dijous, 9 d’octubre de 2014

Letter sent to Brussels MEPs on "the Catalan issue"

Us ajunto a continuació una carta que he enviat als diputats del Parlament Europeu el 7/10/2014, però primer, una petita explicació de per que l'he enviat. / Below, a letter I sent to Members of the European Parliament on 7/10/2014.

Al final del dia, sabeu per a qui treballen els politics? Per a nosaltres. 
Els estem pagant per a treballar per a nosaltres, servir-nos, ajudar-nos etc, i no pas per a posar pedres en el nostre camí. Personalment crec que no n'hi ha prou en triar-los un cop cada 4 anys, i 4 anys despres, si veus que no han fet allò que els hem demanat, canviar-los. No, no n'hi ha prou - jo crec que cal estar damunt d'ells sempre, vigilant, pressionant, felicitant, per a que compleixen amb els seus deures. No sé si és "cosa dels anglesos", però a banda de la pressió al carrer, sempre he cregut en el poder de la paraula i cada cop que em sembla necessari faig una carta als politics explicant-los el que penso. Aqui tenim diversos nivells de politics - municipals, catalans, espanyols, europeus - però tots tenen el mandat de treballar per a nosaltres.
Per això, en aquests temps surreals quan sembla que el govern espanyol ha oblidat que està treballant per nosaltres - i hauria de proposar solucions reals als desitjos dels milions de catalans - he mirat cap al proper nivell de representants, Brussel·les. Igual com tots els ciutadans europeus (i mundials), tinc dret a enviar-los una carta/email expressant les meves inquietuds sense temor - de fet, és possible que escolten més a la gent "del carrer" que els lobbys i alguns politics que mouen només per interesos foscos (toquem ferro!). I aixi, ja he enviat la següent carta a gairebé tots els euro-diputats, les adreces electroniques dels quals es poden trobar a la pagina web del Parlament Europeu. I us animo a fer el mateix, cada u amb la seva carta expressant el seu punt de vista, ja que en aquesta lluita tots tenim la responsibilitat d'aportar la nostra gra de sorra. Aqui va la meva com exemple del que es pot dir:

[We pay politicians to work for us, don't we? Isn't that how democracy works? So, why won't the Spanish govt move a finger to look for solutions of the "Catalan issue"? What about the next level up of political representatives - will Brussels act to solve this? Here's the letter I sent to 70% of the MEPs in Brussels t'other day...]

Dear Sir/Madam,
I’m writing to you as a British and EU citizen who has lived in Catalonia for the last 25 years. I am extremely concerned about the current situation here, and especially by the silence of European institutions which should be working for EU citizens.

The situation: numbers way in excess of a million people (10-20% of the total population!) have rallied on the streets of Catalonia every year since September 2012 demanding their right to have a vote on their own future in events organized by civil society associations (not political institutions). Polls indicate that over 70% of Catalans believe such a vote should be held, and around 86% say they would immediately accept whatever the result was. A similar number of Catalan MPs (representing over two thirds of the Parliament) were voted into power with this mandate and are currently doing exactly what they were elected to do – prepare this vote. The vote has been called for 9 November 2014.

The issue basically comes down to the fact that political leaders should, or even must, work to find solutions for the citizens they represent, which is what the Catalan government are doing. However, the Spanish government are ignoring these wishes of a huge amount of their citizens and are attempting to ban this vote and refuse to offer an alternative – for example, a vote on a different date with a different question. If the Spanish government are unwilling to work for their citizens, then that responsibility must be taken up by Brussels. I do not believe that our democratically-elected representatives should try to hide, illegitimize, or ignore the needs and desires of citizens – let alone threaten us!

Over the last few days the struggle between the Spanish establishment and the Catalan people has taken a bizarre twist as the Spanish government says it is a merely legal question, based on the constitutionality of the vote rather than its legitimacy or democratic necessity. However, many legal experts (see link) have shown that even this argument does not hold strong as the vote, in the terms it has been prepared by the Catalan Parliament, is actually constitutional. The Spanish Constitution may well be based on the unity of Spain, but it does not impede a public expression questioning the Constitution itself or the current political and territorial make-up of Spain. Whether it allows for the actual break-up of Spain is another question, which is not on the table now – this is a bridge to be crossed if we arrive at it (though I do expect the EU to intervene swiftly and pro-actively if such a political re-organization has to take place.  Remembering that just this week we celebrate the 24th anniversary of the reunification of Germany within the EU, we can see that the EU has a history of reacting positively to events which could otherwise cause difficulties for all involved).

