Saturday, July 12, 2008

Anachronic manifesto

A lot has been said during the last week about the manifesto that a group of self-proclaimed intellectuals have published with the objective to give support to what they call the common language, Castilian, known in English as Spanish.
When reading the article, my appetite for Spanish was drastically reduced. I have always defended trilingual education in Catalonia, but after reading this manifesto, I start to think that we, Catalans, could obviate Spanish and massively switch to English as a second language.
The manifesto reminded me of those societies where if someone rapes a woman, he is exonerated if he marries the victim. It totally forgets that Castilian was imposed on Catalonia with a series of Royal decrees, the first of which was the Decree of New Foundation in 1715, and that for 300 years, Catalan was set aside, isolated, relegated, bullied, downgraded, expelled, ostracized, removed and shunned. No one asked Catalans whether they wanted another language. the Bourbon kings and queens religiously applied the Machiavelli principles to make sure that Catalonia would not continue to rebel and search independence.
We cannot simply forget that and pretend nothing happened. We have the right now to make restitution for what was taken from us and this is only possible through positive discrimination. The Catalan language needs 100 years of positive discrimination to go back to a plain field and the best way to carry out this positive discrimination is through immersion and favoring those activities which promote Catalan language and Catalan culture. Positive discrimination is nothing new. African Americans and Hispanics enjoy positive discrimination policies in USA to try to compensate the burdens that British and Spanish (I should say Castilians) inflicted on their ancestors.

You may tell me that 300 years is a long time and that we have to forget what happened in the past, that, as per today, Spanish is spoken by 450 million people and Catalan by barely 10 millions, that past is past. If this is your position, then, after 20 years living, traveling non-stop and working in 5 continents, I have to tell you that the common language, the language that brings together European, Americans, Asians, Africans and people from Oceania is not Spanish, but English. The manifesto is pathetically anachronic, they are just trying to cling to the Spain of Phillip II, but all that grandeur is gone. The common language is English and I feel really ashamed when in the last paragraph, the self-proclaimed intellectuals demand from the Spanish politicians that they only use Spanish when they speak in public in Spain and overseas. I am afraid, they do not need to ask for it, since most of them cannot speak anything else.
Finally I would like to mention some related facts:
• Having a small language does not mean underdevelopment. Many countries with minority languages (the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, etc) have some of the highest per capita incomes
• When Spain was at its peak, in the 15th and 16th centuries, only Catalan was spoken in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and most of Valencia. This fact did not seem to stop Spain’s success.

I also recommend that you read Erik Wirdheim's related post. It is simply beautiful.


Erik Wirdheim said...

"I am afraid, they do not need to ask for it, since most of them cannot speak anything else."

I almost fell of my chair from laughing when reading this. Sadly enough, I think that you're right.

Thanks for linking to my attempt to contribute to the understanding of the language situation in Catalonia.

As one Catalan writer suggested: go to any newsstand in Catalonia and check in which language you find most titles.

To suggest that Castillian is the one of the two languages which needs a special status is absurd.

//Erik in Vilanova

Garci said...

Ian and Erik:

You might find surprising that I have not signed that manifesto, simply because I don't agree with some (not all) of the issues raised there (a position I can hardly believe a nationalist can take).

Some points: though I do not have the information, I don't believe you have it either, but I can't just assume that these people have self-proclaimed themselves as intellectuals.I think it is rather an adjective developed by some of the media. I can't see Prof. Savater going out there and saying "we, as intellectuals....", but I might also be wrong. Still, the pure definition of intellectual does not have to do with anything special...anyone can be an intellectual as fas as they use the intellect. I would not put Isabel Clara-Simo as a "writer" if we use the more or less exclusive definition of the word, however I believe she is as "writer" (well...she writes, right?) as you or me.

Erik: that position is sooo wrong..your position is the stereotypical nationalist one...assume that these guys work on the same line of thought as what I call "ethnicist people": the need to protect the language is above everything else. As you know these guys support something very different. The message is: "it does not matter how in danger in the can't impose a language if it steps over individual rights" no moment they comment on Castilian being on the verge of extinction, because it's a ridiculous assertion (however, it's largely used for Catalan to justify this abuse of individual rights, even when it is just almost as false).

