September 11th and the humiliation of Empires
When discussing the humiliation of Empires, September 11th is a busy anniversary. The epoch-shifting attack on the World Trade Center happened twenty years ago already: it’s difficult to imagine a more glaring symbolic castration, American potency stricken down on live TV.
Further in the past, in 1683, King Jan III Sobieski broke the Ottoman Siege of Vienna. Spearheaded by twenty thousand winged horsemen crying out in macaronic Latin, Christendom doubled down on the humiliation inflicted to the Turks in 1565, when they were repelled from Malta (again on September 11th!) by the Knights Hospitalier.
Diving deeper in the sands of Time we’ll reach the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, in 9 AD. This was the military disaster that put an end to Roman expansion over the Rine: arguably one of the most important events in European history. It would settle, to this day, the border between the barbarian and civilized cultures of the continent. The fixed frontier between the Peoples of Beer and the Peoples of Wine clearly, defined by Béla Hamvas and tangentially explored by Ernst Jünger.
There are other interesting examples, but today our short post will revolve around the Siege of Barcelona, September 11th 1714. The Spanish city, which favored Archduke Charles of Austria in the War for the Spanish Succession, surrendered to the forces of Philip of Anjou, grandson of le Roi Soleil himself. Habsburg Spain was over and Bourbon Spain was born.
The humiliating suffered by the vanquished is, in this case, somewhat ambiguous. The British, who supported the losing Austrian side, came out nonetheless as the biggest winners, securing through various treaties their control of Gibraltar and the Asiento de negros (the monopoly on trans-Atlantic slave trade). The victorious French had to settle for crippling debt and a divided Crown, as the Peace of Utrecht established that the thrones of Spain and France could not be held by the same person. The real losers? Those who were so tied to the old order, they could not fit in the new one: regional elites whose privileges depended on Habsburg protection, such as Catalan burghers or Dutch Sephardic slavers.
Nowadays, these historic grievances fail to raise the blood pressure of most Europeans. A remarkable exception is that of the Catalan Separatists who have turned the Rendition of Barcelona into a Nation-defining moment. Curious choice, but reasonable considering the few claims to military glory in Catalan history that can be memetically detached from the Spanish Monarchy. Since Archduke Charles was as Spanish a king as Philip, making the War of Succession all about Catalonia’s freedom against requires a lot of narrative acrobatics and an enthusiastic suspension of disbelief.
The Nationalist definition of Catalonia, characterized by defeat and grievances, denounces a peculiar psychology, only understood by some gifted columnists like Salvador Sostres: one that combines a kind of sincere, romantic sentimentalism with pragmatic materialism, self-satisfied fatuousness, and a taste for the telluric and the scatological. Curiously, Bronze Age Pervert considers the Catalans “the only masculine race left Spain”; a strange opinion, unfazed by the vastly more impressive records of Basques and Castilians in producing piratical-vitalist conquerors, navigators and explorers. Catalan Nationalism, in contrast, always chose to take pride in its alleged parliamentarism, pacifism, and egalitarism.
The Catalan struggle for independence would apparently make it a natural ally of other small, regional factions in Europe: people the Flemish Nationalists and the Lega Nord, among others. And although these ties exist, mainstream Catalan secessionism has always strived for a kind of legitimity that such outsiders can’t provide. The motto always was “Catalonia New State in Europe”; euro-skeptic national populists (natpops) were seen as crass by aspiring Catalan Founding Fathers such as Carles Puigdemont or Oriol Junqueras. They aimed to build an Open Society™, an ideology they enthusiastically embraced: Catalonia was no place for anti-Sorosian agitprop à la Salvini, but a utopia for bleeding-heart progressives.
Unfortunately for Puigdemont and Junqueras, Nationalism is by definition anti-Imperialist, and this makes it anti-Globalist in today’s world. In conventional narratives, it is always nations who heroically resist empires. This has a historical basis: the Nation-State was born at Westphalia with the specific objective of carving smaller sovereign polities out of the Holy Roman Empire and its pretensions of Universal Christendom. Getting this wrong brought Puigdemont and his cronies exile and incarceration, when they unilaterally declared independence.
