Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

As a magazine about the Iberian culture PortVitoria could not ignore the recent referendum for independence held in Catalonia on Sunday, 1st October 2017, in which only 42% of the eligible voters participated, but resulted in a 90 per cent ‘yes’ vote. The national administration in Madrid has declared it unconstitutional and Spain’s Constitutional Court outlawed the referendum. Our editor and contributor Norman Berdichevsky, a cultural geographer with extensive knowledge and expertise on Iberian history, discusses various angles of the problem in his paper ‘The Catalonian referendum and what lay behind it’.

Could Catalonia’s referendum rekindle similar movements elsewhere which in turn could trigger a war? Lets examine the two opposing arguments. The ‘no’ argument states that most people are against violence and would prefer the stability of a normal life, even if backwards and faulty, to the instability of a war. The ‘yes’ argument states that Catalonia’s secessionist movement could rekindle similar movements around the world; fuelled by nationalism and ethnic claims, the same type that caused the wars of the 20th century.

In the 21st century, many State-nations face the problems of secessionism as well as subcultural affirmation. These two are connected by a crave for identity, which is the ‘dish of the day’ in the battle of ideas of the 21st century. One thinker who has contributed greatly to enlighten the battle of ideas of the 21st century is Thomas Sowell, an American economist and a Senior Fellow of The Hoover Institution at Stanford University, California. Among his many books, Sowell wrote on subcultural affirmation in his book Intellectuals and Society (2009), where he calls attention for the dishonesty of self-serving intellectuals behind the single issue activism of the 21st century. He writes: “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth, When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” We are pleased to offer the review of Sorwell’s book by David Gordon, a senior researcher at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

The compounding effects of the internet and the world’s super-population have brought the world’s ambiguities too close for comfort, making the battle of ideas in the 21st century much more volatile than of previous times. We in the 21st century should reflect upon the 20th century if we are to prevent the current battle of ideas from turning into war. No one depicted better the war of ideas of the 20th century and the mass movements it created than the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955). Ortega had a lifetime interest in capturing reality, and his books are still very relevant in the 21st century. His 1914 book Meditations on Quixote depicts the spirit of Spain itself in the character Sancho Panza. His 1929 book The Revolt of the Masses depicts changes as they were occurring all over Europe, describing the barbarism of lootings, the coerciveness of the mass movements and the homogenization of ideas. Ortega showed that the right to freedom comes with the responsibility to think for ourselves and that there is a relation between thinking and surviving: “We do not live to think, but, on the contrary, we think in order that we may succeed in surviving”. The two essays by Fernando Genovés presented in the current edition of PortVitoria cover the themes of Ortega the thinker and the battle of ideas. They were taken from Genovés 2016 book La riqueza de la libertad, and are offered in their English translation.

December 2017

 

How to reference

Pires-O’Brien, J. Editorial. Is individualism a kind of egoism? PortVitoria, UK, v.16, Jan-Jun, 2018. ISSN 2044-8236.

Biografia

Adília Lopes, pseudônimo literário de pena de Maria José da Silva Viana Fidalgo de Oliveira, nasceu em Lisboa, em 1960. Frequentou a licenciatura em Física, na Universidade de Lisboa, que viria a abandonar quando já estava prestes a completá-la. Em 1983, começa uma nova licenciatura, em Literatura e Linguística Portuguesa e Francesa, na Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa.

Começa a publicar a sua poesia no Anuário de Poetas não Publicados da Assírio & Alvim, em 1984, e no ano seguinte, publica o seu primeiro livro de poesia, Um Jogo Bastante Perigoso, através dessa mesma editora. Além de escrever poesia Lopes é ensaísta e tradutora. Tem colaborado em diversos jornais e revistas, em Portugal e no estrangeiro, com poemas, artigos e poemas traduzidos.

Principais obras publicadas:

Um jogo bastante perigoso (1985). Lisboa, edição da Autora; ed. Ut: Dobra. Poesia reunida de Adília Lopes (2009).

O poeta de Pondichéryn (1986). Lisboa, Frenesi; ed. Ut: Poesia Reunida, Lisboa. Assírio & Alvim, 2009.

A pão e água de Colónia. Seguido de uma Autobiografía Sumária (1987). Lisboa, Frenesi; ed. Ut: Dobra. Poesia reunida de Adília Lopes (2009). Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim.

Florbela Espanca Espanca (1999). Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim.

Obra (2000). Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim.

A Mulher-a-Dias (2002).Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim.

Antologia – Coleção Ás de Colete (2002).

Caras Baratas (2004). Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim.

Manhã (2015). Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim.

Bandolim (2016). Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim.

A Mulher a Dias (2002).Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim.

 

Poesias selecionadas de Adília Lopes em português e espanhol

Arte poética

Escrever um poema

é como apanhar um peixe

com as mãos

nunca pesquei assim um peixe

mas posso falar assim

sei que nem tudo o que vem às mãos

é peixe

o peixe debate-se

tenta escapar-se

escapa-se

eu persisto

luto corpo a corpo

com o peixe

ou morremos os dois

ou nos salvamos os dois

tenho de estar atenta

tenho medo de não chegar ao fim

é uma questão de vida ou de morte

quando chego ao fim

descubro que precisei de apanhar o peixe

para me livrar do peixe

livro-me do peixe com o alívio

que não sei dizer

Adília Lopes, Um Jogo Bastante Perigoso

 

 

Arte poética

Escribir un poema

es como atrapar un pez

con las manos

nunca pesqué así un pez

pero puedo hablar así

sé que no todo lo que viene a las manos

es pez

el pez se debate

intenta escaparse

se escapa

yo persisto

lucho cuerpo a cuerpo

con el pez

o morimos los dos

o nos salvamos los dos

tengo que estar atenta

tengo miedo de no llegar al fin

es una cuestión de vida o muerte

cuando llego al fin

descubro que necesité atrapar al pez

para librarme del pez

me libro del pez con el alivio

de no saber qué decir

© Traducción: Aurelio Asiain

 

Para um vil criminoso

Fizeste-me mil maldades

e uma maldade muito grande

que não se faz

acho que devo ter sido a pessoa

a quem fizeste mais maldades

nem deves ter feito a ninguém

uma maldade tão grande

como a que me fizeste a mim

não sei se tens remorsos

tu dizes que não tem remorsos nenhuns

porque dizes que és um vil criminoso

para mim

eu também sou uma vil criminosa

mas não para ti

desconfio que tens o remorso

de ter alguns remorsos

por me teres feito mil maldades

e uma maldade muito grande

a maldade muito grande está feita

e não se faz

acho que essa maldade muito grande

nos aproximou um do outro

em vez de nos afastar

mas para mim é um drôle de chemin

e para ti também deve ser

mas com um vil criminoso nunca se sabe

Adília Lopes, Um Jogo Bastante Perigoso

 

Para un vil criminal

Me hiciste mil bajezas

y una bajeza muy grande

que no se hace

creo que debo haber sido la persona

a quien le hiciste más bajezas

no debes haberle hecho a nadie

una bajeza tan grande

como la que me hiciste a mí

no sé si tienes remordimientos

tú dices que no tienes ningún remordimiento

porque dices que eres un vil criminal

para mí

yo también soy una vil criminal

pero no para ti

desconfío que tengas remordimiento

de tener algunos remordimientos

por haberme hecho mil bajezas

y una bajeza muy grande

la bajeza muy grande está hecha

y no se hace

creo que esa bajeza muy grande

nos aproximó el uno al otro

en vez de alejarnos

pero para mí es un peculiar recorrido

y para ti también debe serlo

pero con un vil criminal nunca se sabe

 

A propósito de estrelas

Não sei se me interessei pelo rapaz

por ele se interessar por estrelas

se me interessei por estrelas por me interessar

pelo rapaz hoje quando penso no rapaz

penso em estrelas e quando penso em estrelas

penso no rapaz como me parece

que me vou ocupar com as estrelas

até ao fim dos meus dias parece-me que

não vou deixar de me interessar pelo rapaz

até ao fim dos meus dias

nunca saberei se me interesso por estrelas

se me interesso por um rapaz que se interessa

por estrelas já não me lembro

se vi primeiro as estrelas

se vi primeiro o rapaz

se quando vi o rapaz vi as estrelas

Adília Lopes, Um Jogo Bastante Perigoso

 

A propósito de estrellas

No sé si me interesé por el chico

porque se interesaba por las estrellas

si me interesé por las estrellas por interesarme

por el chico hoy cuando pienso en el chico

pienso en las estrellas y cuando pienso en las estrellas

pienso en el chico como me parece

que me voy a ocupar con las estrellas

hasta el fin de mis días

me parece que nunca voy a dejar de interesarme por el chico

hasta el fin de mis días

nunca sabré si me intereso por las estrellas

si me intereso por un chico que se interesa

por las estrellas ya no me acuerdo

si vi primero las estrellas

si vi primero al chico

si cuando vi al chico vi las estrellas.

