Some of you may be confused as to why a U.S. citizen living in Colorado has become so completely obsessed with what’s going on in Spain. Bear with me, there’s a method to my madness.
I believe what’s currently happening in Spain represents a crucial microcosm for what we’ll see sweep across the entire planet over the next ten years. Some of you will want to have a discussion about who’s right and who’s wrong in this particular affair, but that’s besides the point. It doesn’t matter which side you favor, what matters is that Madrid/Catalonia is an example of the forces of centralization duking it out with forces of decentralization.
Madrid represents the nation-state as we know it, with its leaders claiming Spain is forever indivisible according to the constitution. Madrid has essentially proclaimed there’s no possible avenue to independence from a centralized Spain even if various regions decide in large number they wish to be independent. This sort of attitude will be seen as unacceptable and primitive by increasingly large numbers of humans in the years ahead. Catalonia should be seen as a canary in the coal mine. The forces of decentralization are rising, but entrenched centralized institutions and the bureaucrats running them will become increasingly terrified, panicked and oppressive.
As I’ve discussed, this isn’t coming out of nowhere. Humanity’s current established centralized institutions and nation-states have become clownishly corrupt, merely existing to protect and enrich the powerful/connected as opposed to benefiting the population at large. As such, legitimacy has been shattered and people have begun to demand a new way. Whether we see this with the rising popularity of Bitcoin, or the UK decision to leave the EU, evidence is everywhere and we’ve already passed the point of no return. This is precisely why EU leaders are rallying around Madrid. They’re scared to death and fear they might be next. They’re probably right.
Before we continue, I want to revisit something I pointed out in last week’s post, Surprisingly, I’m Quite Optimistic About the Future:
Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll see sufficient change in this regard without hardship. This hardship is likely to occur as the old paradigm becomes more authoritarian and paranoid as it lashes out in an attempt to solidify and expand control. Of course, we’re already seeing this all around us, but it’s likely to get even worse in the years ahead. Don’t be afraid of it, understand that it’s coming and accept that this is all part of the change process. Did you really think control-freak authoritarians would give up without a fight?
If you want to see how a control-freak authoritarian responds to a situation, just look at how Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy has responded to Catalonia. People like him simply can’t help themselves, it’s in their nature and all they know is the fist of violence. As I noted in last week’s post on the topic, those in favor of Catalan independence have thus far played the situation flawlessly. For this to turn out positively for the forces of decentralization, the Spanish authorities must be encouraged to act increasingly thuggish, which will in turn bolster more and more popular support for independence. This has already started to happen, and will likely accelerate in the weeks ahead as Rajoy is about to make the biggest mistake of all by activating Article 155.
It’s really important to understand how irresponsibly aggressive Madrid is about to become before moving on. Here’s some background courtesy of Bloomberg:
Rajoy on Saturday shocked many observers with plans to clear out the entire separatist administration in Barcelona and take control of key institutions including public media and the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra. Spain’s chief prosecutor said that if Puigdemont declares independence he would face as much as 30 years in jail and signaled that he could be arrested immediately.
“Catalan government officials and many within the Mossos and Catalan media are not just going to stand down without a fight,” said Caroline Gray, a lecturer in politics and Spanish at Aston University in the U.K. who specializes in nationalist movements. “The big question for me, really, is how Madrid is actually going to implement its proposed actions in Catalonia.”
Rajoy is wielding the untested powers of Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 Constitution to try to impose central government control on Catalonia. The aim ultimately is to trigger regional elections within six months.
Madrid is making a mistake of enormous historical significance here. First, you don’t need to be a genius to see that him forcibly taking over control over key aspects of Catalan civil society will only make the independence movement grow in strength, passion and numbers. Second, does Rajoy really think he’s going to be able to make this happen without enormous amounts of civil unrest? Not a chance.
Here’s some of what’s already being planned, according to Bloomberg:
Catalan separatists are mobilizing a human shield to block efforts by the Spanish authorities to take control of the breakaway region as both sides prepare to escalate the political conflict.
Groups will concentrate their activists around the regional government’s headquarters in Barcelona’s Gothic quarter and the nearby parliament building, according to two people familiar with the plans, asking not to be identified by name. They expect Spanish police to use force to try to shut down the administration and will put their bodies on the line, said one person.
“We are calling for a peaceful and democratic defense of the institutions,” Lluis Corominas, the leader of the main separatist group in the Catalan Parliament, said at a press conference in Barcelona. Regional President Carles Puigdemont has called for similar action.
The separatists have shown they can rally support. A crowd estimated by local police at around 450,000 joined him to protest in central Barcelona after Rajoy announced his plans. CUP, a pro-secessionist party, on Monday called for mass civil disobedience in Catalonia, Ara newspaper reported.
The keys dates this week will be on Thursday and Friday. Thursday’s when the Catalan assembly is set to meet to prepare a response to Spain taking over the region by force. Friday is when Spain’s national Senate will vote to implement direct rule. In my opinion, it would be a big mistake for the Catalan government to declare independence at this stage. Madrid needs to continue to be seen as the unreasonable aggressor, which is what will happen if article 155 is activated Friday. For Catalonia to succeed, the public must become even more outraged than it already is. Any attempt by Madrid at taking over Catalan civil society by force will achieve this in spades.
If I’m correct in my forecast, the entire world will be looking at similar forces of decentralization battling it out with discredited, entrenched centralized power structures over the next decade or so. I think this will result in virtually all of our current institutions collapsing and being replaced by a completely different paradigm. In my view, the new paradigm will be increasingly defined by decentralized structures. Terms like “peer-to-peer,” “distributed” and “direct democracy” will become increasingly ubiquitous as we begin to lay down the foundations for a far less top-down, centralized and authoritarian approach to human affairs.
This isn’t to say the process will be easy or smooth, but that’s where I think all of this is headed. The struggle between Madrid and Catalonia represents a high-profile and early example of this struggle and those of us who wish for a more decentralized world need to pay very close attention since many lessons can be learned from this historic crisis.