If you feel that this topic has nothing to do with you, then this article is written especially for you. We, generally, are affected by language oppression as follows: “I’m not concerned with this.”

Written Language, Oral Language, and Their Liberation

Tim Jackins, our RC project partner, recommended that I continue talking about linguistic liberation within our International Communities. The present article is an attempt at summarizing some ideas I have on that subject.

Let us start by remembering four basic points:

  • Linguistic liberation is an essential tool in the effort to eliminate the other oppressions (racism, classism, genocide, sexism, young people’s oppression, and so on). This is because language has been used to hold in place the power and structure of the dominant groups and the privileges of their status quo.
  • Linguistic liberation is a “key tool” for transforming an oppressive situation into a fair one, as it can guarantee the space, time, visibility, protagonism, and voice that have been taken away from the oppressed groups.
  • The more perspectives on the world (on oppressed cultures, for instance) and the more refinements of these perspectives we can gather up and include, the more completely we will find the way to take together toward liberation.
  • Linguistic liberation (like any liberation) will be as vigorous and profound as the amount of thinking and resources we devote to it. So more awareness of language oppression is still needed.

COMMUNICATION AND HUMAN LANGUAGE

Everything that unites us, that gets us closer, that brings us to understand each other, that makes us sense we are united is liberating, is liberation.

Everything that tells us that it is inevitable for us to be divided, dispersed, discriminated against, confronted; to have insurmountable differences; to be classified into distinct tiers is absolutely not inherent to human beings.

We are created connected—unified by a powerful, simple, unbounded sense of mutual equality and with the goal of remaining in communication at all times. It is our nature as human beings to communicate. And we came into this world provided with the characteristics needed for that.

Unless distresses interfere, our communication is clean, useful, beautiful, precise, and pleasant. And we want to communicate again and again—orally, with writing or signing, or by touching each other.

When we communicate correctly, we learn, teach, understand, grow, develop, attract each other, overcome our differences, break limits, undo division, and inevitably fall in love with each other.

In order to guarantee the success of this essential human activity, we created language. It is an example of the beautiful, complex, profound activity of human intelligence.

We all have the capacity to communicate with each other and to end up enriched from that pleasant and logical activity. In a situation without distresses, we have more unity, fortitude, and intelligence after the communication than we had before it. To know about each other and how each of us sees and understands the world, lives in it, feels about it, and deals with it lets us grow and move forward together.

When distresses interfere with the communication, then confusion, estrangement, distrust, criticism, conflicts, and oppression arise among us. The extreme case of this is war.

The more we communicate with each other, and the more pure and logical the communication is, the more firm, dependable, and generalized is the re-emergence. And for human beings, there is nothing like being one of the reasons for a group’s re-emergence.

Because of this, I believe that in the RC Communities we need to take into account, understand, and take care of human language. Depending on the context and the speaker, it takes various forms. In RC we use essentially two: the oral and the written languages.

WRITTEN LANGUAGE

The objective of our RC writing is to inspire the reader’s re-emergence. For the written communication to be re-emergent not only for the writer but also for the reader, we can assure some situations and avoid others.

Next I will present some of my ideas and practices that some Co-Counselors have confirmed are useful. They can be a guide for you to try, if you so desire. You probably also have your own tricks for seeing that writing is re-emergent for everybody.

Before writing

Before I write, I usually remind myself that writing is an important act and that I will be reaching many minds. I like to discharge on that, so I can more easily avoid any distressed attitudes and pseudo-objectives (wanting to be special or amaze people, desiring admiration, diverting attention from a given topic).

I also imagine who will be reading what I write. I remember that I am writing to thousands of people of the RC Communities and addressing people of other cultures, languages, and beliefs—people who have different understandings of their feelings, different conceptions of the world, different experiences, different ideas, different social and ideological expressions, different ways they manage emotions, different schedules, and as much knowledge and certainty about things as I do.

Our writing will more easily reach this broad set of readers if before and while writing, we pay attention to how our customs, beliefs, and modes, styles, puns, proverbs, and other linguistic expressions are not familiar to everybody.

It occurs to me that doing this could be useful before writing anything to our International Communities, especially to the e-mail discussion lists. From now on, I will refer to this as Proposal I.

Next I do as many sessions as I need to on what I want to write, to ensure that it is exactly what I want to write and that this is the suitable time to share it within the Communities.

