La vanidad de los pueblos

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Medalla A. Nobel

La vanidad de los pueblos

Virtuosos por asociación

El chauvinismo se niega a reconocer que todos los pueblos han engendrado ángeles y demonios, genios y necios.

Durante su larga diáspora y especialmente en el siglo XX, el pueblo judío se ha destacado, entre otras cosas, por sus intelectuales. El comercio y el trabajo intelectual, despreciados en la Europa medieval, eran los dos únicos espacios existenciales permitidos a un pueblo sin derecho a la tierra o a títulos de nobleza.

Hoy en día algunos judíos que debaten sobre los derechos de los palestinos a su tierra y a su libertad, echan mano a argumentos que no tienen nada que ver con los derechos de un pueblo o del otro. Es común leer la mención a genios como Albert Einstein seguidos de la pregunta “¿y los árabes que aportaron?”. Este tipo de preguntas retóricas que llevan la respuesta implícita, también llevan una pesada carga de ignorancia histórica. Increíblemente fue usada también por periodistas como Oriana Fallaci en 2002. (Mi respuesta, para quien le interese, se resume en el breve ensayo El lento suicidio de Occidente.)

No obstante, creo que el problema no radica en una competencia de inventos, de Coeficientes Intelectuales o sobre quien la tiene más grande.

Esta actitud, por lo general, implica que quien habla se siente incluido dentro del grupo de los genios sólo por pertenecer a un determinado pueblo, sin considerar que las mentes más brillantes procedentes de dichos pueblos nunca, o rara vez, usaron semejante silogismo chauvinista. Sin considerar que la sola pretensión (más allá de demostrar que quien habla pertenece al grupo de los tontos que cada etnia se reserva para conservar su condición humana) es simple y nunca inocente racismo.

Este tipo de razonamientos es clásico en la historia y sólo prueba que la pobreza mental es funcional a un poder ya establecido. Cuando en 1550 Ginés de Sepúlveda se enfrentó en debate público ante un probable judío converso, Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, hizo orgulloso recurso del método. Sepúlveda argumentó que era correcto, ante el Rey y ante Dios, esclavizar a los indígenas americanos porque, obviamente, éstos poseían menos inteligencia que los blancos europeos. Todo lo cual, afirmó, estaba escrito en el Libro de Proverbios (11: 29) de la Sagrada Biblia.

Por entonces, también árabes y judíos, que durante buena parte de la Edad Media supieron convivir y mantener la filosofía y las ciencias en Europa, estaban incapacitados para cualquier linaje de nobleza. Cualquier incompetente, como el rey Carlos II, se creía superior por pertenecer a la familia más noble de Europa. La superioridad de este rey con agudo e irreversible retardo mental se demostraba por la extensión de su reino y de su poder.

Aun luego, en el apogeo de la cultura centroeuropea, era común entender que los judíos no eran capaces de finezas espirituales como la música sinfónica o la filosofía racional. Y todo esto era funcional no solo al antisemitismo sino al nacionalismo de turno, que pocos se atreven a cuestionar.

Porque todos tienen la mente muy abierta cuando las críticas apuntan a otros pueblos, pero se les cierra con sereno fanatismo apenas sobrevuelan su propio territorio.

 

Los pueblos que colaboraron con la historia

También podríamos decir que el mayor aporte de un pueblo no necesariamente radica en los inventos que dio a la humanidad. Bastaría con que haya sabido vivir en paz con sus vecinos y consigo mismo.

Aún dejando de lado esta virtud de la modestia, no recuerdo pueblo en la historia que no haya aportado algo en filosofía, arte, pensamiento, ciencias o tecnología. Desde el humilde cero de los hindúes, sin el cual la ciencia moderna de los últimos siglos y la informática de los últimos años serían impensables hasta el álgebra de Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, los números arábigos y los innumerables aportes en ciencias y medicina.

Al decir de Eduardo Subirats, Averroes, un árabe, fue el primer filósofo ilustrado de Europa. Pensamiento sin el cual sería imposible la filosofía y la política moderna.

Recientemente otros genios han aportado ideas novedosas, como que toda la ciencia y el pensamiento que nos rodea hoy surgieron por generación espontánea a principios del siglo XX, en Europa o en Estados Unidos. Patrón de pensamiento que se asemeja a la idea de que el mundo nació hace algo menos de diez mil años y que todo lo que lo contradiga son solo teorías y retórica, no hechos.

Cada pueblo dejó algo en un momento determinado de la historia que lo encontró como protagonista. Es inútil hablar de las religiones, porque es allí, en nombre del amor, la justicia y la paz, donde radican los principales odios de la historia y de los tiempos actuales. No por culpa de las religiones y mucho menos de Dios, sino por la soberbia de Sus ministros, la avaricia de Sus administradores y la hipocresía de Sus voceros.

