The Inner Idea


Copyright Notice

This material is copyright © 1996 by Donald J. Harlow. Hard copies may be made for personal use only. Any user may make one electronic copy for personal use only. All copies must contain this copyright notice, including the date given below. No electronic copy may be located elsewhere for public access. Links to this original copy on the World Wide Web are encouraged. Please respect the conditions of this copyright notice; I simply don't want to have various unofficial (and perhaps not up-to-date) copies floating around elsewhere. Date: 1996.10.25.



          "For us Esperantists, nationality is not 
          absolute.  It means only difference of language, 
          custom, culture, skin color, etc. We look upon 
          ourselves as brothers in one great family, 
          "mankind."  For us this is no theory, it is a 
          feeling. Externally, we are joined by a common 
          language; internally, by a common feeling.  We 
          may love our own nation.  But this love is not 
          such as cannot coexist with love and respect 
          for other nations."

                                            --HASEGAWA Teru
                                              En Cxinio Batalanta

As we saw in the last chapter, Esperanto -- like any other language -- can be used for any purpose its users see fit. Sometimes these purposes may not seem very admirable. Yet this is in complete accord with the entire school of thought that Esperanto, like English or any other tongue, is "only a language," and therefore fit and suitable for any kind of use whatsoever. This philosophy, with respect to Esperanto, was first codified by Louis de Beaufront, who later became one of the creators of Ido.

We have seen in previous chapters how often dialectic has played an important role in the development of Esperanto. Zamenhof's attempt to create a language that was both as simple and versatile as possible, and its brilliant result, was a good example of dialectic in action. So is the ongoing struggle between conservatives and neologists. We shall see several other examples in this chapter. It would hardly be surprising to find that the "norm-oriented" school of thought (1) described above, too, had its dialectical antithesis. In fact, the "value-oriented" school of thought was already in existence when de Beaufront made his observation about Esperanto; it had grown out of the situation in which Esperanto had developed.

While Esperanto may naively be considered as nothing but a high point in the period of enthusiasm for artificial languages that swept Western Europe and, to a lesser extent, North America during the period from the eighteen-seventies up to the beginning of the postwar period,(2) it hasn't been pointed out too often that the invention of Esperanto differed in a fundamental way from that of other constructed languages. Schleyer created Volapük because God told him to make an international language. The French reformists created Ido because they felt that an international language should more accurately reflect the linguistic habits of the most civilized nations. De Wahl created Occidental because he believed that an international language should represent the thought processes of the civilized West. Gode created Interlingua to give the West a "Standard Average European" language. All of these people set out with the end purpose of creating a language.

For Zamenhof, Esperanto was not an end in itself; Esperanto was only a means, and not necessarily the only or most important means, to an end. Zamenhof created Esperanto so people could talk with each other.

Others have noticed this point as well. For example:

Ultimately {Zamenhof's] language was and is more than a proposed solution to the language problem: it is an attempt to confront the spirit of inequality, of intolerance, of hatred that is tearing apart our beautiful world.(3)
Note also Zamenhof's insistence that, if any other language could be shown to be a more likely -- not necessarily better! -- tool for attaining that goal, he would renounce Esperanto in a minute.

From its very beginnings, Esperanto was not an independent linguistic construct, but was linked with a particular ideology -- the belief that a common language was necessary for the attainment of interethnic harmony.

Let me stress the terms necessary and interethnic. A common language, in and of itself, will not suffice to solve the world's problems; those problems can only be solved by people. Each problem will require a different approach. But to solve those problems, people have to be able to work together, not -- invariably! -- at cross purposes. And without a common language, this is simply not possible. So an international language, while perhaps not sufficient to ensure peace and harmony, would seem to be necessary.

Furthermore, people must speak to people; at least under certain circumstances, the irrelevance of national boundaries must be recognized. International is not a good term for Esperanto; again, it was created precisely to overcome the limits imposed by those national boundaries, and today the word has come to mean much the same as intergovernmental, which Esperanto most definitely is not. Interhuman seems too science-fictional a term for a functioning world language. Interethnic seems like a good compromise. Please see my comments in the prologue, however, for my reasons for continuing to use the inappropriate term international.

Zamenhof was not the only early Esperantist to accept, with enthusiasm, the idea that the international language should be linked with a particular non-linguistic ideology or ethic; many of the early Esperantists had grown up in similar environments, and out of those similar experiences grew similar attitudes. These attitudes gradually developed into the concept of the interna ideo, the "inner idea" -- the ethic whose best expression I have seen to date is Teru Hasegawa's quotation at the beginning of this chapter.

