Catalan culture contains many references to the conflict between the qualities of el seny and la rauxa. The former roughly translates as ‘judicious prudence’, the latter as ‘passionate vitality’ - or simply ‘mad abandonment’.
In the view of many Spaniards, more than half the Catalans have become possessed by an excessive form of la rauxa, and lost el seny totally, as they seem poised to vote in favour of total independence from Spain next Sunday.
Such a move, if successful, would end at least 300 years of unity, from the Spanish nationalist perspective, or of coercive co-habitation, according to Catalan nationalists.
There is a certainly a strong whiff of la rauxa about the way in which the centre-right Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) party has embraced the heady vision of setting up a new nation state on the shores of the Mediterranean. The CDC has long been the epitome of el seny, of canny middle-class pragmatism, frequently enjoying the spoils of power as a party of government in Catalonia’s powerful autonomous institutions.
The CDC used to leave la rauxa to the leftist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, with whom it now forms a fissiparous coalition for Sunday’s vote. The two parties are united only in their determination to turn elections to the Catalan parliament into a plebiscite on independence.
Moreover, opinion polls suggest that this coalition would itself require the support of the much more radical Popular Unity group (CUP), which abhors the CDC’s economic policies, to claim a victory for the independence option.
Whether a new nation-state can be forged by such an internally-divided alliance is only one of the imponderable questions facing Catalonia, and Spain, should it win a majority of seats.
No-one knows what steps a pro-independence Catalan government would take to cut its ties with Madrid, or how it would be received by Brussels. The EU is clearly deeply discomfited by this prospect, but will not lightly discard the region’s wealth.
The gravest question is whether Madrid would contemplate the use of force, as the Spanish constitution envisages, if Catalonia secedes outside the law.
The only certainty is that a great deal of el seny will be required, by all concerned, from Monday morning onwards.