Sunday, 12 November 2017

Puigdemont out of a double bind

While reading the book Dir la realitat by sociologist and sociolinguist Catalan LLuís Vicent Aracil I came across the concept of double bind introduced by American psychologist and anthropologist Gregory Bateson.

This concept of double bind refers to an impossible choice between two paradoxical or contradictory injunctions. One cannot comply with the first without breaking the second. The two rules are accompanied by a third constraint that forbids going out of this situation. Without this third constraint, it would be a mere dilemma.

It reminds one of the tale of the Greek tragedy Antigone. In order to comply with her religious obligations, Antigone must bury her brother even if he died in a rebellion against King Creon. But the king forbids her to perform the funeral rites. Should she obey the gods, or obey the king? Antigone decides to fulfil her religious duty. Creon resorts to violence and condemns her to death. As Aracil writes, in a case of double bind "one must choose between blind and desperate violence and the fatalistic acceptance of disorder and helplessness."

That Greek tragedy was replayed this year in Catalonia. Madrid invoked the Constitution to prevent the Catalan Government from holding a referendum on self-determination. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont chose to act according to his electoral mandate, held a referendum and went on to proclaim the Republic of Catalonia. Madrid resorted to violence in order to prevent him from holding this referendum, sent to gaol pro-independence leaders including eight Catalan cabinet members, suspended regional autonomy and took control of the Catalan Government. At this stage greater violence is not to be dismissed offhandedly.

In a case of double bind, what can be done?

Let us listen to what Aracil tells us: "... an insoluble problem in the immediate and narrow context proves to be soluble in the context of the context."

In the case of Catalonia, what is the context of the context? The European Union. This explains the exile of Carles Puigdemont to Brussels. In that way one  hopes that violence will be avoided and that the issue will be raised in a new and more favourable setting.

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