Since for Zamenhof it was the ethic, not the language, that was the important point, it is hardly surprising that it was not long before he attempted to formalize this ethic as a complement to the language in what he called a "neutral-human religion," homaranismo. This is an example of the problems involved in translating from one language to another. In purely mechanical terms, homaranismo translates as "humanism"; but the latter term, as originally defined by John Dewey and later redefined by the North American Fundamentalists, bears little intrinsic relationship to the Esperanto word.

Homaranismo's success was neither immediate nor great; even the most idealistic early Esperantists were too intimately linked with their own religions to wish to turn to this new belief, and with the transition of Esperanto to the West, particularly rationalist France, the ascension of the "norm-oriented" school to positions of leadership in the Esperanto movement made the explicit promulgation of Homaranismo effectively impossible. Faced with open opposition from De Beaufront's party, Zamenhof backed down on Homaranismo, preferring not to see the Esperanto movement compromised by a factional religious fight. Nevertheless, many of the basic ideals of homaranismo, detached from any religious implications, worked their way into the interna ideo. There is a small homaranist sub-movement within the Esperanto movement even today.

For those who are interested, Zamenhof defined the core of homaranismo as follows: (a) belief in a deity; and (b) willingness to admit that other dogmas learned at home, no matter how valid, may not be uniquely valid. This latter is a truth recognized by many great thinkers in the past: compare Kipling's lines "There are nine- and-sixty ways/of constructing tribal lays/and every single one of them is right!" But it is also out of place in the monotheistic world of the West and Islam, with its religions that claim absolute monopolies on truth: compare also Isaac Bonewits's offhand comment that "For the monotheist, bigotry is mandatory; for the polytheist, it is merely a delightful option." Zamenhof learned early on that, no matter how much his own ideals were incorporated in both his creations, the one might be an acceptable Trojan horse for them in his milieu, but not the other.

The interna ideo has been, in my opinion, of fundamental importance for the relative success of Esperanto. Whatever the superior points of the language itself -- and anyone who has studied Esperanto in any depth, and compared it with other languages, both ethnic and constructed, has to admit that these are many and great -- people will learn a language only if they think it is to their advantage to do so, no matter how easy it may be. For the first twenty years of the language's existence, its practical value was potential rather than realized; and even today most people, including many who have studied and learned the language, remain unaware of the many uses to which Esperanto can be put. But the ethic, the interna ideo, is always there, from the very start; and the person who feels in his heart the call of this sort of personal internationalism is very likely to come to Esperanto out of his need and desire to be part of the world around him, not out of any practical considerations.

The system works both ways, of course. Today it is common to learn Esperanto for reasons that have nothing to do with the interna ideo. But those who have become involved with Esperanto often find themselves converted. After all, the antithesis of the interna ideo is unthinking nationalism; and after you have been able to experience the rest of the world directly, it is hard to cling to the old prejudices upon which unthinking nationalism is based.

Nobody says, of course, that by learning Esperanto you automatically subscribe to its associated ethic. Esperantists value diversity -- diversity of language, diversity of culture, diversity of beliefs -- and they value freedom of choice as a means of maintaining this diversity. You can set out to learn Esperanto secure in the knowledge that no one is going to hold a gun to your head and snarl "Accept the interna ideo and its associated ideas of supranational brotherhood and justice, or else!" But if you can go very deeply into Esperanto, its history, its literature, its people, without being ensnared, you will be a most unusual person.

* * *

Is it possible for an individual to be bicultural as well as bilingual?

I remember a captain I knew in the Air Force who once confided to me the reason for his distrust of black officers. "I once worked with one, a real nice guy," he told me. "He talked and behaved like an ordinary person. But one time, when we were on a long transoceanic flight, I happened to go to the back of the plane, and I found him dicing with a bunch of black soldiers and talking jive. The rest of it was all a sham."

Perhaps. More likely, from my viewpoint, my colleague had simply encountered an individual who was more or less comfortably bicultural. In the company of the rest of the largely white officer corps, he functioned in a mainly Euro-American culture, for him most likely a learned culture, and spoke the Euro-American version of English; when he was with other blacks who were not bicultural (as most White Americans are also not bicultural), he simply made the necessary transfer to what was most likely his original Black American culture and spoke "Black English." To me, this is the mark of an educated person, not an untrustworthy one. I myself have worked over the years with several such people. They demonstrate a cultural flexibility that most of us, black and white alike, lack.

