In periods of stability and prosperity, history retains its rightful place as a register of the past and road-map to the present. In periods of instability and economic dislocation it is embraced as a sanctuary of escape and deliverance. Amid the tumultuous scenes that have been prevalent on the streets of Barcelona and other towns and cities across Catalonia in recent weeks, the role of history has been under-appreciated.
Are the historical grievances articulated in support of Catalan independence justified? Or are they the product of historical revisionism, weaponized in the service of a cause driven not by resistance to national oppression but instead cultural nationalism and economic chauvinism?
At time of writing, the cause of Catalan independence appears to have floundered on the rocks of reality. The declaration of UDI (unilateral independence) made by the Catalan regional parliament recently, bore the hallmarks of a political stunt rather than the culmination of a national liberation struggle. In response to the Madrid government's imposition of direct rule life looks to have returned to normal — a state of affairs that could only have met with relief from those unable to comprehend how such a crisis could have matured to such a level of intensity in one of the richest and most prosperous regions of Europe.
Though what happens from this point is still anybody's guess, learning the right lessons is essential both on the part of the Madrid government and the Catalan people themselves.
What it confirms is that stability and cohesion can never be taken for granted in any society, and that those who reap the wind always, in the last analysis, invite a whirlwind.
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