Sunday, October 1, 2017

The lure of separation: Catalonia's recurring crossroads

The centuries-old precariousness of
Catalonia's commitment to Spain is
up for the choosing of sides again,
today, by international dilettanti
retarded by commercial expertise in
loud media. To this recombinant and
endlessly unsettled ferment, it is
studiously one's purpose not to add.

There are not such things as clean
hands, simple answers, amusing anal-
ogies to be exploited, to other sep-
aratist movements elsewhere on this
planet, in the question of the con-
tested plebiscite on offer today. If
nothing else, Spain and all of its
constituents are entitled to the em-
pathy of everyone attached to equal-
ly fraught unions, from Britain to
the United States, not that this re-
ality can be counted on, more than
any other, to inhibit the lurching
clod at the head of the latter, es-
pecially if beachfront is at stake.

Since the Spanish-American War, 
stripping Catalonian merchants of
their exploitive possession of the
island of Cuba, in favor of replace-
ment custodians in the American ol-
igopolies of sugar, distilling, min-
ing, tourism, organized crime, and
other ornaments of the Monroe Doc-
trine, a restiveness in Barcelona
has always held an opportunistic as-
pect to which the excuses of liber-
al imperialism have not been insen-
sitive. Yet with Franco's raising
of an insurgent army in Morocco,
to defeat the Catalonian-led Span-
ish Republic of the 1930s, Amer-
ican anticommunists and Christian
theocrats have looked upon the "in-
tegrity" of the Spanish union with
a devotion second only to their de-
light in the exchange rate for rip-
ping off antiquarians and galleries.

This is not an occasion for moral-
izing ideologies to impose an im-
pertinent sympathy on a question
of local torment. Especially, in-
habitants of the Western Hemisphere
owe to that wellspring of their dom-
iciles' disparate difficulties, the
discretion of a quiet contemplation
of their own trials and allegiances,
against the ecstasy of partition. We
have seen that masterpiece of idiocy
in the affairs of states, and even
placed it again at the pinnacle of
our own. What has Spain done lately,
to warrant any judgment from here?

Franz Borkenau
The Spanish Cockpit
Faber & Faber, 1937©

Gerald Brenan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Cambridge University Press, 1943©

George Orwell
Homage to Catalonia
Harcourt Brace, 1952©

V.S. Pritchett
The Spanish Temper
Alfred A. Knopf, 1954©

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