Esperantists are a bicultural people. This is a thesis proposed by William Auld; but I am willing to adopt it wholeheartedly. I consider myself bicultural; I do not doubt that other Esperantists share this conviction.

We can start with the old Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.(4) There is, I believe, much truth to its fundamental thesis: we are a verbally-oriented species. Skeptics will quote cases such as that of Helen Keller. Admittedly, the human brain is plastic enough to find other means of communication when the verbal fails; but history seems to show that verbal communication is always our first choice.

Since we are a verbal species, our modes of thought are determined, in at least some degree, by the language in which we think. If this is true, then the human being who can think in two languages will actually display two different modes of thought. Since many Esperantists have no trouble thinking in Esperanto, and since presumably they also have no trouble thinking in their own native tongues, they too will display two different modes of thought.

(The thoughtful reader who has carefully perused chapter three may now ask: if this is true, then why should we not support Occidental or Interlingua -- languages which rested their claims of superiority over Esperanto and other projects on the validity of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis -- as the world language? Simply because the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is in fact irrelevant to such claims. "Civilization is Western -- therefore to be civilized one must think in a Western tongue" is perhaps good logic, but based on an invalid premise. There have been, and are, very significant non-Western civilizations and cultures. Furthermore, no one even today knows in what way the form of a language relates to right-thinking -- for that matter, no one can even agree on what right-thinking really is. Hopefully, no one ever will.)

Let's carry our chain of thought a little further. That second mode of thought -- the one associated with Esperanto -- will be shared with other individuals around the world who also think in Esperanto. It will lead, under certain circumstances, to shared modes of behavior which are distinct in some ways from the behavior of non-Esperantists. These shared modes of behavior will "unite" the speakers of Esperanto, distinguishing them even more from those around them, to the point at which the uncharitable observer, who would automatically accept such conduct as "natural" among speakers of an ethnic language, might accuse the Esperantists of "clannishness," "sectarianism," or even "paranoia."

Linked together as they are, and distinguished by their language and behavior from other groups, the Esperantists will go on to create other, less fundamental but still different, modes of behavior unique to their particular group and distinct from other groups. They will, in fact, constitute their own ethnic group, their own culture.

Auld's primary interest is with literature, and it is here, indeed, that one can see this second culture at its most obvious. Kalocsay -- who was known to take Auld to task for his preoccupation with this "Esperanto culture" -- is a very good example of it. His earliest poetry is unabashedly not just in Esperanto but Esperanto-oriented (poems to Zamenhof and Grabowski, poems that use expressions whose secondary meanings would be comprehensible only to an Esperantist, etc.); and even his later poetry, which was far less concerned with matters affecting Esperanto, bore the stamp of his participation in the Esperanto culture.

Within the original literature of Esperanto there is a whole subclass that would have little meaning for anyone unable to recognize that Esperantists have their own unique culture. Two very fine examples of this are the short novel Paülo Pal in Baghy's Verdaj Donkihxotoj,(5) and the recent novel Kiuj Semas Plorante... by Eva Tofalvi and Oldrich Knichal.(6)

Paülo Pal is a novel in which life in the Esperanto culture, and the problems that dominate it, are personified in the hero, who may have been the author himself. Its implications and allusions may be difficult for the outsider to follow. When Paul says: "You're to be envied, because there's peace between your library and your wife," (7) every Esperantist knows what he's talking about, even if they haven't personally experienced this problem personally; whether the non-Esperantist, without some understanding of the Esperanto culture, could follow this is at best doubtful. Even the title, "Green Don-Quixotes," echoes the fact that the book was written by an Esperantist, for Esperantists; and if an outsider wants to find out what eternal truths it contains about the human state, he must learn not only thelanguage but something about the culture as well. "Green" is a word with a special meaning for Esperantists, quite unlike its secondary meanings in English.

