Banner Zenit, Scientific & ICT Services

<<Previous Blog Index Next>>

Concordant Individualists

Monday, January 30, 2006

Concordant Individualists

Translation of Individualistas unánimes by Javier Marías published in EL PAIS SEMANAL - 22-01-2006 and on his own web site.

It has not been a week since the repressive law against tobacco came into force in Spain [see this article] as I write this. So far, the biggest protests that I have seen, in television surveys and Letters to the Editor, have strangely been by non-smokers who have judged the law as insufficient and even against their interests. They find it terrible, for example, that bars and restaurants of less than 100 square meters have the freedom to choose to be smoking or non-smoking, because they have discovered that many of them have chosen to allow smoking. These non-smokers, who think it right and just that smokers have to go out into the bad weather to enjoy their fags, are not willing in exchange to have breakfast in the fresh air if there is not a single café or bar with “clean air” in their district, and try to oblige some bars to forgo the option to decide their own policy. The few non-smokers who are briefly happy with the state of affairs don't celebrate their well being, but curiously say things like, “prohibition is good” or “it was time that someone stopped people smoking”, betraying the fact that smoking in their presence didn't annoy them so much as the abstract idea of smoking.

One thing that is deeply rooted in the world (and particularly in Spain) and is an abomination is evangelism. For me it is, without doubt, the principle cause of war, oppression, fanaticism, why religions are often intolerant, nationalism, dictatorship, terrorism, tyranny and almost all hateful things. In Spain it is so deep-rooted, in its various forms, that I sometimes think that it is not so unusual that we have had a few civil wars, but rather that we are not in a permanent state of civil war. This must be partly due to that fact that from time to time some group wins over the others and imposes its laws, prohibitions and ideas on everyone else for years at a stretch. It has now been thirty years since the death of Franco, the last one who succeeded in imposing his will on everyone, and we have been enjoying tolerance, and sometimes taking it to ridiculous and wrong-headed extremes: the citizens who claim that “all opposition is respectable” when it is obviously not; take the burning of beggars [reference to a recent horrific crime where a vagrant was burned alive while sheltering the night in a ATM antechamber of a bank] or trying to expel all immigrants from the country as examples. The concept of tolerance is almost unknown in Spain. The typical Spaniard is evangelist by nature and tends to think that no-one should do anything that he doesn't want to do, that everyone should believe what he believes and that no-one has any rights that might result in any harm to him. He still doesn't distinguish between possibility and obligation. He is the type who considers the possibility of divorce as a threat to his own marriage and to Marriage in the abstract; or the possibility that a homosexual couple should marry as a threat against his own family and The Family; that people should continue to smoke as a danger to his health and to Health in general; that someone drinks as being a general encouragement to alcoholism; that someone plays a game of chance as a certain road to collective gambling, idleness and ruin; that someone pays a prostitute as an exploitation of all women and so on ad infinitum. He forgets that no one is forcing him to divorce his wife, marry his male neighbour, to smoke, to drink, to gamble or go whoring. The typical Spaniard still thinks that what he doesn't want for himself should not exist for anyone else; what appears to him to be immoral or a “sin” should be uprooted from society; if he is a Catalan or Basque nationalist, then those who don't share his passion shouldn't have the right to be called Catalan or Basque; or of course if he is a Spanish nationalist then those who don't feel themselves to be Spanish, or who don't want to be Spanish, should be forced to be Spanish.

The typical Spaniard never limits himself to holding his own beliefs, practising his own religion, keeping up his own habits, thinking his own empty ideas and abstaining from what he regards as “vices”... quietly and without trying to persuade anyone to travel the same road. It has always been said that the Spaniard is an individualist and rarely does he unite with his colleagues in any collective action. Perhaps it is true that we don't unite freely and voluntarily, but it is not true that we all live in isolation, doing what we feel like doing and without interfering in what others choose to do. The longing of the typical Spaniard is that everyone, more than uniting with him, imitates him, either by free will or by force. If this wasn't a contradiction in terms one could say that the aspiration of the typical Spaniard is a strange, prohibitionist and dictatorial country of concordant individualists.

[Translator's note: The article paints a grim picture of Spaniards, BUT this attitude is not unique to Spain. It is prevalent all over the world. The message is relevant to all societies. (Javier Marias for Technorati which cannot search for words with accents). ]



<<Previous Blog  Index Next>>

Return to Translations Index

E-mail comments to:


© 2005-6