© Traducción: Verónica Aranda

 

A segunda lei da Termodinâmica

A segunda lei da Termodinâmica

a lei leteia

a seta do tempo

a serpente do Paraíso

a entropia

existe

mas também

o Novo Testamento

e as sete artes

existem

para a contrariar

(desejo, logo sou

e eu não acabo

de ser)

Adília Lopes, Florbela Espanca espanca

 

La segunda ley de la termodinámica

La segunda ley de la termodinámica

la ley letea

la flecha del tiempo

la serpiente del Paraíso

la entropía

existe

pero también

el Nuevo Testamento

y las siete artes

existen

para contrariarla

(deseo, luego soy

y no acabo

de ser)

Louvor do lixo

para a Amra Alirejsovic

(quem não viu Sevilha não viu maravilha)

É preciso desentropiar

a casa

todos os dias

para adiar o Kaos

a poetisa é a mulher-a-dias

arruma o poema

como arruma a casa

que o terramoto ameaça

a entropia de cada dia

nos dai hoje

o pó e o amor

como o poema

são feitos

no dia a dia

o pão come-se

ou deita-se fora

embrulhado

(uma pomba

pode visitar o lixo)

o poema desentropia

o pó deposita-se no poema

o poema cantava o amor

graças ao amor

e ao poema

o puzzle que eu era

resolveu-se

mas é preciso agradecer o pó

o pó que torna o livro

ilegível como o tigre

o amor não se gasta

os livros sim

a mesa cai

à passagem do cão

e o puzzle fica por fazer

no chão

Adília Lopes, A Mulher-a-Dias

  • §§

David Gordon

Resenha do livro Intellectuals and Society (Intelectuais e sociedade) de Thomas Sowell. New York Basic Books, 2009.

O livro Intellectuals and Society de Thomas Sowell é perspicaz, mas é cortado por uma tensão fundamental. Os intelectuais enxergam erradamente o livre mercado como um jogo de somatória zero.

Dentre as consequências da iliteracia econômica da maioria dos intelectuais está a visão de somatória zero da economia… na qual os ganhos de um indivíduo ou de um grupo representam uma perda correspondente para um outro indivíduo ou um outro grupo… A noção vulgarizada, que se coalesce na doutrina de que é preciso ‘tomar partido’ na formulação das políticas públicas ou mesmo na interpretação de decisões judiciais, ignora o fato de que as transações econômicas não continuariam ocorrendo a menos que ambas as partes julgassem que fazer tais transações fosse preferível a não fazer tais transações (pp. 56–57).

Os intelectuais não conseguem compreender um ponto que Ludwig von Mises frisou repetidamente: o mercado é o principal meio pelo qual as pessoas se beneficiam da cooperação social. Mas quem são esses intelectuais que são tão carentes de percepção? Sowell estabelece uma distinção acentuada entre pessoas que produzem bens e serviços e aqueles que lidam apenas com ideias:

No âmago da noção de intelectual, como tal, está o negociante de ideias, mas não a aplicação pessoal de ideias como os engenheiros que aplicam complexos princípios científicos para criar estruturas ou mecanismos físicos. O trabalho de um intelectual começa e termina com ideias, independentemente de quão influentes essas ideias sejam em coisas concretas – nas mãos dos outros. Adam Smith nunca administrou um negócio e Karl Marx nunca administrou um Gulag (p.3).

Porque os intelectuais trabalham com ideias, eles frequentemente superestimam a importância do planejamento consciente. Eles creem que, assim como eles são capazes de idealizar soluções para os seus enigmas intelectuais, também a sociedade deve ser guiada pelo design racional. Essa visão os leva a subestimar o potencial do livre mercado, que se escora na inteligência dispersa de milhões de pessoas, coordenada através de preços. Sowell, com sua característica habilidade de fazer citações pertinentes, cita diversas observações que mostram essa atitude para com o planejamento: “John Dewey, por exemplo, deixou isso claro: ‘Tendo o conhecimento, nós podemos nos aplicar com confiança a um projeto de invenção social e engenharia experimental.’ Mas, a pergunta ignorada é: Quem – se por acaso alguém – possui esse tipo de conhecimento?” (p. 18).

Os intelectuais, então, subestimam o mercado livre, porque a operação deste se choca contra o seu modo característico de pensar. Até aqui tudo bem: entretanto, Sowell também vê muitos intelectuais de uma forma que, em parte, está em desacordo com a visão apresentada. Aqui, o problema com esses intelectuais é que eles rejeitam a ‘visão trágica’, que enxerga os problemas do mundo como sendo no geral intratáveis. Sowell descreve a visão trágica desta maneira:

As ‘soluções’ não são esperadas por aqueles que veem muitas das frustrações e anomalias da vida – a tragédia da condição humana – como sendo devidas a restrições inerentes aos seres humanos, isoladas ou coletivamente, no contexto do mundo físico em que vivem. Na visão trágica, a barbárie está sempre esperando por debaixo das asas, e a civilização é simplesmente ‘uma crosta fina em cima de um vulcão’. Essa visão tem poucas soluções a oferecer e muitas permutas difíceis para refletir (pp. 77-78).

Sowell contrasta essa visão trágica com uma visão da sociedade “em que há muitos ‘problemas’ a serem ‘resolvidos’ aplicando as ideias das elites dos intelectuais moralmente ungidos” (p. 77). Nesse contraste, ele ignora um importante impulso de seu próprio trabalho, e, desse modo, cria a tensão que mencionei anteriormente. Nos comentários recém citados, Sowell divide os intelectuais naqueles que afirmam que as suas ideias podem resolver os problemas do mundo e aqueles que negam tal coisa, afirmando que esses problemas não podem ser resolvidos. Como é que esta proposição pode ser conciliada à sua reivindicação anterior, a de que o mercado livre oferece uma oportunidade para as pessoas agarrarem através da cooperação social, um fato que muitos intelectuais não conseguem entender? Nessa visão, se não impedirmos o mercado livre, não estaremos condenados à tragédia. É claro que adotar essa visão não nos compromete a afirmar que todos os problemas do mundo podem ser resolvidos, mas se o mercado livre possui os benefícios que Sowell lhe atribui, uma vasta seção da realidade encontra-se imune à visão trágica que ele defende.

O melhor de Sowell, e que é deveras muito bom, se dá quando ele lida com o mercado livre. Ele aponta uma falácia nas queixas de muitos críticos do mercado que enfatizam a distribuição desigual da riqueza e da renda na América contemporânea.