Later I have at least a couple of sessions to clarify what I want to write and to decide how to write it, the ordering of the ideas, and the extent and depth of the writing.

Deciding in which language to write

It is also always helpful to do more than one session on the language in which I choose to write. These questions have been useful when deciding about this:

  • Why do I want to write in this language?
  • What are the pros and cons, in this moment, of using this language?
  • Is translation available now in our International Communities?

I usually have to write in three different languages, after examining the resources available at the time, so I need to be clear on these three questions.

For written communications within the RC Communities, I believe it would be best if each of us had the option of writing in our own language and then translating the writing, or having it translated, into the language that the majority of Co-Counselors can understand, which nowadays would be English. It is sometimes possible to do this. At other times we cannot gather enough resources.

It would be interesting for non-native English speakers to be able to write in English when they wish to. If they, like me, have not fully mastered English, we would need to guarantee that the text is comprehensible to everybody. Our RC Communities have people who are prepared to edit the English text to make it comprehensible to everyone. We could put together a list of Co-Counselors whose first language is English who are willing to do that. I will refer to this as Proposal II. These persons would maintain a relationship with the writer of the text to ensure that the editing does not modify the writer’s meaning. It would also be important that they use “correct” (easy) English and not unawarely include the things mentioned in Proposal I.

About the length

In our ordinary RC communications (for example, on the RC e-mail discussion lists), I am always grateful when the English writings are no longer than one page. I am able to maintain the effort and take the time to read one page of written text in a language that is not mine. From that point on, I start to have difficulties, especially if the writing does not take into account the considerations in Proposal I.

I always find it useful when a text is preceded by a summary of the ideas the writer wants to communicate. I believe such a summary is appropriate in our Communities. I will refer to this as Proposal III.

In less ordinary writings (for example, in Present Time or the other RC journals), I find myself able to commit to longer texts. My mind is somehow ready for longer readings, knowing that some minds have worked on them with the purpose of making them more readable.

After writing

And of course after hitting the “send” button, I always like to have a session to clean up any shame, contrition, fear of having made a mistake, self-devaluation, or terror of critics, so they won’t get in the way of my next writing activity.

ORAL LANGUAGE

Another tool we have to reaffirm the connections among us is the oral language. In RC, in addition to helping us communicate with each other, it enables discharge. It is also something more than a tool. For me, my language is a space

where I can be myself completely,

where I can live, love, cry, dream, laugh, and rage against injustice,

where I can love myself the way I am,

where I can love and respect those who love me,

where I am in the present,

where I can make myself visible,

where I can be recognized,

where I am one of the group and as essential as the others,

where I am safe and remain intelligent,

where my words come to life,

where my ancestors lived and created ideas about life, the world, and the universe,

where I honor my ancestors for the above,

where I thank my ancestors for having brought me thus far,

where my people and I become real.

My language is my home—a space where life acquires all its meaning. I cannot be fully myself without it. You cannot have me fully without it being somehow present between you and me.

The more of this kind of space we all create for each other, the more quickly and easily we will achieve our common liberation.

Connection

When we are discharging, the words are just one aspect. Another aspect, which makes possible the elegant combination of two brilliant intelligences, is the unlimited connection between two RCers. I define connection as what can eradicate the credibility of distresses, as the revolution that can and needs to happen in the human mind.

This connection always exists within human beings; it is an inherent characteristic of our human nature. Only distresses make us feel that it does not exist or has disappeared. Connection is like the sun. It is always there, whether we can see it or not. We all have the innate aptitude to notice the reality that we are connected and are immersed in thousands of re-emergent paths. 

Turning Linguistic Oppression Around—Practicing Liberation

Connection and linguistic liberation, in my role as a client

I have noticed that when my Co-Counselors feel united with me, they give the best of themselves and I give the best of myself. In other words, we give the best of ourselves in RC activities when we are connected. I believe we should focus all our attention on this fact at the beginning of every session.

When I am client, the most important thing is not that the counselor understand what I am discharging about (even if that is generally helpful). Something more crucial, which can completely determine the outcome of the session, is that I offer access to my mind so that the counselor can come in. It is about consciously using the connection. That is a truly powerful action and is the sharpest weapon against my distresses.

