13th July 2024

Opinion: Catalonia – a critical reflection

‘It is happening again,’ says the giant to FBI Special agent Dale Cooper in David Lynch’s mystery series Twin Peaks. This sentence came to me today, as the trial against 12 Catalan separatist leaders began in Madrid. The sentence made me reflect:

Witnessing the Catalan separatists’ campaign for independence, I couldn’t help but recall the warning signals revealed by my old German teacher when he showed us the symbols and manipulation used by German supremacists.

What concerned me was not just the flags; rather, it was their degradation of the rest of Spain while simultaneously elevating themselves. Similarly, when the separatists claimed to be victims, suppressed as an endangered species, I saw no real victims, only a very calculated form of control (I don’t refer to the unnecessary police brutality October 2017, but to life in general in Catalonia).

I think that the mixture of creating a culture of victimisation combined with establishing a society of control, where our minds are controlled through unconscious social conditioning, is what makes the Catalan separatists powerful, but also scary if one casts an eye over history.

It’s common to view what is happening in Catalonia through the lens of history, especially the Spanish Civil War, which took place from 1936 to 1939. And it goes without saying that General Francisco Franco ranks among the worst dictators in human history.

A view of Barcelona (Kseniya Petukhova on Unsplash)

Still, some simple facts should be pointed out: today, Spain is not a totalitarian regime; Spain is no more Francoland than Germany today is Hitlerland. Contentions to the contrary are as incongruous as they are wrong.

To clarify another fact: the Catalan language and culture are not under threat today. On the contrary, instead of giving children the opportunity of a bilingual education, most schools in Catalonia teach only in Catalan. Spanish is being taught as a foreign language. Through this, a basic right is being taken away from Spanish citizens.

For the separatists, language is not a means of communication, but an identity marker; it’s a password that separates ‘true’ Catalans from those Catalans who feel Spanish. Hereby, the separatists have – quite paradoxically, in the style of Franco – created a control system that differentiates and categorizes people.

What is needed is not more communication for or against; rather, it’s noncommunication; a reflective pause that eludes the current communicative control in which people blindly say and do what they say and do because this is what other people say and do.

Unfortunately, such a break seems unrealistic. The PR campaign of the Catalan separatists can’t stop without everything collapsing. To make things even worse, the turbulence of the last few years has awakened other nationalists in Spain, such as the political party Vox.

Perhaps, here we are at the core of the problem: All identity markers, whether national or cultural, are prisons. Nothing more than fictions. The problem with the novel written by the Catalan separatists is not that it is full of lies and exaggerations; rather, that it’s provincially tiring because all the characters are stereotypical and far too predictable. It’s a fantasy that has lost its grip on reality.

The challenge in Catalonia – and elsewhere in the world – is to regain trust in humanity. So far, the separatists have mostly promoted distrust in everything and everyone but themselves and their world view. Yet, without basic trust between humans, life cannot function.

Democracy is the ongoing organisation of disagreement. For example, I disagree strongly when artists and comedians in Spain are hindered in their right to express themselves freely – including when they criticise nations, politicians, and religions. But I also believe that people who deliberately violate the laws of the constitution should be held juridically responsible. To violate the law is to disrespect the principle of the equality of all citizens. Since all human beings are, by definition, different, the only thing that makes us the same, socially, is the law.

A democracy stresses that we are in it together. All of us. Equally. Here and now. It doesn’t matter if you’re Catalan, Danish, a man, a woman, white, black, speak this language or that. Writing this seems embarrassingly banal, yet I see many around me who appear to have forgotten this fundamental concept. For this reason, ‘it is happening again’: the victimization, the exaggerations, the lies …

Finn Janning, PhD, is a writer and philosopher. .

If you’d like to contribute to our ‘Opinion, Blogs & Spanish Experiences’ section, please email us: editorial@spainenglish.com. We’d love to hear from you.

Recent Posts

Spotlight: Protect yourself from currency volatility when sending money to Spain


Special Wine Club Offer: Chill out with our summer whites selection

Matthew Desoutter

Spotlight: Save money and simplify your Spanish property journey


Special Wine Club Offer: Grab yourself a Garnacha

Matthew Desoutter

Special Wine Club Offer: Take the Tempranillo Challenge

Matthew Desoutter

Special Wine Offer: Discover the wines of southern Spain

Matthew Desoutter


Ramon Sala 19th February 2019 at 10:55 am

Please let’s be serious! You can live your whole life in Catalonia without speaking a single word in Catalan, while you cannot do the same without speaking Spanish. It is NOT TRUE that children can not study in Spanish because linguistic immersion takes into account both languages. In fact Spanish-speaker teachers speak Spanish in their classes and they have no problem doing this. The truth is that the weak language in Catalonia is Catalan and everybody living there knows that, except, maybe, those who have some other political interests.

Sorcha Griu 19th February 2019 at 10:30 pm

— Knock knock.
— Who’s there?
— Borrell.
— Borrell who?
— Borrell, spanish Minister of Propaganda.

