Friday, 11 December 2009

Catalan Independence and Yet Another Neutral Swede

I sometimes wish I were different than I am – that I could take things easily and be carried away by emotions. At the same time, I am a bit proud over my boring, formal personality. Democracy and elections are important to me and that is why I have felt such agony about the coming non-official referendum (consulta popular) on the independence for Catalonia.

The fact that we non-Spanish citizens are allowed to vote on an equal basis with the local population, has in some immigrant groups lead to the conclusion that an independent Catalonia would be more generous with us than Spain is. In my eyes, that is an overly optimistic extrapolation but these referendum rules have had at least one very positive effect: these days, Catalan independentistes are busy visiting associations of newcomers in order to discuss the concept of Catalonia with them. That would probably not have happened otherwise.

Despite this, I think that we foreigners should not be allowed to participate, as a matter of responsibility and respect. Let me try to explain what I mean.

Who should be involved in establishing the identity of a country? With the referendum rules agreed in Arenys de Munt and now, for coherence, spread to the whole of Catalonia, the answer is: "Those who live there right now." Personally, I am believe that we foreigners, in general, can not feel the same depth in an a question of this kind, and therefore do not assume the same responsibility when we respond, as those who have their citizenship tied to this territory. If a new autonomous Catalonia would meet serious difficulties, for example because the residual Spain would succeed in blocking its entry into the EU, I, as a Swede, would always able to fall back on my foreign passport. That resort would not be available for my neighbours, which is why I think that only they should be allowed to vote, not I.

With respect, on the other hand, I consider that we immigrants have a duty to adapt and integrate into the country where we voluntarily have decided to move. Before I came here, I knew that Catalonia has its own language and a strong national identity and I accepted that. But on top of that I knew that in the EU and other international contexts it falls under Spain, and I accepted that as well. Although I have learnt that today's demographic reality has its origin in the Spanish occupation of this land in 1714 and the subsequent Hispanicization - usually undemocratic and sometimes even violent - I have big problems to see my new home in black and white. The process has been going on for so long and families are so intermixed.

Coming Sunday, most of the people I know here in the Penedès area will vote yes to independence, but I need not go outside my circle of friends to find examples of the opposite. I have friends from Barcelona who see themselves as Spaniards and avoid speaking Catalan although they have grown up here. They will advocate a no when, next spring, it is Barcelona's turn to vote (or rather, they will not to take the referendum seriously with the excuse that it is not official). A third, more typical and therefore more interesting example, is a friend from the Baix Llobregat area who speaks Catalan with his children but Spanish with his parents. He now feels confused about how to vote and would - for his own peace of mind - have preferred that the issue not be raised at all.

These individuals represent different poles of today’s Catalan society as I meet it and however I vote, I want to be able to defend my standpoint to all of them. Who am I to say that I understand Catalonia as well or better than people for whom this is their only home in the world?

Having said all this, I am enormously pleased that the question of sovereignty will now be raised in a large scale. Foolish as I am, I think it will clean the air and open the way for a society where a referendum on independence is seen as a natural part of a healthy democracy. That would make the Spanish society stronger, not weaker. If it works in Canada, why should it not do so even here?

On December 13, I ought not qualify to take part but now I have to, since my name appears on the electoral roll. Not to vote is to passively vote no. It is not my intention to vote no and I certainly do not want to be passive. That is why I only see one solution: a blank vote. Do not say that you are surprised. We Swedes prefer to be neutral.

Visca VNG Decideix! Visca la Consulta Popular!

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Relaterad posts on this blog:

- The Voting Procedure for the Catalan Referendum on Independence
- Catalan Independence? Coming Sunday Brings Us the Answer
- Catalanism is Not Independentism
- The Referendum in Vilanova – Highly Interesting or Utterly Boring?
- December 13, Catalonia Holds a Referendum on Independence
- Arenys de Munt – the First of Many Catalan Referenda
- Can Catalonia Hold a Referendum om Independence?

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More or less the same post in Catalan and Swedish.

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, Independence, Spain, Vilanova


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Jordi Honey-Rosés said...

This is a very thoughtful piece. It is encouraging that you decided to participate with your "vot en blanc".