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.




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One thought on “David can win against Goliath – and often does!

  1. Kate this is the first of your reports I have read about Catalunya. Unfortunately that is because I can only deal with so much political upheaval and my country is in the midst of something awful with Donald Trump as the head. It is scary everywhere it seems. I have read David and Goliath by Gladwell as well as many of his other books. I appreciate the way he turns things on their heads and examines them from new perspectives. May we all be champions of true democracy. I will now go back and read your previous posts.

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