Why I believe we should care about what’s happening in Catalunya.

I’m sitting here in Cornwall trying to write a post about what’s going on in Catalunya and I keep having false starts and long pauses while I read more and more on Twitter, on Facebook, in the news.

For the past two months I’ve been battling a cold virus – I can’t seem to clear my head. It’s all a muddle in there. Hopefully writing some of my thoughts down will help. I can’t carry all this around too much longer.

As I said my last post, today is a big day. And a sad one. I feel it physically like a vibration in my own body. I don’t know why it affects me so much. I wish I could switch off and stop reading the news or caring about what is happening. But it seems to have entered my psyche and so all I can do is write as much and as honestly as I can.

I can’t help imagining the sorrow of the families of the politicians who remain in prison – the two Jordis, Oriol Junqueres and Joaquim Forn.  The men themselves send out messages of determination, calm and inner resolve but it isn’t hard to imagine how hard it must be to be imprisoned in a very hostile atmosphere, with limited access to means of communication, without having had a fair trial and knowing that they are being punished for their beliefs and not their actions.

Over in Brussels Carles Puigdemont and his fellow ministers are speaking this morning in the hope of avoiding being extradited to Spain.  I feel they are doing the right thing in a dangerous and unpredictable situation. At least they are able to speak freely and have a chance to put their case.

Is the world listening?

For me it’s about more than Catalunya – it’s about democracy and whether we care enough about it to fight against oppression and to support all those who are doing the same.

I can’t help feeling that there is a battle going on all over the world which has recently increased in intensity. Now more than ever it is important to take your place and choose a side. There are millions of people fighting for justice and for human rights and for animal rights and for the future of our planet. And there are a smaller number who want to defeat us. They have power and money and state apparatus to back them up but they are not as many as we are.  All they want is to keep control and they work together and are ruthless in their methods even if they appear to be smiling on the surface.

Everything that we instinctively feel is crazy and wrong – is just that. We know it in our hearts.

Yesterday I was in the kitchen and on the edge of my awareness I heard a piece of news about a small protest, somewhere, about something. Perhaps it was to save a nature reserve, or to protect a hospital. My body responded while my full attention was elsewhere. My body thrilled to the sound of their chanting. Those are my people, I support them and always will.

Some people want to create a better world and some only want power. And in between there are millions of people who are asleep. Who believe that world leaders are democratic.   Who  fondly think that ‘someone else’ will take care of everything.

How can anyone now say ‘I’m not interested in politics’?   It’s not politics – it’s life!  It’s your life and mine and all life on this beautiful precious planet. Those who seek to keep us down are also very busy destroying our world.

Maybe this sounds strange but it is what I privately believe.

There is a new world trying to come through and the old one is dying but is fighting back with all its might. Of course I believe in the power of love and that it is important to fight the demons inside us as well as those we meet outside. Forgiveness is important and self care and working in small ways for our communities. And being friendly to those we don’t like. And taking time to breathe and to rest.

But I find myself more and more impatient with those who are still asleep.

Wake up to why you were born. We are not all separate beings. We are part of an unimaginably huge universe and everything we do, think and say is important.  It is time to chose how to use our lives. What energy to feed in the world?  Which wolf do you feed in your own heart?  I can’t find the words to describe the two sides in this battle – it isn’t Light and Dark, it isn’t positive and negative, it isn’t creation and destruction…..  those all are vital for life not to stagnate. Maybe I am talking about Love and Hate.  Or even Love and Fear.

And to return to Catalunya.

This peaceful revolution is happening now.

It’s not easy. It takes courage. It is a creative act. It is hard work.