To sum up, though, independently of the trivial (in the bigger picture) issue of the constitutionality of this vote, or whether the final Yes/No decision of Catalans would be better or worse for the European Union, there is a much more relevant and deep question at stake here for Europe. As David Cameron famously said after the Scottish referendum, democrats allow the will of the people (to hold a vote) to be carried out, overcoming any technical obstacles which may legally impede it. 

Literally millions of Catalans merely want to use their democratic right to express themselves and I find it hard to believe that the European Union can say it’s merely “an internal matter” for Spain and Catalonia. Spain has shown time and time again that it is incapable of dealing with this issue in a democratic way, and now it’s time for Brussels to act – it is after all “an internal matter” for the EU too as we are all EU citizens with EU rights. I call on the European Parliament to use their power and legitimacy to ensure that millions of Catalans (and EU citizens) do not lose faith in the European project, a project which we believe was set up for the benefit of its people. Catalonia has a long history of openness, democracy and consensus-building and opened its doors to Europe a long time ago. The Catalans have always shared a belief in European values and the EU project. Given the present crisis of disaffection in the EU - with many voters turning to the far-right, xenophobic or other Euro-sceptic parties aiming to undermine the EU project – I find it hard to believe that Brussels can wash its hands of “the Catalan issue”.   
Now is a perfect opportunity to show once more what politics is really about in the EU and who politicians should be serving! The European Parliament must take a stance, and swiftly, and ensure Spain allows this vote to go ahead – the best solution for all involved; Catalonia, Spain and Europe.

Thank you for your time and attention,

dimecres, 8 d’octubre de 2014

It's in the trees!! Kate Bush (2)

... llavors vendrien grans singles com The Man With The Child In His Eyes (escrita quan Kate tenia 13 anys!), o Babooshka, i poc a poc, vaig perdre-li la pista. Fins al 1985, quan jo tenia 18 anys, i va treure el LP Hounds of Love amb una serie de singles (videos a baix) que tornaven a deixar-me sense paraules! Corrents cap a la biblioteca, vaig agafar el LP i ho vaig gravar en seguida i durant 1 o 2 anys va ser un dels meus favorits. Una obra maestra - i tornava a demostrar la excentricitat i geni de la Kate; la primera cara (recordeu quan els discs tenien 2 cares?), els hits, i la segona cara una mena de concept-album.
Llavors, entre universitat i la meva emigració cap a Catalunya, i la poca regularitat dels LPs de Kate, i pocs radio-friendly singles, li vaig tornar a perdre la pista fins ara. Pero aquest any ha programat una serie de concerts per primer cop en 34 anys i torna a estar en boca de tothom la seva imaginació artistica, i aixi ara he decidit no tornar a perdre-la i comprarem els CDs i farem un gran esforç per entendre la seva arte. Ara, per fi, entenc les lletres dels hits del Hounds of Love, i encara m'agraden més! 
.... so, after Wuthering Heights and another couple of great singles I remember - Babooshka and The Man With The Child In His Eyes (written when she was 13!) - I lost track of her until 1985 when the amazing LP Hounds of Love came out. A string of amazing (see below) hits on Side A, and some kind of concept album I still haven't understood, on side B (remember sides As and Bs?!). To tell the truth I've only just really understood the singles themselves - which you are about to enjoy. Maybe that's what I love about her; the mystery. Oh, and her English-ness, and her voice, and the songs' arrangements and originality, and her bravery, and career moves, excentricity, imagination, beauty, committment, talent, lack of fear....
So, I swiftly borrowed the album from Barnsley library, taped it and played it to death. Then I emigrated, and with other things on my mind plus Kate's lack of radio-friendly singles over the last 20 or 30 years, I lost track again - till now. Now, with the long awaited, but totally unexpected, come-back concerts she's back into all our minds once more, and this time I ain't letting go. Between my hard-earned savings and Father Christmas  I intend to complete my collection of her music, and make an extra extra effort to understand it!

