Thirty Years of Liberation

A Little Historical Perspective on Our Language Evolution

We have completed the 2017 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities, and it is a good time to evaluate our progress in language liberation.

It was certainly the best World Conference I have ever attended. We have come a long way. Each time we are learning more about the different oppressions and how we must restructure our thinking and our organization. We have changed; we are not the same people I knew thirty years ago. And together we have changed our Communities.

When I went to my first World Conference, there was no structure for language liberation or interpreting. Some people received whispered interpreting, but it was not very organized or structured. The white, English environment was dominant, and there was no way to keep up with [move at the same speed of] the conference unless you spoke English. It was suffocating for an Indigenous and non-English-speaking person like me.

I remember all the opportunities for thinking and discharging in the groups at the World and Pre-World Conferences and how I used them to grieve because of the great lack of awareness about different cultures and languages. I never had the chance to think, or even to understand the thoughts of the people who were in the groups with me. I could not follow what Harvey Jackins was saying or the process for approving the Guidelines and goals. I also could not understand the process of self-estimation for the International Reference Person and Alternate International Reference Person. It was totally frustrating and oppressive.

Thanks to the fact that I was continually discharging about being among so many English speakers from the United States, I did not give up. I continued to attend all the Pre-World and World Conferences I could, along with other conferences for International Reference Persons. Finally, in one of them, I said that I could not continue like this and that I was leaving. I was trying to participate in a table that Harvey was leading for International leaders, and I shouted at them, saying that I was tired of trying to understand their language, that they had not made a single effort to understand a word of mine, that it was not fair, and that I was leaving. The silence was total.

At following International conferences there was more movement toward interpreting, but still the language environment was inhospitable for non-English speakers. The worldview on language liberation could be summed up like this: “Well, you are the one who doesn’t speak English, so it’s your problem.”

WHAT WE HAVE UNDERSTOOD, AND WHAT WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND

After my appointment as International Commonality Reference Person for Languages and Interpreting, I racked my brain [tried very hard to think] about how to change the oppressive language situation and create a structure that would allow for the inclusion of all members of the Communities. Since then many people have been working side by side with me to change the monolingualism of RC International events.

These are some of the concepts we have come to understand and that I want to promote in a new way:

1. We will not achieve the complete liberation of the human being if we do not include complete language liberation in each and every one of our Communities. If we do not take care of the real language needs of people who are members of our Communities, we will always be missing a piece of the liberation puzzle. It is absolutely necessary that each person recover, claim, and be able to use RC in her own language.

2. Monolingualism in our Communities is a condition that belongs in the past. The reality of the world has changed. The movement of humans during the last decades makes it almost impossible to find a Community that is monolingual. We must adapt our Communities to this new reality.

It’s okay if you are a monolingual person. You are not the problem. Monolingualism is the situation in which you live. And from where you live you can play a good role in language liberation. You will need to understand that monolingualism has been supported and maintained by the oppressive system, with the goal of reducing the options for human liberation. Thinking that monolingualism is a solution nowadays is a mistake.

The liberating structures we’ve created in RC are no longer liberating if they do not include the language diversity of all the members of the Community. We must move from being monolinguistic Communities to being bilingual, trilingual, or multilingual Communities. We must open our cultural and linguistic borders to all who are entering, if we want to continue growing and stop having structures that are oppressive.

For doing this, we have well-defined RC guidelines (see <www.rc.org/publication/translations/contents> on the RC website) for how to organize interpreting at workshops. They can also be applied to classes and other events. They are guaranteed to work. We have been using them successfully for years in our small multilingual Communities and at many International RC events. They are also continually evolving. I would be happy to help you launch them in your Community.

3. The structure of International events should not be designed solely by English speakers. We must include the thinking of non-English-speaking people, so that the final result embraces their needs and rhythms.

The rhythm of International events is still designed for the people who do not use interpreting. It is an exclusionary and detrimental rhythm for those of us who do not function in English. It does not attend to our intellectual or emotional needs. We need to rethink the “tempos” and “rhythms” of the various activities at International events.

At the 2017 World Conference the organization of interpreting was very good. About three dozen people worked on it. Every day a group of them reviewed the organization of language liberation and connected people from different interpreting teams.

It was better than on previous occasions, yet the pace of activities still excluded us non-English speakers. We could not be involved in the thinking about the Guidelines, goals, and so on, because we were so involved in trying to follow the process of the English-speaking people and interpreting what they were coming up with [having ideas about] and commenting on. Thus the conference lacked the thinking our Community wants and needs from non-English speakers. This is something we need to change, whatever it takes, from now on.