  • In the streets people are decking the walls and lamppost and bridges and statues with yellow ribbons. This is a symbol of solidarity with the prisoners and with everyone who is living under the invading force of the Spanish Article 155.
  • Pensioners in Reus are demonstrating every midday wearing yellow scarves. They call themselves Grandmothers and Grandfathers for Liberty. The Electoral Commission has told them to stop but they continue. Wearing yellow scarves and fighting for the release of the prisoners could affect the election?  Why doesn’t the Electoral Commission say that having candidates in prison and other in exile also could affect the election?
  • Another group of pensioners were told to take off their scarves and yellow ribbons because M. Rajoy was visiting Mataro and might be offended.
  • The Catalan TV and Radio is under pressure from the new regime – they want to replace the journalists and presenters with ‘normal’ people.
  • The famous Barcelona fountains have been stopped because they were flowing with the colour yellow.
  • All public buildings in Catalunya have been told to remove any banners which say ‘Freedom’ or ‘Democracy’
  • A bartender was visited by the police because he replied in Catalan when a customer spoke to him in Spanish.

The stories go on and on….. people in Catalunya are awake and standing up for democracy. Not the pretend democracy which we all know from our own countries where politicians use us to vote for them every few years and then go ahead and do what they wanted anyway like destroy natural habitats, sell off our health service for profit, sell arms to brutal dictatorships. But a true democracy where people actually matter.

This is a fight and while we want to keep a moral compass and to be honest and peaceful the other side has no such qualms.

There are lies and provocations, there is bullying, intimidation and a determined attempt to silence people by fear.

  • Teachers are taken to court for discussing the Catalan situation in Galicia.
  • Students are arrested for sharing tweets about police violence in the October 1st referendum
  • Some ultra-right Spanish nationalists burnt some papers in their own flat and accused the Catalan independence movement of setting fire to their flat for having a Spanish flag on the balcony. They got a sympathy phone call from M.Rajoy but they didn’t want to make a formal complaint to the police – because it was all propaganda and not true.

It’s a funny thing to care a lot about something and see that others are not too bothered. It happens to us all at some time in our lives. Sometimes other people just don’t get so excited about the things that we care about.  But what if we could all decide to open our hearts to care about everything?  To remove the buffers that stop us feeling it when others – humans and animals – need help?   Perhaps our hearts are strong enough to feel it!

I remember when I was about 7, driving through Ireland with my parents and my sister. We saw some gypsies on a country lane and my father had to slow down to pass their wagon. A couple of the children came towards our car begging for money. I was shocked at their appearance and wanted to stop and give them something. But my father drove on and seemed to me to be totally uncaring and cruel.  But maybe he was scared. Or hardened after years of seeing poverty.  He wasn’t a mean or a cruel man. For me it was fresh and terrible and in some ways this memory has always kept me active. I decided on that day ‘I don’t want ever to grow up into someone who doesn’t care’

And this is how I am today. I can’t change it. I feel an inner directive that tells me I must help if I can and if not, then at least I must support those who do.

I would really love to know the answers to these questions. How do others manage?

Are there world issues that touch your heart and others that leave you cold?

Do you feel that there is so much pain in the world that you can’t cope with letting it in?

Is it possible to be open to the suffering of others and not be overwhelmed by it or made ill?

How do you think we can best deal with our own painful feelings when we become aware of injustice or cruelty in the world?

 

 

 

 

Catalan prisoners and exiles

Court hearings in Spain and Brussels

Today is a big day – several important court cases all are happening now.

It has just this moment been announced that four of the Catalan prisoners will remain in jail – the two Jordis, Oriol Junqueres and Joaquim Forn. The others have been released on 100.000 euros bail each.

The case was being held because of a change in jurisdiction from one court to another and the hope was that this latest court would be less political and more judicial. Hundreds of lawyers from all over Spain have written to state their opinion that the charges of sedition were unlawful because they can be used only when there was violence involved.

As we all know by now the only violence has been on the part of the Spanish state through their police the Guardia Civil and also from the ultra-right demonstrators when they have been encouraged to protest that they want one united Spain.

The Catalan independence campaign has been completely peaceful and democratic, even though it was taking a stand against what the Spanish government considered legal.

But, in the last five minutes, surprise surprise, the new judge has accused the four who remain in prison of…..violence.

Meanwhile in Brussels

Carles Puigdemont and four members of his government are now appearing in a Belgian court for the hearing on their case against extradition.

Puigdemont and the four ministers of his administration will be able to speak and advance the arguments against being sent to Spain. Clearly no trial they faced there would be free of political influence.

I just hope that those long fingers from the Spanish government haven’t managed to meddle in Belgian justice.

