A million years ago, two species of human beings coexisted on earth in a common time frame: Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens. Both had different technological advancements, shared a power struggle, and had fought for survival. The one who survived on earth were Homo Sapiens, today’s human beings.
After thousands of years, man settled with agricultural development and domestication of animals. But different groups of humans started living divided by their cultures, for example, different clan systems. There are stories of how clan totems like a snake or a tiger were crucial for clan members. For the protection of their own clan, struggle and competition with their counterparts and wars were common.
We, as a species, have evolved, but our tendency of collectively organising around our culture has remained intact irrespective of the time frame in which we live.
This tendency sometimes can be at the rational end of the spectrum when the culture is in danger. While in some cases, this tendency can also manifest as an ethnocentric attitude, meaning the ‘false pride’ of a thought which says, “Only my culture is best.” All nations of the world today are oscillating between this spectrum; and if the pendulum gets heavy on any side, the power struggle and crisis are bound to happen.
Europe is witnessing one such crisis for many decades: the Catalan crisis. This crisis again makes one think through the fundamental attitude of human beings about culture – like expressing cultural pride collectively, searching for a collective identity, and rebelling against repressive forces.
Catalonia is the richest and highly industrialised semi-autonomous region in the North East of Spain with a population of 75 lakhs (16% of Spain). The region proudly distinguishes itself culturally with the history of thousands of years, their own traditions, language, parliament, flag, and national anthem. Most of the Catalonian population lives in Barcelona which is a popular tourist place and an economic-political hub.
Catalonia is an economic centre for Spain. 25.6% export by Spain is shared by Catalonia. But, Catalan nationalists don’t identify themselves as Spanish, they share a close historical-cultural connection with France.
And, for a long time now, they are fighting for their independence from Spain, as a lot of their money goes to the poorer parts of Spain ruled by the right-wing forces.
Catalonian land has always seen peaceful pro-independence protests, for example, in October 2019, 5,00,000 people gathered on the streets while chanting “The streets are always ours.”
But the news coverage the last few months also revealed stories of civil unrest and how the very air of Catalonia reeks of violence. Attacks on police and authorities are claimed by Spain. The oscillation of Catalonia between the spectrum of peace and violence is evident.
India as a nation is currently struggling with the mockery of nationalism. “Only if you function this way, are you a true national”: this is the temperament we are living with. Patriotism is being judged on the food people eat, the language they speak, the content they post on social media and so on. This repression should not give birth to a Catalan crisis inside our country where a section is made to feel disconnected to an extent that separation is all it can think of.
A diverse country like India is vulnerable to such a crisis and our policies must adopt global human rights directives. They must direct the society towards harmony rather than a crisis.