Teología del dinero IV

El secuestro de la moral

 

 

print JESUS DRIVING the MERCHANTS from the TEM...

 1.    La violencia de las simplificaciones

Durante años he leído y estudiado diferentes tesis que intentan probar, como un teólogo prueba lo que nunca intentó cuestionar, cápsulas del tipo “la propiedad es el robo”. Esta afirmación resulta tan verdadera como falsa, dependiendo de dónde se aplique; no obstante, el espiritu de partido necesita simplificar para tomar posición combativa.

Como es la regla, una vez que un ideoléxico está consolidado se ponen cosas diferentes dentro de una misma bolsa. Por ejemplo, dentro de “propiedad privada” o de “éxito” cabe una diversidad de ideas y cosas con valores frecuentemente opuestos. “Éxito” significa muchas cosas, pero dentro de un mundo creado por la narrativa conservadora norteamericana, significa acumulación ilimitada de capitales financieros y de poder político y religioso.

Pero “éxito”, aún dentro de un estrecho marco capitalista, también puede referirse a un inventor que se hace rico al mismo tiempo que beneficia a millones de personas con el resultado de sus ideas. ¿Qué tiene que ver el éxito económico y social de un innovador con el éxito de un especulador de bolsa que se hace millonario arruinando a vida de miles sino de millones de personas? ¿Qué tiene que ver aquel “mercado” que historicamente ha expandido la cultura y el bienestar material de los pueblos con aquel otro “mercado” que ha esclavizado continentes cuando no ha destruido y prostituido culturas enteras?

Por otro lado, el modesto éxito de un pequeño empresario o artesano es normalmente despreciado por aquellos otros que, por ejemplo, se consideran creadores sólo porque escriben poesía o novelas, pintan cuadros o hacen alguna forma de música. Sin embargo, un creador puede ejercer su genio en cualquier actividad, con un lápiz, sobre un teclado, en un taller de bicicletas o revolucionando la forma en que la gente usa una cerradura o un simple jabón. Un poema, si realmente tiene valor, puede expandir la experiencia existencial de un individuo, de una sociedad, levantándola de la miseria de los actos meramente animales, como comer y reproducirse. Pero también un simple proceso de purificación de agua puede sacar de la miseria material a pueblos enteros. Las dos son creaciones humanas, aunque se refieren a diferentes aspectos vitales de la existencia.

Entonces, en un mundo diverso, en lo personal no me preocuparía que alguien invierta toda su creatividad para convertirse en un millonario exitoso. Como escritor, por ejemplo, no me interesa en lo más mínimo hacer fortuna ni mido el éxito de mi trabajo por la venta de mis libros. Sí me interesa que quienes aman el lujo y el dinero no lo obtengan explotando a los demás. Algo que es muy difícil, argumentará alguien. Pero no imposible, y así como no creo que debamos imponer a todos mi desprecio por el lujo y las joyas, tampoco sería justo que quienes aman el dinero y consideran fracasados a quienes no pertenecen a esa religión, impongan sus reglas de juego a una sociedad por la simple virtud del poder excesivo que emana de sus cuentas bancarias y sus influyentes amigos.

Veamos cómo la pasión de unos se puede traducir en el martirio de otros.

 

 

2. Robo para la corona

Ahora, dentro de esta relatividad de un mundo vasto, complejo y diverso, podemos observar ciertos patrones históricos que nos aportan pistas para comprender la “normalidad” de nuestro presente. El poder, que puede llegar a ser un agente constructivo, con más frecuencia ha sido opresivo y destructor. En Estados Unidos, por ejemplo, los grupos más conservadores son los grupos más religiosos, que son los grupos más ricos o aquellos grupos que trabajan y repiten con pasión un discurso en defensa de las clases altas, conservadoras y religiosas. Cuando un pobre defiende con tanta pasión el derecho a la acumulación ilimitada de capitales, lo hace como si fuese condición y consecuencia del “éxito del capitalismo”. Generalmente este pobre es republicano, religioso y conservador, ya que no rico.

Naturalmente, los partidarios del egoísmo como virtud del capitalismo ortodoxo deben recurrir a un had hoc que pueda unir este impulso individualista con el altruismo religioso y humanista del que presumen ser los campeones: la compasión, una especie de impuesto moral que no se paga por obligación al Estado laico sino personalmente o a través de una iglesia, de forma voluntaria y cuando sobra. De esa forma se puede ver la mano que arroja las limosnas en la puerta de la iglesia mientras los pobres repiten “que Dios se lo pague”. Un negocio redondo por donde se lo mire.

Entonces, se da la paradoja de que los partidarios del egoísmo como virtud del éxito económico y divino son también los más fanáticos practicantes de una religión como la crisitiana, que desde su fundación y de forma explícita en sus Escrituras opta por los pobres y condena el mercado y la riqueza. El humanismo renacentista había revindicado el comercio como una legítima actividad humana, rescatándola de la maldicion católica (que no se aplicaba de obispos para arriba); pero más tarde el calvinismo logró que Dios reconociera la riqueza como signo de virtud moral y metafísica y condenara a los pobres por sus vicios o por no haber sido elegidos antes de nacer.

El patrón histórico ha sido siempre el mismo: cada vez que una revolución religiosa es hecha por los de abajo, por los marginados que en cierto momento se convierten en mayoría y su conciencia rebelde madura y triunfa en el discurso social, dicha revolución es secuestrada por los ricos y poderosos. No otra cosa ocurrió con la rebelión de los pobres y marginados iniciada por Jesús contra el establishment de los poderosos fariseos, colaboracionistas de un imperio ocupante como lo era el imperio romano de la época. No otra cosa ocurrió tres siglos después cuando los perseguidos cristianos se convirtieron en mayoría y de ahí en religión oficial del Imperio, legalizada estratégicamente por un emperador brutal como Constantino e institucionalizada luego de una forma aún más brutal por siglos de violencia física y moral, administrada por una policía dogmática que tuvo sus peores tiempos en la Inquisición, persiguiendo a su vez a todo lo que no se parecía a sí mismo o amenazaba los privilegios de reyes, príncipes, duques, abismos, cardenales, papas y otros administradores del poder y la riqueza social del momento. No otra cosa ocurrió con la rebelión de Lutero cuando reivindicó los derechos del individuo sobre el poder arbitrario y concentrado de los papas. No otra cosa ocurrió cuando los perseguidos peregrinos trajeron a América sus nuevas sectas y sus formas menos aristocráticas de organización social y unos siglos después terminaron convirtiéndose en las doctrinas dominante de los políticos y de los empresarios en el poder.

No otra fue la historia de los Estados modernos, que surgieron como revoluciones de los de abajo o a favor de los de abajo contra el abuso arbitrario de los de arriba. Sin embargo, ahora cuando vemos que la mayoría de los “representantes” pertenecen a la minúscula minoría más rica del país (bajo la excusa del ser “exitosos”), vemos que los Estados modernos están dirigidos por aquellos por los cuales surgieron los Estados modernos en defensa del resto más numeroso y menos poderoso de la sociedad.

Entonces, de forma casi invariable la historia nos muestra que los ricos son especialistas en secuestrar Estados, religiones y narrativas sociales. En consecuencia, no es extraño que algunos desconfíen de los hermosos discursos que elogian el “éxito” de los ricos que están en el poder mientras se presentan como los salvadores de la moral, la religión, y además, como beneficiarios de los pobres que no saben cuidarse a sí mismos.

 

Jorge Majfud

Jacksonville Univeristy

majfud.org

Milenio (Mexico)

La Republica (Uruguay)

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Humanism of Confucius and Jesus

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Confucius and Jesus: Humanism Took Different Pathways in Chinese and Western History
By You-Sheng Li

 

(for the book titled A Nevw Interpretation of Chinese Taoist Philosophy)

 

Chinese government first named Confucianism as its official ideology in the second century BC. Since then Confucianism remained as the mainstream culture to shape society and the way of life for more than two thousand years until the early twenty century when the first republic of China was founded. As the influence of Western culture entered China and it was followed by the subsequent revolutions, the fading out of Confucianism in the Chinese life occurred in a relatively short time between 1840 and 1919. The Roman Emperor Theodoisius made Christianity, based on Jesus’ teaching, the official religion in the late fourth century, and since then Christianity remained the dominant ideology to shape society and the way of life in Europe for more than a thousand years until recently. The fading out of Christianity as the main ideology in the Western society was a gradual process. The underlying reason was the social movement of secularization started by the Renaissance.

If we see a culture and its people as a man, the two giant men firmly stood, one in China and the other in Europe, for thousand years, unmoved by the strong winds of various cultures and ideologies. Their brains were nothing but the teachings of two real men, Confucius and Jesus. Their successes were due to the humanist soul in their teachings, which represent the peak humanism ever reached during ancient time. It is most interesting and revealing to compare the two men, their ideas, and their influence on subsequent history.

 

1. Definition of Humanism and its History in China and the West

Humanism is the tendency to emphasize man and his status, importance, achievements, and interests. The definition of humanism varies within a broad category of ethical philosophies that support the dignity and worth of all people. Furthermore, humansim can be a component of a variety of more specific philosophical systems and is incorporated into several religious schools of thought. Humanism entails a commitment to the search for truth, morality, social justice, and an ideal society through human means.

It is worth noting that humanism here is not in the narrow meaning in contrast to faith in supernatural being, and that humanism in relative terms includes any ideology that directs towards the improvement of human conditions, physically or spiritually. For example, human sacrifice was considered to be running against humanism, but its complete disappearance in China was only witnessed about a hundred years ago. Confucius was so opposed to human sacrifice that he even cursed those who started to use artificial figures to replace real men, as Confucius thought, the dignity of man was buried with those figures that looked so real. Such an idea of Confucius falls in the broad category of humanism as it contributed to the disappearance of human sacrifice in China. For similar considerations, Jesus’ teachings and Christianity fall in too, though it is not a popular topic to write about Jesus’ humanist contribution.

 

Early Greek people began their thought by studying nature, and those are called the natural philosophers. Since Socrates and other sophists, attention was shifted to social, political, and moral issues. This shift is regarded as the beginning of Western humanism. The next important time in humanist history was when Stoicism appeared as a school of thought. Seneca’s (2 BC- 65 AD) aphorism, “To man, a man is sacred”, remains as a powerful slogan for humanists today.

In spite of the remarkable development of human thought along the line of humanism, the Roman Empire was still built on slavery. Millions of slaves lived inhumane lives. It was the emergence of Christianity and the collapse of the Roman Empire brought an end to the slavery system, and many thought that Christianity contributed to the Roman collapse. Christian teachings reached the bottom of the social stratification, and warmed their hearts when they say that God loves every man on earth. Christian bishops fulminated against the entertainments of the theater and amphitheater, and the baths. The baths were thought to be responsible for sexual depravity. Christian aristocrats gradually redirected their funding money to churches, which were constructed in great numbers in the 400s and 500s. They also funded hospitals, orphanages, homes for the aged, which was for the first time in Roman history.

For a thousand years or so, Christianity remained as the mainstream culture to unite Europe and keep the social order. The Renaissance was a much broader social campaign to stress the value of mankind and the value of a man in front of society and or in front of nature. The Renaissance however denoted a move away from God to man as the centre of interest. The Renaissance encouraged on the ability of man to find about the universe through his own efforts, and more and more to control it. The official separation of governments and religion gradually led the way that Christianity is no longer relevant in many aspects in our society and in our life.

 

Chinese Humanism developed along a quite different historic pathway. Lao Tzu, Confucius, and other early Chinese thinkers all took the ancient society as the ideal model. Chinese records painted a clear picture of those peaceful yet humanist society. Here I called it the natural humanism in contrast to the later developments of humanism that is one of many creations by man. The natural humanism was a product of the human heart and human nature. As a result, Chinese humanist thought appeared in a much earlier stage of civilization than in the West. Chinese scholars think there was shift of attention from gods, ghosts, and other spiritual beings to man in the early years of the Chou dynasty (1122-256 BC), a few hundred years before any philosophical thinkers were born. Such a shift was due to the careful thinking over why their new dynasty was able to replace the old one, and they concluded that human hearts were behind the change of dynasty. As discussed in Chapter 15.3, the social structure during that time allowed all people to live in primary or quasi-primary society, and human nature remained as the major force to keep the society stable. Such a shift was directed both by observation and by human nature. Rational thinking was present in primary society but was not able to set up a leading ideology other than human nature.

This shift from gods to man covered such changes in ancient China: The impersonal sky or heaven replaced the original personal God (shangdi) as the new super god; divination used eight trigrams to replace oracle bones; a whole set of rituals tuned with music was used to buttress the social ranking system, and make it less inhumane. Humanism as a social movement affecting all levels of the society appeared only during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-222 BC), and with Confucius as its leader. Both Confucius and Jesus were criticized in modern history, but such criticism cannot erase their tremendous contribution in the humanist history.

 

  1. The Fundamental Difference Between Confucius and Jesus: Jesus was More Like Mo Tzu

 

The following, though brief, is enough to show the fundamental difference between Confucianism and Christianity :

 

1). Confucianism relied on the government, but Christianity started as a movement against the governmental authority;

2). Confucius and his followers kept a distance from gods and spirits, but Jesus and his followers relied heavily on miracles and mysterious phenomena to preach;

3). Confucius held that gentlemen should not form parties and should not compete with each other, but Jesus painted his group as a unique one by criticizing others, and struggled to get a larger social space for his Christianity;

4). Christianity had strict organization, going out to preach, but Confucianism remained at the level of academic thought and self-cultivation.

 

Confucius was from a family of the low level of the ruling class, equal to the intellectuals or scholars who worked in the government in later times. Jesus’ father was a carpenter, and Jesus himself also used to work as a carpenter. Confucius said, “The inferior men were not afraid of heaven as they do not know the decree of heaven; they also take great men lightly, and laugh at the words of the sages.” (Analects 16.8) Jesus was exactly such an inferior man who did not obey the local authority and laughed at their words. Jesus preached his religion, but he was not an official religious staff who was entitled to preach. This eventually led to Jesus’ execution. Thus Jesus was a rebel under the name of God. Christianity was oppressed by the official religious organization, Judaism, and by the government so that they left their country to preach abroad. Since Jesus’ followers were all law-abiding, they were not noticed by the Roman Government for years. But they were still not tolerated by the government, and large numbers of Christians were executed.

Confucius preached his ideology of benevolence and righteousness that was based on loving people, but he did not go to the bottom level of the society to be friends with them. Those uneducated people lacked the rational thinking and believed in miracles and mysterious phenomena. Educated people or people of the ruling class did not care much about those people except for exploiting them. They were particularly vulnerable to Jesus’ preaching.

The Chinese ruling class had long got rid of irrational thinking of miracles and mysterious phenomena from the early years of the Chou dynasty and adapted a rational thinking to manage the national affairs. But this was only limited to the ruling class and educated people. The massive peasants in the rural areas were still in the grip of irrational thinking.

Irrational thinking was partially due to lack of knowledge, but it was based on the intuition. Our born way of thinking is not rational, which is supported by our daydreams and dreams at night. In the primitive primary society, rational thinking was possible only at times such as when they faced a task to be done. Systemic rational thinking on a large scale is part of our civilized culture.

Jesus’ time was after the Axial Age, and without any doubt, the Roman authority in Israel adapted to rational thinking for their administration. According to the New Testament, Jesus’ preaching was full of miracles and mysterious phenomena. Such stories spread rapidly in the people of low classes but raised the suspicion from the authority. Contrary to Jesus, Confucius distanced himself from the low classes and also from miracles and mysterious phenomena. He promoted such attitudes towards gods and spirits: Be respectful to Gods and spirits but keep a distance from them. Confucius had the principle of Four No-Comments in his teaching and counseling practice: He never talked about parapsychology, psychic power, mental distance, and ghosts. More than two thousand years later today, the attitudes towards religion, gods and ghosts are largely the same in the circle of Chinese intellectuals, who can be called the loyal followers of Confucius.

Confucius said, “Gentlemen have nothing to compete for. If they have to, they do it like in an archery match, where they ascend to their positions, bowing in deference toward other people who take part in the match. When done, they descend, and drink the ritual cup. This is the competition of gentlemen.” Thus Confucians do not form any parties and do not usually compete. In the modern Western politics, clerks and other staff in the government offices are often discouraged to join the competitive parties in the parliament system. Most of Confucius’ followers did take positions similar to today’s clerks and other minor officials during Confucius’ time.

 

From the very beginning, Jesus competed vigorously with the local authority for support of the people. It was well justified for the official religious staff to interpret the contemporary version of the Bible in certain way in order to keep the society stable. Jesus ridiculed their interpretation of the Bible, and preached his own belief. Acting as the representative of God on earth, he sent his love to every body he met. In doing so, I believe, Jesus challenged the authority of the local government, and on behalf of the poor people, he was in a rebellious position against the rich classes. But this rebellion was not one of violence but one of honesty, will, and commitment to social justice and love. Once Jesus suggested to a rich man that he sell his belongings and give to the poor, and doing so, he would have treasure kept in heaven. When the rich man was reluctant to do so, Jesus said to his disciples: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24) The early Christians were such well organized groups that they formed more than egalitarian society but literally communist society. Such teachings and organizations had a great appeal to the people of low classes especially when the economy was poorly developed and people lived on meager supplies. It is no wonder why Christianity met such a rapid success in Europe.

Christianity followed Judaism as a monotheist religion. Judaism kept saying that their God was the only God, all other gods were only idols. Such statement kept Israel people from being attracted by gods from the neighbouring cultures. When Christians preached within the Roman Empire, it had the effects to discriminate against other religions and their gods. Romans were typically polytheist believers, and they worshiped any gods which happened to have worked to them, namely, materialized their wishes such as curing an illness. Therefore, there was no another god who was claimed as the only god except for the Christian God. Christian monotheist explanation of God was more philosophical, though the bible describes God only as one god among many others. No competition with Christian monotheist theory was another reason for its rapid success.

Among the various schools of thought in ancient China, only the Mohism was most close to Jesus and his teachings. Mo Tzu (476-390 BC) was also from a handcraft family, and may be a carpenter himself. Mohism represented the voice of the people of low classes. Both Confucianism and Mohism were most popular during the Warring States Period (475-222 BC). Lu’s Spring and Autumn Annals says, Mo Tzu had “massive followers, abundant disciples, filling up all areas under heaven.” Like the early Christianity, Mohism had strict organization. Their members were well disciplined, dedicated, frugal, and hard working, so brave that “they all could jump into fire and run on edges of swords and would not look back for a moment until death” (Huainan Tzu: Chapter 20). Once one of their leaders committed suicide for faith, and 183 disciples killed themselves to be buried with him. It is beyond doubt that if there had been a good leadership, they would have been a ever-victorious and unbreakable force in all social conflicts.

Mo Tzu said, “If all people in the world love each other, states do not attack on each other, families do not interfere with each other, no robbers and no thieves, kings and fathers are kind to their court officials and sons while court officials and sons are filial to their kings and fathers, if so, the whole world will be orderly.” Thus Mohists promoted universal love more than two thousand years ago in China. It carries the same message as Jesus’s call for loving your enemies. If Mohism had been put into serious practice, Chinese history would have been different. Mohists would have been able to form a religious organization similar to Christianity functioning as an internal restricting power to the centralized government, and this power like the early Christianity was unbreakable. Since the first centralized government appeared in the Qin dynasty (221-207 BC), only the emperor had the space for free thinking, what the people wished could only be a peace for them to live their lives without interruption, it was no longer possible to harbour the rapid pace of social changes of the Spring Autumn and Warring States Period (770-221 BC).

