Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Economist : A Basque-Phobe Media Outlet

There is not author to an article published by The Economist entitled "How Much is Enough?" so my guess that it is the editor is the one in the pay-roll of Madrid's Ministry of Propaganda.

There is so many lies and misconceptions in the article that it was simply impossible to avoid it, lets check it out. It starts out with some basic facts about Spain's political panorama but then it says this:

But this panoply of decentralisation has not placated the politicians in Catalonia, the Basque country and Galicia. That is because they never wanted café para todos: they wanted it just for themselves, as a recognition that they were different. They still want that, no matter that Spain is now an extraordinarily decentralised country in which the Basques, for example, enjoy a greater degree of home rule than any other region in Europe. Their demands make it difficult to draw up a stable and permanent set of rules.

The home rule enjoyed by the Basques is not equal to having its own statehood, with the right to issue its own passports, have its own national anthem, flag, army and police force, like any other independent state. And to long for all of these elements of a nation-state is protected by the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There is an "stable and permanent sent of rules" for the Check Republic and Slovakia, or for Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, so why couldn't there be one for Euskal Herria (Basque Country), Catalonia and Galicia?

Catalan and Basque “nationalists” argue that unlike, say, La Rioja or Murcía, their territories are nations, not regions (nor “nationalities”, in the tortuous formulation of the constitution), and invoke history to support their claim. “Here the conflict dates from 1836,” insists Joseba Aurrekoetxea, a leader of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), referring to the Carlist war after which the central government revoked the Basques’ fiscal privileges (restored in 1979). “Catalonia was always distinct,” says Artur Mas, who replaced Mr Pujol as leader of CiU. It descends from the medieval kingdom of Aragón, and rebelled against Madrid in 1640 and in 1701.

Uh oh, shaky ground here, as it happens, Errioxa (called La Rioja by the Spaniards) was part of Navarre, known today as the Basque Country, so, as you can see, the author was a bit sloppy about the historic facts.

But maybe he got his facts from the one guy by the last name of Aurrekoetxea who despite belonging to a Basque political party knows little or nothing about Basque history. The conflict does not date to 1936, it dates to 1522 when as a result of a long war Castile was able to conquer the Basque kingdom of Navarre in its southern portion. The northern portion, today occupied by France, was able to remain a sovereign state until the 1800's, which debunks the misconception that the Basque Country was never an independent political entity and that the current conflict is of an internal nature involving only Madrid.

But Catalan and Basque nationalism are creations of the late 19th century. They stem from industrialisation, which made these the richest regions in the country, taking in migrants from elsewhere in Spain. At the time the Spanish state, unlike its French counterpart, lacked the resources to integrate the country, says Antonio Elorza, a Basque political scientist at Madrid’s Complutense University. Otherwise Catalonia and the Basque country would have been as content within Spain as Languedoc and Brittany are within France.

Oops! Again, Navarre (the Basque kingdom) was conquered after a long war (which means that the Basques strongly opposed the idea of losing their sovereignty) back in 1522, how can it be a creation of the late 19th century? Seems like the author has its centuries all mixed up.

Brittany and Languedoc are happy to be within France?!

Well, sounds like the anonymous author is in for a surprise, check this out:

Breton nationalism is the nationalism of the traditional province of Brittany in France. Brittany is considered to be one of the six Celtic nations (along with Cornwall, Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man and Scotland). Like the nationalism of many neighbouring regions, Breton nationalism combines political as well as cultural aspects.

The political aspirations of Breton nationalists include the desire to obtain the right to self-rule, whether within France or independently of it, and to acquire more power in the European Union, United Nations and other international bodies.

Breton cultural nationalism includes an important linguistic component, with Breton and Gallo speakers seeking equality with French language in the region. Cultural nationalists also seek a reinvigoration of Breton music, traditions and symbols, and the forging of strong links with other Celtic nations. It should be noted that many Bretons who identify with cultural nationalism and Breton identity do not share the political aspirations of Breton political nationalism.

The French government's official position is to consider Brittany as a part of France, a position claimed to date from the time when the March of Neustria was controlled by Roland, but dating officially from the dynastic marriage in 1491 of Anne, Duchess of Brittany with the king of France. This could include a range of views, from allowing Brittany a devolved government to curbing wishes for independence through to the extremes of banning Breton nationalist parties entirely and the Breton and Gallo languages.

