Catalunya, etc.

The journalists writing in my newspaper – Information.dk – have been considering various ”matters arising” from the contested referendum on Catalan independence that was held on 1st October. In particular they point out that the Catalans are not alone. Similar movements aiming to break away can be detected in many regions of our European homelands, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the dis-United Kingdom, Kosovo in the patchwork of territories that once was Yugoslavia (and which has been recognised by most other European countries but not by the Russian and Serbian governments), Greenland and the Faroe Islands, the Basque region of Spain (whose inhabitants speak a non-European language), the Flemish and Walloon regions of Belgium, various bits of Italy such as South Tyrol and Venice (which was once a powerful city state), eastern Ukraine where separatists supported by the Russians have been waging war for several years and Corsica where the armed struggle against the French petered out a few years ago. In short, there’s plenty of scope for re-drawing the maps! I wonder how Switzerland fits into this puzzle: as a curious conglomerate of three linguistic zones – plus some high Alpine valleys where the remnants of Latin are spoken – each pulled apart by links to the surrounding countries but somehow holding together as a successful and very rich nation or state.

Equally interesting are the comments on how ”Catalunya versus Spain” has been treated in recent coverage by a sample of the media. Selecting examples from three sources, an amusing assessment of the Danish view of world is made by a group called the Center for Wild Analysis. While the public service broadcaster (Danmarks Radio) focused on parents enjoying themselves in the run up to the referendum during the occupation of the schools that would be polling stations in Barcelona, the right-wing Jutland Post (Jyllands Posten) reported from a demonstration in support of Spanish unity. From another angle, a tabloid newspaper (Ekstra Bladet) ran an article on whether or not FC Barcelona would be allowed to play in the first division of the Spanish football league if the Catalans break away. The tabloid is particularly well known for lengthy coverage of sport and photos of uncovered girls. The Wild Analysts triangulated these reports to conclude that Danes look at the world as autoritetstro hyggefetischister der helst ikke vil bekymre sig om meget andet end bare damer og fodbold. Roughly translated: the Danes are subservient to authority, obsessed with hygge (having a good time) and don’t want to be worried about much more than naked ladies and football!

PS The title of this note is borrowed from an interesting book called “Indonesia, etc.” by Elizabeth Pisani (Granta, 2014). In addition to being an excellent introduction to the world’s largest magical archipelago, the title refers to the surprising constitution of the republic from 1945. The document was prepared in a hurry as the leaders of the independence movement wanted to ward off the return of the Dutch colonial rulers after the defeat of the Japanese. So the finer points were left unfinished: “We the people of Indonesia hereby declare independence… matters relating to the transfer of power, etc. will be executed carefully and as soon as possible…”

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