Eva Tofalvi and Oldrich Knichal are that typical product of the Esperanto culture: an international husband-wife couple. Tofalvi is Hungarian and Knichal is Czech; they live and work in Budapest. Knichal and Tofalvi's protagonist is not an Esperantist, except in the sense that he speaks the language; quite the opposite, he is a young man of good birth and upbringing who has no moral scruples whatsoever, and so is easily enlisted by the Fascist government of his prewar central European state to infiltrate and destroy the local Esperanto movement -- a job which he does with finesse, never realizing that in doing so he is destroying himself as well. Allusions to matters indigenous to Esperanto culture, such as the structure of the Esperanto movement and events (not all of them ones we can be proud of) in prewar Esperanto history, require some knowledge of Esperanto culture to make sense of them.

As mentioned, this separate culture shows up in the language itself. I've already mentioned the special meaning of the word "green" to Esperantists. Melnikov, among others, has listed dozens of other terms with special meanings that would largely be, without explanation, incomprehensible to the non-Esperantist; but which can be quickly understood, even if only from context, to the person who has become involved in this second culture. (8) One example: "Family circle," which to an English-speaking North American is the name of a magazine, is to an Esperantist a much more encompassing term, a unity formed of all the active Esperantists in the world. Such expressions -- we might safely call them "slang" -- come into and go out of style fairly regularly; for instance, the term "nova sento" (new feeling), taken from the first verse of Zamenhof's La Espero, was in popular use between the wars, but is rarely heard today.

Probably the best example of all this is Louis Beaucaire's Kruko kaj Baniko el Bervalo ("Kruko and Baniko from Bervalo"). (9) Kruko kaj Baniko is a book of jokes of the type one usually expects to find in Playboy -- though in all probability Playboy would have rejected some of them for cause! I would hope that you would by now be aware that you can make dirty jokes in Esperanto just as in any other language. Anyone with the proper -- or improper -- vocabulary can understand most of them. There are, however, a few that are specific to the Esperanto world, and incomprehensible to outsiders. One of these is the very first joke, Pli ol fantazio, taken from the title of a 1930's Esperanto novel, "More than fantasy". Among the various forms of sexual union mentioned in this half-page anecdote are: the belga sonorilo (Belgian bell: Sonorilo is an Esperanto magazine that has been published for many years in Belgium), bulonja kongreso (Boulogne congress: you will remember that the first world Esperanto congress was held in Boulogne-sur-Mer); ataita tiktako (ata-ita tick-tock: this is a reference to a long-time dispute about the proper use of participles in Esperanto); roterdama ueado (untranslatable, but refers to UEA, and its headquarters in Rotterdam); interna ideo (see the title of this chapter). Midzuminado confused even so knowledgeable an expert as Dr. David K. Jordan.

Another example of Beaucaire's genius lay in the titles he gave his jokes. They are taken from Esperanto proverbs, Esperanto novels, Esperanto poems -- in short, half the fun of the book comes from allusions that will totally pass by the reader who has not immersed himself, at least to some extent, in the Esperanto culture. Even the sacrosanct Zamenhof is not spared. A number of titles are taken from his poetry. Those who have looked at his two poems in chapter 9 may recognize joke titles such as Ne batu maltrankvile ("Don't beat nervously," about why the minister suddenly had a heart attack) on page 11, or Ha, kredeble rememoro el la kara infaneco? ("Ah, perhaps a memory from your dear childhood?" about the sexual reminiscences of two centennarians) on page 57.

At this point the interested reader may try to guess for himself /herself just what are the "three colors," what rides on "the wings of a light wind", which animal -- horse, cow or ass -- is most important for the war effort, who Michael Mihok was, and the identity of "the Latin of democracy" (that last should be easy).

Don't feel bad if you can't figure these out. According to a recent survey by E. D. Hirsch, you'd have a hard enough time, as an American, just identifying Tom Jones (either one), any one of the twelve labors of Hercules, or the Mason-Dixon Line. Americans, Hirsch suggests, are a rather acultural bunch. The Soviet Esperantologist Aleksander Melnikov lists about sixty pages of such specifically Esperantist -- as distinct from Esperanto -- expressions and identifications in the work mentioned.

* * *

There does exist a fundamental difference between the Esperantist culture and that of the more traditional, primary cultures. Cultures, like individuals, must grow or die. There are several ways of growing. One is, of course, by changing internally, often through a process of borrowing from neighbor cultures. When a culture develops far enough through this process to undergo a metamorphosis into something relatively new -- in a sense, giving itself a fresh start -- we refer to this as a "Renaissance," a "Rebirth." This is the process that created the high cultures of the Italian city-states after the end of the Middle Ages.

