Last year Arthur Bottomley, a former Cabinet Minister accused President Pompidou of being chauvinistic. He asked “What right have the French to be so arrogant as to think that French is the language of Europe? English is the language of the World.” Some Labour politicians are renowned for adopting conservative attitudes, whilst others who deny Imperial nostalgia feel that the decision to enter the Common Market depends solely on financial criteria. For all that Zamenhof did, idealistic internationalism is dying and chauvinism is winning the day.
Zamenhof? Who the fuck was Zamenhof?
A Polish Jew. No he wasn’t gay like Tchaikovsky but I’m sure Mr Bottomley wouldn’t have agreed with him either. Zamenhof thought there ought to be a World Language — one which belonged to no-one yet belonged to everyone a language that all should be able to learn. He gave it no name but people called it Esperanto. And that language is alive today with people speaking it on a wider scale than ever before. A television course shown at peak hours has just finished in Holland and one will start soon in Czechoslovakia; the Japanese opposition would teach it in primary schools and Jill Tweedie mentions that about 16,000,000 are supposed to have learnt it.
The stand taken by homosexuals now has relevance for the Esperanto movement in that the attitude towards homosexuality is undoubtedly changing and the status quo of the future will not be determined by today’s obsolescent so-called morals. Any movement which has its eyes on the future must admit that fact, for if it does not the movement has no future.
In his address to the annual British Esperanto Congress this year the new president Graham Leon-Smith said “The permissive society has entered the Esperanto movement and we should be glad. Let Esperanto be used fully and freely for all purposes and let that include discussion of and about sex.”
And in August edition of The British Esperantist, Dermod Quirke the vice-president of the British Esperanto Association writes. “I know full well that there is not an insufficient number of homosexuals in our ranks; it is necessary only to conquer our reticence and become organised. So I request all homosexual readers that they contact me. Of course social intolerance still stops many brothers and sisters from publicly discarding their masks: I will therefore protect the anonymity of all who reply. In any case, masked or unmasked, now is the the time for us to go out of our closets, to leave our ghetto and to enter the World as proud human beings”.
Such a statement should not be surprising for a movement claiming to be tolerant of other nations and cultures must be tolerant of homosexuality. Because homosexuals are human-beings, and because all human beings have a right to use Esperanto, so the Esperanto movement accepts homosexuals. Homosexuals need not be thankful to Esperantists for a right which should not have to be demanded but at least Esperantists strengthen their cause by showing that they are not intolerant bigots.
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