Tayssir's Corner

Catalan and World Affairs

L’héritage de Ben Ali

« L’homme est fils de ses habitudes et de son milieu, et non fils de sa nature et de son mélange d’humeurs ». Sous les feux de la détresse sociale tunisienne, je ne cesse de songer à cette magnifique phrase du penseur Ibn Khaldoun. Nombreux sont ceux qui, aujourd’hui, pensent que la révolution et la démocratie n’ont pas donné les fruits tant désirés par notre jeunesse : le travail. À ce stade, je ne peux que donner raison à cette hypothèse. Certes, nous serions tous très vite d’accords que le travail –autrement dit l’emploi– est la garantie du bien-être social. Mais attention ; bien qu’il soit logique et sain de remettre en cause l’ensemble des acquis des cinq dernières années, il n’y a aucune raison de remettre en cause les petits grands pas –certes insuffisants– que nous avons nous-même engendré. Pour la première fois de notre histoire, nous avons pu voter librement nos représentants politiques. Et dorénavant, ce sont les urnes qui nous permettrons de juger leur rendement ou non rendement. C’est la base fondamentale de toute démocratie.

D’un point de vue universel, la révolution tunisienne est sans doute un des plus grands mouvements sociaux jamais menés par une jeunesse. Malheureusement, il est vrai aussi que l’islamisme politique, avec l’aide de l’islamisme radical, violent et meurtrier, a tenté de casser la baraque à plusieurs reprises pour s’accaparer du pouvoir et du mérite de cette lutte et de son esprit éminemment pacifique et moderne. À un moment où l’autre de nos vies, nous avons tous été confrontés au piège du « ama nal3eb wela n7arem » (traduction : le jeu du trouble-fête !). Or nous avons réussi a neutralisé ce plan machiavélique. Du moins jusqu’à présent. C’est pour cette raison que nous avons obtenu le Prix Nobel de la Paix cette année. Je dis bien nous, car cette récompense reflète les efforts de tous les tunisiens et tunisiennes qui croient en la démocratie, et qui se sont mobilisés par tous les moyens possibles et pacifiques pour renverser une situation qui aurait pu nous mener vers un cul-de-sac.

Toutefois, comme dans toute transition, certains nœuds prennent du temps à défaire. La transformation sociale est un objectif à long terme qui ne peut être atteint que par la voie de la démocratisation des institutions publiques et de la mobilisation sociale et pacifique. Elle doit également être accompagnée d’un sens profond de la responsabilité. La classe politique tunisienne a le devoir de donner cet exemple. Décidément, ce n’est pas toujours le cas. Il est temps de se regarder droit dans les yeux. Le régime de Ben Ali nous a laissé deux héritages pernicieux : la corruption et le mépris. Pendant plus de vingt trois ans, les tunisiens ont été à la fois victimes et complices d’un système immoral. La corruption fut le système par excellence à presque tous les niveaux, toutes classes sociales confondues. Nier ce problème n’aide pas à le résoudre.

Malheureusement, ce phénomène humain continue d’être un danger pour notre société. Et le mépris, quant à lui, aggrave encore plus la situation. Le régime de Ben Ali a joué un rôle destructeur dans les régions les plus éloignés de la capitale, surtout celles de l’intérieur du pays. Sans le moindre scrupule, son entourage a mené une répression sociale basée sur le clientélisme, ayant laissé de grosses cicatrices qui continue de saigner aujourd’hui et qui ne cesse d’accentuer les inégalités. Arrêtons donc de mépriser les plus démunis. Changeons ensemble ce regard tordu que le régime de Ben Ali nous a inculqué. Notre pays est riche par sa diversité. Notre peuple est le fruit même du mélange entre les civilisations. Notre devise est la paix. Faisons-le pour notre dignité et pour l’honneur de ceux qui ont péri dans ce long et rugueux chemin de la démocratisation et de la justice sociale.