The information you just read is readily available at Wikipedia, and information source that the author of the article seems to ignore. Same goes for Languedoc and its Occitan nationalism. But let us get back to Euskal Herria and Catalunya:

Perhaps because the historic claim to nationhood is shaky, language has become an obsession for the nationalists. Franco banned the public use of Catalan, Euskera (Basque) and Gallego. The constitution made these languages official ones alongside Spanish in their respective territories. In Catalonia the official policy of the Generalitat (the regional government), under both the nationalists (some of whom are really localists) and now the Socialists, is one of “bilingualism”. In practice this means that all primary and secondary schooling is conducted in Catalan, with Spanish taught as a foreign language. Catalan is also the language of regional government. A Spaniard who speaks no Catalan has almost no chance of teaching at a university in Barcelona. A play or film in Spanish will not be subsidised from public funds. “If we don’t make a big effort to preserve our own language, it risks disappearing,” says Mr Mas.

Only backward minded people can see bilingualism as something negative. But what I really want to point out is just how cynical and hypocritical the author and his chorus of enablers are. Spain has the dubious record of being one of the countries that has oblitarated more cultures and language in the entire world. Because they had the military might, the Spaniards erased entire civilizations from the face of the earth. How dare they complain now because some of the nations still being held captive by their rancid colonialism are doing anything they can to preserve their culture and their language? Even the author mentions it, during the Francoist genocidal reign of terrror people were abducted, tortured and in many occasions executed for their work in behalf of Catalonian and Euskara, so please, next time an Spaniard complain that he can not get a job in Catalunya or Euskal Herria remind him about the millions of people that were murdered during the process of expansion of the Spanish language in America.

Catalan and Spanish are more or less mutually comprehensible. Not so Euskera, which does not belong to the Indo-European family of languages. The Basque government allows schools to choose between three alternative curriculums, one in Euskera, another in Spanish and the third half and half. But in practice only schools in poor immigrant areas now offer the Spanish curriculum. Despite these efforts, Basque and Catalan are far from universally spoken in their respective territories: only around half of Catalans habitually use Catalan and about 25% of Basques speak Euskera.

The Basque government allows parents to decide to which educational model they want to send their kids to, and as it happens, the public schools are the ones with the Spanish as a first language model, which means that Basque parents that wish for their kids to be educated in Euskera need to expend more money. Barely what you can call a biased policy against the poor and the immigrant. The last sentence in that paragraph is the reason why both Basques and Catalans need to strenghten their respective languages. I can tell the author that this world is better off with all of those languages instead of just a few of them. But the author writes in English, a language that is not in the endangered list, which comes to prove that he is just a supremacist like his bosses in Madrid.

But the big question is, why would anyone wish for Euskara to disappear? Like the author said, it is a language isolate that does not belong to the Indo-European branch like its neighbors, so, shouldn't Europeans be working together towards the preservation of such an unique language?

But wait, check this out:

The nationalists’ linguistic dogmatism is provoking a backlash. Earlier this year Mr Savater, the philosopher, together with a diverse group of public figures ranging from Placido Domingo, a tenor, to Iker Casillas, Real Madrid’s goalkeeper, signed a “manifesto” in defence of the right of citizens to be educated in Spanish. They were denounced as “Castilian nationalists” in the Socialist press. But they touched a nerve. Many thoughtful Catalans believe that Catalan would be safe if it remained the language of primary schools, but that Catalonia would gain much by allowing a choice between Catalan and Spanish in secondary schools.

Finally, the mastermind behind the article, no one else that pro-Franco and the mouth piece for the extreme right in Spain, "philosopher" Fernando Savater. No, the "manifesto" was not criticised by just the "Socialist press", it was criticized by human rights, civil rights and indigenous rights organizations all over the world. Linguistic dogmatism? Only Spain has applied such a concept, shall we remind the author about his own quote regarding Francisco Franco's policy towards Euskara, Catalonian and Galizan during his long dictatorship?

But Savater is not done yet, here you have another one of his venomous darts:

The argument about language is really about power. “The problem with nationalists is that the more you give them, the more they want,” says Mr Savater. What some of them want is independence; all of them use this as a more or less explicit threat to gain more public money and powers. The polling evidence suggests that no more than a fifth of Catalans are remotely tempted by the idea of independence. The figure for Basques is around a quarter, despite 30 years of nationalist self-government and control of education and the media, and despite the departure of around 10% of the population because of ETA’s violence, points out Francisco Llera, a (Socialist) political scientist in Bilbao.

Savater is the champion of Spanish nationalism, but he criticizes the other nationalisms, how consistent. But he is not alone, the guy by the last name Llera insists that not the Catalans nor the Basques want independence, so, why does Madrid oppose a referendum that would clear up things so violently? Both Aznar and Zapatero have threatened Ibarretxe with jail time for wanting to conduct a referendum regarding Basque self determination. Why are Spaniards so scared to learn the true numbers of Basque nationalism once and for all?

The article goes on, but the author just repeats itself in a vain attempt to make his point across.

Just another Basquephobe acting as a mercenary in behalf of Spain's colonialist nationalism.

.... ... .

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