El racismo siempre está vivo y es una misión humanista resistirlo. Superarlo es una utopía, pero quizás la mejor de todas las utopías que ha creado la humanidad, porque de ella derivan otras virtudes, como la igualdad de derechos y, de ésta, deriva una de las más recientes virtudes morales y culturales que, no por casualidad, también están en concordancia con la vital dinámica de la biología: la diversidad.

La historia, entonces, registra innumerables pueblos con sus innumerables aportes. No registra, en cambio, cual fue el primer pueblo que no se consideró elegido por sus propios dioses y procedió como tal. Es curioso, porque solo ese descubrimiento ha sido uno de los aportes más importantes a la historia de la humanidad.

Jorge Majfud

Lincoln University, abril 2010.

Milenio (Mexico)

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Fear of Freedom: On the Left and the Right

Edward Said

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El miedo a la libertad, Sobre izquierdas y derechas (Spanish)

 

Fear of Freedom: On the Left and the Right

 

Jorge Majfud

 

Generally, an historical phenomenon is naturalized thanks to an absence of memory (hence the political value of neutrality and forgetting). Obviously not always for political reasons: it was once assumed that a nerve originating from the heart ended in one of the fingers of the left hand, which is why the wedding ring is worn there today. A man takes his bride to the altar with the left arm because centuries ago other grooms had to keep the right arm free in order to grasp the sword aimed at skewering the enemy. Carriages drove down the left side of the road: the driver’s right hand took up the weapon needed to defend himself against other drivers. For political reasons, revolutionary France and North America chose to drive on the other side and Napoleon confirmed it, not because he was revolutionary but because he was left-handed. Greeting with the right-handed handshake or handwave was able to signify the same thing: it was a friendly way of verifying that one was not armed.

Despite the fact that the right hand signified violence, symbolically it was associated with all of the virtues. The knight who alone or with other nobles crossed the countryside of Europe and the Middle East valued his right hand for many reasons, among which was its identification with defense. In a violent world, the right served for self-defense, and therefore possessed a value superior to the left hand and to reason. There was no argument about the fact that the right served to defend against other right hands in a culture of violence. In the same way, armies are justified even today for the defense of the homeland and of honor and not for assaults on other homelands and other honors. Right, righteous, rights, rightwing, righthand man, have come to be synonyous with virtue while the left is identified with the sinister (from the Latin sinister, meaning “on the left” or “unlucky”).  Culture nourished the superstition that a left-handed man was a partner of Evil and school children’s left hand was tied down and they were forced to write with their right hand.

At the same time, as Saussure would observe, there is no reason for a sign to have any necessary relationship with its signified. The fact that the Jacobins and Girondins would sit on one side or the other of the National Assembly of revolutionary France was merely circumstantial.

What is not accidental is the creation of semantic fields (the establishment of ideolexicons) in the struggle for social power.

Twenty or thirty years ago in the Southern Cone declaring oneself a leftist was enough to send you to prison or lose your life in a torture session. Nearly the majority of citizens and almost all the media took pains – in different ways – to identify themselves with the right. Being on the right was not only politically correct but, also, a requirement for survival.

The valorization of this ideolexicon has changed dramatically. This is demonstrated by a recent trial taking place in Uruguay. Búsqueda, a well-known weekly magazine, has taken to court a senator of the republic, José Korzeniak, because he characterized the publication as “on the right.” If this attitude were generalized, we would have to say that censorship no longer extends from political power toward the communication media, as before, but from the media toward the politicians in power. Which would be an interesting historical rarity.

The trial represents another rarity. The judge in the case had to call different witnesses to define what is on the right and what is on the left. It is assumed that the judicial process must resolve a philosophical problem that has never been closed or resolved. Dialectical exercise is completely healthy, but the form and place are proving to be surrealist at the very least.

I suppose that if it is demonstrated that Búsqueda is not on the right the senator will lose the trial, but if the opposite is demonstrated, he would be absolved of his crime. Nonetheless, another problem arises here. Is freedom of expression a crime now? What does it matter if Búsqueda is on the right or on the left as far as the law is concerned? Why should it be considered an insult or a civil crime to be on the right? Is not all opposition to the government on the right, and who knows if the government itself as well from some more radical point of view?

We will dispense with pretensions of independence, of neutrality or of objectivity, because those superstitions have already been demolished by thinkers like Edward Said. Nothing in culture is neutral, even though the will to objectivity might be a utopian virtue which we should not renounce. Part of intellectual honesty consists of recognizing that our own point of view is human and not necessarily the point of view of God. Historically political neutrality is prescribed only when it works in favor of a status quo, since every social order implies a network of political values imposed through the violence of their alleged neutrality.

Whether the senator is on the left or on the right, whether this or that daily paper is on the left or the right, that is up to each citizen to judge. The only thing that every citizen should demand of the law, of justice, is that it respect and protect their right to whatever opinion they like and their right to do so in any medium. In an open society, censorship should only result from reason or the strength of arguments. If a social consensus were possible about theme X, this should be derived from the most complete freedom of expression and not from any authority’s imposition of force or from the fear of “crime of opinion.”

