Importunate Ethics

-by Fernando Savater-

translated by D. Ohmans
© copyright 2016

Text imprint Barcelona, Editorial Planeta, ©2012

Importunate Ethics TOC Index Foreword 20 years of Amador First part The coming world Reasons for ethics Internet and reality Education The Internet and rights Privacy Concerning truth Science and robotics Second part Imperishable questions What is a philosophy problem? Happiness Freedom and authenticity On beauty Reality, God and mortality Animal rights Third part Public thinking Democracy and participation Justice and equality Terrorism and violence About the crisis Capitalism and the Third World
Foreword It has been more than 20 years since Ética para Amador was published, a book with no other pretension than to help youths and adolescents to reflect upon the moral perspective that should accompany human liberty. It seems that for that age cohort many books of fiction already existed, together with music, movies, video games...yet not books of essays proper. Those which I knew from that genre were more like textbooks--among those that require the tutelage of adults or professors--in the best of cases, and in the worst, catechetical self- help books. My intention was to write a philosophical essay, simple and accessible yet that would plant questions instead of pressuring one to give answers; and above all, which could be read by the interested parties without the need for guidance on the part of the elders, much like they read a tale by Stephen King or The Lord of the Rings. Amador and afterwards its complementary Politics for Amador obtained a very generous international acceptance about which I confess I was the first to be surprised. Apparently, they proved useful and welcome to their recipients, and likewise served to facilitate the pedagogic dialogue in the families and in the schools. And they still should retain some of these virtues two decades later, despite so many social and technological changes that have occurred since then, if the assiduity of new editions does not mislead. One of the reasons for this permanence is that those essays deal above all with the basic theory of ethics and politics, without entering into variable casuistic circumstances. In this respect their assertions continue to be valid and I would not know how to improve on them. But it has seemed interesting to me now to dialog with high school students and teachers on concrete moral themes of actual interest, of practical urgency, in order to see how we can apply the reasonings and principles with which those works deal. What are the ethical or political questions that most preoccupy the youth and adolescents of today? How do they reason about moral alternatives? What new challenges are posed by the Internet and social networks...? The present book is not a work directly written by myself, but a careful and selective transcription of conversations I have sustained in two teaching centers in our nation. It preserves all the effects of spontaneity and immediacy of the oral medium and perhaps also its occasional imprecisions. Of course, I do not attempt to revoke nor substitute for Amador and Política para Amador, but instead to observe the effect of their attempt to reflect on values and freedom upon the existing generation and to glimpse the new ethical debates which register with those of "Amador's" age 20 years ago. Thus it serves as a complement and prolongation of those books, I hope reinforcing its interest and utility among those who now must educate or be educated. It only remains for me to thank to thank the collaboration of the students of the San Isidro and Montserrat institutes of Madrid and Virgen del Pilar of Zaragoza for their questions and objections, as also Gonzalo Torné for his work of setting in text the sometimes hasty liveliness of the words. FERNANDO SAVATER 20 years of Amador Ética para Amador never had any mission but to help the teachers who presented ethics classes in the institutes, a new assignment that was introduced when the dictatorship ended, when democracy took its first steps, as the only possible alternative to the assignment of religion. Already at the start it did not seem a very sensible alternative because ethics does not exclude religion: the subjects that ethics treats should interest religious persons as much as those who are not. Nor did agendas and manuals exist, such that many institute teachers were desperate because they did not know how to focus their assignment. They grabbed the newspaper and discussed the news, putting topics on the table like abortion, nuclear energy, the elections... Afterwards they debated them, each student said how it seemed to her, and they almost did not advance, having so little grace. For such occasions a woman friend of mine who was a teacher at an institute in Barcelona asked me whether I could write a book to inspire the discussions. Since I had a 15 year-old son, who now will celebrate his 35th, I thought of taking him as a model of the sort of boy to whom I wanted to direct myself. My idea was to put into writing not so much what should be thought about the different ethical problems, but instead, expound the reasons why it is so valuable to dedicate time towards thinking about them. It is not a book that offers solutions, its proposition being to explain why it is better to perform a deliberate and reasoned existence than act in an automatic manner. Its function was merely instrumental, was conceived to cover an educational need; what is curious is that an essay conceived for youngsters did not exist. Adolescents can hear music, read novels, see movies, films and shows designed for their interests, yet could not read an essay without feeling on every page the breath of an adult, poised on their shoulder like a raven, with the purpose of indicating to them what they had to think at each moment. A book did not exist which they could open and calmly advance through the reasoning, as if it were a Stephen King novel. In addition to being useful to the teachers and to the students during the ethics class, the book also attempted to be an aid to the parents. Because usually we parents want to speak with our children yet it is difficult to focus the topic, not wishing to say: "Sit over there, we are going to talk about morality." A book, on the other hand, can establish a starting point, and an approach. Two decades have passed, and, evidently, to be 15 today does not overly resemble the 15 year-old then. The perception of the behaviors that the youngsters consider normal is very different. We enjoy more freedom, more comfort, and many circumstances have notably altered. Today we are much more relaxed, whereas when I was young we were more ceremonious. In my school, whenever an adult entered the class, whether it be to replace the chalk, our whole class stood up, and furthermore, had to say: "Ave María Purísima," something that, evidently, no longer occurs today. When older people say that today there are no values, they refer to women going out on the street instead of going to church, or that they wear their skirts shorter, that one can eat every day, or at any hour. What changes are the superstitions. Ética para Amador was the first book that I wrote on a word processor which, if we were to see it today, would seem a museum piece; those previous had been written on an electric typewriter, and before, on typewriters so old they seem unreal. The technology surrounding us is very distinct and that greatly affects us day to day. When in a film of some years ago we see the protagonist disturbed because he must make a very urgent telephone call, and cannot find a booth, or does not have tokens, or when he finds one occupied by a fat person who seems to have no intention of leaving, we all become impatient and think: "Let him call on the cell." We no longer identify with the epoch in which an occupied phone booth could vex a deal or personal relationship. Also very much reduced is the time that we invest in going from one site to another, the velocity at which the news moves. A person of the 19th century knew what happened in their neighborhood, in the region, but little more, of the world only knowing general aspects. Chateaubriand recounts in his memoirs that during the battle of Waterloo, he was in Belgium, very near to where the battle occurred, yet had to stay in bed due to an illness. Since he had considered and written a great deal about the figure of Napoleon, when he recovered he emerged to take a walk and he asked a peasant what was making the earth go around: "Hey, do you have news about Napoleon?" And the peasant responded, no; they were less than two kilometers from the site where a battle raged that would decide the fate of Europe for a century, yet he had not heard about it. Today we all would have seen the battle online or on television. Often the dramatic nerve of a story is based upon something which is an already resolved technical question. In the novels of Jane Austen, the factor unleashing the action is the tremendous uproar that arises when a lady does not receive her boyfriend's letter in time. Thus it is hard for us to understand the situations where someone loses a friend or a lover because it takes eight days to traverse a distance that today would take us only half an hour to cover. The latest technologies affect the narration: if in their age they could have called by telephone, the plot of Pride and Prejudice would be very different, and they also should re- write the Sherlock Holmes novels. Although the accessories change greatly the basic items of existence, the elemental feelings, the ambitions, the fears, remain unalterable. When you see that many accidental things change, you learn to distinguish those that are essential and will persist: respect, courtesy, the idea that we human beings can make each other's lives happier. If a contemporary of Archilochus or of Sappho were to walk through the door, or any other Greek poet of the third or fourth century B.C. the world in which we live would seem to them a dream or a nightmare, something unreal in any event. Our devices, our instruments, our cars, our airplanes, our cell phones, our screens, the electric flux...all would be new to them, beyond them. However, as soon as we were to start to converse, we would notice that the idea of jealousy, the idea of love, of ambition, the fear of mortality would be perfectly familiar, and would not place them as forerunners. Sappho herself, who lived in Lesbos over two thousand years ago, in a world radically different from our own, left behind a brief poem which says: "The moon has set. And the Pleiades. Midnight. I lie in bed alone.” A poem that speaks to us of the solitude of the moment as if it had been written by a contemporary. The customs, the society and the morality have changed greatly, yet solitude, nostalgia, the company of the beloved...are feelings that we know perfectly. The epidermis of the world changes, but underneath there is a nucleus that continues to live. Aesthetics are concerned with what happens on the surface, with fashions, artistic genres... All that is very well, yet after some years pass that which was valid will no longer serve; although the works of Rembrandt are admirable, it would be senseless to insist on continuing to paint like he did. Aesthetics are an archive, a catalog, and it is graceful to know it deeply so as to be able to make new things beginning with what the past artists achieved. And whereas aesthetics deals with the modifications and speaks to us of the things passing and unfolding, ethics is concerned with the things that last, which do not totally disappear, which remain, of that that century after century continues to be important for human beings. If today we still read the Nichomachean Ethics with profit, which has been in the world more than 20 centuries, it is because it continues to deal with questions that are still useful to us. If that book keeps interrogating us it is because the foundation and the meaning of ethical questioning has not varied. If one were to ask me what is that foundation and that meaning I would say it lies in the obligation of attending to the duties which we human beings have towards the rest of human being. When applied, ethics renews the impulse to consider the other as an end and not as a means for our appetites. Even though everything external changes, even though habits alter profoundly, even though technology alters our perception of space or brings volumes of information into our house, even though society transforms itself, to improve or worsen, until becoming unrecognizable, while we are human we cannot stop asking how we should relate to one another, for we are human thanks to other humans giving us humanity, and we return it to them. First part The coming world Reasons for ethics During a large part of the day we live as if we had been wound up: we get up, we do things because we have seen others do them, because that is how we were taught, because that is what is expected of us. There are not too many conscious moments in our day to day, yet from time to time, something happens and interrupts our somnolence, obliging us to think: "And now what do I do? Should I tell him yes or tell him no? Shall I go, or not go?" These questions signal different ethical options, requiring of us good mental preparation, and impel us to reason until reaching a considered response. We have to be prepared to be the protagonists of our life and not accessories. The image of the world as a theatre is very ancient. The philosopher Schopenhauer imagined existence as a stage, where each of us sees scenes in which some characters speak, cry, shout, fight, confront, and associate on the chessboard. Suddenly, without advance notice, a hand pushes us and we are surprised to be at center stage, obliged to enter into a plot that we do not know too well because we arrived after the work began, and we have to hurry to inform ourselves who are good and who are bad, of what would be right to say, what would be the correct action. We say our monologue and before finding out how everything ends, we are pushed again, and removed from the stage, and this time they do not even allow us to remain between scenes. But let us not put on airs, we do not always have a relevant role in the work. We can spend days acting as figures in scenes conceived and written by others. Yet there are times when it is appealing to be protagonists in our life, and consider the reasons why we act as we act. This is not about living in an original fashion nor of doing very extravagant things, but of examining the motives for which we act, our goals and whether we should seek better objectives, or change our way of proceeding. Ethics does not interest us because it grants us a code or a set of laws that suffice if learned and followed to be good and remain relaxed about ourselves. There is a Monty Python film in which Moses descends from Sinai with three tablets of the law in his arms, stops before his people and tells them: "Here I bring you the 15 commandments," then one of the tablets slips, falls to the floor and breaks, and now he says to them: "Alright, the ten commandments." Well, ethics does not come from learning either ten or 15 commandments, nor one or two codes of good conduct. Ethics is the practice of reflecting upon what we are going to do and the reasons we are going to do it. And why should I reason, live deliberately, train myself in ethics? Two good reasons occur to me not to turn a blind eye. The first is that we have no alternative. There are a set of aspects of life about which we cannot reason nor give our opinion: it does not depend on us to have heart, perform digestion, breathe oxygen... They are activities that come upon me imposed by nature, by the genetic code, by the design of the species. Nor can I choose the year in which I was born, nor that the world is like it is, nor my birthplace, nor the parents which I have. Mankind is not omnipotent, the power not being given to them to appear and disappear at will. But if we compare ourselves with the animals we immediately see that we dispose of quite a wide field of choice. The rest of the living beings seem to be programmed to be what they are, what evolution has bequeathed them. They are born knowing what they must do to survive, know how to occupy their time. There are no foolish animals. We have often seen the images of the chimpanzees and the monkeys walking ever more erect and at the end a transportation engineer with his hat, and that is the idea we have of the scale: we go from the inferior animals to the human being; yet the way we view it, the animals are much more perfect than the humans. Observe the arm of a gibbon or of any tree-dwelling monkey: it is a precision instrument, of such surprising flexibility and power that it can lift an enormous weight high up into a tree. Or think of the claw of a lion, which indeed is a useful apparatus to tear the flesh of its victims, or a fish's fin, et cetera, all admirable appendages that fulfill their purpose very well. The limitation of the animals is that each species can only do one thing, that being highly specialized. Some swim, others fly, these hunt with their beak, others dig holes in the ground. Thus when the ecosystem changes they begin to dies and disappear, because they cannot adapt. We humans came into the world with good "hardware," which nature has provided us, yet we do not have an established program, and have to procure some "software" to orient our social actions, the creative projects, our intellectual adventures. We humans are not specialized in anything, and this characteristic has its reflection in the anatomical design: the human arm serves for climbing, but badly; it can strike a blow, yet nothing comparable to that of the lion; we can swim, yet neither like the dolphin; but we can do all those things and also play the piano, shoot a missile, reach to the moon, get into a boat and cross the ocean without knowing where we are going, yet nor can it be discounted that one day we may destroy the world, something which the animals surely cannot do. Thanks to us not being circumscribed to a single task, humans can select among different things, and we have developed strategies and cultures that allow us to inhabit the desert, at reproduce at the pole. This wide open field of choice is an extraordinary evolutionary advantage. As a counterpoint, this vagueness carries with it a series of responsibilities. The main one is that I have to choose what I am going to do with my life, what am I going to accept and what am I going to reject. I have to write my role in the enactment of my life. I have to select what I do and justify my decision; if I want to life humanely and not like a creature it is good to know why I think one thing over another will turn out better for me. At times the explanation is quite simple; for instance, if I live on the eighth floor and want to go down to the street I can opt for entering the elevator or throwing myself out the window; unless one lives on the ground floor or has decided to end her life, in such a case I have good reasons defending my to opt for the elevator to anyone. But there are decisions more difficult to take and to justify, and I cannot sneak away, for they concern a series of obligatory choices. The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre expressed it last century in a devastating phrase: "We are condemned to freedom." That is to say, we are free but we do not enjoy the freedom to renounce freedom. The necessity of choosing is characteristic of being human, and we cannot contradict being human. We are destined to invent our destiny, without second chances. Because of that we men err and deceive, and commit atrocities, but also, thanks to that, we can transform our life, invent its contents. And to reflect about this nature and seek adequate motives and the best explanations for doing one thing instead of another is part of the job of ethics. The second reason is very easy to understand. We humans are a vulnerable species, we break and die, it is easy to cause us physical, moral and emotional damage, we cannot do what pleases others, and must take care with them. Ethical deliberation intervenes because we are mortal. Were we immortal we could do whatever we pleased. The first Christians were scandalized by reading and hearing stories with the Greek gods as protagonists. They were sensual and arrogant, they were of a bullying and ferocious type, and the two sexes were both liars given to all sorts of behavior that we today condemn an immoral. What those first Christians did not understand is that the gods were not immoral, but instead were beyond morality. If you are immortal, then you cannot be harmed, nor harm others because they are as invulnerable as you, so why be considerate; if we were all immortal, we could behave with each other as we wished, as occurs in the legends of the gods, where some die and are later revived and it is as if everything were to occur in a virtual reality, as if it were a lie, as if we were viewing a movie. In fact the gods neither kill nor love, but only play at killing and feign love. And, as you well know, human life is not like that, is not reversible, follows one direction and we cannot return backwards. Ours is an unrepeatable and fragile existence, unique for each one of us, populated by vulnerable beings in mortal danger at every moment. Threatened not only by physical mortality, but also by other deaths: social mortality, emotional mortality, the mortality of health, everything that alienates and leaves us abandoned, everything that wounds us leaving us sad, solitary, frustrated. That is the reason why I said before that we should have consideration for our fellow citizens. "Consideration" in Spanish is a very significant word, which well expresses the ethical disposition. It assumes that we are going to look to others, that we will focus on how they are and what they need. One of the zoological characteristics that we human have is that we are capable of reading the faces of others. Very few species of animals are capable of doing so, the majority having no expression. A tiger, for example, wears a fierce expression when it is going to attack, and when it is quiet has another appearance, one that expresses nothing. It has no other faces nor more expressions. Mankind and the higher monkeys can express with our features an important number of emotions, such that we can read the mind of others thanks to the faces they wear, interpret whether they are sad, happy, joking, if they desire or envy or detest... We comprehend them because we are capable of interpreting the features and putting ourselves in the other's place, because we are empathetic. This capacity is the basis for the saying that so many religions and moral approaches have adopted: "Do not do unto others that which you do not want them to do to you." It concerns, additionally, a universal language (that of gestures) and capacity (for empathy). Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, a personage who experienced some tremendous adventures (he discovered the Mississippi, came to be a tribal shaman, and when he died they buried him with the greatest honor that one can imagine: they diverted the course of a river, buried him and then returned to rectify the flow and re-establish the natural course, such that the waters would slip over the tomb) and wrote a book that is read as an action novel, which is titled Shipwrecks and Commentaries because the men wrecked two out of three times. In one of the stories he tells, always surrounded by an incredible jungle, he and a group of Spaniards advance down the rapids of a river on a raft, very precarious, of logs hurriedly tied for fear of the cannibal tribes who supposedly lived beside the river, and whose ferocity they had magnified; as frightened navigators. At a certain moment, they come to some narrows, the raft hits some rocks and decomposes; indeed, they shipwreck as usual. Two or three of them drown right there, and the rest land on the bank destroyed, dragged onto the sand, and when they lie there fallen, exhausted, trying to regain their breath, the jungle opens and the cannibals appear. The shipwrecked look at each other, and are so drained that it is all the same to them and they simply cry in the sand. After a while of this, Álvar lifts his gaze and sees that the cannibals have formed a semi-circle around him, squatting, are watching him, and are also crying. This recognition of misfortune and of abandonment belongs to human beings. When we say of someone: "They are a very human person" (which in principle is idiocy because we are all equally human) it means that they are sensitive to the vulnerability of others, that they are not treated as if made of rubber. For the "human" person is concerned with advice when you scrape your knee. There is no need to have it explained, and we understand the pain and the other's fragility because we are all vulnerable. It is the immortal gods who would have problems understanding us, which is the meaning of the legend of the incarnation of Christ: a god who wishes to become human in order to comprehend what mortal and vulnerable beings feel. Freedom of choice and the vulnerability of our condition are the bases of ethics, and impose some obligations on us. Ethical reflection attempts to help us understand how we can help one another to better coexist, to enjoy the best life possible. And though a formula does not exist, we can adopt some useful and consolidated ideas, employ them as instruments that help us to consider what kind of life we prefer. And since problems are renewed almost daily, we should reflect constantly, for the reasoned life never ends, and lasts as long as existence itself. Internet and reality I am not so sure that the Internet has atrophied our sensibility. If you see a child dying in front of you, you continue to feel moved, you establish an affective link with it, want that nothing bad happens to it, want it to live. I do not believe that we human beings have been turned to stone before reality when we have it before us. The problem is that now we have to choose between a virtual reality and present reality, and often virtual reality, which also is reality because it is occurring at some determinate, yet distant, place accustoms us to seeing reality as a spectacle. We are so habituated to that distantness that if you are at home and hear a woman's shout, the majority of times you are going to think it is on television or on the radio. For a long while if anyone heard a cry at home they knew that it could only involve a neighbor. By seeing the world as a spectacle some things which previously seemed alarming or horrifying we now confuse with a movie, with a scenario. A person enters who asks for help and we imagine a screen between us. It is not that our feelings have become numb and frigidity has set in, but that it has become more complicated to identify what is real, to distinguish it from the virtual. Plato in one of his dialogues says: "No one applies morality while they dream." When you are asleep you cannot be moral nor immoral because you are not acting in reality, but instead in a world where what you are seeing are your creations, where nothing that you do will have consequences. And it would be absurd to have moral problems because when you dreamt you gave a kick in the nose to a woman who had greatly enraged you. On the other hand, if you do it in real life, your free decision will indeed have consequences, pertaining to the sphere of the moral and the legal. We human beings have always visualized virtual existences in addition to the real ones, given that half of our life transpires in dreams. Thought itself is a means of exploring reality virtually. Yet the distinction between reality and the dream, which has given birth to famous works like Calderón's Life is a Dream, used to be more bounded, better delimited, it being easy to know which side you were on. Now virtual reality is everywhere and the frontier has been blurred, and it is very easy to become confused. I think that the Internet has indeed changed us. Now when you get home you have a thousand items of information you cannot channel. Previously there was not so much information, and what we saw and what we touched was more important. Previously people became emotional when they saw a Holy Week procession, cried because the Virgin was bruised. Today we are accustomed to seeing so many horrors, in fiction series and on the news, that it is very rare for a person to come to tears about what might happen to a statue, no matter how dramatic its situation seems. What do you think about the networks like Facebook, how can they influence our ethics? Well, morality functions in many separate domains. Everything that increases our power, re-dimensions our moral field. For instance, Aristotle dedicated many pages and grand reflections to ethics, yet never asked a single question about biogenetics, because in his world he did not know what it is. Biogenetics has opened many possibilities and has set new moral problems for us. We have to reflect morally about our responsibilities. The principal moral problem that the Internet poses is that of veracity. To tell the truth or not has become a more complicated problem than in the past. Now from home we can propagate false, erroneous, even injurious messages, to those known and unknown. This possibility is new, suggests a new moral challenge, because often it is a question of tapping a key or not, and everything occurs at home, without anyone watching, or being able to accuse us, and without having to render accounts to anyone. Our power has increased, and if we take life seriously, our responsibility has also increased. Precisely because power always carries responsibilities, we should expect much from the persons who exercise it and have authority. Given that, under democracy, we have conceded to others the power to do what we cannot do. Thus it angers us when a person occupying a distinguished post behaves in a nefarious manner, for they are abusing our confidence. With the Internet the power of acting with impunity has been redistributed, and every one of us can perform their ration of damage without ever suffering the consequences. The new technologies allow us to know more, to be on more sites, and to hurt more people (although not in an irreparable manner, luckily) than the princes of some centuries ago. The Internet poses an enormous moral challenge for all its users. Can the multiple aliases that we use on the Internet end by affecting our identity? Well, identity itself, the way of representing oneself to oneself, was already a problem before the Internet, even when one tried to be as normal as possible. Now one hears of criminal cases that they do not well understand. It seems that not only have borders been abolished, but also the most elemental feelings of recognition have atrophied. How is it that somebody can pass himself off as a woman and take a series of the incautious to a hotel and assault them? How can the victims not be aware of it? How can they be so distracted? My impression is that the substitution of identities has reached a very sophisticated level of entanglement, which furthermore is accepted as something completely normal. Right now on Twitter there is a gentleman who presents himself as me, so I do not say that Twitter is good or bad, yet I have tried to clarify that that gentleman uses my name, but I am not myself. What results is that the very people of Twitter find your claim hard to understand. It is like someone comes to a party saying they are Fernando Savater, alright, though they swear they have behaved stupendously, that they have not become drunk, and have left the maidservants in peace, although, man, even so I would like to make clear that that gentleman is not myself. But if neither he who passes himself as me nor the enterprise that accommodates him sees it as anything strange, if when you complain they look at you with a surprised face, from then on we are going to have a conflict of views. I suppose that it is one shackle more in a series of changes that affect personal identity which over time have transformed a great deal. To the degree that civilization advances one has more available identities, the reach of the hand so to speak. Modern life--compared with that of the man from the people, who lives in a small village, who practically can have no more identity than that which he gets from his work, which may be pastor or shoemaker, and be the husband of the little woman and the father of the little man--gives you the opportunity of having many more identities. We change our job, we change our core identity... And right now the identity which ideology gives you, that which you think, and religion, that which you believe, is much more complex than before, when we were gentlemen who went to church, to a certain one, which existed and shut down. Now we have hundreds of ideas from which to choose, dozens of churches, of sexual identities, and we are not the same in the morning when we show up at the office as when we go out on a binge. One of the attractions of the modern city, above all when you are young, is precisely the possibility of multiplying your identities. If you remain in your village you are who are and that is that. And what you are was probably not even selected by you. The city gives you a measure of anonymity that helps you to change your skin, to be more of a chameleon. When in a bar they say to me: "The usual?" then I do not return. And in that sense the Internet is like an enormous city, with immense, amorphous neighborhoods, in which you can be constantly changing. This vertigo opens a great spectrum of possibilities, yet also contains much more risk than living a serene life, where the roles are well distributed and clear, and you know who you are and what is expected of you. Previously you had few identities yet secure ones, while now you have many more, but they are also more precarious, and very vulnerable. If you had a ring that allowed you to do what you pleased without anyone being able to see you, what would you do? The authentic name of that ring is irresponsibility. The question that you pose can be refined: what would you do if you were sure that no one could hold you responsible? Rousseau devised a tale based upon the same assumption, that of the Chinese mandarin. Rousseau invites us in that story to imagine that in China there is a mandarin more than 90 years old, cruel and malevolent to intolerable extremes. Suddenly they give you a button that if you press it the mandarin dies and you win the lottery. On the next day you will be rich and the mandarin will be dead, no one can connect or accuse you of anything, having no relation either with China or with the mandarin. You do not know him, you have never seen him, and you know only that there is a link between the lottery prize and the demise of an ancient despot in some part of remote China. Rousseau's question is: "What will you do, are you going to press the button?" We do not kill people because we know there are laws and are aware of the punishment that transgressing them would entail, but what would occur if we could kill without the law taking notice, without explanations being asked of us. The problem is that when we are the only judges of our action, we are before a case of conscience, before an almost pure moral decision. A good reply to Rousseau's challenge would be to refuse to press the button because I have such consideration for myself that I cannot accept killing people to gain a lottery prize. There are things that we do not do because we wish to continue being who we are. In a work by Shakespeare, there is a king, Richard III, who commits one crime after another, without remorse, until at a certain moment he says: I see that I have become an enemy of myself, because now when I am alone in my lodgings I am alone with an assassin. On the Internet it is simply that nobody knows who you are, so that morality depends only on you. Morality does not enter into play when you have no alternative but to do something, because then we all behave well. When you arrive at the traffic light and the guard is there with her ticket book watching you, we all respect the red light. When there is no traffic light and children are crossing the street, and you are in a hurry, that is when you decide if you respect them or not. And the Internet opens a world in which you can make decisions of all sorts, most of them playful, yet also do things that are not right, that can cause deception or suffering. I would like to know what you understand by the word "reality," or what is reality? Reality is that which offers us resistance. To know whether you are near a street lamp, to know whether the street lamp is an hallucination or is an actual street lamp, hit it with your head; if it is real you head will hurt, and if it is not, will not hurt. Reality is that which does not change simply according to our desire. Dreams are not real because they are somehow functioning in association with our desires. On the other hand, reality is what is always there, like it or not, and includes some conditions that we cannot modify, or which we can modify, but not freely. Reality is all that that in a thousand ways offers us resistance, including our own body. Our body is real, too real, and therefore gives us so many problems, because it does not adjust to our desires, is not willed healthy, does not heal whenever we want. Education At the university level the technical means have changed, above all the manner of documentation, as now you can find a bibliography for whatever you want on the Internet. Of course you can also use a screen instead of a blackboard, and pursue classes at a distance, but these are nothing more than tools, and do not seem relevant. The true problem that the new technologies pose to university professors is how to keep the spirit of research alive, which is what they wanted to develop in undergraduates. In any event, the children experience the greatest transformation. Previously the child attended school for it to give her knowledge about subjects not mastered at home, such as geography, grammar, history, literature, music... All knowledge came by way of the school. Teaching in general consisted in this: to inform the children about things they did not know. The child arrived at the school unaware of the truths of mortality, sex, ambition, or political crime, and, little by little, it was revealed to them. Today however, with television and with the Internet, the priority can no longer be to inform, but instead to guide the student through the labyrinth of information that is constantly bombarding them. Thus education can no longer concentrate on informing, but instead must perform a work of orientation; the educator is ever more a sort of wizard to orient one in a flux of information where the trivial, the necessary, the important, the false, and the true are mixed... The child has to educate himself now to learn to distinguish the quality of those materials, because what is clear is that the youth will be submerged in the Internet, have no pages to turn, are not going to go back, so it is senseless to protect them from what will be their habitat in order to oblige them to listen to little grandmother. Thus we are obliged to monetize these media to favor education and citizenship. A friend recently told me that her daughter said to her: "Mama, when I grow up I do not want to have children." My friend was very surprised by such a sudden and extreme decision, until she discovered that the girl had just finished watching a delivery on television, and had decided that that experience, as interesting as it might be, could perfectly well be skipped. Not so long ago this story would have been unthinkable, when parents and professors explained things to you at the proper moment. But if the girl sees the video and rejects motherhood, is she not changing her viewpoint, and should we not protect that? What is changing is the role of the educator, because you cannot release the girl without the boys bringing her a joint, so you must seek another way of framing the matter. The teacher cannot deny reality, and the reality is that that constant flux of information exists that mixes the necessary with the capricious, the true and the false, the irrelevant and the irrelevant, all together. What we must do is learn and teach them to navigate on that sea. It does not mean discovering things, but instead to rank and order that which is coming down on them. It is said that with the Internet information is received like when surfing the television. Will it not become ever harder to focus? When I was in the University I still did not appreciate that supposed problem of concentration. Some professors had an apprehension when they saw a student surfing the Internet, but it never became more than subjective. Although there were indicators, for example, when exams tended more and more to be quizzes, to the detriment of argumentation, reasoning and discourse... This substitution is a reflection of what happens in society. Martha Nussbaum, who was just awarded the Princess of Asturias prize, has often insisted that we are losing the Socratic method, that of personal implication, in teaching. A method that is based upon argumentation. According to this model, it does not matter whether the student knows that Aristotle was born in Stagira, but she should consider what she thinks or what Aristotle's reflections suggest to her. To the extent that PowerPoint substitutes for argumentation, this model empties itself of content. The same will happen if we go to an exam of the Twitter type, where everything can be summarized in a sentence or in an apothegm. When a person adjusts to express himself in 140 characters, when he attempts taunts or insult, he loses capacity for argumentation, which is the marrow of thought. Cioran said on one occasion that he would have liked to have been raised in a society dominated by the aphorism and the epitaph; very well, now the people communicate and are intellectually nourished by epitaphs. I think indeed, that it would be good if education were to present a certain resistance, which would mean shaping the students in argumentation. Regarding the loss of attention, I think that is not only a problem among the children, nor a problem only for the teachers: the diversity of claims to which we must attend is transforming into the difficulty of paying attention to the other as the central problem of modern life. You can verify that daily. If years ago you were to invite someone to lunch and halfway through they opened the newspaper and began to read it in front of you, well you got up and left, and that only if you did not first break a bottle on their head. On the other hand, right today, if you protest because the person who is eating with you is paying more attention to the cell than to the conversation, you seem intemperate, a rigid type, full of gripes. In the United States, the association of film distributors is considering allowing access to see the movies at New York theaters with the cell phone, because they are losing the young public: the youths will no longer go to see a movie if they are prohibited from having their phone on. Now you cannot tell someone that over one or two hours they will have to do without their cell, a lost battle. How are they going to concentrate on the film? How is anyone going to concentrate? The change is more relevant than it seems, because everything that is important in life requires attention. Knowledge, love... Including to transform reality, to carry political changes or social advances into safe port, it is indispensable to concentrate. Without adequate attention there is no progress, nor civilization, nor human development. This idea of merely floating attention, suspended in the air, constantly threatened by the slightest burst of air... Indeed this is something serious, which affects many aspects of existence and of society. Yet since we are speaking of education, what is most important is to regain attention. And, for a start, it occurs to me not to give up so easily, not to make concessions, to cause the teacher to recover the center of attention. The student must be taught that for several periods she must concentrate on what is being taught, learn that there are moments when the cell and the Internet are instruments of dispersion. In this sense, the central mission of contemporary education today is to recover the student's attention. The Internet greatly facilitates specialization. Previously, if you wanted to specialize in something, you had to go to the library, form a group. Now we all can log onto the Internet, and have forums, information there... This specialization, without leaving the house, can it be a problem for approaching general questions, of universal interest, such as those that philosophy or ethics pose? In a certain sense specialization is fine. I myself enjoy horse racing very much, am an aficionado. And on the Internet I have found pages and forums where gather all who are crazy about the subject, and we can spend all day chatting about something for which the rest of the world has not the slightest interest. This possibility is very well, what is missing is the personal effort that before the Internet you had to make to reach this world of specialization, or to create an affinity group. When I talk about this I always remember a musician friend who lives in Germany, and who now get scores for anything on the Internet. He has told me that previously the aficionados went to the archives with lined paper and copied the scores themselves. It was much more expensive, of course, less convenient, yet had a value, which is that in addition to the difficulty (the first thing you notice) it also had an element of personal transformation. To copy was not only the ordeal of copying, but the experience of making the score one's own also counted. To assimilate it. One can say: "What fools those scholars must have been to require an afternoon to obtain that which I can have if I press a key with this finger." But there is a knowledge that is more ingrained if it passes through experience and transforms the person. Better than if you are limited to putting data, songs or books in an account. You have them there, yet they do not touch you, do not transform you. This is the negative side of a change in the manner of obtaining information that has affected all of us, from which we have benefited. I, if I am writing an article and do not remember the date of the battle of Waterloo, well, as you can imagine, I do not get up and go to find the encyclopedia. I turn to Wikipedia, and it is done. We all use these shortcuts, and they are very useful. But it is not the same thing to utilize them when you already have a base of knowledge, the fruit of your effort, or when the student already directs herself, as when one knows nothing about anything, or very little. The danger is that the confidence that the information is there substitutes for the effort and the experience, because to express it with a simple example, however much calculators facilitate complicated operations, it is still good to know the four basic arithmetic rules. Among other things, so you will not be fooled, yet also because the mental development that one gains by learning to calculate and apply that calculation is positive. And I say this, who was a poor student of mathematics, and who always have thought that the calculator was something like revenge for so much effort. Now the kids are born, so to speak, with calculators under their arms, yet if they did not know how to add or subtract, however good their apparatus is, we would have the impression that something has been lost, a fundamental skill, that to know how to make things oneself, to know how they are made, and why they are made that way, are important understandings for a person. Something similar happens with specialization: it is good to be simple, given that life is not simplified to the point where all dimensions of search, of personal adventure, are removed. In what other respects has the task of the educator changed due to the Internet and television? In this change of scenario the educator also has to ask herself what is the meaning of expressions such as "solidarity" or "piety." Now that we see dreadful things that happen far away, yet that thanks to our screens we feel as if they were quite near, can we react the same as when the disaster affected our neighbors or our compatriots? To give meaning to some virtues that were born when the news affected only the human beings who lived together and which today we try to apply to the entire planet is an ethical theme for our time of which the educator should be aware. It is also meaningless to rebel against this situation. Childhood is a delicious yet transitory stage, and 70 year-old children we consider mentally retarded, not children. The actual child asks questions incessantly, are the first philosophers, are not resigned to ignorance, want to emerge from it as soon as possible. It is rare for you to find a child who tells you not to tell them anything, that they does not wish to know, who cover their ears when the adults speak, because they will not consent to being a child all their life. Thus the task of the educator cannot consist in binding their eyes nor in turning off the television, but instead in teaching them to adequately consume information and to recognize what is harmful or false. But we are confusing this criterion with that which we must think. They do not teach us to think for ourselves, but instead tell us how we have to do it. It worries me that subsequent generations will have it even worse, that they will not even enjoy the opportunity of learning to think. If we continue this way, the youth of the future will be told how things must be made, what must be, what physical aspect they must have to be accepted by society. Even the values which our parents transmitted to us will cease having effect. However far back you look, no matter the era, you will always find the same complaints. This year, for instance, we are celebrating the centennial of Charles Dickens; and Dickens has two works more or less about education, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist, two novels about adolescents who have to grow up in an urban environment, and the complaints are exactly the same as those you indicate. Well, no, they are worse, given that Victorian England was considerably more ruthless, that they could cut off a hand for stealing an apple. They treated children in a way that we could not tolerate now, not to mention if they were lower class, then being lowly workers, without rights. If you look further back in time, you will find Juvenal, whose Satires were infested with complaints against education in Rome. Juvenal laments that the good is never recommended with sufficient emphasis, and that, however, the bad examples and negative influences are constantly in sight of all, displaying their attractions. Thus it is meaningless to resign oneself and justify our lack of drive on our having to live in a bad epoch. There are persons who believe they would have been better off being born in the 22nd century, that then they would become acquainted with what is worthwhile. Yet it is not so, and if you were born in the 22nd century, you would complain of the same and speak of the greatness of having been born in the previous century. Woody Allen converts this situation into the comic engine of his film Midnight in Paris: all the characters think that the best era to enjoy the true Paris, the authentic one, must have been the immediately previous one, one which now cannot be reached, that they live in a decadent period. That is the constant: to think that previously it was easier and better. Why do we think that? Because the problems of the past are already resolved, while those of the present we must repair ourselves and, naturally, it is much more difficult to confront them than to contemplate the solutions of others. Thus I began the book, Politics for Amador with a quote from the first act of Hamlet. Hamlet becomes aware that they have killed his father, that his mother is a minx, that his uncle is a schemer and that the whole country is upside down, and says: The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite, That ever I was born to set it right! Compare this to how good we would feel had they fixed it prior to our arrival. We are not princes, yet it is a sensation that we on our scale have all had: "Why haven't they painted the stairs or repaired the facade before giving me the keys to the floor?" It would be nice, of course, but that is not how it works, with you having to paint it, with all the difficulties it entails. What kind of democracy can there be in a nation where the young, who will be the future voters, are taught to think in a pre-determined way. However, to teach children to think you have no alternative but to teach them to think in a determinate fashion. The idea that children can begin to think for themselves is an idiocy, because it is not going to happen at all. If they could think for themselves there would not be education. Yet the problem with education is that it is very sectarian. Indeed education is not neutral, and education takes sides for one thing or another. If somebody tries to teach you that cannibalism is an exotic gastronomic variety you have to tell them, no. We are not neutral with respect to values. Therefore it is important that we educators