Sunday, 1 October 2017

Catalonia, Taiwan, Scotland, Crimea.

I don't know much about Catalonia. I've never been there and I know only a few people from there, all of whom oppose Catalan independence (and therefore are unlikely to be representative sample).

I have, however, lived in Taiwan, a de facto independent state where most people (including the premier) generally prefer the status quo. This position is pragmatic given the threat of war (and not a war which the Taiwanese would launch or could really be blamed for) if de jure independence were declared or even attempted, and given that at this point Taiwanese independence, absent international recognition that will never come, means little except changing the names and flags on government buildings. I personally find this pragmatism quite admirable.

In addition no British person can have avoided having experience over the past three years of the extreme political environments that referendums seem to give birth to, and how little seems to actually be decided by them regardless of their result. Simply voting for independence, either from a supra-national body like the EU, or from a country like Spain, achieves little by itself, and changes no-one's mind.

Three years on from the referendum on Scottish independence the SNP behave virtually as if it never happened, and the polls locked around the 55%-45% split against independence. More than a year on from the EU referendum the UK is still in the EU with no idea what will come next, nor any sign that opinion has moved on from the virtual 50/50 split on leaving or staying in.

The "joyous", "civic" atmosphere that the respective supporters of Scottish independence and Brexit thought they would create through their campaigns proved nothing more than a mirage, instead the reality was unpleasant and at times verged on fanatical. The simple fix to all problems people imagined might come from severing vital relationships and smashing up what has taken generations to build has proved a fantasy. 

I doubt whether Catalonia will prove any different in this regard. Indeed, even if the advocates of Catalan independence get what they want they will still have the problems that come from the illegality of the means they have chosen to achieve it. An independence referendum followed by a unilateral declaration of independence is nowhere near as bad as invasion followed by annexation, but the isolation of the Crimea following its sham referendum under Russian military occupation shows what happens when something which may have had popular support is achieved illegally.

Taiwan shows the virtues of leaving unanswerable question until later, of muddling through as best one can, even if this is often out of there being no other option. People both in Catalonia and in the UK could learn from this. 


justrecently said...

I think the comparison between Catalonia and Taiwan is problematic, to say the least. Taiwan (or the Republic of China, for that matter) has been independent for a long time, and it has never been part of the PR China. That makes its case very different from Catalonias. Effective rule over a territory is an important criterion, as far as I know, and Taiwan hasn't been controlled by any other power than its own political parties, ever since the end of Japanese colonial rule.

All the same, I think the Rajoy government has shown an interesting combination of brutality and stupidity, on Sunday. If no referendum was taking place at all, as Rajoy later claimed, wtf were the Guardia Civil doing there?

Gilman Grundy said...

If Catalonia secedes ultimately the person most to blame for that, other than the Catalan nationalist themselves, will be Rajoy. Images of riot police beating people up tell their own story. The referendum could have been ignored as what it is - a legal nullity of no effect.

I guess my point regarding Taiwan is simply the willingness to forebear and take the pragmatic path, albeit one forced on the Taiwanese people by the CCP's unreasonable stance. Nothing in this Catalan farago shows even the slightest hint of this.

Ji Xiang said...

Catalonia already has one of the most generous statutes of autonomy in the world. Why so many Catalans are so committed to total independence is beyond me, although I suppose it's basically about the discomfort of the richest region in Spain having to pay taxes to support poorer regions. But then again I have an outsiders perspective.