Is it that we Uruguayans, who are so proud of our democratic tradition, are still not able to overcome the mental parameters of the dictatorship? Why such fear of freedom?

In many of our countries, trials for reasons of “honor” are still common. The stamp of the duel to the death – heritage of the violent knights of the Middle Ages – projects its image onto an anachronistic mentality. Like the famous “honor of weapons,” a paradoxical ideolexicon, if such a thing exists, since there is nothing less appropriate to a demonstration of honor than instruments of death.

Someone might argue that if Juan insults me that stains my honor. Nonetheless, even in that extreme, in an open society I would have the same right to respond to the hypothetical offense using the same means. But the very idea that someone can offend another person by recourse to insult is a flawed construction: anyone who insults gratuitously insults his own intelligence. If we knew how to develop a culture of freedom and uproot the implicit fear of debate and dissidence, the insult would be an undesired option just as it is today to assault each other in a ridiculous weapons duel. For the same reason, we would stop confusing criticisms with personal affront.

I can understand that defense of the crime might be considered a crime in itself, but we still have not been able to demonstrate clearly that naming someone or an organ of the press with the title “on the right” is a defense for the crime. First, because being on the right does not lead necessarily (directly or deliberately) to theft or criminality. Second, because we know people who honestly believe that being on the right is a virtue and not an insulting defect. Third, because nobody is safe from acts and opinions on the right.

 

Translated by Bruce Campbell

 

 

 

The Imperfect Sex. Why Is Sor Juana Not a Saint?

Painted in 1750

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El sexo imperfecto. ¿Por qué sor Juana no puede ser santa?

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The Imperfect Sex.

Why Is Sor Juana Not a Saint?

Dr. Jorge Majfud

Lincoln University

Every hegemonic power in every historical period establishes the limits of what is normal and, consequently, of what is natural.  Thus, the power that ordered patriarchal society reserved for itself (reserves for itself) the unquestionable right to define what was a man and what was a woman.  Every time some exalted person takes recourse to the mediocre argument that “things have been like this since the beginning of the world,” he situates the origin of the world in a recent period of the history of humanity.

Like any system, patriarchy fulfilled an organizing function.  Probably, at some moment, it was an order convenient to the majority of society, including women.  I don’t believe that oppression arises from patriarchy, but instead when the latter attempts to perpetuate itself by imposing itself on processes that range from the survival to the liberation of human kind.  If patriarchy was once a logical system of values for an agricultural system of production and survival, today it no longer means anything more than an oppressive, and for some time now, hypocritical tradition.

In 1583, the revered Fray Luis de León wrote La perfecta casada (The Perfect Wife) as a book of useful advice for marriage.  There, as with any other text of the tradition, it is understood that an exceptionally virtuous woman is a manly woman.  “What here we call woman of principle; and we might say manly woman (…) means virtue of spirit and strength of heart, industry and wealth and power.”  Then: “in the man to be gifted with understanding and reason, does not make him worthy of praise, because having this is his own nature (…) If the truth be told, it is a bouquet of dishonesties for the chaste woman to think she could not be so, or that in being so she does something for which she should be thanked.”  Then: “God, when he decided to marry man by giving him woman, said: ‘Let us make for him a help mate’ (Gen. 2); from whence it is understood that the natural place of woman and the end for which God created her, is for her to be a helper to her husband.”  A hundred years before Sor Juana would be condemned for speaking too much and for defending her right to speak, the nature of woman was well defined: “it is right for [women] to pride themselves on being silent, both those for whom it is convenient to cover up their lack of knowledge, and those who might shamelessly reveal what they know, because in all of them it is not only an agreeable condition, but a proper virtue, to speak little and be silent.”  Then: “because, just as nature, as we have said and will say, made women to remain in the home as its keepers, so also it obliged them to keep their mouths closed. (…) Just as the good and honest woman was not made by nature for the study of the sciences nor for negotiation of hardships, but for a simple and domestic profession, it also limited their understanding, and therefore it rationed their words and reason.”  But the moralizer of the day was not lacking in tenderness: “do not think that God created them and gave them to man only for them to keep the home, but also to console him and give him joy.  So that in her the tired and angry husband might find rest, and the children love, and the family piety, and all of them generally an agreeable refuge.”

By the next century, Francisco Cascales believed that woman had to struggle against her nature, which was not only determined but evil or defective besides: “The needle and the distaff – wrote the military man and university professor, in 1653 – are the woman’s weapons, and so strong, that armed with them she will resist the most prideful enemy to tempt her.”  Which amounted to saying that the distaff was the weapon of an oppressive system.

