Friday, July 15, 2016

The Wheel Of Linguistic Fortune

Life in Mallorca can seem to be in a constant state of wheel reinvention. No, not seem to be. Is. The wheel is given new spokes and tyre, the latter being pumped up in one particular way, only for someone to come along, take it apart and then reassemble it in an entirely different fashion. The wheel, as a result, never runs smoothly. The ride is uncomfortable. Control is scarcely possible. Off you head, therefore, in a direction totally opposite to the one you were previously on.

Some twenty-four hours prior to writing this article I had been honouring Hotelbeds. I wonder what they think about the wheel in its latest reinvented incarnation. They probably give it scarcely a thought. International company, acclaimed by the Balearic government, the last thing on the corporate mind will be this particular wheel. But how would it fit with this international business, if the regional government were true to the absolute letter of the rules for wheel reinvention?

In days of not so yore, I was engaged in regular consideration of how the wheel was being moulded. This was 2008. The circumstances involved the last "pact" of government. Ostensibly led by PSOE, it had as its mutually exclusive other partners the former (now dead) Unió Mallorquina (UM) and the PSM Mallorcan socialists, the major part of what is now Més. Clash though they did because of varying positions on the left-right spectrum and also because of competing claims to be the main advocates of Mallorcan nationalism, there was some common ground. It was the wheel: the wheel of linguistic fortune. Turn it one way and you head to Castile and the birthplace of the Spanish nation and language. Turn it another and you are bound (possibly) for Barcelona and the heartland of Catalan.

I place possibly in parentheses due to the fact that most Mallorcans I ever encounter want nothing to do with Catalonia or with Catalan. They are Mallorcans and they speak Mallorquín. But let's not confuse things too much, especially when there's a good wheel to be reinvented. Yes, the wheel of linguistic fortune is pointing straight towards the Catalan heartland. Again.

The current "pact" has basically substituted the UM with Podemos, a description of replacement that would most definitely not sit well with Alberto Jarabo and his chums. That would be because of the C-word, one that ran right through the UM as though it were a stick of rock. Yet Podemos is every bit as much an advocate of Catalan as the UM were. More so it can appear. Like a reformed smoker who rails against the merest whiff of a cigarette, Jarabo, not a native Catalan speaker but a reformed Castellano speaker, rails as loud if not louder than others against the language of the Bourbons.

Under the previous pact, everything - more or less everything - was to be Catalan. Then along came Bauzá and the PP. The wheel was reinvented. It pointed once more to Castile and was shaped in the image of Carlos Delgado and Jorge Campos of the Círculo Balear. Bauzá no more, the PP no more, and we're heading back to square one: wheels aren't much use if they're square, but never mind.

Amidst all the Catalanisation of the previous pact, there was the amusing spat involving Air Berlin. The German airline had been "invited" by the regional government to use Catalan as its first business language. The former president, Antich, was to later suggest that this "invitation" had been "misinterpreted". Perhaps they were speaking different languages. One had the impression that Air Berlin had quietly told the government where they could stick their invitation. A stick of rock would have come in handy.

I mention this particular episode because of what the reinvention that is now upon us intends to bring about. It won't stop at the public sector, it will delve into the private sector too. There won't be an invitation more a requirement for businesses. For instance, there would be "linguistic vetoes" of licences to open a business. Catalan speakers would have to be recruited. On the streets, in the bars, in businesses, everywhere it seems, Catalan speakers will be encouraged (?) to speak only Catalan to non-speakers. Businesses, everyday life, leisure activities, sporting events. Catalan and only Catalan. The fervour would put some religious fundamentalists to shame.

So, what has all this got to do with Hotelbeds? Quite a lot in fact. There is this acclaimed business, bringing in foreign talent, likewise acclaimed by the government, conducting its affairs multi-lingually. It would seemingly be told that Catalan speakers have to speak only Catalan. Working on a tricky bit of software code? That's ok, I'll explain things in Catalan, even if you don't understand it.

Oh well, they'll probably ignore the command and wait for the PP to come along and reinvent the wheel of linguistic fortune.

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