accept that at times, it falls on us to be unsympathetic. In a world where everyone wants to be like the television announcer who lives with a smile from ear to ear, the educator has to go against the current and be unsympathetic because their work consists of thwarting. Among the infinite possibilities that open to the child or to the youth, the educator has to thwart the bad ones, the negative and the undesirable. The educator must offer resistance to the boy whom she is educating, because we all grow like ivy, supporting ourselves upon something firm, which offers us resistance. It is a difficult task, because nobody wants to accept it, neither the parents nor many teachers. I understand. It is hard to thwart someone so they may grow, and who later departs and dispenses with me. Because that is the task of education: to form autonomous and independent persons. The sons who remain at home until their forties, slaves of their mothers' affections, are not educated. You said before that we are not programmed by nature, yet in the era in which we live, do you think that society programs us? In the era that we live in the same thing happens which has happened in all. To say that we are not programmed by nature is like saying that all human beings are born twice: once from the maternal uterus, and another with the social uterus. For example, if you from infancy, instead of growing up with your family some monkeys had kidnapped you, such as happens to Mowgli in The Jungle Book, the novel by Kipling, you would not have developed language. That is to say, humanity is a potentiality that you have, but if you are not wrapped in a human environment, you are not going to develop it. Today we know that those persons who through misfortune, due to abandonment, because their parents have died...and have had to live in abandonment, are only human in form, do not have language, have no human feelings... Society conditions us, of course, yet co-habitation helps us to mutually develop as humans. And thus the importance of education and of personal treatment. Everything can condition you as an individual, and contribute to transforming you into someone, like it or not, who you did not expect to be. It forms part of the vulnerability of being human. Therefore, we all have to look out for others, to try to develop the best in others, and that they, in exchange, help us to be better. This conditioning exists now and has always existed in societies; in fact, it is the principal reason why we live in wider groups. I think that companionship refers not so much to that which we all learn from one another, but to how they influence us by example in the most relevant decisions of our lives. Many, for instance, begin to drink because they see others doing it. Imitation is essential for all social beings, and is fundamental to learning. All creatures which live in organized societies, for example, the higher apes (who are the animals that most resemble us) and the chimpanzees live by imitating each other, it being the only manner by which a society sustains itself. If every being were totally original, we could not live in society because we would not be receptive to others nor they to us. When we are little (yet also as adults) we learn to live observing how the others live. The others always inspire us. Thus the importance that contact with the teacher has for education. It is not enough to give them all the information they need for a computer. The coexistence with live teachers, of skin and bone, and with their personality, despite all the limitations, is indispensable, for one prepares to live by researching persons who are more advanced in that endeavor. Naturally the examples from which we learn sometimes can be good, and other times can be foolish or prejudicial. Thus it is very important who educates you, because no one will be left without education. If a responsible professor in a good center does not educate you, the neighborhood gang or television or the Internet will educate you. One of the most important tasks of educators in our time is to arrive in front of the children before the bad educators and protect them from their terrible influence, or sever it at the root. From another side, though we learn to live humanely by observing how others arrange it, there are not so many different sorts of basic education. When we attain a certain maturity, we introduce more personal elements into our way of life, yet even so all live much resemble each other. There are cases like that of Mozart, who for our enjoyment did things that shall always escape the majority of us but, in general, people enjoy a margin of liberty, although it is not excessive. But, what can we do when the milieu in which one lives restricts your manner of thinking? You say that you do not think because the environment does not let you think, and are convinced that they are going to educate you in such a way that you cannot decide for yourself, that you cannot develop your own thought. But if the environment leads us to think in a certain manner, we would not notice it; on the other hand, you do notice it, so then, why would not the others notice it too? If the environment motivates everything, why are there discrepant opinions? It is flattering to think that you will not be affected by what happens to others, that you are above it. It is like when people say that television makes imbeciles of people, something which I have often heard, yet I never have heard anyone say: "I am a damned imbecile because I watch television every afternoon." It is possible that those who flaunt power, the businesses or the banks, if you like, want you to think a series of things, and that they induce you to do so. Yet if you can resist that motivation, notice it and invert it, others also are going to be enabled, and those who do not achieve that by themselves you can convince if we engage them. Each one of us has sufficient intelligence and resources to have influence upon the persons in their environment. If you want to change things, it is preferable for you to be surrounded by persons with a flexible mind, receptive to arguments, who are not dominated by fear. I do not say that education resolves all problems, yet in the solution of every problem there is an ingredient which a good education can supply to you. Education is the only existing mechanism for peaceful revolution. Education is the antidote against fatalism. Fatalism suggests that the son of the poor will always be poor, that the son of the ignorant will always be ignorant; a good education can leap through air over these barriers. Education is the most subversive thing there is. The teachers also observe that we have to learn to think for ourselves. Now today everything is upended, and in school they tell us that if we want to improve it we have to find our own solutions. Of course, indeed that is the idea. Yet one must also keep in mind that to be able to think for yourself, you need to have a series of understandings regarding what you think about. To think is like arranging a room. You can arrange a room in diverse ways, while what you cannot do is arrange an empty room. The things in the room can be cluttered, disordered, haphazardly arranged, can lack or have too much of something, yet if there is nothing inside, forget about being able to arrange it. Education serves to stimulate thought, yet also to dispense content that you later are going to have to arrange. An education that attempts to supply it pre-arranged so you do not think would be bad, of course, yet another which gives you nothing, that wants you to think from a vacuum, would be also. Although you have much will and determination to think for yourself, without content, without things upon which to reason, you will get nothing from nothing. Very important for a healthy debate is to dare to formulate one's own ideas as well as to learn the things that are worthwhile in which to take part. Therefore the role of the educator is so important, because it administers content. You are taught things that you cannot learn by yourself. Learning always derives from sites and persons that do not belong to our inner circle, and we should be willing to arrange what comes from outside. It is clear that we need other humans in order to educate ourselves, to live, and that we can learn to live by observing others, but what you said about bad educators worries me, for there will always be someone who can teach us badly, so how can we avoid that and protect ourselves from this danger? Indeed without that risk educating would be faultless. Imagine that we were to live in a society in which all the adults were like Saint Francis of Assisi or like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for then you would say to your child: "Son, go out into the street, and do like what you see," because you would be sure that everything you are going to find will be excellent, generous, have solidarity... Unfortunately, we know that this is not so, so thus it is important that sites exist where they provide you antibodies to confront the infection of life in society, so that what awaits you outside does not dominate you, for if you arrive without those defenses developed you are lost. These problems cannot be avoided, for we live not in the world we want, but instead in the world there is, in the longstanding one. If virtue and the things that we consider valuable were the most common and ordinary, there would be need to recommend them. We defend them because they have always been in danger somehow, confronted by opposing currents. Nobody needs to be given classes in breathing, nor counsel nor the will to do so. The people just breathe, although it is also true that in Madrid it is ever more difficult. On the other hand, one must recommend the things that encounter social difficulties, but it is inevitable. The world is how it is and shall continue having lies, exploitation, horror, aggressions... In the prologue to one of his stories, Borges, speaking of an ancestor of his, says: "He drew, like all mankind does, bad times in which to live." Does it not seem that humanity has not even emerged completely from the caves, that there keep being many persons who live as if anesthetized? Those who understand these things say that the phases through which the human fetus passes in its development corresponds with the evolutionary phases which the species has traversed while evolving. At the beginning it is is sort of lizard or little fish, and later comes to acquire the aspect of a mammal... Ultimately we are born as human creatures, yet I think that in each one of us there are strata and mental phases which reflect those primitive stages. We are all, for instance, a little reptilian, and think of the world in terms of friends and enemies. We have days when thanks to our acts we deserve to feel proud of belonging to an evolved species, and others when we do not even attain the elevation of a chimpanzee. That is why a recurrent excuse when we do something bad is: "Do not judge me by this, normally I am not like that." We do not want to be typed as one of our facets, especially if it is among the worst. We want to be given the opportunity to demonstrate that we do not match that which we did on a bad day, that we are capable of better things. Regarding cuts to education do you think that society benefits from cutting the money for education? Right now we are going through a crisis period, and we begin to notice the high price we are going to pay for the poor education we have had in our nation. I am convinced that improvements in education is all that can extricate us from the quagmire, yet not in an immediate manner, it being a medium-term bet. It is a little like when we see a person who falls into the water and starts to drown: it does not do much to tell her that you are going to learn to swim, that you should have done so previously, for now they are drowning. If we want it to work in an immediate future, it is now when we should teach the people to swim. Thus the cuts to education in a country already more diminished that any other place in Europe, except Greece and Portugal, can only be considered a disaster. The budget is very important. We are an inclusive group here, with whom one can talk, but if you were to multiply by three the number of students, with half not understanding Spanish, if the differences in knowledge were to be abysmal... I do not say it would be impossible to hold class, but however good the program designed by the minister might be, you are not going to accomplish it. The same occurs with the teachers. They cannot keep teaching what was taught to them, because the world changes, and society wants to master new knowledge. Thus one must keep training them, and this training keeps being expensive. Everything related to a good education is expensive, but in the long run it turns out much more expensive to maintain a cheap and bad system. The nations which are coming out from the crisis, like Germany or France, are those sustaining a good educational system. If the basis of everything is education, do you agree with the educational system that exists today? That is like asking if one is in agreement with the general digestive system of the country. In Spain we trust in what is put in the papers. If the law says one thing and the law is stupendous it seems that everything is already resolved, but you fold the paper, emerge and discover that everything continues as it was. Every educational plane has things that are good and things which are bad, the problem being how they are applied. Yet they do not want us to become educated. To invest in education is not a priority for a politician. Do not think that they are not aware of what we say here, for they will understand it perfectly. The problem is that it is a long-term solution. Imagine that starting tomorrow in this country they began to educate as we would like. How long would it take us to notice the effects, to enjoy the benefits? Fifteen years? There is no politician in the world who thinks with a 15-year view, as those who are capable of lifting their heads and seeing what they have 15 days from now, including the date when they are living, are already the good ones. They do not give it importance because they are not going to see the result. It is to ask them to invest in something whose reward other generations, other politicians will reap. Thus they trust in patches and in education in the broad sense: the family, the communication media, human relations, the things we learn at play, at work... Besides, education has a certain suicidal dimension which teachers know very well. The true educator, as I was telling you, is he who teaches such that they who learn can someday dispense with them. Good parents educate the child so that one day she can leave, and the professor so that the pupil will be readier than himself. That is what is hard about education: the final purpose is that they become independent, not that they need you more. Thus it is that education goes against the grain of politicians and their estate, who prefer to keep controlling the citizenry, to keep charging, to keep telling them what they must think in every case. Therefore it is society which must demand a good education. The politicians must be told that they are going to go, yet we are going to remain, and thus we desire education. We are the citizens who have to require an education that protects us, which offers us better possibilities for the future, because it will never be a priority for the politicians. The Internet and rights There is a matter that concerns me, the pirates of the Internet, the thieves. When you speak with them assume that they download 50 movies every week, a hundred songs, 200 books. One asks why do they want them, or how is one person going to view 50 movies in a week. And the pirate answer that they do not view them, what they like is to hold them, that they have a thousand, or two or three thousand, well archived. It is curious, but the fact of downloading the film, of committing the knavery, substitutes for the pleasure of seeing it. View it? What for? And the same occurs with music, though not we suppose with books. The hunger of the predator, the pleasure of being immersed in the net, obtaining everything one wants without paying, is now higher than the human interest in the things. Now that we have more media than ever to satisfy the curiosity it is possible that we have it to waste, because curiosity was awakened by the difficulty of satisfying it, was nourished by the effort, and one had to lift the skirt to see, which was not so easy, yet now the skirts are erased with Photoshop, so that it requires no effort from you. Do you think that the "Sinde" law and the Stop Online Piracy Act, which attempt to regulate the Internet, are taking the first steps towards censuring freedom? To restrict the freedom to rob is not to censure, but to correct inadequate behaviors. But they are laws that go against the established habits and customs of the Internet. It seems that the politicians must have arrived late, and then wanted to legislate quickly on the run, and it has gotten out of hand. If tomorrow the protective systems of the English Court were to fail and all from the security service were to go home, the people would enter and would take the garments and articles which they most wanted. Supposing that on the following day the systems resumed functioning and the staff were again at their posts, I do not know whether it would help you much to say to the manager: "Come on, man, let us carry away what we want, like yesterday, so you do not have to adapt to new habits." And supposing that he listened to you, the problem would persist over two days: the following Monday the English Court would close and ciao to the new customs. Nuclear energy also has brought new dangers for humanity. It occurs to no one to say: "Listen, now there is nuclear energy and radioactive leaks, so adapt to the situation; previously they fell to a club and now there are atomic bombs, and the way you proliferate, if someday one falls on you you would survive." It does not work like that, measures are taken so there will be no leaks, the plants are improved, the safety procedures are transformed, and it is legislated that the number of nuclear warheads shall not be increased, so as to reduce the risk to humanity. The new technologies do not impose an initial state from which we cannot exit nor progress nor improve. The potential capacity to do things always comes accompanied by legal or moral rules designed to channel it precisely. The invention of firearms requires a type of regulation unthinkable in times when matters were solved with blades and knives. The Internet has its advantages, yet when you organize a system of diffusion and propaganda, where the truth and lies are intermingled, you are opening a new field of action that should be regulated by law so that pederasts cannot succeed, as well as those who transmit information of benefit to terrorists and, yes, those who act to the detriment of certain artistic works which they can download with impunity. Humanity has an incredible capacity of setting things in motion, and whenever a new technology is developed, the item ends in a field where there will be good things and bad, benefits and offsets. The new is not always synonymous with the good. There are terrible novelties, and other marvelous ones. And the majority have a double face and must be regulated so that what helps us predominates over that which harms us. I return to nuclear energy because it is the best example. It is assumed an enormous advance, but it can also be a grave threat. The most serious which can be imagined, indeed, for it can destroy the world, which is also a radical novelty. Very well, the obligation on human beings is neither to prohibit it nor develop it without control, but to regulate it, because it concerns one of our inventions. Yet other solutions exist. I understand perfectly that regulation of the Internet is proposed to avoid immoral behaviors, but in some nations of northern Europe, a monthly copyright fee is paid. Neither do I say one single formula exists, since there are fifty possible formulas for control to avoid thefts and obstruct the diffusion of certain pernicious materials. Of course there are diverse formulas, but I insist that there should be an activity of regulating the Internet. And right now the situation is that whenever one tries to apply a formula somebody emerges saying: "No, I do not like that, I prefer what is on the other site." And finally one suspects they will never like any that might be in force. That what they do not like is what they have, precisely because it commits them to something. And that is the attitude that we must change. We have to assume that there is going to be something affecting you, and likewise some behaviors which benefited you, yet which seriously prejudiced others. Nor can we await a perfect and definitive law in order to begin to apply it. Within twenty years the Internet and the world will have changed in outline, and the laws will evolve to that rhythm. But what cannot be tolerated is a realm without regulation, where all sorts of things can be done that are negative for the good functioning of society and which, nevertheless, due to political neglect, so as not to offend the pirates, remain totally unpunished. Because impunity is corruption. All democratic advances are born in an attempt to short circuit the authorities, or those who act with impunity. Louis XIV did what he wanted and it did not occur to anyone to tell him what he had to do. The advance was not to let the whole world act like Louis XIV every time they felt like being king, but instead to undermine the rulers' possibilities, to create better mechanisms of control. And nowadays we do not want to lose the capacity or requiring them to render accounts. It would be somewhat absurd to defend the need to control the politicians to prevent them committing outrages, but say we are going to allow free Internet because it pleases me to download movies and videos free with which to entertain myself during the afternoon. It does not seem to me to be a very honorable argument. For me the "Sinde" law is too short, and I think it threatens but does not deliver. I am a partisan of the French law, which directly incriminates the users and not the Web pages. If I have a book and I lend it to a friend, am I stealing? No. If you have a book, it is because you paid the price that was asked to buy it. An item has its price. You buy it and it is yours, and you can do what you want with it: give it away or sell it, up to here there being no problem. The price is settled and the editors are content. But if what you do with your copy is to xerox it and distribute it on the street, or do business to derive an economic benefit or enrich yourself, here you are appropriating something that is not yours. But they cannot expect people to pay five or ten Euros for a record if they find it free on the Internet. I only know that books and records have never been so cheap. At this moment anyone can have a record store, a bookstore and a video store for practically nothing: they will give it to you with the magazines that you buy at the kiosk, with the basket of fruit, until the point when we do not know what to do with all those titles, having time neither to read nor view them. The culture has never been so accessible, and just then, someone asserts that, everything, it continues to be too expensive. One must have attitude. That day when they falsify futbol tickets, and the people refuse to form lines of 1,000 persons such as they form every Sunday, and complain that admissions to football are expensive, on that day I will join those who find the prices of books expensive. Yet I fear that that day remains very distant. In the current situation what has happened is that only those groups who give concerts can live from music, and that in the past 14 years no important record artist has recorded a great album, What has been achieved is to negate those youths who today would like to make music, because they are not paid like Bruce Springsteen for concerts nor do they record albums. It is a terrible, gloomy situation. Of course the recording artists seek a profit, but that same accusation can be made of the vegetable vendor, and those who sell sweaters. We could also ask ourselves why Jabugo ham costs what it costs, but meanwhile we all go through the checkout. Yet clothing and ham are whims, while culture is a necessary good. Why would a sweater be a whim when you are cold? Culture is not such a rare or special thing. All that distinguishes the cultural works from the rest of products is that you can obtain them via Internet, and thus it seems a "special" case to you. If Rolexes could be downloaded on the Internet, we would all wear Rolex, and no one would ever go to the jewelry store. You do not download the culture for free because it is something special, but because it is accessible. Therefore, as it suits you, you invent a theory to justify the convenience of it continuing to be free. If we could download Jabugo ham and jerseys, and an Aston Martin, then you would see how the partisans would increase for Jabugo, jerseys and the Aston Martin being culture, and that they would fight to obtain the free access. That distinction does not work. What is more gratifying, for people to buy 2,000 books or for 200,000 persons to read the book? If ten thousand readers read the books free on the Internet and nobody makes money, books are going to end, and stop being written. Look, I can have an idea, and be so convinced of its goodness for the public life that I cede my rights and transmit it free so that it reaches the entire world. Imagine that one day Plácido Domíngo were to tire of singing in great halls and goes onto a streetcorner with Tosca's "Farewell to life and art," free, so that we all will be able to stop and listen to him. I see no problem with these activities, and it would be an outrage if the publishing guild or a record company were to oblige him to charge. The problem is when the free delivery of the work is not voluntary, when the writer or the singer is not asked whether she wishes to charge or not. What I cannot admit is that someone decides for me whether I have to be generous or not, not that the Internetters coerce me. Generosity should be a personal prerogative, and it ceases being generosity when it becomes an imposition of someone who says they know what is best for me. We shall not act like today's companies that send you a letter where you can read: "We thank you that to benefit the sustainability of the company you have accepted a ten percent reduction in your salary." So that in the midst of annoyance over the loss of earning power you could