I have observed that linguistic oppression can hinder and even prevent the connection. For this reason, when I am the client, I try to bring the counselor toward the inner process of my mind by doing, among other things, the following:

When the counselor’s language is different from mine, I say a few words, a common sentence, in her language: “So good to see you,” And I perceive the deep meaning of this sentence and in which way it is good for me to see her again. Saying this sentence in her language adds a special power to our connection. I usually spend the first ten to fifteen minutes of the session on this sentence. Then, in the rest of the session, my attention is not as pulled to go to my distresses. It wants to keep swimming in the shiny surface of the ocean of connection, in reality.

Other times, before my or my counselor’s distresses start to make some noise, I gaze for a long time into my counselor’s eyes, or repeat her name again and again, and am conscious of the present moment that we have together.

In one way or another, I make an effort to see that my counselor is a witness to and participant in my process. I let her know that I will use all her presence and that the language difference won’t be an obstacle to the connection we need to establish from the first second we meet.

Language, an instrument to unite us and bring us even closer, in my role as a counselor

When I am counselor, if a client who doesn’t know my language lets me know that she will be there, aware of me, ready and open to have me with her a hundred percent, the session is usually excellent.

This occurs easily when she has taken into account that different languages are involved and that hers is neither the only one nor the most important one, and when she has realised that achieving the entire dimension of the communication depends on both people, not only on the full effort of one. This applies especially when she is from a dominant linguistic group.

If she shows some interest in my language, she is showing interest in my person. When she makes a gesture on the linguistic situation, it makes possible what language oppression presents as impossible—that the two of us can have complete connection—and I never feel confused or lost as a counselor.

Minoritised-dominated languages and internalised inferiority

My language, aside from being a minority one (spoken only by a minority), has been minoritised—deliberately restricted, marginalised, forbidden, and persecuted. This has been done with laws, sociopolitical rules, and sometimes violence. My language has also been isolated; it has lost its relationship with its old language family. This has affected how Basque people think about themselves and their capacity to make relationships with new “neighbours.”

The minoritisation and isolation can show up in my behaviour. I refer to this as internalised inferiority. I can easily—and without external intervention—feel less than the rest of the group, begin speaking in the language of the other person, or move myself from the center to the margin. I can forget my own importance and significance, or fall into the patterned behaviour of “give and give and give.” (This kind of giving is one of the consequences of genocide. As Indigenous people we have a tendency to give out everything, believing that by doing so the white people, or the invaders, will maybe spare our lives or go away and leave us in peace.) Internalised inferiority can be summarised as follows: “I don’t deserve as much as . . . .” This influences our RC project.

Majoritised-dominant languages and internalised superiority

The majoritised dominant languages, which are the ones that surround mine, include the following:

  • The majority languages—the languages with the most speakers in the world
  • The majoritised languages—the languages that are given a higher status, are assumed to be more important than and superior to all the others; more complete, more adequate, more developed
  • The dominant languages—those that have other languages, generally the minoritised ones, under the scope of their power and authority; that force the speakers of the other languages to adjust, submit, and assimilate to them.

Traces of the oppression connected with the majoritised-dominant languages can be found in the people who speak them—mainly due to their living in countries with a capitalist, imperialist way of life that has made their language and culture dominant. I call this internalised superiority. It tends to make these people see as inferior the people who speak the minoritised languages, to make them expect that the speakers of the minoritised languages will adapt to the mode, pace, and style of the majoritised-language speakers and offer them gratitude, admiration, privileges, service, or favors, because they deserve it. This distressed tendency can be summarized as “I need and deserve more, or more than . . . .” This has considerable influence in our RC activities. (For instance, Co-Counseling activities with a significant number of white people are particularly challenging for Indigenous people like me. I usually spend a big part of my session time on not letting this issue keep me from being an active part of the International Community and its activities.)

Facts to remember and make clear

In our International RC Communities, it should always be clear that not speaking English is the natural state of a lot of RCers and in no way represents a lack of capacity or responsibility. Also, in the absence of distresses, everybody would want to know and speak the languages of their fellow humans as much as their own.

Overcoming internalised inferiority and superiority, in an RC session

In an RC session, two minds, in a mutual and equal relationship, can help to free each other from internalised inferiority and superiority.

If I am a client with someone from a majoritised-dominant language, I model making space for the counselor to come into my session, my mind, and my life and submerge herself in my discharge and re-emergence. This is a way to interrupt my internalised inferiority and hold up the power that belongs to me.

