martes, 8 de abril de 2014

Open Letter of a German by Birth and Catalan by Choice

I was born in Germany, daughter and granddaughter of Germans, ten years after the end of World War II. I lived there during the first quarter of a century of my life until I realized that I would not be able to stay on. I did not know what caused the discomfort I had been living with during all those years, but it was evident that I had to take some space in order to put my life into perspective and have a chance to at least aspire to finding a solution.

When I arrived for the first time in Catalonia, I did not even know that Catalan countries and the Catalan language existed. More or less after three days I realized that people were speaking in a different language with each other than what I had been studying in university. While my studies at the Faculty of Applied Linguistic Sciences in Germany lasted, I refrained from speaking Catalan in order to not get mixed up. When I decided that I was going to try my luck in Catalonia, I was moved by love; not by the love for a man –I met my husband twenty years later- but by love for a people, a land, a way of being. Then I did study Catalan in my own way and with a little help from my friends. I gave myself two years to find out if I was going to be able to make a living here.

By now I have been living in Catalonia for thirty four years and I feel Catalan. According to common law I fulfill the conditions for being a Catalan: I love the Catalan land, I live of it and I speak the Catalan language. What’s more: I am proud of it. I feel proud of the way Catalans try to reach an agreement through talking things through, of their will and ability to integrate and their differentiated sense of identity. I appreciate the generosity I was received with. The spirit of determination that kept the Catalan language alive during forty years of dictatorship and made it official again afterwards, resonates with my own. The mental agility of people who speak more than one language, their creativity and capacity to work stimulate these qualities in me.

I have never been able to feel proud of being German. Even though here many people have considered my German-ness as some kind of warranty of quality, for me it has always been a motive for shame. After years of inner work, I have come to identify this shame as part of the discomfort that had been weighing on my childhood and youth. When I accepted my part of the collective guilt the German people have acquired during the so-called “Third Reich”, I found a way to take position in relationship to it in a way that, instead of dragging me down with the weight of the silence of the initial phase of my life, helps me understand human condition in general and in particular my own. The present German attitude in politics once again is a reason to be ashamed, due to the lack of assimilation of the past it reveals.

Unfortunately, the specter of fascist nationalism the opponents to the right of Catalan self-determination warn against is very real. But quite to the contrary of what these people proclaim, it is the shadow of their own unassimilated past they project onto the process of Catalan sovereignty, and it has nothing to do with the real intentions of this nation to distance ourselves from the unsustainable policies of the Spanish state. We have no intention of invading or annexing anybody’s land and much less of exterminating anybody as a scapegoat for what we are denying in our own psyche. Nor is it a question of not wanting to help the weaker. We are supportive by nature, at least the immense majority of Catalan people is. We simple want to distance ourselves from unfair and unsustainable treatment. If we were to not strive to do so, we would become accomplices of the injustice and the unsustainable policies of the Spanish government.

Recently a blind spot in my history got revealed: during WWII, my grandfather was an officer of the guard of the gun powder factory in Düneberg. Under this light, his silence during my childhood walks with him acquired a new dimension. We probably followed the same paths he watched when on service. I never asked him about the dynamited bunkers in the middle of the forest, he never talked about them.  We did as if they weren’t there. But I can still feel a knot in my stomach when I think of them. With the comprehension I reach thanks to my inner work and my profession as a structural integrator, a practitioner of somatic patterns recognition and an archetypal pattern analyst, I understand that the knot in my stomach was a reflection of what my grandfather felt, increased and reinforced by his silence and effort to shut down his awareness of the craziness he participated in and the resulting guilt and shame he was unable to tolerate.

I am German because I was born there, this will never change. I take on the shame inherent in this fact, together with the virtues that come along. Apart from my German passport I would like to have a Catalan one. After thirty four years of contributing to Spanish society, because I belong to Catalonia, undoubtedly I also belong to Spain.

But I cannot vote, because the Spanish force me to give up my German nationality, if I want to become Spanish; and I consider that is not possible. I want to be able to vote in the country where I have lived all my productive life and which I have chosen as my home, Catalonia. More than anything, I want to participate in a binding referendum that allows the Catalan people to decide whether we want to belong to the Spanish state or not, and, if the majority votes that they do, in what form they want to belong.

I want to live in a country that is governed by people who know that life on this planet is one whole, that human beings are part of nature, and that it is our responsibility to protect and take care of it; and who base their policies on respect for these facts. I want to live in a country where it is an essential requirement for gaining access to public office, and to any position of leadership, to do the inner work necessary to get to know the structures and dynamics of one’s own ego consciousness and its shadow, both on a cognitive and sensory level. In itself, this does not warrant anything, but this knowledge is essential for being able to make sure the projections of one’s own shadow will not eclipse the moral and human qualities any leader should embody. I believe that the condition for creating such a government would be more favorable in a small country.
Brigitte Hansmann
Barcelona, Abril 6, 2014
La mateixa carta en català aquí
La misma carta en castellano aquí
Der selbe Brief auf deutsch hier 

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