think: "How generous I am, above all when I have no alternative." I respect your arguments about piracy, but I do not understand how you can be against WikiLeaks. They are the secrets of a nation, yet it seems as if they damage the rest of the international community. The United States has state secrets just like the rest of the countries do, and it is comprehensible that this is so. All governments have secrets, and indeed it is not something completely reprehensible. We would not allow a government not to be discreet in its negotiations and deliberations, because sometimes they must take measures which, if known in advance, would lose all their efficacy. If tomorrow they administer an exam, do you believe that they should say on the preceding day what are the questions to be on the exam solely because they are secret? It would be useful for the worst laggards and drones, yet it would not be fair to do it. When a court is going to judge an opposition the discussions are private, and it could not be debated with justice if broadcast on a screen. The world is full of things that should be propagated, and of others that cannot be nor should be. For almost 15 years of my life I have had to leave the house accompanied by two bodyguards who protected me when I went from one place to another. Do you think that I and they would have somehow benefited if their identities, my destination, the route we were to follow, where we would take a rest, were disseminated on the Internet? That they should be revealed because an individual whom no one has chosen and represents no one but himself decides that now it is alright to provide some secrets? So I think that he had not benefited us at all. To me the gentleman of WikiLeaks seems to be a prime scoundrel. A daredevil that has launched a venture which may turn out good or bad for him, yet which damages many people. I do not deny that many secrets are shameful, but others are not and, in either case, he who is diffusing them is an uncontrollable subject, and it has nothing to do with a democratic State, whose representatives have been chosen by the same citizens who could return them to their homes. That a person who because having access and ability decides that he can keep working in secret and then should stop doing so seems to me very dangerous. Privacy The concept of privacy keeps varying in accordance with the evolution of the society. For instance, today we are now accustomed to surveillance cameras, which are everywhere, such that a large portion of our life is recorded. The social use of photography equipment has also changed, with any celebration photographed and the images published on different social networks. Even without your consent, there are strangers who can film or record you if you rescue a child who is drowning in a river, or if you touch a woman's ass in the store. The tragic, the comical, the heroic, the laughable...everything seems to demand a photograph. And if you are a well-known person, if you hold a public office, then indeed there is no possible exit. There are no secrets. The ingenuousness surprises me of politicians or actors or functionaries who embark on a tryst thinking they will not be seen and registered, when we all know that is completely impossible. What you say will be recorded by a microphone and your motion will activate the camera; public life has no folds nor cracks in which to hide. Privacy has ceased being a natural state that is invaded to become something ever more difficult to attain, and privacy is more valuable because it is restricted. Observe the difference between talking on the telephone without the other person knowing where you are, or speaking on a local phone or with someone who can see you with a camera. In the camera can be seen agreeable things like the sweet eyes of a lover, but also the boss who can see that you are at a bar instead of doing your work who knows where... Privacy has become a sort of permanent personal adventure. To seek spaces of privacy, to shelter private areas, to negotiate privacy with other persons, to decide with whom you want to have a private conversation and with whom you would not exchange a word without light and stenographers... Moments of privacy are now a conquest, something that we must negotiate with the others. But if that becomes a social habit, it is ever more difficult to resist, and a moment arrives when you have no alternative to tolerating it. Right now we go onto the street and can hear perfectly a male who shouts: "Pepita, I love you, I shall wait at the corner" or "Pepita, I am coming up in two minutes." They keep shouting at full blast, in the bus or at the airport, intimate conversations which before were not even whispered, and you do not know where to go, because they act as if there were no one else in the world. Years ago we would have considered him a madman, while today he is a normal and customary type. And if we protest his behavior, it would be ourselves who seem to be Martians, or deranged. That is a very notable change, indeed. But this cessation of intimacy is often voluntary, like do not bother us. It is good to make a few distinctions, as it is true that when one is observed, or when they record you without your consent, the first thing you perceive is an act of pure control, in the most abusive sense of the term. Yet it is true that observation has some advantages. For example, it is very bothersome to have to pass through a scanner every time you board an airplane, empty your coins, remove your belt, take the watch off... But it does give us the opportunity of choosing between the hassle of the scanner and boarding the plane with a gentleman carrying a bomb... Hence it is clear what we are going to choose; in the final analysis, if you have nothing to hide, the loss of privacy is minimal. Now then, that which is dangerous is if they perform that same examination when you get to work in the morning. If they were to make you pass an alcohol test or prick you to know whether yesterday you consumed any illegal substance. Because in that case what is in play is not security, obviously, here they impose control on you based upon the idea of another person about what is good or bad, which is meddling. When it concerns your privacy one cannot say "always" or "never," but must negotiate continuously. One admits breathalyser tests on the highway, because it is a place where you can have or provoke problems with others, a space where you accept that drunk people cannot enter. But if they do that at a movie then you have the right to not go in, or to go to another site. And if they come to your house (a space one assumes where you are what you are for yourself) it is within your rights to deny them. Concerning truth The problem is not that we may have different opinions, but to verify which opinion most approaches the truth, because the truth does not agree with everyone. If I think that two and two are five, and you come and demonstrate to me that it is four, we shall not have had any conflict, and what has occurred is that you have helped me to reason better. But, what happens if my opinions comes into conflict with those of another, if we cannot convince each other? Opinions do not always have to come into conflict. It is true that there are things about which everyone may have their truth, for instance, when dealing with deciding what we want for breakfast: here everyone selects according to their taste. Yet if we speak of the formula for water, alright, that concerns a determinate combination of hydrogen and oxygen and does not depend on your whim, nor on your opinion nor upon your taste. It depends on whether you know the formula or do not know it. And there are very many cases in which everything depends on whether you know or do not know, so discussion is non-pertinent because this does not deal with tastes nor opinions, but instead is resolved by contrast with reality. Tastes are variable, but knowledge should be somewhat stable. The mountains measure what they measure, and it does not matter what you or I think about their altitude, but what must be done is to go and measure them. It is also true that not everything in life is measurable and provable. The emotions, cohabitation, the feelings, political preferences... All this is variable and debatable, with many focuses... There are also many distinct ways of giving meaning to life, and that is fantastic. Art is also based precisely upon that variety, in that the definitive word cannot be said, as opposed to science, where if somebody discovers something and demonstrates it, the rest of the community must accept it. It is very important so as not to lose time, and so that we are not duped, that we learn to distinguish when we are before a situation in the face of which everyone should seek their own path, and when we are before a matter that can be overcome by bending to reality. Antonio Machado would say: "Not your truth, the truth, and come with me to look for it, and hold onto yours." In many cases the truth is not one or the other, but the truth that reality imposes. When it does depend upon taste, on opinion or interest, then it is also good to discover which one is predominant, in order to adapt to it, or as a starting point to begin to transform it. In a plural world discussions are inevitable. Luckily, no one imposes on us what we have to say or defend in public, since the opinions and the interests collide among themselves. Good co- existence consists of transactions: the lubricant of social relations is the capacity to listen and to yield. Those persons who always try to impose themselves and never yield, might live alone or have slaves, but it is impossible for them to participate in coexistence. But in subjects like history a lot changes in what they explain to you according to how the teacher thinks. It can influence it, of course. The thought of persons is not pure, is tinted by each one's beliefs. If the professor is a rightist she is going to recount history to you from that point of view, and if from the left, well they will do it from theirs. Yet that influence has its limits in practice: the focus can be changed, but they are not going to tell you that Julius Caesar was Aztec. Once they said to the old French politician Clemenceau: "You will see how within a few years they interpret the first World War." And Clemenceau responded: "I do not know how they will interpret it, but surely no one will claim that Belgium invaded Germany." There are aspects of history that can be explained with different focuses, and those which can be given nuanced interpretations, yet there is always an objective base. On the other hand, you have the luck of living in an era wherein if you are offered the possibility of educating yourself, they are not imposing an ideology on you. You have the duty of listening to the teacher, yet it is also wise to take the precaution of not believing him on bended knee. And less today now that we have access to quantities of information sources such as our ancestors could never have suspected. I would like to know if you are in agreement with Kant that one should never lie under any circumstance. What Kant is trying to say is that at root when one lies they are taking exception to the moral norm, since you would like to live in a world where the truth was told. If you are in a house and a man comes in with an ax and you have beneath the bed, hidden, the uncle who he is coming to kill, well, in that case if the one with the hatchet asks you whether you have seen him I am in favor of telling him: "He just came running through here ahead of you and has gotten onto the bus," though it be a lie, instead of complying with the moral norm of always telling the truth, and condemning him to a certain demise. There are sincerities that can be ill-fated. It is like the old joke of little Jaime who sees his aunt and tells her, "How ugly you are, tia," and his mother, horrified, reproves him, "Jaimito, please, do not say that to your aunt, so apologize and tell her you are sorry," and Jaimito follows up: "Aunt, I am sorry that you are so ugly." I am more of a consequentialist than Kant; over and above the consistency of my activity with a norm that I consider good, I place the predictable immediate consequences of my acts. For Kant the moral rule is sovereign, and you should not wait to calculate the consequences of a specific act to evaluate it, because no one can foresee the complete chain of consequences. For example, you see a child that has fallen into the river, the current sweeping them along, drowning, so you jump in out of good will and rescue it from mortality. When you ask it its name it responds, "Adolf Hitler." Very well, from the viewpoint of the consequences you know you have enabled it. Kant would say that you have saved the child because that is what the moral norm dictates, because we wish to live in a world where the adults go to the help of the children who are drowning in the rivers, and if growing up later he becomes a plague upon humanity, what is to be done, it is not your fault. Among those who dedicate ourselves to think about moral themes, there are some who are not as rigorous as Kant, who believe that the consequences of acts also must be taken into account before making a moral decision. Do you not think that there is some falsity in the truth and some truth in the lie? Paul Valéry wrote a theatre work that is a version all his own of the traditional Faustus. And his Faust is a very modern gentleman, who is in an office with a very comely secretary with whom he spends all his time chatting. And there is a moment when the secretary asks him, "Do you want me to tell you the truth?" and Faust answers, "Tell me the lie which you consider most worthy of being true." Science and robotics We no longer have to await the future, for we already live fully in the world of robots. Ever since Karel Capek invented the word, we had imagined robots as anthropomorphic forms, but microwaves are robots, so in the kitchen we have a dozen robots working for us. The robots are everywhere in a house, facilitating sometimes very complex tasks. We do not recognize them as robots because they do not resemble us, yet they are. The same came be said of the automation of the human prosthesis, which has greatly accelerated in recent times. We are talking about a very accelerated century: 90 percent of the technical inventions that humanity has made in all its history belong to the last hundred years. And those inventions, in the majority of cases, have been supplementations of our possibilities to increase capacity. The horse has been supplanted by the steam engine, and that of steam by that of gasoline. The microscope and the telescope are more powerful versions of our eye. The missile replaces the fist during war. Many of our organs have a mechanical replica that amplifies, accentuates or supplants them. Do you think that these prostheses are a threat to personality itself? And research with stem cells? We all have prostheses, which I do not think generate any ethical problems. With regard to stem cells...well, all that is to be seen, a world to be discovered. Probably, sooner or later, science will be able to manipulate them to the point of generating moral dilemmas. Thus, roughly, one can be foreseen: the suppression of chance. What I want to say is that the equality of human beings depends, among other things, on that none of us are an invention or a product manufactured by another. It is true that we all have parents, instructors, models...yet none of them is our owner, or our "producer." We are not the "creation" of anyone. However, insofar as one can program a human being to be born with certain determinate characteristics, the equality among mankind is terminated. And not because you will be better than others, for that "better" is very difficult to determine, but instead because whoever programmed you has knowledge and dominion over you that you are not going to be able to reverse. Here equality is destroyed and a hierarchy between human beings is installed, between producer and producer, that breaks the essence of human coexistence. We human beings are free thanks to not depending upon the will of the other man; we are the children of chaos, the parents unexpectedly passionate for each other, and they produce a child, but they not project nor program them. But it is possible that with genetic analysis one will no longer seek a mate by chance, but for compatibility, and does that not trample chance? Intuitively we already seek compatibility. The human senses are designed to enhance health. We consider the woman having curves attractive, and we shrink from the skeletal trembling man, knowing he may die at any moment, and we shrink for genetic motives. Somehow our senses can perform a genetic analysis of our partner, rudimentary if you like, intuitive, yet effective enough. Men and women seek healthy, energetic persons who are going to last. And they shrink from the elderly, from the sick, from those who have one foot in the grave. We like 20 year-olds more than those at 80 because with the old we notice that we are closer to mortality, and that nearness does not make anyone more attractive. The beauty of pinching a child's cheek is that the flesh is flexible, whereas pinching the cheek of an oldtimer lacks the enjoyment. By nature we love the most animal expressions of life while, on the other hand, all the indices of the end: mortality, wrinkles, shriveling...we reluctantly accept. This sort of genetic analysis will only serve to further refine something we do daily, with great effect. Second part Imperishable questions What is a philosophy problem? Philosophy debates problems that affect us as human beings. If one asked us how we can recognize a philosophy problem, how we can distinguish a specifically philosophical problem from the rest of the questions that we ask at the end of the day, a good reply would be to say that a question is philosophical when it touches a subject which is of interest to any person. We all pass through life formulating questions. If we to go travel in France, we do so about Paris, about French food, the monuments, the hotels, and the country's means of transport; but if we are not going to go to France, normally we feel no need to ask about that nation and its customs. If we want to cook an egg, it will interest us to know at what temperature water boils, but if we do not like boiled eggs, we can ignore that data. Interests that are not philosophical are directly related with things that we wish to do, or have a practical, more or less immediate, utility. Instead, what is peculiar to philosophy is that it questions what we are as human beings and not only regarding what we want at the time. Imagine that you want to take a train, keep an appointment or watch a television program at seven. Imagine that you have gone out in the street and left your watch at home. If you have lost track of the time, then you look for someone whom you can ask: "What time is it?" Were they to say it is 6:30, you stop listening, your interest in the time ceases and you focus on preparing for the appointment, going to the station, or to the house to turn on the television. The time has stopped interesting you, because the question was purely instrumental, has already fulfilled its function, and thus can be forgotten. Yet if instead of asking for the time, I ask what is time, I am now not relating my interest to something concrete that I want to do. Now would the answer redound on my daily life. Let time be what it will, I will continue eating the same, drinking the same, strolling, taking the train, conversing... It is not going to alter my life, because the question has no connection with what I am going to do, but instead with what I am. When I ask what is time, that which I am asking assumes living in time knowing that time exists, and I am asking what it means to awaken in the mornings, knowing that we are going to die. I am asking for the meaning of being human. A great philosopher, very complex, Hegel, once said that the great task for man was to recognize thought in life. And we all know many things about life: we know how we nourish ourselves, how we breathe, how we reproduce... Yet, what should we think about all these processes? What can we think about life befalling us, about our being as we are, that we have a digestive apparatus, genitals, lungs, a brain? About that we live in time, within a society, that we fall in love and live in pairs? What does it mean? Why does that happen to us? Those are the questions which make philosophy, and have nothing to do with practical matters. If whatever might be the responses we give to philosophical questions we are going to keep living the same, what then is its purpose? Every time that we ask a philosophical question we are trying to find out something else about ourselves. Instead of living routinely, by imitation, because there is no choice, because we have been given a push and must continue, we make the effort of living deliberately. In a certain sense, we start walking looking at our feet, not lifting our gaze, and that is problematic and carries risks, certainly, for we can trip. However philosophy does not serve to resolve doubts, but to enter into them. People who never doubt are those who never philosophize; they are serious persons, incapable of astonishment. By contrast, the founding father of philosophy, Socrates, spent the day asking the people silliness, like children do. In one of his most famous dialogues, Plato has Socrates debating with Calicles. The adversary of our philosopher is an arrogant youth, who brandishes his sword, and who claims that the strong have the right to impose their laws upon the weak, and the like. It is one of the first times that Socrates is accused of being an elder who makes questions more appropriate for a child than a mature citizen; questions which interest no one, that lead nowhere; questions of the type: "Why do the stars not fall?" Despite that Calicles thinks he is insulting Socrates, in reality, what the youth does is to define very clearly the philosphic attitude: to play at asking questions like the children, yet do so very seriously, with no other purpose than emerging as soon as possible from ignorance, because persons who philosophize desire, and are impatient, to abandon ignorance. You have said that philosophical questions do not influence future actions, yet perhaps the answers which we give to these questions do. In principle, nothing that you have to do this week is going to change because time is related to movement, as Aristotle thought, or with space, as Einstein argued. Even persons who never have been interested in time are going to keep living in it without further annoyance. Somehow we all know what time is, although it may not be an easy task to define it with words. Saint Augustine in the Confessions wrote concerning time that he knew what it was if he were not asked, but if they asked him he did not know. It is an elaborate way of saying that when one has to comply with a schedule to know the time has a concrete utility, and that asking about the nature of time does not. The same occurs whenever you are asked about beauty, truth, justice, nature, or goodness...with any philosophical question. It deals with questions that transform us by making us more conscious of what being human means. And what benefit do we get from knowing more about our nature? Well, that we people are not content with being, but also feel the impulse of wanting to know what we are. Happiness The humorist Jardiel Poncela would say: "To be happy it is wise, not to analyze." And in a certain sense, he is really right. However, on one occasion they asked Bertrand Russell, one of the philosophers whom I have most admired: "If you were allowed to choose between knowing more and being happy, which would you prefer?" And Russell responded: "It is strange, but I would prefer to keep learning." The class of thought which is elaborated in ethical reflection, that that is not related to a concrete action, can provoke a fearsome vertigo; yet if it did not exist, would it be worthwhile to live? Who among us, to avoid suffering, would accept living anesthetized? In point of fact, we relate felicity with the process or the result of some activity of ours. And although, on many occasions, activity causes us problems and distaste, at root it seems to compensate us, for we do not want to abandon the game. We do not wish to stop living nor doing, even what can cause us pain. At times indeed we take fright and a step back, naturally, yet no one wants to completely renounce the freedom of acting and of asking questions. Then to be happy we also have to have bad experiences, since if we were constantly happy we could not distinguish happiness. To be constantly happy would assume living in a state of complete bliss which, furthermore, nobody could ever take from you. Because however well you are, if you know that that state can end, then you will not be unconditionally happy. Therefore humans cannot be completely happy, because everything they experience passes, their own life passes. That pertaining to human beings, their greatest aspiration, may not be felicity, but instead to sustain their happiness. Whoever says that they love life should do so with all its consequences. What we cannot say is: "I love life, so please, remove the bad part for me." That does not mean that we would not have to fight against the evils, yet we have to love the world despite all that. Nor does it make much sense to say: "For me, until they fix the whole world, I shall not love life," because certainly they will not give you time enough to see everything going badly solved. One must struggle against that which we do not like in life, yet not postpone the love which we can feel for it: despite all the negative it is always better to participate in life than not to be in the world. Furthermore, the bad things in life offer us a contrast that intensifies and improves the taste of goodness. Only one who become sick comprehends the goodness of being well, and no one knows better the importance of a finger than she who breaks one. The advantage that being old has is that one has known very good things and also the reverse. If that contrast were missing, our experience would be lacking. It is thanks to maturity and to the experience of life that we learn the value of each thing. The same thing exists regarding happiness and felicity. That is to say, we are happy because we imperil ourselves. I believe so, that somehow we say: "Now that mortality is nearby, let us dance before it." If we did not know that all is brief and fugitive, that everything is risk, what importance would decisions have? Nor do we have a choice: we cannot imagine a life different from that which we have, an