TCS Daily


Damage to Catalonia

By Luis Balcarce - January 20, 2006 12:00 AM

Spain's Defense Ministry recently ordered the house arrest of a senior officer who warned that the armed forces might have to step in if the northeastern region of Catalonia went too far in its push for more self-government. Lieutenant General José Mena Aguado, the head of Spain's 50,000-strong ground forces, mentioned a clause in the Spanish constitution that calls for the armed forces to intervene, if necessary, in order to guarantee the unity, independence and sovereignty of Spain. Although he didn't say what sort of military action he had in mind, his comments -- made during a public speech -- did not please the defense minister, José Bono, who placed him under house arrest until he can be formally dismissed.

General Mena's remarks were almost universally condemned, although conservative commentators -- while also criticizing him for breaking military discipline -- at the same time applauded his words. "It is a reflection of the times we are living in," said a spokesman of the right-wing Popular Party, adding that Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero did not take the Catalonian issue seriously enough. In fact, Mena's comments were a direct reference to current negotiations regarding a new statute for the Catalonian region, which are dominating political debate in Spain. With headquarters in Barcelona, the regional government of Catalonia is demanding far-reaching political and fiscal powers, and also to be recognized as a nation.

But there is also a distressing menace to civil freedom currently in Catalonia. An example may be found in the totalitarian linguistic policy being implemented by the Catalonian nationalist government coalition led by the Catalan Socialist Party. In its effort to eradicate the Spanish language from the Catalonian social scene, the regional government is orchestrating outrageous, politically oppressive acts by inciting citizens to expose anyone who does not speak Catalan, in the same way as the Nazis used to hound the Jews who spoke Yiddish instead of German.

The scandal associated with such fascist practices erupted when it became known that the linguistic commissioners of the "Oficines de Garanties Lingüístiques" had launched a pilot program in some hospitals to verify if the sanitary personnel speak Catalan among themselves and with patients, and if the documentation in these centers -- including the clinical records -- is also written in the Catalan language. Needless to say, this is a direct breach of personal privacy and depicts a coarse totalitarian paranoid behavior aimed at trying to use the language to brand, exclude and, if possible, eliminate the "anomalous individuals" who dare to speak the official language of the Spanish nation.

The prizewinning writer Irene Lozano has condemned with clarity this Hitlerian nightmare: "Beyond any sentimental aspects, [this linguistic policy] demolishes the words and the spirit of the Constitution, which clearly states that the four languages spoken in Spain are not equal and therefore do not enjoy the same status. Firstly, because one of them (Spanish) is the common language of all the people while the others are special languages (spoken in specific regions). Secondly, because the aforementioned one is the official language in the whole State and the rest are co-official in their respective territories. From these two differences the third one stems: citizens have the duty to know the Spanish language and not the others. The compulsory nature of this last statement reveals an irrefutable reality: Spanish is the language through which an inhabitant of Barcelona can communicate with another individual from Valencia, and a person from Gerona can make himself understood by another person from Santiago de Compostela."

It should be recalled that Catalonia -- a devastated land during the civil war of the 1930s- happened to be the place where George Orwell's communist convictions came to an abrupt end when he personally witnessed that the propaganda tactics of the Left did not differ at all from those used by Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany. Moreover, the internal fighting and struggles to attain power within the Republican ranks were in fact a major source of inspiration for Orwell when he wrote his masterpiece: 1984, a book in which a despotic government trod on the very basics of individual freedom to build and sustain an oppressive, secluded and obedient society.

Maybe for that very reason, the leaders of the society described in Orwell's work forced citizens to communicate in Newspeak, an artificial language created by the Party in order to shape the mind of Big Brother's unfortunate subjects. The purpose of Newspeak was not only to enforce upon the people a language which expressed what they considered to be the rightful vision of the world and the appropriate mental wavelengths and attributes of state worshipers, but to extinguish all other currents of thought, just as the Catalonian Nationalists who rule Catalonia today are doing at this precise moment -- supported by Zapatero's silent complicity.

The author is a political analyst living in La Coruña, Spain.
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9 Comments

This would be funny.....
Spain currently has a lot of immigrants from Latin America.

It would be pretty funny if the Catalonian government arrested Latin Americans for speaking Castilian.

Interesting
It's rather interesting to see how the author can jump from a coup d'êtat to a supposed totalitarian linguistic policy and to finish recalling Mr. George Orwell who, the author leads us again, wrote 1984 against Republican Loyalist Army.

If you are really living in A Corunha, please, take a cheap flight to Barcelona, have a walk anywhere you like and then tell me where have you seen any totalitarism. I'm living in Cornellà, close Barcelona, and I'm still waiting to see some totalitarian policy sample.