 

3. From Confucianism and Christianity to the Chinese and Western Pathways of Humanism

 

In contrast to Jesus’ Christianity, Confucius fitted his Confucianism into the established frame of “king is a king, minister is a minister, father is a father, and son is a son”(Analects, 12.11), and then set up the standards for the spiritual characters and morals of Confucian scholars. Thus Confucian humanism could only be put into practice inside the established frame of social order. Unfortunately, there was apparently not always an easily operable mechanism to push forward humanist policy within the established frame of order in Chinese history. In the Book of Rites, Confucius says,

 

Use rituals to decide it is right or wrong, use rituals to determine whether a man was sincere or not, use rituals to point out the mistakes, use rituals to set up good examples of benevolence and morals, use rituals to show the benefits of being modesty and conciliatory, use rituals to show the regulations the people have to follow. If someone does not follow the rituals and regulations, he has to give up his position as a ruler, since people regard him as the cause of disaster. This is called the moderate means.

 

Here Confucius makes it clear that a ruler has to behave like a ruler, and follow the rituals and regulations. The ideology behind those rituals and regulations is Confucianism or humanism, since there are such words: sincere, benevolence, modesty and conciliatory and so on. As how to have the ruler who runs against Confucian humanist policy removed from his position, there is no easily operable mechanism. From the last sentence “he has to give up his position as a ruler, since people regard him as the cause of disaster”, it is clear that Confucius gave this important yet difficult task to heaven and to the people who did not have their representatives inside the government. If Confucius did not want massive peasant uprisings to serve as a checking system to make sure that the ruler carry on the Confucian humanist policy, those are only beautiful yet hollow words. Contrary to Confucianism, Jesus’ Christianity combined Confucius’ heaven (God) and people to form an unbreakable social force as an internal restricting mechanism to make sure that the government was on the right track of humanism.

Meng Tzu (372-289 BC), a famous Confucian scholar only second to Confucius, developed Confucius’ idea further, and proposed some practical measures in a sequence. What could be done when a ruler refused repeatedly the right advice of humanism by a Confucian minister? Meng Tzu said: 1). The minister had the option to leave; 2). The ruler could be replaced by another one through the ruler’s clan. In cooperation of the royal clan, ministers did sometimes change the emperor in the subsequent history. This first measure in line certainly helped to keep the country and its administration on the right track of humanist policy. Such changes of rulers were often violent but usually on small scale in Chinese history.

Meng Tzu further confirmed the actions of vassal states that overthrew the national ruler when the latter departed from the right track of humanist policy in early Chinese history. Thus when a national ruler departed from humanist policy and his court and clan failed to replace him by another one, a local state could replace the unfitted ruler by means of revolution or usurpation. This is the second measure in line to keep the country and its administration on the right track of humanist policy. Reminded by this theory of Meng Tzu, Chinese emperors took preemptive action to demolish all vassal states during the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BC -220 AD) and dismiss all local military governors in the Song dynasty (960-1279). Thus no more local military powers to compete with the central government even when the latter was weakened by its departure from humanist policy.

Meng Tzu did not mention the third measure in line to keep the country and its administration on the right track of humanist policy. Confucius and Meng Tzu could not be blamed for the negative effects of the third measure directly, but they were partially responsible. Confucianism did not design an operable mechanism to restrict the emperor’s power. As result, the emperor’s power was expanded so that the second measure in line to keep the country and its administration on the right track of humanist policy by usurpation of local military powers was eliminated completely by the emperor from the root. In Chinese history there were plenty of loyal ministers gave up their lives to admonish the emperor. Those ministers were like Christians who gave up their lives for their faith. I think the above quotation from Confucius has the connotation that massive peasant uprisings were the third measure in line to keep the country and its administration on the right track of humanist policy.

It was not an easy job for an ordinary peasant to run a county or a province. How could he all of sudden come to run a huge country? This means that it was harder than climbing up the blue sky. This may stop some peasants from trying to rebel. Confucians were often lacking the wish to go to the bottom of the society like Mohists and Christians did. In Chinese history, peasants were often stranded in situations where they were going to die whether they rebelled or not. In most of such cases, the peasants accepted their fate, uttering no sound. But quite a few chose to up-rise against their fate. Chinese peasant uprisings were so often, so massive on scale, like the waves in the Yangtze river one after another. This is the negative effects of less-well-designed Confucian humanism. Another presentation of the same negative effects is the impression on Western historians who study Chinese history: Magnificent imperial culture was well in contrast to the primitive poverty of millions of peasants. One of the protagonists in the classic novel The Scholars raises a proposal to restrict the number of wives one could take in order to improve the situation that too many single men were in the countryside. People say, there were three thousand beautiful women in the palaces surrounding one man the emperor. If the Confucian ministers had had the spirit of rebellion of Christians and Mohists, and had led those women to the countryside to marry those single men, it must have been the unique tale of humanism in Chinese history on everyone’s lips.

Massive uprisings of peasants did climb up the blue sky by bare hands. There were two dynasties that were founded by the commoners in Chinese history, and their dynasties were stamped with the brand of Chinese peasants. These are the Han (206 BC-220 AD) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties. In many aspects, they are worse than the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties that were founded by bureaucrats. After all military power was in the hands of the emperor after the Song dynasty, the only power source to overthrow the emperor and its court when they were weakened by departure from humanist policy was either from peasant uprising or foreign invaders, which was exactly what happened in the subsequent history. It is impossible to determine whether Confucius and Meng Tzu considered the foreign powers next door as part of their third measurement to keep the country and its administration on the right track of humanist policy, though foreign invaders did indeed enter in Chinese politics along peasant uprising as part of the third measurement. That is the Yuan(1272-1368) and Qing(1644-1911) dynasties, which had the cruel blood shedding of foreign invasion in addition to the much lower cultural level.

One of the reasons for the orderly prosperity during Emperors Literate and Scenery was the present of large vassal states inside their empire, which apparently served as a restricting factor to keep the country and its administration on the track of humanist policy. Both Emperors Literate and Scenery were remarkably modesty and self-refrained to stay away from excess ambitions. During the rebellion of seven vassal states, Emperor Scenery executed his prime minister in the request of those vassal states. The general who led the army to put down the rebellion refused repeatedly the orders from the Emperor who asked the general to rescue his brother , whose capital was attacks by those rebel vassal states. Those two incidents indicate that the Chinese government was far from totalitarianism because of the present of vassal states at that time.

During the reign of King Rigid of Chou (Zhouliwang ?-841 BC), the people of the capital rose to a rebellion. They swamped into the palace with sticks and farm tools in hands. King Rigid ran away and never dared to come back. The lord of a vassal state came to the capital as the temporary king for fourteen years, and then returned the throne to the royal family of Chou. In contrast, it usually took millions of lives to overthrow an unfitted government or to put down a massive peasant rebellion when the totalitarian government was well established later on in China. One of examples was the Taiping rebellion (1850-1864) that also lasted fourteen years, occupied almost half of China, and resulted more than twenty million deaths. From the records, the policies of the Taiping rebellion were much more humanist than the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). They even advocated equal rights of men and women and public ownership of land.

 

  1. The Two Levels of Society and the Different Pathways of Chinese and Western Humanism

 

The genetically coded primary Society was the basic social organization of man immediately above families in ancient time. The ideal number of people in this primary society is believed to be around 150. Bands and tribes are regarded as primary societies. Human nature or intuition was the major force to keep primary society stable and functioning. Any social organizations or societies above or far larger than the primary society are secondary society. The introduction of social stratification and other institutions against human nature is often necessary to keep a secondary society stable.

Secondary society is a creation of human culture and has nothing to do with human genetics and human nature. Secondary society has limitless possible types, and each one may have its own evolutionary pathway. Modern secondary societies become similar, but ancient societies were much more diversified. According to Aristotle, ancient Greece had 158 political systems worth description.

Our present secondary society is a strictly rational system that does not tolerate irrational thinking. We need rational thinking if we are aiming at social achievements such as a well paid high position or if we are materializing a goal in the physical world such as building a house. Rational thinking enables us to reach our goals. But if we are relaxing in sofa with our family and are aiming to enjoy ourselves, rational think does not do us any good. Under such circumstances, it is quite okay if we talk nonsense or allow ourselves enter weird daydreams. Only primary society tolerates both irrational and rational thinking. An’ it harm none, do what thou wilt.

Once Jesus’ Christianity entered the centre of secular social power, they too stressed the value of rational thinking. In history, some witches were in a state of irrational thinking and kept saying weird things and bizarre ideas, and many of them were tried and burned to death in so-called witch-hunt of many Christian countries. Nowadays, pastors and priests are graduates of theological schools, and a son of an ordinary carpenter was not allowed to preach unless he has the qualification. In many ways, ancient primary society was more humanist than modern secondary society.

 

In the West, the first secondary society was city states seen both in the Middle East and in ancient Greece. Primary society was disintegrated to form secondary society of free individuals. Secondary society, as a creation by man, has numerous pathways to take, and each one needs a set of ideology and corresponding social structure, often stratification, to support the ideology. As different individuals had different ideas as what direction the society should go, political instability and violent conflicts were inevitable. In the Middle East, it was documented that the appearance of states was associated with shortened life spans. It was a chaotic nightmare to the people who was used to much more humanist primary society. The only hope they had in mind was God and other superpowers. On the other hand, no ruler could restore order overnight in a population that knew nothing about the discipline and obedience. It was thus inevitable to worship supernatural powers and to put supernatural powers before people. Various magnificent constructions dedicated to gods appeared in the Middle East, Ancient Greece, and in Latin and South America. The master of such secondary society was God, and people were only the servicemen to God. In the service of God, man was easily put up with inhumane living conditions.

After such an unusual start, human civilization is a process in which secondary society is improved to better harbour human nature, emphasis is shifting from God to man, and man further his self realization and self emancipation. In spite of the dramatic changes our secondary society has taken, human nature remains the same. Thus it is also a process in which man lost his way and then looked for his origin, and found back himself.

As mentioned in Chapter 15.2, the last five thousand years of human civilization of war was an upward spiral with an continuing increase in battles and imperial sizes and in social inequality. The increase in battles, social inequality, imperial sizes are all negative factors for humanism, and hindered the social movement of humanism. But the human conditions was improved during the last few thousand years, and shift from God to man did take place over a long time.

 

The process of Chinese humanism was quite different from the West. Both Lao Tzu and Confucius admired ancient society and regarded it as their ideal society. Lao Tzu says, “Heaven and earth coalesce and it rains sweet dew. The people, no one ordering them, self balance to equality.” “The Tao of nature is to pare back abundance and add to the insufficient.”(Tao Te Ching, Chapters 32, 77). According to Taoist philosophy, the ancient primary society was close to the ideal of humanism, and the following social structure in Chinese early civilization enabled people to remain in primary or quasi-primary society:

 

The King and his clan + Intellectuals Quasi-primary society

The vassals and their clans + Intellectuals Quasi-primary society

Villages and tribes Primary society

 

Under such a social structure in their early years of civilization, Chinese people were able to build their social network based on face to face interaction, which was not distorted by external force other than human nature (see Chapter 15.3 for reference). The above social structure covers nearly two thousand years and three dynasties. Ancient records though regard the three dynasties, Hsia, Shang, and Chou, as a continuous cultural tradition but outline the differences among the three dynasties. The following is my translated summary fromThe Book of Rites comparing the three dynasties:

 

Hsia (2200-1766 BC): The culture of Hia respects fate, pays respect to gods and ghosts but keeps a distance from them, is close to human nature and loyal, delivers rewards and emoluments before punishment and power, is intimate but no respect. The people are primitive, foolish, proud and wild, simple and ill-posed. The culture of Hsia does not take words lightly, does not require perfection, does not ask a lot from people, its people are not bored with their family and relatives, and its people have little to complain.

Shang (1765-1123 BC): The culture of Shang respects gods, leads its people in service to gods, puts ghosts before rituals, delivers punishments before rewards, and its people are respectful but not close. Its people are boundless and shameless. The culture of Shang does not take rituals lightly, expects a lot from the people.

Chou (1122-256 BC): The culture of Chou respects rituals and charity, pays respect to gods and ghosts but keeps a distance from them, is close to human nature and loyal, rewards and punishes with ranking system. Its people are close but no respects, clever, posed, cheating without shame. The culture of Chou forces people to meet its need, does not take gods lightly, exhausts the system of rewards and punishments.

 

From the above records, we can see the difference among the three dynasties: Both Hsia and Chou paid due respect to gods and ghosts but kept a distance from them. Shang stressed the service to gods and ghosts while relied heavily on force and punishment. More than a hundred thousand of oracle bones were recovered, and they showed that Shang often waged military attacks on its neighbours, and human sacrifices numbered to more than ten thousands. A notable Chinese historian (Wang 2004) held such view that class polarization first appeared during the Shang dynasty, and Hsia dynasty was therefore a classless primitive society.

With the above social structure, the society was mainly stabilized on human nature. There was no need to rely on forceful gods or ghosts such as those that cost Socrates’ life except for if they had unnatural goals and lacked the social mechanism to motivate the people to reach their goals. During the Shang dynasty, there might be such goals such as attacking peaceful neighbours and the appearance of class stratification for the first time. The Chou dynasty abandoned the Shang’s culture of gods and ghosts but used a more humanist way to stabilize a society of class polarization, the ritual system(see Chapter 6.3 for reference). Here I call the humanist policy in the Hsia dynasty the natural humanism. The shift from gods to man in the early years of the Chou dynasty is comparable to the shift from nature to human society in the ancient Greek thinkers, the beginning of humanist social movement by man.

 

In the Middle East , paralleled to the huge constructions dedicated to gods, the first centre of social power was concentrated among religious staff, priests and witches. Even when secular kings were separated and had their own social networks to control the population, religious centres remained powerful entities that owned vast areas of land and employed massive numbers of people. In many ways, religious centres shared power with the government. Even the priests and priestesses of the Apollo Temple at Delphi of ancient Greece served as influential consultants to the local kings.

When Israeli people developed their monotheist religion, they had a bible that lists out the major laws and moral norms for the society as dictated by God. The priests (prophets) had the power to interpret and preach those laws and norms, and the government was only responsible to carry out those laws and norms. Thus those religious centres functioned very much like today’s parliaments in the Western democratic governments. This contrasts well to the religious centres in ancient China.

 

For nearly two thousand years, the dominating religions in Chinese history were Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. The function of those religions were at most like the Minister of Culture of the imperial government, and had no power to interfere any laws. The Minister of Culture could of course be dismissed at the emperor’s will. Closing down of temples and ban of religion occurred frequently in Chinese history.

Unlike Taoism and Buddhism, Confucianism was involved in politics. Such involvement was through the employment of Confucian scholars as government officials. Confucianism was never part of the imperial government. Nevertheless, the imperial government had the power to modify Confucianism at will. According to John King Fairbank (1994), it was the emperor (Hanwudi, 140-87 BC) who created the first official version of Confucianism by hybridizing Confucianism with Legalism to suit his needs for a centralized government. Fairbank called it the Imperial Confucianism, which was fundamentally different from the Confucianism founded by Confucius and Meng Tzu. The imperialist system with absolute power was a major setback for humanism in Chines history, though it also kept local lords in check.

With the government pressured by the continuous uprising of the peasants and influenced by Taoism and Confucianism, Humanism did achieve some major progresses in Chinese history against the increased social inequality and the further concentrated power on the emperor and his court. The following is what came to my mind while I was writing:

 

1). Taoist religion and Buddhism, first appeared during the late Han dynasty(25-220), provided a place of retreat from the inhumane secondary society. Although no place was immune to the imperial power, religious temples were safer shelters to many, who offended the government.

2). Taoist philosophy provided from theory to practical techniques a whole set of tools to treat the mental injuries inflicted by secondary society.

3). Confucianism developed into so called the Idealist Philosophy during the Song and Ming dynasties (960-1644), which further separated the spiritual cultivation of individual people from politics and the reality of secondary society. This provided an easily accessible and largely available spiritual retreat for those in need.

4). Human sacrifices were down significantly since the beginning of the social moment of Humanism, though foot-binding and other customs against women appeared, cruel punishments such as “ten thousand cuts” and “striping the skin off” remained.

5). Shaped and influenced by the ideal egalitarian society of Taoist philosophy, the class polarization in the countryside was much less in comparison with the West.

6). Absolute poverty of lacking food, clothes, shelters and other basic requirements for living was never eliminated in Chinese history, and even worse than the early years of the Chou dynasty. The number of deaths in war increased significantly.

 

5. Epilogue: The Spiritual Characters of Confucian Scholars

 

Both Christianity and Confucianism emphasize the spiritual characters of their followers, though Confucianism does not rely on God to consecrate its followers’ spirit. Confucius spoke in such great detail and explained the ideal image of a Confucian gentleman, but was reluctant to name anyone who met the criteria of benevolence. He apparently idealized and consecrated the spiritual characters of a Confucian gentleman. Thus Confucian scholars’ spiritual cultivation became artistic pursuit, and the spiritual characters were like a piece of art that was detached from any social power or godly power. Like the early Christians found joy in poverty while willing to die for their faith, Confucian scholars displayed unmatched courage and spiritual characters in spite of their poverty.

One of those scholars was Square (Fang Xiaoru or Square Filial-Confucianism, 1357-1402), who refused to cooperate with the new emperor in spite of a total of 873 people including himself, his family, his relatives, and his friends were executed. As he kept criticizing and even cursing the emperor to his majesty’s face, his mouth was ripped to the ear on both sides that failed to stop him. He was made to watch his brother’s execution, and tears welling out his eyes. The brother chanted a lofty and heroic poem to condole Square:

 

My dear brother, you need not wash your face with tears,

Die of benevolence and righteousness, and here’s.

From the royal ornamental column and a thousand years,

We then travel home together, chanting to our ears.

 

 

After Square was cut into two at the waist as the execution required, he managed to write ten and a half Chinese characters with his own blood to show his faith.

On the other hand, the new emperor was the uncle who dethroned his nephew. What a difference was there as to which one of their family became the emperor? Was there any need to be so serious? It was at most a ritual issue but far from the issue of Confucian humanist policy. In the above quotation(15.3), Confucius did set up rituals as the criteria to judge a ruler’s behaviour, but he clearly used rituals to promote his humanist policy. In fact, the nephew emperor violated the rituals first trying to undermine his uncle’s vassal state, and Confucian court officials including Square did not stop him. Paradoxically, the nephew’s wish to substantially reduce the power of vassal states was only accomplished by his uncle. To ascend the throne, wasn’t the same whoever drafted the imperial edict? Why did the emperor have to force Square to draft while the latter determined not to? This was the extremity of the development of rational thinking in secondary society that never occurred in primary society. If Square was the lord of a vassal state, how did the emperor dare to ask a rebuff to come to Square for the draft?