If the counselor doesn’t understand my language, it has worked well to provide at the beginning or the end of the session a summary of what I will be or have been working on; to look lovingly, for a long time, into the counselor’s eyes before starting; to say to her words of endearment in my own language; to take her hands in mine and sing her a lullaby.

Because she has been assimilated into the superior or dominant attitude of her culture, she could forget more easily than I that seriously attempting to get closer, past all the limitations, is both of our responsibility.

You, also, will find many ways to do this as you go. Let’s go!

If I am counselor, a client from a majoritised-dominant language can try to be aware that I am over there, with my cultural background. She can ask me how to say some words of my language that have great significance for me, such as, “I love you,” “Your heart and mine,” “Good to see you,” “You and me forever,” “Close by,” “No fear now,” “Forgive me.” Then I can put into the session my full potential in her favour, and she can face her internalised superiority with me on her side.

A common characteristic of internalised superiority is to use language to make noise to cover up the lack of connection, or the fear of the unknown or of strangers, instead of using it to build connection and closeness. When I see this, I ask the client to remain silent and to look at me for five minutes or so. I am sure you will find many ways to deal with this in your practice.

The course of a session is often determined by the indestructible connection that emerges between the two of us after we have both understood that each of us is responsible for getting unlimited closeness between us. The client is no longer working by herself, and the session is very vigorous. Both of us are in the present, and the re-evaluations happen more easily.

And we should not forget that the other oppressions (classism, sexism, racism, and so on) surround the internalised inferiority and superiority and can reinforce or distort them, in ways that depend on the role we have played in these other oppressions.

False expectations

Both counselor and client also need to be aware of the false expectations that can come from language oppression. Below are some that arise in speakers of majoritised and dominant languages, due to internalised superiority:

  • “The person who speaks the minority language, as well as the minoritised one, will understand my language because she has learnt it. So she should take the first step to get closer to me and to ensure that the session is intelligible.”
  • “The person who speaks the minority language, as well as the minoritised one, should learn my language, as it is the one most used internationally. Because almost everything happens in my language, she would benefit from learning it.”
  • “When counselor, the person who speaks the minority language, as well as the minoritised one, has to make the effort to understand me and get close to me in my language and should let me do the session my way, because I know better.”

The following are expectations that stem from internalised inferiority:

  • “I should know her language,” “She does not and will never understand me in my own language.”
  • “This won´t go well,” “We won’t be able to communicate.”
  • “It is useless with her,” “They are all the same,” “She will not see me; she won´t notice anything.”
  • “And all the above are true, in great measure, because of me—because I am ignorant, I am not as much as I should be, and there is nothing I can do about these people.”

Counseling in RC groups

Generally speaking, the above recommendations also apply in support groups and other RC groups. And here are some additional thoughts and observations about counseling in groups:

A client in an RC group may pick a counselor who speaks her language. She may believe that in their speaking the same language she will find connection and a contradiction to her distress. But she is focusing on a small, cognitive portion of the whole communication. A cognitive understanding does not necessarily mean connection.

I have also observed that fear of a stranger and distrust of the strange can lead to someone picking a counselor who is fluent in the same language.

In fact, any counselor can offer, in any situation, the connection, contradiction, and logical and exact perspective that the client needs. Remember that we RCers have done this Co-Counseling exercise thousands of times and have all become experts at it.

Even though it’s important to understand the client’s verbal communication, attitude is the element required for the real revolution—the connection—to happen between the client and the counselor.

At times, instead of making a direct relationship, the counselor or client will use an interpreter as an intermediary. (This happens more often when the client and counselor are of different cultures, languages, or origins.) This doesn’t allow for truly knowing the other person or making a direct connection with her mind. Something will always be missing: the true relationship.

In such a case, I usually encourage the person not to use the interpreter as a bridge or a way to indirectly reach the other person. There is nothing like a direct relationship to provide the most powerful contradiction to the griefs, fears, and frustrations we have accumulated from our other relationships.

