diumenge, 15 de juny de 2008

Reason 10: INDEPENDENCE, the only way to get rid of foreign anti-Catalanism

Foreigners react to the Catalan reality in different ways. It is funny to read that a Danish citizen, interested by the Catalan language, came to Catalonia to study the language. He struggled in Catalonia, over and over again, to defend his language choice. Catalans and Spaniards asked him several times why he chose for Catalan and not for Spanish. In an article he wrote to Catalan people: Haven’t you got any sense of self-esteem?
Obviously very little: a Catalan friend of mine started to laugh out loud when he heard that my partner (who doesn’t speak a word of Spanish) was learning Catalan.

Thank God not all Catalans are like that: a French man married a Catalan woman (from the Spanish side of Catalonia) and went to live together with him in France. He once commented to her how handy it would be that their children would be raised in French and Spanish. The woman, shocked, answered: No way I’ll speak Spanish to my own children, they will be raised in French and Catalan!

It is true that Catalans ought to get more self esteem towards their own language and their own culture. 9 million Catalan speakers is not nothing. I also remember a Ukrainian woman telling me she couldn’t understand why Ukrainians were doing everything in Ukrainian language instead of Russian. Her argument was that the Russian language is much bigger and many more people understand it.
Then I asked her how many inhabitants Ukraine has, thinking that she was going to say something like several hundreds of thousands. The answer was nearly 50 million inhabitants.
This woman was treating Ukrainian language as if it was some kind of forgotten dialect spoken by very few people.
Catalans do the same all the time. They compare the smaller number of speakers of their own language to the bigger numbers of speakers of the imposed language. According to this argument we should all forget Spanish and all speak English, language many more people around the globe will understand.

I understand that in France, the Catalan speaking area is very small. There aren’t enough inhabitants to fill in Catalan speaking universities. But in Spain, with 9 million inhabitants that speak Catalan the territory has got more than enough citizens to have a fully in Catalan operating society.

The fact is that the Catalan language is quite unknown among Europeans. Many see it as a dialect of Spanish. Still today you can find articles in which they speak of Catalan-Spanish, as if it were a dialect. Other people just don’t even know Catalan exists at all. Many foreigners who come to Catalonia neglect it and even hate it. They come to Catalonia or to Catalan universities thinking they come to a Spanish speaking country and are disappointed when they realize it isn’t. Most Italian and French neglect Catalan completely. (As a matter of fact many Italian and French citizens who live in The Netherlands don’t speak a word of Dutch even after living here for several years). Lately we are seeing also reactions of disgust from German citizens who long to the situation Franco imposed upon us, in which Spanish was the only language allowed. Imagine going to Switzerland (Italian side) to learn German. It would be quite frustrating to go out to the street and find everything in Italian. I think that’s how they feel. The fact is that Switzerland does not sell itself as a German speaking country. Spain, as well as Switzerland, is a state with 4 different languages, with different cultures. 'A' Spanish culture does not exist. Neither thus a Spanish language. In fact, to say ‘I speak Spanish’ should sound as weird as to say ‘I speak Swiss’.

The problem here is that nobody is saying to the world that Catalonia is a Catalan speaking land. Spain counts all its citizens as Spanish speakers and sells this false idea to the world. Catalonia doesn’t have the political power to change this.

This situation leads to several conflicts. The latest conflict was an article at Air Berlin magazine, in which a director of Air Berlin in Spain showed his anti-Catalan attitude.

As long as Catalonia is not an independent country, we Catalans will have to be wasting our time defending ourselves with the tools we’ve got, blogs, complaint letters, etc.
It is a big personal effort of many citizens like me to ask for respect and claim our rights. Respect and rights any independent state gets by default. This is why I am positive we should be independent. Also to resolve these constant disappointments foreigners have. Disappointments the ones who only want to learn Catalan have as well as the ones who only want to speak and understand Spanish. If Catalonia were independent everybody would come to Catalonia understanding and accepting to become part of the Catalan culture, to learn the Catalan language. It would be so clear, so easy. No disappointments any more. The situation we have today is chaotic, unclear and unhandy.

