„All quiet on the Western front“ is a book that was first adapted into a movie by Americans in 1930 and most recently for Netflix in 2022 in German. The content in brief: On the German Western Front in World War I, there are constant skirmishes and battles with no decisive gains in terrain. The main character, Paul Bäumer, witnesses the deaths of all his comrades, and he himself dies senselessly near the end of the war in 1918, the last of his unit to die. The army report of that day reports that there is nothing new on the Western front.
Of course, one cannot compare the language dispute in Spain with this war. Nevertheless, there are two points that are worth reflecting on.
For months there has been a „small-scale war“ regarding the teaching of Spanish in Catalan schools. The highest Catalan and Spanish courts have long ruled that Catalonia must provide at least 25% Spanish instruction for students. This does not concern the Catalan government, which is in power thanks to the dramatically low participation in the last local elections caused by the Corona policy.
The news is full of these skirmishes. From the last few days: „Bilingualism advocates call on TC to make urgent decision on 25% bilingualism“
„Hablamos Español calls on municipalities in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Galicia to change monolingual road signs“, because they often exist only in the regional language.
A dispute that goes down to the smallest detail. Thus, the PSOE-affiliated magazine El País headlines in Spanish „El Portitxol de Xàbia, de los fenicios a Instagram“ (Portitxol in Xàbia, from the Phoenicians to Instagram). The trick: my hometown is called Jàvea in Spanish and not Xàbia, which is Valenciano. And the area of Portitxol is Portichol. It's like suddenly reading in English: „Caerdydd, is is the capital of Cymru“. (Cardiff is the capital of Wales)
In Valencia, the government just shrugs its shoulders when it reads, „More than a hundred families are migrating to schools in Murcia because of the Valenciano requirement in Alicante“ These families are just the few who can afford it.
Spanish and regionalist politicians promote the language dispute for their own purposes. Regionalist fanatics seize on this, while the mass of Spaniards. but especially schoolchildren, suffer under the language imposition. Companies in Catalonia are even penalized (Burger King was „caught“ in November) if they fail to label or advertise in Catalan; they are not considered for public contracts anyway.
That's how it goes day after day. Nothing really new. Kind of all quiet.
In France, 400,000 people took to the streets over the weekend against President Macron's economic policies. The fight against energy shortages and inflation has not yet found its way onto the streets in Spain. Instead, separatists angrily demonstrated against the meeting of Spanish President Sánchez with the French president to conclude a friendship treaty in Barcelona, because Barcelona is Catalan and has nothing to do with it. In this respect, the language dispute and separatism probably are not senseless, are they?
Language disputes are not always, but often the cause or the beginning of wars and civil wars. I had already drawn attention to this in 2019 with six essays on the subject of „Language imposition and democracy“. Language imposition and cultural indoctrination are means for the total subjugation of other peoples and ethnic groups.
The other day, two articles brought these facts to my attention once again.
In an article about Korea, it says for the time of the Japanese occupation during the Second World War, among other things: „The Japanese government also drastically changed the Korean education system. Korean was removed from the curriculum of Korean schools. Students were henceforth forced to learn Japanese instead. Public announcements now had to be written in Japanese, and Korean history could no longer be taught. Koreans were forbidden to speak their language in public. Even more humiliating for the people was the decree from Tokyo to Japaneseize their names. In protest against this policy of the occupiers, many elderly people committed suicide. They could not bear to reveal the family history and ancestral lineage associated with their names.“
In another article dated January 20, 2023, it is reported that Hungary demands that „Kiev must 'immediately stop atrocities against Hungarians“. In this article it is explained that „In 2021, a racial law was introduced in Ukraine, dividing Ukrainian citizens into three categories with different rights according to their ethnicity. Also, a language law was enacted in Ukraine that criminalizes the use of ethnic minority languages.“ In January, Romania had already protested, which is the third ethnic group in Ukraine affected by this racial law, along with Hungarians and Russians.
If there are no language impositions, that is no proof of democratic conditions. Conversely, where citizens are prevented from using their language and culture, democracy is very limited at best.
In this respect, both the Spanish government and the Spanish majority parties (PP,PSOE,Cs etc.) with their regional offshoots in the corresponding autonomous areas, as well as the separatists and supporters of the paises catalanes, must be given a negative report card. Madrid does nothing to effectively protect the rights of native Spanish speakers. On the contrary, by fighting for only 25% Spanish, it is effectively obstructing the majority from being freed from the linguistic imposition of the respective regional language. Admittedly, this is not exactly new. All quiet?
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