Embora essas discussões tenham sido formuladas em termos de pessoas, a evidência empírica citada de fato é sobre o que aconteceu ao longo do tempo às categorias estatísticas – e isso é diretamente oposto ao que tem acontecido ao longo do tempo com seres humanos de carne e osso, a maioria dos quais se desloca de uma categoria para outra ao longo do tempo. (…) Apesar de a renda da categoria estatística do topo –  0,1% dos pagadores de impostos – ter crescido tanto absolutamente quanto relativamente em relação à renda das outras categorias de seres humanos de carne e osso, aqueles indivíduos que estavam inicialmente na primeira categoria viram os seus rendimentos despencar um colossal 50% entre 1996 e 2005. (pp. 37-38).

O hábil emprego da evidência de Sowell surge novamente quando ele confronta outra acusação popular contra o mercado livre. Muitos intelectuais reclamam do controle dos mercados exercidos pelas grandes corporações. Sowell ressalta que essas empresas, longe de restringir as opções disponíveis aos consumidores, expandem as opções abertas a eles. Uma empresa que adquire uma grande parte do mercado faz isso oferecendo produtos a que os consumidores preferem em relação aos de seus concorrentes. Além disso,

… diversas empresas, acusadas de ‘controlar’ a maior parte de seus mercados, não só perderam essa parcela de mercado, mas também faliram dentro de poucos anos depois do seu suposto domínio do mercado. A Smith Corona, por exemplo, vendeu mais da metade das máquinas de escrever e processadores de texto nos Estados Unidos em 1989, mas, apenas seis anos depois, registrou falência, pois a disseminação dos computadores pessoais deslocou [do mercado] as máquinas de escrever e os processadores de texto (pp. 65- 66).

Os intelectuais antimercado geralmente condenam o mercado em termos moralistas. Não é verdade que muitas empresas exploram os pobres? As empresas financeiras especializadas em empréstimos de ‘dia-de-pagamento’ são um excelente exemplo. Ao cobrar juros exorbitantes, essas empresas nefastas não estariam se aproveitando dessas pessoas em circunstâncias desesperadoras? Sowell responde expondo um emprego enganoso das estatísticas.

Aqui, o virtuosismo verbal é frequentemente usado mostrando as taxas de juros em termos de percentagens anuais, quando, de fato, os empréstimos feitos nos bairros de baixa renda para atender a alguma necessidade do momento são geralmente por semanas, ou mesmo dias. As somas de dinheiro emprestado são geralmente de algumas centenas de dólares, emprestado por algumas semanas, com juros de cerca de US$ 15 por cada US$ 100 emprestado. Isso resulta em taxas de juros anuais no patamar das centenas – o tipo de estatísticas que produz alvoroço na mídia e na política (p. 46).

Se a visão trágica não oferece a melhor maneira de se pensar sobre os benefícios do mercado livre, isso de modo algum significa que essa perspectiva seja inútil em outras áreas. Muito pelo contrário, Sowell argumenta de forma eficaz que a política externa tem sido frequentemente prejudicada por esquemas utópicos que ignoram as limitações humanas. O desastre aparece quando os intelectuais percebem que as imensas mudanças trazidas pela guerra lhes dão uma oportunidade de implementar esses esquemas. “John Dewey… via a guerra como constrangedora ‘da tradição individualista’, à qual ele se opôs, e estabelecedora ‘da supremacia da necessidade pública sobre as posses privadas’” (p.207).

Sowell mostra que muitos membros do Movimento Progressista americano, na busca de sua visão utópica, desejaram estender as bênçãos da democracia americana às pessoas ‘atrasadas’ no exterior.

O clássico da Era Progressista, The Promise of American Life, do editor da New Republic, Herbert Croly, argumentou que a maioria dos asiáticos e africanos tinha poucas possibilidades de desenvolver nações democráticas modernas sem a superintendência das democracias ocidentais (p.206).

Sowell é também devidamente cético com a decisão de Woodrow Wilson de envolver os Estados Unidos na Primeira Guerra Mundial. Ele questiona se Wilson não teria desejado entrar na guerra como “uma ocasião conveniente para lançar uma cruzada ideológica internacional… Como muitos outros intelectuais, para Wilson, as ações tomadas sem motivos materiais ficam, de alguma forma, num plano moral superior às ações tomadas para promover os interesses econômicos dos indivíduos ou os interesses territoriais das nações” (p.209).

Diante dessas opiniões, poder-se-ia esperar que Sowell fosse um mordaz crítico do imbróglio do governo Bush, mas tal não demonstra ser o caso. Sowell, como muitos outros, está agarrado às supostas leituras da conferência de Munique de 29 e 30 de setembro de 1938. Num esboço histórico da política britânica da década de 1930, escorada nos discursos de Winston Churchill como fonte primária, ele desencadeia a lição universal de que as nações devem resistir aos ditadores com ambições estrangeiras, para que não nos encontremos numa conflagração mundial. (Esta resenha não é o lugar adequado para discutir a política britânica em relação a Hitler, mas o excelente livro  March 1939: The British Guarantee to Poland de Simon Newman [Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 1976] oferece um relato acadêmico dos motivos e métodos da política britânica que se mostra totalmente em desacordo com a discussão de Sowell.)

A ‘lição’ de Munique promove uma tendência para enxergar cada César local como o próximo Hitler. Sowell não enxerga que a guerra do Iraque é exatamente o tipo de empreendimento imperialista que Herbert Croly tinha em mente. Respondendo aos críticos da recente política de ‘surto’ ao Iraque, Sowell observa: “Num resumo, o general Petraeus foi acusado de mentir… face a evidências crescentes de várias outras fontes de que a invasão aumentou substancialmente a violência no Iraque” (p. 270). Certamente é necessário mais para justificar uma guerra, se houver uma, do que o fato de uma determinada operação ter baixas reduzidas. Entretanto, se Sowell falhou sobre este ponto, no conjunto ele escreveu um excelente livro.

                                                                                                                                               

David Gordon é pesquisador sênior do Ludwig von Mises Institute. Estudou na UCLA (Universidade da Califórnia, Los Angeles), onde obteve o seu PhD em História da Intelectualidade. É autor dos livros Resurrecting Marx: The Analytical Marxists on Exploitation, Freedom, and Justice, The Philosophical Origins of Austrian Economics, An Introduction to Economic Reasoning, e Critics of Marx. É ainda editor de Secession, State, and Liberty e coeditor do livro de H. B. Acton’s Morals of Markets and Other Essays. Também é o editor de The Mises Review, e colaborador de diversos periódicos, como The International Philosophic Quarterly, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, e The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.


Notas

© David Gordon

Publicado primeiramente em: The Independent Review. A Journal of Political Economy (15 (2), Fall 2010.

Tradução: Jo Pires-O’Brien (UK)

Revisão: Dpebora Finamore (BR)

 Referência

SOWELL, THOMAS. Intellectuals and Society (Intelectuais e sociedade). New York Basic Books, 2009. Resenha de GORDON, DAVID. Intelectuais e sociedade. PortVitoria, UK, v.16, Jan-Jun, 2018. ISSN 20448236, https://portvitoria.com

Kingsley L. Dennis

O celebrado pensador Edward de Bono apontou, que “Se todos estão indo numa mesma direção, qualquer um que esteja indo numa direção diferente está ‘errado’. A outra direção pode ser melhor – mas ainda assim está errada.”

Assim é a poderosa força de atração do conformismo social. As pessoas não se sentem confiantes em dizer e fazer o que pensam ser certo, se os outros a seu redor estão todos expressando uma opinião contrária. Isso se deve ao fato de que a atração do conformismo social, seja ela consciente ou inconsciente, é demasiadamente forte. O perigo aqui é que, em ambientes desse tipo, uma pessoa fica muito mais propensa a entregar a sua responsabilidade pessoal do que a agir por si mesma. Um grupo é, no geral, mais propenso a exibir falta de responsabilidade por parte de seus membros, pois cada pessoa pensa que a responsabilidade geral pode ser compartilhada. Como não há nenhuma inculpação individual a ser contabilizada, uma pessoa tende a renunciar à sua própria responsabilidade. O resultado disso é que cada pessoa dá suporte à inércia da outra. Desse modo, a inação torna-se, de fato, a norma aceitável dentro do grupo. Essa inércia é posteriormente reforçada e validada, muitas vezes através da renúncia do indivíduo a seus valores, já que muito já foi investido no grupo.