existence without mortality, yet we do know that passing gives spice to existing, its special flavor. So then absolute happiness is impossible, and we always are going to ask for more. Human ideals resemble the horizon. No one can reach the horizon, yet we can walk towards it, and it is worthwhile to go towards it, because only thus will we advance as persons, as society and as a species. It is very easy to satisfy a slave who is tied to his chains and almost does not eat, but insofar as the slave frees himself from his bindings he will situate higher his level of satisfaction and well-being. We human beings are becoming more demanding of freedoms since we keep knowing more things and therefore we cannot be fully satiated, for while we are alive we are always going to demand betterment. The problem is that happiness is simply a word. One must imagine a content. I would like to know whether since you wrote Ethics for Amador that content has varied. The word happiness is too ambitious. Authentic happiness would require being invulnerable, would require that the future could not affect you. However well you find yourself now, if you know that within an hour you are going to be beheaded you no longer can be happy: worry about the almost immediate loss of your situation would not permit it. Happiness is an exaggerated state for a mortal creature. That which we human beings search for is some satisfaction. Physiological satisfaction, of course, yet also in other domains: cultural, affective, et cetera. Satisfactions have expiration dates, clearly, yet are a more modest vital objective, more realistic than happiness. It is true that to the degree that our standard of living increases we are more demanding, seek more and better satisfactions, require more to feel satisfied. Someone poor who lives in some central zone of Africa would probably feel satisfied with being given a snack and having the swarm of flies dispelled. We live in a highly sophisticated society, with very varied opportunities for leisure and pleasure, where every time it takes more for one to feel satisfied. To illustrate this dynamic, a German philosopher recounted the theory of the princess and the pea: the princess slept upon 11 mattresses so as to be most comfortable, yet one pea under the bottom mattress sufficed to make the bother insupportable and to not close her eyes all night. With the best in comforts, we are all becoming a little like that princess. To the extent that annoyances diminish, the smallest inconvenience becomes insupportable. You can verify it in the airport. Our civilization has reached a technological level that permits you to travel from Europe to the United States in seven hours. For any other epoch it would be a dream, something unheard of. Now it is enough if we suffer a half hour delay to foment a scandal and request the book for complaints. Half an hour of delay is sufficient for arriving at the house and saying: "It has been dreadful, they kept me a half hour in Barajas." At the moment when people begin to live very well, and seemingly lose the capacity to resist the nuisances and the complications, there are persons who imagine they live in an insupportable world. They are people who ask you: "Do you think one can be happy in this world?" And the truth is that one is tempted to answer them that they live in the best of the known worlds, that there is nowhere else, nor any other age, when they have lived better. It is curious how a situation of evident privilege, with all the defects and lacks it may have, generates so many sensations of unease and of unrest, but naturally, we can only evaluate reality comparatively, and many citizens can only value the life of the West. Does money provide happiness? The truth is that the concept of riches could be amplified. Just now we have an idea of pecuniary wealth, linked exclusively with money. And money, as Schopenhauer said, is abstract happiness. Money is a promise of happiness while you have it in your pocket, and you are happy because you can transform it into a hundred different things: in getting drunk, in going out to dinner, in sharing a cab, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, whatever it may be. But this abstract happiness begins to give you problems when you attempt to realize it, because whichever expenditure and whichever activity is full of limitations, of difficulties... And it may be that it concludes not with satisfactions, but in headaches. Perhaps we should become accustomed to more sociable concrete forms of happiness. For instance, the mother who is caring for a child is experiencing a concrete form of satisfaction, of felicity. And the same thing occurs when we are in the company of persons with whom we feel good, with those we enjoy, because they tell us interesting things or make us laugh. Additionally, if felicity were to have 20 million in the bank, it would be well known at these heights of life and of society. But what we all know is that this is not so, that happiness comes from concrete things, not the abstract. We must not be demagogic, or course: if you have no money, that can embitter your day and your life. But we have in our reach a spectrum of possibilities for satisfaction that do not depend upon whether you have a lot or a great lot of money in the current account. They depend on circumstances, at times fortuitous, at times ad hoc, affective and intellectual conquests, which improve your quality of life. I often think that the essential difference between a cultivated, or civilized, person and an uncultured person is that the less they know, the more they have to spend to entertain themselves. It can be seen in vacations: the least cultured persons need more money because they know almost nothing and are like those states which have to import all their primary materials, because they do not produce anything. Whereas cultivated people can walk with advantage, converse, view museums, amass memories...producing agreeable moments that are practically free through their own resources. The dream of an authenticity not conditioned by anything, that one can proceed to construct over time, is an exciting project, very seductive, yet impossible to attain. Life cannot govern itself in a spontaneous manner. The error is to Freedom and authenticity believe that you are part of a natural spontaneity which is later lost, while it is the contrary: spontaneity is a subsequent conquest, something that is reached when you have already constructed a personality. The psychologists assure us that when a normal person is left totally free to do whatever she wishes, the first thing they will do will be to imitate others. The idea that people imitate through duty, coerced by education or society, is simple-minded. What any person wants to do is imitate, and the principal choice which the individual has is to choose her model. Thus some imitate the winner, the football player, the model... The doctors a good doctor, the writers a good writer... It seems impossible that anyone exists who does not feel tempted to imitate somebody. Furthermore, in a certain sense, the imitation of models is almost a social requirement, to allow survival. An individual who did not want to imitate anyone would be ineducable, and could not live in a city where different things occur daily to everyone, where every day we might want something different. There would be no subways, nor restaurants, nor laundries, nor television or radio programs. It would be something ungovernable. But if society tells me what I have to do, will I never be free? We should not fall into the error of confusing liberty with omnipotence. The human being is free to decide, yet not free to do what they want, our freedom not coming accompanied by the faculty of having everything which we want performed. To be free means that you have the possibility of choosing among different possibilities, in deciding what I want to do among the spectrum of activities peculiar to humans. I am free to decide to try to climb Everest, yet given my physical state most probably a little after taking the first step I would already have fallen. This manifest incapacity does not diminish my liberty at all. The problem is that we cannot select what we want either. It depends upon the circumstances. That is true. The problem of freedom is that we feel compelled to choose in certain circumstances not chosen by us. That come given in the culture of the country where we were born, in the economic and social level of our family, in the circumstances of the age... None of us have opted to start from where we started, yet once we have taken note of what is the play of circumstances surrounding us, we can choose. We can even decide to act to change some of that conditioning. And it is also true that one decision influences the next: if we opt to go to dine in a Chinese restaurant, we are free to ask for the dishes we want providing they are on the menu. What you cannot do is order paella. The menu is imposed, and your selection is limited by the previous (and free) decision to go to eat Chinese. I would like to ask you about the relationship between the individual and the society. What can they contribute to each other? The individual is a product of society; more concretely, the urban society is one that produces individuals. The Amazonian tribes, for example, are much less individualist than the industrial societies. In the tribes everyone has to repeat a series of rituals, perform roles that are already written: the healer, the shoemaker, the women... There are no "different," "novel" lives, having no notion of the individual. The idea of a personality proceeding to differentiate herself from the rest is relatively modern. Even in Greece, the citizen who felt himself too superior, original or distinct was subjected to ostracism, which was a somewhat cruel practice. All the Athenian citizens voted with oyster shells, one shell per person, with white or black ones; if the man lost in the voting he was expelled from the polis, on the charge that he had chosen too particular a path for a society that gave great value to the maintenance of appearances and the like which would guarantee that all the citizens would have something in common. Societies however tend to favor the development of individuality. A curious thing about the films spooled during the Forties is that all the men appear to be dressed the same. The women used to dress more diversely (although not so much as now) yet the men of 60 years ago seemed to be wearing uniforms. There were four pieces in two colors to combine, and this is how the whole world was dressed. Now we have a very much greater variety of attire. To the degree that societies have become more complex, tasks and roles have been diversifying, and now it is very much easier to distinguish oneself from others. Nowadays there are social groups who can be recognized by how they dress, and persons who try to define and display their personality by the garments they select, for the cut or the colors. And clothing is only one example of the possibilities of singularizing ourselves that we have today. Society bets on developing individualities because it believes that thus it will keep improving the group. Individuals help society by contributing things that benefit the rest of us. I myself am happy that Mozart had been such a unique person, and that society, instead of condemning him to ostracism or repressing his singular personality, had favored the development of his talent, for in this way he could write music that still rewards us. In this day, what can the individuals who form the rest of society contribute which nurtures or enriches my life? To begin with, your humanity. All the things that allow you to live as a human being you receive from others, because you are a symbolic being, are a creature who thinks with words, who speaks, who utilizes a language and speech to communicate which you did not invent, such that your very mind belongs to society, is interiorized society itself. Society also offers you recognition. Why do we want money? Firstly because we have imitated the desire of others to have money, and secondly to enable obtaining things that are in society, and to be able to influence other people. If tomorrow you were told you would be banished to a deserted island and were asked what you would like to would answer, food, drink, some books, Catherine Zeta-Jones, a few useful things... Yet certainly it would not pass through your head to bring money, not even a million Euros. Even something which we want as much as money, we want to the degree that we can use it in society. What is most social that we can imagine is money, outside of society serving for absolutely nothing, having no interest. We individuals are somehow always seeking recognition and company. Who would want to live surrounded by expensive and marvelous objects with no subjects around them? The myth of king Midas deals with this, a man so ambitious that he only wanted gold, and when his desire turned to reality he became enclosed in the trap of his own ambition. Since everything he touched turned into gold, after a while he had more gold and anyone, yet nobody could be at his side without turning into metal. That which the myth recounts is not real, is not an historical report, yet indeed it is very true. We think that we can get by without others, are proud to feel independent, but everything contained in our desires, all our aspirations for making life worthwhile: power, beauty, money...we desire in order to influence others, to impress them. If the others are removed, over time, being poor or being ugly will strike you the same. The only thing that might interest you yourself, outside of whether others are there or not, is sickness, for anything else relates you to your neighbors and to your compatriots. It seems to me that we do not live our own life, that we live one inspired from outside. But that is not a clean distinction. No one is nourished solely with the ideas that her brain produces, and our mind is populated with foreign ideas, which come from your family, from your friends, from the writers, from the persons who talk on the radio and on television, from your rivals... Your head is full of things that do not derive from you, yet which you make your own, because the brain is a sort of map in progress of the world: it contains all that we have seen, the words written or uttered by others, the sensations, the impressions... The world comes into us in waves and later we have to organize it in one way or another, yet our mind is formed from materials that we absorb from outside. From another angle, do not think that being truly ourselves is as beneficial for our liberty as it seems. If we are forced to do anything it is to be ourselves and, thus, we are inclined to desire in accordance with what we are. Schopenhauer concerned himself with this problem: we are free to desire what we want, yes, yet always from a character and a personality that we do not choose: our own. We cannot choose to be something other than what we are, for that comes given, imposed. Only starting from that limited freedom can we act freely. But one does not choose to choose. Jean-Paul Sartre already said it: "Mankind is condemned to freedom." It cannot be renounced. Animals do not pose this problem because they are not free. Today one celebrates the 50th anniversary of the demise of a Galician humorist, Julio Camba, who has a marvelous book about cooking that is titled The house of Lúculo, where Camba explains, among other things, the story of the Longueiron, a crustacean from the beaches of Galicia. The longueiron lives in a hole in the sand, and when the tide rises water enters through the hole and the longueiron emerges. When the tide falls and the sand dries, the longueiron remains inside its hole, and does not come out. To fish for them one finds the holes, and puts a little water on them so that the longueiron exits. Camba recounts how he would entertain himself fooling the longuierons, putting water on them over and over, so they would go out and back in again. He made them so dizzy that at last the creatures would err, as if they were human. Because that is what characterizes humans, coming and going continuously, not in an automatic manner, but instead when we want or decide to. Therefore we make mistakes much more often than the animals, because we are free to show our heads at will. Should freedom be subordinated to the general interests of society? Yes, and it is logical that this should be so. It is one thing for us to have a good inclination to respect the different choices that everyone makes within the margins which each has for deciding. But, in another sense, like it or not, to be able to coexist in a functioning society there are many aspects that cannot be subject to each one's individuality, to what pleases one at that moment. We are accustomed to associate originality and spontaneity with positive and creative people, that is up to a certain point, but only up to a certain point. To prove that it is enough to think of someone who might tell us: "Look here, my spontaneity leads me to want to violate five year-old girls whenever I see them. That does not happen to you, and thus you attempt to imprison me before I act, yet that is because you are not as original as me, and my taste for five year-old girls arises as spontaneously from my character as your attraction towards adult women." There are moments when originality ceases to be a factor of creation and enrichment to become a harmful germ for society. In some Nordic countries groups are proliferating that have quite a surprising concept of religion. Some love not paying taxes and others have as dogma never to pay even a Euro for things that you download from the Internet. They have expressed these beliefs and assure us that if we oppose them we are offending their "original" religious liberty. In such cases the tolerance of "spontaneity" must be cut to the root. I think that we all should be disposed to be tolerant in those fields where selection is valid. You are a vegetarian, and do not want to eat meat. Fine, it is a perfectly lawful option. You can be given nutritional advice, will hear it or not, but I do not see any problem. Now then, however much you like to eat meat, you do not have freedom to express an attraction for human flesh, not even a nibble. A society functions when each individual is permitted to be themself and to develop their personality always complying with that to which everyone must comply so that society does not collapse. One can be himself always assuming that there exist a series of duties and responsibilities that are for everybody, whether we like it more or like it less. Upon this basis shared by all the citizens each can proceed with constructing a particular personality. Does freedom make us happier? In Ethics for Amador I cited an anecdote from don Miguel Azaña that applies to the case. When they asked him the same thing that now concerns you, whether freedom makes mankind happier, he answered them: "I know that it makes them more human." It is not that by being free we shall be happier, but that we shall become more human. There are movies where we see a soldier who commits an atrocity, even during combat, and afterwards he feels less human. Does a person who acts in a savage manner lose their essence? Well, we have no alternative but to be human. We are human like the geraniums are geraniums, clearly. Yet when we say that someone is human we do not refer only to their belonging to a natural species, but also refer to an ideal, something that we propose as transcendent. And that idea consists in that other humans recognize us as members of their group. In Macbeth, Shakespeare imagines a scene where Lady Macbeth is trying to convince her husband to go upstairs, where king Duncan, her guest, sleeps peacefully. Lady Macbeth tells him that the awaited moment has arrived, to go up and kill him, and thus later proclaim himself king (and she queen). And Macbeth replies that Duncan is not only his king, but is also an elder who has trusted him, and who now sleeps under his protection and his roof. Macbeth does not know whether he will be capable of burying a dagger in his flesh, is fearful that at the moment of truth the old man will open his eyes and look at him, is fearful that the two humanities will confront each other at the moment of assassination. Lady Macbeth reproaches him that a soldier like himself, who has participated in many wars and has killed many people, should now be afraid of a defenseless elder who sleeps in a bed. And Macbeth answers with something very wise: "I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none." For that is the idea: there exists a limit we do not dare surpass for fear of leaving our humanity, for fear of crossing the limit beyond which we are no longer recognized as part of the collectivity. Macbeth recounts the story of a person who pushed by ambition ends by leaving the human and through his deeds becoming an enemy of himself. That is the danger. On beauty Beauty is a gift, evidently, and it is a gift that all can admire because the persons, the objects and beautiful passages embellish the world, and have something of the ideal, of the unattainable. Thus a great French poet would say: "Beauty is that of which we despair." Yet it is true that, for some time to this point, beauty has become a sort of obligation. And, furthermore, it deals with a beauty determined by a specific canon, such that now it is not something which enriches the world, but instead which impoverishes it. Pressures are created to attain it that provoke situations such as anorexia, and the exclusion of age groups or persons of a certain appearance; talented individuals of those with merit at other levels can spend life suffering because their face or their body does not conform to the canon. What is monstrous is not that which remains outside the category of beauty, but instead the idea itself of beauty as an external imposition that can become a torture. The fear of aging and of losing health and beauty is not new, has always existed, and there are hundreds of tales and novels about this situation. What does seem to be a new phenomenon is that in our era a positive model does not exist for older people. We elderly have to pretend that we are young because whoever is not young in our society is sick. Youth, for sociological reasons of consumption, et cetera, has become the totality of life; if you do not want to be excluded, you should pretend that you are young until the tomb. Such an attitude has its dangers. It is not only that we are all going to be old, if we have the luck of living long enough, but as Voltaire said: "He who has not the spirit of this age, has all the misery of it." All the ages, youth, maturity, old age, have some type of virtue only given at that moment. If we do not enjoy them, then we only emphasize the defects common to the other ages. Religion, God and mortality Very fine philosophers such as Spinoza talk of the love of God, but the expression must be understood as an acceptance of the Universe just such as it is. There exists a love towards the totality of existing things equivalent to an affirmation, equivalent to saying "yes" to whatever there is, to renouncing the perpetual antagonism to that which is, although afterwards we keep fighting to reform the aspects that most disgust us. The love that we know is that which we feel for other human beings and for some living beings. It is a love marked by a concern to preserve the beloved person, so they do not leave us, so they do not disappear. Love is wanting something to keep existing, and therefore an indestructible being cannot be loved. Thus in a literal sense I do not understand the expression "love of God." God is precisely our idea of the eternal, which cannot go, nor can we lose it. Therefore we cannot love God, like we cannot love Everest, can like it, but it is absurd to love it, because it will continue there when you die. Everything that we know about mortality we learn observing the absence of others. Our own personal demise is unthinkable, eludes us. Freud wrote that despite all of us saying that we are going to die, at bottom nobody believes it. Yet the demise of others is very credible and real, for we experience it. Therefore mortality as a fate is the reverse of life in general, and to reflect upon it helps us to understand our condition and the love that we feel for life. What do you think about God? I have never understood very well what it is, have little familiarity with God. I hear the things that people say about God, who speak as if they knew it personally, yet I do not understand what it is. I cannot even tell you that it does not exist because I do not know what that would assume. I know stories, legends...yet all seems a little ethereal to me. The African tribe of the Masai utilize the same word to express "God" and "I do not know," and to me a little of the same thing happens, so regarding reference to God I am somewhat Masai. You have said that you do not understand how one can love God because she cannot love something that is not going to end. But I think that people love God precisely because they know that it is them who are going to die. Then we deal with a self-interested love. One must have friends everywhere. There was an epoch when I was absorbed with themes of terrorism, and lived under threat, with a bodyguard... One day I went into the street in Madrid and a woman approached me and said: "I know that you are not a believer, but I pray a great deal for you." And I responded: "Madam, keep praying for me, because I do not believe in God, yet like every good Spaniard believe in recommendations, so that, just in case, keep recommending me." Do religions stand above morality? Should we accept that a Muslim religion deprecates women out of respect for some cultural beliefs that are not our own? Morality and religion are different things. The problem is that for many years we have lived with the idea that morality is subject to religion, as the priests claim. Yet what is true is that from the bishop to the parish what they speak of is religion, a very respectable matter for one who believes, but only for one who believes. Whereas authentic morality if something valid for believers and for non-believers, and invokes the capacity to reason of every person in the world. In Ethics for Amador I expounded a basic difference between religion and morality that continues to be valid: morality pursues a better life and religion seeks something better than life. They are substantially different goals. To me to behave well because later someone will give you a prize does not seem a very moral attitude. Imagine that you see a child who has fallen into a river and is drowning and you jump