On the Spanish cultural war against the Catalans and their language: an update

article by Antoni Ferrando

Recently some world press published horror stories about the profligate Catalans, as a threat for Spain, in the wider context of the euro crisis. Catalan budget for 2011, even with a hefty cut of 10 per cent, doesn’t meet the deficit target. But this happens because that same Central Government that sets the target with one hand, blocks the funds to meet it with the other hand. Why do they do it? Probably the Catalans were expected to cut even more and demand less funding. But they will not, Catalan president Artur Mas visited Brussels recently to explain all this, and at the end of the day reality prevails: the Spanish government has still four fifths of the whole debt in its books.

That both governments, Spanish and Catalan, say they are doing the right thing, was to be expected. However, in the behaviour of the Spanish government, there are deep patterns of an irrational disrespect towards the Catalans. Irrational relative to the rational thing to do, from a State government point of view, which should be to keep the State as a working whole. Where does this irrational disrespect come from? Probably is a byproduct of a pervasive and all-encompassing ideology of Spanish nationalism, merged with the machinery of the State, regardless the ruling party of the moment. It shows in many fronts: if the awareness of the “otherness” of the Catalans remains unbearable, is because it source runs deep in the mind of the Spanish nationalist. One of the obvious signs of diveristy is the Catalan language, so it must be fought relentlessly.

In Catalonia the public basic school system works with a Catalan language immersion system, and the individual needs of students not fluent in Catalan are met individually. This arrangement effectively protects the Catalan language an avoids the social division that would create parallel schooling systems in several languages. Moreover, according to data of the Spanish Ministry of Education, the Spanish language skills of the Catalan kids are satisfactory. The European Commission praised the Catalan schooling system as a model for multilingual regions.

But reality be damned: three activist parents pursued their cause until the Spanish Supreme Court ruled (following last summer’s Constitutional Court ruling) and ordered to introduce also Spanish as a second working language, and therefore the breakup of Catalan public schooling. However the rulings will be hardly enforceable: the support of the Catalans to a working school system is massive, with roughly a million students. The Constitutional Court itself is in a deep crisis, heavily controlled by the socialist (PSOE) and conservative (PP) Spanish parties, which as a matter of fact are two wings of a unique and virtual Spanish Nationalist Party.

Meanwhile, in Valencia, the new PP government has announced plans to dismantle schooling in Catalan and merge it with schooling in Spanish and English. Until now there were two lines, Catalan immersion and Spanish immersion but seeing that Catalan immersion was becoming more popular and its demand increasing year after year, currently more than 40% of parents were choosing it, could not be tolerated by the PP. There have already been massive protests against this ruling (link in Catalan).

Earlier this year the Valencian government blocked the reception of neighbouring Catalan Public television, with a totalitarian zeal more effective than any Chinese government. In times of a vast TV offer all around the world, people in Valencia are being deprived of a television channel widely popular just because it’s in Catalan. Again, behind the move there was just more blatant Spanish nationalism, with its persistent unability to accept and recognize cultural diversity.

The long and consistent record of totalitarian inclinations of the Spanish nationalism, and its struggle against Catalan economy and culture, rule out any federal-like arrangement for the future of Spain and boost Catalan independentism.

Photo: truck of Catalan Public Television, by jstar.pl

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