À mon avis, le système éducatif tunisien devra jouer un rôle prédominant dans ce long processus. Non seulement nous avons besoin d’éducateurs plus compétents, il nous faut également repenser notre système d’enseignement public. Nous devons préparer et éduquer nos futures générations de manière à former des esprits libres, critiques et respectueux. Certes, cela prendra du temps. Or chaque minute qui passe nous éloigne de l’objectif.

D’autre part, outre le défi sécuritaire, le prochain grand défi de notre République est la promotion active de la démocratie locale. Pour assurer la paix sociale, il est impératif que les communes et l’ensemble des collectivités locales puissent élire leurs représentants directes. Comme de l’eau, nous avons besoin de décideurs locaux élus démocratiquement pour renforcer le devoir de la responsabilité publique et par conséquent, le concept même de la République. Il nous faut également promouvoir davantage une culture associative basée sur la liberté individuelle et collective, la solidarité, le débat et le consensus, et ce depuis toutes les sphères de notre société.

Ce n’est ni en cassant les biens d’autrui, ni en abandonnant nos concitoyens que nous y parviendrons. Non. C’est par le biais de l’action solidaire et participative, de la mobilisation pacifique et des urnes. En changeons nos habitudes, nous changerons peut-être la perspective de notre milieu.

L’ofici invisible de la llengua

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Tot sovint, ens aixequem « ben d’hora, ben d’hora » per acabar dormint « ben tard, ben tard ». Ens sol apassionar la nostra feina, per a la qual rebem escassos reconeixements. De fet, se solen rebre més crítiques que felicitacions, i sovint per part dels qui menys tenen coneixements lingüístics i sociolingüístics. Però precisament, el bon traductor o corrector sap que la crítica és el millor que pot rebre, puix que d’ella sorgeixen les millors versions. Passem nombroses hores davant d’una pantalla intentant resoldre i corregir atzucacs lingüístics i tipogràfics, o millorar allò que no sempre és perceptible, tot això per tal de produir una versió que, un cop traduïda d’una llengua a l’altra, sigui agradable de llegir. Aprofito aquest instant per a recordar el gran mestre Joan Solà, un dels lingüistes més importants que ha tingut la llengua catalana al costat de Pompeu Fabra i Joan Coromines, i que desgraciadament ens ha deixat fa exactament cinc anys. Les seves obres, però, continuen vives, i ben vives.

L’art de la traducció és tant vell com l’escriptura. És sens dubte un dels oficis més antics de la humanitat. Hom diu que la primera traducció data de més de quatre mil·lennis. Es van traduir algunes parts de l’Epopeia de Guilgameix (un recull de poemes èpics sumeris i considerat un dels textos més antics del món) cap a diverses llengües asiàtiques del segon mil·lenni abans de Crist. Sense la traducció, la transmissió intercultural del coneixement (idees i conceptes), de la literatura i de les ciències hagués estat literalment impossible. Per tant, és una de les disciplines que més ha contribuït a unir els humans al llarg de la història i la que ha contribuït a l’enriquiment i desenvolupament de enèsimes altres disciplines.

En efecte, un traductor és per definició un escriptor, perquè no només ha de saber escriure, sinó que ho ha de saber fer en dues llengües com a mínim. La traducció és present i necessària en tots els àmbits de la societat, sense excepcions. El primer que cal saber és que aquesta no és una ciència exacte, perquè no sempre – per no dir mai – respon a una equivalència, evolutiva i/o estructural, entre dues llengües. Les traduccions literals i automàtiques estan a l’abast de tothom, o gairebé tothom. En canvi, la feina cognitiva i humana és insubstituïble. I els sentits de les paraules evolucionen sempre amb el temps i els propis agents socials, polítics i econòmics.

Precisament, un dels aspectes que més m’apassiona d’aquesta feina és l’empenta d’haver de sortir constantment de la zona de confort i de satisfer la meva curiositat. És una mena de viatge d’ensenyaments etern, com les nostres vides personals. Aprens de tot, i sobre tot. Aprens a entendre l’altra i a fer que l’altra sigui entès pel seu públic. Aprens també a fer néixer idees i conceptes al si de cultures que poden ser molt diferents. Aprens a contribuir a la vitalitat de la llengua.

