Lecture at Universidade de Brasília: Aragonese Language

Aragonese Language / Lengua aragonesa

Lecture conducted for the Instituto de Letras of the Universidade de Brasília on May 24, 2021 (in Spanish).

Location and organizers: Universidade de Brasilia (online), in collaboration with MAEC-AECID (Government of Spain).
Date: May 24, 2021.

Are “dangerous” places really dangerous?

When I moved to Manila in 2017, many people in Zaragoza seemed to be worried about me: Why are you going to such a dangerous place? Haven’t you heard about the ‘War on Drugs’? Honestly, I did not care: many of those people only showed jealousy and toxicity during their lives, and their comments would never be positive. On the other hand, I was exhausted of Zaragoza and Spain -I still am-, and I needed to flee as far as possible.

I lived in Manila for three years and I did not experience any violence against me. Just the opposite. And I frequented extremely poor places at any time. I remember two days with my good friend Alejandro Ernesto covering the barangays of HappyLand and Aroma, two of the poorest slums of the city -and I would say of the world-, plenty of garbage where people crammed into tiny shacks. One day, we forgot a cellphone in the motorbike, but we came back after half an hour and the cellphone was still there. And believe me, everybody was looking at us and realizing from the very first moment. The second day, we left the motorbike key inserted. We spent the whole day in the area and when we came back, the motorbike was still there, and an elderly woman came to us: she kept the key for us.

It is two months since I arrived to Rio de Janeiro, and when I moved similar comments were made: be careful, it is not safe, and avoid favelas! Well, I have been a few times to different favelas, and even if they are not as safe as Filipino barryos, they are not as dangerous as it is usually said. I would say they are safer than more touristic spots like Copacabana, Ipanema, or Lapa. People in favelas are poor -not as poor as in the Philippines- but again friendly, and even if they have a parallel cartel government, they follow their laws and they do not want stupid concerns. So, if you are not willing for troubles and you are intelligent enough, you will be safe, or at least, safer than in touristic hotspots.

But why the western perspective focuses so much on violence and poverty? Here I give three reasons: violence is morbidness, poverty is associated to violence, and violence devalues emerging tourist competitors.

(i) Violence is morbidness. Violence, as well as power and sex, attracts attention. And media want to get your steady attention. Then, they will monetize such attention. Violent content is a good strategy to achieve this goal, although it does not limit to slums violence. Any violence is suitable.

(ii) Association between poverty and violence. A self-defending human psychological strategy is to associate the unknown and danger. Middle-class and upper-class people tend to associate poverty, the unknown, with violence, the danger. Western people are mostly middle-class and upper-class people in a global scale, and they fit this thinking, as well as upper-class people in poor countries, who live close to these lowly areas but panicking them. This association between poverty and violence is unjustified.

(iii) Emerging countries are tourist competitors. Tourism benefits western countries more than emerging countries: western population tend to travel to other western countries, while middle and upper-class people in the emerging and poor countries also travel to western countries, the cultural references. However, emerging countries like the Philippines and Brazil offer tourist appeals western countries do not have, and they are increasing their tourist activity in detriment of traditional western tourist countries like France, Spain, or the United States. Promoting a reputation of danger and violence on the former is a means to halt this evolution.

There is no totally safe place or situation in our lives. Even if reduced, there is always a possibility for a problem. Are poor “dangerous” places totally safe? Of course not. Are poor “dangerous” places really dangerous? Not as much as many non-poor places.

Lecture at University of Santo Tomas

Historical, Social, and Geographical Hispanic Place Names in Metro Manila

Lecture conducted for the Department of Modern Languages of the University of Santo Tomas on March 12, 2021 (in English).

Location: University of Santo Tomas (online)
Date: March 12, 2021

Belief and Pluralistic Ignorance. Filosofia Unisinos.


Belief and Pluralistic Ignorance. My last Philosophy article at Filosofia Unisinos. 

Joven-Romero, M.A. (2020). Belief and Pluralistic Ignorance. Filosofia Unisinos, 21(3), 260-267.
Pluralistic ignorance is usually analyzed in terms of social norms. Recently, Bjerring, Hansen and Pedersen describe and define this phenomenon in terms of beliefs, actions and evidence. Here I apply a basic epistemic approach to belief – believers consider their beliefs to be true –, a basic pragmatic approach to belief – beliefs are useful for believers – and a mixed epistemic-pragmatic approach – believers consider their believes to be true and such considerations are useful – to pluralistic ignorance phenomena. For that, I take the definition given by Bjerring, Hansen and Pedersen.

http://revistas.unisinos.br/index.php/filosofia/article/view/fsu.2020.213.03/

Download the whole pdf article here.
 
