As a general proposition, I would prefer to maintain the territorial integrity of the Dominion of Canada. But, if Quebec - or parts of Quebec - wished to secede, I would recognize their right to do so. Likewise, I would have preferred to maintain the 1801 borders of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, but parts of Ireland felt otherwise - as was their right.
Though the fiercer nationalists might feel otherwise, the Irish benefited from a particular historical moment: 1922 was the era of the nation state, but not yet the welfare state. By the time the Scots came to hold their referendum a couple of years back, all the stirring Braveheart balderdash was hopelessly corrupted by calculations of which sugar-daddy - London or Edinburgh - was likely to heap the biggest bennies into your sporran. A welfare mentality is fatal to nationalism. It's why Quebec "separatism" is fundamentally unserious. And, if Northern Ireland ever decides to bolt the Union, it will have less to do with the Wearing of the Green than with the Welfare of the Green (or, more precisely, the combined welfare appeal of the Green and the Blue With Yellow Stars, Dublin and Brussels).
Nevertheless, if your national identity is not yet entirely hollowed out by welfarism, certain trends are discernible. Large units require a social solidarity that is harder to sustain than smaller ones. It's why England voted for Brexit: they felt that the European Union was, in essence, a racket by which they were required to subsidize their own eclipse. And that, also in essence, is why Catalonia voted on Sunday to exit the Kingdom of Spain.
Spain's constitutional court, Spain's government, Spain's national police and Spain's paramilitary Guardia Civil set themselves in opposition to the referendum and declared that it would not take place. As a result, TV viewers throughout Europe witnessed the extraordinary sight of the Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, and local fire departments battling with the Spanish police and the Guardia for control of polling stations. That's the equivalent of a standoff between the SÃ»retÃ© du QuÃ©bec and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or between New Hampshire state troopers and the FBI plus National Guard. To obstruct their seizure by force, polling stations were occupied by ordinary Catalans, including children, volunteering themselves as human shields. Spanish policing has never been the most genteel, and a thousand Catalans required medical treatment. Nevertheless, two thousand polling stations stayed open and prevented the forces of Madrid from seizing their ballots. Of Catalonia's 5.3 million registered voters, 2.3 million were determined enough to get past the Spanish paramilitary forces and into the polling booths - and 92 per cent of them voted for an independent Catalan republic.
The Government of Spain did not acquit itself well last Sunday, nor in its reactions to the result. King Felipe declared that Catalans had shown "an unacceptable disloyalty to the powers of the state". His prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, pronounced: "There was no referendum." So be it. But, were he and his Sovereign graciously to "permit" an "approved" referendum, there's not much doubt how it would go: Catalonians are more serious than Caledonians in that respect.
Why is that? Well, in Great Britain, the south subsidizes the north; in the Iberian Peninsula, the north subsidizes the south. Catalans are fed up with paying for the economically moribund regions down the coast: around ten per cent of Catalonia's GDP gets sluiced off and shipped south.
As SteynOnline readers don't need to be told, Europe has deathbed demography, of which post-Catholic Mediterranean Europe has some of the worst - Spain's fertility rate in 2015 was 1.3 live births per woman, which is what demographers call "lowest-low" fertility, from which no society has ever recovered. According to its national statistics office, Spain by 2050 will have lost 11 per cent of its population and have 1.7 million fewer children under the age of ten, while over a third of its population will be elderly retirees. On those numbers, Spain is headed for societal implosion.
As SteynOnline readers also don't need to be told, the European Union's solution is to import Muslims to be the children they couldn't be bothered having themselves. Thus, the population of Catalonia is already about 7.5 per cent Muslim. But, again as SteynOnline readers don't need to be told, Muslims have a lower workforce-participation rate than native Europeans. As I write in my bestseller After America (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore):
Turkish immigrants have three times the rate of welfare dependency as ethnic Germans, and their average retirement age is fifty. Foreigners didn't so much game the system as discover, thanks to family "reunification" and other lollipops, that it demanded nothing of them. Entire industries were signed up for public subsidy. Two-thirds of French imams are on the dole.