4. The speakers of majority languages will have to give up their position of language dominance. Their lack of awareness of language domination does not favor the creation of spaces for minority languages and results in a great loss of thinking, presence, and fresh new attention from the speakers of non-dominant languages.

This will not change by itself. Nor will it change because we speakers of minority languages claim and occupy the shared space in which we belong. It is no longer enough that we alone organize language-liberation structures for RC events. If the people who speak majority languages do not organize to re-emerge from their culture of domination, we will not be able to move forward together.

The majority languages exist in structures of oppression and domination that prevent non-dominant cultural organizations, such as those of the minority languages, from surviving.

Change is not going to come because people who experience language oppression do the work of raising awareness in those who do not have it—usually people trapped in oppressor roles. This is no longer enough. (The same is true for any oppression.) The people who live in the dominant cultures are the key to the change we need.

In this we can work together. We who are oppressed because of language can point the way back for you from linguistic domination (exclusion) to equitable linguistic cooperation (inclusion) in which the rhythm of everything we do together takes into account primarily the needs of non-English-speaking people.

The situation will be more simple, manageable, solid, and egalitarian for all people when each of us is recovering our own language (see below).

5. Every time we talk about a lost, forgotten, or unused language, we are talking about language oppression suffered by a person, linguistic group, or civilization.

The vast majority of English-speaking or majority-speaking people who have come to my classes, workshops, topic tables, and meetings on this subject have ended up realizing that they have a hidden cultural and linguistic origin. It had left their consciousness, so they wouldn’t have to face the grief and frustration of suppressing and burying parts of their language-cultural heritage—that is to say, of themselves.

This is a reality to face, especially if you have only one language and it is a majority or dominant language. Together with the idea that (if you are white) your identity as a white person is the only identity you have, it maintains the oppressive majority structures we are talking about. Facing it is also a vital part of your re-emergence.

The oppressive system makes us think that the white identity is the only identity many white people have. Thus many white people are not eager to inquire into their past and do not realize that all humans have a rich variety of cultural identities originating from their ancestral lines.

As an anthropologist, it is hard for me to believe that the concept of a “single identity,” geographical or cultural, is correct. I would say that it is yet another oppressive strategy used by capitalism to deceive people, and keep them occupied with looking forward and not noticing their rich and varied cultural and linguistic past.

If you do notice it, it’s important that you start to reclaim it as yours and find your connections with many cultural groups different from those of your country. It is easier for a country to get its people to accept norms and conduct that are oppressive toward other countries if its people do not feel connected to the other people.

Loss of language and cultural heritage is linked to language oppression (facilitated by other oppressions, such as classism, racism, and sexism) and creates distresses that make a person accept the loss. Thus it needs to be confronted, identified, and discharged on. If we don’t do this part of the work, our Communities are destined not to flourish.

This is where I remind you that you are not alone, that I will be there when you need me, that many of us are doing this work, and that we are keeping in mind your intact basic essence: you are a totally good, intelligent, adequate, and capable person.

LOOKING FORWARD

We are going to do all this without losing sight, for even a minute, of the irrefutable fact that reality is benign. Reality and the reality of you are benign in their essence, their content, their expressions, and their rhythm. All is well and responds to a set of intelligent, rational, logical forces that guide our universe and are sometimes beyond the reach of our comprehension. You, like me, are a child of this universe; you are completely fine. If we forget this, we will probably fall into the distresses of misery, urgency, or despair. None of these should guide us.

I am willing to work for the next four years, side by side with whomever it takes, to have the most liberating World Conference we have ever held in RC. The International Reference Person has agreed to work in this direction.

In four years I want to have a World Conference in which we non-English speakers and interpreters will have time to think calmly and in depth. To give a simple example, we will have time to think about what we can offer to our International Reference Person and Alternate International Reference Person during their self-estimations. I, along with many and other non-English speakers, have never been able to contribute my thoughts in that exercise because I have always been busy interpreting everything else that is being said. This has kept the International and Alternate International Reference Persons from having feedback from us non-English speakers, which is a loss for them, since we do not think under the influence of the same cultural patterns.

The next World Conference will reflect what we can achieve in our International Communities working all together on this.

As human beings we have a beautiful past, present, and future. They are in our intelligent minds and hearts and are full of new possibilities. Let’s enjoy it.

Xabi Odriozola

International Commonality Reference Person for Languages and Interpreting

Artatza, Araba, Euskal Herria (Basque Country)

 

(Present Time 190, January 2018)


Last modified: 2018-10-23 22:46:02+00