A culture that for some reason has difficulty in borrowing from its neighbors has another option; it can grow physically rather than culturally, "stealing" adherents from those same neighbors. To some extent, this has been the system used by the English-speaking cultures for most of the past century. We excuse this by referring to "the power and desirability of [our] culture," as though no other culture had anything to offer. To me, it seems that there is something fatally flawed in a culture which has trouble borrowing culturally as well as stealing physically.

The attempted extermination of the Celtic cultures of the British Isles and the more successful exterminations of most of the native cultures north of the Rio Grande are examples of this process, as are the semi-successful imposition of British forms in Africaand India and the less successful transplantation of American culture to Japan during the Macarthur period. Skeptics may claim that the treatment of the American Indian was plain old land-grabbing, but there was certainly an element of cultural imperialism there as well; otherwise, why ban such cultural manifestations as Ghost Dancing, which didn't take up much space, and then only temporarily, or insist, under threat of severe sanctions, on the use of English in mission schools? Why force Indian children into Indian schools to indoctrinate them with White culture so that they might starve as White men instead of simply leaving them to starve as Indians? Some specialists -- and at least one recent president -- have claimed that the Indians were too set in their ways, too unable to adapt to changing conditions; but the Indians -- who were represented by dozens or even hundreds of different cultures -- were able to adapt to each other long before the White men came; and the cases of the Sioux (who took to the European horse as a duck takes to water) and the Cherokee (who, like the Japanese but with less luck, tried to adopt what was best of European ways, and paid for their temerity with the Trail of Tears) specifically negate this argument.

The Esperantist culture, like any other, can grow through the first process; it has been doing so for a hundred years now. Since Esperanto is a secondary, rather than a primary, culture, it is not necessary for someone to make a pilgrimage to the Orient to bring back new ideas; he need only go across to the other side of his own consciousness to pick up something useful. The only reason Esperanto has not yet undergone a Re-naissance of its own is that, a hundred years into its life, it is still undergoing its original naissance -- and will probably be doing so for a good many years to come.

But the very foundation stones of the Esperantist culture, the axioms from which the language was created, also demand that it grow through an increase in the number of adherents. Fortunately -- because Esperanto has no cavalry forces to swoop down and enslave the adherents of other cultures, force them into Reservation schools or the like -- it can adopt an adherent without separating him from his own original culture. It can do this because it is a secondary rather than primary culture; an individual can choose to be an Esperantist without abandoning his own cultural heritage.

There are advantages to this in both directions. If the new Esperantist becomes another resource on which the Esperanto culture can draw for its continued growth, the individual who has adopted the Esperanto culture also becomes a resource on which his own native culture can draw in the other direction -- a source of new ideas for his own culture. Not much has been written about this effect, nor have many studies been done, but we do know that it exists. For instance, El Popola Cxinio's editor Li Shi- jun recently pointed out the great cultural contribution Esperanto has made in China, especially in serving as a bridge for the works of Hungarian and other Slavic authors.(10)

* * *

I don't remember anybody analyzing the growth of the Esperantist culture in just this way before, but it is apparent to me that many other Esperantists are at least subconsciously aware of these two different modes of growth -- and are ready to choose up sides in the argument (for Esperantists, the pacaj batalantoj -- peace fighters -- are always ready to argue among themselves!) about which way is the right one to follow.

Traditionally, Esperantist organizations have paid little attention to the borrowing mode of cultural growth; this is so intrinsic to the whole concept of Esperanto that it can go on constantly, unnoticed. The main purpose of such organizations has been physical growth through the traditional process of varbing (11) new Esperantists. This is the primary goal of local Esperanto groups such as the San Francisco Esperanto Regional Organization (SFERO) and the League of East-Bay Esperantists (LOGE), national groups such as ELNA, and UEA. There is some difference; SFERO and LOGE are in the business of selling Esperanto retail, UEA aims at promoting it wholesale in organizations such as the United Nations.

The fundamental difficulty with trying to expand the Esperanto culture in this way is that a certain amount of work is involved in becoming a participant -- and most people simply don't want to work. To become a Christian in medieval times, it was only necessary to be in the wrong / right place when a band of sword-wielding knights came through and herded you and your entire village into a river, a mile downstream from a bishop who was blessing the water so that you might be automatically baptized. But to become an Esperantist you must actually go to the effort of learning the language. Most people would rather avoid the work. Those of us who speak the language know the tremendous lift it can give to your life, the almost sexual pleasure of experiencing the opening of previously closed barriers; but explaining this to the uninitiated is in many ways like trying to explain sex to someone who has never experienced it. And although most of us eventually succeed in experiencing sex, Nature for some inexplicable reason has not seen fit to develop in most human beings an Esperanto-learning drive.