 

Radio interview at ‘Investigadores por el Mundo’

Or click here for the ivoox site.


[English] Radio interview at Investigadores por el Mundo (Libertad FM), talking about Hispanic Place Names of Manila [November 17, 2020; in Spanish]

[Español] Aparición en el programa de radio Investigadores por el Mundo (Libertad FM), hablando de Toponimia Hispánica de Manila [17 de noviembre de 2020; en español]

[Pilipino] Ang pagganap ng aking Investigadores por el Mundo (Libertad FM), pinag-uusapan ang tungkol sa Hispanic Place Names of Manila [Nobyembre 17, 2020; sa Espanyol]

[Aragonés] Aparición en o programa de radio Investigadores por el Mundo (Libertad FM), fablando de Toponimia Hispánica de Manila [17 de noviembre de 2020; en español]

Coefficient of Joven-Romero: a fair tool to analyze Covid-19 impact.

, being ‘x’ a specific territory.

Abstract: Here I propose a Mathematical Coefficient to easily analyze Covid-19 incidence and evolution in different territories, allowing fair comparisons. The final goal is to provide a tool to avoid biased and unfair information, showing transparent and easy data in Media and Public Administration.


On October 12, 2020, the UK registered 17.232 new Covid-19 cases. The Spanish region of Aragon notified 357 cases (both data were given on October 13, 2020). At first sight, it seems that Aragon is having much better numbers than the UK, but if we take into consideration the total population of each territory -and we should- that is no longer the case. Aragon comprises 1,328,753 people, while the UK comprises 66,796,807 people, so that may explain the initial difference in the number of positive cases. A good measure to take into consideration the total population is to divide the number of positive cases by the total population:Aragon presented slightly worse numbers than the UK on October 12. However, the total population is not the only parameter we may consider if we want to be fair when analyzing and comparing. PCR tests are another hotspot, as some places are testing more than others. It is clear than the more testing in a territory, the more positive cases. Similar, a good measure to take into account the number of PCR tests done is to divide the total number of positives by the number of PCRs done:Aragon is depicting much worse figures. However, with this other measure we forget about the total population.

My proposal gathers these three different parameters: number of positive cases, total population and testing numbers. Coefficient of Joven-Romero is a number between 0 and 1, in which the closer to 0, the better, while the closer to 1, the worse: 0 ≤ CJR(x) ≤ 1. Note that 1 would mean that all the population in a territory have been tested and all of them have got positive Covid-19 results. On October 12, Aragon had a Coefficient of Joven-Romero of 0.0070606316 and the UK had a Coefficient of Joven-Romero of 0.0045051869. That means that Aragon had a 63.80713731% more Covid-19 impact that day (CJR(UK) / CJR(Aragon)). Public Administration and Medical Experts would establish limits and thresholds in this Coefficient of Joven-Romero in order to declare different Covid-19 impact levels, and subsequently, different measures.

Other parameters like the number of casualties or the ICU units occupied by Covid-19 patients may be considered too. However, they are not easy to establish: there are different criteria for ICU, some Covid-19 deceased patients presented other diseases, additional data are difficult to obtain in some territories, the weight these other factors must have in the final formula is debatable, etc.

The purpose of this coefficient is to easily communicate accurate information that allows fair and precise analysis and comparison. Coefficient of Joven-Romero is not addressed to Mathematicians, Statisticians or even Scientists in general, but to Media and Public Administration in order to avoid the spread of biased or unfair data, and to facilitate easy but accurate information transmission on Covid-19. According to this coefficient and this information, different Covid-19 impact levels and subsequent measures might be established.

Notes:

  • I only consider PCR testing as that is currently the only feasible testing method to detect Covid-19.
  • At the beginning, I was willing to exemplify the proposed Coefficient of Joven-Romero with data from the UK and Spain. Unfortunately, Spanish official data are incomplete and unclear, and that made impossible such comparison. Then, I decided to use the Aragonese official data, well collected in the below-stated link.

