Catalonia wants a divorce. The central government of Spain says no. The people want them to think about it. In this case, what has happened seems to benefit no one. It does, however, radicalize positions, increase hatred and conflict and results in long-term harm to human relationships.
Both sides have their valid arguments, but what are the long-term consequences of this split within the same nation? Catalonia will most likely lose jobs, corporations, banks, trade, international stature and even their beloved soccer team Barça would no longer play in La Liga. Spain, on the other hand, might lose the moral high ground by using force, intransigence and extreme measures such as harassing voters or jailing leaders of the pro-independence parties.
Spain is a nation with a lot of autonomous regions. Many speak different languages and have their own cultures, but if Spain is a nation and these regions are under Spain I can understand why there is no wish for an independent region to break away. Surely, it could cause a domino effect. I also understand Spain’s desire to keep Catalonia within its boundaries and can recognize some of the reasons many Catalans wish for independence.
Both sides have engaged in brainwashing their populations. They make the other side the “bad apples” in every way. Scapegoating is a special beneficiary of these situations. Someone else is to blame for my personal situation, i.e. “We pay way more taxes than we get back,” say Catalans. The central government of Spain replies, “Yes, but we own 60 percent of your debt, which stands at 58 billion pounds.”
Tribalism has led to much chaos and war. Although Catalonia so far appears to react peacefully, once Spain imposes direct rule, that may change. We have seen in recent history what happens when one tribe feels superior to another or victimized by another. Let’s begin with the Balkans. Communism kept them at peace, then a brutal and ethnic warfare arose once intermingled citizens split into their own small worlds. Loyalty to tribes destroyed Beirut in Lebanon in the 70’s and caused millions of deaths in a few months in Rwanda in the 90’s. There is little comparison with what is happening in Catalonia right now, but there are already family and friends in conflict over what has happened. That is already tragic. Now, Catalans can threaten the nation state of Spain. Next, each tribe stops thinking and hanging out with those who agree and starts calling those who don’t the “aliens.”
We live in a world where political parties have created this sort of tribalism and name-calling. How can Spain live beyond such tribal identities, build a society based on the individual part of a people’s republic? How does Spain now give Catalans a sense of belonging? How do you heal what has already caused a tremendous split? How do these two parties forgive each other and work toward a true democracy without splitting? A peaceful solution could benefit both sides. One that takes into account a true understanding of what is possible. Sure, it appears easier to belong to your tribe, one that affirms your beliefs and believes in your righteousness, but ultimately those in the tribe will live a life of conflict, hatred and misunderstanding. Be calm, listen, understand and compromise. You have a choice.
Patricia Gras is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning journalist. She is the founder and producer of the online series Passion Time.