And don't talk about what you don't understand.

The "Oficines de Garanties Lingüístiques" have nothing to do with this study (note: study) about the language usage in hospitals. It's merely a statistical study and the data what is based on has not any personal reference like name, identity number, or others.

Now, take a good cup of an infusion of lime-tree leaves and enjoy the live, which is lovely in Galiza.

A Right to Choose Independence?
We engaged in sanctions & eventually bombing against Yugoslavia to insist on the separation of Slovenia, Croatia, the western created multi-cultural & democratic nation of Bosnia & Hercegovina, & to help our KLA terrorist friends commit genocide. Obviously, as a matter of principle we will help the Basques & Catalans to have independence in exactly the same way that NATO leaders, Clinton, Bush etc not being totally genocidal racist savages, helped Turkey's Kurds, who were much more oppressed than anybody in Yugoslavia, achieve the same.

PS I must take more note of what is going on in the world.

Simply, that's not true
This contribution is a crystal-clear example of manipulation. Spanish nationalism and totalitarism is well rooted in the Spanish political culture. Since the ages of the Inquisition, spanish rulers (be they kings, dictators, or politicians) are obsessed with uniformity and negation of diversity. Under the current constitutional regime, this obsession continues. Do you know that the Spanish judiciary system in Catalonia, uses the Spanish language in trials and documents in a 90% of the cases? Do you know that the Spanish constitution places non-Spanish languages in a second class situation, even though more than 40% of the inhabitants of the state live in territories where those others languages are spoken (Catalan in the Catalan Countries, Basque in Euskalherria, and Galician in Galicia)? Do you know that Catalan is spoken by more than 8 milion people, in four european states (Spain, Andorra, France and Italy)? As a consequence it has more speakers than others official european languages such as Finnish, Danish, Norwish, Slovene, among others? Spain has always intended to eliminate the Catalan language, do not try to manipulate the truth.

Josep (Catalonia)

Thank You !!
Thank you very much Luis!

What is happening in Catalonia is exactly what happened in Orwell's "1984". I'm a catalan citizen who has grown and educated in Catalonia however I'm a third class citizen because of my condition of being a catalan with spanish as my own language. The other people who have answered to this article are just big L-I-A-R-S!

To the people who don't live in Spain, I must explain that in Spain there are nobody who don't understand spanish. When it comes to communication, there are no problems because everybody understand spanish perfectly. At the same time, people living in Catalonia with spanish as own language don't have any problem of undestanding catalan because catalan is very very similar to spanish. Catalonia has always been a spanish region, for example, the Catholics Kings received Christopher Columbus in Catalonia when he arrived from America. It has always been a region of "Hispania" when Spain was a province of the Roman Impery. Spanish history is full of famous catalans who feel theirselves as spanish like the painter Salvador Dali and the books of the "Quijote" were published in Catalonia. Also, the Spanish Constitution recognise catalan, eukera and galician as official lenguages in their respective regions, as spanish, which is official in all the country.

However, despite of the fact that the 50% of catalans speak spanish and the Catalan Statute recognise spanish as another official language, catalan polititians -who belong to the catalan high bourgeoisie- forbid spanish in the catalan public television, schools, university, the catalan parliament, they are controlling the hospitals, etc.

They use, as Orwell told in his main book "1984", Newspeak. Nationalists catalans speak about "plurality" when in Catalonia don't do it; they use what they call "positive discrimination" with catalan when they are using negative discrimination with citizens with spanish language. They subsidize nationalist newspapers with public money, radio, television, subsidize writers who write in catalan and enterprises which label their products in catalan. It is all controlled.

Hey! But that's not all! They have a hymn where they say that spanish are their enemies and they have to fight. It's similar to that song singed in the movie "Top Secret" by the Eastern Germany.

The nationalist ideology is a racist ideology which belongs to the second world war but it was not eliminated because many people thought after Franco's dictatorship that all spanish citizens had to conserve their lenguages because it was "culture" and they were a few people, but they have taken control of public education, have grown and become a real monster. Children are brainwashed in school.

What we can think about Doctor Robert, a nationalist doctor, who measured skull in order to demonstrate that catalans were brighter; Lluis Companys, catalan minister that ordered the murdering of many priests in the spanish civil war or Sabino Arana, the main reference to vasques nationalists, who told that vasques were Noah's descendants?

Hello, resistant!
Hi, anonymous resistant!