Therefore, those 873 deaths are not for such rubbish issue who was the right man for the throne from the same family, and they are to defend the sacred nature of the spiritual characters of Confucian scholars that Confucius and Meng Tzu outlined some two thousand years ago. It is like Pygmalion in the Greek mythology who loves the ivory figurine he has sculptured so that he gives up the happiness of sexual love and family. He thinks his figurine is the most beautiful in the whole world, and he is willing to sacrifice for the beauty he has created. Such sacrifice is radiating with beauty of the spiritual realm, far above the secular pursuit such as the size and power of an empire that increased in the last five thousand years against human nature. Whenever I feel heartache after reading about the dedication of lives of Confucian scholars to their faith, I rely on my above interpretation to make me feel better.

“Digo lo que se me da la realísima gana, y se acabó”

“Soy odiado por los altos prelados de la Argentina, que me consideran un zurdo, un izquierdista, un comunista. Y los comunistas me consideran un reaccionario, porque hablo de Cristo y porque hablo que la vida es sagrada, y la muerte es misteriosa y también sagrada… Y bueno, yo digo lo que se me da la realísima gana, y se acabó”.

Ernesto Sábato, entrevista oral.

My take: Reclaiming Jesus’ sense of humor

English: This is a map of first century Iudaea...

Editor’s note: James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine and author of “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life,” from which this article is adapted.

By James Martin, Special to CNN

Here’s a serious question about levity: The Bible clearly paints a picture of Jesus of Nazareth as a clever guy, but he never seems to laugh, much less crack a smile. Did Jesus really have no sense of humor; didn’t he ever laugh?

Well, one difficulty with finding humor in the New Testament is that what was seen as funny to those living in Jesus’ time may not seem funny to us.

For someone in first-century Palestine, the premise (or “setup” as a comic would say) was probably more amusing than the punch line. “The parables were amusing in their exaggeration or hyperbole,” Amy-Jill Levine, a New Testament scholar at Vanderbilt University, said in an interview. “The idea that a mustard seed would have sprouted into a big bush that birds would build their nests in would be humorous.”

People in Jesus’ day would probably have laughed at many of his intentionally funny illustrations: for example, the idea that someone would have lit a lamp and put it under a basket, or that a person would have built a house on sand or that a father would give a child stones instead of bread.

But contemporary Christians may be missing the humor that Jesus intended and that his audience understood.

Father Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, professor of New Testament at Boston College, agrees. “Humor is very culture bound,” he told me. “The Gospels have a lot of controversy stories and honor-shame situations. I suspect that the early readers found these stories hilarious, whereas we in a very different social setting miss the point entirely.”

Let’s repeat that: hilarious.

Or maybe we just know the stories too well. Too many Gospel stories have become stale, like overly repeated jokes. “The words seem to us like old coins,” wrote Elton Trueblood, a 20th-century Quaker scholar, “in which the edges have been worn smooth and the engravings have become almost indistinguishable.”

In his book “The Humor of Christ,” Trueblood recounts the tale of his 4-year-old son hearing the Gospel story of seeing the speck of dust in your neighbor’s eye and ignoring the log in your own and laughing uproariously. His son recognized the humor that someone else, who might have heard the story dozens of times, might miss.

There are other indications in the Gospels that Jesus of Nazareth had a lively sense of humor. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is castigated for not being as serious as John the Baptist. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking,” Jesus said, “and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard.’ ” In other words, the Gospels record criticism of Jesus for being too high-spirited.

“Jesus and his disciples,” said the Rev. Richard J. Clifford, SJ, a biblical scholar at Boston College, “are criticized for living it up!”

After his time on Earth, some of this playfulness may have been downplayed by the Gospel writers, who, scholars say, may have felt pressured by the standards of their day to present a more serious Jesus.

“There were probably things that were compressed and shortened, and some of the humor may have been leached out,” Clifford said. “But I see Jesus as a witty fellow, someone who is serious without being grim. When the disciples argue among themselves, Jesus brings wit into the discussion.”

Jesus also embraces others with a sense of humor. In the beginning of the Gospel of John comes the remarkable story of Nathanael, who has been told by his friends that the Messiah is from Nazareth. Nathanael responds, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

This is an obvious joke about how backwards the town was; Nazareth was seen as a backwater with only a few hundred people.

And what did Jesus say in response? Does he castigate Nathanael for mocking his hometown?

Jesus says nothing of the sort! Nathanael’s humor seems to delight him.

“Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit,” Jesus said. In other words, here’s someone I can trust.

Nathanael then became one of the apostles. Jesus’ welcoming of Nathanael into his inner circle may be the clearest indication that Jesus had a sense of humor.

Besides, what kind of a person has zero sense of humor? I asked Eileen Russell, a clinical psychologist based in New York who specializes in the role of resilience, how she would describe the psychological makeup of a person without a sense of humor.

“A person without a sense of humor would lead to that person having significant social problems,” she said. “He would most likely have difficulty making social connections, because he wouldn’t be able to read signals from other people, and would be missing cues.”

That’s the opposite of what we know about Jesus from the Gospels. Yet that’s just the kind of one-sided image that many Christians have of Jesus. It shows up in Christian books, sermons and in artwork. It influences the way that Christians think about Jesus, and therefore influences their lives as Christians.

If part of being human includes having a sense of humor, and if Jesus was “fully human,” as Christians believe, he must have had a fully developed sense of humor. Indeed, his sense of humor may be one unexamined reason for his ability to draw so many disciples around him with ease.

It’s time to set aside the notion that Jesus was a humorless, grim-faced, dour, unsmiling prude. Let’s begin to recover his humor and, in the process, his humanity.

My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions

Editor’s note: John Shelby Spong, a former Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, is author of “Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World.”

By John Shelby Spong, Special to CNN

The Bible is both a reservoir of spiritual insight and a cultural icon to which lip service is still paid in the Western world. Yet when the Bible is talked about in public by both believers and critics, it becomes clear that misconceptions abound.

To me, three misconceptions stand out and serve to make the Bible hard to comprehend.

First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it.

The facts are that Abraham, the biblically acknowledged founding father of the Jewish people, whose story forms the earliest content of the Bible, died about 900 years before the first story of Abraham was written in the Old Testament.

Actually, that’s not in the Bible

Can a defining tribal narrative that is passed on orally for 45 generations ever be regarded as history, at least as history is understood today?

Moses, the religious genius who put his stamp on the religion of the Old Testament more powerfully than any other figure, died about 300 years before the first story of Moses entered the written form we call Holy Scripture.

This means that everything we know about Moses in the Bible had to have passed orally through about 15 generations before achieving written form. Do stories of heroic figures not grow, experience magnifying tendencies and become surrounded by interpretive mythology as the years roll by?

My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?

Jesus of Nazareth, according to our best research, lived between the years 4 B.C. and A.D. 30. Yet all of the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 A.D., or 40 to 70 years after his crucifixion, and they were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write.

Are the gospels then capable of being effective guides to history? If we line up the gospels in the time sequence in which they were written – that is, with Mark first, followed by Matthew, then by Luke and ending with John – we can see exactly how the story expanded between the years 70 and 100.

For example, miracles do not get attached to the memory of Jesus story until the eighth decade. The miraculous birth of Jesus is a ninth-decade addition; the story of Jesus ascending into heaven is a 10th-decade narrative.

In the first gospel, Mark, the risen Christ appears physically to no one, but by the time we come to the last gospel, John, Thomas is invited to feel the nail prints in Christ’s hands and feet and the spear wound in his side.

Perhaps the most telling witness against the claim of accurate history for the Bible comes when we read the earliest narrative of the crucifixion found in Mark’s gospel and discover that it is not based on eyewitness testimony at all.

My Take: Yes, the Bible really condemns homosexuality

Instead, it’s an interpretive account designed to conform the story of Jesus’ death to the messianic yearnings of the Hebrew Scriptures, including Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

The Bible interprets life from its particular perspective; it does not record in a factual way the human journey through history.

The second major misconception comes from the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense “the word of God.” Only someone who has never read the Bible could make such a claim. The Bible portrays God as hating the Egyptians, stopping the sun in the sky to allow more daylight to enable Joshua to kill more Amorites and ordering King Saul to commit genocide against the Amalekites.

Can these acts of immorality ever be called “the word of God”? The book of Psalms promises happiness to the defeated and exiled Jews only when they can dash the heads of Babylonian children against the rocks! Is this “the word of God? What kind of God would that be?

The Bible, when read literally, calls for the execution of children who are willfully disobedient to their parents, for those who worship false gods, for those who commit adultery, for homosexual persons and for any man who has sex with his mother-in-law, just to name a few.

The Bible exhorts slaves to be obedient to their masters and wives to be obedient to their husbands. Over the centuries, texts like these, taken from the Bible and interpreted literally, have been used as powerful and evil weapons to support killing prejudices and to justify the cruelest kind of inhumanity.

The third major misconception is that biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging. Instead, the Bible presents us with an evolutionary story, and in those evolving patterns, the permanent value of the Bible is ultimately revealed.

It was a long road for human beings and human values to travel between the tribal deity found in the book of Exodus, who orders the death of the firstborn male in every Egyptian household on the night of the Passover, until we reach an understanding of God who commands us to love our enemies.

The transition moments on this journey can be studied easily. It was the prophet named Hosea, writing in the eighth century B.C., who changed God’s name to love. It was the prophet named Amos who changed God’s name to justice. It was the prophet we call Jonah who taught us that the love of God is not bounded by the limits of our own ability to love.

It was the prophet Micah who understood that beautiful religious rituals and even lavish sacrifices were not the things that worship requires, but rather “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” It was the prophet we call Malachi, writing in the fifth century B.C., who finally saw God as a universal experience, transcending all national and tribal boundaries.

One has only to look at Christian history to see why these misconceptions are dangerous. They have fed religious persecution and religious wars. They have fueled racism, anti-female biases, anti-Semitism and homophobia.They have fought against science and the explosion of knowledge.

The ultimate meaning of the Bible escapes human limits and calls us to a recognition that every life is holy, every life is loved, and every life is called to be all that that life is capable of being. The Bible is, thus, not about religion at all but about becoming deeply and fully human. It issues the invitation to live fully, to love wastefully and to have the courage to be our most complete selves.

That is why I treasure this book and why I struggle to reclaim its essential message for our increasingly non-religious world.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Shelby Spong.

La historia profunda I y II

English: Sacrifice of Cain and Abel

La historia profunda (I)

La historia sumerio-hebrea de Caín y Abel es la escenificación y la memoria de uno de los cambios más dramáticos en la historia no escrita de la Humanidad: el paso del mundo nómade y del mundo pastoril al mundo de la agricultura. Abel, el bueno, era el hermano pastor: Caín, el asesino no sólo mata a su hermano convirtiéndose en criminal, sino que también representa el fin de una Era. A partir de entonces, con la agricultura, surge la civilización. No es coincidencia que Dios o los dioses rechazaran el cambio: los hombres no pueden mejorar lo creado. La historia no significa ningún progreso sino un interminable proceso de corrupción.

Es una paradoja cuando consideramos que no sólo la palabra civilización surge de civitas, ciudad, sino que la cultura misma de hombres y mujeres civilizadas se refiere a las normas de convivencias urbanas. Pero la civilización, como las ciudades surgen con el fin del nomadismo por tres razones: primero, porque una ciudad es algo que no se puede mover, como un campamento; segundo, porque las ciudades no tendrían ningún sentido sin la agricultura, sobre todo sin la agricultura intensiva; tercereo, porque el sistema agrícola, a diferencia de la caza y la recolección del nómade, se basa en la previsión y en la conciencia de los siglos climáticos.

Probablemente la historia de Caín y Abel haya surgido o su memoria se haya consolidado con el nacimiento de las primeras ciudades en medio Oriente, que en la tradición o en la narrativa Bíblica conservan su aura negativa, que se corresponde a la idea del Edén perdido por el pecado. No es casualidad que sea una gran ciudad como Babilonia el arquetipo del pecado y la corrupción. No es casualidad que Abraham abandona la gran ciudad mesopotámica y se convierte en pastor trashumante. Una vez que esta historia entra en la cultura escrita, propia de las primeras civilizaciones, se fosiliza y pasa a regir el imaginario y los valores de innumerables pueblos a lo largo de los siglos.

La civilización ya consolidada en Mesopotamia y Egipto adquieren, desde este contrapunto histórico y existencial, una visión negativa (el romanticismo, la nostalgia por el tiempo perdido, con frecuencia es nacionalista, lo que se prueba no sólo con el romanticismo del siglo XIX sino con los nacionalismos del siglo XX). Abraham entra en Egipto y miente a sus autoridades; Dios no castiga a Abraham sino los civilizados egipcios, que deciden deportar amablemente a Abraham (Abraham repetirá la misma historia en otras comarcas; otra vez es deportado y beneficiado con riquezas materiales que obtiene de otros reyes que pretenden evitar la furia de Yahveh).

Aparte de la lógica mítica e histórica, hay un factor psicológico que con la cultura se convertirá en una práctica básica: con el desarrollo de la agricultura y de las ciudades, los hombres debieron cambiar el primer impulso por satisfacer sus deseos más inmediatos, de alimentación, de sexo y consecuentemente de propiedad (los tres valores claramente expresados en la conflictiva historia de Abraham). La búsqueda por la satisfacción inmediata del nómade, cazador y recolector, debió se sustituida por la autorepresión de los deseos más inmediatos y, por ende, por el surgimiento de la conciencia individual y social: el duro sacrificio del cultivo de la tierra y la larga espera de la siembra.

Esta falta de inmediatez desarrolló los tabúes, la autorepresión y expandió o sofisticó la conciencia. Todo lo cual hizo posible una vida más segura y probablemente más prolongada, pero al mismo tiempo una vida que no pudo olvidar el bucólico paraíso de la Era anterior. Obviamente, quizás por un mecanismo que es común en la psicología individual, se echó al olvido los sufrimientos pasados o la memoria del dolor ya no dolía, como no duele la muerte de un mártir o un héroe lejano. No se recordó los peligros que acortaban la vida porque la conciencia primitiva todavía expresaba una idea indiscutible: todo pasado fue mejor. Nuestros padres no sólo vivían en el Paraíso, el Edén, sino que sus castigados hijos, aunque ya no inmortales, eran capaces de vivir cientos de años. Lo que no se corresponde con las investigaciones científicas pero sí con la naturaleza espiritual y psicológica más profunda, no sólo en la tradición judeocristianomusulmana sino en muchas otras, algunas tan diferentes como la tradición griega, resumida por Hesíodo en las cinco Eras, la primera de las cuales era de oro y la última, la nuestra, de hierro (la cosmología amerindia difiere sensiblemente, como lo analizamos en un estudio sobre Quetzalcóatl y los movimientos revolucionarios latinoamericanos).

No sabemos qué pueblos podrían representar a Abel, ni estamos seguros de qué pueblos representarían a Caín, aunque podemos especular que estos últimos fueron los pueblos semíticos. Digo esto porque sospecho que en cada cambio de paradigma hay un cambio de pueblos. Esto lo veremos muy resumido en el próximo ensayo, al analizar los cambios históricos más importantes. La hipótesis sería la siguiente: un nuevo paradigma nace en una cultura o en una civilización en su madurez y apogeo pero sólo se realiza en una cultura o en una nación emergente, sin las fuerzas reaccionarias que produjo el paradigma anterior.

(continúa)

Jorge Majfud

Jacksonville University

Diciembre 2011 majfud.org

Milenio , II (Mexico)

La Republica (Uruguay)

Cambio 16 (España)

El Nuevo Siglo (Colombia)

La historia profunda (II)

No sabemos qué pueblos podrían representar a Abel, ni estamos seguros de qué pueblos representarían a Caín, aunque podemos especular que estos últimos fueron los pueblos semíticos. Digo esto porque sospecho que en cada cambio de paradigma hay un cambio de pueblos. La hipótesis sería la siguiente: un nuevo paradigma nace en una cultura o en una civilización en su madurez y apogeo pero sólo se realiza en una cultura o en una nación emergente, sin las fuerzas reaccionarias que produjo el paradigma anterior.

Por ejemplo, el monoteísmo (o la monolatría) no surgen con el pueblo hebreo sino en el pueblo egipcio. Es decir, un pueblo que maduró por milenios en el politeísmo produce la idea pero no la realización. Lo cual es lógico. La revolución de Amenofis IV (Akenatón), la revolución del dios Atón (1350, A.C.), duró poco y fue sofocada por un movimiento reaccionario de la misma tradición. Por esta razón Moisés, un egipcio mencionado en la Biblia como el líder de un pueblo con problemas para hablar (el idioma de su pueblo), tuvo la sabia idea de salvar el nuevo culto injertándolo en un nuevo pueblo, un pueblo de esclavos al que prometió las mieles de una nueva tierra, es decir, la libertad a cambio del muevo paradigma. El nuevo pueblo no carecía de fetichismos y otras idolatrías, pero la fuerza de su tradición distaba mucho de la egipcia.

Esta hipótesis o bosquejo de teoría es razonable cuando seguimos buscando la misma lógica en la historia posterior: por ejemplo, más de mil años más tarde el cristianismo nace del judaísmo y es, de muchas formas, condenado por la fuerza de esta tradición ya largamente establecida, madura y sofisticada. Razón por la cual, contario a las primeras expresiones de Jesús, finalmente el cristianismo se encarna en pueblos foráneos, extraños, como lo eran el griego y varios otros que no lo produjeron. Cuando la mujer cananea le pide a Jesús un milagro para su hija enferma, Jesús responde: “No fui enviado sino a las ovejas perdidas de la casa de Israel”, y enseguida agrega: “No está bien tomar el pan de los hijos y echarlo a los perros” (en otras versionas, en lugar de “perros”, para referirse a otros pueblos, se usa el eufemismo “perrillos”). La mujer cananea responde: “Sí, Señor, pero aun los perros comen de las migajas que caen de la mesa de sus amos” (Mateo 15: 22). Se da la paradoja que el cristianismo es salvado o reinventado (el cristianismo ha sido dramáticamente refundado y versionado muchas veces) por aquellos pueblos periféricos referidos metafóricamente por el maestro como perros. La segunda paradoja fundacional nunca fue reconocida, ni siquiera aludida por la centenaria tradición religiosa y teológica: la mujer cananea, aparte de ser mujer y aparte de pertenecer a un pueblo excluido de los planes de Dios según la tradición, interpela a Jesús con un argumento. Ese “hasta los perros comen las migajas” tiene todo el estilo y el contenido silogístico de los contraargumentos de Jesús, como el conocido “el que esté libre de pecado que arroje la primera piedra” y muchos otros donde no se niega ni se deroga la Ley pero se la pone en suspenso dialéctico (Jesús no corrige las Escrituras, no deroga la prescripción de la lapidación de las adúlteras, pero la hace inaplicable). Lejos de la tradición religiosa de las tres grandes religiones, Jesús no sólo rectifica sus argumentos ante la mujer cananea, sino que aprecia su fe por su misma insolencia.

El pedido que le hace a Pedro no es el de llevar la idea a otros pueblos (petición muy ambigua que la iglesia católica repitió y exaltó por sobre muchas otras que no le convenían, como cuando unas líneas más abajo el mismo Jesús le dice a Pedro: “¡Quítate de delante de mí, Satanás!, me eres tropiezo”). El hecho concreto es que el cristianismo primitivo, por llamarlo de alguna forma, fracasa en el pueblo en el que se origina y triunfa en el extranjero.

