dimarts, 27 de març de 2012

We will not be second-class citizens

About the author of this article for Help Catalonia
Special Collaborators

Dr. Josep Anton Fernandez
Professor of Catalan Studies at Open University of Catalunya (UOC)
Executive Member of "Plataforma per la Llengua"

Spanish nationalism, currently represented by Partido Popular (Popular Party), is renewing its attack on the Catalan language precisely at a time when our language is beginning to show signs of recovery. As in previous occasions, it is an attack on all fronts: against the flanks (in territories such as Valencia and the Balearic Islands, where Catalan is in a more vulnerable position in terms of legal status), and against its water line (i.e. the system of linguistic immersion in Catalonia that guarantees that the entire population is proficient in both Catalan and Spanish). But the latest campaign by Spanish nationalists aimed at assimilating the Catalan-speaking minority won't be successful—it is grossly unsubtle, and it faces the opposition of a well organized society. It is crucial that citizens across the Catalan-speaking territories get involved in organizations like Plataforma per la Llengua, who defend the use of Catalan.

Not happy with switching off reception of the Catalan TV (TV3) in Valencia, or with challenging the Catalan educational system in the Catalan courts, now Partido Popular has eliminated the need for civil servants to speak Catalan in the Balearic Islands, thereby turning Catalan speakers into second-class citizens. The people's reaction to this latest aggression has taken Partido Popular by surprise. A group of retirees decided to start a hunger strike in protest for the loss of linguistic rights. Additionally, one the largest demonstrations ever seen in Palma took place on March 25th, 2012.

Everything that is happening in Spain concerning the linguistic rights of minorities is very serious indeed. But it is nothing new. In fact, these are just the latest examples in a long list of attempts at assimilation. However, if we look at things with some perspective, we can be relatively confident. The rights of Catalan speakers are indeed under attack; but we are not nearly as weak as they think. These attacks betray a great deal of insecurity on the part of the Spanish nationalists.

Catalans need to be aware that our ability to resist is not endless. We can't simply keep on reacting to constant pressure. Our goal should be to gain widespread support to make of Catalan the common language of all citizens in our country. For Catalan is the language we share despite our diverse origins. Spanish nationalists will persist in their attempts to assimilate us, but we are citizens of a society that yearns for a better democracy. We are aware that freedom has to be fought for and earned.

We will therefore keep on working towards democratic, equal language rights for all Catalan speakers. We will also keep on working to make sure that the Catalan language can be shared by all in Catalonia. For Catalan contributes crucially to equal opportunity. Most Catalan citizens know that speaking Catalan gives access to more opportunities for individual and social progress. This explains the overwhelming support for linguistic immersion in schools. The experiences of those of us who speak Catalan as a second language bear witness to this fact.

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