Dit això, trobo que és una llàstima que els oficis de la llengua siguin tan infravalorats avui dia. A Catalunya, notem aquesta desafecció amb la poca quantitat d’alumnes que trien cursar filologia – especialment la catalana, però també d’altres llengües. I és que la filologia és la base de la comunicació en qualsevol àmbit. Saber escriure implica saber comunicar; saber comunicar implica saber entendre; i saber entendre implica saber aprendre. I si sabem aprendre, aleshores tot esdevé possible. D’aquí la importància de dominar com a mínim dues llengües. El domini de la llengua és l’eina bàsica que ens permet qüestionar i millorar el nostre present en totes les perspectives possibles.

Amb tot, crec que el traductor o corrector ha d’estimar les llengües amb les quals treballa i naturalment la llengua que sent seva i cap a la qual tradueix. Però no és prou. Ha d’estimar-la fins al punt de qüestionar alguns dels seus aspectes quan toca, però també fins al punt de defensar-la quan toca. Ha d’adaptar-se i adaptar la llengua als canvis constants de la nostra societat i al progrés tecnològic i educatiu. De fet, qui més domina una llengua o sabrà traduir bé no és forçosament qui és més « nadiu », sinó qui més estima i comprèn les estructures evolutives i sociolingüístiques de les llengües que usa. Al cap i a la fi, es tracte d’estimar la nostra apassionant i infinita facultat d’aprendre.

What would you do?

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What would you do if you woke up everyday to read insults purely based on your origins? What would you do if you were constantly told that your mother tongue isn’t worth anything? What would you do if only 30% of the television offer in your own country was available in your mother tongue? What would you do if, when going to court, you could do not defend yourself in your own mother tongue? What would you do if your education model was being savagely attacked by Courts which act according to their political beliefs rather than the Law? What would you do if you were fined by a police corps (which you do no feel is your own) just for speaking in your mother tongue? What would you do if you were governed and told what to do by thieves? What would you do if you were told that you do not have the right to vote? What would you do if you were attacked for singing a song in Catalan? What would you do if the memory of your parents, grandparents, great grandparents was insulted over and over again? What would you do if you were compared to a Nazi when your only wish is freedom and democracy? What would you do if you were told that your mother tongue isn’t fit for Science when in reality your language is over a 1000 years old and was thought for and by science? What would you do if you were constantly threatened by a government when your only wish is to vote on your freedom? What would you do if you had a unique opportunity to democratically regain your rights 300 years after their loss? What would you do? What would you do if you were told you couldn’t vote? I would vote on my future. And I would personally vote for freedom. I would vote yes and yes. What would you do?

Flirting with fascists

simonmanleyrivera

We all thought the evil ghost of fascism had disappeared with WWII and the reconstruction of a new Europe. This might be true for some European countries; but that’s just not the complete truth. These movements are present in various European countries; in some, they are small marginal groups whereas in others, they are reinventing themselves under demagogical and democratic camouflage parties. If I had to pick one example, I would say the most dangerous scenario can be found in Spain. When General Franco died, a so called “democratic transition” was initiated. In this transition, which I would qualify more as a transaction, new and old political parties were able to participate in the first free elections of Spain’s new era. However, Franco’s loyal servants were never prohibited nor sanctioned; they just continued to play an active role in Spanish politics under fresh labels such as Alianza Popular, which later became Aznar’s Partido Popular which ruled Spain for decades. Nothing has changed but the clothes they wear (and even that is questionable sometimes…). These people know nothing about democracy. They only understand the meaning of power.

