dijous, 29 de setembre de 2011


In a normal (sovereign) country nobody puts in doubt that every citizen must have the right and the obligation to learn and to be able to speak in the ‘national’ language. In the artificial creation of the 18th century nation states, such as France, the absolutist regimes (dictatorial monarchies, dictatorships so to speak) engaged a crusade to abolish any other culture and any other language in ‘their’ territory than theirs. They imposed the idea that their territory was ‘a nation’ and that it had to have only one language, theirs. But the territory they had in charge was not at all ‘a nation’ and was not at all monolingual.

Even though this phenomenon had happened already several times by several other authoritarian regimes before (such as the Romans, to remain in the same area of the globe), the beginning of the 18th century can be seen as a decisive turning point, in which languages and cultures that did not enjoy the protection of a monarch, started to suffer an unprecedented cultural genocide ever since the fall of the Roman empire. Not only the Catalan language, but also the Frisian, the Flemish, the Occitan, the Gaelic languages, the Basque language, and so on, they were all persecuted and sentenced to death. Their use was prohibited at schools, governments and churches, it was prohibited to right books in those languages and even to have a name in those languages.

Today, in democratic Europe, the scars are still open, and even though some moribund; many of these languages are still spoken. It is sad to say that the phenomenon and the mentality that thinks it is legitimate to destruct these languages is still there, alive and kicking; in France, in the Netherlands and of course in Spain.

The Spaniards prosecuted Catalan speakers in horrendous ways, with discrimination, punishments, and even imprisonment because they used Catalan language. The famous architect Gaudí was also imprisoned just because he spoke Catalan to a police officer. Just to be a Catalan has been for the last 300 years a constant disadvantage and a reason to be discriminated by the authorities imposed by the Spaniards. Official positions in Catalonia ever since the abolition of the Catalan state in 1714 were given only to Spaniards (in some cases to Catalans who turned themselves into ‘neat’ Spanish speakers, called botiflers). Officers never spoke a word of Catalan and showed such an aversion to you as Catalan that you tried to sound ‘as less Catalan as possible’ when needed to deal with authorities in order not to be discriminated. Something I have experienced myself and shall never forget. This is something nowadays still happens too often to Catalans who speak Catalan to police officers or even children who at hospital talk Catalan to a nurse that does not want to understand it. It is a very serious offense and very painful experience to be discriminated in your own country in this way.

Spain is very far away from the really democratic Zwitserland, where there are clear language borders in which every one respects the fact that it is a state with 4 languages and no language has the right to be imposed upon the others. Belgium is not Zwitserland, there we see a language collision, in which the French act in the Spanish role and the Flemish in the Catalan. The big difference is that Flanders already has got the autonomy of an independent state, as Belgium is a federation in which Flanders acts with full independence in all domestic politics and the French speakers would not even dear to demand French education for their children in Flemish schools.

But Spain is different. The persecution of Catalan language is still going on and the mentality that every Spanish citizen (read Castillian speaking citizen) should have the right and obligation to be educated in Spanish, even though Spain is not a monolingual state, is also still there. They cannot conceive that the Spanish state hasn’t become monolingual like France.
Catalonia has tried to bring the Catalan language to a normal situation, in which every citizen who grows in Catalonia has the right and obligation to learn and to be able to speak the language of the country, which is Catalan. This, next to the obligation and right to learn and to be able to speak Castillian (which is the language our neighbour country, imposed upon us). The Catalan policy wants to offer equal education to all, without discriminating anyone linguistically. It is easier to find a job is you speak both languages than if you only speak Castillian. The Catalan education system makes clear that in Catalonia the predominant language is the language of the country, Catalan, and some Spaniards cannot accept this. That’s why some Spaniards have brought the Catalan education system to the Spanish Constitutional Court. And this court has said that the Catalan educational system must offer the option to be educated in Castillian language, and that Catalan language cannot be the predominant language.

Spain will never be like Belgium or Zwitserland. Spaniards keep trying in many different and subtle ways to turn Catalan into a minority language and reinforce the supremacy of their language in the whole of ‘their’ territory. Spain is an unfinished and failed copy of the French model, which achieved a higher degree of homogenization, where all is left over are zombie languages scattered around the southern half of their territory (Breton, Occitan, Catalan, Basque) the existence of which is practically unknown by any other European citizen.

To me again one thing is clear, only with a Catalan state we can guarantee normal education in Catalan. A Catalan state would mean a more natural administration of Catalonia, a protection of Catalan rights, language, culture and economy, in own territory and abroad, the abolition of impositions from our neighbours, who clearly have another mentality and other interests than we. We don’t go to impose Catalan in Madrid, why don’t they leave us in peace?