Since the very beginning of Esperanto, one school of thought has insisted that the correct means of expanding Esperanto's culture is through concentration on developing that culture. Kalocsay, as an example, belonged to that school, although, as mentioned above, it is not clear that Kalocsay himself recognized the separate existence of an Esperanto culture as such. He attended few Esperanto congresses, spoke to but rarely participated in local Esperanto group meetings, seldom or never taught an Esperanto class. What he did do was write—and translate—poetry. His contribution to the Esperanto culture, through the process of accretion, was considerable, perhaps unmatched. William Auld's major contributions have also been along this line, even though Auld has also shown himself to be a polemicist for Esperanto par excellence.

While the physical growth school has had its apologist organizations ever since the early part of this century, it was only within the last two decades that such an organization has appeared explicitly for those wishing to concentrate on strictly cutlural development. In Switzerland one group of Esperantists founded the Kultura Centro Esperantista ("Esperantist Cultural Center") in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and during the same period a group of Italian Esperantist poets created the Kooperativo Literatura Foiro ("Literary Fair Cooperative"), around the literary magazine of the same name. These groups, and others like them, have supported cultural development as the most important factor in the ongoing progress of Esperanto.

Again, this is an idea that many Esperantists have taken for granted for an entire century; it dates back at least as far as Antoni Grabowski. Today, the concept has been officialized in the so called Manifesto of Rauma, named after the Finnish town where it was first conceived. The Raumists consider themselves a significant enough subculture -- and rightly so, I believe -- to feel a certain amount of contempt, hopefully good-natured, for the traditional Esperanto organizations. Again, the two groups represent two different sides of an ongoing dialectic whose main result seems to be to strengthen, not weaken, the Esperanto movement. (12)

* * *

If the difference between adherents of physical growth and those of cultural accretion is a difference of goals, among the adherents of physical growth we can also see a division of tactics. In this argument, I shall call the two sides desupristoj and desubistoj. (13) These two words might best be translated respectively as "proponents of a top-down policy" and "proponents of a grass-roots policy." (14)

The difference here is perhaps not so much one of conviction as of opportunity. There is little, for instance, that the League of East-Bay Esperantists can do to convince the governments of the world to promote Esperanto; what it can do is convince a few people in the Berkeley area to learn the language. UEA, on the other hand, with its multinational office staff in Rotterdam and its worldwide membership, is in a poor position to spend all its time and resources trying to convince the good burgers of that city to learn Esperanto; there is a local Esperanto group in Rotterdam for that purpose. What it can do is lobby at UNESCO in Paris and at the UN in New York and elsewhere. Occasionally a well-placed national organization such as the Hungarian Esperanto Association, as it was prior to privatization, (15) can play both sides of the street to good effect, but for the most part an Esperantist organization will be condemned by its very situation to just one role.

If the sphere of activity of a particular organization -- and thus a particular person -- is defined by circumstances, that does not stop that person from coming to the conclusion that his particular activity is the most important in the Esperanto movement; this is a normal human response. As a result we have a breach between the desupristoj and the desubistoj. When Prof. Humphrey Tonkin announced the opening of an UEA office for UN lobbying work in New York City, one young Japanese Esperantist is reported to have asked, bitterly: "Has UEA then given up on the grass-roots approach?" Fortunately, this breach is not impassably deep; there is nothing to prevent particular individuals from playing different roles in several different fields of endeavor, and many do, thus automatically throwing them into both camps.

As with the difference between physical growth proponents and accretists, there is room enough in the modern Esperanto movement for both schools; and, as I have suggested, a particular organization's sphere of activity, and the preferences of its participants, will be determined by circumstances, and not vice versa.

* * *

If we accept the existence of an Esperanto culture -- and I think that I have successfully demonstrated the existence of such a phenomenon -- shall we approve of it as well? The question is, perhaps, irrelevant; whether or not we approve of an objective phenomenon has little effect upon its occurrence.

There are, nevertheless, two points worth mentioning here. The first is that Zamenhof intended Esperanto as a neutral language, available to all people regardless of national or cultural origin. Can a language that has its own culture associated with it be truly neutral?