A few months ago, some New York Times journalists were going around in Barcelona discreetly asking questions to university professors, activists and public officials. The result was a shocking piece for some: it highlighted the connections made between the Catalanist movement and the Russian government, mentioning secret service connections and the shadowy app Tsunami democratic (which we discussed here).
The NYT piece did not provide much new information as much as it spelled a change of course. It was inequivocally in support of the Spanish government and against the Separatists. This was fresh: the Empire’s mouthpiece had been showing clear support to the Catalan cause for a long time (exhibits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). European governments with strong liberal-democratic street cred, such as Germany or Belgium, also turned their backs on Spain repeatedly on this specific issue (1, 2). In fact, there was uncomfortable and proven German cooperation with the secessionist coup, via government-owned telecommunications company T-Systems.
Placing the Separatist movement within the Russian-aligned axis of evil was a huge blow to the credibility of the Nationalist movement. Public opinion in the West blames Russia for the support of populist, nationalist, or otherwise extremist groups all over. It is considered a piece of common knowledge; a meme with origins conveniently not-talked-about. Whether that’s a true claim or not is irrelevant by virtue of its media-factuality. Trump was seen in the US as a Putin stooge, and natpops in Germany, Italy and France are considered as such, too (all of it a reasonable claim, by the way).
Blaming Russia in such a memetic context is very cheap diplomatically. It, however, helps to dissipate the responsibility of all others involved (including Americans and Germans). Accusing Russia pushes Catalan secessionism far away from the Empire’s camp. It should be noted that El País, the Spanish main Socialist-aligned newspaper, was rushing as early as 2017 to discredit the involvement of Soros in Catalan independence, indicting the Kremlin instead. And if the Spanish Socialists were skeptical of Puigdemont’s ties to the likes of Soros, it’s because they themselves work for such people and fully back the Capital-Communist/Imperial/Globohomo project.
[For the record, it’s likely that Russia backed both sides on the issue of Catalan Independence. We would expect nothing less competent from these guys].
In any case, what is relevant about the NYT article is not the truth in it, but how it reflects a reorientation of the world’s international relations. And what is this new statu quo being built before our very eyes?
Nothing too unexpected here, really. With the Middle Eastern chapter closed at last, the strategic shift of the hegemonic USA is decidedly being displaced to the South Pacific. All former trans-Atlantic allies suddenly have become less than important as China becomes the priority. Covid has smoothened relations between all members by occupying almost all political discourse. Deplorables are now non-vaxxers: much easier to deal with. Right-wing boomers and Left-wing boomers, all finally united through the fear of sickness and death. With all other points of contention now secondary, Europe will from now on be divided between those who rely on NATO and the few wishing to support French plans of “strategic independence”.
Good move by the US. Now, governments who had absolutely nothing in common strategically (Spain, Italy, Poland, Germany…) are all tied inescapably to the US. Poland and other maverick V4s will likely have to swallow their traditions and national populism; as much as they may have liked Trump, they are in no position to repudiate Biden. They may find themselves joining the ranks of Germany and Spain, who gladly follow the Empire’s State religion. And if they don’t comply? Look what happened to the French and their submarines: given the finger for not playing along. If you think this wasn’t about screwing them over, look again. The Barracuda-class submarines they were planning to sell the Australians, rejected on the basis of being diesel, were in fact especially modified to be so, as the original model was designed to be nuclear.
It’s important to know who you are in life and what role you play in the world. Puigdemont & Co. thought being a regional branch of Spanish globalism was below their status. Yet, they were too pure to join the natpop camp: their democratic-liberal beliefs were non-negotiable; their commitment to Human Rights, uncompromising; they thought they’d never surrender, and bet their lives on the success of their cause.
It is crucial to know the price of one’s soul. Often, those who believe theirs has none end up forced to selling themselves for much less, even nothing, in return.
As the very moment of this writing, Puigdemont is being detained in Italy after years living as an exile and having achieved nothing. Riches to rags: from President to common criminal. Sic transit gloria mundi. His incarcerated colleagues have accepted a humiliating pardon, and their party is now governing Spain in coalition with the Socialists. We can extract a tangential morality tale from this story: the rewards of vanity and irredentism are homelessness and isolation.
The important question, though, is: when the time comes and the Empire finally makes its move, will there be another September 11th?