Estar errado pode causar muita ansiedade a um indivíduo; portanto, o melhor é racionalizar as ações de alguém como estando corretas. Esse ‘medo da responsabilidade’ é um produto da socialização que torna um indivíduo menos capaz de lidar fluidamente com as incertezas e as complexidades inerentes da vida plena. O resultado é a tendência de as pessoas a preferirem se submergir dentro da ‘massa’; em outras palavras, ser uma parte silenciosa do comportamento coletivo da multidão. E é exatamente esse tipo de comportamento que tem sido repetidamente aproveitado pelos ditadores e pelos ‘líderes’ espertalhões como uma forma de ganhar autoridade e legitimação.

A obediência às figuras de autoridade[i] é uma característica que há muito tempo foi condicionada no indivíduo desde a mais tenra idade. Uma criança é exposta primeiramente aos seus pais, depois aos professores de sua escola; depois a servidores públicos uniformizados; e finalmente, aos seus chefes. Um indivíduo é assim treinado a operar, e responder corretamente, dentro da hierarquia estabelecida no sistema social. Isso cria a ‘crença’ de que uma pessoa nunca é totalmente livre no seu comportamento; as pessoas estão, quase sempre, sob a autoridade de alguém acima delas que influencia eventos. Paradoxalmente, muitas pessoas insistem consigo mesmas que têm liberdade pessoal, e, ainda assim, demonstram ter medo de exibir ‘demasiada’ liberdade. Já é sabido que as pessoas que mais se conformam são as mais propensas a ter menos tolerância à incerteza e à ambiguidade.

A conformidade social inculca a sensação de segurança: o pertencer é um paraíso seguro onde a pessoa se sente protegida. Mas, tais sensações – de conforto e desconforto – são frequentemente programações socialmente condicionadas desde o nascimento. Portanto, muito do nosso ‘comportamento humano’ é derivado das influências que nos moldaram. Entretanto, o que muitas vezes não é considerado é o grau em que essas forças sociais são deliberadamente construídas com o objetivo de moldar e governar uma massa coletiva. Através de uma gama de instituições sociais, são estabelecidos ‘sistemas de conhecimento’ específicos, os quais, frequentemente servem para suprir uma gama de estímulos suaves e consensuais. A ‘realidade’ da situação é que nós somos sutilmente coagidos a subscrever a sistemas de imitação por meio dos quais somos treinados a memorizar informações as quais nos são passadas como conhecimento. Essas informações são, então, reforçadas por instituições autoritárias (tais como a ciência e os ‘especialismos’), fazendo com que pareçam verdadeiras.

Os diversos métodos empregados para nos moldar incluem o modo como os Estados empregam a ‘realidade da verdade’ através do lançamento de estatísticas aparentemente apuradas que descrevem situações plausíveis. Essa é a tática do ‘perito de avental branco’. Para que tal informação seja eficaz, ela não pode se desviar muito da verdade; em outras palavras, ela deve ter a aparência de realidade. As estatísticas acerca de comércio, emprego, e finanças são exemplos disso. Quais membros do grande público têm o conhecimento e/ou os recursos para checar e confirmar tais estatísticas? Quem é que se preocupa de fato com isso? As pessoas que sabem são, em geral, as que têm algum interesse encoberto na manutenção da ilusão, como os negociantes e os financistas. E, uma vez que uma afirmação falsa (ou ‘adulterada’) é disseminada e aceita pelo público, ela se estabelece de forma difícil de ser desconstruída ou invalidada.

A liberdade de pensamento ‘permitida’ dentro da sociedade é, em geral, uma expressão de livre pensamento dentro de um sistema pré-descrito: ela não denota uma liberdade do tipo externo ao sistema. Os exemplos incluem uma gama sem fim de clichês, como, por exemplo, os do mundo do rock, que inspiram os rebeldes excitáveis a maluquices tais como a de destruir quartos de hotéis e jogar aparelhos de televisão pela janela. Todos esses clichês são posteriormente amalgamados em textos de publicidade pelo setor de relações públicas do rock corporativo. Em essência, tais ‘rebeldes’ são tolerados, e até mesmo encorajados, porque as suas maluquices vendem discos. As rebeldias desse tipo são, portanto, um outro tipo de contribuição a uma sociedade consumista, muito embora sob um prisma diferente.

Por outro lado, sistemas de pensar alternativos são frequentemente rotulados como subversivos e acabam sujeitos a atos humanos de modificação e/ou rejeição. Dessa forma, modelos físicos, mentais, e padrões emocionais específicos são arraigados, reforçados, e modulados pelas instituições humanas. As estandardizações têm sido exploradas como sendo a chave para se ordenar uma sociedade de população numerosa. Entretanto, esse mesmo método de consciência consensual e de padrões de pensar controlados são uma anátema à necessidade natural do pensamento consciente evolutivo. Além disso, tal acondicionamento, passo a passo voltado a arrebanhar as pessoas num ambiente social cada vez mais controlado, devido à sua natureza intrínseca, serve para debilitar os agentes de mudança social.

Os agentes sociais de mudança são aquelas pessoas de cada sociedade que não têm medo de escapulir das normas do condicionamento social e que aprendem a pensar por si próprias – muitas vezes, contra a força de atração das massas, indo no caminho errado e na direção ‘certa’. Mais do que nunca, nos encontramos em demanda do indivíduo acordado, cujos pensamento e comportamento conscientes possam, concriando a melhor saída do pântano que nos rodeia, iluminar o caminho que segue certo na direção ‘errada’.


Kingsley L. Dennis, PhD, é sociólogo, pesquisador, e escritor. É autor de Dawn of the Akashic Age (O amanhecer da era Akashic, em coautoria com Ervin Laszlo, 2013); Breaking the Spell (Quebrando o encanto; 2013); New Revolutions for a Small Planet (Novas revoluções para um pequeno planeta; 2012); The Struggle for Your Mind: Conscious Evolution & The Battle to Control How We Think (A luta pela sua mente: a evolução da consciência & a batalha para controlar como nós pensamos; 2012); e New Consciousness for a New World (Nova consciência para um novo mundo; 2011). Ele é também coeditor de The New Science & Spirituality Reader (Nova ciência & leitor de espiritualidade; 2012). É co-autor, com John Urry, de After the Car (Depois do carro; editora Polity, 2009), que examina as sociedades pós-pico de petróleo e a mobilidade. Visite-o em: http://www.kingsleydennis.com/.

Notas

© 2012, Kinglesy L. Dennis, todos os direitos são reservados. Republicada com permissão.

Tradução: Jo Pires-O’Brien (UK)

Revisão: Débora Finamore (BR)

 Referência

DENNIS, KINGSLEY L. Indo no caminho certo na direção errada. A arte de pensar por nós mesmos. PortVitoria, UK, v.16, Jan-Jun, 2018. ISSN 20448236, https://portvitoria.com/ https://portvitoria.com
 

[i] Vejam-se os famosos experimentos de Stanley Milgram em ‘Obedience to Authority’ (Obediência à autoridade).

Fernando R. Genovés

The work of José Ortega y Gasset is a delight that perhaps the Spanish people do not fully appreciate. Here is a personality, a phenomenal presence, who overwhelms many. Spain has not treated well its best men. Perhaps it is crushed by excellence. For all of this, some find him lesser than the reality.

On October 18, 1955, at eleven o’clock in the morning, Ortega performs his last vital act in the world and before mankind. He does not die alone, but among pleasant, albeit reduced company – his family and a group of friends accompany him on the journey towards eternity, from where we come and to where we are going. The communications media of the time cover this unique event on tiptoes. The day after the death of Spain’s number one philosopher, the press plan with great care how to handle the news. It had not been many years since Ortega returned to his country after the civil war and his exile, to fulfil the destiny of the man and the thinker, to die in peace among his own, in his homeland.