So in practice immigrants just add another group, aside from the elderly and the welfare class, for the ever smaller and ever more burdened productive sector to maintain in the lifestyle to which they've become accustomed. Catalonia has had enough: It would prefer to prop up elderly Catalans and unemployed Catalan youth, rather than the ever swelling numbers of the aged and the lifelong dependency class to its south. In straitened times, the social solidarity necessary for large-scale enterprises - not just the European Union but also the United Kingdom, Spain and a reunited Germany - starts to shrivel, particularly for the net contributors, for the ever more put upon functioning parts of society required to maintain ever more numerous armies of the dysfunctional. Once that happens, you start thinking of your own: in the Brexit vote, the English decided England was more important to them than a chimera called "the European Union"; on Sunday, the Catalans decided Catalonia had more purchase on them than a Spain with a 40 per cent youth unemployment rate and young Mohammedans landing on the beach for express check-in. You don't even have to be that prosperous to recognize that the Euro-globalism of the larger polities will ultimately diminish you: a week before the Catalan referendum, large numbers of East Germans voted like East Germans - because they understood that they could not afford the more prosperous West German virtue-signaling over Mad Mutti Merkel's Islamic open door. As I noted nine days ago, the German election was a microcosm of the deepening split between East Europeans and West Europeans on the issue of mass immigration.
The tensions of multiculturalism and economic sclerosis do not distribute themselves equally, and the Catalans will not be the last to resent the burdens. For years I've been saying about Eutopia that "united they'll fall, but divided a handful might stand a chance". In fact, I said it here:
For years I've been saying about Eutopia that "united they'll fall, but divided a handful might stand a chance."
Many of Europe's dominant "nations" are of fairly recent vintage, and beneath them lie older and potentially more viable identities - in the Catalan and Basque nationalities, the German states, the pre-Risorgimento quilt of Italian kingdoms and republics and city-statelets, the "home countries" of the British Isles. What will count will whether, as in Scotland, welfare dependency has rotted the soul of a dormant nation. After that, there will be finer calculations. When Edward Carson and other Unionists set themselves against home rule for Ireland, there were some who wondered why they did not want all nine counties of the historic province of Ulster rather than merely six. But Sir Edward knew that in the remaining three he could not hold the loyalist line against Catholic, nationalist birth rates. That was a shrewd and prudent demographic calculation. The more the globalists talk up John Kerry's "borderless world", the more the "citizens of the European Union" will look around them, make Carsonian calculations, and draw their borders tighter. That quintessentially American expression - "Go big or go home" - has some salience here: The European Union went big. In different ways, the English, the Catalans and the East Germans are saying they'd like to go home.
Since I've plugged one bestseller of mine, let me put in a word for another - America Alone (personally autographed copies of which are also exclusively available at the SteynOnline bookstore, by happy coincidence). Here's the cheery passage I had in mind:
You might think the Continent's in for what looks awfully like the Four Horsemen of the Eupocalypse â€“ although in tribute to Euro-perversity they're showing up in reverse order: Death â€” the demise of European races too self-absorbed to breed; Famine â€” the end of the lavishly funded statist good times; War â€” the decline into bloody civil unrest that these economic and demographic factors will bring; and Conquest â€” the recolonization of Europe by Islam.
Does Spain's repression of the referendum and the Catalan resistance presage the dawn of that third phase? The head of Catalonia's government is promising to declare independence on Monday. Having weathered the disastrous optics of last weekend, Madrid has no choice but to resist. So this is a constitutional crisis for Spain. But its implications ripple way beyond. The last quarter-century has seen the rebirth of small nations across the map - Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Bosnia... Why should that phenomenon confine itself merely to Eastern Europe?
~Tonight, Wednesday, Mark will be keeping his midweek date with Tucker Carlson, live across America on Fox News at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific. We hope you'll tune in.
For another perspective on the consequences of shifting demographics in Europe, Mark's trip to Northern England to meet "grooming" victims is recounted in the current issue of The Clubbable Steyn, which comes free with membership in The Mark Steyn Club: You can sign up for a full year, or, lest you suspect a dubious scam by a fly-by-night scamster, merely a quarter.
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