Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The thin line between patriotism and tyranny

I hope that at some point Tymothy Snyder's book "On Tyranny" becomes required reading material in all the schools of the world, including my daughter's. I went yesterday to buy it to my favourite book store in Barcelona, the one that has a greater variety of books in Catalan, Spanish and English (La Central, in C/ Mallorca). I was happy to find the English edition, although it surprised me that the Catalan edition came with a label with the endorsement of a nationalist journalist, Jordi Barbeta. This journalist became famous for supporting the change of gear of the moderate Catalan nationalists toward secessionism in 2012 as chief political editor of center-right newspaper La Vanguardia. When the paper decided to stop supporting secessionism some time later, they sent him to Washington as US correspondent, where he interviewed Timothy Snyder recently, with a questionnaire that avoided any parallelism between the strong criticism of nationalist populism in the book and what is happening in Catalonia, although some of the questions transpired some skepticism that warnings about fascism could apply to Donald Trump (the main example used in the book). But at least in my modest opinion, many of the sentences in the book (please buy it yourself and read it to check that I am not quoting out of context) resonate also in Western Europe's regions with secessionist movements:
"Be alive to the fatal notions of emergency and exception. Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary"
"You might one day be offered the opportunity to display symbols of loyalty. Make sure that such symbols include your fellow citizens rather than exclude them"
"In the politics of eternity, the seduction of a mythicized past prevents us from thinking about possible futures."
"A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best."
"A nationalist will say it can't happen here, which is the first step toward disaster. A patriot says that it could happen here, but that we will stop it."
Perhaps Albert Einstein would disagree about the distinction between patriotism and nationalism, but the main point of the book, I believe, is the thin line between the manipulation of feelings toward your mother land (whichever you believe that is) and tyranny.
The New York Times (NYT) recently ran an editorial where it accepted one of the post-truths of Catalan secessionism: that we contribute 19% of Spanish public revenues to receive only 10% in expenditures. In fact, we receive 15% which is only 1% less than our population percentage. The Spanish ambassador and reputable economists have already replied to the newspaper. The NYT was right that the current situation in Catalonia has been aggravated by a right wing Spanish nationalist government that has also been exploiting nationalist feelings. But as Snyder says, post-truth is pre-fascism. Not only in the USA. Catalan, Spanish and other European citizens should ask themselves:  For whom the bells toll? They toll for you.

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