Sunday, November 5, 2017

The illusion of control

The pro-business center-right Catalan leader who started the current drive for independence, Artur Mas, expected to extract an electoral gain from a snap election in 2012 just by hinting at a possible and ambiguous call for an independent state. He did not obtain as many gains as expected in that snap election, but five years from then, the campaign he started has created instability in a European democracy, which now has even been exported to another one, Belgium. In the meantime, more than 2000 companies have moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia, and the region has lost temporarily its institutions of self-government. What better exemple of the illusion of control can we find? This illusion is frequent when we believe we can choose outcomes, instead of strategies or actions, and when we neglect the influence of chance events and the decisions taken by others on our own decisions. National-populists accompany their illusion of control with the claim that they want to take back control, only to realize that in a globalized world this is not completely in their hands. In nationalist conflicts, what initially seems nice and even fun, can very soon follow a slippery slope. A video by Stephen Colbert in a US TV network has shown to many the potential for simplification of nationalist controversies. I wonder if Colbert had so much fun with the problems of the former Yugslavia before the eruption of the Balkan wars. The video repeats many of the post-truths (taking part of the truth and manipulating it) of nationalism:
-It is true that an elected government is partly in jail, but that is because a judge has ruled that before a trial where they will be judged for breaking the law there is a risk of evasion (the president has gone to Belgium) and they may destroy evidence. I would have preferred that they were not arrested, but I guess that if Trump or a state governor in the US breaks the law something will have to be done with them.
-Actually Catalonia is not overtaxed as Colbert says, any more than California is overtaxed (they are rich societies that contribute into an improvable progressive tax system).
-Comparing Catalonia in 2017 with the US in the late XVIII century...
-Franco did suppress the Catalan language, but also many other things in the whole Spain, like other languages and freedoms. Many Catalans, like my grandfather, fought with Franco. The Civil War and Francoism were not Spain vs Catalonia, but fascists Spaniards and Catalans against democratic Spaniards and Catalans.
-Catalans do not pronounce Barcelona in one way and Spaniards in another, but more than half of Catalans have Spanish as first language (not my case) and pronounce Barcelona the same way as people in Madrid.
As you reader can see, things are more complex than TV talk shows would like, and we Catalan federalists have a very hard battle...
I know that some people in the US know much better than this, like Roger Cohen of the New York Times. It is not me, it is American historian Timothy Snyder who says that post-truth is pre-fascism.

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