Solo por mencionar un ejemplo más, sobre lo que considero la mayor revolución de los últimos quinientos años, mencionemos la revolución de la Ilustración o del Iluminismo. Si bien las ideas que caracterizan este movimiento comienzan a surgir con el humanismo de siglos antes, lo cierto es que maduran en Francia y se realizan en América. Luego de la trascendental Revolución Americana (los intelectuales de la izquierda clásica normalmente se niegan a darle el crédito que le dio Marx), Francia tuvo su revolución, pero recayó varias veces ante las previsibles fuerzas reaccionarias de una larga tradición aristocrática y absolutista. La misma Europa sucumbió hasta no hace mucho a diferentes experimentos autoritarios, como los de Napoleón, Mussolini, Hitler o Stalin. Obviamente que se puede argumentar que Estados Unidos tuvo a sus dictadores vestidos de presidentes democráticos, pero no me refiero a las clásicas, universales y probablemente inevitables consecuencias de un poder político y militar hegemónico, sino al impacto que tuvo en su tiempo una revolución que influyó decisivamente primero en la creación de las republicas iberoamericanas y luego como paradigma en muchas otras partes del mundo, incluida Europa, según consta en la literatura política de los siglos más recientes.

Esta hipótesis se puede ampliar y profundizar con relativa facilidad, incluyendo una larga lista de aspectos discutibles. Pero en síntesis y desde una perspectiva general podemos observar y verificar que cada tiempo ha tenido su Abel asesinado por Caín. La paradoja dramática y existencial radica en que probablemente Caín sea el progreso de la historia y Abel represente el pasado romántico de una Era que acabó; mientras se añora y idealiza a Abel, se criminaliza a Caín. Creo que lo más interesante ahora es, siguiendo el modelo planteado, prever o especular sobre cuál será el nuevo paradigma. Según este modelo, debería surgir en una cultura hegemónica, es decir en la cultura Americana, y debería realizarse en alguna otra región del mundo. Cualquiera estaría tentado a señalar a China. No obstante, por el momento, lo que se puede observar es una expansión del paradigma americano, incluso en la periferia más contestataria, incluso en la comunista China. Por ahora sólo tenemos crisis económicas y financieras; no crisis de paradigmas y mucho menos la aparición de uno nuevo.

Jorge Majfud

Jacksonville University

Diciembre 2011 majfud.org

Cambio 16 (España)

Milenio B (Mexico)

La Republica (Uruguay)

El Nuevo Siglo (Colombia)

La naturaleza erótica del poder

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El espectáculo del músculo

Los levantadores de pesas olímpicos, los boxeadores profesionales se someten a una rigurosa disciplina que construye y mantiene ese aparato muscular que cada día amenaza con desinflarse con asombrosa facilidad. El músculo necesita ejercitarse cada día para evitar la decadencia.

Pero el poder en toda su plenitud es algo más que simple fuerza muscular. El poder se construye con la fuerza psicológica del dominante y con la supuesta debilidad del dominado. Porque la vocación y el sentido último del poder consiste en liberar su energía sobre algo, la mayoría de las veces sobre alguien.

Podríamos considerar al fisicoculturismo como la abstracción inocente de la primitiva actitud de presumir de la fuerza propia para impresionar la debilidad ajena. En la mayoría de las especies animales, el macho infla alguna parte de su cuerpo, despliega todas sus plumas, organiza una danza ancestral, ruge, grita para impresionar a las hembras y a otros machos. ¿Qué otro sentido tendría ese clásico sinsentido de ir a la guerra con una banda de músicos suicidas al frente? Sólo dominando el ánimo ajeno una fuerza muscular puede ejercer plenamente su poder.

Probablemente estas leyes biológicas y psicológicas se aplican también a escala social e histórica. Cuando el desafío al poder de turno no existe se lo inventa. Porque como el sexo y el erotismo, el poder no puede estar inactivo mucho tiempo. Cuando un imperio o un pequeño dictador ven su poder en cuestión, inventan algún conflicto. Una guerra, un desplazamiento de armas, un desfile descomunal de tanques y soldados que se mueven como máquinas ante las narices de su propio pueblo y ante los ojos del resto del mundo.

Porque el poder es así de ridículo y así de trágico.

* * *

El erotismo del poder

En el erotismo clásico, la hembra, como las flores, seduce por su demostración de debilidad. La belleza de la fragilidad femenina es el premio al ejercicio del poder masculino. Probablemente este precepto y percepción de la belleza femenina es un invento masculino del neolítico y un éxito del Renacimiento primero y de Hollywood después.

Lo femenino seduce porque lo masculino conquista hasta que vence el sexo. Es un triunfo puramente simbólico y, por lo tanto, más real que la realidad. En el lenguaje tradicional este juego de poderes se describe con palabras como poseer y ser poseído, en “te haré mía” y “hazme tuya”, en símbolos como la bandera que alguien clava en la cumbre de una montaña, en una tierra conquistada o en la Luna misma.

El erotismo es tensión social que el sexo relaja. Luego llamamos arte a todo lo que contribuye al incremento de esta tensión y pornografía al resto del proceso. Por esta razón, una de las fórmulas eróticas más practicadas y menos reconocida consiste en incrementar deliberadamente esta tensión de opuestos por la distancia que media entre lo femenino y lo masculino, lo rico y lo pobre, la belleza y la fealdad, la fragilidad y el poder. De ahí la obsesión literaria y, sobre todo, la obsesión de la cultura popular y de la cultura del consumo, por lo femenino de las clases altas posando y contrastando en algún peligroso y decadente barrio de paredes despintadas, de las reinas de la música pop norteamericanas grabando sus eróticos videoclips en las favelas de Rio de Janeiro. (Para la cultura del consumo, no hay música sin excitación sexual.)

Así, como en todo carnaval, el mendigo se viste de rey, el pobre vence en el sexo, el poder se trasviste de hembra —el poder es un travesti de corazón—, la clase alta se humilla por un día, and so on.

Este orgasmo, simbólico y real, es la liberación final de la tensión social organizada por el poder. De la misma forma, en culturas más antiguas, faraones, emperadores y reyes debían sufrir y sangrar ante su pueblo una vez al año para legitimar su poder.

El amor se despliega con los mismos actos y gestos, y suele estar entreverado, pero es otra cosa.

Claro, como todo lo humano, el amor nunca se encuentra en estado químicamente puro y casi siempre se encuentra contaminado de odios, celos, envidias y todos los demás tóxicos que derivan del poder dominante.

Porque el poder dominante define las reglas del erotismo pero nada tiene que ver con el amor.

* * *
La conquista de la Luna

Porque el hombre no pisó la Luna. El hombre se la clavó.

El objetivo real de la millonaria empresa norteamericana, irguiendo el descomunal pene del Saturn V, fue la conquista simbólica, la demostración de poder ante el otro macho vencido, la Unión Soviética.

El primer hombre en la Luna fue Neil (en escocés y en irlandés, “campeón”) Armstrong, que si separamos como “Arm-strong”, en inglés significa “brazo fuerte”. Amstrong no tuvo ninguna misión práctica. El objetivo central fue la derrota del rival mediante la conquista de la Luna —es decir, de la Tierra.

El vencido tuvo que conformarse con ver al Águila, símbolo de la posesión, clavando el mástil de su bandera en el femenino más famoso de la historia, desde los mitos más antiguos hasta los poetas más modernos.

Posteriormente surgieron las teorías que negaban semejante hecho, blandiendo medio centenar de excusas fácilmente refutables, lo que también se asemeja a la negación del vencido en la conquista amorosa. El vencido confirma su derrota dedicando sus energías a difamar al vencedor.

Jorge Majfud

Febrero, 2010

Revista Amauta (Peru)

La Republica (Uruguay)

Honduras contra a história

Street in Yuscarán, Honduras

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Honduras II: Por sus métodos los conocerás (spanish)

By Their Methods You Shall Know Them (English)

 

Honduras contra a história

A Bíblia refere que, certa vez, os mestres da lei levaram uma mulher adúltera diante de Jesus. Pretendiam apedrejá-la até a morte, segundo a lei de Deus os obrigava, que então dizem que era também a lei dos homens. Mestres e fariseus quiseram provar Jesus, do que se induz que este já era conhecido pela sua falta de ortodoxia com relação às leis mais antigas. Jesus sugeriu que quem estivesse livre de pecado atirasse a primeira pedra. Assim, ninguém pôde executar a lei escrita.

Dessa forma e de muitas outras, a própria Bíblia foi mudando a si mesma, apesar de ser uma soma de livros inspirados por Deus. As religiões sempre se orgulharam de ser grandes forças conservadoras, que, enfrentadas pelos reformistas, se converteram em grandes forças reacionárias. O paradoxo está radicado em que toda religião, toda seita foi fundada por algum subversivo, por algum rebelde ou revolucionário. Por algo pululam os mártires, perseguidos, torturados e assassinados pelos poderes políticos do momento.

Os homens que perseguiam a adúltera se retiraram, reconhecendo com os fatos os seus próprios pecados. Mas ao longo da história o resultado foi diferente. Os homens que oprimem, matam e assassinam os supostos pecadores sempre o fazem justificados em alguma lei, em algum direito e em nome da moral. Essa regra, mais universal, foi a aplicada no próprio julgamento de Jesus. Em sua época, ele não foi o único rebelde que lutou contra o Império Romano. Não por casualidade ele foi crucificado junto com outros dois réus. Por associação, quis-se significar que um réu a mais estava sendo julgado. Nem sequer um dissidente religioso. Nem sequer um dissidente político. Invocando outras leis, tirou-se do meio o subversivo, que colocava em questão a “pax romana” e o colaboracionismo da aristocracia e das hierarquias religiosas de seu próprio povo. Tudo foi realizado segundo as leis. Mas a história reconhece-os hoje pelos seus métodos.

O governo de George Bush nos deu assunto de sobra e em grande escala. Todas as guerras e as violações às leis nacionais e internacionais foram acometidas em defesa da lei e do direito. Por seus interesses sectários, ele será julgado pela história. Por seus métodos seus interesses serão conhecidos.

Na América Latina, o papel da Igreja católica quase sempre foi o papel dos fariseus e dos mestres da lei que condenaram Jesus na defesa das classes dominantes. Não houve ditadura militar, de origem oligárquica, que não recebesse a benção de bispos e de sacerdotes influentes, legitimando assim a censura, a opressão e o assassinato em massa dos supostos pecadores.

Agora, no século XXI, o método e os discursos se repetem em Honduras como uma chibatada do passado.

Por seus métodos os conhecemos. O discurso patriota, a complacência de uma classe alta educada na dominação dos pobres sem educação acadêmica. Uma classe dona dos métodos de educação popular, como são os principais meios de comunicação. A censura, o uso do exército em ação de seus plano, a repressão das manifestações populares, a expulsão de jornalistas, a expulsão pela força de um governo eleito por votação democrática, seu posterior requerimento diante da Interpol, sua ameaça à prisão dos dissidentes se regressassem e sua posterior negação pela força ao fato de que regressem.

Para ver melhor esse fenômeno reacionário, vamos dividir a história humana em quatro grandes períodos:

1) O poder coletivo da tribo concentrado em um membro forte de uma família, em geral um homem.

2) Um período de expansão agrícola unificado por um totem (algo assim como um sobrenome vencedor) e depois um faraó ou imperador. Nesse momento, surgem as guerras e se consolidam os exércitos mais primitivos, não tanto para a defesa, mas sim para a conquista de novos territórios produtivos e para a administração estatal da sobreprodução de seu próprio povo e a opressão de seus povos escravos. Essa etapa continua com suas variações até os reis absolutistas da Europa, passando pela era feudal. Em todos, a religião é um elemento central de coesão e também de coação.

3) Na era moderna, temos um renascimento e uma radicalização da experiência grega de democracia representativa. Só que, neste momento, o pensamento humanista inclui a ideia de universalidade, de igualdade implícita de todo ser humano, a ideia da história como um processo de aperfeiçoamento e não de inevitável corrupção e o conceito de moral como um produto humano e relativo a um determinado tempo.

E, talvez, a ideia mais importante, já desde o filósofo árabe Averróis: o poder político não como a pura vontade de Deus, mas sim como o resultado dos interesses sociais, de classes etc. O liberalismo e o marxismo são duas radicalizações (opostas em seus meios) dessa mesma corrente de pensamento, que também inclui a teoria da evolução deCharles Darwin. Esse período de democracia representativa foi a forma mais prática de reunir as vozes de milhões de homens e mulheres em uma só casa, o Congresso ou Parlamento.

Se o humanismo é anterior às técnicas de popularização da cultura, ele também é potencializado por estas. A imprensa, os livros de bolso, os jornais de baixo preço no século XIX, a necessária alfabetização dos futuros operários foram passos decisivos para a democratização. No entanto, ao mesmo tempo, as forças reacionárias, as forças dominantes do período anterior rapidamente conquistaram esses meios. Assim, se já não era possível demorar mais a chegada da democracia representativa, era possível sim dominar seus instrumentos. Os sermões medievais nas igrejas, funcionais em grande parte aos príncipes e duques, se reformularam nos meios de informação e nos meios da nova cultura popular, como o rádio, o cinema e a televisão.

4) No entanto, a onda democrática seguiu seu caminho, com frequência regado a sangue pelos sucessivos golpes reacionários. No século XXI, a onda do humanismo renascentista continua. E com ela continuam os instrumentos para torná-la possível. Como a Internet, por exemplo. Mas também as forças contrárias, as reações dos poderes constituídos pelas etapas anteriores. E, na luta, vão aprendendo a usar e a dominar os novos instrumentos. Quando a democracia representativa não acaba de amadurecer, já surgem as ideias e os instrumentos para passar para uma etapa de democracia direta, participativa, radical.

Em alguns países, como hoje em Honduras, a reação não é contra essa última etapa, mas sim contra a anterior. Uma espécie de reação tardia. Mesmo que, na aparência, implique em uma escala menor, tem uma transcendência latino-americana e universal. Primeiro porque significa uma chamada de atenção diante da recente complacência democrática do continente. E, segundo, porque estimula o “modus operandi” daqueles reacionários que navegaram sempre contra as correntes da história.

Antes, anotamos as provas de por que o presidente deposto em Honduras não violou nenhuma lei, nenhuma Constituição. Agora, podemos ver que a sua proposta de uma enquete popular era um método de transição entre uma democracia representativa para uma democracia direta. Aqueles que interromperam esse processo colocaram marcha ré para a etapa anterior.

A quarta etapa era intolerável para uma mentalidade bananeira que se reconhece por seus métodos.

 

Tradução de Moisés Sbardelotto.

 

 

Lecturas: 1486. Fernando de Pulgar, cronista de los reyes

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Pulgar, Fernando del. Claros varones de Castilla. [1486] Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1942.

Fernando de Pulgar, cronista de los reyes

Fernando de Pulgar fue “cronista oficial” del rey castellano Juan II y de su hijo, Enrique IV, antes de servir como embajador en Roma de los reyes católicos de España, Fernando e Isabel; los reyes más importantes en la península Ibérica. Probablemente este hombre, que para nosotros es apenas un nombre, nació en Toledo, en 1430, en una familia judía y murió o desapareció en 1493, mucho después de convertirse al cristianismo. Como todos saben, 1492 fue el año del descubrimiento de América, de la expulsión de moros y judíos de España y el año de la primera publicación de la Gramática de la lengua castellana de Antonio Nebrija, primera gramática europea sobre una lengua vulgar. Algunos críticos y biógrafos lo han definido como humanista.

Este libro se compone de una serie de biografías minúsculas sobre personajes de su siglo, aparentemente poco objetivas y muy probablemente con el objetivo de adular a algún hombre poderoso de la época, además de la no menos poderosa Isabel.

Sobre el almirante Don Fadrique.

El almirante don Fadrique era abuelo de Fernando de Aragón. A las pocas líneas de recorrido ya apreciamos un rasgo común en la literatura y en la cultura hispánica de siglos posteriores: aparecen las figuras “intermedias” del poder. Los malos y excesivos son los “condestables”, como el de Castilla. El rey, en cabio, es incuestionable. El héroe (víctima) que estaba por debajo de los estamentos del poder, también.

Otra particularidad del relato, sobre todo considerando la época y su condición de converso, es la narración en primera persona. El narrador se convierte en autor: opina. Fernando Pulgar se entretiene analizando la conducta de un lejano romano que se suicidó, a diferencia del almirante Fadrique que vivió hasta viejo: “Si hay razones para alabar su vida no la hay para alabar su muerte”, ya que fue suicidio. Luego siguen largos discursos moralizantes.

El marqués de Santillana

Ya leímos con algún cuidado la Carta del Marqués de Santillana. Como era común e importante por demás en su época, Pulgar se detiene en las virtudes físicas de esta alma extraordinaria. Era “hermoso en las faciones de su rostro, de linaje noble castellano e muy antiguo” y admirador de los “ommes de ciencia” (36).

Huérfano de madre y padre perdió sus tierras y luego las recuperó. Pulgar refiere que el famoso poeta era alabado como hombre de ciencias y de armas y no escatima elogios por su valor ante el combate. Fue capitán en batallas contra cristianos y moros, donde fue vencedor y vencido. (39). Cuando el rey don Juan lo elige para luchar contra los moros, recibió la noticia “con alegre cara” (40).

Otra vez, como volverá a hacerlo cuando se describa a don Narváez (104) Pulgar hace referencia a los romanos como contraejemplo moral. Menciona a un capitán que debía degollar (hasta su propio “fijo”) para ser obedecido (42). El marqués de Santillana “en corte era grand Febo, por su clara gouernación, e en campo era Anibal, por su grand esfuerço” (43).

Un dicho de la época (podemos sospechar que no era de origen cristiano) aseguraba que las virtudes traen alegría y los vicios tristeza. Y como el marqués la mayor parte del tiempo estaba alegre, entonces debía ser virtuoso (46).

Feneció sus días a la edad de 65 años.

El conde Don Rodrigo de Villandrando

Para resaltar las virtudes de su biografiado, el autor, a pesar de ser un converso, se esmera en presentar a su personaje con orígenes “fijodalgo” aunque sea hijo de un escudero. El otro recurso es la descripción física: buen estado, fuerte, etc.

Por supuesto, también aquí se alaba el “estrago” y matanzas que hace el héroe al enemigo en la guerra. La guerra era la principal fuente de honor de la nobleza, y el honor el principal código moral. Así, don Rodrigo guerra en Francia y contra los ingleses. Rechaza la oferta de un capitán inglés para compartir el pan y el vino, porque después no le tendría tanta “ira” y no podría hacer tanto daño como debiera.

De grandes virtudes físicas y morales, murió muy anciano, a los 70.

El conde Cifuentes

Más descripciones físicas. Tenía la lengua çeçeosa. “Era ijodalgo [sin ache] de limpia sangre” (72). Es decir, no tenía una gota de sangre judía o sangre mora.

En uso de algunos valores o poses posmodernas, este autor del siglo XV destaca en el conde Cifuentes la franqueza, porque decía lo que le parecía con elegancia cuando otros callaban por no molestar. Alaba el hecho de que cuando recibió riquezas y el título de conde de la villa de Cifuentes [sic] por parte del rey Enrrique [sic], no cambió su persona ni hizo extravagancias, como si siempre hubiese sido noble y rico (77).

