barcelona, and one person holds up a photo of Franco.
Hundreds of people congregate at a courthouse in Barcelona, and one person holds up a photo of Franco.Marta Pérez (EFE)

In a democracy, the coexistence of different ideas should have a place, within a framework of mutual respect. But there are now too many signs of abuse on the part of pro-secession leaders, Catalan public media outlets and pro-independence associations such as Òmnium and the National Catalan Assembly (ANC) in the creation of a hegemonic discourse, which has diminished the possibilities of disagreeing, and expelled from the public sphere those who do not share the same views.

It is the responsibility of the Catalan government to calm spirits and work against affronts

The question is often asked as to why the silent majority that opposes independence stays quiet. The answer is obvious: it is due to the harassment these citizens have been subject to by part of this hegemonic discourse. Many institutions, including universities, public media and forums within society, have been captured by the independence movement, turning them into propaganda instruments serving the cause, excesses that have reached the point whereby public radio network Catalunya Radio is calling on citizens to report on the movements of Civil Guard patrols in the region.

This hate and tension are the perfect breeding ground for an accident, and once an incident like this takes place it will be difficult or impossible to get things back on track. Fortunately, nothing serious enough to be irreversible has taken place yet – if we ignore the general tainted climate. But it is the responsibility of the Catalan regional government, as well as the associations that it has given such prominence, to calm spirits and work against affronts such as those of regional parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell, who claimed that supporters of the conservative Popular Party (PP) and emerging center-right group Ciudadanos were not real Catalans.

The attitude of the regional government and the pro-independence parties does not give way to much optimism, given that, in the face of the ever-fewer logistic possibilities of holding their referendum, are turning their frustration into calls to occupy the street and institutions. Without a doubt, they will be judged by history for the drift toward hatred that has stemmed from their ranks. The independent media outlets that do not follow the instructions of the government have often been the target of this hatred, as the international organization Reporters without Borders has denounced.

A quiet nationalism should not be inflamed to combat another inflamed nationalism

Fortunately, significant expressions of rancor have not been seen in the opposite direction. And we hope that this continues to be the case – that the small displays of irritation that have been seen in recent days in some Spanish citizens do not give way to something greater: that fire is not fought with fire, that a quiet nationalism is not inflamed to combat another inflamed nationalism.

On the final straight of this race that was started by the regional government, when energies should be expended on the search for solutions and in favoring more reasonable conduct for October 2, it is advisable and urgent to assume responsibilities so as to avoid passions from running so high to the point of causing an incident. Let’s hope that no one ends up regretting not having done enough.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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