dissabte, 4 d’octubre de 2014

Wuthering Heights - Kate Bush

La primera cançó de Kate Bush va sortir, i va arribar al numero 1 de les llistes, quan ella encara tenia 19 anys. Repetim, 19 anys! Evidentment és basat en la novel·la Wuthering Heights, que ella acabava d'escriure. Veure-la cantant amb aquesta veu tan espectacular, i aquests balls, i dient no-sé-que sobre una novel·la... pos, en aquest moment em va impactar moltissime i encara avui en dia trobo que és una de les cançons més impressionants de l'historia, una joia que no cansaré d'escoltar mai!
Jo en tenia 11 anys quan ho vaig sentir, en a les 14 o 15 quan vaig comprar el meu primer toca-discs, aquest va ser un dels primers singles que vaig comprar. També per aquell edad vaig llegir la novel·la per primer cop, i ha acabat sent el llibre que més cops he llegit (4). És una meravella i Kate ho encerta de ple amb la seva lletra i musica.
Tot aixo em vé al cap ara perque, aquest passat mes desetembre Kate ha decidit a tocar en directe, despres d'uns 30 anys sense fer-ho. La gent que ha tingut la sort de veure-la diuen que és un concert excel·lent, com no podria ser d'altra manera amb una de les cantants més originals d'Anglaterra.
Kate Bush is back in the news. First concerts in 30 years, and to make up for not going, we're having a mini Kate-revival at home; CDs, singles, Youtube videos galore.
So, remember when her first single came out, Wuthering Heights*? Just seeing, and hearing, it on Top of the Pops blew my mind back then, and it still blows it now. How can a song written in an hour by an 18-year-old be so impressive, reaching the listener on so many levels? Beautiful, and original - have you ever heard anything else like it?
A few years later, when I bought my own first turntable, this was one of the first singles I bought. Around the same time (15 years old?), I read the book Wuthering Heights for the first time, humming the words as I read... a book which would go on to become the book I've read most times (4). So, to cut a long story short, I love the book, love the films, love the moors, and love the song! And I love our extremely-English excentric singer, Kate Bush :)
So, I'll post this song again (it originally formed part of my successful series of posts on songs-related-to-literature a couple of years back).

*Footnote: I have to confess, for years I was amazed by the song and her singing but mis-understood half the lyrics. The most blatant confusion being the "Wuthering, Wuthering, Wuthering Heights" she sings at 0:44s As I'm pretty sure that Yorkshire folk like myself pronounce the name with a clear U, Kate's "English" pronunciation threw me into thinking she was singing, "want to be, wanna be...."! Not knowing, originally, that the heroine's name was Cathy, Kate's peculiar way of pronouncing it also threw me - "can't be"?

dijous, 2 d’octubre de 2014

This week in Catalonia

Un resumen rapid dels esdeveniments ultimes pels lectors no-catalans, i la meva proposta de la Jugada Final....
a vore, encara que el referendum (consultació) sí que és permès per la Constitució espanyola (a cap banda diu que no es pot oferir una opinió publica questionant la unitat d'Espanya - fins i tot la Constitució és "passiva" en la seva defensa de la democracia, i permet qualsevol tipus de llibertad d'expressió. Altra cosa és si permetria el proxim pas, la ruptura d'Espanya, però això no és la questió ara per ara), tinc clar que els Tribunals amb l'ajud del govern i establishment espanyol s'asseguraran que és declarada il·legal. I aixo és el que es vendrà a fora de les nostre fronteres. Per tant, insistint en fer la votació el dia 9N de qualsevol manera, fins i tot en ciutats amb ajuntaments en contra, i veient que els votants del "No" no hi aniran a votar, minvaria molt la credibilitat dels resultats finals. 
Estic amb Mas, o es fa bé del tot (a ulls de fora) o no es fa.
Aixi que, per a mi, cal la maxima pressio per anar a votar el 9N per a aconseguir que la gent a fora vegin la situació i m'alegro que els partits estan treballant per aixo (que seria la sortida ideal per a tothom) però, mentrestant, anem lligant el pla B ... eleccions. Sempre amb la porta oberta per si a Madrid veuen la llum i accepten que el 9N és la millor opció.

Ja sé que lo bonic de la politica catalana és la pluralitat de partits etc, però crec que no és el moment ara per anar a eleccions en nom dels partits, amb tots els entrebancs que causaria. Catalunya té una bala per a guanyar la Jugada Final - que això és un moviment de ciutadans, no politics - i hem d'estar segurs d'usar-ho al moment oportu, i jo crec que ja ha arribat. El dia 1 o ? de novembre, convocaria eleccions per a la primera data possible. Amb una llista unica que es basaria en la societat civil. Per exemple: 

1. Escriptor català famos (Cabre?); 2. Entrenador de futbol famos (Pep); 3. Scientific prestigios; 4. Metge conegut internacionalment; 5. Director de cine; 6. Professor d'universitat conegut internacionalment; 7. Artista; 8. Arquitecte; 9.Music; 10. ... aneu agafant l'idea? 20. Muriel; 21. Carme; .... ANC, Omnium, altres grups .... 68. Mas; 69. Junqueras; 70. Herrera; 71. Fernandez ... 72 fins 135, membres dels 4 partits en ordre ABCD ABCD ABCD.....