Murió muy anciano, a los 65 años, “al fin, entrado ya en los días de la vejez, en los cuales suele más reinar en los ommes la auaricia” (77).

El maestre Don Rodrigo Manrique, conde de Paredes

Actuó en tierras de moros eventualmente. Batallas con moros e con cristianos (igual que los otros). Entra en Granada y asalta los muros. Lucha contra los moros pero no recibe la ayuda que esperaba de los cristianos. Se elogia el arrojo y la disposición para la guerra. Muere a los 70 años.

Don Rodríguez de Narváez

Peleó contra los moros, los cuales, según Pulgar, eran mañosos en este arte, los sometió y los obligó a someterse como vasallos y a pagar impuestos al rey (104).

Si los romanos eran crueles, los castellanos eran muy apreciados por su valor. Eso quedó demostrado cuando hubo guerra en otros países cristianos. “sope que ouo guerra en Francia, e en Nápoles, e en otras partes, donde concurrieron gentes de muchas naciones, e fui informado que el capitán francés o italiano tenía entonces por muy bien fornecida la escuadra de su gente, cuando podía aver en ella algunos caballeros castellanos, porque conoscía dellos tener esfuerzo e constancia de los peligros más que los de otras naciones” (106).

Sin embargo, cuando hubo guerras en Castilla no llegaron guerreros de otras partes. La explicación del autor es que así como no se lleva hierro a Vizcaya, donde abunda, los guerreros extranjeros no iban a Castilla porque allí había muchos caballeros valerosos y así su valor sería poco estimado (106).

Del cardenal de San Sixto

Después de Narváez, Pulgar deja los guerreros y se ocupa de la otra clase honorable, los religiosos profesionales.

También en estos casos abundará en descripciones físicas (otro hombre alto) y en aclaraciones étnicas: el santo era de linaje de judíos, pero convertidos a “nuestra sancta fe Católica” (108). Seguidamente, alaba sus conocimientos en la ciencia de la teología.

Del cardenal San Ángelo

El cardenal era un hombre alto, “hermoso” y de linaje de fijosdalgo. Se resalta la falta cobdicia y la permanente alegría como virtudes. También algunas virtudes pr’acticas, lo cual es una rareza, tal vez porque recordaba a los crueles romanos, aficionados a las obras civiles: el cardenal también promovió la construcción de un puente.

Murió en Roma, a los 80 años.

El arzobispo de Sevilla

Tomó el apellido de su madre. De linaje de fijosdalgo de Galicia, tenía el sentido de la vista desarrollado y por eso gustaba de las perlas y las joyas. Procuraba la honra y la cercanía del rey Juan y luego de Enrique. Por ello cosechó celos y enemistades hasta que murió a los 55 años.

El arzobispo de Burgos

Hijo de Pablo, obispo de Burgos, lo tuvo legítimo antes de entrar en religión. También de linaje de judíos, como era común. Hablaba muy bien, aunque como otros ilustres de la ‘epoca ten’ia el defecto que “çeçeaua un poco”. El rey Juan le mandó tornar de lengua latina a lengua vulgar obras de Séneca. Se fue a los 60 años.

Semblanza de los reyes católicos

Rey Don Fernando el católico de cabellos prietos. Un siglo más tarde, en 1575, el médico Juan Huarte descubriría que el cabello rubio era consecuencia de los vapores que despedía la inteligencia de algunos españoles, sobre todo los hombres rubios que estaban en la corte y en el trono.

Moderado en sus gestos, el rey montaba a caballo en silla de la guisa e a la jineta, como hacían entonces los árabes y hacen hoy los jockeys. Escuchaba consejos, especialmente de su mujer, la reina Isabel. Había sido criado en la guerra. Gastaba demasiado tiempo en juegos de pelota y de ajedrez. Como buen marido, amaba a su esposa pero se daba a otras mujeres (148).

Cierre

Todas estas semblanzas de varones terminan con una mujer. La reina Doña Isabel la Católica. Rubia de ojos verde-azules. No bebía vino pero hablaba latín. Cuando asumió encontró una gran corrupción y diversos crímenes. Era una mujer derecha, recta al juzgar, pero no compasiva. Acabó con la herejía del reino de Aragón, realizada por los cristianos judíos, como el autor, que judaizaban, contaminaban, la religión católica.

Jorge Majfud

Why Culture Matters

Tomb of Ahmad al-Mansur

Image by Sheriff of Nothing via Flickr

 

Why Culture Matters

 

In September of 2006, in Lewisburg, Tennessee, a neighborhood group protested because the public library was investing resources in the purchase of books in Spanish.  Of the sixty thousand volumes, only one thousand were published in a language other than English.  The annual budget, totalling thirteen thousand dollars, dedicates the sum of one hundred and thirty dollars to the purchase of books in Spanish. The buying spree representing one percent of the budget enraged some of the citizens of Tennessee, causing them to take the issue to the authorities, arguing that a public service, sustained through taxes charged to the U.S. populace, should not promote something that might benefit illegal workers.

 

Thus, the new conception of culture surpasses that distant precept of the ancient library of Alexandria.  That now almost completely forgotten library achieved the height of its development in second century Egypt.  Its backward administrators had the custom of periodically sending investigators throughout the world in order to acquire copies of texts from the most distant cultures.  Among its volumes there were copies of Greek, Persian, Indian, Hebrew and African texts.  Almost all of those decades-long efforts were abruptly brought to an end, thanks to a fire caused by the enlightene ships of the emperor Julius Caesar.  Nearly a thousand years later, another deliberately-set fire destroyed the similarly celebrated library of Córdoba, founded by the caliph Al-Hakam (creator of the University and of free education), where the passion for knowledge brought together Jews, Christians and Arabs with texts from the most diverse cultures known in the period.  Also in this period, the Spanish caliphs were in the habit of dispatching seekers throughout the world in order to expand the library’s collection of foreign books.  This library was also destroyed by a fanatic, al-Mansur, in the name of Islam, according to his own interpretation of the common good and superior morality.

 

The Tennessee anecdote represents a minority in a vast and heterogeneous country.  But it remains significant and concerning, like a sneeze on a passenger train.  Also significant is the idea, assumed there, that the Spanish language is a foreign language, when any half-way educated person knows that before English it was Spanish that was spoken in what today is the United States; that Spanish has been there, in many states of the Union for more than four hundred years; that Spanish and Latino culture are neither foreign nor an insignificant minority: more than forty million “Hispanics” live in the United States and the number of Spanish-speakers in the country is roughly equivalent to the number of Spanish speakers living in Spain.  If those who become nervous because of the presence of that “new culture” had the slightest historical awareness, they would neither be nervous nor consider their neighbors to be dangerous foreigners.  The only thing that historically has always been dangerous is ignorance, which is why the promotion of ignorance can hardly be considered synonymous with security and progress – even by association, as with the reigning method of propaganda, which consists of associating cars with women, tomatoes with civil rights, the victory of force with proof of the Truth or a million dollars with Paradise.

 

Translated by Bruce Campbell

 

Jorge Majfud

The University of Georgia, October 2006.

 

 

The Jesus the Emperors Kidnapped

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Image via Wikipedia

El Jesús que secuestraron los emperadores (Spanish)

 

The Jesus the Emperors Kidnapped

 

Who will lend me a ladder

to climb up the timbering,

to remove the nails from

Jesus the Nazarene?

(Antonio Machado)

 

Jorge Majfud

 

 

A few days ago the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, referred to Jesus as the greatest socialist in history. I am not interested here in making a defense or an attack on his person. I would only like to make a few observations about a typical reaction caused by his words throughout different parts of the world.

Perhaps saying that Jesus was a socialist is like saying that Tutankhamen was Egyptian or Seneca was Spanish. It remains a semantic imprecision. Nevertheless, those who recently have approached me with a look of horror on their faces as a result of the words of the “bad boy,” did they do so on the basis of some reasoning or simply on the basis of the codes imposed by a dominant discourse?

Personally, I have always been uncomfortable with power accumulated in just one man. But although Mr. Chávez is a powerful man in his country, he is not the one responsible for the current state of the world. For an elite few, the best state possible. For most, the source of physical and, above all, moral violence.

If it is a scandal to imagine Jesus to be socialist, why is it not, then, to associate him and compromise him with capitalist culture and ethics? If it is a scandal to associate Jesus with the eternal rebel, why is it not, in contrast, to associate him with the interests of successive empires – with the exception of the ancient Roman empire? Those who do not argue the sacrality of capitalism are, in large number, fervent followers of Jesus. Better said, of a particular and convenient image of Jesus. In certain cases not only followers of his word, but administrators of his message.

All of us, or almost all of us, are in favor of certain economic development. Nonetheless, why is social justice always confused with economic development? Why is that Christian theology that considers economic success, wealth, to be the divine sign of having been chosen to enter Paradise, even if through the eye of a needle, so widely disseminated?

Conservatives are right: it is a simplification to reduce Jesus to his political dimension. But their reasoning becomes manipulation when it denies categorically any political value in his action, at the same time that his image is used and his values are invoked to justify a determined politics. It is political to deny politics in any church. It is political to presume political neutrality. An observer who passively witnesses the torture or rape of another person is not neutral. Even less neutral is he who does not even want to watch and turns his head to pray. Because if he who remains silent concedes, he who is indifferent legitimates.

The confirmation of a status quo that benefits one social class and keeps others submerged is political. The sermon that favors the power of men and keeps women under their will and convenience is political. The mere mention of Jesus or Mohammed before, during and after justifying a war, a killing, a dictatorship, the extermination of a people or of a lone individual is terribly political.

Lamentably, although politics is not everything, everything is political. Therefore, one of the most hypocritical forms of politics is to assert that some social action exists in this world that might be apolitical. We might attribute to animals this marvelous innocence, if we did not know that even communities of monkies and of other mammals are governed not only by a clear negotiation of powers but, even, by a history that establishes ranks and privileges. Which ought to be sufficient to diminish somewhat the pride of those oppressors who consider themselves different from orangutangs because of the sophisticated technology of their power.

Many months ago we wrote about the political factor in the death of Jesus. That his death was contaminated by politics does not take away from his religious value but quite the contrary. If the son of God descended to the imperfect world of men and immersed himself in a concrete society, an oppressed society, acquiring all of the human limitations, why would he have to do so ignoring one of the principle factors of that society which was, precisely, a political factor of resistance?

Why was Jesus born in a poor home and one of scarce religious orientation? Why was he not born in the home of a rich and educated pharisee? Why did he live almost his entire life in a small, peripheral town, as was Nazareth, and not in the capital of the Roman Empire or in the religious capital, Jerusalem? Why did he go to Jerusalem, the center of political power at the time, to bother, to challenge power in the name of the most universal human salvation and dignity? As a xenophobe from today would say: if he didn’t like the order of things in the center of the world, he shouldn’t have gone there to cause trouble.

We must remember that it was not the Jews who killed Jesus but the Romans. Those Romans who have nothing to do with the present day inhabitants of Italy, other than the name. Someone might argue that the Jews condemned him for religious reasons. I am not saying that religious reasons did not exist, but that these do not exlude other, political, reasons: the Jewish upper class, like almost all the upper classes of peoples dominated by foreign empires, found itself in a relationship of privilege that led it to a complacent diplomacy with the Roman Empire. This is what happened also in America, in the times of the Conquest. The Romans, in contrast, had no religious reason for taking care of the problem of that rebel from Nazareth. Their reasons were eminently political: Jesus represented a grave threat to the peaceful order established by the empire.

Now, if we are going to discuss Jesus’ political options, we might refer to the texts canonized after the first Council of Nicea, nearly three hundred years after his death. The theological and political result of this founding Council may be questionable. That is to say, if the life of Jesus developed in the conflict against the political power of his time, if the writers of the Gospels, somewhat later, suffered similar persecutions, we cannot say the same about those religious men who gathered in the year 325 by order of an emperor, Constantine, who sought to stabilize and unify his empire, without leaving aside for this purpose other means, like the assassination of his political adversaries.

Let us suppose that all of this is not important. Besides there are very debatable points. Let us take the facts of the religious documents that remain to us from that historical moment. What do we see there?

The son of God being born in an animal stable. The son of God working in the modest carpintery trade of his father. The son of God surrounded by poor people, by women of ill repute, by sick people, by marginalized beings of every type. The son of God expelling the merchants from the temple. The son of God asserting that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to ascend to the kingdom of heaven (probably the Greek word kamel did not mean camel but an enormous rope that was used in the ports to tie up the boats, but the translation error has not altered the idea of the metaphor). The son of God questioning, denying the alleged nationalism of God. The son of God surpassing the old and cruel laws, like the penalty of death by stoning of an adulterous woman. The son of God separating the things of Ceasar from the things of the Father. The son of God valuing the coin of a widow above the traditional donations of the rich and famous. The son of God condemning religious pride, the economic and moral ostentation of men. The son of God entering into Jerusalem on a humble donkey. The son of God confronting religious and political power, the pharisees of the Law and the imperial hells of the moment. The son of God defamed and humiliated, dying under military torture, surrounded by a few followers, mostly women. The son of God making an unquestionable option for the poor, for the weak and the marginalized by power, for the universalization of the human condition, on earth as much as in heaven.

A difficult profile for a capitalist who dedicates six days of the week to the accumulation of money and half a day to clean his conscience in church; who exercises a strange compassion (so different from solidarity) that consists in helping the world by imposing his reasons like it or not.

Even though Jesus may be today the principal instrument of conservatives who grasp at power, it is still difficult to sustain that he was not a revolutionary. To be precise he did not die for having been complacent with the political power of the moment. Power does not kill or torture its bootlickers; it rewards them. For the others remains the greater prize: dignity. And I believe that few if any figures in history show more dignity and commitment with all of humanity than Jesus of Nazareth, who one day will have to be brought down from the cross.

 

Translated by Bruce Campbell

 

By Their Methods You Shall Know Them

Honduras

Honduras II: Por sus métodos los conocerás

Honduras Against History

By Their Methods You Shall Know Them


Jorge Majfud

The Bible relates the story of how the teachers of the law brought before Jesus an adulterous woman. They intended to stone her to death, as they were required to do by the law of God, which at the time was said to be the law of men as well. The teachers and Pharisees wanted to test Jesus, from which one can induce that Jesus was already well known for his lack of orthodoxy with respect to the most ancient laws. Jesus suggested that whoever was free of sin should cast the first stone. Thus nobody was able to execute the strict law.

In this way, and in many others, the Bible itself has continued transforming itself, despite being a collection of books inspired by God. Religions have always been considered to be great conservative forces which, faced with reformers, became great reactionary forces. The paradox is rooted in the fact that all religion, all sects, have been founded by some subersive, by some rebel or revolutionary. It is not for nothing that history teems with those martyred, persecuted, tortured and assassinated by the political powers of the moment.

The men who were persecuting the adulteress retreated, recognizing in the turn of events their own sins. But over the course of history the result has been different. The men who oppress, kill and assassinate the alleged sinners always do so with the justification of some law, some right and in the name of some morality. This, more universal, rule was the one applied in Jesus’s own execution. In his time he was not the only rebel who fought against the Roman Empire. Not coincidentally, he was crucified together with two other prisoners. By association, this was intended to signify that he was just another prisoner being executed. Not even a religious dissident. Not even a political dissident. Invoking other laws, they eliminated the suberversive who had questioned the Pax Romana and the collaborationism of the aristocracy and of the religious hierarchies of his own people. Everything was carried out according to the laws. But history recognizes them today by their methods.

George Bush’s government gave us plenty of examples, and on a large scale. All of the wars and violations of national and international law were committed in defense of the law and sovereign right. By its sectarian interests, history will judge it. By its methods, its interests shall be known.

In Latin America, the role of the Catholic Church has almost always been the role of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who condemned Jesus in defense of the dominant classes. There has never been a military dictatorship of oligarchical origin that didn’t receive the blessing of bishops and influential priests, thereby legitimizing the censorship, the opression of the mass murder of the supposed sinners.

Now, in the 21st century, the method and the discourses are repeated in Honduras like a crack of the whip from the past.

By their methods we know them. The patriotic discourse, the complacency of an upper class trained in the domination of the poor who have no formal education. A class that owns the methods of popular education, which is what the main communication media are. Censorship; the use of the army to carry out their plans; repression of the popular demonstrations; the expulsion of journalists; the expulsion by force of a government elected by democratic vote, its later demand before Interpol, its threat to jail dissidents if they return and its later denial by force of their return.

In order to better see this reactionary phenomenon let’s divide human history into four grand periods:

1)     The collective power of the tribe concentrated in one strong member of a family, generally a man.

2)     A period of agricultural expansion unified by a totem (something akin to a conquering surname) and later a pharoah or emperor. During this time wars emerge and primitive armies are consolidated, not so much for defense as for the conquest of new productive territories and for state administration of its own people’s surplus production and the oppression of its people’s slaves. This stage continues with variations up until the absolutist kings of Europe, passing through the feudal era. In all of these regimes, religion is a central element of cohesion as well as coercion.

3)     In the modern era we have a renaissance and a radicalization of the Greek experiment in representative democracy. But in the modern period humanist thought includes the idea of universality, of the implicit equality of every human being, the idea of history as a process of reaching toward perfection instead of inevitable corruption, and the concept of morality as a human product relative to a determined historical time. And perhaps the most important idea, from the Arab philosopher Averroes: political power not as the pure will of God but as the result of social interests, class interests, etc. Liberalism and Marxism are two radicalizations (opposed in their means) of this same current of thought, which also includes Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. This period of representative democracy was the most practical form for bringing together the voices of millions of men and women in one house, the Congress or Parlament. If Humanism pre-exists the techniques for popularizing culture, it is also empowered by them. The printing press, the paperback book, the low-price newspapers of the 19th century, the necessary literacy training of future workers were decisive steps toward democratization. Nonetheless, at the same time the reactionary forces, the dominant forces of the previous period, rapidly conquered these media. Thus, if it was no longer possible to further delay the arrival of representative democracy, it was possible to dominate its instruments. The medieval sermons in the churches, functional in great measure for the princes and dukes, were reformulated in the media of information and in the media of the new popular culture, like rade, film and television.

4)     Despite this, the democratic wave continued on, frequently bathed in blood by successive reactionary coups. In the 21st century the renaissance humanist wave continues. And with it continue the instruments to make it possible. Like the Internet, for example. But so too the contrary forces, the reactions of the powers constituted by the previous stages. And in the process of struggle they learn to use and dominate the new instruments. While representative democracy has not yet matured, already one see emerging the ideas and instruments necessary for passing on to a stage of direct democracy, participatory and radical.

In some countries, as today in Honduras, the reaction is not against this latest stage but the previous one. A kind of late reaction. Even though in appearance it suggests a smaller scale, it has Latin American and universal significance. First because it represents a calling to attention of the recent democratic complacency of the continent; and second because it stimulates the modus operandi of those reactionaries who have always sailed against the currents of history.

Earlier we noted the proof of why the deposed president of Honduras had not violated the law or the constitution. Now we can see that his proposal of a non-binding popular referendum was a method of transition from a representative democracy toward a direct democracy. Those who interrupted this process reversed it toward the prior stage.

The fourth stage was intolerable for a Banana republic mentality that can be recognized by its methods.