 

Postcards For Catalunya

Ten people are in prison in Spain right now who should not be there.

Two of them are the ‘Jordis’ – the leaders of two pro-independence Catalan civic groups and eight of them are members of the Catalan government.

As we know, the President and four other members of the cabinet are now in exile in Belgium awaiting a fair hearing from a Belgian court as they know this would be impossible in Spain.

None of these people have been tried or found guilty but are in prison under harsh conditions because they are considered to be a threat to the state of Spain.  They are elected representatives of the Catalan people.

We decided to start a Friends of Catalunya group here in Cornwall and our first action is to organise a flow of postcards to be delivered to these people in prison.

  • What a surprise to receive a short postcard, from outside Catalunya, showing that there are many people who care and who are watching the situation!
  • What a message to send to the prison itself ! There are people around the world who care about civil rights and democracy.

It doesn’t matter if you are in support of independence or not – the question now is about the right to free expression, self determination and most importantly democracy and how to deal with differences.

We sent off ten postcards from Cornwall.

If you would like to join in then here is what to do

Below are the ten names and addresses.  The two women are first.

  • Buy a postcard from your neck of the woods – Greetings from Skegness or whatever!
  • Write your message of support in whatever language you chose. We have given suggestions in English and Catalan but only for guidance.
  • Let us know in the comments who you chose to write to

It may be a good idea to write your full name so that the cards are not anonymous and will be delivered safely.

As for cost – I paid 30p per card and £1.17 for postage per card

After writing please put a comment below saying who you sent a card (or cards) to. We want all ten to receive several cards.

  1. Dolors Bassa Coll

Centro Penitenciario,

Madrid I, Mujeres,

Ctra.Alcala-Meco, km 4.5,

28803, Alcala de Henares, Madrid, Spain

2. Meritxell Borras Sole

Centro Penitenciario,

Madrid 1, Mujeres,

Ctra.Alcala-Meco, km4.5,

28803, Alcala de Henares, Madrid, Spain

3. Jordi Cuixart i Navarro

Centro Penitenciario,

Madrid V,

Ctra. M-609, km 5.75

29791, Soto del Real, Madrid, Spain

4. Jordi Sanchez Picanyol

Centro Penitenciario,

Madrid V,

Ctra. M-609,  km3.5,

29791, Soto del Real, Madrid, Spain

5. Joaquim Forn Chiariello

Centro Penitenciario,

Madrid VII,

Ctra. M-241,   km5.75,

28595 Estremera, Madrid, Spain

6. Oriol Junqueras i Vies

Centro Penitenciario

Madrid VII,

Ctra. M-241,   km5.75,

28595 Estremera, Madrid, Spain

7. Carles Mundo Blanch

Centro Penitenciario,

Madrid VII,

Ctra. M-241,  km5.75,

28595 Estremera, Madrid, Spain

8. Raul Romeva i Rueda

Centro Penitenciario,

Madrid VII,

Ctra. M-241,   km5.75,

28595 Estremera, Madrid, Spain

9. Josep Rull i Andreu

Centro Penitenciario,

Madrid VII,

Ctra. M-241,     km5.75,

28595 Estremera, Madrid, Spain

10. Jordi Turull i Negre

Centro Penitenciario,

Madrid VII,

Ctra. M-241,   km5.75,

28595 Estremera, Madrid, Spain

 

Sending you support and good wishes from ……….

We are thinking of you

You are not alone

We want you free again

Pensem en tu

No estas sol/a

Et tenim present cada dia

Anims!

Us volem lliures

 

Thank you!  Gracies!

 

 

 

More news from Catalunya

Catalan news from my Twitter feed

  • Albano Dante Fachin is Secretary General of Podem – the Catalan branch of Podemos. I liked his speech very much in the pre-independence debate and he is proving to be an interesting person to watch. He thinks for himself. He is Argentinian (a plus for me) and speaks great Catalan.  In a newspaper interview he said today, The Spanish and the Catalan Left need to make their minds up what side they are on – democracy or not. Today is is Junqueres and the others in prison – tomorrow it could be Ada Colau (Barcelona mayor) or Iglesias (leader of Podemos)

See what I mean – he’s not scared to speak out!