Juan de Zabaleta, notable figure of the Spanish Golden Age, declared in 1653 that “in poetry there is no substance; nor in the understanding of a woman.”  And later: “woman is naturally gossipy,” the woman poet “adds more madness to her madness (…) The woman poet is the most imperfect and abhorrent animal formed by nature (…) If it were permitted of me, I would burn her alive.  He who celebrates a woman for being a poet, God should give her to him as a wife, so that he might know what he celebrates.”  In his following book, the lawyer wrote: “the word wife means comfort more than anything, pleasure the least.”  Nonetheless, man “by adoring a woman takes adoration away from the Creator.”  Zabaleta at times goes so far as to create metaphors with a certain aesthetic value: the woman in church “with her fan in hand enlivens with its air the fire that encircles her.” (1654)

In 1575,the physician Juan Huarte informed us that the testicles affirm the temperament more than the heart, while in the woman “the organ that is most gripped by the alterations of the uterus, according to all the physicians, is the brain, although there may be no grounds on which to base this correspondence.”  Hippocrates, Galeno, Sigmund Freud and the most fanatical supporters of the Boca Juniors soccer team would all agree.  The wise and ingenious man, according to the Spanish physician, has a son with contrary traits when the woman’s seed predominates, and no wise child can come from a woman.  For this reason, when the man predominates, even when he is brutish and stupid a clever son results.

In his book about Fernando (a.k.a. the Catholic Monarch Ferdinand), another renowned moralist, Baltasar Gracián, dedicates some final lines to Queen Isabel.  “What most aided Fernando – wrote the Jesuit – [was] doña Isabel his Catholic consort, that great princess who, even though a woman, exceeded the limits of a man.”  Although there were noteworthy women, “commonly in this sex the passions reign in such a way that they leave no room for counsel, for patience, for prudence, essential parts of government, and with  power their tyranny is augmented. (…) Ordinarily, manly women were very prudent.”  Later: “In Spain manly females have always endured a position for males, and in the house of Austria they have always been respected and employed.” (1641)

I believe that the idea of the manly woman as virtuous woman is consistent with the tolerance of lesbianism by the same patriarchal system of values that condemned masculine homosexuality to burn at the stake, whether in the Middle East, in Europe or among the imperial Incas.  Where there was a greater predominance for matriarchy, neither the virginity of the woman nor the homosexuality of men was watched over with such fervor.

A famous woman – beatified, sainted and given a doctorate by the Catholic Church – Saint Teresa, wrote in 1578: “Weakness is natural and it is very weak, especially in women.”  Recommending an extreme discipline with the nuns, the future saint argued: “I do not believe there is anything in the world that could damage a prelate more than to not be feared, and for his subjects to think they may deal with him as with an equal, especially for women, for once understanding that there is in the prelate such softness… governing them will be difficult.”  But this deficient nature impeded not only the proper social order but mystical achievement as well.  Just like Buddha, in her famous book Las moradas the same saint recognized the natural “stupidity of women” that made it difficult for them to reach the center of the divine mystery.

It is perfectly understandable that a woman at the service of the patriarchal order, like Saint Teresa, would have been beatified, while another religious woman who openly opposed this structure would never have been recognized as such.  I would sum up Saint Teresa’s slogan in just one word: obedience, above all social obedience.

Saint Teresa died an old woman and without the martyrdom proper to the saints.  Sor Juana, in contrast, was made to suffer psychological, moral and, finally, physical torture until she died at the age of fourty-four, serving her fellow man in the epidemic of 1695.  But none of that matters for canonizing her as a saint when “the worst of all women” committed the sin of questioning authority.  Why not propose, then, Saint Juana Inés de la Cruz, patron saint of oppressed women?

Those who reject Sor Juana’s religious merits adduce a political value in her figure, when not merely a literary one.  In another essay we already noted the political value of the life and death of Jesus, a value historically denied.  The political and the aesthetic in Santa Teresa – the “patron saint of writers” – fill her works and thoughts as much as the religious and the mystical do.  Nonetheless, a hegemonic political position is an invisible politics: it is omnipresent.  Only that politics which resists the hegemony, which contests the dominant discourse becomes visible.

When I kiss my wife on the mouth in a public square, I am exercising a hegemonic sexuality, which is the heterosexual one.  If two women or two men do the same thing they are not only exercising their homosexuality but also a challenge to the hegemonic order which rewards some and punishes others.  Each time a man goes out on the street dressed as a traditional woman, inevitably he is making a – visible – political statement.  I also make a political statement when I go out on the street dressed as a (traditional) man, but my declaration coincides with the hegemonic politics, is transparent, invisible, appears apolitical, neutral.  It is for this reason that the act of the marginalized becomes a visible politics.

We can understand in the same way the political and religious factor in two women as different as Saint Teresa and Sor Juana.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons for which one of them has been repeatedly honored by the religious tradition and the other reduced to the literary circle or to the Mexican two-hundred peso notes, symbol of the material world, abstraction of sin.

Translated by

Dr. Bruce Campbell

St. John’s University

Dr. Jorge Majfud was born in Tacuarembó, Uruguay in 1969. He majored in Architecture and in 1996 graduated from the Universidad de la República in Montevideo. He travelled extensively to gather material that would later become part of his novels and essays, and was a professor at the Universidad Hispanoamericana de Costa Rica and at Escuela Técnica del Uruguay, where he taught mathematics and art. He received his PhD degree at the University of Georgia. He currently teaches Latin American Literature at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. His publications include: Hacia qué patrias del silencio / memorias de un desaparecido (novel, 1996); Crítica de la pasión pura (essays, 1998); La reina de América (novel, 2001); La narración de lo invisible / Significados ideológicos de América Latina (essays, 2006); Perdona nuestros pecados (short stories, 2007) and La ciudad de la Luna (novel, 2008). His stories and essays have been translated into Portuguese, French, English, German, Italian and Greek.

