PhD in Philosophy and Educational Sciences, and former Prosecutor at the Juntas Generales of Alava (representative Assembly) for the PSOE first, and for Unidad Alavesa later, Ernesto Ladrón de Guevara has excelled as one of the most critical and clairvoyant voices against nationalist totalitarianism in the Basque Country.
As part of this ideological and cultural combat work, he has just published with the Riojan seal of Letras Inquietas an essay entitled “The Stolen Names”, in which he dismantles point by point the manipulation, falsified and redesign of Basque toponyms that he has carried out the nationalism over the past four decades.
Why the toponomy is so important?
The toponomy is the living testimony of the peoples’ past. All the names of the peoples, the toponyms have history and an origin, and they are the open book of how these populations were generated. Whimsically modifying these names, that way of naming anthropologically formed human communities over time, is to mutilate the collective memory of these human groups.
What objectives pursue the Basque Institutions in general, and the nationalist and independence movement in particular, with the modification of the toponyms of the Basque Country?
Precisely because of the importance that I consider these toponyms have, the nationalists have managed to form a tailor-made worldview in the minds of citizens, as well as to use the cognitive modification tools characteristic of totalitarian regimes. It is advisable to read books such as The Language in the Third Reich by Victor Klemper, and the Third Reich a New Story, by Michael Burleigh. Both books show the totalitarian paradigm, taking Hitler’s Nazi regime as an example. This latest book shows the consequences of abandoning the democratic sense of things, being tolerant of the totalitarian dominance of each of us’s private lives, by cognitively modifying the mentality of people using a scheduled ignorance and misinformation. The changes of linguistic codes at stroke of axe, eliminating the branches of culture, and the elimination of the references of our past, such as toponyms or names of peoples, are the vehicles of that transformation of the worldview of the peoples with that engineering maintained over time.
In his book he accuses the Basque Government, Provincial Councils, town halls and political parties of having manipulated, falsified and redesigned the names of the Basque geography. How has this process been?
Yes. I accuse and point to the political parties that have ruled hegemonically, cognitively transforming the mindset of the masses and using children to indoctrinate them politically in a subtle and subliminal way. And I stress that it is politically, destroying their humanistic formation and disconnecting them from their historical past, from their cultural heritage; in a program perfectly calculated and designed for this purpose, to form a society of herded people at the mercy of the separatist interests and objectives of nationalism.
That process is a perfectly planned long road whose effects we are already visualizing and checking. Some, 40 years ago, we signaled it, and we announced that the lethal effects of letting nationalism do whatever they wanted in the cultural, educational and propaganda spaces would be a characteristically Gramscian situation, that is, a new hegemony culturally formed by myths, lies and manipulations. And we were told that this was an alarmism of warming minds. Now I understand why the Socialists said that; since they are being proven to be part of the design, which is antisocial, anti-cultural and complicit, when not associated with totalitarian engineering.
What has been the positioning and attitude of the Basque society in the face of this transformation of the Basque toponyms?
The Basque society has behaved as expected. During a long space of time in which the elements of propaganda, the dissolution of every critical element through divergent thinking, and incapacitation for an analysis of reality through cultural elements and anthropological wickers with the breakdown of ties to the past, have led to a Basque society, very paralyzed by the terror of ETA and its aftermath, to be plunged into moral, intellectual and cultural deterioration. Under these conditions, there is nothing to expect from a mass-converted society in the service of the interests of leading territorial chieftains, unable to assume their collective and individual responsibility. Is asking for the impossible. For the Basque society to take sides either at place-names or at all, beyond the guidelines and slogans received, is a wish, but not a reality.
Is it a reversible process?, Is there any way to fight it?
It will only be a reversible process if that mass becomes aware of the serious misbehavior over the past 40 years, allowing those politicians with a corsican patent to make and undo at will without regard to inherited social and cultural reality and common good of the Basque society as a whole. As long as that society doesn’t wake up from its lethargy, there’s no way to reverse the process. We are at this moment in a political hegemony that will prevent it. If that collectivity of people does not become aware of their own entity as people with individual rights and as people responsible for their individual and collective future, this is totally lost.
The way to combat it, in my view, is a task in which I am committing myself to an age when I should be thinking more about enjoying my retirement than in these things; such as reworking the culture that the nationalists have destroyed with the collaboration of useful fools and recovering the threads of connection with the roots of our civilization that are not what the nationalists try to imbue us in a doctrinal and false way, but the one we should have passed down from generation to generation. Just because it’s our obligation. No one with common sense would burn a received inheritance if it is material. Less should be if it is non-material and intangible.