Everyone once in a while I dabble in a little nationalism-bashing, not because I am wholly against the idea of fighting for independence if that is what the collective feels and believes, nor do I dispute the historical justification for such a credence, or at least the right to defend it. What gets my goat, ever so slightly, is the insistence on manipulating information for the sake of God knows what…because it really makes no sense to me.
Just the other day I was looking up some information about a town outside Madrid called Villarejo de Salvanés, because I was in a café there studying the wildlife there and decided to rummage around the fee encyclopedia to see what it said about the town…in English, which wasn’t much, to be honest. My eyes were distracted by the list of other languages that have decided to include entries on the subject. I have become increasingly fascinated by the number of tongues that have joined to the club. Personally I find it a celebration of that facet that sets us apart from so many other objects in this world, but I do get a kick out of how many of these languages actually make the effort to get on the record. Latin appears in many. Esperanto, too. And regional tongues such as Asturian and Aragonese have joined the ranks. I guess this is the ideal way to bring international attention to your otherwise unknown language, and that is fine with me, but it is interesting to study the sometimes subversive forces acting behind them.
Take Catalan, for example, a minor but healthy language in today’s world but one with a chip on its shoulder the size of a log. Economic, dictatorial and natural, let’s not forget, forces led to the encroachment of Castilian Spanish for many decades, but this Romance tongue, which is a kind of blend of Spanish, French and Oc, I guess, has managed to persevere quite well, thanks.
Enter politics. With Catalan nationalist sentiment continually on the rise, and the possibility of a referendum looming, the people who support this region, its language and culture, go to great lengths to pretend they don’t belong to the country they belong to.
So, I slipped over to Catalan to see what they had to say about the town, rather surprised that they had anything to say about it. I looked at the summary on the right and noticed that they referred to the country of Spain as a state. Most of you would not be familiar with the word games that are played in Spain, but the use of the term “state” instead of “country” implies almost a sense of control rather than belonging. At least that is what I used to think, until I realized that the word was used for all political nations. The entry refers to Catalonia as a “país” or “country”, due to its cultural and linguistic identity. At least says it is located in Spain. If you skip over to “Barcelona”, you notice that it is defined in the entry as a city located in the Iberian Peninsula! Oh, that country thing is not important. The extremes people will go to avoid the facts; and that’s considering it is printed in a website which should stick to the facts. Manipulation of information? Absolutely. That happens a lot. That happens a lot, I tell you. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist. And if we don’t mention it, it won’t. God help us!