Translated by Bruce Campbell

La Era de Barbaria

 

Jerusalem

Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

L’ era della Barbarie (Italian)

The Age of Barbaria (English)

La Era de Barbaria


En el año de Barbaria se comenzaron los viajes anuales al año treinta y tres. Se eligió ese año porque, según las encuestas, la crucifixión de Cristo llamaba la atención de más gente en Occidente, y se pensó en este sector social por razones económicas, ya que los viajes al pasado no habían sido dirigidos ni mucho menos financiados por el gobierno de ningún país, como alguna vez ocurrió con los primeros viajes al espacio, sino por una empresa privada. El grupo financiero que hizo posible la maravilla de viajar por el tiempo fue Axa, a instancias de el Ordenador mayor de Tecnologías Blue, que sugirió infinitas ganancias por prestación de “servicios turísticos”, como en su momento se llamó. Desde entonces, varios grupos de treinta personas han viajado al año treinta y tres para presenciar la muerte del Nazareno, como antiguamente hacían los turistas comunes cuando en cada equinoccio se concentraban al pie de la pirámide de Chitchen-Itzá, para presenciar la formación de la serpiente con las sombras que la pirámide arrojaba sobre sí misma.

El mayor inconveniente que encontró Axa fue el reducido número de turistas que podían asistir al evento por vez, lo que generaba ganancias que no estaban acordes con las expectativas millonarias de la inversión, por lo que de a poco se fue llevando ese número hasta la cifra de cuarenta y cinco, a riesgo de llamar la atención de los antiguos pobladores de Jerusalén. Luego la cifra fue conservada sin alteraciones, a instancia de uno de los principales accionistas de la empresa que arguyó, razonablemente, que la conservación de ese hecho histórico en estado original era la base que justificaba los viajes, y que si cada grupo producía alteraciones en los hechos, ello repercutiría en un abandono del interés general por realizar ese tipo de viajes.

Con el tiempo se comprobó que cada alteración histórica de los hechos, por mínima que fuera, era casi imposible de reparar. Lo que ocurría cuando alguno de los viajantes no respetaba las reglas de juego y pretendía llevarse algún recuerdo del lugar. Como fue el caso más conocido de Adam Parcker que, con increíble destreza, logró recortar un trozo triangular de la túnica roja del Nazareno, probablemente en el momento en que éste cae rendido por el cansancio. El hurto no significó alguna alteración en las Sagradas Escrituras, pero le sirvió a Parcker para hacerse rico y famoso, ya que el diminuto trozo de lienzo pasó a costar una fortuna y no pocos de los viajeros que se tomaron la molestia y el gasto de retroceder miles de años lo hicieron para ver dónde le falta al Nazareno el “Triángulo de Parcker”.

Algunos pocos han puesto objeciones a este tipo de viajes que, aseguran, terminarán por destruir la historia sin que podamos advertirlo. En efecto, es así: por cada cambio que se introduce en un día cualquiera, infinitos cambios se derivan de él, siglo tras siglo, diluyéndose de a poco o multiplicándose en sus efectos. Para advertir un mínimo cambio en el año treinta y tres sería inútil recurrir a las Sagradas Escrituras, porque todas las ediciones, por igual, acusarían el golpe olvidando completamente el hecho original. Cabría una posibilidad de rastrear cada cambio proyectando otros viajes a años anteriores al año de Barbaria, pero a nadie le importaría un proyecto semejante y no habría forma alguna de financiarlo.

Tampoco importa ya la discusión sobre si la historia debe quedar como está o es lícito modificarla. Pero esto último es, en todo caso, peligroso, ya que es imposible prever los cambios resultantes que produciría cualquier alteración. Sabemos que cualquier cambio podría no ser catastrófico para la especie humana, pero sería catastrófico para los individuos: no seriamos nosotros los que estaríamos vivos ahora, sino cualquier otro.

En una posición contraria se encuentran los grupos religiosos más radicales. Los servicios de información de Barbaria han descubierto recientemente que un grupo de evangelistas, pertenecientes a la Iglesia Verdadera de Dios, de Sao Pablo, hará el viaje al año treinta y tres. Gracias a la limosna de sus fieles, el grupo ha logrado reunir la suma varias veces millonaria que cobra Axa por el ticket. Lo que aún no se ha podido confirmar son las intenciones del grupo. Se dice que pretenden hacer volar el Gólgota e incendiar Jerusalén en el momento de la Crucifixión, para que de esa forma lleguemos al tan ansiado Fin de los tiempos. Toda la historia desaparecería; todo el mundo, incluidos los judíos, reconocerían el error, se volverían al cristianismo en el año treinta y tres y el mundo entero viviría bajo el Reino de Dios, tal como estaba descrito en los Evangelios. Lo cual es discutido por otra gente.

Otros no se explican cómo los viajantes pueden presenciar la crucifixión sin tratar de evitarla. La respuesta teológica es obvia, por lo cual los menos interesados en evitar el martirio del Mesías son sus propios seguidores. Pero para los demás, que son la mayoría, Axa ha decretado sus propias reglas éticas: “De la misma forma que no evitamos la muerte de un siervo entre las garras de un león, cuando viajamos al África, tampoco debemos evitar las aparentes injusticias que se comenten con el Nazareno. Nuestro deber moral es conservar la naturaleza y la historia como están”. La crucifixión es patrimonio de la Humanidad, pero, sobre todo, sus derechos han sido adquiridos totalmente por Axa.

De hecho, los cambios serán cada vez más inevitables. Después de seis años de viajes al año treinta y tres, se pueden ver, a los pies de la cruz, tapas de refrescos y escrituras con lápiz químico en el palo mayor, algunas de las cuales rezan: “tengo fe en mi señor”, y otras sólo se limitan a poner el nombre de quien estuvo por allí, junto con la fecha de partida, para que las futuras generaciones de viajantes lo recuerden. Por supuesto, también la empresa comienza a ceder ante la presión de los clientes insatisfechos, apuntando a un mejoramiento radical en los servicios. Por ejemplo, Barbaria acaba de enviar un representante técnico al año veintiséis para que logre la producción de cinco mil metros cúbicos de asfalto y negocie con Pilatos la construcción de un corredor más confortable para vía Dolorosa, lo que hará menos fatigosa la recorrida de los viajantes y, además, sería un gesto misericordioso con el Nazareno que más de una vez se rompió los pies con las piedras que no veía en su camino. Se ha calculado que la mejora no significará cambios en las Sagradas Escrituras, ya que allí no se demuestra preocupación especial por el urbanismo de la ciudad.

Con estas medidas, Axa pretende ponerse a salvo de la lluvia de reclamos que viene sufriendo por supuestas insuficiencias del servicio, teniendo que enfrentar últimamente juicios muy costosos de clientes que han gastado una fortuna y no han regresado complacidos. El motivo de los reclamos no siempre es causado por el fuerte calor de Jerusalén, o por la congestión en la que se encuentra atrapada la ciudad el día de la crucifixión. Sobre todo se debe a las expectativas no satisfechas de los viajantes. La empresa se defiende diciendo que las Sagradas Escrituras no fueron escritas bajo su control de calidad, sino que son solo documentos históricos y, por lo tanto, exagerados. Allí donde muere el Nazareno, en lugar de haber una noche profunda y estremecedora apenas se oscurece el cielo por una concentración excesiva de nubes, y nada más. Los católicos han declarado que este hecho, como todos los referidos en los Evangelios, debe tomarse en su valor simbólico y no meramente descriptivo. Pero a la mayor parte de la gente no satisfizo la respuesta de Axa ni la del Papa Juan XXV, que salió en defensa de la multinacional, gracias a la cual la gente ahora puede estar más cerca de Dios.


Jorge Majfud

Jerusalén, 1995

Milenio (Mexico)

Milenio II (Mexico)

 

Apócrifo romano

A modo de ficción:

Apócrifo romano


En la frontera del Imperio y del mundo, un hombre anciano se lamentaba día y noche y esperaba inútilmente la muerte. Mientras esperaba decía esta historia a quienes se arriesgaban a llegar hasta allí:

He descubierto que en los subsuelos del Imperio mi nombre es maldito. Perseguir a los que me recuerdan así sería inútil y solo aumentaría la triste fama que prolongará mi sombra hasta el fin de los tiempos. Me recordarán por un solo día, apagado para siempre en Palestina.

Cuando comenzaron las protestas (no contra mi gobierno ni contra el Imperio, sino contra un solo hombre) no pensé en la gravedad de un hecho tan insignificante. Yo sabía que al Cesar sólo podría importarle el orden, no la justicia; además, el rebelde no era romano.

Diré que yo, de alguna forma, sabía mi destino, como alguien que ha recibido la revelación en un sueño absurdo que rápidamente hecha en el olvido. Durante las protestas pensé, una y otra vez, en la memoria de aquel pueblo que yo gobernaba. También sabía del caso de un reo griego, filósofo o charlatán de profesión, que había sido condenado a muerte y los eruditos lo recordaban más a él que a Pericles. Yo aprendí en aquella tierra, ahora lejana, que la Eternidad depende de ese momento confuso y fugaz que es la vida. Roma no es eterna y un día sólo será recuerdo de piedras y libros; y no será lo mejor del Imperio lo que recordará el porvenir.

Cuando todos me pedían que crucificara al rebelde y nadie sabía por qué, pedí consejo a otros menos grandes que yo. A los romanos no les importaba o se divertían, por lo que debí recurrir, varias veces, a Joacim de Samaria, un hombre sabio que antes quise usar para entender a su pueblo.

“Dime, Joacim”, le pregunté aquel día o el día antes, “¿Qué puedo hacer yo en estas circunstancias? Debo ser juez y no alcanzo a distinguir el agua clara del agua mala. ¿Es que acaso puedo hacer algo? He oído que el mismo rebelde ha anunciado su muerte, así como otros de tu pueblo anunciaron su llegada”.

“El mundo está en tus manos”, dijo el anciano.

“No!”, grité, “…aún no está en mis manos. Antes seré Emperador en Roma”.

“Tal vez Roma y todas las Romas por venir te recuerden por éste día, mi rey”.

“¿Y qué dirá de mí?”

“¿Cómo saberlo? Yo soy un hombre ciego”, contestó el anciano.

“Tan ciego como cualquiera. ¡Daría mis ojos por ver el futuro!”

“Aunque tuvieses mil ojos no lo verías, mi rey, porque el futuro no existe para los hombres. Sólo existe en Dios que lo abarca todo”.

“Si tu dios lo sabe, ¿entonces, el futuro existe en alguna parte”, razonó el gobernador. “Si Dios o el rebelde pueden predecir lo que ocurrirá, lo que está por hacerse ya fue hecho…” concluí, con elocuencia. Me sentí satisfecho de aquel triunfo sobre el sabio extranjero.

Cuando el rebelde estuvo delante de mí, el gobernador comencé a interrogarlo, titubeante; supe que era una forma indigna para un futuro Cesar y casi no contuve la cólera.

“¿Así que tú eres rey?”, pregunté.

“Tú lo has dicho”, dijo aquel hombre, oscuro y sereno como si nada le importase. “Vine a este mundo para traer la Verdad. Y aquellos que pueden entenderla me escucharán”.

“¿Y qué es la verdad?”, me apresuré a preguntar, seguro de que no tendría una respuesta tan grande.

Hubo un silencio infinito por respuesta. En seguida volvió a estallar la multitud impaciente: “¡Que suelten al hijo del hombre!”, comenzó a gritar la multitud, refiriéndose a otro reo que había usado las armas contra Roma, no las palabras. Y los Césares siempre temerán más a las palabras que a las armas.

Traté de ser cauteloso. Calculé mis posibilidades. Comprendí que si elegía mal, Palestina ardería en llamas. Tantos no se podían equivocar, por lo que la decisión debía ser una en la mente clara de un rey.

Cuando los soldados acabaron de azotar al rebelde, el volví a sacar al reo y le dijo al pueblo:

“Miren, aquí está, lo he sacado para que vean que no encuentro en él delito alguno”.

Pero el pueblo volvió a insistir:

“Mátenlo, crucifícalo…!”

“Mejor llévenlo y crucifíquenlo ustedes mismos”, fue mi respuesta.

“No, nosotros no podemos”, volvieron a gritar, casi al unísono. A un lado, los señores de la Ley esperaban con paciencia que la masa enardecida reparase el orden sagrado.

Entonces, vi entrar al Rebelde y le preguntó:

“¿De dónde eres tú, que me pones en este cruce de caminos?”

Pero el Rebelde no contestó esta vez como no había contestado la vez anterior.

“¿No piensas responderme? ¿No sabes que tengo autoridad para crucificarte o para dejarte en libertad?”

“No tendrías ninguna autoridad si Dios no te la hubiera dado”.

Entonces yo, el gobernador de Palestina, finalmente cedí ante la multitud o ante la arrogancia de aquel reo. Decidí por el bien de la Ley farisea y por la paz de Roma.

Entregué al peligroso rebelde para la cruz, y como el suyo no era un delito contra los dioses sino contra la política del César y de nuestros aliados, lo hice ajusticiar junto con otros ladrones.

Los gritos de aquel día llegaron hasta el palacio. El pueblo y sus sacerdotes quedaron satisfechos. Menos una infame minoría. La minoría de siempre.

Lo crucificaron al mediodía y, hasta la media tarde, toda la tierra se oscureció. Un frío profundo cubrió palacio y quizás la ciudad entera.

“¿Qué es lo que ocurre, mi rey?”, preguntó Joacim, desde algún rincón oscuro.

“Tú no puedes verlo, pero toda la Tierra se ha oscurecido y es por el Rebelde”, murmuré.

“Roma y el mundo te recordarán por este día”, dijo el ciego.

“¿Cómo puedo ser yo el culpable? ¿Acaso no dices tú que Dios conoce lo que pasó y lo que vendrá? Si tu Dios sabía que hoy me equivocaría, ¿cómo podría yo ser libre de no hacerlo?”

“Escucha, mi rey”, dijo el ciego, “yo no puedo ver el presente que tú ves. Tampoco puedo ver el futuro. Sin embargo, ahora yo sé, casi como antes lo sabía el rebelde, que te equivocaste. Pero este conocimiento, oh, mi rey, ¿acaso suprime algo de la libertad que tuviste este día para elegir?”

Quizás eso son el destino y la libertad juntos. Ahora sólo me queda el consuelo de que aquel puñado de hombres y mujeres un día será el mismo pueblo de Roma. Mi fama se extenderá, oscura y maldita sobre la tierra, pero yo volveré a ser el honorable gobernador de una provincia del imperio, decidiendo con libertad a favor de su destino. Y volveré a ser infamemente recordado por otro puñado de reos, sólo por cumplir con mi deber divino. Ahora conozco definitivamente mis otros destinos. Pero volveré a creer que soy libre, investido con todo el poder de Roma.

 

Jorge Majfud

Jerusalem 1995

 

 

El Jesús que secuestraron los emperadores

An ivory plaque representing Christ crowning C...

The Jesus the Emperors Kidnapped (English)

El Jesús que secuestraron los emperadores

 


¿Quien me presta una escalera

para subir al madero,

para quitarle los clavos

a Jesús el Nazareno?

(Antonio Machado)

Hace unos días el presidente de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, se refirió a Jesús como el más grande socialista de la historia. No me interesa aquí hacer una defensa o un ataque de su persona. Sólo quisiera hacer algunas observaciones sobre una típica reacción que causaron sus palabras por diversas partes del mundo.

Tal vez decir que Jesús era socialista es como decir que Tutankamón era egipcio o Séneca era español. No deja de ser una imprecisión semántica. Sin embargo, aquellos que en este tiempo se han acercado a mí con cara de espantados por las palabras del “chico malo” ¿lo hacían en función de algún razonamiento o simplemente en función de los códigos impuestos por un discurso dominante?

En lo personal, siempre me ha incomodado el poder acumulado en un solo hombre. Pero si el señor Chávez es un hombre poderoso en su país, en cambio no es él el responsable del actual orden que rige en el mundo. Para unos pocos, el mejor orden posible. Para la mayoría, la fuente de la violencia física y, sobre todo, moral.

Si es un escándalo imaginar a un Jesús socialista, ¿por qué no lo es, entonces, asociarlo y comprometerlo con la cultura y la ética capitalista? Si es un escándalo asociar a Jesús con el eterno rebelde, ¿por qué no lo es, en cambio, asociarlo a los intereses de los sucesivos imperios —exceptuando el más antiguo imperio romano? Aquellos que no discuten la sacralizad del capitalismo son, en gran número, fervientes seguidores de Jesús. Mejor dicho, de una imagen particular y conveniente de Jesús. En ciertos casos no sólo seguidores de su palabra, sino administradores de su mensaje.

Todos, o casi todos, estamos a favor de cierto desarrollo económico. Sin embargo, ¿por qué siempre se confunde justicia social con desarrollo económico? ¿Por qué es tan difundida aquella teología cristiana que considera el éxito económico, la riqueza, como el signo divino de haber sido elegido para entrar al Paraíso, aunque sea por el ojo de una aguja?

Tienen razón los conservadores: es una simplificación reducir a Jesús a su dimensión política. Pero esta razón se convierte en manipulación cuando se niega de plano cualquier valor político en su acción, al mismo tiempo que se usa su imagen y se invocan sus valores para justificar una determinada política. Es política negar la política en cualquier iglesia. Es política presumir de neutralidad política. No es neutral un observador que presencia pasivo la tortura o la violación de otra persona. Menos neutral es aquel que ni siquiera quiere mirar y da vuelta la cabeza para rezar. Porque si el que calla otorga, el indiferente legitima.

Es política la confirmación de un statu quo que beneficia a una clase social y mantiene sumergida otras. Es político el sermón que favorece el poder del hombre y mantiene bajo su voluntad y conveniencia a la mujer. Es terriblemente política la sola mención de Jesús o de Mahoma antes, durante y después de justificar una guerra, una matanza, una dictadura, el exterminio de un pueblo o de un solo individuo.

Lamentablemente, aunque la política no lo es todo, todo es política. Por lo cual, una de las políticas más hipócritas es afirmar que existe alguna acción social en este mundo que pueda ser apolítica. Podríamos atribuir a los animales esta maravillosa inocencia, si no supiésemos que aún las comunidades de monos y de otros mamíferos están regidas no sólo por un aclaro negocio de poderes sino, incluso, por una historia que establece categorías y privilegios. Lo cual debería ser suficiente para menguar en algo el orgullo de aquellos opresores que se consideran diferentes a los orangutanes por la sofisticada tecnología de su poder.

Hace muchos meses escribimos sobre el factor político en la muerte de Jesús. Que su muerte estuviese contaminada de política no desmerece su valor religioso sino todo lo contrario. Si el hijo de Dios bajó al mundo imperfecto de los hombres y se sumergió en una sociedad concreta, una sociedad oprimida, adquiriendo todas las limitaciones humanas, ¿por qué habría de hacerlo ignorando uno de los factores principales de esa sociedad que era, precisamente, un factor político de resistencia?

¿Por qué Jesús nació en un hogar pobre y de escasa gravitación religiosa? ¿Por qué no nació en el hogar de un rico y culto fariseo? ¿Por qué vivió casi toda su vida en un pueblito periférico, como lo era Nazareth, y no en la capital del imperio romano o en la capital religiosa, Jerusalén? ¿Por qué fue hasta Jerusalén, centro del poder político de entonces, a molestar, a desafiar al poder en nombre de la salvación y la dignidad humana más universal? Como diría un xenófobo de hoy: si no le gustaba el orden de las cosas en el centro del mundo, no debió dirigirse allí a molestar.

