The fight for independence. It has been the primary cause for many wars and political clashes throughout the course of history. When the fight for independence begins, people scramble to take sides, to make their voices heard.
No modern conflict embodies this better than Catalonia.
The facts are these. For the past few weeks, the people of Catalonia, an autonomous community of Spain, have been calling for independence, an almost inevitable response to the lack of respect the region has received from the larger Spanish government and monarchy over the years. This past Sunday, a referendum was held on the issue of separation from Spain. In an effort to prevent voting, Spanish national police clashed violently with the people, leaving almost 900 people injured.
Nevertheless, the people still voted. The results showed not only the overwhelming popularity of independence sentiment but the domestic push for the Catalan regional government to create a sovereign republic. Furthermore, Catalan leader Carles Puidgemont signed a declaration of independence.
But is the Catalonian independence effort actually a legitimate resolve for self-rule?
With Catalonia giving in to having “talks” with the government and Spain tightening the hold on this historically independent community, the answer to this question may be soon clear.
As for Spain, the answer is a solid no. Taking steps to impose a direct rule on the Catalan region, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has called the referendum on Sunday an “illegal and fraudulent” act. As tensions between Catalan protesters and Spanish police intensified, Rajoy addressed a letter to Puidgemont, stating clearly that Puidgemont had until Monday morning to confirm the independence, the consequence would be direct rule.
Even so, political unrest has already plummeted the divided country into a mess that the United Nations (UN) has deliberately avoided. Calling the issue an “internal Spanish problem,” the UN indirectly took the stance of the Spanish side, further demeaning the legitimacy of Catalonia’s “call” for independence.
In this, Catalonia sets a possible precedent for many independent states around the world.
As the whole world watches the events in Spain play out, Californian secessionists are watching more closely than the rest.
These secessionists recognize the similarities. Like Catalonia, California is diverse and economically prosperous with the means to become independent. Both have economies that are capable of competing on the world scale. Both differ in ideologies from their respective countries and want a more localized government control. Consequently, Catalonia may be a reflection of California.
However, there are some major differences. For many years before 1715, Catalonia was an independent country before becoming an autonomic community in Spain, where as California was only an independent nation for less than a year before it entered the Union following the Mexican-American War. This calls into question the ability of Californian secession.
Nonetheless, in light of the recent presidential election, thoughts of Californian secession have heightened. Now, with the Catalan independence seemingly underway, what is to say that Californian independence is not next?
In the end, whether independence is achieved or if there are more secessions to come is not the most important question to consider. For the moment, Catalonia and even California need to step back and consider what it really means to declare independence and fight for it.