Dr. Bruce Campbell is an Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, where he is chair of the Latino/Latin American Studies program. He is the author of Mexican Murals in Times of Crisis (University of Arizona, 2003) and ¡Viva la historieta! Mexican Comics, NAFTA, and the Politics of Globalization (University Press of Mississippi, 2009).

Crisis (IV)

 Jorge Majfud’s books at Amazon>>

 

Crisis IV (Spanish)

Crisis (IV)

 

 

 

Saturday September 20.  Dow Jones: 11,388

San Francisco, California. 5:30 AM

 

We were feeling really laid back at Lilian’s party when he arrived with his usual two little friends, Patrick and the other guy whose name I don’t remember.  I asked Lilian if she had invited them and she just laughed, which in this case meant no, or that she had no choice but to invite them.  I had never had problems with Nacho before so don’t come at me with that stuff about animosity or predisposition, much less premeditation.

It wasn’t premeditated.  Nacho Washington Sánchez had come to the party with a gift for the young girl who was turning fifteen two days later.  Her parents had moved the celebration up so that it would fall on Saturday the 14th, and as a reward for her good grades.

Nacho Sánchez, Santa Clara, 19, had gone back to school at the age of almost twenty, after spending a time in a Georgia chicken factory.  And this time he had come back with enough maturity and motivation to carry him to the second best grades in his class.

According to his friends’ statements to the police, Nacho didn’t go to the party because of Lilian but because of Claudia Knickerbacker, the Chilean friend of the birthday girl.  And if he said goodbye to miss Wright with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, that didn’t mean anything.  Or it didn’t mean, like George Ramírez yelled at him, sexual harassment.

—The thing is that George speaks less and less Spanish all the time and he forgot or acts like he forgets that we Latinos hug and kiss more often than Yankees do.  The other stuff is inside the head of one of those repressed people who see sex everywhere and try to surgically remove it with a pair of hot tongs.  It’s true that before heading for the bus stop Nacho turned around and told him that George wasn’t a Mexican-American anymore because in Calabazas North the “Mexican” part had fallen off of him.  It wasn’t necessary, but it was after tolerating like a prince the insults that George had thrown at him since he left the Wrights’ house.

—What insults?  Do you remember any of them?

—He said to him that Nacho was a child abuser, that Lilian was still only fourteen years old and that he was going to report him to the police and he followed him around threatening him with the telephone in his hand.  Without turning around Nacho told him, sure, call 911.  The others were coming up behind.

—How many were they?

—Five or six, I don’t remember exactly.  It was dark and I was really scared that there would be a fight and we would all get pulled in.  We were about a hundred yeards from the bus stop and the bus was waiting for the light to change a block away and George decided to yell at him that he wasn’t going to call 911, but the Migra instead.  Everybody knew that Nacho’s parents were illegals and hadn’t gotten papers for as long as Nacho could remember, which was why, even though he was a citizen, he always avoided run-ins with the police, as if they would deport him or put him in jail for being the child of illegals, which he knew perfectly well was absurd but was something that was stronger than him. When his wallet got stolen in the metro to the airport he didn’t report it and chose to go back home and he missed his flight to Atlanta.  And that’s why you could say the worst to him and Nacho always kept his cool, biting back his anger but never lifting a hand, and he was strong enough to knock out a mule if he wanted to.  Not him, of course, he wasn’t illegal and the others must have known it.  But the ones coming from farther back, including John, Lilian’s older brother, who heard the part about “the Migra” and the part about “sexual harassment,” and he caught up with George who stood out because of his size and his white shirt…

—Do you want them to bring you some water?

—I started walking faster, saying that the bus was going to leave without us and I got on it.  After that I don’t know what happened.  I just saw through the window, from a distance, that they had rushed at Nacho and Barrett was trying hopelessly to rescue him from the mob.  But Barrett is smaller than me.  Then all I saw were the streetlights on Guerrero and Cesar Chavez, and I sat in the last seat with my cell phone in my hand until I got home.  But Nacho never answered any of the messages I left him asking him to call me back.  Nacho said good-bye the way he did because he was happy.  She had invited him so he would have a chance to ask the Knickerbacker girl out, and in the kitchen while they were cutting the tres leches cake Knickerbacker hadn’t told him no.  She told him that  they could go out next Saturday and that left Nacho feeling really happy.  He had such a complex because of his prematurely thinning hair at 19 years old, which he thought was sufficient reason for any pretty girl to reject him.  It’s not like the Chilean girl was a model or anything, but Nacho was blindly in love since starting back to school.