So, how do we stay? as Ian suggests, I always supported positive discrimination, so that means giving more support to those languages that are less spoken. However there is a difference between giving a job to someone who, with the same CV, happens to be black or Hispanic, and giving a job as a surgeon to someone that is black but has never studied medicine. This is what is happening, to my view, currently in Catalonia with the "positive discrimination" or "affirmative action" programs. The last "great idea" of the government has been to solicit a C level (quite high level of knowledge in language) in Catalan to all people wanting to lecture at the Universities. While the civilized countries use English, as Ian rightly supports, the ethnicist friends (or at least "close relatives" of our favorite blogger) decide to take the down turn in education and focus on unpractical and language-based approaches for posts that should be highly specialized on technical skills and phylosophy, rather than the language the person speaks. I know Ian agrees with me in that aspect, however, as usual with all "non-orthodox" nationalists, decides to blame silly manifestos and barely say anything about the other issue, hide all embarrassing situations that arose from people just as non-orthodox as he is, that at some point lost control of the situation.

One last thing: I use the word "ethnicist" just because Catalan nationalism has based most of the differential ego of the Catalan countries in the existence of a different language. It is language what helps them conform an identity that distinguishes the "Catalans" from others, in front of the fact that they can;t really use race, or religion to make that distinction. This of course brings enormous problem in a region where only 50% of the people speak usually that language. Although the nationalistic logic would automatically classify 50% of the population as non-Catalan, they can't really say anything like that because they need their votes to continue their "positive discrimination" actions (see above what they call positive discrimination). So, how do they solve this paradox? well, they must assure, from time to time, that Catalan is anyone living and working in Catalonia, to, aftewards (2-7 days later) come with another of those positive discrimination actions where they state that Catalan is the DNA of Catalans, that language is differential, it's up to the citizen to "understand" that he/she will not be a true Catalan until he/she speaks the language, even if the politicians said something different before.

Clever, at least for the masses.

Roger said...

What a lot of paranoia: are you resentful because you failed the level C exam?

Garci said...

Roger, as everything else, what is paranoic for some may not be for others..I always saw lots of paranoia in many Catalans, but I got used to deal with it. I did not fail it because I did not do it, in the same way I did not do it in Spanish or English. How many C levels exams did you need to pass in other languages?

alex said...

The idea that it's one's "duty" to learn castilian in Catalonia or Galicia or the Basque Country is laughable. Why would a Catalan who lives in an exclusively Catalan-speaking environment be forced to learn Spanish? To use Canada as an example, each citizen has the right to be served (i.e. interact with government institutions, go to public school, etc.) in the official language of their choice (French or English), but no one is forced to learn the "other" official language. Nobody in English-speaking Alberta or Saskatchewan is forced to use French to communicate with the federal government, while nobody in French-speaking Quebec has to speak English to talk to someone in Ottawa (in theory, at least).

Spain's way of dealing with minority languages is profoundly dumb and still bears the legacy of the 1936-1975 period. (Recall the editorial in the Financial Times in which it was mentioned that the PP hasn't completely rejected its Franquist roots). It's no wonder Spain's clout on he international scene is.. inexistent. In the 21st century, multinational states either decentralize or implode. Which one will Spain choose -- I don't know.

Spain is a beautiful country that I really like; it's too bad they're so inept when dealing with minority languages.

alex said...

As for our friend Aznar speaking Catalan... at least, it's better than his English.

ian llorens said...

When I have the time, maybe during my American one week summer vacation that I will take end of July (I am so tired of traveling that I am going to go to Lake Winnipesaukee, 2 hours drive from my home), I will explain my proposal for eduction reform in Catalonia, which as usual, will not please anyone, and I will get severe critics from both sides of the nationalistic aisle.

