In Praise of Identity, In Praise of Diversity/ Alabanza da Identidá, Alabanza da Diversidá

(Note: Asturias is a region on the northwestern coast of Spain.)

I remember a few years back, when I was living in a tiny Asturian village, the day the school teacher called the parents and told us that our little school was going to be closed. We were shocked and worried, and I particularly was infuriated when I heard the reason why. There were too few kids. Spanish law says that a school in a rural area can stay open if there are four pupils and more children are already born that are likely to be enrolled in the school. The reason for there being so few kids was that other village parents had taken their children to a bigger school in the next town ‘because it’s bigger’. They then had to pay for transport and lunch for their children as they were voluntarily taking their children to a different school than that which was assigned to them.
From that moment on, the parents and the teacher did everything in our hand to save our school. We went to see the education authorities in the regional capital. We got support from the Mayor. I even wrote a letter to the newspapers stating that there were lies being spread about the quality of the teaching, when in reality it was just a question of some parents wishing to ‘socialise’ their offspring as far away from country lanes as possible. Villages in Asturias are seen by many as backwards, retarded places where nobody that is worth it stays if not forced to. I’ve heard it once too many times to fool myself into thinking that I haven’t.
Let me tell you what happens when you take a child out of their familiar surroundings with the idea of providing them with a better quality culture than they can get in their native place.
They lose the roots that have sustained them, or more exactly, they begin to resent those roots, the ties that bind them to their origins. They see new, exciting and, perhaps to their impressionable eyes, better things. They become disenfranchised, disillusioned and ashamed of their little villages with their peculiarities. At the same time, most of them are not accepted by the inhabitants of their ‘new’ environment. They are outsiders who are tolerated, not celebrated, never fully a part of the community.
I remember reading an article once about the acculturation that the American government imposed on the Innuit in Alaska. Taking children from their homes and villages under the pretext of a ‘better education’ which would give them better opportunities. When they came back to their homes, they were not culturally Innuit anymore, and they were not truly accepted into white American society either. The result was that they suffered higher risks of unemployment, alcoholism and suicide. They could not go back to their ancestral societies, and they were not integrated in the ‘American Way of Life’. They had become rootless.
If you want to subjugate a people, shame the elders and uproot the young, and you will effectively have left them at the mercy of whatever cultural wind blows hardest. A culture with dry roots and no new leaves will wither and die, as the living being that it is.
Going back to my school, we managed to keep it open. It is, in fact, still open.
The people of the village, to my dismay, were inexplicably divided as to the convenience of the school being open. One would think that the village school, built by their parents or grandparents and which they themselves had attended would mean something to them. I certainly thought so.
I was wrong. They believed, on the contrary, that kids were better off in another school so they could learn better, see bigger places, ‘socialise’ ( The word is double coated in sarcasm. It was the excuse given by some of the deserters for their decision.). They wanted their children to talk like city kids and not go around speaking ‘Fala’, the dialect of their parents and grandparents, their mother tongue.
I was seen as something of a eccentric, of which I’m proud. And my speaking the dialect of my mother and her family was questioned. Why would a person who was born and raised in a city be interested in learning a backward, archaic dialect? I was deemed odd, weird.
What they never, to this day (as far as I am aware), understand is that I have always craved that which I sensed was missing from my life, a child of migrant parents: roots and a place to belong. Something that they took for granted and vilified.
I admire many cultures, I believe that they should all exist, insofar as they represent the multitude of expressions of the human soul.
However, appalled and amazed, I wonder at the acculturation taking place before our eyes. Greedy corporations want to make a human puzzle of the world, thinking that since all cultures are worthy, they are all the same. They wish us all equally enslaved for their profit and divided amongst us.
I wish all cultures equally free to take pride in their identity while respecting others. I wish all cultures united in the common defense of their values against the Beast that rips apart countries and lives for their own benefit. I wish cultures to defend their right to be, to exist.
Ultimately, if you deny different cultures their identity, if you force them to succumb to the conventionalities of a uber culture, what you are doing is putting cultural diversity at risk. You are playing God with structures that have been in place for centuries and that have evolved at their own pace and will continue to do so. Cultures tend to mix spontaneously if allowed to do so. When you tamper with the natural progression of things, it is bound to go wrong at some point.
My conclusion is clear. In order to protect cultural diversity, you must allow every culture its space, its voice, its identity. To do otherwise is to do away with the very roots of civilisation.
Acórdome de condo vivía en Eilao, un pueblín asturiano precioso. Acórdome del día que a maestra chamóu aos padres y nos dixo que a nosa escola podría pechase. Tábamos asustaos y preocupaos, y eu particularmente taba rabiada condo ouguín el porqué. Había poucos nenos. A ley española diz que úa escola na zona rural pode tar aberta con cuatro nenos si hay más pra entrar. As razóis pra que houbese tan poucos nenos era que algús padres mandaron a os sous nenos a outra escola nun poblo más grande das cercanías., porque ‘era más grande’. Esos padres tuveron que entos pagar el trasporte y a comida dos sous fiyos por levalos pra ua escola que nunera a que yes tocaba.
Dende esa reunión coa maestra, os padres y ela, y el ayuntamiento fixemos todo el que taba nas nosas maos pra manter aberta a escola. Foise ver as autoridades de educación a Oviedo y eu, xa agoirada, escribín aos periódicos rexionales pra contar a nosa versión y exponer que tabanse dicindo muitas mentiras sobre a calidá da escola, y que en realidá era que había dalgús padres que querían ‘socializar’ aos sous nenos lonxe das caleyas del poblo. A realidá en muitos sitos e que os poblos vense como algo atrasao unde nun se queda naide si val pra outra cousa. Ouguinlo algua vez de más pra poder engañame de que nu lo ouguin.
Vou contarvos el que pasa condo sacas aos nenos del sou entorno, col propósito de daryes ua cultura miyor. Distancianse das suas reices. Ou más excatamente, renegan delas porque atopan nel novo sito cousas novas, engayolanse y dayes vergonza del sou poblín. Desentendense del sou poblo, pro a vez tampouco se yes aceta nel novo llugar. Son ‘de fora’ y toleraseyes, pro nun se yes celebra.
Acordome de ler ua vez fai muitos anos sobre a aculturación dos innuit en Alaska pol gobierno americano. Levaban os nenos a escolas lonxe da casa col pretexto de daryes ua miyor educación que yes fose de más proveto pral sou futuro. Condo volvían, nun eran xa verdaderos innuit pro tampoco eran acetaos pola cultura branca americana. Este experimento levou a esta xente a sofrir más paro, más alcolismo y más suicidios de la media da población. Nun podían volvver as suas culturas ancestrales, y nun podían participar nel ‘Gran Sono Americano’. Quedaronse sin reices.
Se ques someter a un poblo, culpabilliza aos veyos y desrraiga aos novos, y haberáslos deixado a merced dos convencionalismos da culltura que puxe más. Ua cultura coas reices secas y sin follas novas marchitase y morre, como calquer cousa viva.
Volvendo a mía escola, mantivemosla aberta. De feito, sigue aberta a día de hoy. A xente del poblo, pra desanimo meu, taba inexplicablemente dividida col tema da escola. Eu houbera pensao que a escola que fixeran os sou padres y bolos y a que elos mismos foran de pequenos sería más importante pra elos.
Equivoqueinme. Pensaban que os nenos taban miyor en outra escola, que iban aprender más y ‘socializarse’ (A palabra leva doble capa de sarcasmo. Foi a disculpa o esplicación que deron algus dos padres.) Preferían que os sous nenos nun falasen en fala, el dialecto dos sous padres y bolos, que era miyor que falasen como os da ciudá.

