I am in Catalonia now. On Sunday October 1st we saw more than 800 civilians injured by the Spanish police as they defended their’ right to vote peacefully. We saw pepper spray, rubber bullets and batons come up against the peaceful will of the people at the ballot box. We saw the Spanish state use technology such as blocking websites and networks to try and prevent the voting papers and ballot boxes from being distributed, and the response was the same technologies to ensure their distribution.
We saw ‘the law’ being invoked by a government to justify violence against its own citizens. (Even that phrase is backwards- the citizens should not belong to the government, but rather the reverse.) As Julian Assange has pointed out, this entitles the EU to suspend the voting rights of the Spanish state in accordance with the EU Article 7.
The day after voting I was moved to see a gathering of some hundred Catalans sit in a circle in a plaza and share their experiences, hopes, fears and strategy for the days going forward. They spoke one at a time with passion and the concentration of the silent listeners was what moved me most of all. Today, Tuesday, we see all of Catalonia stop in a general strike to reflect on and protest the indecent actions of the Spanish government.
A citizen of the world with no voting rights
Traveling the world, geoarbitrage, living the dream…. it’s all so romantic until things get complicated. Whether it be by natural disasters or human conflict, life is messy and you can’t avoid it completely just by moving through countries- and why would you want to?
I am neither Catalan, nor Spanish. I have been known to call myself a citizen of the world as I move through more than 10 countries per year, but all of this sounds grandiose and becomes meaningless at border controls and ballot boxes. Realistically, I hold Dutch and New Zealand citizenship and residence in Catalonia. I am very fortunate to be able to move effortlessly through most borders of the world. On the other hand, by living nomadically, I have forfeited the right to vote in any country- due to fine print I have not been able to vote in more than 10 years.
At such politically heated times it feels disempowering to have no political voice at the polls. Nevertheless, I am human, and as a human I feel empowered to defend decency, democracy and dignity. So I am protesting with my Catalan brothers and sisters today and I was defending a voting station from the armed and masked police on voting day.
I am grateful to be a temporary guest in Catalonia. This beautiful land was taken by force by the Spanish some 300 years ago and the Catalans have not forgotten. The Spanish are now trying to hold it by force but times have changed -this the is age of the internet, the time of human rights, the era of democracy. The European Union is watching, the United Nations is observing, the World’s eyes are in Catalonia now- through old but more importantly through new media channels like Twitter.
In the last week, Spain lost Catalonia. Here on the ground, we feel that there is no going back, there is no way to continue under the violent regime of the current Spanish government, things need to change and only time will show what seeds the winds of the change will blow our way. It is well known that the current party, the Partido Popular was formed by associates of the Franco dictatorship. Now we are feeling that side of the party, one rubber bullet at a time.
To be clear, I am not advocating for the independence of Catalonia. That is a separate and a complex issue, and as I have mentioned, one in which my voice- along with the rest of the almost 20 % of non-Catalan residents- does not count. Much more importantly though, we must all stand up and speak out for democracy, non-violence and decency- regardless of nationality. In this, all our voices have equal voting rights.