Sunday, October 15, 2006


1. The characteristics of Esperanto have changed over the generations since the days of Zamenhof until today. This is to be expected, since the demographics of every other movement has also changed.

2. The imperceptible changes of decades add up in a century. How does understanding these changes help us to comprehend the significance of those in our present day?

3. In Zamenhof's days (prior to WW I) recruits to Esperanto were university students and professional people who were interested in the pragmatic vision of a usable common language to overcome the barrier of national languages. The "internal idea" was implicit in the recuiting. As the movement appeared well underway, preparations in Europe for WW I increased the old suspicions among nations and borders were closed, a major setback for Esperanto.

4. The period between WW I and WW II saw a demographic change in the Esperanto movement, as the labor union movements spread and grew in power, as did socialism and communism in political theory and philosophy. Most Esperantists of that period were laborers and artisans in Europe's labor unions. World peace and brotherhood were promised by the prevailing political theories of socialism and communism, and Esperantists tended to think that Esperanto should serve those political aims.

5. Brotherhood was elusive and illusory because those philosophies emphasized and exploited class distinctions and class conflicts. Esperantists were no less naive than the politicized public.

6. After WW II, the demographics of the whole world changed. In the U.S., legislation caused university enrollment to soar and and the educational level of society increased. Technologies of all kinds were created and constantly improved.

7. Television shrunk the world and brought pictures of faraway places into homes. Everyone everywhere became more cosmopolitan and better educated. The United Nations created a new internationalism and lanugage barriers became again apparent.

8. Esperanto organizations in general revived and renewed contact with those in other countries, including those were enemies in the war.

9. In the past 50 years, technologies have transformed the world, and changed the demographics of Esperantoland. Esperantists in general now tend to be enthusiastic users of personal computers and the internet. This means the median age of Esperantists probably has become younger than in previous decades. These youthful Esperantists strive to make their Esperanto clubs and the Esperanto movement more attractive to other young people by devising ways to use Esperanto as a source of amusement via word-games, jazz, contemporary and rock music, and videos in Esperanto.

10. Many Esperantists now are not only users of computers but are professional or semi-professional programmers and technicians. They live in the "virtual reality" of the cyberworld as much as, if not more, than in the ordinary reality of non-computer people. They like to deconstruct and re-engineer things whether or not anyone else wants the changes.

11. What do all these observations have to do with the subject of Esperanto recruitment? Simply that if people ever do recruit others to the movement, those recruits will be like themselves, with the same temperaments and interests. The implications of these trends await a more profound analysis than I am capable of.

12. But two trends are clear: (1) A growing emphasis on Esperanto as a subject for intellectual analysis and continual changes, many of which will be ill-advised. (2) a desire to adapt a public relations model to better propagate Esperanto and an emphasis on giving it an entertainment value via technologically advanced media.

13. However, we should remember that Zamenhof did not create Esperanto to be like a fascinating archeological artifact to be studied as an end in itself. He intended people to use Esperanto as a means to an end -- not intellectual stimulation or amusement but simply so that people could and would talk to each other across barriers of national languages.


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