—And you?

—I don’t think that such a warm good-bye was because he was happy.  They always come across that way, they don’t respect your personal space.  They say Latinos are like that, but if they come to this country they should behave according to the rules of this country.  Here we just shake hands.  We’re not in Russia where men go around kissing each other. Much less kiss a child like that in front of her parents and all of her friends.  You’re right, her parents didn’t complain, but they also didn’t say anything when George and his friends decided to go out and teach those intruders a lesson. The Wrights are polite and when they saw that Nacho left without causing trouble they decided not to intervene.  But I’m sure they spoke with Lilian afterward, because they looked worn out.  It was because of a moral issue. A matter of principles, of values.  We couldn’t allow some nobody to come and upset the peace at the party and abuse one of the little girls. No, I don’t regret it.  I did what I had to do to defend the morality of the family.  No, it wasn’t my home, but it sort of was.  I’ve been Johnny’s friend since middle school.  No, we didn’t want to kill him, but he was asking for it.  What worse crime is there than abusing a little girl?  He didn’t fondle her, but that’s how they all start.  Them, you know who I’m talking about.  Them!  Don’t coerce my statement, I know my rights.  They don’t know how to respect personal distance and then they lose control.  No, my partents were Mexicans but they entered the country legally and they graduated from the University of San Diego. No, no, no… I’m an American, sir, make no mistake.

(from the novel Crisis)

Jorge Majfud

Translated by Bruce Campbell

 

Jorge Majfud’s books at Amazon>>

Crisis IV (English)

San Francisco by Night: Market Street

Image by Franco Folini via Flickr

Crisis (IV)


Saturday September 20.  Dow Jones: 11,388

San Francisco, California. 5:30 AM

We were feeling really laid back at Lilian’s party when he arrived with his usual two little friends, Patrick and the other guy whose name I don’t remember.  I asked Lilian if she had invited them and she just laughed, which in this case meant no, or that she had no choice but to invite them.  I had never had problems with Nacho before so don’t come at me with that stuff about animosity or predisposition, much less premeditation.

It wasn’t premeditated.  Nacho Washington Sánchez had come to the party with a gift for the young girl who was turning fifteen two days later.  Her parents had moved the celebration up so that it would fall on Saturday the 14th, and as a reward for her good grades.

Nacho Sánchez, Santa Clara, 19, had gone back to school at the age of almost twenty, after spending a time in a Georgia chicken factory.  And this time he had come back with enough maturity and motivation to carry him to the second best grades in his class.

According to his friends’ statements to the police, Nacho didn’t go to the party because of Lilian but because of Claudia Knickerbacker, the Chilean friend of the birthday girl.  And if he said goodbye to miss Wright with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, that didn’t mean anything.  Or it didn’t mean, like George Ramírez yelled at him, sexual harassment.

—The thing is that George speaks less and less Spanish all the time and he forgot or acts like he forgets that we Latinos hug and kiss more often than Yankees do.  The other stuff is inside the head of one of those repressed people who see sex everywhere and try to surgically remove it with a pair of hot tongs.  It’s true that before heading for the bus stop Nacho turned around and told him that George wasn’t a Mexican-American anymore because in Calabazas North the “Mexican” part had fallen off of him.  It wasn’t necessary, but it was after tolerating like a prince the insults that George had thrown at him since he left the Wrights’ house.

—What insults?  Do you remember any of them?

—He said to him that Nacho was a child abuser, that Lilian was still only fourteen years old and that he was going to report him to the police and he followed him around threatening him with the telephone in his hand.  Without turning around Nacho told him, sure, call 911.  The others were coming up behind.

—How many were they?

—Five or six, I don’t remember exactly.  It was dark and I was really scared that there would be a fight and we would all get pulled in.  We were about a hundred yeards from the bus stop and the bus was waiting for the light to change a block away and George decided to yell at him that he wasn’t going to call 911, but the Migra instead.  Everybody knew that Nacho’s parents were illegals and hadn’t gotten papers for as long as Nacho could remember, which was why, even though he was a citizen, he always avoided run-ins with the police, as if they would deport him or put him in jail for being the child of illegals, which he knew perfectly well was absurd but was something that was stronger than him. When his wallet got stolen in the metro to the airport he didn’t report it and chose to go back home and he missed his flight to Atlanta.  And that’s why you could say the worst to him and Nacho always kept his cool, biting back his anger but never lifting a hand, and he was strong enough to knock out a mule if he wanted to.  Not him, of course, he wasn’t illegal and the others must have known it.  But the ones coming from farther back, including John, Lilian’s older brother, who heard the part about “the Migra” and the part about “sexual harassment,” and he caught up with George who stood out because of his size and his white shirt…

—Do you want them to bring you some water?