Sources

https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/ (UK Official Covid-19 Data) [Accessed on October 13]
https://transparencia.aragon.es/COVID19 (Aragon Official Covid-19 Data) [Accessed on October 13]

Reggaeton: much more than a feminist matter

Abstract: Reggaeton is one of the main musical and cultural exponents of the Hispanic contemporary world. Feminist analysis and criticism are common, and the style itself is evolving. Here I defend that Reggaeton is not just a feminist issue, but a class phenomenon.


In the attached clip, Spanish X-Factor judge Eva Perales strongly criticizes Reggaeton music, and more specifically, an amateur couple made of two Hispanic migrant men. Some of the sentences and arguments of Perales are:

(i) Have you ever listened something else apart from Reggaeton?
(ii) Reggaeton damages me as a woman (…) I do not like sexist lyrics (…) Why don’t you talk about women in other way?
(iii) [After mocking] Reggaeton kicks my ass.

The song, sentences and arguments from the Crazy Boys state:

(i) [Song The Maniatic Girl] Look, I fancy the Maniatic Girl (…) I like your body, and you all (…) You make me brutally horn (… ) You are easy, you flirt me and I become crazy, crazy.
(ii) [To Perales] You are abusing the weak.
(iii) Reggaeton is music too.
(iv) You are a racist of the music.

Even when this episode happened in 2008 and it might be intentionally prepared and streamed, similar scenes following same patters have happened during the last decade. In general terms, feminism activists and scholars have analyzed and criticized Reggaeton, and former and new Reggaeton singers have lately adapted (Merlyn 2020, Morales 2020, Villagra 2007). Sexism is highlighted, but Reggaeton is also considered violent and vulgar in comparison with already settled genres. The attached clip perfectly prints Reggaeton hotspots. 

Reggaeton spread during the 90’s in Hispanic America among lower class societies and it tended to print their reality characterized by discrimination, sexism, violence and vulgarity. Upper class Hispanic American societies criticized and ridiculed the new style. Spanish society, richer in average and many times far from Hispanic American contemporary currents, first ignored Reggaeton and then criticized it, similarly to upper class Hispanics. However, the new style has been powerful enough to permeate into the whole Hispanic -and Global- society (Carballo 2007). On the other hand, singers are adapting and blurring its sexism, violence and vulgarity, and sometimes it is used for vindicating feminism and women. Here I remark that there also are geographical, racial and normative aspects, and all of them, together with the feminist issue, rely on a class difference.

Geographical difference

Reggaeton spread in Hispanic American countries. Only after a decade, it was introduced in Spain among criticism. The America-Europe difference towards Reggaeton is still present. Reggaeton in Spain responds to Hispanic migrants and global tendencies more than to linguistic, cultural or historical ties. Economic standards in Spain tend to be higher than in Hispanic American countries, while Hispanic migrants in Spain tend to hold worse positions.

Racial difference

Inside Hispanic American countries, racially speaking Reggaeton is more popular among Hispanics than among Europeans and Caucasians. Links between race and class in Hispanic America are well known and deeply studied, showing a tendency of middle and lower classes being Hispanic mestizo and aborigines, while upper classes maintaining Caucasian features (Domínguez 2018; McCaa, Schwartz & Grubessich 1979). In Spain, Reggaeton is far more popular among Hispanic migrants.

Normative aspect

Reggaeton has been devalued in comparison with mainstream already established genres: the norm. Reggeaton’s sexism, violence and vulgarity, derived from lower class styles and ways of living, is attacked from upper class people and established genres creators. However, as it happened with many other cultural manifestations, Reggaeton -or at least, a soft Reggaeton- is permeating, convincing global spectra and making norm.

Conclusions

Eva Perales and the Crazy Boys discussion was rapidly analyzed from feminism. But it is much more than a feminist matter: it is a woman criticizing sexist singers and styles, but also a Spanish criticizing two Hispanic American migrants, a white manager criticizing two dark-skinned mestizo creators, a rock lover criticizing Latin music, and ultimately, a rich person criticizing two poor people.