into the water to save it, yet that does not have the same moral value if you attempt to rescue it knowing that its father is a millionaire who is going to recompense you generously. It is not the same to jump in solely to save a life as to do so for money. Something similar occurs with religion, where bribing heaven will be holy, yet is also a bribe. And that is what religions propose: a payment for behaving well. Religions, while they are not obligatory, are a private right of each citizen, yet cannot attempt to constitute a duty for anybody, and still less for the entire society. They must be defended as individual rights always given that they do not prejudice anyone. It seems fine to me that, if a woman believe that she cannot drive a car because it is a sin, that she not drive, yet if someone obliges her not to drive the car because he believes it is a sin and prohibits it, now that cannot be permitted. Then, do you consider that some cultural norms can be valued, judged and rejected? The idea that cultures cannot be judged is a post-modern occurrence. A culture where diverse religious options can coexist without exclusions and without persecutions is better, objectively, than one where there can only be one religion and where the other faiths are prohibited and persecuted. A culture where men and women, whatever their race may be, have the same rights, the same labor and political possibilities, and are treated equally, is better than a culture where only the men command or where there is discrimination over color of the skin. That idea that every culture has its own value, which cannot be judged, is the fallacy of context, the false idea that every opinion and cultural norm must be seen inside a context where it acquires its value, such that nothing is true or false, nor can be judged outside of its context. I defend there being a general context, the context of human reason. Human reason is that which attempts to establish a code of universal rights, from which other contexts can be judged. We are all granted reason, and it is not the reason of one against the reason of another, but instead pure reason for all cultures: human reason. Animal rights Only persons can have rights because they are something which some humans concede to others. An animal can have all the rights we can think of, but only if mankind concedes them, by consensus. The idea of right assumes that of duty, and of those given rights duties, in return, should be required. Thus animals remain through their own nature outside the sphere of rights, because they cannot deliberately attend to their duties. It cannot be claimed that a chicken has the duty of laying eggs in exchange for their rights. We employ the majority of animals according to our needs, and over centuries have specialized them to the point where it is not absurd to say that they are "invented" animals. The cow has neither duty nor obligation to give milk, but simply gives it. The play between rights and duties is based on human freedom and thus has no application to animals because they do not enjoy the ability to choose regarding their activity, from which we benefit or may defend. The treatment of animals should be ruled by a different concept from that of rights. For it is indeed true that we can treat them better or worse. That treatment could be based upon the emotional relations that are indeed established with them. We know that they are living beings and can feel pain. And even though the neurologists say that animals do not feel pain like we do, there are sufficient indicators to believe that a dog also hurts if you give it a kick. We establish empathetic links with them, their suffering offends us and, thereupon, we can have consideration for the animals. Yet those considerations, that empathy, do not emerge from rights, but from a preference or a personal sympathy. For example, if you pass in front of a tree and see a little bird who just fell and is on the ground, incapable of resuming flight, since you are a compassionate person, you lift the bird and return it to the nest before the snake comes by and eats it. All the world will say that you are a good-hearted boy, though you have left the poor snake without a snack. To the little bird you have no moral obligation, no duty to help it, and if you do so it is because you have a sensibility that considers little birds more appealing than snakes. But if when you pass before the tree what you hear crying is a child who has fallen or has been abandoned, you have an obligation to help it, the moral duty. And if you pass at a distance, and do not help, legal responsibility can be asked of you. It does not deal with a sentimental preference, but with an objective duty. But then it is ourselves who decide who has rights? Of course. Ethics is the same as language, a human invention. It is as if you tell me there are only combs for humans, a slight discrimination. The fact is that animals are not combed, they scratch, and thus do not need combs. Their needs are different. Since they have not developed a language to accompany them in moral deliberation, they are not free. Responsibility cannot be placed on them. They know what they do, and do that for which they are programmed. To you it may seem that the tiger is cruel, yet that is a human interpretation. The tiger behaves like a tiger, so how is the poor animal going to be cruel. In Balares I once saw a herpetology exposition of serpents. They had a tremendous python and twice a day they fed it by giving it live mice. When they heard of it, the Protective Association gave a cry to heaven and raised a protest against the cruelty of those responsible for the exposition. But pythons in fact only eat live animals, and if given cadavers were going to die of hunger. Those from the Association were carried away because the python has an evil face and the little mouse seems so defenseless... Yet in the wild state these distinctions are absurd, and neither is the serpent bad nor the mouse good, having neither pity nor cruelty, for in nature there is no moral behavior nor can it be immoral. We humans are those who can think, deliberate and act. Therefore we have developed morality, pity and cruelty, rights and duties, to guide us through the labyrinth of decisions. Thus we ourselves are the only ones who can attribute such values. What is your opinion of bullfights? Do you agree that they should be prohibited? To respond to that I have to mention the rodeo. The animals are defeated. One must differentiate clearly between wild animals and those of human creation, for there are animals that are human inventions. Nature does not produce Iberian pigs, nor racehorses, nor brave bulls, nor milk cows; they do not exist.When we go to a truly wild site, we find very few of those domestic animals. We better appreciate the enormous distance between a wolf and a chihuahua, the amount of human effort invested to move from one to the other. I recognize that all living beings have feelings, that they cannot be kicked as if they were a table and chair, but it is absurd to think that these races have a destiny beyond the purposes for which humans have been adapting them. Has someone asked the Iberian pig if it wants to be used to make ham? No. We have made them for that. Our way of asking them has been to produce an animal that will give ham. The fundamental mistreatment would be to treat this class of animals outside of the use that we have agreed to give them. If I use a domestic cat as a pincushion to stick pins in, well it is true that I can be accused of being cruel with the cat, just as if you hold a bullfight with a sheep. You are trying to get a being that has been conceived for one function to perform a different one which, furthermore, causes it pain and brings you no benefit. But it is a little absurd to accuse someone who gets ham from the Iberian pig or milk from the milking cow of mistreatment, because they are animals which if they did not provide that benefit would disappear within a few years. If tomorrow we arrive at the conclusion that Jabugo ham produces irreversible cancer in all human beings, well, Jabugo pigs are done for. There are no more. They have no more goal for existing than that. The case of the brave bulls is similar. It is evident that if tomorrow bullfights were suppressed, the first thing to be done would be to sacrifice some 180,000 bulls that there are in Spain. And not all go to bullfights: there are the calves, the cows... When you argue like this they always answer you: "They will not become extinct, we shall keep some in zoos, to reproduce the species." Fine, the fact is that, in trade for doing away with corridas, and avoiding the killing of some brave bulls, some 179,980 bulls would have to be wiped out, and the remaining ten distributed to some zoological parks to have them as an example of an animal which lived in another time. It is a paradox that a humanism which is protective of animals should be asking without meaning to for the extinction of certain species because they are linked to desires and projects contrary to the projects which animated the proliferation of those animals. The view is out of focus because the rest of the animals have stopped being adversaries to mankind. Such that they have stopped being animals that can rip off your head in one blow to being poor little animals. Yet the Bengal tiger, the white shark and the other ferocious beasts seem to be poor little animals because now we can destroy them whenever we please. But it has not always been like this. For now the fear of the devil no longer exists; his projection in the movies exists, of course, with monster movies, yet we all know that the devil is an atavistic fear. Anthropologists tell us that the human species probably organized into groups in order to defend themselves from predators. Perhaps a great feline existed with sabre teeth, which noticed that we hairless monkeys were the easiest to catch, and dedicated itself to systematically hunting us. The monkeys, our ancestors, took advantage of what intelligence they had to organize into groups to defend themselves. Probably defense against predators was the beginning of our societies. Now predators only remain because we protect them, do not destroy them, leaving some free, yet all live in our garden. When one bothers us we exterminate it and are done with it. The animal, as a threat, as an adversary, has disappeared, and human beings make sacred that which has disappeared. There are no peasants enamored of the landscape, for they are sunk in it, know the sacrifice and the effort at first hand, but at the moment when they go to the city and into a tavern, they begin to recall how lovely their village was at night. We all make what we do not have sacred, that which no longer exists. Probably the cult of the dead comes from that: since they are not here, we convert them into saints, into gods, yet equally we would be displeased if they returned. And the same thing happens with the animals. As a child I did not have much contact with animals, but in San Sebastián there were still carts pulled by horses, and the zoos enchanted me, the first time that I visited a city: now they are disappearing, are removed from urban soil because they no longer interest people, can now be seen on television. It is those animals that we cannot have at home, with which we do not have frequent dealings, that we tend to glorify, to make sacred, to believe we need to save or defend. Third part Public thinking Democracy and participation The most hopeful thing that I saw in the 15-M Movement was the relations among citizens. They went out to the street, and even though great things did not happen to them, they gathered with each other, and said: "Let us talk about it." It was as if they thought: "Instead of staying at home to watch a futbol match, and wait for others to fix the world for me, I am going out, am going to mix, am going to see for myself." And this attitude was very good. Of course often a solution is not found, because not with the best will in the world are you going to find outright a solution to complex problems that involve so many collectivities. Yet it is true that it reflected a change, and we noticed that politics concerns everyone. It is very important to open one's eyes to that we are a society whose public affairs should be managed by everyone. That is why it is called society, because we are associates, and there is no enterprise from which you can disengage, for it is not advisable to leave everything in the hands of the executives. It is neither practical nor intelligent. It helped to become aware that politics was not only a negative thing, a nuisance and a loss of time. For a moment we stopped hearing sentences like: "I do not get into politics," "Politics is so evil," "No, no, I do not want to discuss politics." The citizens discovered that if you do not get into politics, later or sooner, politics will get into you, which is what is happening now, when politics has even come into the dining room of people and families. So then, is it important for everyone to participate in politics and not simply the politicians? The great invention of Greek democracy was to compel all citizens to join and discuss and vote upon the issues that concerned them. It did not occur to anyone to submit a scientific theory to a vote; instead, it makes sense to debate how we organize public safety, because there are various options, and we cannot measure them to know which is the best. Each has its advantages and its disadvantages, and benefits some more than others. Thus, what we do is explain them and later we decide which appears best to us. We run the risk of being mistaken, of course, yet it is the only alternative to a dictatorial decision. That is why it is so important to learn to value democracy. In a world where 80 percent of humanity lives in a dictatorship, under the dominion of fanaticism...those of us with the luck of living in the privileged zone of the world cannot spend the day complaining as if we inhabit an inferno. It seems to me that ours is a fictitious democracy. All are. They make us think that we have the right to vote and that it is we who choose, yet when the elections are over they do what they wish. With democracy you can do whatever you want except rest. Democracy is a regimen for not standing still, for being always attentive and vigilant, ready to act. Democracy gives you the possibility of intervening, of controlling, of casting out the governor you have put in, because he has defrauded you, because you discover that he is corrupt, because you consider him not competent enough. But if you tire, you are history. Democracy is a permanent motivation for you to intervene in society. It occurs like in the meetings of neighbors, which I never go to because I am not drawn to debate about the elevator. I delegate another person to go for me, and if they later make a foolish decision of something I do not like, well I have to endure it. I know that I do wrong, like they do wrong who on a larger scale do exactly the same. Yet there are people who go to the neighbor meetings, and get nothing either. That is the excuse of those who never go. The first critique of Athenian democracy you will find in a political text that we call Anónimo ateniense. It was probably written by a Spartan oligarch, and you can already find there the same objections of which we are speaking: "The people do not know what they are talking about." "Do what you say, because there is always someone else who will shout louder." And consider that in Athens 15,000 persons would gather, without microphones or speakers, so it is natural that they would not be heard. In Greece they paid the poorest to go to the assembly, despite that the difference between the richest and the poorest was very slight if you compare it with today. And they paid them because it was considered indispensable for all to go, and thus the poorest were left without the excuse that if they attended they would go without eating. But that small salary was sufficient for them to begin to be suspected of bribery, that they voted for whatever appealed to the richest. All these objections that were made to democracy in Pericles' times might be true, and I am convinced that corruption is not something which has come to us for neglecting the essentials, but instead that corruption formed part of democracy since its origin. And despite everything, the Athenians felt that it was worthwhile to defend it against the threat of the only political alternative offered in its time, which was the Spartan dictatorship. Similarly you all know a very famous line from Churchill: "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." And he is right, democracy is a political system full of holes, of faults and deficiencies, which costs us a lot of time and penalizes us with tremendous stress if we take it seriously. And which, furthermore, if you do not take it seriously will surely function fatally. It has no other advantage than being better than the other available systems. I think we are not all politicians, because there are persons who prefer to dedicate their time to being with their children, with their families... They do not get into the fight, and it is enough if they are paid a little attention. Unfortunately, I too believe that that is what the majority does. What happens is that however much you wish to ignore politics, politics has no intention of ignoring you. Those youths with whom you play need an education, and healthiness... Their marriage is governed by certain laws of union and of separation... The taxes that burden their work, the pensions due to them when they retire, even their salaries... All that depends upon political measures, is decided by some representatives chosen by all, in one of those elections said to "pass," for it is neither coming nor going, because according to them "nothing of yours" is in play. Under democracy you cannot choose to be a political subject or not, are within a polis, belong to a world that is doing politics all the time. Naturally, many organizations will reward you for being disinterested in politics, because you are handing your participation to someone who will use it in favor of their interests. So they are going to say that you do very well, that considering what is occurring it is quite sensible to dedicate yourself to your own. The Athenians had that fine intuition of obligating all citizens to participate in politics. And if that generated a strong conflict and someone, in order to stay on the margin, were to defend himself saying that he was not a politician, then they applied a specific term to designate him, one which we employ for other things. They called him an idiot. The idiot was idion, one who only wants to be himself. The idiot is one who thinks he can live live only for himself, absolving himself from the political fray. But, how can we make people be more involved in politics? In Greece we know that the slaves maintained the system, because that left the citizens with time free to dedicate themselves to their friends and to political affairs. Yet at this point today people have to work. The majority of the Athenian citizens also worked. Above all the poorest, for those could not pass the day contemplating the sky. They remunerated them so they could find no excuse. With the living standard that we have reached in Europe right now, that of not being able to intervene in politics because you have to work is an excuse. It is like persons who excuse not reading because they cannot find a moment. To think, to intervene in politics, that time must be sought, extracted from anywhere. The most important things in life are not written in the schedule on the agenda, will not be found in the daily plan. The schedule and the plan tell you: "breakfast," "first lesson," "meeting with the directors"...but they will never tell you at what time you have to fall in love, what edge of the day is good for you to reflect on life... The time to dedicate to the truly important things for us must be torn from current obligations, and politics is one of those decisive things for which we shall never find a notice on the agenda. It is said there were 25 thousand inhabitants in Greece, and in Spain we are 40 million and the population increases. It is true that we enjoy better communication media than then, but they had representatives and spokespersons more adjusted to reality due to belonging to a smaller group of persons... Well, they did not always have representatives. The boulé was that which made decisions, was indeed more representative, but the ekklesía was everybody, where the 20 thousand gathered. Also, today we have better mechanisms than ever for participation. In Athens there were only 15 or 20 thousand persons, yet they had to listen without means for open-air voice projection, and thus they shouted. Today we are millions, yet we enjoy technology to connect between ourselves, with that of which the Athenians could not even dream. Yet here we cannot include 40 million to discuss one or more themes, so that democracy is no longer a valid system. That is why political parties were invented. The Greeks did not have political parties because all the citizens were political agents, so they were not missed. The parties have been born because they divide the society into general political visions, and thus everything becomes more manageable. You do not know all the politicians who run, yet since they run under a specific acronym, with a detailed political program, you have a clear idea of who they are and what they think of doing. The parties serve to orient you, to indicate the basic ideology which the persons have who compete in the elections and whom you might mistrust because you do not know them personally. Of course now you can become much better informed about them. Previously all the campaigns were based on rallies in the bullrings, in the villages; persons would go with very different ideas, the politicians said how it seemed to them, and could convince some, and others, no. However today, with the possibility of knowing through the Internet it seems absurd to keep convening rallies in the bullrings; the proof is the small volume of people who turn up, and keep doing so through inertia; there are so many things in the society and in politics that are now only done for symbolic reasons... Do you think that something can be or interest that the candidate says in the plaza or in the theater when everybody who has gone there are affiliated friends who come to support her? The truth is that those acts could be canceled to reduce expenditures; imagine the savings it would mean to fully use the possibilities of the Internet during political campaigns, or even to debate laws. But ideologies are stereotypes. It would be very important to thoroughly know those persons who are going to represent us. A stereotype is not bad, is a tentative form of knowledge, halfway between comfort and mental laziness. The effort of intellectual maturity is based on attempting to question the stereotype, to go a little beyond, to test whether we can transform it into a finer instrument of analysis. Yet since we are not only spectators, these objections can motivate us to act. It is certain that mass society lends itself to interchange of commonplaces and of stereotypes. Yet it is also true that the area of mutual understanding that the Internet has opened had not existed before, that only a few decades ago the possibility of knowing so many people and being able to exchange opinions would have been considered a dream. Now that we have that technological advantage available, the question is to see how we are going to develop it. Yet I observe that the political parties do not fight for the general benefit, but instead fight to accumulate power for themselves, that they deceive the society to vote for them. That is a real risk. Yet in democracy it has a solution. If your tennis shoes rot, you go out and buy others. And so in life there are things that begin very well and little by little are spoiled for whatever reason, and then they must be changed. The Romans had an aphorism: corruptio optimi pessima, which means that when what is corrupted was good, the result will be worse than if it had only been bad. Thus when the politicians falter they must be exchanged for others. And one must offer herself and participate so as to keep living in a system that permits us to substitute them. You make us believe that there are persons who think better than we do. They say that they can solve my problems, yet if those problems are mine and affect me, there is no one better than myself to solve them. There are things that affect me personally that it is better to leave in the hands of specialists. When your body fails and they have to operate you do not grab the knife and cut your flesh yourself. You go in search of an expert who merits your confidence and place yourself in their hands. Society is full of specialized professionals. They can pilot the plane for you, build your house... But nobody can be you for you. There are a series of important things that you cannot delegate. It should be me who speaks, who decides, who acts, although later it may be to adhere to the majority, being the same, and I have to decide myself, no other can decide. And one must be alert, because it is a right others will constantly want to buy from you or suppress. But democracy is not valid if the politicians deceive us. It is not that they deceive us, we let them deceive. We cannot be so innocent, for we human beings live deceptively in society. Words have been ceded to us to conceal our thoughts. Politics, like any social relation, establishes an interplay between the truth, the lie, veracity and falsity. There are politicians who speak more truths than others, parties which lie more, and others less, but the game never is completely clean. If no one is interested in indicating the untruths they attempt to have us swallow, we can offer ourselves to speak the truths which nobody wants to hear. That is the field of battle of democracy. In the Middle Ages, the site where tournaments were decided was named "the field of truth." And that field is now the public space of the political, where we play, debate and struggle. And what can we do when they do not hear us? For that there are elections. That is the heart of democracy, that we are all politicians. And if those who command do so badly, we shall be responsible if we do not change them for some who do it better. It amuses me when they shout: "They do not represent us." Of course they represent us and decide for us, like it or not. Since without politics one cannot live, it is important to do politics before someone else does it for you. What is happening in this country is that simply to rant is