Programa electoral: punt 1, Declaració imediata d'independencia. Punt 2, al segon dia, viatge d'una comissió del parlament cap a Brussel·les per negociar etc. Punt 3, convocar referendum i elecciones noves per prepara el nou país.
I va que xuta. 
So, if you want to know what's happened over the last few years in Catalonia, check out my previous posts here. I will now take the story up post-11th September 2014. 
Firstly, the Catalan Parliament drew up and passed a new law on public consultations - one of the autonomous powers that Madrid had accepted for Catalonia a few years ago. The idea being that if you hold a "non-binding public consultation" (or referendum, for the laymen like us!) it would be legal and accepted by the Spanish Constitutional Court. Even though the Spanish govt have been telling us that this is not the case , legal experts insist that the Constitution does not impede people expressing their opinions regarding the constitutional and territorial make-up of Spain (whether it would accept breaking up Spain following a Yes vote is another kettle of fish, but not the issue now. First, let's vote). Link here
So, they passed the law in the Catalan Parliament a fortnight ago and last Saturday used this law to call the 9 November independence "referendum" (i.e. a non-binding consultation - but presumable a huge Yes vote would push things over the edge!).
So, on Monday (29th) the Spanish govt passed the affair into the hands of the State Council, a "superior body", to decide whether to refer the law and referendum to the Constitutional Court. This amazingly independent and neutral State Council is presided over by a guy who was General Secretary for Health under Franco, before Franco seated him on the Council. After Franco's death, he joined the PP (current governing party, founded by one of Franco's ministers) and was its treasurer around the time that the slush fund scandal was apparently in full flow. He is now a key player in the most important decisions taken in Spain. Try reading that again, swapping Franco's name for Hitler. Get where I'm going?
By Monday evening the 12 judges of the Constitutional Court had already issued a temporary suspension of the decree and the vote. 12 judges, nominated by the two main parties in Spanish politics (separation of executive and judicial powers is for wimps!), with a clear bias and many with murky backgrounds reaching back to Franco's regime too. The President of the Court apparently was a member of a right-wing party campaigning against the introduction of the Constitution itself during Spain's transition to this so-called democracy in the late 70s.
Catalans hit the streets in protest on Monday night.
Meanwhile Catalan town councils have been voting all week on whether to support the vote or not. Currently over 90% have voted to support it!
Spanish govt figures are saying that this suspension of the vote means that it's illegal to prepare it, promote it or even talk about it really! The Catalan govt made the tactical decision, on Tuesday, of deciding to take a pause in the actual physical preparations (TV ads, mailings, etc) so as not to allow possible legal actions against Catalan public workers, and they transfered the full weight of the legal responsibility to the Catalan Parliament as our elected representatives. A committee of MPs have been nominated to oversee the vote and take whatever steps need to be taken to keep this going. They have already been threatened with court cases.
And there you are for now. What's next? Personally, I believe that if the Spanish govt keep insisting its illegal (and the Catalans, that it is legal), holding the vote on 9 November could be confusing for international eyes - which are the important ones here, the ones who will have to recognize the eventual declaration of independence. So here's my proposal/prediction for the next step if it turns out the the vote can't go ahead, despite, of course, always working with this aim in mind:

If the referendum isn't going to happen, they need to call a snap election as soon as possible. Catalan politics works on a PR system, where every party publishes a list of 135 candidates to cover the 135 seats. Depending on how many votes each party gets, the first ten or 25 or 30 etc of its candidates get a seat. So it's a very plural situation with 4 or 5 parties currently forming the pro-vote majority. But holding a traditional election would just give us the same situation we're in now. Personally, I think Catalonia's secret weapon should be deployed now - that is, that this is not a political thing, it's a society-led campaign. I think the parties should take the back seat and draw up this list:

1. Famous Catalan author; 2. Famous Catalan football manager (Guardiola); 3. Internationally renowned Catalan scientist; 4. artist; 5. musician; 6. architect; 7. philosopher; 8. doctor; 9. you get the picture?? Admired non-political members of Catalan society ... up to number 20. Number 21-30, key members of the grassroots organizations behind the independence drive. etc. MP number 68 gives you the majority in Parliament. So, number 68; first politician, the current Catalan President Mr Mas, 69 to 135 other party members in a strict ABCDE ABCDE ABCDE order. 

Electoral programme: Point 1. Day one, immediate declaration of independence. 2 Day two, parliamentary commission travel to Brussels to negotiate. 3. Organize referendum a.s.a.p. to verify this and call normal elections with a view to constituting and governing the new free country of Catalonia. The end.

UPDATE: Friday 3rd October; six different Catalan parties (representing about 70% of MPs) held a 7-hour meeting yesterday. They agreed to do everything in their power to push on and ensure the Catalan people WILL vote. Intelligently, they refused to give more details. Game on!