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VV’s Diary

August 12: “unilateral” is an offputting adjective

It means having it your way, as if you wore earmuffs and paid no notice to what others might say, uncompromisingly. I’m not keen on unilateral stuff. Me, I prefer to negotiate. Unilateral action is only an undesirable last resort. But some have found out that unilateralism is offputting only once it’s entered the lexicon of the Catalan independence movement: a unilateral referendum or declaration of independence … On this particular matter, though, we have always inhabited the land where unilateralism is king. When someone points to a problem, denying its very existence through bans and impeachments constitutes unilateral behaviour.

The opposite of unilateral is bilateral: there are two sides who try to compromise or otherwise agree to a civilised arbitration method. But the first condition is mutual recognition. Enter the old image: while the pro-Catalan movement talks about a divorce —which concerns two parties— and ultimately threatens to walk out unilaterally, Spanish nationalism talks about amputation: there is one single body and someone is trying to cut off its leg. There is nothing more unilateral than believing that only one rightful side exists. Which is what we have now.