Globalisation and linguistic customs houses

Pitol, Sergio
Revista Literatures Núm. 1 i 2 1998

How can we make compatible the right to difference with globalism and intercultural tendencies? The tensions between globalisation and national culture, metropolitan and peripheral areas, collective and individual imaginations are close to home, both for those who express themselves in minority and sometimes besieged languages as well as for those who belong to peripheral worlds.
The unknown for the conquerors was not the other, but rather an imposing geography and nomadism. However, the total destruction of this civilisation once it was subdued is not explained only by cowardice but other factors also: the mistrust, fear, anxiety, hatred and contempt that the other can awaken, different religion, different uses and customs, different language, different skin colour. Visceral intolerance, hatred for what is different, has always characterised the totalitarian mentality, the most abhorrent fruit of which is racism. Whatever the case, indigenous cultures still exist in Mexico. The Indians of Chiapas have not obtained an adequate response to their demands. And yet it was sufficient for them to mobilise to begin to show the way towards a national democratisation.
We are particularly incorporated into the Roman legacy in its permeability to other cultures. For many years, Rome sent its best and brightest to the Athens School, incorporating into its own deities, rebaptising them, the whole Olympian cast. This feature of simultaneity in the diverse is what really interests me about the Latin world. The desire to abolish cultural frontiers appears the very moment that somebody establishes real frontiers, those necessary to the tribe, reasons of State. >From our own number of Hispano-Americans, the influence of Darío, Borges, Neruda, Lezama Lima, Vallejo, Rulfo, Paz and Onetti, to mention only a few, has produced a vast legion of imitators, the majority certainly bad, but the really important point is that this work sets levels of quality that cannot be ignored.
The totalitarian mentality has difficulty in accepting diversity: it is essentially monological, admitting only one voice, that emitted by the master and which the vassals in their servility repeat. The cult of the Nation produces a paralysis of ideas. But recently, this panorama has modified. Present-day globalisers cultivate contempt for the classical tradition and acquiring an education in the humanities; they applaud a thick-skinned literature, a language that comes from nowhere, like that spoken in American programmes and dubbed into Castilian where every national accent has been eradicated.
I defend the freedom to find stimuli in the most diverse cultures, yet am convinced that these approaches can only be fecund where the culture has been slowly forged. Where there is little or no culture, annihilation is inevitable, and all that is created is a desert of vulgarity. I would venture to believe that one is the books one has read, the paintings one has seen, the music one has listened to and also what one has forgotten. One is one´s own childhood, one´s own family, a few friends, some loves and many vexations. One is a sum depleted by infinite subtractions. I would find it ridiculous if somebody sat down at the table in the full awareness of being a Colombian, Catalan or Mexican writer. What really counts is that the true patria is that of his or her language.

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