A couple of comments:
- Positive discrimination in US means that a less qualified black or Hispanic will be able to enter a university or get a governmental contract. That's why is called discrimination. It is not that if two people have exactly the same CV, then they choose the minority, that's not the way it is structured. And this is the society where individual rights are key.
- In the more socialistic Europe, no one should be surprised if the rights of the society take the lead, versus the individual rights. That's why we have guns control, unemployment benefits, universal healthcare, etc. In our case, the Catalan society, language and culture, have taken a blow during the last 300 years. In order to undo part of the damage some limited rights of certain people, mainly Castilian newcomers, will have to be compromised, but let's be clear, why these Castilian newcomers should have the right to choose the language for their kids' education and not the the Arabs or the Rumanians, especially taking into considerations that those Spanish speaking residents in Catalonia gave massive support in the ballot to those parties which support Catalan immersion? Should the Hispanic Americans have the right to choose the language if the Spaniards had it or not? If they want nothing to do with the Catalan culture, why did they massively choose Catalonia as their destination?
Why, you, Castilians did not create a positive discrimination law to try to compensate all the damage you did in Latin America, you erased their cultures, you stole their natural resources, you inculcated bad habits and that's why they are where they are now. Why don't you have a positive discrimination law in Burgos and if a Peruvian and a Burgalese apply for a job in Burgos, the Peruvian will get 10 additional points and he will get the job, even if he was less qualified than the local. That's the kind of things you should be doing to erase your sins instead of writing manifestos to support a language which it is what it is, through blood and imposition.

However I still think that public education in Catalonia should be trilingual and with a single system for everyone. The reason is NOT that I love Spain and Spaniards (although I actually do) and I want to help them promote their language. The reason is that I love my country Catalonia and I know that all Catalans can learn Castilian with no effort and even thought Spanish is basically useless as a global business language, I see 450 million of potential customers to buy our products and services with almost no investment. Selfish, maybe, but practical too.

My opinion about the University is radically different. University is a place where expert knowledge is key. It is stupid to ask for the Catalan C levels to professors at the University. The only things that should count are the academic and industry achievements. That's what I was told in the Avui forums when I blasted the requirement for Catalan C levels in the Catalan universities:

Forum Avui
www. ianllorens. com 20.06.2008, 01:22

Indepe, D'això no se'n diu justícia, se'n diu idiotesa. Si els catalans no entenem que el nostre idioma que tan estimem, es un dioma minoritari i que per a progressar hem d'atraure recursos globals i no podem anar exigint a tothom que ve a donar-nos suport, que parlin el nostre idioma, anem malament. La grandesa d'un poble, comença quan reconeix les seves limitacions. I jo també soc independentista, però no idiota.

xeix 20.06.2008, 01:44

A prendre pel cul www. ianllorens, ets un putu valencianu merda, malparit. D'una òstia t'arranco els queixals.


Clearly, I have no future as politician in Catalonia.

Garci said...


Since I don't want to occupy all the space in your blog, I will mention a couple of things:

1. In the same way that I did not win any EuroCup (I look strange at people when they congratulate me for winning the EuroCup!!...I just don't see the connection!), I did not do anything to anyone in LatinAmerica. It's just a matter of absence in space and time in the place. I am currently doing worst (and better too) to any Catalan just for coexisting at the same time than I will ever do to any past people from Latinamerica. This, of course, obviating the fact that none of my ancestors as far as I know (and I can tell you I know my genealogical tree quite well..though I can't go back to the XVI century) ever had to do anything with Latin America. There is probably a higher chance than my Basque ancestors had something to do with that, though it's still meager, since my ancestors come from the interior side of Vasconia (I use a neutral term that everybody, including nationalists, like). So, Ian, on that side, I just can't feel offended, if that's what you intended, because I can't see any connection.

2. You are right, if the people felt they were truly discriminated, they should vote for another party. Interestingly, they tend to vote PSC, thought it seems quite clear to me what has happened over the years. People vote the Socialist party just because most of the population is of Andalucian origins, and, in a country like Spain, like it or not, people tend to stick to their vote due to emotional affinities, not to how well governance was. But then they found a nationalist occupying the chair of the Catalan government. The party decided that, if they wanted to win the next election, they had to fire that guy and put another one "closer" to the majority of that Andalucian population. Now that population seems a bit happier, because at least the current one just shuts his mouth up, though the realpolitik is still the same. Next election those people will have to face the real world, because the socialist party does not have any more back up plans. They will have to face choosing between a fake, though quiet person, and the more than probable situation where a hardcore nationalist (of course, hardcore for me, softcore for many of the Avui forum people) government will take place and will take a honest and autoritarian approach. At least, the Socialist party will not be able to tease those people anymore. In exchange, they will face hardcore policies towards them. They will start with newcomers, and then continue with segments of population that constitute minorities. Castilian will be definitely taken out from any official status and the government will decide not to pay taxes anymore to the Spanish government. When that happens, it will be the very catalan citizens the ones that will put the government back on track. Of course, this is just speculation..