The real difference underlying the whole discussion is economic. Poverty and discrimination explain rough sexism among low class people, the refusal to mainstream styles and the emergence of new subversive styles. Upper class people tend to defend the establishment, in this case represented by settled genres. In the Hispanic America context, economic difference is linked to race difference, and the same economic difference partly defines differences between Spain and Hispanic America. Many times, Spanish and upper class people criticize sexism, vulgarity and violence, but they do not focus on the real problem: poverty.


References

Carballo, P. (2007). Reggaeton e identidad masculina. Intercambio, 3 (4), 87-101.

Domínguez, J. I. (2018). Race and ethnicity in Latin America. Routledge.

McCaa, R., Schwartz, S. B., & Grubessich, A. (1979). Race and class in Colonial Latin America: A critique. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 21(3), 421-433.

Merlyn, M. F. (2020). Tell me what you listen to and i will tell you who you are. Representing women in 100 of the more popular reggaeton songs in 2018. Feminismo/s, (35).

Morales, C. D. (2020). Una propuesta para el análisis de los estereotipos femeninos en los videoclips de reggaeton: Caso práctico de los cuatro vídeos más vistos en 2018 en YouTube. Revista Internacional de Cultura Visual, 7(1), 13-26.

TV appearance at ‘Culture Shock’

[English] TV appearance at Culture Shock (UST Tiger TV) talking about my academic activities and my everyday life at University of Santo Tomas (Manila, Philippines) [Second Term, 2020]

[Español] Aparición en el programa de televisión Culture Shock (UST Tiger TV) hablando de mi actividad académica y mi vida diaria en la Universidad de Santo Tomás (Manila, FIlipinas) [Segundo cuatrimestre, 2020]

[Aragonés] Aparición en o programa de televisión Culture Shock (UST Tiger TV) fablando d’a mía actividat academica y a mía vida diaria en a Universidat de Santo Tomás (Manila, Filipinas) [Segundo cuatrimestre, 2020]

[Pilipino] Ang pagganap ng aking Culture Shock (UST Tiger TV). Ipinakita ko ang aking mga akademikong gawain at ang aking pang-araw-araw na buhay sa University of Santo Tomas Manila, Pilipinas) [Pangalawan termino, 2020]

Recent Press Appearances

[English] Recent Press Appearances: Agencia EFE and associated press (May 22: in Spanish), and The Manila Times (May 19: in English).

[Español] Apariciones recientes en prensa: Agencia EFE y medios asociados (22 de mayo: en español), y The Manila Times (19 de mayo: en inglés).


Gómez, S. (2020, May 22). El chabacano se refina para sobrevivir [Press release]. Agencia EFE. Retrieved from https://www.efe.com/efe/america/destacada/el-chabacano-se-refina-para-sobrevivir/20000065-4252700.

LA PRESIÓN DEL INGLÉS Y EL TAGALO

El uso extendido de inglés y tagalo -originario de la isla de Luzón, la mayor de Filipinas, y adoptado como lengua nacional- está menoscabando el uso de las más de 170 lenguas minoritarias del país, «relegadas a las clases populares, gente mayor y al ámbito familiar», explica a Efe el profesor de español en la Universidad Santo Tomás de Manila, Marco Joven-Romero.

«Pero eso distingue en la actualidad al chabacano, que aunque pierda hablantes, sí goza de cierto estatus social. Ya no es vista como una lengua vulgar porque es criolla española, heredada de la elite cultural clásica», explica este estudioso de los hispanismos en las lenguas filipinas.

El chabacano simplifica la conjugación de los verbos, así como la distinción de género y número, algo que la elite cultural española de la colonia veía como una corrupción vulgar y barriobajera de la lengua cervantina, consideración que ahora está cambiando.

VARIANTES CHABACANAS

Joven aclara que el chabacano es en realidad una familia de lenguas con variantes como el zamboangueño o chabacano de Zamboanga, el más hablado, pero también existen el cotabateño de Cotabato o el akbay en Davao -versiones extintas en esas ciudades de Mindanao-.

En la isla de Luzón, las variantes del chabacano son el caviteño (en la ciudad de Cavite), ternateño (en el pueblo de Ternate, provincia de Cavite) y el ermiteño (en Ermita, barrio de Manila), cuyo último hablante murió a principios de los 2000.

«Los lingüistas no se ponen de acuerdo en si los hablantes de las diferentes versiones del chabacano se entienden entre ellos. Mi impresión es que se pueden llegar a entender, pero seguramente están más cómodos hablando otra lengua común», indica Joven.

