CONCORD: AN ATTITUDE NEEDED FOR PROGRESS
Concord can be defined as the readiness to reach agreements among individuals or institutions, aimed at achieving a common goal or settling a conflict. It is by means of concord that societies and human groups progress to ever higher levels of equitable development.
As such, concord is a necessary but not sufficient condition to that end. It needs to be accompanied by a commitment, made ab initio by all involved, to comply with the results of the negotiations, embodied in an agreement that is fair to everyone.
The agreement is therefore not an end in itself, but a premise, the equipment required, so to say, for walking the path that leads to the predominance of ethical values in decision-making. These values, as manifested in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, must accompany every attitude of concord, conceived of as an instrument of progress.
Concord, commitment, fairness and ethical values is the set of principles that inspire our project.
The concord in our past
One of the historical developments in which concord has played the role we attribute to it in the above paragraph is the construction of Europe. From the first days of the European Coal and Steel Community, up to the current configuration of the European Union, successive steps have been taken towards the building of this old Carolingian dream; confrontation as a means of managing the coexistence of peoples has been abandoned and replaced by a desire to achieve equitable and binding agreements, while sovereignty has been partially waived by each member State. Thus, concord has become the most effective mortar and modus operandi in the construction of Europe, and has made clear to what extent an agreement satisfactory to the parties is the best instrument that our days require for the construction and functioning of the European institutions.
Concord as a means of conflict settlement reaches its paradigmatic value in the procedures that were followed in the deliberations of the Concord of Alcañiz, an assembly leading to the Compromise of Caspe, that settled in a peaceful way what otherwise could have resulted in a major conflict within the Crown of Aragon in the early 15th Century. As is known, in the absence of royal offspring at the death of the King Martin the Humane, it was up to the Courts of Aragon (the Aragon’s parliament) to elect the new King. Nonetheless, its members wished to share this decision with the Courts of the other territories belonging to the Crown of Aragon, for which purpose all of them were invited to meet in the town of Alcañiz. Thus, in a clear exercise of concord, thanks to the initiative of the Aragon’s parliament, an election system was agreed upon by representatives of the parliaments of Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia (Mallorca’s ones having been included among those of Catalonia).
History records further examples of consensus, agreement or arrangement, up to the present time. One of them is the Spanish political transition from dictatorship to democracy that took place in the last decades of the 20th Century. In all of those examples it can be seen how, while concord ought to be part of the institutional and social aspects of a fair and equitable society, for it to be possible, one of those involved in the particular business has often to take the initiative and seek after the right conditions for consensus to be reached.
The concord in our here and now
In the post-industrial society, social classes’ differentiation has been getting increasingly blurred. Access to education and training has helped make societies more equal. Nevertheless, the tensions inherent in social life still exist, and they are calling for procedures that properly channel competitiveness and opposite interests, preventing and eventually settling conflicts that may occur.
While competition had furthered technological and material progress through selection and competition in a Darwinian way, so to say, today’s developed societies need mechanisms other than those, i.e. ones that facilitate cooperation, make the attained achievements proportional to the invested efforts, minimize the mistakes’ negative effects and build on progress for all.
An intelligent management of the complexities carried out in concord is the most effective mechanism for social progress, as opposite to a simplified approach that rests upon fight or confrontation, which eventually results in the imposition of his criterion by the strongest one; this used to be the norm in the past, and it unfortunately still arises in our days as an alternative to cooperation projects.
Concord, as it has been characterized in these lines, will affect most of our community’s projects, if not all of them. By way of example, we can here refer to the following:
The launching of inter-regional cooperative projects
When ambitious projects are set out, that concern territories or States with different interests, there is a temptation for the parties to take advantage of the conjuncture, an attitude that may even be applauded by society. However, today’s advantage can turn into tomorrow’s drawback unless such a perspective is acquired, that allows continue gaining in the future the intended benefits from what is decided in the present time.
From all the above said it follows that both in the launching of a project and in the assumption of its eventual consequences, be they positive or negative, it is most useful and effective to let oneself be guided by the spirit of concord.
Concord and competitiveness might appear to be mutual enemies, but indeed they are not. In sport, for instance, one can obviously compete and at the same time acknowledge the fairness of the contest; thus the result is accepted in concord, the competition being carried out not for the sole purpose of winning: it rather has its foundations in expanding the boundaries of the own human capacities and acknowledging the value of an effort that is beneficial to everyone.
Beyond the field of sport, one could name cooperative competition or cooperative rivalry that eagerness of self-improvement which is inherent to competition and leads to achievements that subsequently will be of common profit. Naturally, it is necessary to agree upon some rules of the game that will facilitate progress and enhance the efficiency of personal performances, inspired and guided by ethical values.
Concord and the cultural heritage
Culture, or even better, cultural heritage at large, is one of the core elements of a society that best help foster social cohesion.
Under cultural heritage it is understood not only a particular country’s monumental and artistic wealth, but also the scenic, historical, musical, gastronomic or ethnographic artworks, as well as all those aspects that are unique to its cultural values.
This concept of common heritage is largely a people’s hallmark, and it ought not to be used to establish differences against others, but rather to strengthen the own qualities.
Given that the cultural heritage is the reflection of a society’s "soul", if we are able to recognize and acknowledge a heritage common to various peoples, and consider it to be each one’s own, then we would be building deep ties among all of those peoples, that would facilitate concord in other aspects of social relations.
The location, ownership, or use of a particular cultural property are no more than circumstances resulting from its historical drift, and they should not be an obstacle to the recognition of belonging to the group of peoples it identifies. What really matters is that the knowledge and enjoyment of the common cultural heritage be accessible to all citizens.
Concord and the State’s political structure
One of the hottest issues in our territories today is the shape the State’s political structure can adopt, especially since some political parties and civil associations in Catalonia have raised the question of calling for a consultation or referendum about its political future.
No matter what solution this conflict may find in the short, the medium or the long run, such one cannot be satisfactorily reached other than in terms of concord, i.e., with the “readiness to reach agreements”, accordingly to the words at the beginning of this document. This readiness to reach agreements involves per se paying careful attention to the other’s reasons, what in it turn implies acknowledging his right to express them in freedom and those to be discussed without prejudices.
In order to settle a conflict by means of concord it is necessary that the society in which the conflict has aroused acknowledges as legitimate the feelings and yearnings of all of its members, provided that they are manifested and their solution is proposed in a peaceful and democratic way. At the same time, it is also essential that all the citizens are well informed, reliably and truthfully, about the consequences the decisions adopted will carry wit them. Forging or concealing this information, hindering the open and free discussion, in short, lacking of acknowledgement of the other, all of these are serious obstacles for the concord to be an efficient means in the conflict settling.
As it is also expressed in the Manifesto of the Forums, concord ought to govern the relationships in our society, beyond the legitimate political options every single group or person may take, all of them deserving respect.
By way of conclusion
Concord has proven to be —and so it should remain— a fundamental mechanism in the European construction, in the settlement of conflicts and in the launching of cooperative projects.
Concord is enhanced by the acknowledgement of a common cultural heritage, it must govern social relationships, and it is uniquely expressed in the intelligent management of complexity, always bearing in mind the best service possible to the ethical values of universal acknowledgement.
If the present times, in which these old dreams of common consensus and peaceful coexistence have become threatened, seem least suitable for construing, for adding up on the ground on consensus, our attitude should be all the more enthusiastic, convinced that it is only the spirit of concord that can facilitate the overcoming of differences and put us on the right road towards common solutions.