I'm very impressed about your heavy soul. You seems to stand all this brainwashing and Gestapo racist Catalan police and Doctor Robert pills and you are still a Spanish speaking man who lives in Catalonia and probably works and probably has a home and probably owns a car and probably goes each Summer to her parents land and claims "hey, I'm richer than you, poor Andalusians or Extremadurans or Castilians". And they call you "Jordi", aren't they? And this is your real problem, isn't it? You would like to be Andalusian, Extremaduran or Castilian, like your fathers, but you are just an industrious Catalan. Like me and all your neighbours, neither worse but, what a pitty, nor better.

No Subject
I am sorry to say this, but it is not correct to state that Catalonia was allways part of
Spain.

The main problem with that claim, has to do with the fact that the actual Madrid-centralized Spain, originates from the beggining of the 18th century.

Before that, there was a dinastic union, a type of federal state. With the Catholic Kings, The Crown of Aragon (the country born from the union between Catalonia and the small kingdom of Aragon, and which was in fac led by Catalonia) kept it’s identity.

Later, with the Habsburgs’s, from Charles V to Philip IV, Catalonia kept it’s independence, it’s own code of law and currency. The only thing that Catalonia and Castile had in common was the king.

The idea of Spain or Hispania is actually connected with what we know today as Iberian Peninsula. In the past, Iberia and Spain were sinonimous. There was no such thing as Spain as a country.

The portuguese, which are one of the nations of the iberian peninsula, also considered themselves as Spanish up to the end of the 17th century, but they (as the catalonians) did not speak castillian (wrongly called spanish) and considered the castillians as a foreign country within Spain (or Iberia idf you want).

Actually, Catalonia and Portugal both broke away from the Habsburg confederation, or “Crown of the Spanish Habsburgs” (the word confederation is a way to explain what it really was ) in 1640.

The only diference between Portugal (today an independent country) and Catalonia (demoted to spanish region) was that Catalonia was defeated by Castilian Spain after 12 years, while Castilian Spain was defeated by Portugal after 28 years.

So, basically, those that refuse the rights of catalonia to speak it’s own language and to have a wider degree of self-rule, are those that defend the “Conquerors rights” of the castillians over the catalonians.

The same “Conqueror’s rights” that were remembered by general Mena.

Castille refuses to loosen it’s grip over Spain.
Castilians represent 55% of Spain’s population, but they are around 90% in the armed forces.

Gross Stupidity In Some Quarters
This post is so totally exaggerated and ouside reality one has to fear for the balance, stabilty and general psychological health of the author. I hope this isn't a representative sample of the state of mind of those who are now in opposition and would one day govern Spain. Spain deserves better.

1984 was a work of fiction, and so is this. Possibly the genre in question is science fiction.

I am British, I live in Barcelona, have lived here for 15 years, speak both Catalan and Spanish, and can see no evidence whatever for the claims being made here. My partner is the daughter of Spanish speaking immigrants who came here over 40 years ago. She speaks Catalan, and she speaks Catalan with her children, while her parents happily continue to speak Spanish. No-one I have met in the 15 years I have been here has ever complained to me that they have been under any pressure to stop doing so.

Spanish speakers from outside Catalonia - like the writer here - often complain that Spanish speaking children speak only Catalan in school classes (intensive immersion) in the same way some people in the US complain about English linguistic immersion in California for children of Spanish speaking migrants there. The US asks those who woulod be citizens to learn the English language, but I don't think anyone has ever accused the US government of being fascist for having medical records in English, or for 'forcing' Mexicans to use English. What is most instructive in the Catalan case is that the parents of these children almost never complain about this, since they know that being fluent in Catalan is in the best employment interests of their children. In the same way as people who smoke increasingly find it difficult to get certain types of employment, people who can't answer the phone to customers, answer e-mails, or give power point presentations, have increasingly restricted employment opportunities.

Curiously, it is the pressure of the market, and of the economy as a self-organising system which is giving the most impetus to the spread of the language, I say curiously since I would have thought that this was in perfect conformity with the basic philosophy underlying this website. Somehow the authoritarian and anti-libertarian claptrap in this post seems to have slipped under the radar :).

Funny though to see Orwell being cited by either libertarians or authoritarians since he himself was neither.

On the weblog where I post - A Fistful of Euros - we have just had a long and pretty civilised discussion of these issues in a post entiteld Troglodytes Making Waves. Do come over and have a look if you are interested in this topic, and whatever your point of view, you will find we have had a full and complete run-around of the issues in the comments section, but without the inane and emotive nonsense being presented here.

pitty
Pitty that the best comment comes from a Brit that lives in Catalonia. He strikes a pretty good balance.
History is mostly irrelevant, what matters is what the people want now. And by and large what they want is peaceful coexistence with the possibility of being able to speak both languages. The excessess of the local government and the paranoic manipulation of the right wing do not, fortunately, reflect how most people feel.

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