Hats Off To The Economist’s Article

I’ve got to take my hat off to The Economist for publishing an excellent article about Catalonia called “The party’s over” last week. It has caused great concern here in Catalonia and there’s been much calling for public apologies, articles being banned etc etc.

In my opinion the article was very well written and touched a few key points in Catalan politics. having said that , the people calling for apologies etc would do better brushing up on their English language or lack of English language as this seems to be the case. I say this as these people have taken out of context what The Economist has said regarding “Caciques” or provincial political bosses. It is a term which is applied very well to the likes of Jordi Pujol, Manuel Fraga or Manuel Chaves although not in the way that The Periodico de Catalunya or La Vanguardia newspapers have rendered it.

The article in The Economist talks about “café para todos” which was a formula drawn up in which all the autonomous communities in Spain would have a slice of the pie. The Economist states: ” but this panoply of decentralisation has not placated the politicians of Catalonia, the Basque country or Galicia. This is because they never wanted cafe para todos: they wanted it just for themselves, as a recognition that they were different”.

How true those words are and this still applies today. The demands of these three regions make it very difficult to draw up a stable and permanent set of rules.

As we are all aware here primary and seconday schooling is conducted in Catalan with Spanish being taught as a foreign language. Catalan is also the language of the regional government. A Spaniard who speaks no Catalan has almost no chance of teaching at a University in Barcelona. To top it off, a play or film in Spanish will not be subsidised from public funds.

The Economist goes on to say “The nationalists’ linguistic dogmatism is provoking a backlash. Earlie 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 duly denounced as “Castilian nationalists in the Socialist press.
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. I have to take my hat off to these thoughtful Catalans, too. There is an example on my blog which has been taken out of context by a few people that shall remain nameless but I’ll paraphrase it here:

a lot of people in Barcelona had done all their schooling in Catalan and went to University and passed their grades and got good careers etc. It was taken for granted that they knew Catalan as this was their main language of study, did all their exams in Catalan and even passed Catalan language as a subject.  After the year 1992 the Catalan government decided that from that year onwards anyone wanting a job as a civil servant for example would not have to “prove themselves in Catalan”. Ok, fine but what about the people before that year? No such luck I’m afraid. All these people who have equal studies or in some cases superior to those who graduated after 1992 now have to prove themselves by taking the Catalan B, C or even D test. Now isn’t that quaint! So it really doesn’t matter if you are called Montse Pujol Capdepera if you graduated before 1992. According to the Caciques in office you don’t make the grade anymore and should start shelling out money to get your Catalan Nivell C certificate before they consider you for a decent job!

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  1. Rab says:

    And what are you Jeff? A resentful expat loser who thinks he is Spanish?

  2. Jeff says:

    Seems to me like there’s an English bloke on here who thinks he is Catalan and a “charnego” who thinks he is very witty. Losers.

  3. Tom says:

    Sarcasm isn’t the lowest form of wit. Punning is.

  4. Ian Llorens says:

    That’s why, unlike the witty Anglos, we, Catalans, need to migrate instead expatriating ourselves.

  5. Tom says:

    I think Gorgeous George should get out more – lol

  6. GorgeousJordi says:

    Yes. Sarcasm may be considered as the lowest form of wit. However, Catalan sarcasm is different. It has its own identity and its own way of being sarcastic. Its completely different in fact and has absolutely no similarity to the low form of sarcasm used by other people. So different in fact, that it even defines the boundaries of various countrys (in some peoples heads). If a group of people (a thousand or 2 is sufficient) in say, Egypt, use Catalan sarcasm as opposed to a more common form of sarcasm, it means that that part of Egypt is a Catalan sarcasm country and it should be freed from the evil users of any other form of sarcasm, be it a Spanish form, French, Italian, Mongolian… So Steve, you now know the basics of Catalan sarcasm, but you will never fully understand until your view is exactly the same as other Catalan sarcasm users. Or at least a small proportion of the more radical ones.

  7. Steve says:

    I was always told that sarcasm was the lowest form of wit….

