You have got to be careful, when talking about the Catalan bourgeoisie, to not strain your neck. This is best accomplished by never looking up. You’d be wrong to imagine that they are up there and you are down here. It’s not like in Parasites, where the pristine house on the hill stands in stark contrast to the toilet bowl conditions of the lumpen below. Even if they do live up in Pedralbes, there’s no need to mix the topographical metaphors—there are people living in Roquetes, a working class enclave in Nou Barris, at further above sea level than the highest part of Sarrià, and no one ever envies them for being uptown. So keep a level head, and don’t look up: apart from staring at your bourgeois nemesis in the eye, you’ll save the cost of a chiropractor.
It is better to face the Catalan bourgeoisie straight on. This is possible because moneyed elites in Catalonia are not blatantly ostentatious and play at being socially accessible. They strive to look, live and behave rather similarly to the comfortable upper middle class, buying their suits off the same racks. Likewise, the moderately comfortable go to great lengths to emulate the bourgeoisie, or rather some half-assed image they’ve contrived of it. These efforts from below tend to be flawed, since there’s a difference between taking the chairlift to the top of the ski hill and taking a helicopter to the top of a powdery-white mountain. Some golf, others mini golf. Some go to hear lectures at the Cercle d’Economia as rightful members of the economic circle, while others just go to hear lectures. Everyone follows Barça, but only the elites get to rival each other to sit in the presidential box, watching Messi as if he were an action figure acquired for their grandkids.
There are reasons the Catalan bourgeoisie prefers to linger amongst the shadows, reticent to take on a more public profile. One, logically, is that they could care less about the public domain, as their private interests prevail. Going public would also expose them to the litmus test of success based on merit (meritocracy), which they’d fail. Yet it is also true their dedication to modern techno-industrial sectors has resulted in accrued wealth, but not the accrual of its trappings. Catalan money also hides for survival purposes, since Catalonia has been a land of social upheaval, where bourgeois families have been the targets of revolutionary ire. Hundreds saw their assets collectivized during the Second Republic. Now, participative democracy makes them nervous, as it threatens to cut into their shell game. This explains why they prefer to spend 1.8 million on a 20-metre Fountaine Pajot catamaran, for that yearly jaunt to Menorca, than pay a sixth of that on a Lamborghini Aventador, a much sexier proposition which would only make them fret.
The key to the Catalan bourgeoisie is not its own power or money, but how it has forged a direct line to political power and public budgets. An alliance of NGOs working to improve the lives of a disadvantaged sector of society might wait months, years, for half an hour with a Catalan minister; the captains of economic power call weekly and lunch monthly. This inside track between politicians and businessmen is more firmly paved than the hardest runway at El Prat airport. For these elites, despite countless weekend seminars at ESADE, free market values are only relative. While spouting private virtues they are the first to benefit from common resources and government policies, as the juiciest morsels of public services in transport, health and education are privatised for their benefit. In Catalonia, the term “3 percent” refers to the standard kickback historically required of empresarios to procure government contracts. Most of this money has flowed into the coffers of one political party and its leaders, formerly Convergència i Unió, now PDCAT, the centre-right nationalists. The contradictory support of some Catalan businesspeople for political separation (inasmuch as it augers years of instability and dubious monetary benefit) is explained by their need to remain loyal to this felonious pact.
Bourgeois honour has been defended by relentless propagandising, projecting elites as technological innovators and illustrious patrons of the arts. Data denies this. In thirty years 85% of the textile sector has disappeared, largely because the bourgeoisie pocketed abundant profits rather than innovating in technology and design. Inheriting offspring sell off quickly to foreign investors, preferring to live as two-bit speculative capitalists. In culture, patronage has stalled drastically, starving the budgets of museums and theatres. They believe themselves to be culturally superior, yet their bad taste and disdain for authentic creativity denote patent parochiality, exhausting whatever might remain of a dignified bourgeois legacy.