Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The One Eye Of Catalan

Last week I considered the latest ride in the Mallorcan language merry-go-round. Up and down go Catalan or Castellano, round and round goes the carousel, accompanied by whichever political tune is being played. The latest has a strong Catalan beat, so strong that it will drown out any alternative sounds - those of Castellano - in companies' offices, at sports fields as well as in all the seemingly millions of departments, divisions and directorates of the Balearic public sector.

Or will it drown them all out? President Armengol has been given some earache by members of her own PSOE party on the matter. These members may not be opposed to wider use of Catalan but they are concerned about legalities. Making Catalan a requisite for granting a business licence, insisting that employees in private companies join the ranks of Catalan-speaking linguistic armies marching through the squares of every town and village unleashing Catalan on non-speakers does not sound very legal to some parts of PSOE. Not only not legal but deeply troubling. What sort of authoritarianism is this? Imposition by language.

The problem as always is the past. To speak of authoritarianism and language in the same breath is to speak of Franco and of Felipe V and the impositions, deprivations and destructions of the Nueva Planta. I am fully aware of them. It's not as though I don't have great sympathy for Catalan development. But to do so via a new form of authoritarianism, one nuanced in the new-age name of the citizen?

There is also of course the immediate past. Bauzá. His idiotic trilingual scheme for teaching was not only educationally subnormal it was a naked attempt at giving Catalan a booting. TIL would not have obliterated Catalan or anything like it (despite what the "Green Tide" of the t-shirt-wearing teachers might have had some believe), but its political goal was clear. Or should have been clear to those capable of understanding that an imposition of teaching in English was a convenient and impractical smokescreen.

The use of English or another foreign language as a medium for teaching is now voluntary. If the circumstances of schools are such, then there are potential benefits from foreign-language instruction. This may seem incoherent in terms of total educational policy but it is a form of compromise by PSOE, who hold the education portfolio in the current administration. PSOE are not and have not been one-eyed in matters of language policy. It has been the dogmas of government partners that have driven it in the past to appear to be, as was the case with the Antich 2007-2011 administration.

And it is the partners who are now adopting dogmatic postures regarding language away from just the classroom. It is Més who have the citizen participation and culture portofolios, wherein lies the policy of linguistic "normalisation". This normalisation is better translated as standardisation. Catalan as standard. While Armengol and PSOE prefer a persuasive system for Catalan development, Més (and Podemos) wish for a coercive system, one driven by a reforming, fundamentalist zeal.

The culture element of this standardisation is a culture of the victim. The right has accused those on the left like Més of wallowing in a victim culture, strewn with the bodies of the past - those of Nationalism and the Bourbon impositions from the early eighteenth century. To an extent the right has a point, which is not, however, to excuse its role. Both camps are equally culpable in permitting this victim culture to survive and indeed flourish.

Into all of this, however, enters the chaos of the Partido Popular hierarchy in the Balearics. Bauzáism has mostly been consigned to the immediate past. The citing of José Maria Rodríguez as part of the Palma police corruption affair has led to the removal of so-called "Rodriguistas", more identifiable with the right-wing former Bauzá administration than with the regionalist tendency which now looks certain to resume its hold over the party. This tendency has always been more Catalanist, and now the PP at the Council of Mallorca has abstained in a vote on Catalan requirements for public-sector employees.

The chief opposition to the Més-driven government policy is at present Ciudadanos, a party that wants no truck with notions of Catalan nationalism and which is led in the Balearics by a language scholar - Xavier Pericay. He has spoken of the defence of "individual freedoms", and his scope for opposition will be great. In addition to linguistic standardisation, the Més portfolio under the minister Ruth Mateu also includes sport. Every type of sporting event is to be regulated in ensuring that Catalan is the dominant language, even ones for which English is the norm, such as international regattas. One can be sympathetic to Catalan development but one can also be troubled at myopic insistence.

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