Basque Digital Shepherds’ Meeting: you are invited, Mr Johnson
I hope you have enough time to read this open invitation letter amidst the storm your libel on the Basque language has caused. I was abroad when it was published and I must confess I am surprised by the great response your story got in English from Basque scholars, translators, bloggers (1), (2), politicians, citizens and many other friends of the Basque people from all over the world who felt really offended by your deceptive text. Obviously you underestimated the ability to of the Basques to respond, the same way you looked down on their language and culture.
Yes, we Basque-speaking people (as many other speakers of minoritized languages and indigenous peoples) have historically suffered the disrespect from those who, being ignorant of ours, think their culture is superior and their language developed enough to express higher intellectual concepts. Since Pierre de Lancre‘s times we’ve had to watch how this kind of ilustrious visitors often scorned our language and culture using terms such as shepherds, rural people, peasants, etc.
I know you came via Madrid and that explains most of the usual biased and misleading ideas reflected on the story you wrote for WSJ. You are not an innocent visitor who meets the Basques for the firts time. You’ve been living in Madrid for years now and I know it was there where you acquired all those prejudices. Unfortunately they were not first invented by you, its something we usually get from Spanish nationalist press (last sample on yesterday’s El Mundo). The use ot the term Inquisition is quite ironic (well, it wasn’t you, right?) when it is indeed something invented by Spanish medieval clergy and many Basque shepherds were burnt alive by that Spanish institution just because they had a different culture, language and traditions.
Well, I will not insist in the lines of reasoning against your statements which have already been replied by many others. Just let me tell you that, despite your intention, we like the idea of being a people of sheepherding tradition, we are proud of it as Basque shepherds have traditionally been aknowledged as hard working people in countries like the USA, Argentina or Australia.
But now I would like to invite you to attend an event on the Basque Internet (sorry, we do not have a Basque aboriginal name for this net but we use it) we are organizing: the Basque Digital Shepherds’ Meeting. Well, we were planning it before your story appeared, but you gave us the inspiration for the headline.
The Basque blogosphere is quite a lively community, it has its own digg, social bookmarking, Youtube, aggregator… And hundreds of active bloggers. We try to reflect this community’s activities on irratia.com, a weekly broadcasted then podcasted live radio show in Basque about new technologies, music and social issues.
On december 5 we will air our #100 podcast-show and we will celebrate this by webcasting a special show live from a theatre stage in Bilbao. There will be a bit of everything besides some interviews on stage: music, theatre sketches, video clips and video greetings from other places… Basque bloggers will gather there as a Beers&Blogs meeting and there will be DJs music until late. It will be like a Sheepherding bloggers meeting, a kind of digital akelarre, if you wish. Well, if you dont attend you’ll never know what it is like.
You’ll meet friendly mandazain, astazain, ahuntzain, artzain, txerrizain… We are Basque human shepherds, not androids, and we still dream of real (not electric) Sheep. We’ll also have a gift for you if you come: an issue of Xamar’s Orhipean book bearing the signatures of all attending Basque bloggers. And if you do not… Well, anyway, we will hand it over to you.