A few days ago, the writer Antonio Muñoz Molina told us in his article his experience with the old clichés that circulate around about Spain. Those are the clichés some of the international press turn to, with invariable automatism, whenever something happens here. His article was about the events in Catalonia, events that spring into conversation with foreign colleagues and friends and reflect the frustration that many Spaniards feel when they see how some international leaders and mass media from different countries are commenting and informing on these facts.
In his article, titled "In Francoland", this writer confessed that in different times and circumstances he had had to explain "with patience" and "pedagogic will" to foreign speakers that Spain is a democracy. Indeed, an imperfect democracy, though no more than the ones of similar countries. The fact that he had to explain this is indicative of a resistance to accept this truism, a resistance whose psychological humus was seeing by this author in the following manner:
A great deal of the sustained opinion, in Europe and America, especially within the university and journalistic elites, would rather maintain a dark vision of Spain, would rather have a lazy attachment to the worst stereotypes, particularly the ones to do with the legacy of the dictatorship or the bullfighting propensity to civil war and bloodshed. This stereotype is so seductive that is held shamelessly by people that are convinced of loving our country. They love us as bullfighters, heroic militiamen, inquisitors, victims. They love us so much that they do not like us that they do not want us to question their willing blindness in which they sustain their love for Spain. They love so much the idea of a rebellious Spain fighting against fascism that they are not willing to accept that fascism ended many years ago.
Whether this love is so blind is debatable. Or if it is love or something else. What I am not questioning with Muñoz Molina is the fact that this attachment to stereotypes has made relatively effortless for the Catalan independentists to align in their favour a non-negligible portion of the international opinion. This writer was not mentioning the efforts (or lack of) from the Government of Spain to offset the narrative of the Catalan separatism in the international arena. However, he did point to the deficiencies of the Spanish international policy, deficiencies that are not just of today, when he said that "the Spanish democracy has not been able to dissipate the centuries old stereotypes". It is true. The Spanish democracy is struggling with this burden of clichés that are as old as the Black Legend. However, it would be unjust and not true to blame exclusively the Spanish democracy, its leaders or its precarious foreign policy for the persistence of such stereotypes. The illustrated elites of Europe and America also have their responsibility. They are not children. They are not people without access to information and knowledge. If they maintain their prejudices and stereotypes about Spain, if they hold onto them due to intellectual sloth or whatever other reason, it is because they are not making any effort to know. This would not be the first willful blindness that they suffer. There is no need to always scourge ourselves.
Like many others, I have criticised the government of Rajoy since a while ago now for not bothering themselves with offering data and address the lies of the Catalan independentism. Moreover, for not doing this both outside Spain and in Spain. It must be said that they have not distinguished themselves for dismounting here the lies or half-truths disseminated by the separatists during the procés years. This has had to be done by the civil society. It is unsurprising that now, in the most critical times, the government has been completely absent in the public opinion arena. This, in fact, is a constant feature of the Popular Party. This being most likely related to their deep and amorphous apolitical nature: they are concerned with power, not politics.
It is true, this work has not been done by the Government of Spain. However, have all the international papers, correspondents, special envoys in Catalonia done their work? Because we are not talking about children here. We are talking about media and professionals whose job is, to a great extent, to not allow themselves to be deceived. We are not to set up a kindergarten to explain to international media and journalists the abc of their profession. We are not to be blamed if they are not able to distinguish the truth from lies, if they are led astray by propagandists and stirrers. In fact, it should not be necessary that the government nor anybody else did send them another "narrative". All that is needed is that the media and their correspondents do their job. Nothing else.
* Originally published in Spanish.
Translated by Laura Cano-Lérida.