This article was translated by John R. Bopp
We’ve spent the last few days reflecting on how to analyze an article by Yves Michaud and published in the blog section of Libération we read. Our first impulse was to just answer from the heart, ask aloud that if Basque identity could be questioned, what would have to be done with the “French” identity that was created out of blood and fire in just over a century. Today we’re only going to use it twice, but we can’t resist once again, here, reproducing the texts, opinions, and recommendations of two Jacobin revolutionaries regarding Basque and their means to eliminate it in order to create a homogeneous Basque state. These two men were Grégoire and Barère, who, in their reports to the new governors of France, considered Basque to be “a language of people given to fanaticism and an obstacle for the propagation of light“.
Barère, a Jacobin, in 1794, warned the National Convention: “Citizen! The language of a free people must be the same for all. We’ve seen how the Breton dialect (sic), the dialect called Basque (sic), and the German and Italian languages perpetuate the domain of fanaticism and superstition, which support the rule of the priests and the aristocrats, and favor the enemies of France… It is treachery to the fatherland to allow citizens to be ignorant of the national language”.
According to Grégoire himself, about eight million “Frenchmen” – a quarter of the population – was committing the crime of not knowing French, and of expressing themselves in 30 linguistic varieties among a population of 29 million – the largest country in Europe. “Nowhere else in Europe or in any part of the globe that I know does it so happen that the national language is not used universally by the nation. France has within its borders about eight million people who can barely blubber out a few words in our language: others don’t know it at all”. Therefore, he directly proposed “the annihilation of local languages”. In order to impose French, the best weapon was education, and thus, Barère proposed naming a French language instructor for every town, who would teach the laws, the decrees, and the mandates of the Convention.
Basque identity is based on culture, traditions, and language (among many other things), and these elements were present in the Basque population on both sides of the Pyrenees from a time long before anyone dreamed of the existence of France or Spain. Basque identity does not need papers or passports to exist, as the feeling of belonging is based on the hearts and feelings of the people themselves.
On the basis of what concept of “practicality” can the author of the article condemn a language such as Basque to ostracism outside the world of administration? That would basically be a death sentence, sooner or later. Therefore, if everything has to be translated, then translate it. But based on what reason should a Basque speaker not have the right to deal with his government in his native tongue? What makes French a language with a higher lever, or more “quality”, than Basque, Catalan, Occitan, Breton, of German inside the French Republic? It seems that only its imposition by force over the others is what gives French its greater value.
The Republic ended Basque freedoms north of the Pyrenees, just like the Isabelines ended them south. All of this in defense of an equality for all, which many did not want. If one is different, why must he be how others say?
Now, when Basques try to preserve the last thing that is truly theirs that they have left, their language, we have to see how there are people who minimize its importance in order to “be practical”. They even put the idea of a “Basque identity” into doubt. The even dare, as the article’s author does, to speak of the Basque Museum in Bayonne as an example of the fact that “Basque identity” is very diffuse.
The history of the Basques on either side of the Pyrenees has always been written by outsiders, by those who stole their form of government, their ability to decide, and now, they even want to take away their identity and turn their language and culture into museum pieces.
And, on top of all that, we have to listen to them say how they’re “for” these local languages, that they’re their “friends”. And what do they mean by the term “local languages”? Simple: it’s a subtle way of saying that they’re inferior to “true” languages like French, Spanish, or English.
And, before we forget, for those who know who the “good” and “bad” guys are, never forget to make at least a few references to terrorism. That way it’s clear that those who defend Basque can’t be more than terrorists or the friends of terrorists. Because, if that’s not the case, can anyone explain why this paragraph was included in the text?
Ce n’est pas en deux journées qu’on appréhende une situation mais tout de suite on est frappé par la revendication politique omniprésente entre Bayonne et Saint Jean Pied de Port, surtout concernant le rapprochement des prisonniers politiques.
God save us from these “friends” of our culture; we can take care of our enemies
Liberation – 8/3/2011 – Francia
Je suis allé faire une conférence sur identités et communautarisme à Saint Jean Pied de Port. C’était une belle occasion de traiter ce thème non plus devant des Français d’origine immigrée comme je l’ai déjà fait plusieurs fois, mais devant des Français basques – français et basques depuis très longtemps. La plupart des élèves du lycée du lycée de Navarre sont bilingues avec les deux langues “maternelles” basque et française, et parfois aussi la langue espagnole. Ils sont attentifs, visiblement sérieux, avec me disait-on un respect de l’école qui a souvent disparu ailleurs.