  • Barcelona football club has hung a massive Catalan flag on one side of the Nou Camp ground in preparation for the match with Seville.  That is a match I would love to attend. I wonder if Pep’s brother-in-law will be there with the family Barça ticket?
  • Today in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh there was a show of support for Catalunya with people holding up flags
  • Over 40,000 people marched today in Bilbao in support of Catalunya and against the anti-democratic actions of the Spanish government
  • 8 Catalan teachers have been charged by the Spanish courts with hate crimes. What did they do? They were leading discussions about the police violence on 1st October.
  • Remember the Galician teacher who encouraged his class to discuss Catalunya?  He is now in prison.
  • Meanwhile as I am sure you now know, the members of the Catalan government who returned to Barcelona from Brussels were sent straight to jail by a Spanish judge. They have not had a trial or been sentenced but are being held with no trial date yet decided. On the way to prison they were mocked, handcuffed, not allowed to eat and generally treated badly. Two were strip searched. All part of the Spanish government policy of humiliation and bullying. Lawyers have started putting in official complaints.

Someone asked me this evening what exactly Carles Puigdemont is doing in Brussels.  Obviously I don’t know the answer but I am confident that he is working hard for the Catalan people, speaking to other European leaders, and the press, and his lawyers and others who are taking a close interest in this matter. Even though EU leaders are quietly turning their heads away, there are many people who are outraged by what Spain is doing. Every day there are more and more statements from all over the world expressing dismay at the lack of democracy in Spain.

I see Puigdemont as a very rational and intelligent person – with integrity and a deep sense of responsibility.

He is not hiding.

He is not running away.

He is not pulling the duvet over his head and hoping it was all a bad dream

Catalans have long known the hidden side of the Spanish state and so all that now shocks us so deeply is not a surprise to them. It is a painful and sad time but it is a necessary process to take off the masks and see a new truth.

Now that Belgium has decided they will not extradite Puigdemont without a proper legal case being heard, there is the opportunity for the Spanish Constitution to be discussed, in public, in full view of the whole world. So long as the President is there, he is the best chance Catalalunya has of getting a fair hearing.

So, that’s my summary of some news that I read today. I also found a youtube video of a message written by a Spanish woman to her child – it was interesting and was a positive response to all that is going on. She denied the importance of the Spanish flag or the anthem, and gave a long list of what she feels it means to be Spanish – tortilla and tapas, friends teaching you the Sardana in Barcelona, drinking Orujo in Galicia, learning how to count in Euskadi, loving the Mediterrean, etc etc….a full description of all the cultures and the food of the peninsula.   I watched it then lost the link…..

If only there was a Spanish government that could embrace all of the land that is Spain and Catalunya and Galicia and Pais Basc. If only they would encourage people to love the diversity rather than fear it. If only Rajoy and his team would stop their mission of terror and decide to turn around and talk and make peace. Apologise perhaps for the mistakes they have made. Soften and open up their hearts rather than fuel the anger.

Ojala!

 

David can win against Goliath – and often does!

Tonight President Puigdemont of Catalunya said  “Behind bars, the legitimate government of Catalonia is more respectable than those who have imprisoned it.”

Today eight members of the Catalan government were sent to prison after a short hearing in Madrid. They were given 24 hours warning of the hearing and their lawyer afterwards told the press that he was not allowed time to offer the defence.

Here are the names of those who are in prison tonight.  Of course there are two others – the leaders of the civic organisations Omnium and ANC who were refused bail and imprisoned over a week ago.

 

  • Vice President Oriol Junqueras
  • Interior Minister Joaquim Forn
  • Foreign Affairs Minister Raül Romeva
  • Justice Minister Carles Mundó
  • Labour Minister Dolors Bassa
  • Government Presidency Councillor Jordi Turull
  • Sustainable Development Minister Josep Rull
  • Culture Minister Meritxell Borras

All over Catalunya tonight there are huge protests in town centres.  We watched people speaking on the Catalan news station TV3 – all united in their anger and sadness – supporting the government,  its ministers and the President who is still in Belgium trying to waken the EU to start caring about these attacks on democracy.