Only by fulfilling this condition, of returning to the post-battle landscape, could a wandering star, like the Spanish philosopher, feel his mission accomplished. Perhaps Ortega had also returned to Madrid in the hope of finding a definitive, and already too overdue, public recognition, a resounding and exemplary final act, that could bring him comfort from past silences and misunderstandings, petty oblivion and murky resentments. At last, a final hurrah! The obituary notice appears, despite everything, on the front page of the newspapers, and not so much out of conviction, but because one cannot silence a solar eclipse.

The incontestable relevance of the work and the person is perceived in Ortega’s own country as an open case, as a controversial situation that continues to divide opinions. Ortega the philosopher, a faithful follower of the spirit of the ancients, always preferred to cultivate ideas and knowledge before beliefs, doctrines and ideologies. But his masterful lesson has not been fully heard or learned. Consequently, in Spain, his compatriots, continue to quarrel in the theatre of opinions and in murmurings

What to do with Ortega? A huge national problem for a nation that has not completed the task of believing in itself. It so happens that a nation is built, above all, with broadminded ideas and great characters. Ortega creates a work of universal scope, but rooted in the Spanish reality: here is a circumstance from which he never relinquished. Here is a tragic compromise, which the philosopher can neither ignore nor avoid: one cannot be rescued without the other, and vice versa. When the time comes to finally return home he does not hesitate, although he does not deceive himself, for this would be the greatest mistake a philosopher could make.

At all times Ortega keeps in mind what happens to him (life, by his own definition, is all that happens to us) in a space which is suspicious, if not hostile. Once again, Ortega the philosopher moves and muses in partibus infidelium.  A heavy load that Spain has to bear is the legend that it is no more than a country of artists and writers, mystics and enlightened, made for quixotic adventures, but not intellectual, philosophical and scientific tasks: let others think! (Miguel de Unamuno)

Spain is more a nation of passion than of reason. And many even celebrate this calamity. They not only congratulate one another for it, they are proud of it. However, Ortega, whose thought is jovial, Jupiterian and jubilant, does not find this fate (a predestination?) amusing.

  1. Ortega dies in a Spain that is still grey. And who cares? Great nations exalt the great men of their own country; together they make greatness possible. What has been united in life, death cannot separate. However, in Spain, faced with the body of Ortega, all whispers and condolences were in a low voice.

To the Left, the image of the philosopher represents what it mostly detests in its inner realm: liberalism; placing the values of tradition, and of history itself, ahead of an abstract “progress” and a bewitching utopianism; excellence, elitism and cultural aristocracy; a non-rationalist vital reason; individualism; an ungovernable and indomitable free spirit, resistant to pressure groups and averse to comradeship. To the Left, Ortega is not one of theirs, and that is enough reason for exclusion, and even more so, for mockery and discredit.

The Right, for its part, distrusts Ortega. They hold many reservations in addition to those that inhabit the left. However, conservatives do not consider Ortega one of their own either, as a person who can be trusted in the way God commands. The secularism that Ortega practised – and perhaps his desire to live outside Catholicism (“acatólicamente”, in the words of the philosopher himself), even though respecting other people’s religious beliefs – his transient republicanism, and the radicalism of his philosophical ideas, were never enough for some (the socialists), while for others (the conservatives) they were too much. What concerns the right most regarding Ortega’s funeral? To declare that Ortega had died in a Christian way. Just so he could be forgiven and rehabilitated. For those who never lose hope of converting Ortega (to Christianity), it is never too late.

Revolutionize Ortega. Rehabilitate Ortega. Convert Ortega. Save Ortega. The ones and the others. It is a disgrace not just of those times but of all times, when minions want to set the tone for greats, the minister (politics) aspires to command the magister (thought), the disciple tells the teacher what to say and do; or else, one ends up being rejected and denigrated. This phenomenon, the revolt of the masses, happens in a country where the notion of intellectual recognition and moral respect is absent. This happens because we fail to appreciate what we have, or that which has value. This happens when the idea of value degenerates.

Ortega y Gasset produces a rigorous and magnificent thought, and, if this were not enough, he expounds it in an elegant style. Reading Ortega is a unique intellectual experience, which cultivates the spirit and extends the thresholds of intelligence. For his greater merit, his pages flow with joy and great pleasure. And on top of that, in a Spanish that is precise and exuberant.

For better or for worse, Ortega was a unique thinker. Because of that, there were many times when he was left alone. Consequently, Spanish thought became an orphan with his death. Ortega used to say about himself, with false modesty (great men can never be false or modest), that he was no more than an “aristocrat in the small square” (“aristócrata en la plazuela”), thus summarizing his vocation as the kind of philosopher who, without concessions, and while preserving his character and dignity, rose to the platform of public life, eager to be heard and understood. But alas, for the obstinate egalitarianists, this talk of aristocracy is an insurmountable handicap; while to the sectarianists of the stage and the armchair, like those of the alleyway and the little square, this talk of “aristocracy” resonates like a demerit, incompatible with modesty and submission.

In 1932, on the occasion of the first centenary of the death of J. W. Goethe, Ortega was asked by a German friend to write a text celebrating the great poet. Ortega complied with the essay Pidiendo un Goethe desde dentro (Calling for a Goethe from within). In it, he affirms that he is not a suitable person to deliver such a homage, for the Germans themselves are the ones called to revive the intellectual legacy of the master and to put him in his place. Well, here is a similar mission for the Spanish, to recover the philosopher’s memory: calling for an Ortega from within, from the sincere heart, from the deep reason. And this means asking this of all Spaniards, for his memory and his saving cannot come from anyone else.


The present essay is a chapter from R R Genovés book La riqueza da libertad (The Wealth of Liberty), 2016. ISBN e-book 978-84-608-6112-6, available at Amazon.

Notes

© F R Genovés

Translator: Jo Pires-O’Brien (UK)

Revisers: H Kirby, CMOB (UK)

Reference

Genovés, Fernando Rodriguez. An Ortega from within. PortVitoria, UK, v.16, Jan-Jun, 2018. ISSN 20448236, https://portvitoria.com

Fernando R. Genovés

As long as the Marxists, and post-Marxists, call for class struggle, one must continue a dialogue on the battle of ideas – the struggle between the principles and values in which the future of free and open societies is decided. For the left-wing totalitarians, they cling to the ideological battle, convinced to have won it beforehand. In this intellectual conflict, the political right positions itself at the centre, in front or sideways, declaring itself, in any case, neutral.

And with regard to thought and culture – although not only in these spheres – the right usually acts in a way that is reserved and very distrustful. Sometimes this is due to hang-ups and timidity; more commonly, due to carelessness or because of other interests and yearnings. One could say that the right has generally felt closer to Platonic exemplarity than to Aristotelian scientism, to idealism than to realism, to aestheticism than to practicalism. As a result of such avoidance, by the time an individual realizes this abandonment and neglect, reality has already evaporated in his or her hands. Then, those who had usually disregarded or ignored it ask the help of intellectuals and call for ‘expert committees’, although they do not know who to seek or to call. Therefore, while opening the gates of Troy, they find themselves under horses’ feet.

A similar phenomenon has already occurred during the French Revolution, precisely from the moment people strictly started to speak about ‘left’ and ‘right’. From that moment on, in the battle of ideas, the left started a priori in the race as the winner; the right, as the loser.

Just as he did in other critical things, Alexis de Tocqueville saw with insight and clarity the sign of the new times, and why, in its impulse and necessity, it does the old ones in. In the essay The Old Regime and the Revolution (L’Ancien Regime et la Révolution, 1856), he draws attention to the stolid comfort and simplicity of the upper classes of the Ancien Regime, who not only were incapable of foreseeing their own ruin, but also provoked it with their apathy, blindness and naivity. So much for noblesse oblige. At that time, the French thinker, observes with irony, “where could they have obtained such clairvoyance?”