  8. Ian Llorens says:

    This is called, Catalan sarcasm.

  9. Steve says:

    Ian, explain how only North Europeans can be expats, I’m intrigued. And can you explain how “Catalans are immigrants” – you’ve got me on that one. Thanks.

  10. Ian Llorens says:

    Similar to Rab, I got the same kind of accusations when commenting on the Economist’s letters to the editor. Personally I do not bother, I believe that supporting my culture and language is a noble cause, and I can take any attacks from the “establishment” represented here by Suze.

    In the Economist, a Ucranian intervened to give me support. Pls. read his comment. I think it is very enlightening:

    “This discussion is very interesting to me, particularly because there is a similar problem in Ukraine. This country has been divided between Poland and Russia for centuries. After gaining independence in 1991, the Ukrainian language acquired an official status – TV programs are broadcast and official documents are written in Ukrainian. However, the opposition from many Russian speakers has been increasingly fierce, even though nobody prevents them from talking their native language in everyday life.

    I find the remark concerning the ‘nationalistic mind’ made by E Limon to be astonishingly absurd. For instance, I consider Ukrainian to be my mother tongue and defend its status as a national language in Ukraine, but does this prevent me from learning so called ‘global languages’. I’m fluent in Russian and speak several foreign languages: English, German, French and a little Dutch.

    My point is that every national identity needs its developed national language to sustain the coherence of local community despite globalization trends. These two streams can peacefully coexist.

    Mr. Llorens, thank you very much for your insights. Your views helped me understand the situation in Catalonia better.

    Evgen,
    Dnipropetrovs’k, Ukraine”

    Thank you very much, Evgen.

  11. Ian Llorens says:

    Only North Europeans (Anglo-Saxon and so on) can be expats. We, Catalans, are immigrants.

  12. Rab says:

    Suze, how is that link irrelevant? It deals exactly with the issue that The Economist, in their biased and unobjective article, so blatantly ignored.

    And how do you make the link between being an expat and despising myself? Is that common amongst expats? Is that your personal experience?

  13. Suze says:

    Rabs sole purpose for existence is to make snide remarks and comments about other people. He will often quote irrelevant material to justify his views and name calling. I think he secretly despises himself, given that he is also an expat.

  14. Jeff H says:

    Very informative reading you dim witted cluck…..and your point is?

  15. Rab says:

    Just to show that not every expat is a resentful, prejudiced loser:

    http://www.matthewtree.cat/index.php?seccio=llibre&bibliografia_id=36&idioma=cat

    I invite readers of this ill-informed blog to click on the link above, and open the PDF; it is the text of a lecture at the London School of Economics (in English).

  16. Christian says:

    There is an expression in Catalan language that I hope you are able to understand: “De fora vingueren i de casa ens tragueren”.

  17. […] There are blogs that were also in favor of the Economist’s evaluation: Life in Catalonia, […]

  18. Rab says:

    “Fair, balanced and on the money”.
    You must be joking.

    It was a translation into English of what newspapers like El Mundo and El País, ABC, etc publish every day. It was coverage from one point of view only: Spanish.

  19. I read The Economist piece too and thought it was fair, balanced and right on the money. Unfortunately, the tendency in Spain is to get one’s panties in a bunch whenever there is any media coverage from the U.K. or U.S. press about Spain that could be construed in even the slightest bit as a criticism.

    Last year the Wall Street Journal wrote an excellent front-page story about how people living in País Vasco were having a devil of a time getting jobs (or keeping their jobs) because of the language issue. The story was fair and accurate and yet the reporter was pilloried as being a good-for-nothing lout who knew nothing about Spain, blah, blah, blah. Little did the people know, the Basques who were criticizing the Wall Street Journal, is that the reporter who wrote the piece has lived in Spain almost a decade and is married to a Spaniard, so it was not like he was some journalistic travel writer who parachuted in to Bilbao for a day to do his piece.

    It is very disturbing how divisive and controversial the issue of languages is in Spain. Why can’t they all co-exist peacefully? They are all part of the beautiful heritage of Spain.

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