Se cree la primera variante de chabacano nació en la base naval española de Cavite, cercana a Manila, a principios del siglo XVII, entre los trabajadores traídos de México y otras partes de Filipinas que mezclaron sus idiomas con el español del capataz. Muchos de ellos luego emigraron en Zamboanga para construir la fortaleza.

El caviteño conserva tan solo unos 300 hablantes en los barrios de San Roque y Caridad, el casco antiguo de Cavite, aunque la lengua goza de prestigio e integra la identidad cultural de la ciudad.

Más curioso es el caso del ternateño, chabacano con sabor portugués que mantiene unos 3.000 hablantes en la pequeña localidad de Ternate, donde en 1663 se instalaron nativos y mestizos de las islas Molucas -donde España y Portugal reinaron conjuntamente entre 1580 y 1640- tras ser invadidas por Holanda.

La Corona Española cedió ese territorio al suroeste de Luzón a unas 200 familias de las Molucas que se mantuvieron fieles a España e importaron a Filipinas su particular versión del chabacano que aún sobrevive.

Other sources for the same piece of news:


Mojarro, J. (2020, May 19). Father Peláez and his search for justice [Press release]. The Manila Times. Retrieved from https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/05/19/opinion/columnists/father-pelaez-and-his-search-for-justice/725763/

A few weeks ago, I asked Dr. Marco A. Joven-Romero, a Spanish instructor at the University of Santo Tomas, how many streets in Metro Manila carried the name “Peláez.” He is the right person to ask because he is finishing a doctoral dissertation on the history of the toponymy of the streets of Manila. He pointed out three completely irrelevant and hidden streets in Manila, Parañaque and Quezon City. Apart from that, there is a small primary school bearing his name. Nothing else.

Endangered Languages and Territorial Rights. Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights

Endangered Languages and Territorial Rights: my first entry at the Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights. Springer.

Joven-Romero, M.A. (2020). Endangered Languages and Territorial Rights. Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights. New York: Springer.


Languages are commonly associated to territories as they are traditionally spoken by communities living in specific places. Nevertheless, languages do relate to speakers and not always to territories.This difference is highlighted by globalization, and more specifically by the increase and new possibilities of migrations, the development of Information and Communication Technologies and the global tendency to learn new foreign languages. This new context calls for direct association between languages and speakers in order to preserve the rights of the latter and the languages themselves. Small minority languages are even more affected by globalization and speakers require globally recognized rights and measures according to their new reality.

https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-319-68846-6_332-1

Download the whole pdf entry here

Minority Languages and Territorial Rights. Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights


Minority Languages and Territorial Rights: my first entry at the Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights. Springer.

Joven-Romero, M.A. (2020). Minority Languages and Territorial Rights. Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights. New York: Springer.


Languages are commonly associated to territories as they are traditionally spoken by communities living in specific places. Nevertheless, languages do relate to speakers and not always to territories.This difference is highlighted by globalization, and more specifically by the increase and new possibilities of migrations, the development of Information and Communication Technologies and the global tendency to learn new foreign languages. This new context calls for direct association between languages and speakers in order to preserve the rights of the latter and the languages themselves. Small minority languages are even more affected by globalization and speakers require globally recognized rights and measures according to their new reality.

https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-3-319-68846-6_333-1

Download the whole pdf entry here


 

TV appearance at ‘Charrín Charrán’

Promo ad. Speaking Tagalog and Aragonese:


[English] TV appearance at Charrín Charrán (AragónTV) showing my academic activities and my everyday life in Manila during the Coronavirus crisis, and promo ad in Tagalog and Aragonese [April 26, 2020]

[Español] Aparición en el programa de televisión Charrín Charrán (AragónTV) mostrando mi actividad académica y mi vida diaria en Manila durante la crisis del coronavirus, y anuncio promocional en Tagalo y Aragonés [26 de abril de 2020]

[Aragonés] Aparición en o programa de televisión Charrín Charrán (AragónTV) amostrando a mía actividat academica y a mía vida diaria en Manila mientras a crisi d’o conoravirus, y anuncio promocional en Tagalo y Aragonés [26 d’abril de 2020]