considered doing politics. Whoever criticizes already believes they have entered into politics. Until 30 years of age I lived in a dictatorship where everyone criticized Franco in the bar, and then went to work without lifting a finger, as no one had the slightest intention of acting. And naturally, Franco died of old age in bed. As a politician, say what they want of him in the bar, you will not move one hair of his mustache. The same thing is happening now, rant being preferred to risking a search for a solution, a personal commitment. You mentioned that the Greek gods were an example to follow for the Greeks, while persons of other beliefs like the Christians did not support their behavior and how they abused their power. Could this reproach be applied to current politics? Well, the Greek gods were not an example for anyone. No Greek said: "I am going to behave like Zeus." The Greeks were very clear that the gods had a life proper to immortal beings and that it would be hard for them to be able to teach some mortal creatures like the humans to behave. The women of Greece did not listen to the mythic tales to learn from the example of Venus. The myths did not consist of moral examples, did not deal with a moral religion. To Aristotle, when he wrote the Nichomachean ethics, it does not occur to him to mention any god as an example, reverting to heroes, to famous men. Beyond that opinion which we devalue as dogma, the genius of Christianity was to invent the idea of a God who wants to become mortal to know how mankind suffers, because that is the only way of understanding us. At times the Greek gods assumed a human appearance to amuse themselves, yet that was a disguise, for they could not be harmed nor killed. In becoming a man, God includes the mortal nature sufficiently to comprise a moral example. The idea that religion can be a source of morality was introduced by Christianity. I do not think many people interpret the actions of the politicians in exemplary terms, nor seek a moral guide in their public performance. Nor do I think that the politicians consider themselves above morality, the problem being that with excessive frequency the feel invulnerable, alien to citizen control. The problem is not that there are instances of corruption, but that the corruption goes unpunished. I believe that we humans are everything bad that we are allowed to be. If someone thinks that at some moment they can do something to gain an advantage, and if they are completely certain no one can throw it in their face, then they will do it. The democratic task is not to correct human nature, nor their attraction to traps, but instead to create a society that reassures us that the antisocial behaviors are not going to remain without punishment. Kant took note of a very important thing while he investigated morality: even one who lies and robs prefers that others fulfill the norms; of course the immoral persons want to continue setting traps, yet they demand that others respect the norms. The liar prefers that the rest of the world tell the truth, for if everyone lies, no one will believe anything, and he will be unable to have an advantage. We can say the same about one who does not pay taxes, since how could they want everybody to be like them and ruin Social Security? Very many people, at some moment, attempt to skirt the norms to derive something of advantage, but no one wants to live in a society without norms. Because in a place where everyone were to lie, steal and assassinate, each and every one of us would be in permanent danger. One of Kant's great contributions to ethics was to teach us that to recognize a moral norm one must ask: do I want all the world to do this? If I see a child that has fallen into the water, though I may be incapable of jumping in to save it, what I would want is that all adult persons who were to pass by there would have the bravery to attempt it. To save a child who is drowning is a moral norm, whether or not I am capable of fulfilling it, because even though I could not throw myself in I would like it if all we adults were capable of helping children. The politicians know there are moral norms (not to steal is one, because no one wants to live in a world where all were to steal) yet they do not always want to fulfill them. In that sense they are not so different from ourselves, it being simpler of course to see the evils in others and take a broad view of our own corruptions. There are many citizens who become sick when they see that politicians steal, yet who peacefully pass the afternoon on the Internet robbing films, books, songs... And since it benefits them, and so also to continue this way, they do not think that their corruption would be comparable to that of the politicians. And that is a true moral problem: that the critique of which we are such fans we very rarely project towards ourself. Self-criticism is a very rare species to see. What you have said regarding persons who do something immoral knowing that they will not be punished made me think of the 2003 Azores summit. Can what was decided there be judged as immoral? Morality deals with individual options, over which everyone has their own liberty. Yet we can distinguish two levels. There is a general level, which refers to the obligations that we have to others by the mere fact of being human. For example, do not kill your neighbor. They are morally valid questions for all of us. Afterwards are the obligations that derive from occupying a determinate public office, or the professional function of each. Such that there are some specific moral questions according to the role we play in society. The Greeks had a very useful word, Ta Deonta, which means "the necessary things," that which must be, that which is needful at every moment. At the brunch hour we can make jokes, recount anecdotes, falsehoods, ideas that have passed through our heads... We speak unreflectively for we are with friends, but when we enter the hall and assume the role of educators, we would fall short of our duty were we to say things which we believe only to sound agreeable. In a class I have an obligation, out of respect for my pupils, to say what I think is the truth. There are things which, in a gathering or a social circle, can even be pleasant, yet in a class not be permitted. Nothing happens from spreading a rumor or a falsity among friends, nor by telling lies to execute a joke, yet if you work in communication media now you should not spread false rumors, and your work should impose greater caution. You yourselves are conscious that you can receive an education that the greater part of humanity of your age cannot enjoy, which is prohibited to the youth in many nations, and that imposes on you some unique obligations, specific to your ages, that will no longer affect you when you turn 40, yet which now are important to respect. As you see, there are moral responsibilities according to age, role or work. What happens with the political offices is that the responsibilities of their office become immoral attitudes which in regular life they are not. We all like to receive gifts, but if you are a politician with an important post, to receive gifts can go against the Ta Deonta. You have to pay for your wardrobe and your clothes, because given the office that you occupy no gift will turn out to be free to you, and later they will ask for your support, are going to try to benefit from your influence, so you are going to lose the neutrality that the management of public funds requires. I know I said that in a democracy we are all politicians, that their attribution of power depends on us, yet when a person individually occupies a public office they have obligations pertaining to their post: they should do things in an honorable manner, of course, but also should be very careful not to err. A politician who errs can do much damage. Morality is good intentions, but of a politician, like a surgeon, like any specialist in the performance of their charge, something more must be asked, and having the best intentions does not suffice if they destroy the body or sink the nation. That is the big difference between morality and politics. From the politician specific preparation must be demanded. Then, from that viewpoint, could good intentions have decided in the Azores? I do not know, I cannot rule on whether those people had good or bad intentions, which is the proper domain of ethics. We already know what the results were, and it is true that a politician is judged by their results. The president Lyndon Johnson of the United States introduced a series of very important social protections. With the idea of improving life in the ghettos, he decided to help single mothers, who were very numerous, with money, so that they could feed their children... The intention of the president could not have been better, but the results were quite ordinary, because what was achieved with those measures was that the majority of the African-Americans would never marry. The man lived from the subsidy money that the single mother received, and so he did not feel obliged to work either. In this arrangement, some decades later, the effort of the Koreans, the Greeks or the Vietnamese had helped them to progress socially, while the African-Americans remained behind. This economic and social disaster was due in large measure to some well- intentioned help that turned out badly. It is also true that Lyndon Johnson ended discrimination in the schools, and that thanks to his endeavor, today we have a black president in the White House, yet regarding results that plan was a disaster. When it concerns evaluating political action one must think of the results, of the benefits that the country obtains. You said before that, by nature, however much human beings have, we want more. Then politicians, since what they have is power, will also want more power. Yes, but I was referring, above all, to us wanting more political freedom, more comfort... That when we have obtained certain rights, it does not appeal to us to retreat... However pessimistic one may be, they must recognize that an improvement in the conditions of life has been produced. Even in Athenian democracy, that we so much admire, there were slaves who were not permitted to vote. And all the women were excluded from political life because it was considered that they belonged in the domain of the family, like the animals and the plants. The women were under the control of the domestic hierarchy, as opposed to the sphere of liberty and of equals, the agora, where discussion reigned. Today the woman has been incorporated into the political world, which in fact is a recent triumph, very recent. And the poor too now enjoy the right to vote. These improvements stem from prolonged progress over time. And now we want more freedom, and to improve the way whereby the citizenry can participate in political decisions. No one is content with what they have, seemingly a problem, yet it is also the impulse that permits us to improve. I would distinguish that wanting more with the intention of improving, of wanting more in the sense of accumulation, which can end very badly. I do not know if you might have seen the movie Citizen Kane, which starts with a man who spends life accumulating, possessed by the desire to have more, and at the end has so many boxes full of things, placed one atop the others, that he cannot even open them to see what is inside. A politician can experience what happened with Kane, with one difference: the politicians do not have power. The politicians may believe that the power is theirs, but that thought is as real as if they seem to believe they have three eyes. In fact, it is an occurrence that must immediately be rejected by the head (that of power, not that about the eyes). The politician has the power that we citizens give him, and only for the time for which we agree to give it. What profile do you think a good politician should have? I remember that I was invited to participate in an ethics committee whose members were asked to determine the conditions that should be united in a person for her to be given a special authorization to have dangerous dogs, because such a dog cannot fall into the hands of anyone. When it was my turn to talk I said that the first condition for having a dangerous dog was not to want to have it for it seemed to me a very bad signal for one to want to have a pernicious dog in the house. In The Republic, Plato says, not as ironically as it seems at first glance, that the biggest part of being good as a politician is not to want to be one, because experience tells us that wanting to be a politician is a very bad signal. The ideal politician would be one whom we would have to go out to seek, who we would drag by force to Congress, and who would pass legislation dreaming of the day when they would be left alone. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, of that I am entirely convinced. What is democracy for you, then? The main thing about democracy is that it is not the end of the match, is not a destination which must be attained and once reached all the problems are over. Thanks to democracy, for instance, we enjoy accurate communication media, which can go forwards if they have public support. Thanks to democracy we can defend ourselves from the pirates who rob others' goods on the Internet, who are as corrupt as the politicians, although it is harder for us to recognize them. Democracy is a tool to solve problems, as the crescent wrench of yours, yet if you leave the crescent wrench on the table without touching it it will not tighten a single bolt; so with democracy the same thing happens, and by itself it resolves nothing. Napoleon would say that with bayonets he could do anything except sit on them, and it is the same with democracy, not being for sitting and resting, but an instrument to fight for the ideas that we like, and oppose those which do not suit us, and sometimes it comes out well and others badly, yet we cannot go to sleep. Democracy is a system of selection where content, which can be very diverse, is inserted afterwards. Observe the big differences there have been between democracies throughout history. In the most important democracy on the planet the candidates have to explain their religious beliefs and account for their personal life, something that in the European democracies, where public and private life are still distinguished, would be a scandal. We have seen a black president of the United States, and sooner or later a woman will preside, but I do not think we shall see an atheist president or who admits not being religious, nor a single person either. And the reason is that that is the content which the people of the nation give it, because democracy depends upon what the citizenry wants. Justice and equality If we look at it from a certain perspective it must be recognized that justice has widened over the last centuries. Previously there were a series of estates which could only be judged by their peers. Over many centuries it was considered that the prince was not only powerful, but also of a different nature from that of ordinary citizens who, in turn, were better than the slaves. If a count or a duke killed one of his servants with a kick to the head, he was not judged by a regular judge, but was judged by one of his own. Until quite recently, India was ruled by a system of castes that guaranteed a social hierarchy from birth and which lasted the life of the individual. Nobody was scandalized by these inequalities that disappeared not long ago. Thomas Jefferson wrote a sentence that is a great truth: "the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them." Thus over centuries, and still today, among ourselves, persons were found who thought like this. But we as a society no longer believe in superiority by birth. One can understand up to a certain point the enormous inequalities which generate social and economic interplay, between impresarios and vagabonds, for example, yet we do not tolerate that justice treats some citizens in a different manner than others if they have committed the same crime. Injustices scandalize us. We have the most egalitarian society that has ever existed but, on the other hand, it keeps being less egalitarian than we would like. We not only want everyone to receives it, but also that no one is left out. Previously it was said that justice is the same for all. In the Salvados program, they had a chapter that they titled "Is justice the same for all?" and in one of the sections of the program, they spoke with one of the judges who oversaw a corruption case. And the judge said that for one who wields power it is easier to transgress and rob than for one dedicated to scams on a small scale. The crime of someone who steals millions of Euros will turn out cheaper than for one who steals a little, because they have sufficient power not to have to spend many years in jail. Thus justice is not equal for everyone. Justice is equal for all, and what is not equal for all is the capacity to scoff at it. There are people who have a social position that makes it easier for them to dodge justice than for others. Theoretically, the judge has to act as if there were no differences, yet it is true that those who have more resources and better lawyers will always be better able to confront justice. The majority of the people who are in jail are there for being poor. Above all they are guilty of poverty, misery and ignorance. Then it is true that justice is measured with different scales. That is because there are persons having much weight and influence in society, and they inspire more fear in everyone. Fear is paralyzing, and leaves you at the mercy of whoever injects it, whether because they carry a pistol or because they hold such a powerful office than no one dares to meddle with them. Therefore it is fundamental to fight to educate the people against fear, so as not to have to live in an enslaved society. How are rights going to be equal with the society being so unequal? We all have the same rights, but the society is not equal for everyone in anything. At a party, the ugly has fewer opportunities than the handsome, and one who has no charm has less opportunity than the charming. We human beings are unequal, and thus we had to invent juridical equality. Some of us are strong, others weak, some amusing... Juridical equality allows us to start from the same basis of rights, but life will make distinctions between everyone, because some have gifts and capacities, and others, no. Yet juridical equality acts so that the strongest and the most clever cannot put a riding saddle on those who are not as clever and strong in order to dominate them with their spurs. How are the judges going to watch the politicians if they have been selected by the parties? The Council on Judicial Power is one of those things that is never well understood. But it was what the citizens authorized. It was not the judges who imposed this system of selection. It was in the Parliament, by initiative of the representatives chosen by us, where it was decided that the judges should staff their directive organs following an equitable distribution. It is folly, of course, but was authorized by the citizenry. Thus it is so important not to disengage from politics, knowing that which we are authorizing at every moment. It is not worthwhile to lament after the evils that exist, and throw hands over the head, if we have first given them our permission, although we were not cognizant of what we did because we were lackadaisical. What is your opinion in the case of judge Garzón? It is not only a moral question. There are some guidelines for behavior proper for each office to employ. A judge should not only be an upright person of good will, but also has to comply with some established requirements. The alternative is those films to which the North Americans are so susceptible, where a cop who by day is bored because the laws oblige him to respect the detained and not torture them, entertains himself by night hitting them with sticks to extract information. Movies are movies, yet the majority believe that in real life the police are not like that. Their commitment is to fulfill the law, and not violate it. Police who act outside of the law, although it be with the best intention, inspire much fear. The same occurs or should occur with judges. We should demand that they sanction those who infringe the law, and at the same time that they do so without exceeding the established legal bounds. It is a difficult balance, yet they are trained and compensated to perform it. If a judge at a specific moment, though it be with best of intentions, violates an important norm, overlooks or tramples the right of a defendant, is violating their role and if this can carry penal responsibilities they should be brought, although morally her performance might be irreproachable. There are people who believe it is lawful to act however they want to act at any moment, whatever the cost might be, for otherwise we shall never abolish delinquency. If one is consistent with this argument they must end by defending torture. The Guantanamo prison is based upon the assumption that certain intelligence services can legitimately imprison, tie and torture a person without providing the chance of defending himself because they think that he belongs to Al Qaeda, because they are convinced they are dealing with an assassin, or with a threat to the security of their nation. If the torture at Guantanamo repels us, then we have to recognize that judicial guarantees are indispensable and so, respect them. Those of us who have ever been in jail know how little we would have liked having a judge or justice, convinced that we are very bad, deprive us of a lawyer. I think that the work of judge Garzón has been stupendous, often indispensable. I remember how he became the scourge of Batasuna, of the GAL and of Felipe González. Then the entire left joined with him, when he was called the warrior judge, the hanging judge... I had to draft an article in his defense, titled "Garzón's Clan." Yet the fact that a person has done extraordinary work for years does not allow him to ignore the rules of procedure required for his office, nor invalidates the legal guarantees of the accused. Terrorism and violence The terrorist gang is a criminal organization dedicated to transgression, and what is needed is to fight against it with the same weapons utilized with the rest of the malefactors: the police, the judges, et cetera. There is no other way to do away with the mafias. Organized crime will never tell you: "No further, I have had enough, I am voluntarily going home." Afterwards, it is true, since they have had constant ideological and political support, we have also to defend the state of law. The root problem is that in the Basque country democratic Spain has never given them opportunity. From the first moment, from the first elections that were convened, everything has been vitiated by the violence. We have voted, yet not how the rest of communities did it, for we voted with fear, and the people could not freely attend the elections, but instead beneath coercion and threats, such that one chose only between those who were offered after a previous "selection," very little democratic. Violence has contaminated the process. Now the past must be shaken, to recuperate and present an opportunity to democratic Spain. But it is difficult, because there continue to be many problems to resolve, including the terminological. Is it partisan that there not be in Congress any party related to the ETA? What is absurd is to prevent legalization because they are members or friends of members. It is senseless to keep reproaching someone to abjure armament who already has paid for what they did. The argument that they continue to be the same does not move me, for in fact, only one who has been bad can become good again, and only those who have used arms can lay them down, which is what interests us about them. Now then, we want to know whether they have truly changed and think of acting in another fashion, if they truly have renounced violence and repent. And it is not for any of us in our individual capacity who should judge the quality of their repentance, but the courts. Yet they have popular support... A few months ago Kim Jong-il died, the Korean dictator, and the people into the street crying, shouting and pulling their hair... Despite that the rest of the world had an opinion, let us say, sufficiently low of him, it seems that at home, where they have to support his whims, everybody loved him a great deal. One can remain with their doubts about the spontaneity of those persons who gather in places where a regime based on terror and on control reigns. In Spain quite similar things happened during the dictatorship. When the United Nations condemned Franco and his regime, the people went massively into the street to support the Leader. I do not deny that many citizens demonstrated in favor because they felt that way, yet I assure you that many others did so for fear of denunciations and reprisals. But North Korea is not the same as the Basque Nation. Evidently it is not the same, yet it is important to know whether the people continue to be frightened. I think that when the activity of the ETA truly ends we shall bury it because we will stop feeling fear; while fear is active, the process will continue to be open. The fact that an organization does not dissolve, although they say they have become good, does not help at all. If you have become so good, why do you keep considering yourself the member of a gang, and keep having weapons, and what price shall you ask in order to turn them over once and for all. Do you purport that I should give you thanks for not having killed me, because you have granted me the clemency of not coming to my house and killing me, and I should have to thank you for the announcement that you renounce killing in the future? We have improved, that I admit. Today I have come to this institute alone, and not so long ago I would have had two men there outside, in the street, waiting to accompany me to the station. I want to think, and I bet it is so, that the situation has entered a phase in large measure irreversible, yet we still can take steps backwards while we advance, and should not be trusting. Still today in the Basque country there are persons who cannot travel nor enter specific places, not that the ETA itself will act against us, but we keep being fearful of their support groups. It would not be an intelligent idea to enter a bar in Hernani with a face as well-known as mine. These are indicators that fear continues alive, that things will still take time to normalize. Is violence never the way? Not even when they leave us no political alternative? Violence is always