September 27th 2017 will be remembered as a Day of Independence. A day of celebration, but also a day of possible mourning. I rejoice and also remain vigilant at the coming days since the Catalonian government’s decision to declare independence. Some would view this as a failure of democracy, and of politics more generally, to achieve a peaceful alternative that would recognise the cultural diversity of Catalonia within Spain. The compromise option would have seen Catalonia keep its devolved status, but within the context of Spain. The model that Quebec and Scotland have already taken.
Depending on how you feel, questioning whether we live in a democracy is either incredibly stupid or incredibly scary. In a democracy, every member who is eligible helps to decide how they are governed. Essentially everyone has the same voting power, the same level of influence over government, and the same means of expressing that influence.
But in reality this is an idealised version of democracy. In truth, we admit that there simply isn’t time for us to all have a say in every matter that affects us. Instead we elect officials who more or less represent what we want; accepting that they may stand for a few policies that we don’t agree with but we take the rough with the smooth. After all, the nature of democracy means one doesn’t get their choice every time. It’s the nation’s consensus.
by Ellen Musgrove
Cherokee writer and academic Daniel Heath Justice writes in The Kynship Chronicles that ‘the memory of the world is short, and death rides hard in the forgetting.’ Being indigenous and queer, Justice knows very well the selective amnesia of the nation-state, and the resistance that demands.
Such an introduction may seem obscure, but this perceived obscurity demonstrates the problem I want to discuss. The same nation-state amnesia is imbricated in “western” society’s selective mourning of recent terror attacks, the current refugee crisis, and now renewed military intervention.