Sobre la barbarie / Rafael Cadenas

On Barbarism

(...) In summary, what education must seek, according to Adorno, is to liberate the human being from that minority of age that sometimes tends to prolong itself until old age and which fertilizes the ground for the emergence of dictators, messianic figures or simply leaders who consider themselves to be the bearers of an historic mission. In his conception there is no room for the grandiosity destined to nourish insatiable egos. A phrase of his seems worthy of rescuing from oblivion and keeping in mind. It is this one: "a democracy demands emancipated individuals," it is worth emphasizing, beings who have reached maturity, truly and not simply by virtue of an accumulation of birthdays, which is crucial in order to avoid collective misplacements.

It is also very important to emphasize that Adorno rejects nationalism, he finds it anachronistic in this age of astonishing international communication and transnational unions, which by the way have developed further since 1970, when his book was published. In Venezuela, by the way, a contradiction bordering on the absurd is seen: a sermon of continental unity with a Bolivarian sign and a rising nationalism that at times becomes offensive in some of its manifestations. That is why such a project of unity between "brother nations" does not go beyond the insubstantial rhetoric of speeches as long as nationalism remains intact. Venezuela will have to take another road, removed from that disease afflicting all nations to such a degree that it might not be an exaggeration to consider it their other religion, which, moreover, carries war within its bosom. Going further, Adorno affirms: "The climate that most favors repetition is resurgent nationalism..." (...)

Actually, barbarism for Adorno is above all the extreme: delirious prejudice, repression, genocide, torture. So then, left outside are manifestations that, widening the spectrum, should be included within the idea of barbarism, which is what people do spontaneously anyways. In Venezuela, we know them well. Barbarism is the crime that has afflicted the country for years now or corruption or mocking the law or harming the environment or police brutality or fiscal deceit or electoral fraud or the scorning of minorities by the majorities or the abuse of women and children, in the end, it would be impossible to list all the acts of barbarism that tend to occur. (...)

The brief journey I've made through the century's hell, omitting many facts, has the sheen of a dance of death whose accompaniment is made up of ideas that have taken root in the collective, and for which there seems to be no end. It can take place anywhere on the planet, but since we never know when or where, we are always surprised by the macabre staging. It is the "black milk" from Paul Celan's poem we drink at all hours, when we read the newspaper, when we watch the TV news, when we listen to the radio: it is the giant shadow of the XX century. (...)

It is evident that all revolutions have been a failure, besides having an incalculable cost in blood, but there are still people, almost always generous, who believe in it for our time. Maybe they think the next one will be different, that the mistakes comitted by the previous ones will be avoided, and that finally the dawn will sing. But in fact what they do is lose the present, life's other name, sacrificing it in the name of a phantasmagoric land. They could opt for evolution, but that is not spectacular, it doesn't possess extraordinary sheens, it doesn't lend itself to the brilliance of the I, it doesn't allow occasions for excessive speeches, it doesn't give breath to that hubris the gods punish. It is modest, it is prudent, it is civic. It suffers from slowness perhaps because it knows that processes need more time than what impatience demands, which sometimes damages what it tries to accomplish through hurrying. Evolution considers the notion that the end justifies the means barbaric, since these are what determine the end; the quality of the means is crucial. It believes more in intrahistory [la intrahistoria] than in history, and unlike revolution which inexplicably, forgetting Marx, worships nationalism, it puts it aside because it hinders friendship between nations, already a difficult task, since up to now national egos have proved more powerful than the survival instinct of humans.

Today, concluding the century and after witnessing its horrors, I only think in terms of the individual, of what occurs within him, of what he might be able to do. I think what is decisive is his inner work, that struggle with his own psyche, his disposition to see himself without lying, his opening up toward mystery.

{ Rafael Cadenas, Verbigracia, El Universal, 12 May 2001 }

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