Wednesday, December 8

Column: The only thing we can do

A sometimes I have the feeling of leaving myself and observing the world with an Olympic distance, to the point of seeing myself together with others, down there, in the distance, in the eager kicking of the human ant. These are moments of rare clairvoyance, because there is nothing that blinds understanding more than our clingy and overrated self (how important we are to ourselves). But in those moments in which I am able to imagine the planet and see myself inside it, I become smarter and I notice the traps, the inconsistencies, the immature attitudes that almost all of us have.

For example, one thing that, if you look at it with some perspective, can make you laugh a lot are those pompous and repeated calls for tolerance that we all make. Because you only have to look a little bit to realize that, when we talk about tolerating others, 99% of individuals refer to others who think like him or very similar; come on, that at most they are willing to admit some small divergence if it comes out of the common trunk, but of course what they will not accept in any way is another tree. It has annoyed us, that is not tolerating; that’s nurturing your own horde. What really has merit is not instantly hating someone who thinks otherwise than you. And for the record, I’m not talking about anything goes; you have ideas, you have a certain sensitivity, you have social projects that you want and must defend. But that is not an obstacle to try not to froth when someone disagrees. Einstein said that, to be a good scientist, you had to spend a quarter of an hour a day thinking the opposite of what your friends think. This is formidable advice: listen to those who think differently. And then, after that quarter of an hour, you can go back, with more arguments, to your positions. Or not. Sometimes you learn.

Of course I write all this from my Olympic minute distance; because then, after that moment of lucidity, I re-enter myself and, like the vast majority of humans, I tend to see everything red when someone thinks differently from mine. Moreover, often the other does not even have a say: we already assume them and adjudicate the ideas ourselves. And, before you speak, we object. Of course, then we claim tolerance. We all demand tolerance, but it is that of others with our principles, and not the other way around. Come on, think about it for a bit and you will see that it is true.

Also, I think that Spanish society is especially mad. I am not saying that we are the most sectarian, there are just as donkeys or maybe more, but of course our passion blinds and poisons us. We do not know how to debate and exchange opinions; the homeland mode is to argue loudly. There are two very important social tools that have never been taught in Spain, which is unfortunate. One is the ability to speak in public; Anglo-Saxon children are educated in oral exposition from kindergarten; we, on the other hand, we die of shame and pride and we sputter. And the other colossal lack is the learning of the debate; of respecting the turn to speak, of the obligation to listen to the contrary. They should train us from childhood to tame the inner madman.

I think of all this deafened and pained by the tension and the prevailing shouting. And I also think, in one of those moments of distant lucidity (which then, alas, pass), that what we are experiencing with the pandemic is tremendous and terrible. Humans’ fabulous adaptability, so saving, prevents us from having a clear awareness of the trauma we are experiencing. The terrible pain caused by so many deaths, the hallucinatory and devastating confinement, the atrocity of not being able to say goodbye to your beloved people, the pain and fear and extreme loneliness and the psychological, physical and economic consequences. We are experiencing a global tragedy, perhaps the greatest test of our lives, and we only know how to scream and hate? A shame, because in reality the only thing we can do against the covid, the only thing that would help and help us, is to try to promote empathy, strengthen social cohesion and be good people, damn it.

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