On Monday, Artur Mas, the 129th president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, will sign a decree calling the elections on 27 September. Despite following the standard procedure so as to afford them full democratic guarantees, everyone knows that these elections are the last resort available for the people of Catalonia to express, as clearly as possible, what kind of relationship they want with Spain. As such, the vote will be akin to a plebiscite, from a political point of view, and this is understood as much by those who are in favor of independence as by those who --in an even more radical way-- oppose it.
What makes these elections so exceptional, then, is that they could facilitate a break with the current political order and bring us to a new path, practically without a map and equipped with only a compass. At the same time, it is very important to note that the alternatives to independence present even more risks than secession. And, so far, nobody has been able to explain how they would respond to the dissatisfaction that has brought us to this point, nor with what majorities they would rely on to govern the nation. That is, non-independence is a road even more uncertain, with the added bonus that those who support it don’t even have a compass in their hands.
That’s why --given everything will remain open-ended, whatever the result of 27-S-- these will not be just elections of hope and dignity for a mobilized Catalonia, or about a sentimental break with Spain for a resigned Catalonia. For both sides they will also be the elections of fear. We must, then, discuss fear seriously, courageously and staring it in the face.
Fear is the emotion that we feel when faced with danger or a threat, and it has an adaptive function. That is, it allows us to react quickly and properly in adverse situations. As with all emotions, we can learn to manage fear with more or less skill, and it can attain a pathological expression. But at any rate, fear is a necessary emotion for individual and social survival. As such, the first thing that must be said about fear is that not only is it normal, but it is a good thing. Even ahead of 27-S. Fear can cause us to flee from danger if we lose our nerve, or to fight it, if we know that we can win. To not fear 27-S and to face it in an insensitive way could make us behave in a suicidal manner, creating a climate of panic that would elicit a response of paralysis, even in those who aspire to the political emancipation of Catalonia. To recognize the risks and act with prudence is a good way of responding to fear.
Now, from the point of view of those of us who are willing to take on the risks associated with achieving Catalan independence, the danger does not lie in secession itself, but in the success of the scaremongering of those who seek to prevent it. That is, the problem is not the reasonable fear of having to follow an untrodden path, but rather the fear coming from the credibility that we give to the bogeymen that our adversaries use to terrorize the independence movement. And we must defend ourselves against these fears without reservations.
But how do we defend ourselves from false fears? To me, there are two very different, but complementary, paths. First, and to the extent that it is possible, is to fight fear with truth. To give an example: to say that independence would mean expulsion from the European Union is simply a lie. The truth is that it would be difficult for Europe to want to, or actually do without a region as prosperous as Catalonia. In addition, the EU has always shown itself to be pragmatic, because above all it is a community of interests, and the most probable outcome is that it would seek transitional formulas to avoid economic upheaval until a definitive solution is found. The truth, then, brings fear down to its true measure.
But the best way to face fear is to resort to the memory of our classics. In 1968 Raimon (1) wrote two songs that might be very useful to us: "Sobre la por" (About Fear) and "Contra la por" (Against Fear). The political circumstances in the Franco era were very different and fear was instilled with the weapons of the dictatorship. But the recourse of fear is exactly the same. In "Sobre la por" Raimon sang about its consequences: "The words half lost, things half hidden. And men half gesture, half silence". This would be the risk of giving credence to today’s fears. And in "Contra la por" he warned: "If we do not break the silence, we will die in silence". He concluded: "Against fear, there is life; against fear, there is love; against fear, there’s us; against fear, fearlessly". Precisely: let’s vote against fear.
(1) N.T. Raimon is a Valencia-born Catalan singer and song-writer.