When I was watching FC Barcelona playing Manchester City at Camp Nou during last week’s Champions League fixture, I read a tweet that left me shocked. It read the following: “Encuentro con @Albert_Rivera de @CiudadanosCs durante mi visita a #Barcelona. Now some of you may be lost by now, but let me explain. This tweet was published on UK Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley’s official Twitter account, announcing his meeting with Albert Rivera, President of a radical right wing pro-Spanish party in Catalonia. I find it extremely alarming for a UK ambassador to meet with a party that has been comparing current Catalan president Artur Mas to Hitler and company. I find it extremely alarming that Mr. Manley could plans to converse with the lowest grade political leaders who are not only experts in demagogy but who have constantly given full support to fascist movements in Catalonia and Spain. Although he took the time to meet with Barcelona’s Mayor Xavier Trias, how come he did not choose to meet with other leaders of the main parties in Catalonia? I find it curious given the current political situation in the country. 

Actually, this weekend, Ciudadanos’ candidate for the upcoming European Parliament elections Juan Carlos Girauta took a swing at the Catalan National Assembly (a huge civil movement formed by Catalan citizens who seek to restore Catalonia’s independence), accusing its current president Carme Forcadell of trying to stage a coup after the assembly had approved a document in which it detailed all necessary steps to take once independence is proclaimed. A few month’s back, Mr. Girauta had appeared on Catalan public television stating that he would vote “no” on independence, reaffirming however the right to vote. How is it possible to defend a democratic referendum and to call on people to vote “no”, and, at the same time, send a blunt attack on the civil movement which gathered more than 2 million citizens to legally claim a referendum on independence. Are these the people that Mr. Manley meets with instead of meeting with those who are leading this democratic and peaceful movement? Will the UK abandon Catalonia again as it did in the past?

European Onion

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Ukraine has surely opened a new wound for a European Union which has gone through some very tough times. Very interesting that Ukraine’s flag colors are just like the EU’s… They surely have more in common, and nothing pretty. As Russia displays its full force on Ukraine’s sovereignty, Europe looks on helplessly.

The EU has a big problem which are its members States. It is like a dream trying to be built on a wrong basis. It has no sovereignty of action. Its actions are limited to basically two of its members: France and Germany. It’s like a business club of 28 companies, each there to defend their interests above any common goal.

In the last months, we have heard many personalities such as the President of the European Commission, Joao Durao Barroso and Vice President, Viviane Reding, speaking out against both upcoming referendums on independence in Scotland and Catalonia. How can the EU position itself against the possible integration of two of the oldest nations of the old continent? Aren’t people supposed to decide which future they seek freely? Isn’t voting the basic expression of democracy?

That said, unless Europe changes its ways and reinvents itself into a true federal union of free countries, it will slowly fade away and dissolve. No true union can be the result of pressure and the use of force.

Every crisis is an opportunity

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It’s 20:51. Josep and Dolors, 34 and 32, sit calmly on their comfortable leather sofa which they bought a few years ago for over a thousand euros. At that time, Josep used to work as a salesperson for a booming real estate company in Barcelona while Dolors took care of the elderly at the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital. Today, they both are unemployed. Josep spends his time at the bar, right on the corner of their street while Dolors desperately looks for job posts in newspapers or online. Luckily, they have no kids, even though Dolors’s biological clock is ticking. They barely have enough money at the end of month for food. After many unsuccessful job interviews, Josep feels trapped. He’s desperate for a job but has lost confidence in his own abilities. Dolors tries to cheer him up in vain. No more vacation trips, no more going to restaurants with friends and no more fancy gifts to mom and dad. The only thing that keeps Josep’s morale alive are FC Barcelona’s games. Even that’s not going too well lately…

This fictitious story could actually be a real one if you live in Catalonia. Crisis seem like the end of the world: they are not. Every crisis is an opportunity. We all feel that, when we lose a job, everything because impossible, that there are no more roads to build. That is the first mistake that we tend to make. It all depends on the approach that is undertaken. When everything around you seems to fall apart, the first thing we need to do is look around us and accept our situation. Easier said than done, but it has to be done; otherwise we won’t reach the next step. What is the next step? Reinvention. Our world today grows faster and faster each passing day. Technological advances are literally destroying businesses that do not innovate. If you haven’t spent any funds on R&D, you’re pretty much screwed. I like to recall the words of the brilliant and famous Austrian economist, Josep Schumpeter: “Gentlemen, a depression is for capitalism like a good, cold douche. As a matter of fact, capitalist economy is not and cannot be stationary. Nor is it merely expanding in a steady manner. It is incessantly being revolutionized from within by new enterprise, i.e., by the intrusion of new commodities or new methods of production or new commercial opportunities into the industrial structure as it exists at any moment.”

