The lyrics tell the story of a young person who feels completely alone, but then goes to an Esperanto congress and feels such friendship and connection to the world that his loneliness leaves him…until he is back in his own nation in his own little room. (131)
Normando, Okrent’s “Esperanto abassador,” here describes to her the meaning of the song “Sola” (Alone) that Kimo and Jean-Marc perform at an Esperanto conference in Havana. I misread the lyrics at first, assuming that the lonely young person in the song feels such connection to the world because of Esperanto that he is able to find “his own nation in his own little room.” When I reread the passage before typing it here, I noticed my error. I guess it is obvious though that “back in his nation” would mean much more to the young person who does not have the benefit of Web-enabled, constant, global communication. “Esperantoland” does not describe an actual land but an identity. Esperantoland worked from its origins for its small community because it could be accessed by anyone anywhere, and it was inclusive (particularly to the cranks). There is not a nation or culture or language that cannot now be accessed by anyone anywhere because of technological revolutions in global communication. Does this mean that localism is now wholly independent of geography? Are our identities constructed more from our physical local environs or from our own nations in our own little rooms? It seems that children spend as much time in their “own” nations as they do in their “real” communities—to which nation do they actually belong?
Okrent describes how during the Enlightenment thinkers saw Universal Language as something that would reveal a deep truth when it was discovered/created. Then as nationalism was privileged on the eve of WWI and became a threat to scattered peoples (like the Jews), language became a unifier—an instant form of community. Although young people will always continue to feel at times “completely alone,” it seems that today, with the technology that enables global communication speeding ahead of a potential universal language, people are more likely to create tools to aid understanding than to create a language itself. One example of such a tool is an app called World Lens that instantly translates foreign-language signs.
Perhaps as it becomes easier through technology to communicate, a language that incorporates popular aspects of different languages will organically emerge. That, or English will take over. Whatever the case, given the ease with which younger and younger people are able to figure out through technology how to understand the world and communicate with one another, it seems unlikely that someone will feel compelled to facilitate connection through the creation of a spoken language.
How will society change as identity-formation in youth depends less on physically localized culture?