Thursday, September 23

The one and the other | The weekly country

The other day I received a manifesto from a group of citizens who call themselves Radically Moderate. (they also have a website with the same name). The text denounced the scene of constant division and confrontation in which we live, the degradation of politics and the inability of the majority parties to reach essential agreements, and showed their concern about the erosion of the democratic system and the growth of populism. It seemed sensible to me and I signed it, and I also posted the statement on my networks, believing, deluded myself, that this call to reason and civility would be attractive to many. But not. On the contrary: just a scant trickle of signatories was slowly joining the manifesto with stalactite. Much more abundant, on the other hand, were the comments of a lot of people who maintained, with irritated partisanship, that the absolute culprits of all this were always the others, the opposites. That is to say, the networks perfectly staged what the manifesto denounced, with the usual crossfire of “you more, and you much more, because you are walking.” We do nothing but stare into the navel of our own horde.

Something is very wrong in our society if mentioning the word tolerance is like mentioning your mother. On May 15, the feast of the patron saint of Madrid, they presented the city’s Medal of Honor to the former mayors Ana Botella and Manuela Carmena, and the latter made a short and beautiful speech in which she asked the saint for “a civil miracle, the miracle that we were able to have a different debate, a political debate in which the essential obligation that governs democracy reigns: to listen to the other, because perhaps the other has something very important to say ”. Listen to the other, indeed; and debate; and oppose with reasons, if it is necessary to oppose; and accept the good, because I say that there will be a time when others hit it; and to be, yes, intolerant of the intolerant, that is, with those who want to impose their ideas on you by force; and try not to behave like this.

But we are not going down that path, far from it. On the contrary, a rampant sectarianism thrives, emptying our heads of ideas and filling them with starched and hollow ideology. Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio already said: “Having ideology is not having ideas. These are not like cherries, but they come loose, to the point that the same person can put together several that are in conflict with each other. Ideologies, on the other hand, are like packages of ideas established (…) in a socially frozen personal typology ”. And those packages of mental topics are becoming more and more simple, less articulated, more emotional and loud, fueled by the incendiary tumult of the networks and by the dizzy game of a lot of lies that are repeated over and over again until they become all reality in suspect. Nowadays the healthiest thing that one can do when any information arrives is to put it preventively in doubt.

All of this is made worse by the Dunning-Kruger effect. In 1999, social psychologists Justin Kruger and David Dunning discovered through experiments a cognitive bias: incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their ability, while highly competent individuals tend to underestimate themselves. That is to say: the more stupid you are, the more wonderful you are, the more sure of yourself, the more proud of the nonsense you say; whereas the most intelligent and prepared people tend to be hesitant and insecure. Take a look at the networks (and the media) with this bias in mind and you will see that, in general, the most popular are the ones who scream the most.

Sectarianism, in short, is a mental disgrace, bad orthopedics, crutches that poor humans resort to, especially when we are lost or scared or in pain. We protect ourselves with empty words and close adherence to a group, but in reality, underneath that cardboard ideology is life, as Ernesto Cardenal, priest, Sandinista revolutionary, poet and wise connoisseur of the human soul, explained wonderfully: “They told me That you were in love with another / And then I went to my room / And I wrote this article against the Government / For which I am imprisoned ”.

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