Innovation is a continuous process of ups and downs. Innovation and entrepreneurship are the key to success. We have to adapt to the world because the world will not adapt to us. Change is something that human beings have deep inside them, always. For some, it may be a difficult to extract but it is certainly not impossible. The only indispensable ingredient is will. We have to stop thinking that governments will help us, that there will be better times or that we have lost the battle. What is actually killing us is our negative approach. I repeat: every crisis is an opportunity. Jobs are destroyed almost every day and this will always remain true. That is why we have to be able to constantly reinvent ourselves. Nobody will do it for us. And if they do, that ain’t the way. 

Josep and Dolors find themselves in a difficult situation. If they do no accept their situation, matters could go even worse. Once they do, they will have to look around them and rediscover their abilities. They have to understand that things just aren’t as easy as they thought and that the world still goes on even if they don’t. Josep and Dolors’s issues are what we have to face everyday. I’d like to point out that this also applies to those who actually have a job. Nothing is eternal. Everything changes and change is not as cruel as we think it is. You just have to be the change. 

Social progress and languages: the Catalan case

barcelona-spain

Catalan? What’s that? Oh, yes; it’s some Spanish dialect. Indeed, this is the typical reaction you will get from someone who does not know that Catalan is a Romance Language which has evolved from common Latin over a thousand years ago. It was once the language that dominated the Mediterranean region during the fifteenth century, when the Catalan and Aragonese Crown was the dominant European trading superpower. It is spoken today by more than 10 million people. For many reasons which would be too long to explain in a single article, Catalan was persecuted by those who were convinced that language meant power, and thus tried to eliminate this language and replace it with Spanish to gain more power. Language substitution is a common strategy of those greedy nations who wish to destroy anything that may question their fragile unity. In the case of artificial nations,  “languicide” is the best term to use to qualify such manipulative processes.

However, this is not the main purpose of today’s article. I would rather talk about language normalization policies. Imperialist analysts often argue that spending money in language normalization policies is useless, and that it would be wiser to use such funds to help solve social issues. What else could we expect from those whose only wish is to destroy a language which they see as a threat? All languages are part of our heritage as human beings and require the utmost protection. Language normalization policies are, on the contrary, positive, fair and modern. Linguistic prejudices always look to attack minority and minorized languages. It is totally disrespectful and out-of-place to blame languages for economic crisis. In Catalonia’s case, a country which has been implementing language normalization policies for the last 30 years, there is absolutely no evidence nor any serious study that suggests a correlation between economic downfalls and language policies.

Too often, people talk about international languages, which implies that there are non international languages, in other words, languages that are not fit to follow up with the current globalization process. The same people argue that these non international languages go against the principal of equal opportunities, with respect to social and economic progress. However, on the contrary, language normalization policies look to provide the same rights for economic and social progress to the linguistic community which it defends and who constantly finds itself  discriminated against by the dominant language’s community. Linguistic diversity is a fact, not a problem. A language normalization policy is not luxury move: it is implemented to guarantee the normal use of minorized and minority languages, starting from schools all the way to the business world. In addition, minorized and minority languages need to adapt to modern times as well as to society’s evolution.

Languages are the essence of human nature. Protecting them should not be a mere promise but a social and human responsibility, which should be exclusively based on respect.