Many anticipated its coming, but no one saw it. The great upheaval of 1789 had to unfold itself in France, neither by curse nor by historicist design, but by the very evolution of events. The Revolution and the Reign of Terror weren’t brought about by the ordinary people in their ordinariness, but rather by a few thinking heads (forerunners of the ‘intellectuals’) of that epic era, who attacked the nobles and crowned heads, promoting discontent among the masses and stirring sentiments and passions which could only be soothed with the ghastly all or nothing. In the French Revolution, the human spirit derailed, and around it rose revolutionaries of a stock that was unknown before then; of infinite hatred and resentment. Nowadays, a large segment of public opinion carries on without recognizing them, even though they are everywhere, sitting at the most comfortable seats, indoctrinating in schools, and chatting on television; yet, they are easily recognizable.

Why did such an uprising happen specifically in France? The philosophes did not usually intervene in public affairs, as did the English philosophers; neither were they engaged in transcendental metaphysics and ontology, sheltered in academic centres, as was the case with most of their German colleagues. The French ‘intellectuals’, who were already beginning to emerge or to invent themselves, did not live completely separate from politics:

They lacked – noted Tocqueville – this superficial instruction that the sight of a free society, and the noise of what is being said inside it, provide to even those who are least interested in matters of government. In this way, they were much more daring in their innovations, more lovers of general ideas and systems, more contemptuous of the ancient wisdom, and even more confident in their individual reason, than commonly occurs among authors who write speculative books about politics.

This circumstance, completely new in the history of the political education of people, and not only of the French, greatly contributed to materializing the Revolution. From it emerged a political and social situation which impacted Tocqueville then, and which still captivates many, and in some of us produces great upset. The model of the committed intellectual, the anti-King philosopher, the modulator of consciences, was thus defined. The general will had an enthusiastic guidebook:

A terrifying spectacle! – says Tocqueville –, for what is a quality in a writer sometimes is a vice in the statesman, and the very things that have often inspired good books can lead to great revolutions.

It was still to arrive in Europe, when Tocqueville saw it in America. In modern mass societies, the regime of public opinion rules, while “turning itself into the first and the most irresistible of powers; outside it, there is no refuge, however strong, that could resist its blows for a long time”(Democracy in America).

In the 21st century, American democracy, like those in the rest of the world, is seriously threatened by new totalitarianisms. Of late, the revenge of Allah has been added to the revenge of Lenin. Here is the sombre spectacle of the present moment! Former US President George W. Bush proclaimed this with great clarity at the UN: “Weapons are not enough against terrorism, we must win the battle of ideas.” Note that Bush does not say that one does not need weapons to fight against terrorism; he affirms that they “are not enough”.

Let’s take a look at what the sociologist Juan J. Linz says about this: “Some of the most serious crises of democratic regimes have been caused by this type of problem, especially that this type of regime has to tolerate pacifists, including an opposition that is ready to help the enemy in the war” (The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes).

Here is a major problem in free democracies, that one does not win with weapons, but by engaging deeply in the battle of ideas, with conviction and without hang-ups. In this respect, it is bewildering to see the way the political right retreats, like a snail that crawls into its shell as soon as someone touches its antennae, and then falls back into the sleep of the righteous. The right is said to be misunderstood, when it does not even want to make itself understood. The right complains about bad luck while, in reality, it abandons itself to the comfortable sway of fortune. It hears the word ‘culture’ and yawns.

Perhaps one day, as some of the proxies and the empowered of the conservative right suddenly awake from their dogmatic dream, they will start to quote, with a certain joy though not without shyness, Raymond Aron, Friedrich Hayek and Tocqueville, extolling the principles and values of liberalism, as if this battle of words and deeds was truly theirs. Consequently, it is no wonder that the many who were affected by the allusion / illusion are surprised at the sight of such amazing flourishing, or smile maliciously while nudging or pinching one another in order to believe such a marvel.

Meanwhile, the political left presides over the plurality, the opportunism and the parasitism, and promoting, according to its custom, the appropriation of what belongs to others. For example, by introducing Adam Smith and J. Stuart Mill as proto-socialist thinkers; Ortega y Gasset as a left-wing republican; Tocqueville as a progressive; and finally, by presenting Octavio Paz as apolitical and completely alienated from the liberal thought, that is, as simply a poet.


The present essay is a chapter from F R Genovés book La riqueza da libertad (The Wealth of Liberty), 2016. ISBN e-book 978-84-608-6112-6, available at Amazon.

Notes

© F R Genovés

Translator: Jo Pires-O’Brien (UK)

Revisers: H Kirby, CMOB (UK)

 Reference

Genovés, Fernando Rodriguez. The battle of ideas. PortVitoria, UK, v.16, Jan-Jun, 2018. ISSN 20448236, https://portvitoria.com

Norman Berdichevsky

Within the space of a week, referenda to determine the question of national independence took place in Kurdistan (see NER September 2017) and Catalonia (or Catalunya). Both of these two issues are just being made felt in a world already full of ethnic and religious conflicts and disputed border regions, yet they have been given little recognition by most media reporting that prefers to focus on the responsible central government authorities in the national capitals of Baghdad (Iraq) and Madrid (Spain), both of which expressed total opposition.

There are a number of glaring differences between these two issues but in each case, it is clear that they threaten what is not just a fragile relationship between neighbors, but the upsetting of traditional alliances as well as the involvement of outside powers. Press coverage of the participation and the division between yes/no votes were accurately reported in Kurdistan where approximately 90% voted yes for independence with a very high turnout of more than 80% whereas in Catalonia the 90% yes majority turns out to have been a so called “majority” only of those who voted, constituting less than 45% of the eligible voters, i.e., a non-“majority” of about 35%, an equally poor result of the one obtained in the previous illegal referendum of 2015).

Moreover, the Kurdish population of Iraq is heavily concentrated in the Kurdish region but almost entirely absent in the remainder of the country, whereas in Catalonia, a large percentage of the resident population is not Catalan but consists of Spaniards from other regions who have sought work and eventually settled there in what is the most prosperous and dynamic region of the country. In addition, may Catalans live and work in other regions of Spain. By contrast, Kurdistan is landlocked and surrounded by three hostile powers, Iran, Iraq and Turkey that have done everything in their power to threaten the Kurds.

The case of Catalonia, like that of Scotland, is much more intricate and meshed with the neighboring more powerful rival state. Both regions were absorbed into a major European state that expanded to become a world power. Both have therefore perplexed many observers. In Ireland and Scotland, local nationalisms are not entwined with the cultivation of a separate language, Yet their nationalisms challenged English rule to free themselves from serving the British empire.

The “national language” is spoken by a tiny dispersed, rural population or is used purely as cosmetic dressing for show along with old folk festivals. First language speakers of Irish Gaelic (also known as Erse) and Gaelic are found only in the most remote and rural areas and barely account for 1% of the populations. In Wales, there is an active Welsh speaking population of close to 20% almost all of whom are also fluent in English. In the Kurdish areas of their heartland in present day Northern Iraq as well as Iran and Turkey, there is strong sympathy for the cause of an independent homeland but major difference in local dialects makes mutual understanding very problematic.

Only in Catalonia is there a very intimate correspondence between a true sense of national identity with fluency in the original and ancestral language confirming what German philosopher Johan Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803) wrote (On the Origin of Speech, 1772. Uber den Ursprung der Sprache). He wrote: “Has a nationality anything dearer than the speech of the fathers? In its speech resides its whole thought domain, its traditions, religion and basis of life, all its heart and soul . . . With language, the heart of a people is created.”

