Life on the receiving end

I realize I might be in danger of overcooking my coverage of what's happening in Catalunya ... though if Wales Home can do that with their coverage of the Labour leadership campaign, I don't see why I shouldn't put Wales' situation into an international perspective.


Life on the receiving end is a short essay by Matthew Tree, an Englishman living in Catalunya, based on a speech he gave at the London School of Economics last year. It's a very well written explanation of the situation in the country, and it brought a tear or two to my eye as I read it. Some of the parallels between Catalunya and Wales are remarkable.

Well worth half an hour of anyone's time. Please read it and let me know what you think.

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Aled G J said...

A very moving and powerful account, and an indicator of what could well be heading our way as Wales itself moves towards further self-rule. I think that many mainstream nationalists in Wales are completely self-deluded in believing that more Welsh self-determination is going to proceed in a totally rational and reasonable fashion. We had better start preparing ourselves for the same kind of cultural backlash from monolingual England as the Catalans have suffered from monolingual Spain for many years.Part of this preparation should be a more assertive form of nationalism, because the cuddly bear type of nationalism that we have at the moment will not form any sort of bulwark for what awaits us.

Iestyn said...

An interesting article indeed. It almost makes me glad that we are attached to England and not Spain.

The historic parallels are those of most small nations conquered by larger neighbours, I think, ie, destroy any national institutions, denigrate all literature and culture, and repeat ad nauseum the fallacies of "superior culture", "ordained by God" and the various other mechanisms of self awareness destuction.

I would hesitate to claim too many parallels between Spanish attitude and English attitudes towards their respective 'colonies'. I find the English, far from being antagonistic, to be totally ignorant of any difference between Wales and England. Of course there are a few idiots (but then we have them as well!), and the cliches and annoying generalisations, but I have never heard of people being "sent home to Wales", and verbal abuse of Welsh speakers is not common in England (though maybe more common in Wales).
Contrary to popular belief, Welsh has never been illegal in Wales. Illegitimate, yes, but banned on the telephone? Or in theatres? We have done plenty of our own "social" banning, and maybe in that respect have avoided the need for London to be too heavy handed.
Aled makes a good point in that moving towards independence, and a general resurgence in the Welsh language may exacerbate the situation as regards the attitudes of Monolinguals (both English and Welsh), but I think wariness rather than expectation is the correct way to view that threat.
I'm interested to know whether others have had experiences in England such as reported by Catalans in Castilia.

Anonymous said...

I've had more snide remarks in Wales than in England for speaking Welsh.

They include

Being physically threatened for speaking Welsh in a pub in Aberystwyth

Being asked/told by a taxi driver in Cardiff to stop speaking Welsh

Placards saying 'Welshies go home' including some held up Pakistani women (yes, you couldn't make it up) when attending a Welsh-medium school in Cardiff

Oh and the countless times I've been ridiculed, ignored, looked at as if I've just swore, or looked at as if I'm ignorant or stupid for just asking politely for something in Welsh in a shop in Wales.

There's no need for any anti-Welsh law, we're so small in number and English so strong that we're not seen as a threat and most people over generations have avoided conflict or drawing attention to themselves. The Catalans are bigger, stronger and have more respect for their language. Their language was also one of high status until the 18th century, which means they've seen the fall from grace in a way we haven't. We've been imbedded with an inferiority complex which does Westminster's job for them.

Iestyn said...

I think Anonymous is agreeing with my point, in that it is we ourselves who are the problem. While the original split was, undoubtedly caused by English conquest and divide and rule tactics, the main damage has been done by ambitious Welshmen, from the landowners of old to current day politicians. Divide and rule is the strongest and most enduring of imperial tactics, and until we find a way of patching up our internal differences, we are unlikely to even register on the English scale as anything more than a petty annoyance, and potential joke material.

Rhys Wynne said...

Some of the anecdotes were quite scary. Here's the tale tale of how a 14 year old Catalan was treated by the Spanish authorities:

Matthew Tree's quotes regarding Catalans only motivation to using Catalan being to insult the monolingual Spanish is sadly am claim that is made against Welsh speakers today. Whether this has something to do with the the mindset of the monolingual as opposed to the attitude of the oppressor, I don't know.

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