Recordemos que no fueron los judíos quienes mataron a Jesús sino los romanos. Aquellos romanos que nada tienen que ver con los actuales habitantes de Italia, aparte del nombre. Alguien podría argumentar que los judíos lo condenaron por razones religiosas. No digo que las razones religiosas no existieran, sino que éstas no excluyen otras razones políticas: la case alta judía, como casi todas las clases altas de los pueblos dominados por los imperios ajenos, se encontraba en una relación de privilegio que las conducía a una diplomacia complaciente con el imperio romano. Así también ocurrió en América, en tiempos de la conquista. Los romanos, en cambio, no tenían ninguna razón religiosa para sacarse de encima el problema de aquel rebelde de Nazareth. Sus razones eran, eminentemente, políticas: Jesús representaba una grave amenaza al pacífico orden establecido por el imperio.

Ahora, si vamos a discutir las opciones políticas de Jesús, podríamos referirnos a los textos canonizados después del concilio de Nicea, casi trescientos años después de su muerte. El resultado teológico y político de este concilio fundacional podría ser cuestionable. Es decir, si la vida de Jesús se desarrolló en el conflicto contra el poder político de su tiempo, si los escritores de los Evangelios, algo posteriores, sufrieron de persecuciones semejantes, no podemos decir lo mismo de aquellos religiosos que se reunieron en el año 325 por orden de un emperador, Constantino, que buscaba estabilizar y unificar su imperio, sin por ello dejar de lado otros recursos, como el asesinato de sus adversarios políticos.

Supongamos que todo esto no importa. Además hay puntos muy discutibles. Tomemos los hechos de los documentos religiosos que nos quedaron a partir de ese momento histórico. ¿Qué vemos allí?

El hijo de Dios naciendo en un establo de animales. El hijo de Dios trabajando en la modesta carpintería de su padre. El hijo de Dios rodeado de pobres, de mujeres de mala reputación, de enfermos, de seres marginados de todo tipo. El hijo de Dios expulsando a los mercaderes del templo. El hijo de Dios afirmando que más fácil sería para un camello pasar por el ojo de una aguja que un rico subiese al reino de los cielos (probablemente la voz griega kamel no significaba camello sino una soga enorme que usaban en los puertos para amarrar barcos, pero el error en la traducción no ha alterado la idea de la metáfora). El hijo de Dios cuestionando, negando el pretendido nacionalismo de Dios. El hijo de Dios superando leyes antiguas y crueles, como la pena de muerte a pedradas de una mujer adúltera. El hijo de Dios separando los asuntos del César de los asuntos de su Padre. El hijo de Dios valorando la moneda de una viuda sobre las clásicas donaciones de ricos y famosos. El hijo de Dios condenando el orgullo religioso, la ostentación económica y moral de los hombres. El hijo de Dios entrando en Jerusalén sobre un humilde burro. El hijo de Dios enfrentándose al poder religioso y político, a los fariseos de la Ley y a los infiernos imperiales del momento. El hijo de Dios difamado y humillado, muriendo bajo tortura militar, rodeado de pocos seguidores, mujeres en su mayoría. El hijo de Dios haciendo una incuestionable opción por los pobres, por los débiles y marginados por el poder, por la universalización de la condición humana, tanto en la tierra como en el cielo.

Difícil perfil para un capitalista que dedica seis días de la semana a la acumulación de dinero y medio día a lavar su conciencia en la iglesia; que ejercita una extraña compasión (tan diferente a la solidaridad) que consiste en ayudar al mundo imponiéndole sus razones por las buenas o por las malas.

Aunque Jesús sea hoy el principal instrumento de los conservadores que se aferran al poder, todavía es difícil sostener que no fuera un revolucionario. Precisamente no murió por haber sido complaciente con el poder político de turno. El poder no mata ni tortura a sus adulones; los premia. Queda para los otros el premio mayor: la dignidad. Y creo que pocas figuras en la historia, sino ninguna otra, enseña más dignidad y compromiso con la humanidad toda que Jesús de Nazaret, a quien un día habrá que descolgar de la cruz.

© Jorge Majfud

The University of Georgia, enero de 2007

The Jesus the Emperors Kidnapped

Who will lend me a ladder

to climb up the timbering,

to remove the nails from

Jesus the Nazarene?

(Antonio Machado)

A few days ago the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, referred to Jesus as the greatest socialist in history. I am not interested here in making a defense or an attack on his person. I would only like to make a few observations about a typical reaction caused by his words throughout different parts of the world.

Perhaps saying that Jesus was a socialist is like saying that Tutankhamen was Egyptian or Seneca was Spanish. It remains a semantic imprecision. Nevertheless, those who recently have approached me with a look of horror on their faces as a result of the words of the “bad boy,” did they do so on the basis of some reasoning or simply on the basis of the codes imposed by a dominant discourse?

Personally, I have always been uncomfortable with power accumulated in just one man. But although Mr. Chávez is a powerful man in his country, he is not the one responsible for the current state of the world. For an elite few, the best state possible. For most, the source of physical and, above all, moral violence.

If it is a scandal to imagine Jesus to be socialist, why is it not, then, to associate him and compromise him with capitalist culture and ethics? If it is a scandal to associate Jesus with the eternal rebel, why is it not, in contrast, to associate him with the interests of successive empires – with the exception of the ancient Roman empire? Those who do not argue the sacrality of capitalism are, in large number, fervent followers of Jesus. Better said, of a particular and convenient image of Jesus. In certain cases not only followers of his word, but administrators of his message.

All of us, or almost all of us, are in favor of certain economic development. Nonetheless, why is social justice always confused with economic development? Why is that Christian theology that considers economic success, wealth, to be the divine sign of having been chosen to enter Paradise, even if through the eye of a needle, so widely disseminated?

Conservatives are right: it is a simplification to reduce Jesus to his political dimension. But their reasoning becomes manipulation when it denies categorically any political value in his action, at the same time that his image is used and his values are invoked to justify a determined politics. It is political to deny politics in any church. It is political to presume political neutrality. An observer who passively witnesses the torture or rape of another person is not neutral. Even less neutral is he who does not even want to watch and turns his head to pray. Because if he who remains silent concedes, he who is indifferent legitimates.

The confirmation of a status quo that benefits one social class and keeps others submerged is political. The sermon that favors the power of men and keeps women under their will and convenience is political. The mere mention of Jesus or Mohammed before, during and after justifying a war, a killing, a dictatorship, the extermination of a people or of a lone individual is terribly political.

Lamentably, although politics is not everything, everything is political. Therefore, one of the most hypocritical forms of politics is to assert that some social action exists in this world that might be apolitical. We might attribute to animals this marvelous innocence, if we did not know that even communities of monkies and of other mammals are governed not only by a clear negotiation of powers but, even, by a history that establishes ranks and privileges. Which ought to be sufficient to diminish somewhat the pride of those oppressors who consider themselves different from orangutangs because of the sophisticated technology of their power.

Many months ago we wrote about the political factor in the death of Jesus. That his death was contaminated by politics does not take away from his religious value but quite the contrary. If the son of God descended to the imperfect world of men and immersed himself in a concrete society, an oppressed society, acquiring all of the human limitations, why would he have to do so ignoring one of the principle factors of that society which was, precisely, a political factor of resistance?

Why was Jesus born in a poor home and one of scarce religious orientation? Why was he not born in the home of a rich and educated pharisee? Why did he live almost his entire life in a small, peripheral town, as was Nazareth, and not in the capital of the Roman Empire or in the religious capital, Jerusalem? Why did he go to Jerusalem, the center of political power at the time, to bother, to challenge power in the name of the most universal human salvation and dignity? As a xenophobe from today would say: if he didn’t like the order of things in the center of the world, he shouldn’t have gone there to cause trouble.

We must remember that it was not the Jews who killed Jesus but the Romans. Those Romans who have nothing to do with the present day inhabitants of Italy, other than the name. Someone might argue that the Jews condemned him for religious reasons. I am not saying that religious reasons did not exist, but that these do not exlude other, political, reasons: the Jewish upper class, like almost all the upper classes of peoples dominated by foreign empires, found itself in a relationship of privilege that led it to a complacent diplomacy with the Roman Empire. This is what happened also in America, in the times of the Conquest. The Romans, in contrast, had no religious reason for taking care of the problem of that rebel from Nazareth. Their reasons were eminently political: Jesus represented a grave threat to the peaceful order established by the empire.

Now, if we are going to discuss Jesus’ political options, we might refer to the texts canonized after the first Council of Nicea, nearly three hundred years after his death. The theological and political result of this founding Council may be questionable. That is to say, if the life of Jesus developed in the conflict against the political power of his time, if the writers of the Gospels, somewhat later, suffered similar persecutions, we cannot say the same about those religious men who gathered in the year 325 by order of an emperor, Constantine, who sought to stabilize and unify his empire, without leaving aside for this purpose other means, like the assassination of his political adversaries.

Let us suppose that all of this is not important. Besides there are very debatable points. Let us take the facts of the religious documents that remain to us from that historical moment. What do we see there?

The son of God being born in an animal stable. The son of God working in the modest carpenter trade of his father. The son of God surrounded by poor people, by women of ill repute, by sick people, by marginalized beings of every type. The son of God expelling the merchants from the temple. The son of God asserting that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to ascend to the kingdom of heaven (probably the Greek word kamel did not mean camel but an enormous rope that was used in the ports to tie up the boats, but the translation error has not altered the idea of the metaphor). The son of God questioning, denying the alleged nationalism of God. The son of God surpassing the old and cruel laws, like the penalty of death by stoning of an adulterous woman. The son of God separating the things of Ceasar from the things of the Father. The son of God valuing the coin of a widow above the traditional donations of the rich and famous. The son of God condemning religious pride, the economic and moral ostentation of men. The son of God entering into Jerusalem on a humble donkey. The son of God confronting religious and political power, the pharisees of the Law and the imperial hells of the moment. The son of God defamed and humiliated, dying under military torture, surrounded by a few followers, mostly women. The son of God making an unquestionable option for the poor, for the weak and the marginalized by power, for the universalization of the human condition, on earth as much as in heaven.

A difficult profile for a capitalist who dedicates six days of the week to the accumulation of money and half a day to clean his conscience in church; who exercises a strange compassion (so different from solidarity) that consists in helping the world by imposing his reasons like it or not.

Even though Jesus may be today the principal instrument of conservatives who grasp at power, it is still difficult to sustain that he was not a revolutionary. To be precise he did not die for having been complacent with the political power of the moment. Power does not kill or torture its bootlickers; it rewards them. For the others remains the greater prize: dignity. And I believe that few if any figures in history show more dignity and commitment with all of humanity than Jesus of Nazareth, who one day will have to be brought down from the cross.

Translated by Bruce Campbell

La privatización de Dios

A la medida del consumidor

En el siglo XVII, el genial matemático Blaise Pascal escribió que los hombres nunca hacen el mal con tanto placer como cuando lo hacen por convicciones religiosas. Esta idea —de un hombre profundamente religioso— tuvo diferentes variaciones desde entonces. Durante el siglo pasado, los mayores crímenes contra la humanidad fueron promovidos, con orgullo y pasión, en nombre del Progreso, de la Justicia y de la Libertad. En nombre del Amor, puritanos y moralistas organizaron el odio, la opresión y la humillación; en nombre de la vida, los líderes y profetas derramaron la muerte por vastas regiones del planeta. Actualmente, Dios ha vuelto a ser la principal excusa para ejercitar el odio y la muerte, ocultando las ambiciones de poder, los intereses terrenales y subterrenales tras sagradas invocaciones. De esta forma, reduciendo cada tragedia en el planeta a la milenaria y simplificada tradición de la lucha del Bien contra el Mal, de Dios contra el Demonio, se legitima el odio, la violencia y la muerte. De otra forma, no podríamos entender cómo hombres y mujeres se inclinan para rezar con orgullo y fanatismo, con hipócrita humildad, como si fuesen ángeles puros, modelos de moralidad, al tiempo que esconden entre sus ropas la pólvora o el cheque extendido para la muerte. Y si sus líderes son conscientes del fraude, sus súbditos no son menos responsables por estúpidos, no son menos responsables de tantos crímenes y matanzas que explotan cada día, promovidos por criminales convicciones metafísicas, en nombre de Dios y la Moral —cuando no en nombre de una raza, de una cultura y de una larga tradición recién estrenada, hecha a medida de la ambición y los odios presentes.

El imperio de las simplificaciones

Sí, podemos creer en los pueblos. Podemos creer que son capaces de las creaciones más asombrosas —como será un día su propia liberación—; y de estupideces inconmensurables también, disimuladas siempre por un interesado discurso complaciente que procura anular la crítica y la provocación a la mala conciencia. Pero, ¿cómo llegamos a tantas negligencias criminales? ¿De dónde sale tanto orgullo en este mundo donde la violencia aumenta cada vez más y cada vez más gente dice haber escuchado a Dios?

La historia política nos demuestra que una simplificación es más poderosa y es mejor aceptada por la vasta mayoría de una sociedad que una problematización. Para un político o para un líder espiritual, por ejemplo, es una muestra de debilidad admitir que la realidad es compleja. Si su adversario procede despojando el problema de sus contradicciones y lo presenta ante el público como una lucha del Bien contra el Mal, sin duda tendrá más posibilidades de triunfar. Al fin y al cabo la educación básica y primaria de nuestro tiempo está basada en la publicidad del consumo o en la sumisión permisiva; elegimos y compramos aquello que nos soluciona los problemas, rápido y barato, aunque el problema sea creado por la solución, aunque el problema continúe siendo real y la solución siga siendo virtual. Sin embargo, una simplificación no elimina la complejidad del problema analizado sino que, por el contrario, produce mayores y a veces trágicas consecuencias. Negar una enfermedad no la cura; la empeora.

¿Por qué no hablamos de los por qué?

Tratemos ahora de problematizar un fenómeno social cualquiera. Sin duda, no llegaremos al fondo de su complejidad, pero podemos tener una idea del grado de simplificación con el que es tratado diariamente, no siempre de forma inocente.

Comencemos con un breve ejemplo. Consideremos el caso de un hombre que viola y mata a una niña. Tomo este ejemplo no sólo por ser uno de los crímenes más aborrecibles que podemos considerar, junto con la tortura, sino porque representa una maldita costumbre criminal en todas nuestras sociedades, aún en aquellas que se jactan de su virtuosismo moral.

En primer lugar, tenemos un crimen. Más allá de los significados de “crimen” y de “castigo”, podemos valorar el acto en sí mismo, es decir, no necesitamos recurrir a la genealogía del criminal y de su víctima, no necesitamos investigar sobre los orígenes de la conducta del criminal para valorar el lecho en sí. Tanto la violación como el asesinato deben ser castigados por la ley, por el resto de la sociedad. Y punto. Desde este punto de vista, no hay discusiones.

Muy bien. Ahora imaginemos que en un país determinado la cantidad de violaciones y asesinatos se duplica en un año y luego vuelve a duplicarse al año siguiente. Una simplificación sería reducir el nuevo fenómeno al hecho criminal antes descrito. Es decir, una simplificación sería entender que la solución al problema sería no dejar ni uno solo de los crímenes impunes. Dicho de una tercer forma, una simplificación sería no reconocer el fenómeno social  detrás de un hecho delictivo individual. Un análisis más a fondo del primer caso podría revelarnos una infancia dolorosa, marcada por los abusos sexuales contra el futuro abusador, contra el futuro criminal. Esta observación, de ningún modo quitaría valoración criminal al hecho en sí, tal como lo anotamos más arriba, pero serviría para comenzar a ver la complejidad de un problema que amenaza con ser simplificado al extremo de perpetuarlo. A partir de este análisis psicológico del individuo, seguramente pasaríamos a advertir otro tipo de implicaciones referidas a su propio contexto, como por ejemplo las condiciones económicas de una determinada clase social sumergida, su explotación o su estigmatización moral a través del resto de la sociedad, la violencia moral y la humillación de la miseria, sus escalas de valores construidas según un aparato de producción, reproducción y consumo contradictorio, por instituciones sociales como una educación pública que no los ayuda más de lo que los humilla, ciertas organizaciones religiosas que han creado el pecado para los pobres al tiempo que los usan para ganarse el Paraíso, los medios de comunicación, la publicidad, las contradicciones laborales… y así sucesivamente.

De la misma forma podemos entender el terrorismo de nuestro tiempo. Está fuera de discusión (o debería estarlo) el valor criminal de un acto terrorista en sí mismo. Matar es siempre una desgracia, una maldición histórica. Pero matar inocentes y a gran escala no tiene justificación ni perdón de ningún tipo. Por lo tanto, renunciar al castigo de quienes lo promueven sería a su vez un acto de cobardía y una flagrante concesión a la impunidad.

No obstante, también aquí debemos recordar la advertencia inicial. Entender un fenómeno histórico y social como la consecuencia de la existencia de “malos” en la Tierra, es una simplificación excesivamente ingenua o, de lo contrario, es una simplificación astutamente ideológica que, al evitar un análisis integral —histórico, económico, de poder— excluye a los administradores del significado: los buenos.

No vamos a entrar a analizar, en estas breves reflexiones, cómo se llega a identificar a un determinado grupo y no a otros con el calificativo de “terroristas”. Para ello bastaría con recomendar la lectura de Roland Barthes —por mencionar sólo un clásico. Vamos a asumir el significado restringido del término, que es el que han consolidado los medios de prensa y el resto de las narraciones políticas.

No obstante, aún así, si recurriésemos a la idea de que el terrorismo existe porque existen criminales en el mundo, tendríamos que pensar que en los últimos tiempos ha habido una cosecha excesiva de seres malvados. Lo cual se encuentra explícito en el discurso de todos los gobiernos de los países afectados por el fenómeno. Pero si fuera verdad que hoy en nuestro mundo hay más malos que antes, seguramente no será por gracia de Dios sino por un devenir histórico que ha producido tal fenómeno. Ningún fenómeno histórico se produce por azar y, por lo tanto, creer que matando a los terroristas se eliminará el terrorismo en el mundo no sólo es una simplificación necia, sino que, al negar un origen histórico al problema, al presentarlo como ahistórico, como producto puro del Mal, incluso como la lucha entre dos “esencias” teológicas apartadas de cualquier contexto político, económico y social provocan un agravamiento trágico. Es una forma de no enfrentar el problema, de no atacar sus profundas raíces.

En muchas ocasiones no se puede prescindir de la violencia. Por ejemplo, si alguien nos ataca parecería lícito que nos defendamos con el mismo grado de violencia. Seguramente un verdadero cristiano ofrecería la otra mejilla antes que promover una reacción violenta; no obstante, si reaccionara con violencia ante una agresión no se le podría negar el derecho, aunque esté en contradicción con uno de los mandamientos de Cristo. Pero si una persona o un gobierno nos dice que la violencia se reducirá derramando más violencia sobre los malos —y afectando de paso a inocentes—, no sólo está negando la búsqueda del origen de ese fenómeno, sino que además estará consolidándolo o, al menos, legitimándolo ante la vista de quienes sufren las consecuencias.