Probably not. Yet in the usually intended meaning of the word "neutral," Esperanto's culture does not really violate Zamenhof's stricture. As pointed out above, it can be adopted as a second culture -- just as Esperanto is a second language -- without depriving the individual of his original culture; and so it can serve as a common cultural meeting ground for individuals of all national or ethnic cultures.

The second point is the evident danger that Esperanto's culture might take on certain local or regional characteristics, thus depriving it of a good measure of its universality. This has already happened to some degree, for the reason that many of its early practitioners were Europeans. So we find, for instance, that Dr. Umberto Brocatelli of Italy, in a series of articles in Heroldo de Esperanto, felt justified in proposing that the Esperanto movement "leave the rest of the world to English" and concentrate on giving Europe (i.e., the [West] European Economic Community) the advantages of Esperanto -- this despite the fact that in recent decades Esperanto's most notable successes have occurred, not in Western Europe, but in those parts of the world that he suggests "leaving to English." And we also find, for instance, that the late Miyamoto Masao, an Esperantist author from Japan, whose total corpus of work is comparable both qualitatively and quantitatively to those of Kalocsay and Auld, (16) is usually given short shrift in most discussions of Esperanto literature.

This Europocentric cultural bias really exists, far more so than the European linguistic bias often attributed to the language by outsiders not familiar with it. (17) Yet I would not wish to suggest that this trend toward Europocentrism is too far advanced to reverse. Consider these comments not so much a criticism as a cautionary message.

* * *

How can I sum all this up? Let me try it this way:

Zamenhof created Esperanto not as an end in itself (unlike other projects) but as a means to an end. So Esperanto came with a ready-made ethic, the interna ideo. Because Zamenhof's ethic found favor with many people in the Central European environment of his time, many people began to learn the language. By the time they had learned the language well enough to think in it, write in it, coin unique semantic associations in it, the language and ethic had together generated a unique culture in the body of speakers. This culture, like many others, began to expand, partially through borrowing from other cultures and partially through the attraction of adherents. The dialectics developed within this culture between the proponents of different goals and the proponents of different strategies have effectively contributed to the continued growth of the Esperantist culture and the concomitant spread of Esperanto.

You're free to accept or reject this analysis as you see fit. After all, everybody has his own theories; and Esperantists do love diversity. But I like it. It not only explains much about the Esperanto movement; but it promises that nothing short of actual annihilation can stop Esperanto. After all, how do you kill an idea?


Footnotes

(1) The terminology is that used by Peter Forster in The Esperanto Movement (De Gruyter, 1981).
(2) See chapter 3.
(3) Humphrey Tonkin, speech to the 72nd World Esperanto Congress in Warsaw, 26 July 1987, quoted in esperanto, Sep. 1987, p. 156.
(4) See chapter 3.
(5) Baghy Gyula: Verdaj Donkihxotoj. Budapest: Alexander Szalay, 1933.
(6) Tofalvi, Eva, and Knichal, Oldrich: Kiuj Semas Plorante... Rotterdam: UEA, 1983.
(7) P. 173.
(8) See, e.g., Aleksandr Melnikov, "Specifeco de fonaj scioj de la personoj uzantaj Esperanton" ("Specificity of background knowledge in persons using Esperanto"), in Acta Interlinguistica 12, Warsaw: Akademickie Centrum Interlingwistyczne, 1985
(9) Beaucaire, Louis: Kruko kaj Baniko el Bervalo. Copenhagen: TK, 1970.
(10) Review of a discussion on the subject of international culture held at the 1987 World Esperanto Congress, , Sep. 1987, p. 160.
(11) to varb, v.t., < Esp. varbi, to recruit < G werben; see also R. varbovat'. To proselytize, convert, recruit to active participation in a cause. A verb commonly used among English-speaking Esperantists.
(12) For a proponent's view of Raumism, cf. a letter from Dr. Giorgio Silfer, Esperanto U.S.A. 1991(2), p. 7.
(13) For a more polemical approach to this question, cf. also Harlow, Donald J.: "De la supro ... de la subo", Esperanto U.S.A. 1991(1).
(14) William D. O'Ryan suggests that an equally important dialectic is that between proponents of internalization and proponents of externalization. Cf. his "De la ekstero ... de la eno", Esperanto U.S.A. 1991(6).
(15) See chapter 6.
(16) See chapter 9.
(17) See chapter 5.

This document is owned by:
Don Harlow <donh@donh.best.vwh.net>