—I started walking faster, saying that the bus was going to leave without us and I got on it.  After that I don’t know what happened.  I just saw through the window, from a distance, that they had rushed at Nacho and Barrett was trying hopelessly to rescue him from the mob.  But Barrett is smaller than me.  Then all I saw were the streetlights on Guerrero and Cesar Chavez, and I sat in the last seat with my cell phone in my hand until I got home.  But Nacho never answered any of the messages I left him asking him to call me back.  Nacho said good-bye the way he did because he was happy.  She had invited him so he would have a chance to ask the Knickerbacker girl out, and in the kitchen while they were cutting the tres leches cake Knickerbacker hadn’t told him no.  She told him that  they could go out next Saturday and that left Nacho feeling really happy.  He had such a complex because of his prematurely thinning hair at 19 years old, which he thought was sufficient reason for any pretty girl to reject him.  It’s not like the Chilean girl was a model or anything, but Nacho was blindly in love since starting back to school.

—And you?

—I don’t think that such a warm good-bye was because he was happy.  They always come across that way, they don’t respect your personal space.  They say Latinos are like that, but if they come to this country they should behave according to the rules of this country.  Here we just shake hands.  We’re not in Russia where men go around kissing each other. Much less kiss a child like that in front of her parents and all of her friends.  You’re right, her parents didn’t complain, but they also didn’t say anything when George and his friends decided to go out and teach those intruders a lesson. The Wrights are polite and when they saw that Nacho left without causing trouble they decided not to intervene.  But I’m sure they spoke with Lilian afterward, because they looked worn out.  It was because of a moral issue. A matter of principles, of values.  We couldn’t allow some nobody to come and upset the peace at the party and abuse one of the little girls. No, I don’t regret it.  I did what I had to do to defend the morality of the family.  No, it wasn’t my home, but it sort of was.  I’ve been Johnny’s friend since middle school.  No, we didn’t want to kill him, but he was asking for it.  What worse crime is there than abusing a little girl?  He didn’t fondle her, but that’s how they all start.  Them, you know who I’m talking about.  Them!  Don’t coerce my statement, I know my rights.  They don’t know how to respect personal distance and then they lose control.  No, my partents were Mexicans but they entered the country legally and they graduated from the University of San Diego. No, no, no… I’m an American, sir, make no mistake.

(from the novel Crisis)

Jorge Majfud

Translated by Bruce Campbell

la cultura pooph

President Barack Obama greets Michaele and Tar...

Image via Wikipedia

El elogio a la banalidad en la cultura pooph:

La insoportable frivolidad del ser


Alguna vez Fedor Dostoyevski observó que cualquiera podía hacerse famoso en cualquier momento. Como no todos podían ser Darwin, Franklin o Fedor Dostoyevski, cualquiera podía pasar a la historia asesinando a un emperador o a un presidente. Si el precio era muy alto, aun quedaban otras opciones. Creo que más famoso, aunque cien años tardío, es la popular idea de Andy Warhol que en los sesenta, en pleno nacimiento de la cultura pop, predijo que en el futuro todos serían famosos por quince minutos, para lo cual bastaba con estar “en el lugar correcto o en el incorrecto, en el momento exacto o en la peor situación posible”.

No es casualidad, si consideramos que Dostoyevski es hijo del siglo del periodismo escrito como Warhol es hijo del siglo del espectáculo mediático de la televisión.

Hace pocos días y no muy lejos, el matrimonio Tareq and Michaele Salahi decidió colarse en la fiesta de recepción que el presidente Obama daba al primer ministro indio Manmohan Singh. Los Salahi se fotografiaron con un gran número de estrellas de la política nacional. El exótico ministro de la segunda nación más grande del mundo no fue considerado en este paseo de la fama.

Pero la consagración de los Salahi llegó cuando fueron descubiertos. Este inconveniente, que dudosamente puede atribuirse a un error de cálculo, puso a la pareja bajo investigación y la envistió con los quince minutos de fama que pretendían para promocionarse. Lo único que se sabe a ciencia cierta es que en la cultura pooph promoción y fama significan dinero.

Nada importa el contenido de lo que uno tenga para ofrecer sino, simplemente, estar o pasar por debajo de las luces y las cámaras que apuntan al centro del mundo. Lo mismo da ser Sarah Palin, Paris Hilton, Michael Phelps, Mussolini o el Che Guevara. Todos merecen el mismo respeto y admiración de los pooph porque son famosos. Los medios son los fines. Los medios confieren divinidad todo lo que tocan. En este momento, el señor y la señora Salahi se encuentran bajo investigación policial mientras venden sus entrevistas a medio millón de dólares cada una.

Hace unas semanas una pareja en Fort Collins, Colorado, denunció que su hijo había salido volando en un globo de helio que su padre, Richard Heene, había construido en el patio de su casa. Como los niños son asunto serio en Estados Unidos, rápidamente movilizaron a la policía y lograron atraer la atención de las cadenas más importantes de televisión. Las horas de persecución aérea del globo terminaron con la aparición del niño en el altillo de la casa. En lo que parecía el clímax del orgasmo mediático, Larry King entrevistó a la familia y al niño, Falcon [halcón] Heene, quien involuntariamente confesó: “we did this for the show” (lo hicimos para el espectáculo).

