Find­ing so­lu­tion to mood of dis­so­lu­tion

The Straits Times - - WORLD -

It is odd but en­tirely ra­tio­nal that as the world moves to­wards be­ing a sin­gle global vil­lage, the par­al­lel im­pulse is to pre­serve a sense of iden­tity and unique­ness. In an era of rapid changes brought on by swift progress in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­bined with mas­sive dis­rup­tion in the work­place thanks to ro­bot­ics, au­to­ma­tion and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, it is but nat­u­ral that large parts of the world cur­rently ex­pe­ri­ence what French so­ci­ol­o­gist Emile Durkheim called “anomie” – a sense of norm­less­ness. The re­sul­tant anx­i­ety causes peo­ple to re­act var­i­ously: some dis­play a tighter em­brace of re­li­gious faith, oth­ers feel a need to phys­i­cally sep­a­rate to as­sert their tribal iden­ti­ties.

The Cata­lan de­sire to cut away from Spain, which re­sulted in a far­ci­cal ref­er­en­dum vote on Oct 1, is in some ways un­der­stand­able. The Cat­alo­nia re­gion has some at­tributes of what could make a vi­able na­tion: lan­guage, his­tory and cul­ture. Also, the eco­nomic slump Spain suf­fered from 2010, with some of the worst youth un­em­ploy­ment fig­ures of Europe, clearly trig­gered sep­a­ratism in rel­a­tively more pros­per­ous Cat­alo­nia and fed per­cep­tions that it sub­sidises the rest of Spain. The Scot­tish ref­er­en­dum to sep­a­rate from the United King­dom was another fac­tor. Never short on emo­tion – see the way foot­ball club Barcelona plays its di­vine foot­ball – the re­gion al­lowed it­self to be led by its heart.

But hav­ing unique char­ac­ter­is­tics does not jus- tify se­ces­sion. In­done­sia’s Bali, China’s Xin­jiang and In­dia’s Tamil Nadu could all be said to have sim­i­lar at­tributes. In the West, the Basques of the Pyre­nees who strad­dle Spain and France, and the Scots are but two ex­am­ples stand­ing out in a fairly large field. Yet, un­ques­tion­ably, wher­ever such peo­ple live, the whole is clearly greater than the sum of the parts and, for that rea­son, worth pre­serv­ing as one. The Cata­lan sep­a­ratists are surely aware of this: why else would they seek to cut away from Spain but stay in the Euro­pean Union? That raises sus­pi­cions of this be­ing a po­lit­i­cal is­sue, not un­like how Bri­tain last year was driven to vote against stay­ing in the EU.

The elite strug­gle that the Cata­lan in­de­pen- dence move­ment rep­re­sents has now come to a turn­ing point. The plebiscite had been de­clared un­law­ful by the Supreme Court, and the Span­ish au­thor­i­ties have threat­ened to re­sort to neverused con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers to sus­pend the re­gion’s au­ton­omy and im­pose di­rect rule from Madrid. For­tu­nately, the sep­a­ratists have de­cided to not force an im­me­di­ate show­down. They must go no fur­ther and should sin­cerely seek a modus vivendi with Spain’s elected rulers that will al­low them to re­tain con­sid­er­able au­ton­omy while sup­port­ing the na­tion’s im­per­a­tives. Madrid, on its part, should be care­ful about us­ing over­whelm­ing force. Di­a­logue and me­di­a­tion are bet­ter ways of deal­ing with se­ces­sion­ist im­pulses.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.