Catalonia, Catalonia, What Makes Your Big Head So Hard?

The last time Spain had a civil war it was fought between supporters of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco and communists who wanted to establish a worker’s paradise similar to Stalin’s Soviet Union, which offered an even worse choice than the one America voters faced in the last presidential election. This time around it’s the seceding government of the largely autonomous Catalonia region against the federal government, and although it lacks the military might to wage an actual shooting civil war like America once endured with its secessionists the spat doesn’t look to end well for anyone.
Catalonia’s regional government has declared its independence from Spain, but the Spanish government has asserted constitutional authority to prevent that from happening. The Spaniards have kicked all the rebellious Catalan officials out of office, arrested several of them, sent in enough firepower to get it done, and the smart money is betting they’ll prevail. So far no nation has recognized Catalonia’s independence, and the polling there suggests most Catalans would prefer to remain Spaniards.
An independent Catalonia would be a tiny country with a tiny population and tiny economy, too, but it could be viable. It has the world-class city of Barcelona as its capital, lucrative borders with the Mediterranean Sea and France, and a long tradition of running its regional affairs to the satisfaction of its people. Catalonia also has its own way of talking, a rich distinctive culture that gave the world Antoni Gaudi’s mind-blowing architecture and some great cuisine, and no doubt some very valid complaints with the Spanish federal government. There’s a case to be made for Catalonia’s independence, but from our vantage point here in Kansas we’re not buying it, and we’re sure it worries people all over.
Even here in Kansas, where the leaves are beautifully turning and we’re temporarily back to sunny skies and temperatures as moderate as you can hope for in late October, there’s a certain uncomfortable sense that here and around the world too many people are itching to sever the bonds that have long bound them to their countrymen. It’s probably more pronounced in Spain, where the Catalans have officially declared their independence and the Basques have long waged an occasionally terrorist war for it, or in Canada where the Francophone Quebecois have long threatened to assert their independence, or in the United Kingdom, where the Scots recently agreed by a scarily slim majority to stay on board. There are countless independence movements in South America and Africa and the Middle East, as well, and given how none of those regions have managed their affairs to anyone’s satisfaction that’s all the more unsettling.
Even here in relatively hale America there’s the longstanding talk about Texas reasserting its independence and California splitting into three states, as well as all the ongoing talk on both sides about the reliably Republican-voting blue states and the the hard-core Democratic blue states parting ways, and although none of it seems likely to come pass any time soon it doesn’t look to end well. If the tiny country of Catalonia and its tiny population and tiny economy gain independence, it will only encourage the separatist movements in the Basque region of Spain and the Quebec province of Canada and the Scottish portion of the United Kingdom, not to mention all those destabilized elements in the more already unstable portions of the world, and it might even wind up enflaming the conflicts here in once-Bleeding Kansas.
From our perspective here in Kansas we’re sympathetic to local rule, and can’t blame Europe’s nationalist parties for their skepticism about European Union rule, and well understand that a lot of those South American and African and Middle Eastern boundaries were badly drawn by European powers, and that some adjustments in some places are required. Catalonia’s case, though, is less compelling. When America declared its independence from the United Kingdom its Continental Congress acknowledged that “When in in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth to which the Last of Nature and Nature’s God entitles them, a decent respect for the opinion of mankind requires that they should declare the the causes which impel them to the separation.” The rebellious congress of the United States America compellingly made that case in the Declaration of Independence, and so far the Catalans haven’t.
So far as we can tell the Catalans’ case isn’t based on any valid complaint that the federal government has prevented them from running their region to the people’s general satisfaction, but rather on a stubborn ethnic pride that wants to assert itself. This is understandable enough from our perspective here in Kansas, where we also have our own way of talking and doing things and resent any outside interference, but not convincing. So far at least Kansa continues to do things mostly it own way, begrudgingly allows those crazy Californians and New Yorkers and the rest of the blue states to do things their own way, and as bad as things are everywhere they could be a lot worse.
So far as we can tell Catalonia and Spain could continue the same slightly tolerable arrangement, and we hope they do. Some adjustments to the borders might be required elsewhere, but for the rest of us some stability and a lack of stubborn ethnic pride would be more comforting right now.