3. Actually, Ian, what will happen at that point is that a non-orthodox nationalist will replace Artur Mas, and things will look better for Catalonia again. So, don't worry about those people in Avui, they are young and impressionable and they get excited by all the hardcore talk about Indian exploitation and Castilians. You might have a good chance of being the next Molt Honorable.

Erik Wirdheim said...

Ian and Garci,

Personally I agree 100% with you that to demand C levels in Catalan from university teachers - where academic contribution should decide - is wrong. However, let us not forget that those who decide today were students during the last years of Franco and that it is easy to find Catalans who, with tears in their eyes, tell you about the time when their language was banned from the school system. I see this as a pendulum - it must be allowed to complete its swing but will come back again.

Regarding PSC, I would want to see Carme Chacón as their next leader. Her profile is clearly more catalanista than Montilla's but still mainstream enough not to scare away those with ancestors in Andalucia.

In the case of Convegència I am more worried about the next leader and fear that tradition (Oriol Pujol) will be considered more important than other aspects.


The newsstand example is valuable since it proves which language is boosted by commercial forces, nothing else.

//Erik in Vilanova

Nuri said...

Garci, your last comment is wonderful.

ZP: Shameful. If he can't speak English he could at least travel with an interpreter.

Ian, I'd vote you for President!

ian llorens said...

Thanks Nuri.
With the current level of abstention, one vote can probably grant me a seat in the Parliament.

Garci said...

I just read the new manifesto "Catalan, a common language", and will not sign it, exactly for the same reasons I did not sign the other one: very good intentions, but a couple of points I strongly disagree with.

In the previous one the main point was to assume, by default, the knowledge of Castilian to everyone in Spain. In this one, it is the assumption that only Catalan is a language of cohesion, when Castilian is, practically in Catalonia, as capable or more capable to do that. Both asumptions are clear impositions over segments of population that overcome fundamental individual rights, and hence, I will deny any support to both manifestos. Don't worry, I don't expect from you the same...I know for a nationalist is much more difficult not to follow the mainstream.

ian llorens said...

Did you know that Chinese call Mandarin "pudong hua" what means literally common language? We do not even have originality!

LUIS said...

To Ian and Garci:
I´m a "madrileño" living in Barcelona.

It´s a pleause to read both of you because you are so close and so distant at the same time. I´m as interested about Ian´s opinions as about Garci´s answers, so congratulations both of you. Not the same about the fanatic "Agus" with so closed-mind opinions.

I´m really sad about my bad english however I think in Spain everyone should be bilingual: their local language (spanish, "gallego", "catalan", "basque",...) and English language so we could speak each other in english. And of course comunication with administrations in both languages: English or the own local language (yes, I have even catalogate spanish as a local language, that´s true in this globalized world).
The important is what you say not the language you use to say it, so nowadays english is the more adecuate common language to adopt everyone after unfortunatelly we destroyed latin one.

Agus said...

Hey, boy! Don't call me fanatic or close-minded.

Who destroyed Latin? Latin improved itself by evolving into Catalan.

LUIS said...

To Agus about:
"Who destroyed Latin? Latin improved itself by evolving into Catalan."

¿Improve?. It should be better to say "Latin changed" much more neutral opinion instead of "Latin improved". And I hope your oblivion of enumerate another romance languages that "improved" too weren´t because you think the others weren´t "improved" or ever worse, you could think Catalan is the only legal heir of Latin.

So my recomendation for your sentence is:
"Who destroyed Latin? Latin changed itself by evolving into Catalan,Italian, French, Spanish, Galician,... and much other languages."

And respect my comments about you, I apologize to you and the rest of the partners of this blog. I think is not fair to degrade the fine and positive style of this blog.
You are right. Every opinion is could be said with education and respect for others. So sorry again Agus.

Agus said...

What's the Latin or the Galician for "carquinyoli ensucrat" or "tortell de reis"?

By the way, this reminds of a glorious scene in Monty Python's "Brian's Life" where a centurion catches a Jewish rebel trying to write "Romans go home" on a wall but with poor grammar. I was at high school studying Latin at that time, so I had a great laugh at the scene.

And the infighting among the rebel Jewish sects reminds me of the political parties in another tiny Mediterranean country.

"The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front ... And the People's Front of Judea"