Sadness and Anger

I want to talk about a book I have been reading over the last week.  It helps me feel optimistic about the situation in Catalunya and I do need that help as on so many days I have been feeling  both angry and sad.  Watching people fighting for their rights against a powerful and repressive state affects me emotionally and I think it affects us all even if we try to numb ourselves to it. Obviously being intimately connected with this struggle, it is hard to be numb but I believe that all humans feel connected to what is happening to others in the world. We are connected in ways we don’t understand fully. There are some who rally around the bully but the majority feel unsettled when they know about unjust or cruel behaviour towards others.

The book is called David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

I wish all Catalans could read it. The basic theory and the stories he tells are extremely uplifting for anyone engaged in a David and Goliath battle.

We all know the story.

Goliath the giant has armour and weapons and is strong and confident that he can beat any opponents who stand up to him

Shepherd David is small and unprotected and has only stones and a sling and an ability to attack from a distance.

And he wins.

He has the advantages of agility, speed and surprise, and he is determined.

Goliath is heavy and his armour is cumbersome. He is arrogant and slow.

In the real world Davids often win against Goliaths because in spite of how it appears, Davids have strengths and advantages that many people underestimate.

So Catalunya can win against Spain. Not with weapons or brute strength but with other huge advantages that they have.

  • Huge numbers of people who can be depended on to organise fast and effectively all over the country.
  • Courageous people of all ages and from all backgrounds
  • People who care deeply about their struggle for civil rights and democracy
  • A committment to peaceful protest – this is very powerful as the world watches
  • The sheer numbers of Catalans who are united and determined to stand together
  • The people watching from outside – there is a lot of support for this democractic movement even if the EU leaders remain silent. Many voices.

Spain has  strengths too but they all come with attached problems

  • Brute strength – not popular in the rest of Europe. Have to hold back
  • Power imposed in Catalunya. They are having to control a people who do not want them there. The PP now ruling have no democratic validity.
  • Rule of law – this is what they are trying to use to repress the Catalan independence movement. But it is slow and time-consuming even though the rulings today were fast tracked but this looks dodgy and the SPanish can’t afford to look bad to the outside world.  Another weakness is that the Spanish government has its own problems with being unlawful with many corruption cases being processed.
  • Support from EU leaders. This is a definite advantage but it comes with strings as the Spanish have to avoid brutality and they know that the EU has some private doubts about their behaviour so far.

Malcolm Gladwell says:

Suppose you were to total up all the wars over the past two hundred years that occurred between very large and very small countries. Let’s say that one side had to be at least ten times larger in population and armed might than the other. How often do you think the bigger side wins? Most of us would put that number at close to 100 per cent. A tenfold difference is a lot!  But the actual answer may surprise you. When the political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft did the calculation a few years ago what he came up with was 71.5 percent. Just under a third of the time, the weaker country wins.

And what happens when the smaller country does as David did and refuses to fight the way the bigger side wants to fight? The answer : in those cases the weaker party’s winning percentage climbs from 28.5 percent to 63.6 percent.”

If you are a David and want to win against Goliath

  • Follow your instincts, don’t keep strictly to the rules
  • Giants are not what we think they are – the same qualities that appear to give them strength are often their greatest weaknesses
  • Being an underdog can give you special abilities and strengths which make the impossible possible.

Ease of movement, endurance, individual intelligence, knowledge of the country and  personal courage allows people to do the impossible. Weapons size and resources do give an advantage but it also makes you immobile and put you on the defensive.

It can also be exhausting to be on the side of the underdog in a battle – you have to be canny and quick to respond. You have to be ahead of the game.

But if you care enough about the outcome – and you have an awareness of your opponent’s weaknesses and an ability to use your own strengths it is very likely you will win.

President Puigdemont  impresses me with his planning, his calmness in stressful moments, his courage and his intelligence. The organisation of the 1 October referendum was an inspiration.

The people of Catalunya are honorable, well organised, committed to working together, creative, loyal to their communites and their government, dedicated to peaceful and democratic change, and determined to do what is right.

I would place my bets on this Catalan David overcoming the Spanish Goliath.