Toni Strubell i Trueta

febrer 10
I am sure that Ernest Lluch would be happy for me to play on the title of his own article "Contra la angustia nacionalista" (Against nationalist anxiety La Vanguardia 24/2/2000) in order to reflect on ideas presented there which are of contemporary relevance. The recent declarations of another friend, the ex-speaker of the house Herribert Barrera, provide the contemporary point of reference for reflection on the 'nationalist anxiety' which was the theme of Lluch's article. I do not in any way share the views of Barrera on immigration. Nevertheless, I believe the time has come to recognise the very real anxiety felt by nationalists (amongst whom I count myself) and which Lluch discussed in his article.

Shortly before their deaths, the academic Rafael Lapesa and the ex-minister Fernandez Ordoñez were able to express similar anxieties over the future of the Castilian language within Catalonia, without this causing sensation in the Madrid based press. I believe, therefore, that it is only reasonable to recognise that many Catalan and Basque nationalists feel a certain anxiety over the absolute majority which the Popular Party holds at present in Spain, and the effects this has at all levels within our own particular realities.

Referring mainly to CiU, Lluch asked the nationalists to stop worrying about the possibility that one day non-nationalists might govern in Catalonia, and what this might mean for the language question and other points of symbolic reference. The naive Catalan nationalists of 1978 placed all their hopes on (good) education and the process of linguistic normalisation. They certainly did not count on the unabashed use of Castilian becoming normal to the extent it has in recent years in Catalonia and many would be shocked.

Nowadays, however, there is a certain type of "PC intellectualism" which urges us to accept with grace the possibility that our (and not their) language might disappear. The flaw in this neo-liberal position is that it tends to be held by those same people who are outraged by the idea that the Castilian language might one day disappear in Catalonia. As if the disappearance of one language should cause anxiety while that of others should not. Caramba! Surely those of us who feel for the Catalan language, and regret the defensive position it finds itself in, should at least be allowed a certain anxiety.

Given this level of anxiety one can comprehend, without sharing, some of the absurd outbursts that some of our senior citizens have made in this debate. Should we forgive Lapesa and Ordoñez for lamenting the imperfect linguistic colonisation of our country and turn instead to the castigation of our own people for lamenting the marginalisation of Catalan at home? Turning the argument about and looking at it from another point of view, we might ask what would happen given the (impossible but nonetheless interesting) hypothetical situation of a President in the Moncloa willing to criminalise all things Spanish? Would this really fail to raise anxiety in the Spanish speaking homelands? I believe there would be the same level of anxiety which is today experienced in the Basque country, in what is a comparable situation.

Today more than ever, and regardless of which party governs, one has to bear in mind that a whole generation, which struggled optimistically in defence of their language, has now to spend the last years of their life wondering if their language will survive. And this is not only the case in Valencia, la Franja and Catalonia North, where the ethnocide has been most vicious, but even in the Principality itself. I think that one has to be understanding if a Catalan speaker, who will have some difficulty hearing Catalan spoken on the metro in Barcelona nowadays, has the occasional lapsus. If this sort of gaff can be made by illustrious figures such as Lapesa and Ordoñez, who had a powerful state to defend them, what can we expect from those who have no state behind them and speak a minority language, which has been historically persecuted and is still defenceless today ? Is it not true that the sociologist and Spanish nationalist Armando de Miguel said he would have to get out his shotgun if Spanish were treated in the same way as Catalan?

The solution to this situation of anxiety and confusion is to give the Catalan nation that status which would allow it to articulate its own public opinion and act with the same degree of flexibility as other normal countries. That would allow the Catalan language to adopt the same defensive measures that other normal (that is state) languages benefit from. I am sure that Ernest Lluch, who gave so much for the cause of Catalan, would have looked kindly on this route towards the reduction of nationalist anxiety.

Explanatory notes


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