Los padres del ahora célebre Niño del Globo habían planeado sus quince minutos de fama con la intención de promover un posible reality show. Lo cierto es que montaron un reality show más real y más espectacular que cualquier reality show convencional.

No son la excepción. Nuestra cultura es un inmenso, un inocentemente perverso reality show alimentado por la banalidad, la vana vanidad de la cual quizás somos victimas alguna vez en cuando todos los mortales.

Ahora, si alguien pensó que esta es una locura anglosajona está equivocado. El resto del mundo está en el mismo negocio, con el agravante de que son copias de copias en nombre de la originalidad.

No nos vayamos muy lejos. Recordemos el pasado concurso de talentos Viva el Sueño. El titulo es significativo, si recordamos la obra maestra de Calderón de la Barca, La vida es sueño (1635). Fedro, el participante más elogiado por el jurado, casi nunca criticado, victima del voto nunca suficiente del público machista y homofóbico, canta muy afinado y llora mientras repite lo que el jurado y el mundo repiten: “su propuesta es original”, “su virtud es ser único”, “me propuse mostrar algo diferente”, etc.

Fedro es rechazado por ser gay. Esta es una verdad conveniente. En el fondo todos saben que ser gay es un negocio de moda, como antiguamente en las cortes de los reyes eran populares los enanos. El público consume lo que rechaza, aplaude lo que evita, admira lo que odia, destruye lo que ama, digiere lo que es políticamente correcto mientras el artista remeda originalidad y el jurado y los especialistas repiten las mismas frases que incluyen un menú de elogios orgásmicos e inevitables insultos que pretenden vender como crítica o sinceridad. La fábrica de ídolos es también un picadero de carne humana. Carne humana a muy alto precio.

Fedro, el candidato a ídolo mexicano canta, se viste y se peina y llora como Adam Lambert, el american idol del mismo año. Como Adam, Fedro llegó a la final pero no pudo ser rey, idol o ídolo. Comparten el mismo estilo, la misma opción sexual y posan de victimas de la sociedad. De hecho lo son. Victimas de la sociedad y productos del mercado. Las verdaderas victimas, los discriminados no famosos, son así revindicados, más que representados, por estas originales copias de copias, producto de productores.

Sí, claro, en el mundo hay lugar para todos. Por suerte. Lamentablemente la historia insiste en lo contrario: en la uniformización, en la imposición de “lo que se parece a nosotros” hasta cuando parece diferente. Fedro, Adam, los ídolos de la cultura pooph nunca desafían mientras desafían; nunca salen de lo políticamente correcto mientras escandalizan. Sus transgresiones son variaciones adaptadas a las reglas preestablecidas del éxito, tal como lo entiende el mercado. La referencia de los jueces de “hay un mercado para ti allá afuera”, es explícita y es recibida con algarabía por el rebelde pooph. Sin embargo, estas nuevas y originales propuestas son simples remedos de lo que se encuentra en cada rincón de la nueva cultura dominante, que es la cultura del mercado: la frivolización y el narcisismo.

En un mundo en que todos pueden obtener su fama por quince minutos, la ansiedad que produce carecer de ella es democrática y dominante. Pero si todos son famosos nadie lo es. Razón por la cual esta ansiedad por ser el centro de las miradas del mundo se vuelve una obsesión, como la anorexia o la conexionimia.

La fama ya no es la consecuencia o el medio para promover una propuesta artística, ideológica, religiosa o filosófica. Cualquier camino que conduce a ella es válido. Ya no es necesario ser Edison, la Madre Teresa, Michel Foucault, Noam Chomsky o Eduardo Galeano para ser famoso. Los verdaderos famosos han demostrado que para la cultura pooph la fama no depende del contenido sino del envase. Un envase célebre puede inducirnos a tomar el mejor vino o Coca-Cola, agua mineral o aguas servidas. Ya ni siquiera es necesario recurrir al engaño. El éxito de la cultura de la banalidad es tanto y tan abrumador que cualquier pretensión de algo más allá, algo con contenido, algo con profundidad, algo que quede después del pooph es tomado como el acto más ridículo, objeto de burla a boca partida.

Lo políticamente correcto, lo único que los nuevos cerebros adiestrados en la frivolidad son capaces de soportar es el peso de la banalidad, de la repetición en nombre de la originalidad, de la esclavitud intelectual y espiritual en nombre de la liberación, de las célebres excusas del tipo: “no sé qué es esto pooph que me salió, pero es muy bueno por que me gusta, es lindo, habla de cómo soy yo, yo mismo, yo único…”

Todo en nombre de la genialidad.
La catástrofe ecológica, las toneladas de basura que cada día arrojamos al cielo y a los mares no es un fenómeno aislado. Ni siquiera es una metáfora. Es parte de la erosión y la producción de desechos que la cultura resultante e imperante arroja cada día sobre la humanidad como si se tratase del mejor abono. Porque nada es casual ni gratuito. Todo tiene un precio.

Jorge Majfud

2009