Catalonia, Brexit: Is it mass hysteria?


What problem will be solved?

Great Britain, Catalonia, Scotland, Poland, etc. have one thing in common: All these states – for whatever reason – now emphasise their autonomy – independence – from an ‘order’ (‘Europe’) they all are an integral part of, and for their security and well-being highly dependent on.

The integration of Europe, came at a high price, and has brought evident advantages, to all.

However, despite the evident advantages to be part of ‘Europe’, the populations of these ‘states’ (and autonomous regions in case of Catalonia and Scotland) are not satisfied and have become increasingly restless. They are convinced that more autonomy and sovereignty will serve their interests better, despite the (obvious) costs. The costs are – at least at this stage – taken for granted.

If economic well-being and security are used as measures to judge on the sensibility of these initiatives, these initiatives do not make much sense. From an economic and security perspective, these initiatives are irrational.

These initiatives could be interpreted mass hysteria, it seems. In sociology and psychology, mass hysteria (also known as collective hysteria, group hysteria, or collective obsessional behaviour) is a phenomenon (a pattern of social interaction) that causes the transmission of collective feelings of threats, whether real or imaginary, through a population, a society or group as a result of rumours and fear.

But such a qualification is maybe too simple.

Not all the threats these populations perceive are imaginary. It is the response that is above all irrational.

The common denominator of these initiatives is an effort of these populations and societies to regain control over their lives and futures: Globalisation, an influx of refugees, the Internet, continuous violence and war, a weak and dysfunctional European Union – with Brussels and Strasbourg living in their own ivory tower – terrorism, the United States ‘on the loose’, etc. have undermined a sense of belonging, identity and of security.

The response is to ‘fight back’ and to regain positive control. Such a ‘fight’ gives (new) meaning and a clear purpose.

Problematic is that these initiatives do not solve the problem(s) and have irrevocable consequences. However, the initiatives also work as self-fulfilling prophecies, and the Spanish king has already made a significant contribution.

Another problem is that these initiatives – also because of the emotions that are involved – tend to reinforce each other.

Since 2011, when the current international order reached its tipping point, tensions and unresolved issues accumulate in the System, and constantly feed on each other: More volatility, more irrationality and fragmentation are to be expected.