 

WE COME FROM THE PAST TO LIVE ROOTED IN THE PRESENT

THE PAST

My people are Indigenous people. Our language is one of the oldest in the world. When I use my language instead of English, people often tell me that I look like another person. I’ve observed something similar many times at workshops. I have done a demonstration with someone who is speaking in her Indigenous language, and the whole Community has had to discharge because they are seeing this person in a new and totally different way because she is functioning in her language of origin instead of in the language that assimilation has forced her to use. These kinds of demonstrations have given a special power to the client. They have put her more in the center of the Community and broadened the awareness of the members of the Community toward her. They have revealed a piece of information that was missing in the Community: that all the pieces of the puzzle are essential for this RC project to move forward.

My suspicion is that the older a language is, the more it reflects the eras preceding the organized oppressions, brutal exploitation of certain groups, and wars caused by hierarchical societies. For example, during my travels I’ve met people who cannot interpret the words “oppression” or “lie” into their native language, because their Indigenous language does not have terms for them. That has made me think.

We have all come from ancient Indigenous cultures and from groups that used Indigenous languages. Over time, oppressive societies developed based on avarice, slavery, and other exploitation, and they tried to destroy or make disappear the non-oppressor, non-invader Indigenous peoples and cultures that had existed before. There is a reason for this: it is easier to manipulate people if they can’t maintain a connection with their own people, culture, language, and land. A plant without roots is weak, has no depth, lives a short life. This is how the system wants us. I often encourage people to research their roots—their culture and language of origin—because it is liberating and empowering.

THE NOW

Some historians estimate that ninety-seven percent of humanity’s time on earth has been spent in wars. And humans have probably spent the remaining three percent rebuilding and recovering from war. The RC relationship, like any other relationship, can only exist in the present, not in the past or the future. Taking into account the wars and other violence that humans have experienced, while also being separated from the discharge process, it is no surprise that human beings nowadays have serious difficulties staying in the present and clearly seeing reality.

If we don’t discharge and re-evaluate, we can end up converting the past into a set of frozen needs and false expectations that we can easily project onto the future. We frequently use the future as an escape from the present, because distresses can be restimulated at any moment and we don’t always have a handy opportunity to discharge. We also escape by doing, producing, consuming, making noise. When we escape like this, it is difficult to establish a connection, because that can only happen in the present.

When I practice linguistic liberation and use the strategies described throughout this article to achieve a connection with my Co-Counselor, I find myself discharging the difficulties I have in staying present in the moment. This has led me to think that our only possibility of being fully what we are and understanding benign reality is in the present.

In my opinion, we human beings created languages for these purposes: to communicate well among ourselves in the present, to be conscious together of the true reality, to share an accurate picture of the past and of the future, and to design together a common present that is re-emergent.

To be present in the moment requires being aware of the oppressions surrounding us, as well as the oppressions we produce, and offering proposals for moving toward a liberating situation. In that sense, I will conclude with a small but efficient proposal. I will refer to it as Proposal IV. [Proposals I, II, and III are in Parts I and II of this article.]

PROPOSAL IV

When I travel to an RC activity with people who do not know my language, I have to be the interpreter. I could be interpreting during the whole trip and arrive at the workshop somewhat tired. Then at the workshop I have to keep interpreting. In these cases I usually suggest that we organise the trip from a liberating point of view. After twenty to thirty minutes, I ask people for one or two minutes of their attention to discharge whatever may have come up for me from having to speak their language non-stop. People are generally not aware of the effort required to speak non-stop for a whole day a language that is not one’s own and that one had to learn. For both them and me, this has been an inspiring exercise of liberation and rapprochement.

I usually organize the exercise from the point of view of linguistic liberation. It can also be done from many other liberation points of view, by making space and time for people who suffer from other oppressions, such as classism, sexism, racism, or young people’s oppression. During non-structured shared RC moments, we can stop for a bit (perhaps every hour?), look at each other, and offer a minute of attention to the person who is in a more difficult situation, so that she can tell us how things are going for her. This will force us to be in the present moment and will keep our relationships updated and directed toward liberation.

To conclude, I have one question for you:

What do you think of these four proposals?

Thank you for your time.

With love,

Xabi Odriozola Ezeiza
International Commonality Reference
Person for Languages and Interpreting
The village of Marieta Larrintzar,
Araba, Basque Country

Translated from Basque to Spanish by Juan Gabriel Urriategi
Translated from Spanish to English by Stéphan Picard
Revised in Spanish and English by Goizalde Galartza

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                        

 

 

 

                                                                                                                         


Last modified: 2017-04-06 16:13:40-07