Last week was hectic, hectic indeed. It’s not going to be, nonetheless, and despite the fears (and wishes) of many, “the week that will mark the end of the West” (for whatever this might end up being or meaning), but rather it is when the institutions of free countries tremble that it is the duty of all the world’s citizens to increase their awareness and vigilance.
This might be tough to accept as it twists our guts, but this week will pass into oblivion (this, too, shall pass), and today there is one scenario (bitter, undesirable and gloomy) that may prevent that from happening, and that is if on January 20th there are major riots, similar to those of the week leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Let’s hope this is not the case —and little does it matter here how much sympathy or antipathy Biden or Trump may arouse in each of us, that is subjective, like believing that Le Corbusier is in fact a good architect or that a Kandinsky can actually compete next to a Botticelli—. For the good of the republic, of democracy, of the people, transitions of government must flow within the framework of civility and protocol (sanitary, yes, this time, but above all political, l’étiquette, les enfants, l’étiquette).
Censorship and Trump
There was a fact that dragged us (or should have dragged us) into a debate that is, yes, exciting, but today more than ever it is also necessary: is there a limit to freedom of expression? And if so, who draws that limit, who shapes it and with what criteria —theirs, ours, what this person or entity infers from our morality? (which, as such, is nothing but an offspring of its time and circumstance)— Who chooses what deserves to be read, heard, downloaded or reproduced? Are these limits, if they exist, the same for everyone, or are they, instead, “nearer” to some than to others?
I believe in few things, I don’t go through life full of certainties (how do common people do it by the way, to hold —and preach— so many “truths”?) I believe in science, in love, in the superiority of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, in the infinite talent of Borges —reproduced in our libraries’ labyrnths of mirrors— and I believe, above all, in freedom. I defend these fundamental beliefs with vigor, with zeal, since I perceive them as the columns that hold up the irreplaceable.
I say, parallely, that the debate about freedom of speech is “more important than ever” (and do forgive me for this expression that’s been used to the point of exhaustion by speakers at all times and calibers). Is this an exaggeration, a phrase that, because of the drama that it’s soaked into, seduces the public more than others? It may be so.
In my case, its use materializes a volitional process that also entails a literalness: today more than ever we have access to the opinion of others, today more than ever we know how millions of people think and feel (and we know all this… simultaneously), today more than ever we agree to share our most intimate occurrences. Today, therefore, more than ever, we face not only censorship, but also mass censorship.
Do messages that may be objectively repugnant deserve to be censored? And if the answer is yes, then, by whom? Does that responsibility -—power, for that’s what it is, power— necessarily fall on one particular individual in Palo Alto who has long ago decided, it seems, to boycott personal hygiene? Or should it be a common spontaneous initiative (of course, one might later ask whether that is not bullying with Châteauneuf-du-Pape)?
Infamy exists, madness too. There is violence, there is delirium, there were the Neros and the Roman has, indeed, contemporary parallels. If only leaders with nothing to lose didn’t attract so many people willing to look the other way!
But if we can’t defend someone we don’t agree with when they’re victim of a clear injustice, friends, we are not tolerant, we are not republicans, and above all, we are not liberal (and may we be forgiven by those who gave their lives in the name of this most immaculate and laudable ideal), we don’t believe in freedom. Do you see? Even those people, liberty-skeptics —and this is what sets me apart from them, with shame, pride and all the emotional nuances in between— deserve freedom.