— Bud Norman

Nothing Succeeds Like Secession

Have you caught the secession fever? It seems to be a world-wide epidemic.
Almost every day lately brings yet another story of some group of people somewhere who have determined that in the course of human events it has become necessary to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another. The latest such occurrence is in Catalonia, the famously industrious and capitalist region of Spain that has now voted to secede from that otherwise lazy and socialistic nation, but the same secessionist sentiment seems to flourish in a number of places for an equal number of reasons.
A sizeable share of the citizens in the countries that comprise the European Union seem eager to be rid of it. A recent poll found that 56 percent of Britons want out, and they aren’t on even on the Euro. Another poll found that only 39 percent of the Swedes want to end their membership in the EU, but only 39 percent want to stay, and the remaining 22 percent were presumably too busy making hard-core pornography to form an opinion. Even in Germany, the country that gets to be the boss of the EU, 65 percent of the people are pining for a return to the deutschmark and 49 percent would prefer to do away with the rest of the union as well. In Greece, one of the countries that those Germans are growing weary of bailing out, 63 percent of the people say they’d prefer to stay in the union even as they grouse about the stinginess of the aid they’re receiving.
Even within the countries of the European Union there are secessionist movements afoot. The Basque region of Spain has also long been a hotbed of separatist sentiment, complete with a very nasty terrorist group committed to the cause. The French-speaking Belgians of Wallonia and the Dutch-speaking Belgians of Flanders have long talked of getting a divorce to seek either independent nationhood or join up with their linguistic neighbors, although it’s not clear if the French would welcome any people calling themselves Walloons. Scotland’s stubborn separatist streak seems to have less support these days, although polls indicate that now the English are hoping the Scots will leave Great Britain.
Quebec has a longstanding and sometimes violent separatist movement, one of the many based on linguistic differences, and in Mexico the Zapatista Army of National Liberation continues to make trouble on behalf of Chiapas’ secession. Wikipedia has compiled extensive lists of separatist movements in Africa, Asia, and South America, and if all of them succeed future geography students will with dozens of new countries to memorize.
Even the United States of America isn’t very united these days. Alaska and Hawaii have both had active groups eager to secede ever since they joined the union, recently the Lakota Sioux went right ahead and declared their independence. There are also secession movements within the states, with large numbers of southern Californians pining for separation from those San Franciscans and other nutty northerners, and a while back there was even a movement of farmers in southwest Kansas who wanted to break away from this fine state. Smaller secession movements yet exist with the cities of the states, such as the movement in three of the more sensible areas of Los Angeles to break away from that crazed metropolis, and the eternal talk of Brooklyn or one of the other boroughs leaving New York City.
Every election brings talk of secession by whichever side is on the losing end of things. This time around the talk seems louder, more widespread, and one dare might say even more serious than usual. A White House web site received petitions from all 50 states, and a subsequent poll commissioned by the Huffington Post found that a disconcertingly significant 22.8 percent of Americans wanting their state to go it on its own. The sentiment seems especially strong in Texas, the only state to have ever enjoyed independent nationhood, but it can now be found in significant measure in almost any state that voted against Obama.
Such secessionist fever can’t be explained in America by multi-lingualism, at least not yet, nor by the usual inter-ethnic squabbling, although there seems to be a lot more of that in this supposed post-racial era. There’s more to it than the usual sore loser talk that follows the elections, too, as that’s usually due to fairly minor differences of opinion regarding policies that don’t really affect people’s lives directly. All the talk of secession that followed George W. Bush’s re-election was from people upset by a war being fought by an all-volunteer military, tax rates they regarded as too low, and a fervent belief that he was an impediment to the blissful utopia they would surely create if only given the chance. This time around the talk is coming from the people who chafe at the taxes, rules, and undisguised scorn of that blissful utopia, who no longer believe the courts will impose a constitutional impediment to its ever-expanding powers, and who are fearful of what’s going to happen when it all comes crashing down.
At this point all of the secession talk is unlikely to lead to action, but the government should take it seriously nonetheless. Governments only work well with the consent of the governed, often they don’t work at all without it, and the sometimes violent urge to be free of even the softest tyrannies seems to be a universal impulse.

— Bud Norman