Here follows my letter to Joachim Humbold’s article:

Air Berlin PLC & Co. Luftverkehrs KG
Saatwinkler Damm 42-43
D-13627 Berlin

Amsterdam, 14 June 2008

Subject: Answer to article published by Joachim Humbold in Air Berlin Magazin on the Catalan language.

I would like to answer the questions Joachim Humbold made in an article in Air Berlin Magazine:

J. Humbold: 1 Do I have to teach Catalan to my staff?

My answer: YES. The ground stewards should speak Catalan in Catalonia, Balearic Islands and Valencia to communicate and connect with 9 million Catalan speakers.

J. Humbold: 2 And the ones who fly to Galicia of Basque country will want that we speak Galician of Basque language to them?

It is logic that one cannot learn all the languages of the world. The ground staff should speak at least the local languages + English. You cannot ask that to Flying staff.
What Air Berlin could do is to use tapes. KLM does it.
If you fly to Basque country you switch a tape on with Basque spoken instructions. If you fly to Galicia you use the Galician tape. If you fly to Catalan speaking areas you use the Catalan tape. We are in the XXI century. This is very easy to do.

J. Humbold: 3 Don’t they speak Spanish any more?

General Francisco Franco, with the help of Hitler and Mussolini won the civil war. He was the last dictator who prohibited Catalan language, who rejected it and forced us even to adopt Spanish names. He did everything in Spanish and forced us to do so.
Joachim Humbold is in the same line of General Francisco Franco with his anti-Catalan position. He should understand that. So, is Air Berlin on the Fascist side of participating to destroy and neglect Catalan language and culture? Or is Air Berlin on the side of democracy, making friends and showing respect and love towards everybody in the planet?
(I remind you that 9 million inhabitants speak the Catalan language, it is not a small dialect).
Thus, my answer is No. I stopped speaking Spanish 2 years ago. Spanish has been imposed since 1714. It has been imposed by military oppression and that’s why I hate it.
It is a very beautiful language, but because all the oppression, pain and humiliation we have to see from the Spaniards I do not wish to speak it.

J. Humbold: 4 The division of Spain into regional nationalisms brings us back to the medieval states

No. The division of Spain into regional nationalisms is the future. It is an organic, natural and democratic step, initiated by the society itself towards feeling respected, and loving and taking care of each other instead of the oppression and absolutistic regimes Spain has had since 1714. Catalans want to feel loved and respected. Catalans want to live fully in Catalan as you can live fully in German in your own country.
I want to go to the supermarket and I want to be able to buy everything without having to switch to Spanish.
The Spanish language is the biggest threat to my own language and therefore I don’t want to use it any longer.

J. Humbold: 5. I thought we lived in a Europe without frontiers.

You are wrong. We live in a Europe without commercial borders. You can sell your goods in any country within the EU. But you must obey the local laws, decided because there are borders. That’s why when you sell your products in Belgium you are not allowed to neglect the Flemish language, even though the Flemish understand perfectly the French language that it is imposed upon them. The Flemish have a local law (so there is a border) that protects their language.

J. Humbold: 6. If the Catalans came to Bavaria they would have to speak Bavarian!

Stop treating the Catalan language as if it were a dialect of Spanish.
Catalan is a Latin language, such as Italian or French, spoken by 9 million inhabitants.
It is spoken in Spain: Valencia, Catalonia, Balearic Islands; in France (Roussillon) and in the island of Sardinia, Italy (in the village of Alghero).

I can tell you one thing: go to Bavaria and try to find a Catalan citizen who lives there and doesn’t speak Bavarian and I’ll invite you to eat Sauerbraten with Allioli in my house.

Thank you for your time,
Yours Truly,
Miquel Marzabal i Galano