[Pilipino] Ang pagganap ng aking Charrín Charrán (AragónTV). Ipinakita ko ang aking mga akademikong gawain at ang aking pang-araw-araw na buhay sa Maynila sa panahon ng coronavirus, at promo ad sa Tagalog at Aragonese [Abril 26, 2020]

TV appearance at ‘Aragoneses por el Mundo’ Special Coronavirus: Manila

[English] TV appearance at Aragoneses por el Mundo. Special Coronavirus (AragónTV) showing my academic activities and my everyday life in Manila during the Coronavirus crisis [April 25, 2020]

[Español] Aparición en el programa de televisión Aragoneses por el Mundo. Especial Coronavirus (AragónTV) mostrando mi actividad académica y mi vida diaria en Manila durante la crisis del coronavirus [25 de abril de 2020]

[Aragonés] Aparición en o programa de televisión Aragoneses por el Mundo. Especial Coronavirus (AragónTV) amostrando a mía actividat academica y a mía vida diaria en Manila mientras a crisi d’o conoravirus [25 d’abril de 2020]

[Pilipino] Ang pagganap ng aking Aragoneses por el Mundo. Especial Coronavirus (AragónTV). Ipinakita ko ang aking mga akademikong gawain at ang aking pang-araw-araw na buhay sa Maynila sa panahon ng coronavirus [Abril 25, 2020]

You are as special as everyone else. Review of Daniel Bernabé’s “La trampa de la diversidad”

Joven-Romero, M.A. (2020). You are as special as everyone else. [Review of the book La trampa de la diversidad: cómo el liberalismo fragmentó la identidad de la clase trabajadora, by Daniel Bernabé]


Tondol Beach (Pangasinan, The Philippines) is probably the most beautiful beach I have ever been to. Crystal waters, coral sand, palms and a small islet at the end of the landscape. Still virgin with no hotels apart from some humble cottages addressed to the local tourists of the province. A day of 2018 I fled Manila, I arrived there and I found two couples of western foreigners with dreadlocks, the only foreigners apart from myself. While I was having a bath, some poor local children were taking star fish in the shore and were throwing them deep into the water as a matter of game. The foreigners shouted and scolded the children: You are damaging the starfish! A few moments later, the same foreigners were bargaining a meal in a humble local canteen. That meal costed 60 pesos -a bit more than one euro- and they required it to be vegan.  

Some months later, a dumb foreigner was playing and feeding crocodiles with a fishing rod in a crocodile farm, still in the Philippines. He uploaded his stupid video in Facebook and quickly one of his friends replied: That’s not ecofriendly! In her analysis, the friend did not take into account that that crocodile farm fed poor families in the region. Actually, out of the last ten publications of the mentioned friend, two of them were memes or jokes, seven of them were related to ecologism and feminism, and only one of them was related to poverty and inequality associated to Mexican ethnic minorities.

Similarly, ecologists are boycotting diving with whale sharks in Oslob (Cebu, Philippines). But still, in their analysis they do not take into consideration that such activity improved the miserable material conditions of around one thousand people in the area.

January 8, 2020. The #FEMINISM event is taking place in Uptown Mall, Bonifacio Global Center, one of the richest cities in Metro Manila, where there is a luxury you can hardly find in western cities, in contrast to the miserable living conditions of more than half of Manileños. A bunch of young women wearing expensive trendy clothes and hairstyles sing, shout and show the same global feminist mottoes while some local media record the event. Feminist demonstration in March also take place in that city, governed by a counsel of big corporations’ representatives, the same corporations that built the city. At that moment, an anecdote of 2019 while doing some cooperation work in the poor district of Punta came to my mind. There was a young woman with some children and, after a short conversation, we trusted each other. I asked her about feminism, and she admitted having suffered sexism, but in a different way I was expecting. Far from being violent, her husband was lazy, did not work and used his time playing basketball or computer games. He even allowed her to have sexual relations with other men. But she had to work, supply money, do the housework and take care of the children. She confessed that many days she could not sleep. Sexism translated into a material inequality inside a class problem, something mainstream feminism does not pay enough attention.

Being a passionate of multiculturalism and multilingualism, when I came to the Philippines I was excited about the huge diversity of the country, with more than 180 languages. Rapidly I did and I am still doing some linguistic research, as I had previously done with the Aragonese language. But if in the latter case the main parameter to find good informants was the age, in the Philippine case the social class is the parameter to follow: rich people tend to acquire the lingua franca, English, and sometimes they even forget the community language, while poor people preserve it more pure. While researching, another question prompts my mind: Is it really worthy and ethical to work for the preservation of these languages when the real and urgent problem of these people is to improve their material conditions?

