Offended words

To talk about the police’s “torture methods” on October 1 in Barcelona is an affront to all the people in the world who have suffered and continue to endure real torture

Police break up a group of voters on October 1 in Barcelona.
Police break up a group of voters on October 1 in Barcelona.PAU BARRENA (AFP)

In turbulent times, when events change in a matter of hours, it is even more annoying to write knowing that whatever you write will reach readers two weeks later. But on the Catalan issue, there is something that will not have changed, nor will it ever, and that is the outrageous, offensive way in which words are cheapened or emptied of meaning. Catalan pro-independence politicians, and not just them (also the leaders of pro-independence organizations Òmnium and ANC, previously Muriel Casals and Carme Forcadell, and now Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, whom nobody elected yet who have proclaimed themselves top representatives of their land) have been offending profusely for many years. But I’m not going to discuss the countless affronts to other Spaniards, with a particular fondness for insulting the people of Extremadura, Andalusia and the wicked Madrileños. Let’s leave that aside, and refrain from giving relevance to that which lacks it.

The greatest offenses have been against the people of the world, both past and present

The greatest offenses have been against the people of the world, both past and present. These offenses are the result of constantly trivializing serious, weighty words that cannot be used lightly without causing affront. A land with a higher degree of self-government than any equivalent entity in Europe or the Americas (greater than Germany’s Länder or than US states); where people have been voting freely in various elections for nearly four decades; where the language is protected and no restrictions of any kind placed on it; a land that is, or was, one of the most prosperous places on the continent; where there is, and has been, absolute freedom of speech and freedom to defend any and all ideas; where people live, or used to live, in peace and comfort; a place praised and admired by the rest of the planet, and rightly so, for its extraordinary cities and villages and for its dazzling cultural traditions…; despite all this, for the last five years its governing leaders and its fanatics have been plaintively crying out “Visca Catalunya lliure!” (Long live a free Catalonia) and displaying signs with the slogan “Freedom for Catalonia.” They claim to be “oppressed,” “occupied,” and “humiliated,” and constantly appeal to “democracy” while brazenly violating the very same democratic principles that they wish to eliminate in their “republic” without dissidents, where judges will be appointed and controlled by politicians, where freedom of the press will be curtailed if not eliminated altogether, where those who are considered hostile to or unenthusiastic about the regime will be reported (“desafectos,” for hostile, and “tibios,” for unenthusiastic, are terms that were once used by the Franco regime in its own insatiable purges). They take the liberty of calling Joan Manuel Serrat and Isabel Coixet, along with over half of the Catalan people, “fascists,” while the writer Juan Marsé is described as a “traitor” and a “renegade.” Nobody should feel bitter or downcast about this: it is as though Mussolini’s minions were to call them “fascists.” Imagine the value of such an insult from the lips of those who are issuing it.

To describe their actions as “brutal” and “savage” is to know nothing about brutality and savagery. And that’s a good thing.

The truly great offense is against those individuals who really are, or have been, oppressed and deprived of freedom; those who have not enjoyed one ounce of democracy in their entire lives, and never had the chance to vote. To begin with, there’s all the Spaniards like myself who experienced and suffered through Francoism, when there were no political parties and no freedom of speech, and a student could spend two years in jail for handing out pamphlets, not to mention what would happen if a unionist was caught doing so. It was not just Catalans who suffered it, nor did they suffer the most, and many fellow Catalans embraced and lent support to the regime. It is an offense against the populations of Iraq and Syria, which are or have been under the boot of Daesh – now that is untold oppression and humiliation. It is an offense against women in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries where they lack rights and are reduced to living like minors or conjugal slaves. It is an offense against the Cubans, who have not been able to vote on anything for six decades; against Chileans and Argentineans who went through their own respective military dictatorships, when people were “disappeared” and tortured. To talk about the police’s “torture methods” on October 1, like CUP spokeswoman Anna Gabriel shamelessly did, issuing blatant lies, represents an unfathomable offense against people who have suffered real torture, and continue to do so, on this planet. As for the “savage repression” of that day, I don’t know what adjective they would use for the police charges during Franco’s dictatorship, which many of us have personally experienced. Extensive harm was done during those police charges, and in countless ones across the globe, as it is done today in places like Venezuela. Yes, the National Police and the Civil Guard should have refrained from using a single truncheon, but to describe their actions as “brutal” and “savage” is to know nothing about brutality and savagery. And that’s a good thing. Let’s hope that today’s generations continue to be ignorant of such things.

The way words are being mishandled and defiled represents the biggest offense and the greatest lack of respect. Even more so than the way numbers are being twisted out of shape, such as when at the last Catalan election a result of 47% or 48% was turned by the chieftains and witch-hunters (not by all the separatists, of course) into “a distinct majority” and “a clear mandate” emanating from the Catalan people. That was the warning sign that we are, to all effects and purposes, in the presence of Mussolini imitators who oddly describe themselves as oppressed, humiliated and without freedom, and who perpetrate the infamy of calling “fascists” those who could soon become their victims.

English version by Susana Urra.

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