A mín vianme como algo excentrica, rara ou cimpre. ¿Cómo ua persona que via de ua ciudá podería querer falar como elos, nun dialecto tan veyo y atrasao?
El que penso que elos nunca entenderon foi que eu sempre topein de falta lo que elos tían y menospreciaban: el ser d’un sito, el pertenecer. As reices.
Eu admiro muitas culturas. Penso que todasd tein sito porque son outras tantas espresiois del ánima humana.
Sin embargo, vexo con preocupàción como ua nova aculturación ta pasando delantre de nos. As grandes corporaciois queren convertir el mundo nun rompecabezas humano. Con esos de que todad as culturas son válidas, queren fernos crer que son iguales, cousa que nun e certa. Querenos a todos esclavizaos pral sou beneficio y dividios entre nos.
Eu quero ver a todas as culturas tanso orgullosas das suas reices a vez que respetan as demás. Eu quero que todas as culturas tenyan unidas na defensa dos sous valores contra a estia que destroza países y vidas por aumentar os sous beneficios. Quero que as culturas defendan el sou dereto de ser, de existir.
Al fin, si negas as culturas a sua identidá, obligaslas a acetar as normas da cultura más fuerte del momento. Tas xugando a ser Dios y poñendo en peligro a diversidá de culturas. As culturas tenden a mezclase col tempo, pro nun podes pretender imponeryes un paso forzao.
A mía conclusión e clara: Pra protexer a diversidá cultural teis que deixar que cada cultura tenya a sua voz, a sua identidá. Fer outra cousa e socavar os fundamentos da civilización.

One thought on “In Praise of Identity, In Praise of Diversity/ Alabanza da Identidá, Alabanza da Diversidá

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  1. I am glad you were able to keep the school open. The message here us holds true. The hidden results of acculturation is hardly scrutinized. Your post highlights the disadvantages. Thanks for sharing.


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