It's not much use for Felipe VI to come to Catalonia if every time he does so he locks himself in a palace, keeps his distance from the preoccupations of the Catalans and does not make an effort to redress the harm he produced with his televised speech of the 3rd October 2017, 48 hours after the independence referendum and the extreme violence of the Guardia Civil and the National Police against thousands of voters. Almost two years after that faux pas, the Spanish monarchy obtains a dreadful rating in Catalonia, it has no contact with the Catalan government or authorities and an example of this is the absence of the three main figures -president Quim Torra, the speaker of the Catalan Parliament Roger Torrent and the mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau- from Thursday's dinner at the MNAC.
In the midst of a country shaken by the tragedy of the fire in Ribera d'Ebre, which has once again produced an infinite show of solidarity from the Catalan people over what has been the most ferocious fire of the last 10 years, Felipe VI kept to his agenda of minor audiences with unionist lobbies undaunted. What a huge mistake. It would have been really easy to travel to the south of the country and be close to the people who cry for what they have lost and for the evident devastation that the flames have caused to their lives' and surrounding environment and the hardship they will still have to endure in the next days. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder did it in 2002, when floods in Saxony gave him the possibility of reversing opinion polls. He put on his wellies, rolled up his sleeves and in the twinkling of an eye he turned the polls around and left Edmund Stoiber, who was leading, without the dreamed-of chancellorship.
Might it be then that when one does not have to earn one's position or depend on popular support, one ends up completely detached from reality? True, nobody was expecting Felipe VI and, therefore, his absence has remained unnoticed, but the Spanish monarch would have debunked more than one comment if he had swapped both the Albeniz Theatre curtsies and the MNAC hand-kissing for some sharing of the sadness and the tears of a charred land. The bottom line here is none other than that of an institution that in the 21st century is behaving with the parameters of the 19th century, when the pace of things was different and no one was attentive to popular support.
Today, politics and the endorsement of the citizenship are both earned with every detail and likewise lost with every mistake one makes. Failing to understand that, at each and every opportunity, is to be left to the mercy of gales that can demolish a battered institution that has had too many leakages lately and that is moving between the ignorance and detachment of a very substantial, doubtlessly majority, portion of the Catalan society.