Castigar a los culpables de la violencia es un acto de justicia. Sostener que la violencia existe sólo porque existen los violentos es un acto de ignorancia o de manipulación ideológica.

Si se continúa simplificando el problema, sosteniendo que se trata de un conflicto producido por la “incompatibilidad” de dos concepciones religiosas —como si alguna de ellas no hubiese estado ahí desde hace siglos—, como si se tratase de una simple guerra donde el triunfo se deduce de la derrota final del enemigo, se llevará al mundo a una guerra intercontinental. Si se busca seriamente el origen y la motivación del problema —el “por qué”— y se actúa eliminándolo o atenuándolo, seguramente asistiremos al relajamiento de una tensión que cada día es mayor. No al final de la violencia y la injusticia del mundo, pero al menos se evitará una desgracia de proporciones inimaginables.

El análisis del “origen de la violencia” no tendría mucho valor si se produjese y se consumiese dentro de una universidad. Deberá ser un problema de titulares, un problema a discutir desapasionadamente en los bares y en las calles. Simultáneamente, habrá que reconocer, una vez más, que necesitamos un verdadero diálogo. No reiniciar la farsa diplomática, sino un diálogo entre pueblos que comienzan peligrosamente a verse como enemigos, como amenazas, unos de otros —una discusión, más bien, basada en una profunda y aplastante ignorancia del otro y de sí mismo—. Es urgente un diálogo doloroso pero valiente, donde cada uno de nosotros reconozcamos nuestros prejuicios y nuestros egoísmos. Un diálogo que prescinda del fanatismo religioso —islámico y cristiano— tan de moda en estos días, con pretensiones de mesianismo y purismo moral. Un diálogo, en fin, aunque le pese a los sordos que no quieren oír.

El Dios verdadero

Según los verdaderos fieles y la religión verdadera, sólo puede haber un Dios verdadero, Dios. Algunos afirman que el verdadero Dios es Uno y es Tres al mismo tiempo, pero a juzgar por las evidencias Dios es Uno y es Muchos más. El verdadero Dios es único pero con políticas diferentes según los intereses de los verdaderos fieles. Cada uno es el Dios verdadero, cada uno mueve a sus fieles contra los fieles de los otros dioses que son siempre dioses falsos aunque cada uno sea el Dios verdadero. Cada Dios verdadero organiza la virtud de cada pueblo virtuoso sobre la base de las verdaderas costumbres y la verdadera Moral. Existe una sola Moral basada en el Dios verdadero, pero como existen múltiples Dios verdadero también existen múltiples Moral verdadera, una sola de la cual es verdaderamente verdadera.

Pero ¿cómo saber cuál es la verdadera verdad? Los métodos de prueba son discutibles; lo que no se discute es la praxis probatoria: el desprecio, la amenaza, la opresión y, por las dudas, la muerte. La muerte verdadera siempre es el recurso final e inevitable de la verdad verdadera, que procede del Dios verdadero, para salvar a la verdadera Moral y, sobre todo, a los verdaderos fieles.

Sí, a veces dudo de lo verdadero y sé que la duda ha sido maldecida por todas las religiones, por todas las teologías y por todos los discursos políticos. A veces dudo, pero es probable que Dios no desprecie mi duda. Debe estar muy ocupado entre tanta obviedad, ante tanto orgullo, entre tanta moralidad, detrás de tantos ministros que se han apropiado de su palabra, secuestrándolo en un edificio cualquiera para actuar puertas afuera sin obstáculos.

© Jorge Majfud

Athens, diciembre 2004

The Privatization of God

Custom-made for the consumer

In the 17th century, the mathematics genius Blaise Pascal wrote that men never do evil with greater pleasure than when they do it with religious conviction. This idea – from a deeply religious man – has taken a variety of different forms since. During the last century, the greatest crimes against humanity were promoted, with pride and passion, in the name of Progress, of Justice and of Freedom. In the name of Love, Puritans and moralists organized hatred, oppression and humiliation; in the name of Life, leaders and prophets spilled death over vast regions of the planet. Presently, God has come to be the main excuse for excercises in hate and death, hiding political ambitions, earthly and infernal interests behind sacred invocations. In this way, by reducing each tragedy on the planet to the millenarian and simplified tradition of the struggle between Good and Evil, of God against the Devil, hatred, violence and death are legitimated. There is no other way to explain how men and women are inclined to pray with fanatical pride and hypocritical humility, as if they were pure angels, models of morality, all the while hiding gunpowder in their clothing, or a check made out to death. And if the leaders are aware of the fraud, their subjects are no less responsible for being stupid, no less culpable for their criminal metaphysical convictions, in the name of God and Morality – when not in the name of a race, of a culture – and from a long tradition, recently on exhibit, custom-fit to the latest in hatred and ambition.

Empire of the simplifications

Yes, we can believe in the people. We can believe that they are capable of the most astounding creations – as will be one day their own liberation – and also of incommensurable stupidities, these latter always concealed by a complacent and self-interested discourse that manages to nullify criticism and any challenge to bad conscience. But, how did we come to such criminal negligence? Where does so much pride come from in a world where violence grows daily and more and more people claim to have heard the voice of God?

Political history demonstrates that a simplification is more powerful and better received by the vast majority of a society than is a problematization. For a politician or for a spiritual leader, for example, it is a show of weakness to admit that reality is complex. If one’s adversary expunges from a problem all of its contradictions and presents it to the public as a struggle between Good and Evil, the adversary undoubtedly is more likely to triumph. In the final analysis, the primary lesson of our time is grounded in commercial advertising or in permissive submission: we elect and we buy that which solves our problems for us, quickly and cheaply, even though the problem might be created by the solution, and even though the problem might continue to be real while the solution is never more than virtual. Nonetheless, a simplification does not eliminate the complexity of the problem in question, but rather, on the contrary, produces greater problems, and sometimes tragic consequences. Denying a disease does not cure it; it makes it worse.

Why don’t we talk about why?

Let’s try now to problematize some social phenomenon. Undoubtedly, we will not plumb the full depths of its complexity, but we can get an idea of the degree of simplification with which it is treated on a daily basis, and not always innocently.

Let’s start with a brief example. Consider the case of a man who rapes and kills a young girl. I take this example not only because it is, along with torture, one of the most abhorrent crimes imaginable, but because it represents a common criminal practice in all societies, even those that boast of their special moral virtues.

First of all, we have a crime. Beyond the semantics of “crime” and “punishment,” we can evaluate the act on its own merits, without, that is, needing to recur to a genealogy of the criminal and of his victim, or needing to research the origins of the criminal’s conduct. Both the rape and the murder should be punished by the law, and by the rest of society. And period. On this view, there is no room for discussion.

Very well. Now let’s imagine that in a given country the number of rapes and murders doubles in a particular year and then doubles again the year after that. A simplification would be to reduce the new phenomenon to the criminal deed described above. That is to say, a simplification would be to understand that the solution to the problem would be to not let a single one of these crimes go unpunished. Stated in a third way, a simplification would be to not recognize the social realities behind the individual criminal act. A more in-depth analysis of the first case could reveal to us a painful childhood, marked by the sexual abuse of the future abuser, of the future criminal. This observation would not in any way overturn the criminality of the deed itself, just as evaluated above, but it would allow us to begin to see the complexity of a problem that a simplification threatens to perpetuate. Starting from this psychological analysis of the individual, we could certainly continue on to observe other kinds of implications arising from the same criminal’s circumstances, such as, for example, the economic conditions of a specific social underclass, its exploitation and moral stigmatization by the rest of society, the moral violence and humiliation of its misery, its scales of moral value constructed in accordance with an apparatus of production, reproduction and contradictory consumption, by social institutions like a public education system that helps the poor less than it humiliates them, certain religious organizations that have created sin for the poor while using the latter to earn Paradise for themselves, the mass media, advertising, labor contradictions… and so on.

We can understand terrorism in our time in the same way. The criminality of an act of terrorism is not open to discussion (or it shouldn’t be). Killing is always a disgrace, a historical curse. But killing innocents and on a grand scale can have no justification or pardon of any kind. Therefore, to renounce punishment for those who promote terrorism is an act of cowardice and a flagrant concession to impunity.

Nevertheless, we should also remember here our initial caveat. Understanding a social and historical phenomenon as a consequence of the existence of “bad guys” on Earth is an extremely naive simplification or, to the contrary, an ideologically astute simplification that, by avoiding integrated analysis – historical, economic, political – exempts the administrators of the meaning of “bad”: the good guys.

We will not even begin to analyze, in these brief reflections, how one comes to identify one particular group and not others with the qualifier “terrorist.” For that let it suffice to recommend a reading of Roland Barthes – to mention just one classic source. We will assume the restricted meaning of the term, which is the one assumed by the press and the mainstream political narratives.

Even so, if we resort to the idea that terrorism exists because criminals exist in the world, we would have to think that in recent times there has been an especially abundant harvest of wicked people. (An idea explicitly present in the official discourse of all the governments of countries affected by the phenomenon.) But if it were true that in our world today there are more bad people than before, surely it isn’t by the grace of God but via historical developments that such a phenomenon has come to be. No historical circumstance is produced by chance, and therefore, to believe that killing terrorists will eliminate terrorism from the world is not only a foolish simplification but, by denying a historical origin for the problem, by presenting it as ahistorical, as purely a product of Evil, even as a struggle between two theological “essences” removed from any social, economic and political context, provokes a tragic worsening of the situation. It is a way of not confronting the problem, of not attacking its deep roots.

On many occasions violence is unavoidable. For example, if someone attacks us it would seem legitimate to defend ourselves with an equal degree of violence. Certainly a true Christian would offer the other cheek before instigating a violent reaction; however, if he were to respond violently to an act of aggression no one could deny him the right, even though he might be contradicting one of the commandments of Christ. But if a person or a government tells us that violence will be diminished by unleashing violence against the bad guys – affecting the innocent in the process – not only does this deny the search for a cause for the violence, it also will serve to strengthen it, or at least legitimate it, in the eyes of those who suffer the consequences.

Punishing those responsible for the violence is an act of justice. Claiming that violence exists only because violent people exist is an act of ignorance or of ideological manipulation.

If one continues to simplify the problem, insisting that it consists of a conflict produced by the “incompatibility” of two religious views – as if one of them had not been present for centuries – as if it were a matter of a simple kind of war where victory is achieved only with the total defeat of the enemy, one will drag the entire world into an intercontinental war. If one genuinely seeks the social origin and motivation of the problem – the “why” – and acts to eliminate and attenuate it, we will most assuredly witness a relaxing of the tension that is currently escalating. We will not see the end of violence and injustice in the world, but at least misfortune of unimaginable proportions will be avoided.

The analysis of the “origin of violence” would be useless if it were produced and consumed only within a university. It should be a problem for the headlines, a problem to be discussed dispassionately in the bars and in the streets. At the same time, we will have to recognize, once again, that we need a genuine dialogue. Not a return to the diplomatic farce, but a dialogue between peoples who have begun dangerously to see one another as enemies, as threats – a disagreement, really, based on a profound and crushing ignorance of the other and of oneself. What is urgent is a painful but courageous dialogue, where each one of us might recognize our prejudice and our self-centeredness. A dialogue that dispenses with the religious fanaticism – both Muslim and Christian – so in vogue these days, with its messianic and moralizing pretensions. A dialogue, in short, to spite the deaf who refuse to hear.

The True God

According to the true believers and the true religion, there can be only one true God, God. Some claim that the true God is One and he is Three at the same time, but judging by the evidence, God is One and Many more. The true God is unique but with different politics according to the interests of the true believers. Each one is the true God, each one moves the faithful against the faithful of other gods, which are always false gods even though each one is someone’s true God. Each true God organizes the virtue of each virtuous people on the basis of true customs and the true Morality. There is only one Morality based on the true God, but since there is more than one true God there is also more than one true Morality, only one of which is truly true.

But, how do we know which one is the true truth? The proper methods for proof are disputable; what is not disputed is the current practice: scorn, threats, oppression and, when in doubt, death. True death is always the final and inevitable recourse of the true truth, which comes from the true God, in order to save the true Morality and, above all, the true believers.

Yes, at times I have my doubts about what is true, and I know that doubt has been condemned by all religions, by all theologies, and by all political discourses. At times I have my doubts, but it is likely that God does not hold my doubt in contempt. He must be very busy concerning himself with so much certainty, so much pride, so much morality, behind so many ministers who have taken control of his word, holding Him hostage in a building somewhere so as to be able to conduct their business in public without obstacles.

Translated by Bruce Campbell.

Jorge Majfud is a Uruguayan writer. His most recent novel is La Reina de América (Baile de Sol, 2002).

La cultura de la hiperfragmentación (II)

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La cultura de la hiperfragmentación (II)

Una vez en África, con razón, un kimwane me cuestionaba por qué yo decía que aquellas costas eran un paraíso de belleza y tranquilidad, fuera de todos los mapas, y al mismo tiempo extrañaba las agotadoras batallas del mundo occidental. Después de muchos meses decidí volver. Porque nadie puede irse a una isla en el medio del océano Índico sin llevarse su mundo adentro. Y porque el admirable y el despreciable Occidente es mi mundo, o la mayor parte de mi mundo.

Desde entonces creo que no hay mejor espacio para observar una realidad que un espacio fronterizo. Involucrarse en esa realidad es básico para conocerla, pero no necesariamente favorable a la observación de la misma.

Una de esas fronteras puede ser generacional y cultural: la que (aparentemente) separa la cultura del libro de la cultura digital.

Desde fines del siglo XX muchos escritores publicamos en libro, aunque con reservas, nuestro optimismo sobre la revolución digital. La red venía a confirmar con su potencial interactivo la idea de que si la biosfera era el cuerpo de un ser vivo único (la Gaia de J. Lovelock), bien podríamos considerar la estratósfera y las redes de comunicación como su cerebro, donde las conexiones eran las dendritas y los individuos las neuronas.

El optimismo estaba sustentado (aún lo está), en el potencial democratizador de la información, de la cultura y de los medios de producción, con lo cual la democracia directa ya no tendría obstáculos para sustituir finalmente a las anacrónicas democracias representativas. Así, pronto los parlamentos se convertirían en lo que hoy son los reyes en Europa.

Todo esto estaba (está) en la misma línea humanística de liberación de los individuos de las autoridades fácticas, políticas o intelectuales considerados desde la revolución intelectual del siglo XVII alrededor del Mediterráneo. El fenómeno de Internet no era (no es) mayor ni menor al producido por la revolución del libro impreso en el siglo XV y de la prensa en el siglo XVIII y XIX.

Nada de estas posibilidades ha fracasado hoy en día, pero la experiencia del momento nos muestra cada día los peligros de todo optimismo. Por ejemplo, cuando los medios se convierten en fines. Cuando los instrumentos de liberación se convierten en una adicción que, además, fomentan la superstición de la libertad y la liberación del mismo adicto por el simple hecho de tener acceso a la droga.

Aparte de las enormes inversiones de tiempo que alguien hace en las “redes sociales” (es decir, en los cementerios digitales) como Facebook o Twitter, lo que debería preocupar más es qué habilidades se ganan y qué habilidades se pierden cuando esa práctica fraccionada y repetitiva traspasa un límite X y se convierte en autismo social, una de las enfermedades menos visibles y más universales de nuestro tiempo.

No debemos olvidar que el optimismo sobre el potencial democratizador de la televisión terminó entre dos pesados signos de interrogación. La idea de “caja boba” en realidad no tenía nada de boba para los poderes fácticos del siglo XX. Los perjudicados fueron aquellos que desarrollaron sus potenciales intelectuales dentro de la adicción y de los límites estrechos de ese medio, mientras los administradores del poder mundial seguían formándose en la cultura escrita de las universidades.

Lo mismo podríamos decir de la radio. Si bien fue, y aún lo es hoy, un medio positivo en el proceso de democratización de la información, también es cierto que la Alemania nazi no hubiese llegado a los extremos que llegó sin la revolución propagandística que hizo posible el nuevo medio, por citar sólo un ejemplo clásico y extremo.

Claro, algunos acusarán que también el libro fue usado como medio central en la difusión del marxismo, etc. Para bien y para mal, es cierto. En cualquier caso la observación confirma el punto central en este momento: qué habilidades intelectuales se están perdiendo en nombre de un conformismo basado en las ventajas de un nuevo medio.

Se pueden observar experimentos en “tiempo real” sobre los hábitos de lectoescritura de las nuevas generaciones. En una abrumadora mayoría, no son muy alentadoras si venimos con la molesta idea de la democracia y la liberación del individuo y de los pueblos basada no en la mera información sino en la formación misma del individuo. Una formación no basada en el mito de la libertad sino en la liberación de un pensamiento crítico. Y para esto es necesario un ejercicio intelectual que incluya alguna constancia, alguna concentración, algún “ir a fondo” alejado de falsas urgencias, alentadas por la ansiedad del consumidor (producto típico y necesario del último capitalismo) más que por la urgencia real de los hechos.

Como ya anotamos mucho antes, una característica del lector digital, al menos por el momento, radica en la hiperfragmentación. Esto no significa que en este tipo de lectura digital no pueda surgir un pensamiento crítico. Ejemplos contrarios hay de sobra. Pero en términos generales, no veo cómo se podría estimular la riqueza intelectual sustituyendo completamente una habilidad por otra, en este caso la lectura de largo aliento y concentración, propia del libro tradicional, por la lectura fragmentada de la red.

Si buscamos indicios concretos sobre las potencialidades de los nuevos grupos encontraremos que la gran novedad radica en cierta forma de “cooperative work”. Un ejemplo paradigmático es Wikipedia. En otros casos menos defendibles, las empresas usan a los usuarios de forma gratuita para sustituir empleados asalariados.

En cualquier caso, la nueva generación sigue mostrando que la creatividad depende de unos pocos individuos. Hay faraónicos trabajos colectivos, trabajos de hormiga, pero no hay grandes inventos o innovaciones colectivas. Incluida la revolución digital y sus novedades de turno, todas son producto de individuos o de pequeños grupos trabajando en una dinámica de investigación tradicional. La mayoría, por no decir casi todos los consumidores de esos inventos, está hiper-ocupada en enviar mensajes para que el mundo sepa a qué hora se levantaron hoy, qué están haciendo en este momento y cuál es su real estado de ánimo, según un menú de siete opciones diseñado por algún doctor en marketing que vive en California.

Siempre es más fácil profetizar cambios radicales que continuidades. Los astrólogos y demás profetas no resisten anunciar el fin del mundo para mañana o la muerte del libro y de la bicicleta. Y los libros seguirán siendo espacios para una forma de pensamiento de largo aliento. Al final, la mayoría de las veces, lo que ocurre es sólo la muerte de los astrólogos y profetas. Aunque la humanidad ha sido capaz de inventos y revoluciones admirables, probablemente todavía seguimos soñando, amando y odiando como en tiempos de Akenatón. Y si bien no pensamos como entonces, seguramente repetimos lo mismos errores derivados del abuso del optimismo.

En cualquier caso este es nuestro mundo. Podemos criticarlo, podemos tratar de cambiarlo, pero no podemos renunciar a él. Tampoco deberíamos rendirnos ante la autocomplacencia colectiva.

Para eso están algunos políticos de turno en el poder de turno.

Jorge Majfud

Jacksonville University

Junio 2010.

Milenio (Mexico)