Basque Digital Shepherds' Meeting: you are invited, Mr Johnson

By | 2007/11/26 #100 iragarkiaDear Mr Keith 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, 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.

Yours sincerelly

Jabi Zabala
Patxi Gaztelumendi

13 thoughts on “Basque Digital Shepherds' Meeting: you are invited, Mr Johnson

  1. ibai

    Bikaina! Ni ere harritu (eta poztu) egin nau artikuluak euskaldunon aldetik eragin duen erantzunak. Zoritxarrez beroan horrelako erantzuna ematen badugu ere, egunerokotasunean huts egiten gara abilak euskaldunok… Noizbait aldatuko ahal da hau!

    Bide batez, zorionak!

  2. Fearful of the inquisitors

    I reproduce below one of the letters to the editor published by the WSJ on this matter. As predicted by Jose, the inquisitors didn’t waste a single second to make their case.

    I am afraid my friends that yours is a lost battle. You cannot remove the effect of decades of totalitarian Basque Nationalism practiced by the Basque Government under the excuse Basques. just as everybody else in Spain who wasn’t a fascist, were oppressed during Franco’s times (is a silly an excuse as they come, apt for the weak minded only).

    You are getting the bad publicity that you deserve, nothing more, nothing less!!!!

    Finally, someone from a prestigious international newspaper covers in detail the tragedy going on in the Basque Country (and in Catalonia), and doesn’t address the problem as an exotic regional fact. I think you’ve been very precise and extremely brave in describing the situation. I have no doubt that you are being flooded by nasty messages from Basque Nationalists who, as inquisitors, take as a sin against God any criticisms made against their regime. However, millions of people, including non-nationalistic Basques or those of Basque descent, such as myself, are extremely thankful to you for your analysis and your courage.

    José Yanguas

  3. Gorka

    Mr. Yanguas, you’re right… What can we do? (we are too small to resist against a big empire like yours). You won the war, we lost, and now we have to bear this situation. Furthermore, we are forced to read these libels where the victims are turned into inquisitors, thats the logic of Spanish nationalist “nonacionalismo”.

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  5. Fearful of the inquisitors

    First I want to clarify that I am not Mr Yanguas. I was just echoing his letter to the the editor. The letter itself is the segment that goes from “Finally, someone…” to the end of my previous posting.

    Inquistor, when you say that you lost the war, I understand that you speak of Guipuzcoa and Vizcaya because both Navarra and Alava sided with the winner. Inconvenient truth that gets buried in the inquisitors’ propaganda, but truth nonetheless.

    Another inconvenient truth: the Spanish civil war wasn’t a war of the rest of Spain against the Basque Country, it was a war of half of Span against another half of Spain. Some Basques sided with the losers and some other Basques sided with the winners. Many Basques who sided with the winners belonged to the economic elite of the Franco regime. Some Basques who sided with the losers suffered prosecution or exile, which is a destiny shared by many non Basques who sided with the losers. Just to put things a little bit in perspective and context. In particular, Navarra, which is a land that includes both Basques and non Basques, sided with Franco and as a result kept is political regime unchanged (last time it was changed was in 1841, some 100 years before the Spanish Civil war took place). Many Navarresse (both of Basque and non Basque origin) belonged to the Opus Dei during the Franco’s years and the Opus Dei members were very prominent in Franco’s bureaucracy.

    Then you had the Basque Nationalists coming to power in the three Basque provinces and started an apartheid vindictive policy against non Basque Nationalists since day one, becoming a sort of Basque Inquisition. After 25 years in power, you get the oppression denounced by the WSJ, echoed by Mr Yanguas and many other like myself who are happy that the reality of the CURRENT Basque country has been portrayed accurately in the international media. And of course, the inquisitors will keep repeating their bunch of lies to justify their actions, but this repeating of lies neither justifies the Inquisition nor makes the oppression disappear.

    Inquisitors: you get what you deserve!!!!!

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  7. Gorka

    >Inquisitors: you get what you deserve!!!!!
    I wish it were true, Mr Torquemada.

  8. Rhys

    Can it be true that the Basqes dream of sheep more often than we Welsh do?

    The ‘akelarret’ in Bilbo sounds interesting.

  9. Unai Gartzia

    Mr. Yanguas, no fucking idea…A! I´m from Nabarre

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