There is only one rule teachers need to know in order to navigate the independence issue…
…DON’T TRUST ANYBODY.
The don’t trust anybody rule is particularly easy to follow because there are no exceptions. I can guarantee you that the whole time you’re teaching in Barcelona you ain’t gonna hear a word of objective truth from anybody on the Iberian peninsular about Catalan independence.
99% of all Catalans you meet will be diehard unionists or die-hard separatists. They will have had their brains fried in some echo-chamber or another and are walking adverts for post truth politics. For example: at an ESL class in the morning, a unionist will tell you that Puigdemont staged a coup…and in your evening class a separatist will say that Rajoy staged a coup!
As it’s impossible for two incumbents to stage a coup at the same time, the only thing you can do as a mild mannered English teacher is to believe there’s been a quantum coup. Only one coup was staged…but its perpetrators change depending on the position of the observer.
One of the most important things you need to understand about Catalonia is that it’s not Scotland: i.e. a poor relative from the north who nobody really wants. Nobody in England got passionate about Scotland because the only thing the English would have lost was the Lochness monster.
Catalonia and Barcelona, however, are the crown jewels of Spain. Losing them would be like an American having to deal with the loss of California and Hollywood.
No nation in the world is ever going to give up prize territory, so you can be assured that when you talk to a Spaniard about the issue they’ve already done the math and made a subconscious decision to be as biased as possible.
3. Fellow English Teachers:
Other English teachers in Barcelona are the worst possible source of information and opinions on the independence issue. A lot of them are social justice warriors who think that the liberal and ethnic/yoga thing to do…is to support independence.
They know little of the complex history and politics of Spain and don’t understand a vital fact about the issue: that there is not a majority for independence in Catalonia.
As for English guys who who are married to Catalan women, they’re basically suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Not only that, but as you’ve probably figured out as a newbie to Barcelona – the women are incredible beautiful. You could make a spotty English teacher believe in the cause of Mohammad if he thinks he’s going to get a free ticket to a Catalonian muff-diving excursion.
4. The newspapers (esp. The Guardian):
Right-wing newspapers are salivating at the thought of Spain (and therefore the EU) falling apart. It’s the ultimate proof of their thesis: that the frogs are on the verge of chaos….and we’re much better outside of the EU.
Left-wing newspapers suffer from the social justice distortions noted previously, as well as the incessant belief that the Catalan-Spanish thing is like the England-Scotland thing.
The classic example of left wing confusion was Owen Jones ranting on Question Time. He was speaking as if the clashes we saw on the day of the referendum were ongoing and that life in Catalonia was intolerable. The violence was a one day affair and life on the streets (and beaches) is the same.
The Welsh, the Scots and the Irish project their own independence struggles onto the Catalonia question. They can spout separatist propaganda as if they were born and raised in Lleida. All three of these Celtic races like a drink or two, so you’d better watch yourself if you start questioning Catalan independence.
Conclusion and solution.
As you can see…there’s not a single person on this peninsular who can speak objectively about the independence issue. So what is a newbie teacher in Barcelona supposed to do?
My solution is simple: be an independence whore.
As nobody’s going to tell you the truth, you might as well take advantage of the situation. Everybody is super passionate, leaving a newbie teacher like you the chance to win friends BY AGREEING WITH EVERYONE YOU MEET.
The important thing to do is to mirror and extend. If the speaker starts nodding their head vigorously, then you do the same, echo their words, and ask the right questions (Oh my God, did those bastards really stage a coup?) That’s the mirroring part.
Then, as the minutes pass, you drain your empty bottle of Estrella Dam and extend your hand, leaving said empty in the middle of the table.
I guarantee that if you’ve done the requisite mirroring, they’ll be buying you a refill faster than you can say ‘Puidgdemoint is Harry Potter’s older brother.’ Working like this, an independence whore can get a whole range of benefits, including beer, drugs, loans and sex. All you gotta do is be a nodding dog.
And that, my friends, is how you deal with the independence issue.
P.S. One tricky aspect of being an independence whore is if you’re with a separatist and then bump into a unionist you’ve previously whored. My strategy for this is to wink, take them to one side and claim to be working undercover for ‘the cause’. Then ask them if you can borrow ten euros…
… “for the cause.”
My interest in this quesdtion hasd led me to study Catalan history, Spanish history, parallel cases in Quebec, Kurdistan and Scotland, as well as international conventions on independence.
I can tell you that the truth is that nobody is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. There is no law of the universe that says anybody has the right to self-government or that they don’t have the right.
The best thing to do, therefore, is