It is for this reason that the Catalans have maintained such a fierce sense of pride and opposition to the concept that they must regard themselves first and foremost as “Spaniards” because they are citizens of Spain. It is understandable that in their own homeland they should have priority status. Catalans take great pride in their illustrious artists and painters such as Gaudí and Dalí and resent foreigners referring to them simply as “Spaniards”.

The issue of Catalan separatism once again threatens the unity of the country, a close NATO ally. It further constitutes a divisive invitation to Muslim extremists who wish to add fuel to the fire of a jihadist crusade determined to reverse the Christian “Reconquista” and win back the territory of the entire Iberian peninsula for the ummah as ISIS pledged, true to its vision of an all embracing Caliphate. This was reiterated by El Qaida and other extremist groups after the van attack in Barcelona on Las Ramblas thoroughfare which left 13 people dead. In a propaganda video, an ISIS member described the Barcelona perpetrators as “our brothers,” while another threatened “Spanish Christians” and promises to return the country to the “Land of the Caliphate.”

The historical divide of language, geographic orientation, economy, social mores, and history

As early as the twelfth century, Catalan balladeer-poets, or troubadours, wandered through the region and northward into Provence at a time when the language spoken there was recognized as a Catalan dialect. This vibrant poetic tradition and the use of Catalan by philosophers and historians, the greater achievements of Catalan seafarers and merchants who travelled throughout the Mediterranean and brought their language to Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily and traded with the Orient at a time when Spain still had no overseas experience, colonies or trans-Atlantic ties. This heritage has, for many generations, contributed to the feeling that a noble and civilized culture had been submerged by Castile, the central region located on the meseta (upland) that led the struggle against the Muslims from the 9th to the 15th centuries.

Catalans regarded Castile as a region that had remained under Arab Muslim rule for much longer and absorbed a tradition, and character traits that deviated considerably from their own much more commercial, literate, cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and “tolerant nature.” Recently, the city council of Barcelona and the regional parliament both passed regulations against bullfighting, long regarded as a primitive Castilian tradition.

Barcelona, rather than Madrid, became the engine of change, progress, industrialization, workers’ unions, the first railways and the first opera. In Castile, the old prejudices against merchants and working with one’s hands still prevailed among an elite out of touch with new developments. Arch-conservatives distrustful of Catalan commercial astuteness even labeled support for the Republic during the Civil War (1936-39) part of what they called a “Judeo-Catalan conspiracy”. This was hardly surprising.

In the eyes of the Catholic, conservative and rural-agrarian traditions of the central Spanish meseta of Castile and Andalucia, the resourcefulness of the Catalans as merchants, traders, and their industriousness, literacy, sobriety and international connections across the Mediterranean in both North Africa and the Levant evoked the Jewish traits most held in ill repute by the church and stood in contrast to the haughty pride, devout religiosity, monastic institutions and exaggerated sense of honor and disdain for manual work that characterized the model of the Castilian gentleman (hidalgo).” (see Spanish Vignettes; An Offbeat Look Into Spain’s Culture, Society and History)

The late 15th century Kingdom of Aragon, prior to the so called “unification” of Spain with Castile, had capitalized on these commercial and maritime successes and embraced a territory extending from the Northeast of the peninsula to the Balearic Islands, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Southern Italy and part of Greece.

Spain was “unified” in 1469 by the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon with Isabella of Castile-Leon. Nevertheless, the two halves of this kingdom maintained separate identities, languages, distinct, laws, weights and measures for another two hundred years. Until the early 1700s, the official title of the King was “Rey de las Españas” (in the plural to recognize the diversity of Castile, Aragon, Galicia, The Basque Country and Andalucia), just as the Czar titled himself as “Czar of all the Russias.”

As early as 1640-1652, Catalonia tried to follow Portugal’s successful revolt and reimpose its language, laws, customs, and traditions but without success. During the War of the Spanish succession (1699-1702) the Catalans supported the losing cause of the Hapsburg dynasty. By 1707, the authorities in Madrid imposed a through uniformity throughout the kingdom extending to laws, currency, weights and measures and language.

The Catalans made a transition to a modern economy and became the dynamo of Spain, outdistancing economic activity in the rest of the country. During that time, Barcelona grew much faster than any other city in Spain. Industry in the manufacture of paper, iron, wool, leather, textiles and processed fish, as well as in the export of wine and cotton led to a new sense of confidence and prosperity.

The 20th century and its conflicts

Since the end of the 18th century, disaffection grew, as the central power in Madrid wasted enormous resources in numerous unsuccessful, vain, and costly enterprises trying to retain control of its empire in Central and South America, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Morocco, and the Philippines, all held in little regard as remote and distracting by all Catalans. The wealth of Spain, in part, plundered from the expelled Jews and Moors and indigenous peoples of the “New World” was squandered.

Barcelona was the scene of a spontaneous uprising that began on Monday 26th July 1909 when the city was shut down by a massive general strike. The revolt started after the government had called up military reservists to fight in Morocco. Trams were overturned, communications cut and trains carrying troops were held up by women sitting on the rails. The city has retained this reputation as a hotbed of opposition to authority. No wonder the current government in Madrid feared the outcome of holding any referendum in Catalonia, the goal of which was independence, and would reignite old passions.

The Lasting Linguistic Divide

Catalan nationalists argue (correctly) that Catalan is much closer to Latin and has more words of Greek origin than Castilian which absorbed both Basque and Arabic elements. The most politically incorrect remark a foreigner can make about Catalan is that it is a “dialect” of “Spanish”. In fact, Portuguese, the language of an independent nation for more than eight hundred years is closer to Castilian-Spanish than Catalan.

By the eighth century, most of the peninsula was under the invaders. The languages of the western half of the peninsula in Galicia and Leon resembled Portuguese and had a certain Celtic as well as Germanic influence whereas those in Aragon, Catalonia, and the Balearic Islands were closer to Rome. Sounds common in Arabic, Basque and Castilian Spanish include the harsh guttural “j”, “ch” and ñ sounds are absent in Catalan. All over Spain, road signs have been overwritten with graffiti in the Catalan and Basque areas with the local language equivalents (see postscript below).

The international devised language, Esperanto, resembles Catalan more than any other national language and this similarity was used as a screen by Catalan nationalists during the early period of General Franco’s rule (circa 1940 until about 1970) when Catalan was suppressed, frowned upon and practically excluded from any public manifestation or cultural exhibition.

The language issue has long been the source of irritation for Catalans who have to remind the world that their language is spoken by more people, close to nine million, throughout Spain (as both a first and second language), than speak Danish (barely 6 million speakers) yet not accorded any recognition by the institutions of the European community or outside of Catalonia. Compare this with the official status of Erse with no more than 20,000 speakers.

Catalan is accorded the same status as Scottish Gaelic (50,000 speakers) as a “semi-official” language by the EEC. Over the last few decades, the local authority (Generalitat) of Catalonia has succeeded in making Catalan the language of instruction in all state primary and secondary schools much as the Quebecois have done with French in Quebec. Similarly, various regulations ostensibly guaranteeing bilingualism in Castilian Spanish and Catalan are often interpreted to favor the local language.

The Civil War and since then

Catalonia also proved to be the most loyal region in Spain to the ideals of the short-lived Republic (1931-1939) and was the stronghold of resistance to the Fascist uprising commanded by General Franco. Barcelona, the seat of much political power in the hands of Catalan nationalists, socialists, Trotskyites, and Communists was the last major base to fall and the Franco regime crushed every attempt to maintain Catalonia’s sense of individuality, including any remnant cultural and linguistic separateness.

This even extended to sport as matches between the two greatest football (soccer) clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid were subject to intense political pressure during the 1950s and 60s to ensure a victory by the Madrid club.

In the last years of his life, General Franco (died 1975) began to make tentative reforms relaxing the tight control over Catalonia and the Catalan language, hoping it would pave the way for the regime to follow him. His successors believed they had succeeded and have been taken by surprise by the new round of aggressive assertions of Catalan identity and the renewed call for independence.