Assembly 20th February 2019 at 8:15 am

The Nazi regime is, probably, the greatest cruelty in human history. The comparison of the pacific and democratic people in Catalonia with the Nazis, apart from being disgusting, is absolutely false (and suspicious). Did any Nazi went to prison in Germany? Obviously not, however the only people in prison are the Catalan political leaders, who did not commit any crime referred to in penal Code, but they are in prison without being judged, not to mention two not political citizens who, incomprehensibly, are in prison for more than one year. As far as I know Nazis did not pay for their crimes until they were judged by the international community at Nuremberg. So, once again, this pathetic comparison has no sense and clearly responds to some suspicious interests.

Quim 20th February 2019 at 8:24 pm

Let me be the devils advocate.
I don’t know what you may or may not speak in Catalonia, but the writer appears concerned, and he doesn’t compare Catalans with nazis. He doesn’t even mention the word. He stresses how the rethoric or symbols are nationalistic in Catalonia, which should raise some eyebrows. He mentions a need for reflection.
Reading the comments, I see people very quick to defend themselves. So that point he got right!

Assembly 20th February 2019 at 10:30 pm

You can justify it as much as you like, but he compares Catalonia with Hitlerland (you know who Hitler was, I presume). That comparison, apart from being insulting, has nothing to do with reality and it is clearly deliberate, not to mention that it is not fair to talk blithely about a regime which exterminated millions of people and the truth is that the only injured people in Catalonia are the Catalan people. You can be sure that is not what happened in “Hitlerland”and I am afraid that kind of comparisons are not very funny for people from Israel, in fact they have complained repeatedly about the blithely use of Nazism.

Another thing that is always strange for me (and suspicious too) is that those opinions never make comparisons with Franco. Really curious, it seems that he never existed!

Quim 20th February 2019 at 11:03 pm

He compares Franco and Hitler, and say something like Spain is not Franco today, as Germany is not Hitlerland (weird word) today. He doesn’t mention Catalonia in that respect. It seems like tou read Things into it. Try and read it again. He still got a point it seems

Assembly 21st February 2019 at 12:39 pm

Do you want to be right? Ok, you are right, congratulations. I am not going to discuss with you, three centurys of history show the truth (if you are interested in), but as as spanish saying says (more or less) “there is no more blind than the one who does not want to see”.

As an example see that news: https://www.dbalears.cat/politica/2019/02/19/324333/rivera-amenaca-amb-eliminar-catala-educacio-publica-guanya-les-eleccions.html?platform=hootsuite

Very democratic, oh yeah! And we, the Catalan-speakers (a language a thousand years old) are the “bad people”! Congratulations again!

Looking 21st February 2019 at 1:11 pm

As someone said before in a comment, “You can live your whole life in Catalonia without speaking a single word in Catalan”, not the opposite, and everybody knows that (does that happen in any other country with several languages, Belgium, Switzerland, etc.? Of course not!). So what the article author says about the language has nothing to do with reality and I suspect it is said in a deliberate way. The only people who “bother” in Spain are the Catalan-speakers. For centuries Spain has tried that all its citizens speak Spanish (only Spanish) and the Catalan language has been forbidden and prosecuted. The only thing that they can do in democracy (a low quality democracy) is tolerate it, buy even so Catalan suffers constants attacks. Trying to deny this is like saying that Stalin never existed or the holocaust never happened (by the way, there are people who say that).

Just a question: while some men are free after being judged and condemned for raping a girl (which appears in the last International Rights Watch report as a serious anomaly, some Catalan politicians and two “not-political” men are in prison for something that is not referred to in penal Code (Belgium, German Swiss and Scotland justices agree: there is no crime!), even it is not referred to in Spanish penal Code, and they have been in prison for a year and a half (at the moment) without being judged. And Catalan-speakers are the “bad and dominant” people? Come on please, let us be serious!

Charles 24th February 2019 at 7:48 pm

Of course, you can live with only speaking Spanish in Catalonia since it’s a Spanish region. But that doesn’t make the language treatenend. It is not. What does UNESCO or UNE say! Also, you can have 25% of the course taught in Spanish in Catalan schools, but only if you ask for it. Otherwise it is taught in Catalan.
No one in this article is talking about Catalans being bad or mean, all exaggerations from the commentators. He speaks of the separatist, how many does that cover. All 50% who are for indendepnecy, all a fraction of those?

Looking 27th February 2019 at 8:11 pm

Sorry, but that is not true! A lot of classes are done in Spanish, in many cases probably even more than 25%.

You say: “No one in this article is talking about Catalans”. “He speaks of the separatist”.

So separatists are not Catalan? Anybody not being “pro-Spain” is not Catalan? Come on! Besides, what the author says about those “not Catalan” separatists is not true and, in my opinion, it is clearly deliberate.

Believe or not, I am not a separatist but I can see/hear what it is said in Spain about Catalonia and it is mostly not true. For that reason I think the debate is useless, so have a nice day! Good bye.

Marc Martin 7th March 2019 at 3:24 pm

I am for independency, but I often find the political discourse too exaggerated, as mentioned in the Opinion above. I also think that some of the responses here are too defensive. Exactly why I don’t participate in all the manifestations, just as I don’t like running around with my flag accusing Spain all the time.

My two daughters go to public school in Barcelona. Here the teaching is in Catalan. The only Spanish the students receive is when they start having Spanish (same year they have English). And living in Barcelona, I see a rich Catalan culture, e.g. you can’t get a work on CCCB unless you speak fluently Catalan, all talks in CCCB are translated to Catalan, not always Spanish …

Marc Martin


Leave a Comment