Posted on 17. Nov, 2015 by in Uncategorized

Today I’d like to talk about finvenkismo, one of the many ideological undercurrents of Esperanto. It doesn’t have a straightforward, single-term English translation, but a quick glance at its roots will give you an idea of what it means. The suffix -ismo is exactly like -ism in English, denoting a movement or school of thought [existentialism, capitalism, etc.]. The first part, fin-, denotes the end of something [fino, end/conclusion; fina, final/concluding]. The second component, venko, means “victory” [from roughly the same Latin root that gives us “vanquish” in English]. Consequently, finvenkismo is the belief in, or pursuit of, the “final victory” of Esperanto. A finvenkisto either expects Esperanto to someday attain its primary goal, or does his/her best to ensure that goal is reached.

What does a “final victory” for Esperanto look like? For starters, it denotes the moment when Esperanto achieves Zamenhof’s original project of being the world’s most widely-spoken second language. (In this regard, finvenkismo has existed about as long as Esperanto has!) Esperanto was designed to become a global second language, after all, so if enough people adopt it as their second language, Esperanto has succeeded. Yet this moment of worldwide acceptance is only half of the project. Remember that Zamenhof has a particular end in mind with Esperanto. He didn’t simply want to install a new way of speaking in the world, but rather, he wanted to facilitate communication in an effort to ensure global peace. Consequently, the other “final victory” of the Esperanto language is when the world no longer sees war, ultranationalism, chauvinism, oppression, or any of the other maladies that plague our era and the many before it – because the widespread adoption of Esperanto has halted them all.

To this end, there’s a definite teleological bent to Esperanto, which places it in interesting company. Marx, for instance, was convinced that history would effectively end once communism spread throughout the world, because history in his model was basically a record of conflict, and the universal equality of a communist society would preclude any future conflict. Christianity posits that an end to global suffering will occur when (or if) Jesus returns to Earth. Finvenkismo occupies much the same territory as these ideologies, envisioning a specific moment that will effectively bring an end to history as we know it.

Since Esperanto doesn’t exist in a vacuum, there have been a few efforts over the years to reign in it, or change its labeling. Some Esperantists are uncomfortable with the term “finvenkismo” itself, since it bears an unfortunate linguistic resemblance to certain concepts from Hitler’s doctrines, like the “final solution” or “endzieg” [ultimate victory]. Given that Esperanto is diametrically opposed to those ideas, some Esperantists would like to distance their terminology from them, proposing that we use the terms “fina sukceso” [final success] or “finsukcesismo” instead. In a similar vein, certain Esperantists dislike the use of the term “victory” in the movement’s name, since it connotes a competitive or combative mindset that stands at odds with the peaceful aims Zamenhof sought.

Merits and Myths Behind Some Esperanto Symbols: The Esperanto Flag

Posted on 30. Oct, 2015 by in Uncategorized

The last of the three symbols I’ll cover in this series is la Esperanto-flago, the Flag of Esperanto. Since it as more or less equally as ubiquitous as the verda stelo, odds are you have seen it before. It is a field of green, with a patch of white in the upper-left corner. The green star of Esperanto is perched in the white region.Flag_of_Esperanto.svg

The flag has been around quite a bit longer than the jubilea simbolo. An early version of the flag was observed as early as 1893, when an Esperanto club from northern France designed a flag for their own use. It resembled the flag we know today, but it had an E over the star. The version you have most likely seen has been around since 1905, when the first Universal Congress of Esperanto approved its use.

I’ve heard that, by no small coincidence, this first meeting took place in the same town the flag came from. I wonder whether that’s why they approved the flag…? It’s a pretty cool design, in any case.

Like the green star, the colors of the flag have some significance ascribed to them. Per Dr. Zamenhof’s color associations, the green that covers most of the flag symbolizes hope. It’s fitting that the flag has so much of it, then – Esperantists are a hopeful bunch! The white section stands for peace, as it does on the flags of numerous other nations. Even the placement of the star means something. There is a reading of the green star that claims it symbolizes the earth, with each of its tines representing a continent. Since the official proportions of the flag declare that the star always be inscribed with enough space to see that the white surrounds the star, the flag always contains the symbol of the world enveloped by the color of peace. The flag, if done up properly, thus represents the possibility of world peace.

For all its merits, some Esperantists dislike the Esperanto-flago. The reason? Flags have a nationalistic – or even militaristic – connotation, which does not really mesh with Esperanto’s objectives. Most flags evolved from old war banners, after all, and aren’t often seen in contexts outside of patriotic festivals or military ornamentation. So it can be a little unsettling to see Esperantists using the same sort of iconography, even if it’s for a peaceful end. This might be one of the reasons the Jubilee Symbol came about – as a replacement for the flag.

Which of the three major Esperanto symbols is your favorite? I have to admit that I’m partial to the plain old verda stelo – mostly because it’s easier to draw than the jubilea simbolo!

Merits and Myths Behind Some Esperanto Symbols: The Jubilee Symbol

Posted on 28. Oct, 2015 by in Uncategorized

Another Esperanto symbol you’ve likely seen in your adventures is the jubilea simbolo, or Jubilee Symbol. It’s an oval-ish shape consisting of six prongs reaching toward one another in pairs, looking like two rounded, mirrored E’s. Some Esperantists who aren’t especially fond of this symbol call it la melono [the melon] in mockery – a comparison that’s rather difficult to un-see once you’ve seen it! I’ve also heard of it being called la ovo [egg] and la rugbea pilko [rugby ball], but I couldn’t tell you whether they have the same spirit behind them as calling the symbol a melon.

384px-Jubilea_simbolo.svgUnlike the verda stelo, Zamenhof had no hand in the making of the jubilea simbolo. It first saw the light of day in 1987, when the World Esperanto Association unveiled it in commemoration of Esperanto’s centennial. Like the green star, its design is taken to signify more than a nifty geometric shape. Those of you familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet might recognize that the right half of the Jubilee Symbol resembles the Cyrillic “Э”. There are two major readings ascribed to the inclusion of a Cyrillic character in the Jubilee Symbol. The first is that it notes how the word “Esperanto” looks in a widely-used, non-Latinate character set (“Эсперанто”), acknowledging the language’s use in cultures outside western Europe. The second has a more specific historical context. Given that the Cold War between the US and the now-defunct Soviet Union endured well into the 1980s, the Jubilee Symbol expressed a hope of global peace. It included both the English E and the Russian Э, joined together as if in embrace, celebrating the universal language and the peaceful mission for which it was invented. The two characters therefore can be said to acknowledge the hemispheric division between East and West, but indicate their coming together in harmony. In this regard, it’s also worth noting that the Jubilee Symbol resembles the earth – a visual reminder of Esperanto’s ultimate goal.

The Jubilee Symbol is green in honor of Dr. Zamenhof’s preferred color, but there are several variants of green that you might see associated with it. Some instances have it in a green like you normally see with the green star, others are a darker hunter green, and some are even pale pea green. I’m afraid I haven’t yet unearthed the reason why… Perhaps one of you readers out there can tell me?

We’ll cover the Esperanto Flag next time. ‘Til then!