Game over Spain

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Bullfighting, calimochos or relaxing cups of cafe con leche in the Plaza Mayor; a few things that may come to mind when talking about Spain today. Surely, those of you who enjoy some Literature or Arts could think of Miguel de Cervantes or Diego Velazquez, for example. Let’s set that aside for now. We all know that every culture has its own rituals, traditions and most importantly, its own identity. That said, today’s topic is the Spanish State. How was it created? What type of State is it? What fuels the reaction of the Spanish governments?

In order to enter this question, we need to clarify two key concepts. According to influential Scottish writer James Kelman, there are two ways of establishing national political systems:

– Nations give birth to States: the feeling of belonging to a linguistic and national community serves as a base in the developement of government structures which objectives are to serve the agents of the community (ex: Catalonia, Scotland, Basque Country, etc.)

– States give birth to Nations: government structures create an affective link which later becomes the Nation (ex: France, Spain, the United States, etc.)

This differentiation is key to understand why some nations are seeking there full independence, but also why other Nations are against it. Let’s face it, nobody wants to be told what they are to do. Catalonia is a clear case where these two concepts are sparring. While Catalans constantly reaffirm their natural historical feelings, Spain is struggling to defend the theory that States are what constitute a Nation.

Indeed, it is safe to say that the Spanish State was not created by the people and for the people, but by and for a group of wealthy and powerful men whose only interest is to maintain power. In addition, it is even safer to say that the Spanish nation is a pure fabrication: it is an artificial Nation that has only existed in the eyes of those who have defended it, based on their private interests. For more in-depth analysis on the creation of the Spanish State, I would recommend that you read Albert Pont’s Delenda Est Hispania, which I believe is only available in Catalan so far.

Spain’s State model has always been the French one. Today, it is a failed copy of the French centralist State. While France managed to eliminate anything that was perceived as different to their jacobinist ideology (please refer to the second article of the French constitution), Spain could not do so because Catalan and Basque people have always refused such a system, holding on to their identity and respective cultures despite fierce intents of destructive policies by Spanish governments.

Spain, as we know it, is very near to its end for the following reasons: Catalan disaffection with the Spanish state will give birth to a new independent Catalan State; the dissatisfaction of Spanish citizens with the handling of current corruption affairs involving the Spanish Royal family and incompetent political leaders will certainly push the country into scenes of riot; lastly, the vicious taunting games of the Spanish government in the Basque Country’s peace process will surely unite its people to seek a solution for full sovereignty.

The world is changing and people want to be able to decide their own future in a transparent and authentic form of government. To be continued…

Greetings from Catalonia

Girona

Fellow citizens, I have decided to create my own blog in order to share with you some opinions on Catalan and World affairs from Girona, the marvelous Catalan city in which I currently reside. I came to Catalonia through Perpignan in 2009 and have taken great interest in learning about Catalan Culture, Society and Politics. I recently completed a Master’s degree in Catalan Philology at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili.

Catalonia is the land of my very own renaissance. I have never felt so complete, so valued and so efficient as a human being. I have learned how the Catalan people have suffered throughout their existence. I have discovered a new way of life: the Catalan way. I am referring to hardworking, sensitive and charitable people, who are capable of uniting and acting as one like no other nation. I am proud to say that, even though I was not born here, I am Catalan. Today, this thousand-year-old country is on the verge of regaining its full independence, which it lost 300 years ago following a bloody war against authoritarian King Phillip V of Castilla’s savage troops.

Being able to experience this historical moment is one of the most beautiful and enriching events of my life. Democracy, democracy and more democracy is the recipe of the Catalan society and its political leaders to regain their full sovereignty, one that has endlessly been denied by the successive Spanish governments and institutions. Catalan people want to vote on their future. On the other hand, denial, falsification, disrespect and hate are some of the ingredients that fuel the arguments of most Spanish leaders and society.

For those of you who don’t have a clue on what’s happening and why Catalan people are seeking their freedom as a nation, I strongly suggest that you take up your history books again and start rediscovering what was never taught to you at school. The events of the past are what enable us to understand the present and build a better future.

I hope you will enjoy my upcoming articles.

See you soon!

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