Here we arrive to go one of the key ideas printed by Daniel Bernabé in his book “La trampa de la diversidad” [From now on: The Trap of Diversity]. Diversity seems to be a good and even necessary value, especially in contrast to values of systems that try to eliminate it, like fascism. But diversity can be defended and promoted once material conditions are guaranteed for everyone, not before. The same friend who criticized the dumb guy feeding crocodiles with a fishing rod admitted the poverty problem, but she replied: We can and must work on all these causes! Stop thinking about priorities! Life is not about priorities! – I am sorry, but we have limited resources and that makes our lives to be a matter of priorities, and decisions according to these priorities. And our global basic priority must be to guarantee basic material conditions for everybody. Unfortunately, we have reached a point in which people value more their diversities than basic economic conditions for everybody: ecologists take more care about starfish and whale sharks than about poor children, feminists focus in rich women and their gender concerns according to their own economic and social class, same for LGBTI advocates, and multilingualism supporters might defend inequality if that means linguistic preservation.

The trap of diversity does not stop here. It has become so corrupted that it splits society into an infinitum of identities, which may conflict and whose cause is an extended selfishness. A few years ago, a friend’s buddy, a young feminist woman, told my friend in a Facebook discussion: “Revise your privileges”. My friend is a fruit seller that can be perfectly identified with the traditional meaning of working-class member. Even worse: imagine you are a heterosexual, white, omnivore, male and you do not speak any endangered language. Then it seems you must feel both lucky and guilty for being the continuously privileged individual according to this diversity trap. There is no better soil to feed extreme right political options and ideas, as Daniel Bernabé exemplifies at the end of his book. Setting apart personal examples, recent discussions between feminist and LGBTI backers are also good examples.

Furthermore, the irruption of innumerable identities and lifestyles according to sexual, ecological, cultural or aesthetic parameters broadens and creates markets, which are not accessible for everybody. Ecological and vegan products are far more expensive, recently emerged sexual practices and fetishes usually require pricey devices, learning local or global dances or watching trendy TV series require amounts of money not everybody has, as well as taking some Pilates or Bodypump sessions. This markets’ world also influences politics: parties and ideologies are not entities to follow, but just entities the consumer shops according to his moment tendencies. Subsequently, Daniel Bernabé criticizes the use of the trap of diversity neoliberalism: diversity here feeds social and class differences, and it also devalues politics.

David Bernabé points key contemporary social and political issues and he relates them to the trap of diversity. No matter your ideology, it is difficult to be against most of his descriptions. Diversity is a hotspot and at the same time its social handling is challenging. Material conditions are not at the same level but axiomatic, even if the illusory middle-class people do not realize. Social quandary after the Great Recession opens the door to a revision of diversity, a criticism against individualism, a vindication of materialism and universal values, and subsequently, a Marxist analysis and a vindication of socialist solutions. However, if the ideas and the context are appealing and necessary, the way Bernabé argues and gathers his thoughts is disastrous. He continuously jumps from one case to another without linking them together, like if you are listening to your grandpa’s tales. He mixes brilliant paragraphs with unnecessary childish jokes -e.g. references about Clinton’s sexual affairs or Operación Triunfo singers’ quality- and many times he uses logical fallacies or sentences like “It is not the goal of this book … but I shall say …”. Other times, it seems he is just pasting together different parts of previous press articles. In short, while he defends the Modernity project of reaching universal ideals and he criticizes the fuzzy logic of Postmodernity, many times he seems to write a propagandist book addressed to his followers while he could have written a universal piece to be read by anybody, who later on could agree or disagree. He has lost a good opportunity.

But honestly, I do not regret having read Daniel Bernabé’s The Trap of Diversity. Many of its paragraphs -and especially chapter 5 that names the whole book- are brilliant and necessary pieces that make you think for hours about our contemporary circumstances. Even if deficient in form, The Trap of Diversity points to the right and necessary idea: You are as special as everyone else. Bernabé would add: And material conditions are over all. I add: And far from being a trauma, it is liberating.