Catalonia thus has a much stronger claim to individuality and separateness from the rest of the country than the Scots have. They are however, like the Scots, aware that to demand secession would plunge the economy and society of the two regions into chaotic conditions provoking bloodshed among fellow citizens and even among families. This explains the high proportion of voters in the referendum who simply refused to take part or cast blank ballots. Their NATO allies are aghast as this potential conflict, the roots of which go back more than seven hundred years, and poses what might be called a threat to security from Muslim North Africa.

On Sunday, October 8, a massive rally in Barcelona with a crowd of more than half a million matchers organized by Societat Civil Catalana, the region’s main pro-unity organization demonstrated the rejection of both resident Catalans and many others in the region to separate from Spain. The march featuring the slogan “Let’s recover our common sense”, called for dialogue with the rest of Spain.

The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, is under growing pressure to stop short of declaring independence amidst threats from major companies and banks to abandon the region. He has given contradictory answers to Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy about how he interprets the result of the referendum. The Spanish constitution already recognizes that the Catalans constitute a “nation within a nation.” What more can be done for them in the U.N. and in the European Union?

As in Quebec, where two unsuccessful referenda for independence were narrowly defeated, the great majority of the population outside the disputed region simply wishes to restore harmony but believes that no further compromises should be made. Spanish friends and allies must convince the Catalans that their heritage and history can be secured but only without confrontation and in solidarity with other Spaniards against a real threat to them all from militant Islam.

The issue remains cloudy at this juncture.

Postscript

Standard Spanish

CATALUÑA, ¿UNA NACIÓN?

Cataluña está unida al resto de España desde hace más de 500 años, desde que los Reyes Católicos (Isabel y Fernando) unen los reinos de Castilla y Aragón.

Sin embargo, en el tipo de monarquía que había en España, cada uno de los antiguos reinos y principados que la integraba gozaba de una cierta independencia: leyes e instituciones propias, pago de impuestos, derechos y privilegios propios de cada zona . . . A este conjunto de leyes propias, derechos y privilegios se los conoce como fueros.

Cataluña nunca fue un reino independiente, formaba parte del reino de Aragón, pero era un principado que tenía una cierta independencia y unos fueros propios.

Carlos II, el último rey de la dinastía de los Austrias, muere sin heredero. El resultado es una guerra, la guerra de Sucesión, en la que se enfrentan dos aspirantes a la Corona de España: Felipe V, de la dinastía de los Borbones (Francia), y el archiduque Carlos, de la dinastía de los Austrias.

Text in Catalan

CATALONIA, UNA NACIÓ?

Catalonia està unida a la resta d’Espanya des de fa més de 500 anys, des que els Reis Catòlics (Isabel i Ferran) uneixen els regnes de Castella i Aragó.

No obstant això, en el tipus de monarquia que hi havia a Espanya, cada un dels antics regnes i principats que la integrava gaudia de una certa independència: lleis i institucions pròpies, pagament d’impostos, drets i privilegis propis de cada zona . . . A aquest conjunt de lleis pròpies, drets i privilegis se’ls coneix com fueros.

Catalonia mai va ser un regne independent, formava part del regne d’Aragó, però era un principat que tenia una certa independència i uns furs propis.

Carles II, l’últim rei de la dinastia dels Àustries, m

or sense heredero. El resultat és una guerra, la guerra de Successió, en la qual es enfrentan 2 aspirantes a la Corona d’Espanya: Felip V, de la dinastia dels Borbó (França), i l’arxiduc Carles, de la dinastia dels Àustria.

English Version

CATALUÑA, ONE NATION?

Catalonia has been joined with the rest of Spain for more than 500 years since the Catholic Monarchs (Isabel and Fernando) united the kingdoms of Castile and Aragón.

Nevertheless, in the type of monarchy that existed in Spain, each one of the ancient kingdoms and principalities that comprised the country enjoyed a certain degree of independence: each with its own laws and institutions, taxes, rights and privileges. This complex of maintaining its own laws, rights and privileges is known as “fueros.”

Catalonia was never an independent kingdom; it was rather a principality which formed part of the Kingdom of Aragon, but rather, a principality that had a certain independence and some its own fueros.

Carlos II, the last king of the Dynasty of Asturias died without an heir. The result of this was a war, The War of Spanish Succession in which two claimants to the Spanish throne clashed: Felipe V, of the Bourbon Dynasty (France) and the Archduke Carlos, of the Asturias Dynasty.

                                                                                                                                               

Norman Berdichevsky is the author of The Left is Seldom Right and Modern Hebrew: The Past and Future of a Revitalized Language.

Note

The present article was originally published in New English Review, in November 2017. Source: http://www.newenglishreview.org/

                                                                                                                                               

 Comments from readers & replies

14Feb2018

Manuel Sánchez Cánovas (Spain) wrote:

This message is to make abundantly clear that Catalonia is NOT the most affluent of Spanish regions: Madrid produces the same GDP with one million and a half million less inhabitants than Catalonia, and stats about the underground economy, define a completely different picture of what Catalonian nazi onalists would like it to be. I think your articles about this subject, albeit correct, include serious mistakes in terms of the assesment of the relative economic power of this so very indebted region. Were you interested in my ideas about this subject, please note my article in Linkedin about it: www.linkedin.com/pulse/catalonia-spain-do-trust-pro-brexit-british-sources-sánchez-cánovas/

Norman Berdichevsky (US) wrote:

Manuel Sanchez Canovas writes to first tell readers that he thinks my article is “….albeit correct”, but “includes serious mistakes in terms of the assessment of the relative economic power” of Catalonia (which he refers to as “this very indebted region”). He goes on to refer readers to his own article “Catalonia is Spain, do not trust pro Brexit British sources”, with which I am in fundamental agreement, criticizing the radical leftwing turn Spanish voters made following Jihadist terrorist outrages in Madrid and Barcelona. In fact my article comes to the same conclusion when I wrote….”The issue of Catalan separatism once again threatens the unity of the country, a close NATO ally. It further constitutes a divisive invitation to Muslim extremists who wish to add fuel to the fire of a jihadist crusade determined to reverse the Christian “Reconquista” and win back the territory of the entire Iberian peninsula for the ummah as ISIS pledged, true to its vision of an all embracing Caliphate. This was reiterated by El Qaida and other extremist groups after the van attack in Barcelona on Las Ramblas thoroughfare which left 13 people dead. In a propaganda video, an ISIS member described the Barcelona perpetrators as “our brothers,” while another threatened “Spanish Christians” and promises to return the country to the “Land of the Caliphate.”

Thus I am mystified why Senor Sanchez would add that the economic statistics I referred to about Catalonia’s economic vibrancy somehow produces “stats about the underground economy”,  that “define a completely different picture of what Catalonian Nazi-onalists would like it to be.” I resent the implication that I am somehow giving cover to Catalonian “Nazi-onalists.”

Catalonians and their love of their language and culture have always added a cultural dimension of Spain’s Mediterranean-Roman heritage that cannot be diminished or enhanced by economic criteria. However, I believe the following statistics are, as far as I can determine as a foreigner, still largely true…

Ivana Kottasová wrote in CNN MONEY (Oct. 2, 2017). The referendum vote comes as Spain

“emerges from nearly a decade of economic trauma. Catalonia is its most economically productive region. Here’s what’s at stake:

Richer on their own?

Catalonia accounts for nearly a fifth of Spain’s economy, and leads all regions in producing 25% of the country’s exports. It contributes much more in taxes (21% of the country’s total) than it gets back from the government. Independence supporters have seized on the imbalance, arguing that stopping transfers to Madrid would turn Catalonia’s budget deficit into a surplus.

Catalonia has a proven record of attracting investment, with nearly a third of all foreign companies in Spain choosing the regional capital of Barcelona as their base.”

Norman Berdichevsky