a problem. They other day I was at a meeting of students in Herrera del Duque, in the province of Badajoz, and a youth said to me that with the cuts we no longer live in a democracy. The cuts are lamentable, clearly, and no one wants to lose educational rights, nor sanitary resources, but the decisions have been taken by persons who belong to political groups voted in by the citizens. It is not that such persons have arrived at their seats through a loophole that they have made in the framework, to substitute for the legitimate deputies. They are in the Congress because the citizens have brought them there. The error is to think that democracy has to be satisfactory for all, which is not so. Democracy is a political instrument that gives control and power to the majority and which, therefore, can give great satisfactions to those who live in it. A democracy can focus all the enforcement power and produce many headaches and many frustrations for its citizens, because many want things different from the majority. Such that, at times, very praiseworthy desires are very minoritarian within the society, and if they are not satisfied it is not the fault of democracy not being authentic or true, but that despite it being honest it goes against things that can seem good, precisely because they are not of priority interest to the majority. That idea that if democracy were authentic and not a corrupt substitute which must be made to leap through the air, we would all be satisfied to live in it, is one of puerile ingenuousness. To enter the terrain of violence is to destroy politics. Violence should be eradicated, must be restricted and the State given the monopoly over its legitimate use. It is true that in current life there is violence in the sense that societies impose things on you which you do not want to do, yet the only way of regulating this is through the laws, through the political struggle between parties. Recently the General Directorate of the Police has dictated a provision that it was time for them to take: the have prohibited raids on immigrants solely based upon appearance. The case of going somewhere and the owner seeing one is black evicts them is legal violence that cannot be tolerated, and which has now been superseded. But the idea that since sometimes the depositories of the legal authorization for violence abuse it or do not behave well, then each and every one of us can take justice into their hands can only lead to worse situations. I do not have much sympathy for many of the members of the Catalonia parliament, but the spectacle of those citizens persecuting them is not very edifying, nor democratic. Not only because it is a lack of consideration and of respect towards those persons, but also toward those who voted for them and democracy itself. One who stones a political representative is stoning those who voted for and entrusted her; they may do better or worse, will err or be all you desire, yet things cannot be done this way. Terrorism always acts the same: it tries to trap a part of the population in its nets, and subject them to illegal violence to obtain political benefits that otherwise it will never obtain. And the society and the citizenry, if they are democratic, must always be against this usurpation. We continually read news about cases of violence in the institutions, perhaps scholastic: do you think that we youth are more violent than ever? Well, the young always have been more violent than the old, that is a fact, but it is a fact tied to biology proper: the armies are formed by young men, not by affiliates of Imserso. A youth can strike a blow and flatten you. Ortega has a very fine text that he titles: "The sporting origin of the State" in which he speculates that the State must have been an invention of the young, and that the old invented the laws to temper certain youths who tend to glorify force, beauty, daring... And the old paused to recall: "Well, if someone falls and breaks a leg, may they be helped." In broad features it has always been so, with violence on the side of the young because they are more impulsive and stronger. What nourishes violence today is social acceptance that one can do what they please if it has a reason. If you split the face of a person but later explain that it is because he was bad, because you owed money or you had experienced a dirty trick, then it seems that it is alright. And it is not alright. One can have all the reasons in the world to do something and, nevertheless, that thing, like taking justice into one's hands, is not advisable or is prohibited. This way of proceeding has permeated youth, and I see Batasuna influence in their juvenile activities. Since they are convinced of being right they terrify the politicians or burn down half the city's contents. They think they are full of reasons to carry out actions that are criminal. This situation is amazing in a developed city, which cannot tolerate there being a group within society who when they think they have had enough include violence in their habitual menu. If they are indignant, what they have to do is vote for the choice corresponding to their claims, constitute a political party, give voice in the street, what do I know, anything, short of taking over the street with intimidation and violence. Some of these violent attitudes can begin to be seen in the loss of manners, of courtesy in relationships. Two years ago I met an old alumnus of San Sebastián, very friendly, and while remembering old times at a certain moment he says to me: "You do not know how we laughed about you." And I thought that they laughed because I was always telling jokes and jesting, yet no, it was not for that. They laughed because instead of attempting to pass first through a door and giving an elbow to anybody, I conceded passage to the girls. Apparently, this attention that I paid to my pupils and with my colleagues was a continual jape. Fine, if the courtesies toward others, like giving a seat to an older or a pregnant person, or being respectful of elders and the weak, begin to seem ridiculous, then that is a symptom of brutality. We are going to utilize a familiar treatment every sooner, and the familiar treatment can be a little brutal. Larra has a very amusing article where he speaks of an old Castillian who goes somewhere to eat where they tell him: "Here we do not use courtesies or formalities," and the poor man ends by fleeing because, of course, under the pretext that there are no formalities they treat him rudely. A society that does not respect courtesies in relations is a society which does not think that the other can be as violent as you. There is no pact of mutual respect because you think that you are the strongest and the most aggressive, and thus a field for violence is cultivated, because you can always encounter someone stronger. Even the youth can discover that the oldster or the weakling whom he has deprecated gives him a blow from behind. Another aspect is, we are all vulnerable, not only our bodies, but also our spirit, and politeness is important, an advance of civilization to mitigate social disagreement and discomfort. To give so much ground to spontaneity is dangerous, because it can become invasive and damaging to others. Yet in the school there is an overprotection against violence, with any game cut that could be minimally violent... That is a education error, an excess of zeal on the part of society. Because many of the things that we learn about treating others we learn precisely with blows. When in Denmark I offered the translation of Ética para Amador, an article appeared about a youth 18 or 19 years old who had had a dispute and had killed another. I indicated to my companions my surprise that in such a pacific nation there had been such a radical outbreak of violence and they told me that in the country the Danish children until 15 or 16 only had contact with female teachers. It was such a teacher who told me that boys being instructed so much by women was creating a problem, because the women, she told me, tend to stop the most minimal outbreak of confrontation. Such that the child does not have the experience that if he strikes a blow against someone, they are going to return it, and that that dynamic makes your life impossible, because if you hit a neighbor or a work companion, later you will have to pay. The boys grow up without a notion of the physical damage which violence provokes until they are older, and now have arms to hit for real. Thus some night one goes out at 18 years old, drinks three beers and kills another, because he has no sense of proportion, nor knows where the limit is that is learned over time. Education has to provide a taste for courtesy and politeness, yet we should not repress certain outbreaks of aggression either, above all masculine; it is a part of pedagogy that it is painful, yet a child has to learn that if she wrongly runs she can fall and break a leg. A good educator is one who knows when would be becoming a cruel act and when they should give a little slack so that it would be an educational situation. We ultra-protective parents would like our child to learn throughout life without ever suffering anything, without passing through all the sorrows which it cost the rest of us to learn how life is and how the world functions. But it is an impossible project, and one cannot learn this way. One of the characteristics of our societies of the First World is that an excess of codification exists. In the United States, for instance, they have the idea that everything can be codified, and it is not so; abuses should be limited, but the limits of a relation, obligating respect through the penal code, cannot be determined. North American youth have much more sexual freedom than we had, naturally, yet the protocol and codes for approaching a person are so strict that they end by being nonsensical. In the Universities, in order to avoid abuses, before putting his hand on the knee of a girl he likes a boy has to ask whether she allows it, for otherwise we are dealing with an orgiastic attitude. But if every time I have to ask: "I am going to touch your ear, do you like me to touch your ear?" the matter loses a little appeal. Furthermore, social relations are not always clear. Not all the persons who tell you "no" are saying it is over. Sometimes they are encouraging you, in a social game. A French politician who was at the Congress of Vienna said that the women had to be like the diplomats, and the diplomats like the women, as they seem. When they say "no" they want to say "maybe", and when they say "maybe" they want to say "yes," and if they say "yes" then, friend, she is neither a diplomat nor a lady. To want all relationships to be in a penal code with penal responsibility is folly. The people must be taught to coexist without exchanging blows, we must be tougher on violence that tries to get a political or social return from intimidation, but a father who gives his son a smack on the head cannot be treated like Jack the Ripper. What is curious is that we are generating a somewhat schizophrenic society: on one side there is an enormous latent violence and, on the other, questions are immediately penalized that belong in the domain of coexistence and common sense. About the crisis For some aspects of the crisis I accept a shared responsibility. The bank gives you credit because you requested it and, evidently, has not warned you of the fine print and of the risks... Alright, but you asked for it, and it is you who have not informed yourself. I know the case of a banker, very much a boxer, who put his hands to his head when he saw persons with a level of current balances ask for certain loans. He advised them not to ask for it because they already had two mortgages and now, additionally, they wanted to request more money to spend on the girl's communion. I do not know if there are many such bankers, yet there are some, who surely ended up with a nervous breakdown or in the street. For the bank wanted to risk that credit and the people risk requesting the money. No one wanted to renounce anything. I admit only that it may be a nuanced scam, because when one signs a contract they have to be very alert. Which reminds me of the little swindle of the stamp. Of the uncle they defraud in the street, precisely because he wanted to swindle somebody else who seemed stupider to him. Agreed, he has been robbed, yet he is not a pure being either, and also had his excessive ambitions. All criticism of the banks and of the politicians that the citizens make must begin with an examination of conscience about one's own behavior before the crisis unfolded. What all the world must demand is more education. Because the only way of knowing that you are being cheated, that you can ask a bank for it or calculate what returning that money will cost you is to receive a strong foundation, guaranteed by the State, and the most complete possible. Only thus can the citizen be cognizant of when the information source is transparent, and when they are trying to deceive her. Yet in the situation in which we live in this nation it does not seem to me that all the responsibility can be transferred to the responsibility of others, to the political directors, to the economists and to the bankers. Will the limitations of rights that they are doing be reversed in the future? In summer holiday cities, whenever good weather arrives, the prices rise on all products. We neighbors are assured that it is a temporary measure, which will last as long as the wave of tourists lasts, to generate more receipts. But when October arrives the prices remain where they were. This example can be applied to the current situation. Let us suppose that due to the crisis it is indispensable for certain restrictions to be made. But if now salaries are limited, what guarantee is there that they will be increased later on? Were they shared before, in times of plenty, when large profits were accumulated? We are not going to recover those rights, and they are going to cheat us and are going to tell us we have gotten them back. But if they lower a salary seven percent, they are going to raise it three percent over 20 years and are going to tell us that we have regained those rights. That only if we let them. There is an Argentinian tune which says: hope is often only desire for rest, yet I think that often despair is a desire to rest. I know two types of laziness, one being that which says: "Do not worry for that will fix itself, requiring only time." And it is untrue because, at root, time fixes as few things as space, that is, fixes nothing. And the others are the great desperate pessimists who tell you over and over: "Nothing can be done, there is nothing to be done." And one hopes that afterwards the window will open with a breeze, but no, prefers to go an eat some prawns. I only believe the desperado who after finding that the new ill in the world is irremediable begins to pound on the wall. If they do not do that, I am sorry, but I do not believe them. The banks are asking us for sympathy, while they are abusing your interests. Why do we have to offer it if it is they who have behaved in an immoral manner? The bankers can respond to this: "You asked me for something, I gave it to you, and now it turns out that I am to blame for having given it without having had more requirements, for delivering it without verifying whether you had the resources, or knew what you were requesting." When we complain about the behavior of the banks, we are accustomed to overlook the greed of their clients. And the matter is more complicated, because first in responsibility are the persons who thought that it was normal to live beyond the economic possibilities which they had. And then there are those who helped them to believe it was possible and normal so as to be able to derive more profits. Which is worse: to be unwise or to be bad? There are no cheaters if they do not first find people who through greed can be defrauded. The majority of frauds are based on the cheated being willing to cheat the other. The swindler is sent to jail, of course, yet in situations as complex as these one must think about having created an atmosphere of unchecked consumerism, where the habit was to want to win more so as to consume more, without time for pausing and reflecting on how one might consume in a more responsible manner. It is a bad signal to accept money if given because it is not free, and at some moment you will be asked to return it. Many citizens have behaved like ambitious simpletons. I understand that when the big banks recover their capital they are not going to return it, and recognize that to ask us for help under the threat that, without it, things will be worse for the whole society is coercion and foul play. Yet the crisis has such scope that the assignment of blame should be a little more measured. Yet does the defrauder ever end up in jail? Some indeed go, such as you have Madoff. But you go to jail for doing illegal things, and it is insufficient that they be immoral. Morality is not the same as legality: the law authorizes you to do things that are immoral, things which you know are bad. The law does not resolve everybody's moral problems. For example, a woman can abort legally, and no one is going to prosecute her, but it deals with a sensitive question, and though the law permits it, I understand that it creates moral doubts. The same can happen to the entrepreneur: now with the labor reform they can fire their employees with very low severance, but if a person is aware she can think it is robbery and rebel. The law decriminalizes some questions, yet does not supplant the moral deliberation that accompany them. Within the legal framework one can think and act with very different moralities. Even two people who share the same ideas about what is good and what is bad can attribute quite distinct tones to it. How can the crisis hurt those who keep their job? Look, to coexist consists in trying to make the other's life better so that your own will be also. For it is certain that any of us enjoys the quality of life more if they are surrounded by happy individuals. At present, with the crisis, any conscious person, knowing that there are so many fellow citizens out of work, with poor prospects, in dramatic situations, with small children lacking food, also suffers along with them. You do not do it only because you are very good and sensitive, but also because you know intuitively that your life resists living surrounded by persons who are distressed and suffering. Even from a practical viewpoint, of security, because others' suffering endangers the common life, it renders us more vulnerable. If this situation is maintained not only will one learn to distinguish between the essential and the accidental so to speak, but also be subject to the greater risks and dangers for all. Thus it befits us to recover as soon as possible, so that the people who coexist with us return to being happy and content. Capitalism and the Third World What is certain is that no other model occurs to me than capitalism. Fundamentally because it is so varied and flexible that probably what exists now in China may be capitalism. In Germany there is a different type of capitalism than in the Latin countries, and in the United States it is so distinct that they think social security and health protection go against the interests of the citizenry. All those nuances, all those variables fit in a system that continues being capitalist. My model of capitalism is one which says that the State serves to mediate between the citizen and the markets. Now that Europe is sinking we are seeing what the State is for: it is a barrier of protection against the market, so as not to leave you alone before it. A society functions better when the majority of the citizens have more reasons to comply with the laws than to break them. Societies are peaceful when the benefits of fulfilling the law and maintaining oneself within the institutional order are evident. Insofar as the citizen detects greater advantages if they act outside the laws, the society begins to crumble. The capitalism which I like, in a word, is a capitalism mediated by a State that guarantees redistributive social protections. I think that the great revolutions that happened with modernity are social security, public education, equality of men and women before the law... These are the only revolutions which I know. To place a guillotine on a plaza, to cut off the Czar's head...are things that come out in history books yet the truth is that they do not have much effect on everyday life. Or much less than being able to access social security this morning for them to review the operation they performed on my hand. This is the revolution that counts and whose benefits, which now are threatened, I want to maintain. What should be inculcated in the child or the youth is that wealth is social. The motor of capitalism is people's enterprising capacity, but if those capabilities and reported benefits function in a vacuum one never will be able to become rich. Such that all wealth carries social responsibilities, and one cannot say that the million I have earned is mine and I will take it to the Caiman islands. I cannot because it was obtained thanks to society being disposed to support one's initiatives. It is true that society receives positive things from the entrepreneurs' initiatives, yet also that no enterprise nor business can grow outside of the citizens. That is the basis of the social compact by which we permit a person to become rich, in exchange for assuming certain social responsibilities with their wealth. This public dimension of wealth moderates the indubitable predatory impulse which capitalism has. And it is good to remind the impresarios when have a bonanza, not to allow them to depart with the money in a ship, because when we go into deficit, they are the first to ask for society's help. If you wanted to improve the political system of Spain, what would you propose? Improve education; I do not believe in a change of system. I think that we should endeavor to improve the scope of our life because it suits everyone to move in a happy environment, which functions well. For me that is politics, politics being that which the citizens of the polis do, not something from which one can quit. Since I am an educator, I have always wanted to better politics through education, and there will be other persons, with different understandings, who can better try to improve it through health or through the law. Each one has her capacities, their field of influence and their challenges. Yet right now, such as our system is, however much I think and do alternative things, it will not work at all...for they are running everything from the European Union, and are not going to allow advances along other paths. The European Union is not a single entity, and people work there who have many distinct ideas. It is an organism for which the Europeans struggled a great deal, precisely because they believed that once they formalized the Union there then would be no place in Europe for new Hitlers and Mussolinis. For other nations capitalism is one Hitler more. That is what you say. Yet there are persons who hold the contrary: that where there is no capitalist system what there is is State capitalism disguised as communism that imposes poverty on all its citizens. For a long time it was said to be impossible that in Europe there would be no wars and dictators. It was a continent of many interests, fragmented into so many nations, where everyone was for their side and it was impossible for anyone to agree. Then the European Union was born, after a terrible war, in which the continent almost self-destructed, to show how we are chastened. And ever since this organization has existed the totalitarianisms have ended, and war has not emerged among the States that comprise it. It has fulfilled its objective, and now we say that it disappoints us. We human beings are like that, always wanting more freedoms, more security, and we want to constantly advance. The European Union is not perfect, but what exists is good and a united Europe is better than all nations in confrontation. What we have to do is participate to improve it. The values of the European Union are not utopian, but ideals instead. Utopia is a place where you arrive and everything is already arranged and you can stay to live. It is very comfortable, yet has the disadvantage that it does not exist. It is ideal, instead, like the horizon line, which as you approach, and to the extent you approach, it moves away. All political ideals are like this: liberty, justice, ethics... You can set out towards them, but you never are going to attain them. But they are not ideals, they are principles. They are ideals because you do not know what the principle is, what justice is, what freedom is... We are not provided a principle nor a clear definition. That which we have to notice is that justice exists, though it not be perfect, although it may not be exactly how we would like. One need not await living in a society where inequality and injustice have been eradicated to recognize that a society is just and egalitarian. Ideals are always going to be struggling with their opposites, never will be given completely pure. Simply by living in a nation where there is social safety you are already a citizen of a privileged site in terms of social justice, not only in historical terms, but also geographic. Yet I can no longer live contentedly in a country that has Social Security while in Africa they do not have water to survive. But the solution is not to strip our social welfare, but to try to help Africa also organize it. So they can fight to develop their own democratic system, clean justice, a bureaucracy without corruption. But I cannot help another continent when my own is also bad. Saint Thomas spoke of the ordo amoris. We all have an order of preference: first we attend to our child if they are sick, and when the boy has recovered we worry about the neighbor's son... What we cannot do is serve all the world's children at once. What is proper is to occupy oneself the maximum possible with the persons who are around us, and likewise in every field: education, health... But we do help Africa, only charging interest. There you have another sign of improvement: humanitarian aid. Committed citizens and philanthropists like Bill Gates. You can have whatever misgivings against the First World, yet those people are giving without asking anything in exchange, and that is a new phenomenon of generosity and commitment, so do not think it has existed in every era. Similarly there is an error in perspective, not to say that problems do not actually exist, which I recognize, and they are real. The issue is that we speak of the deficiencies of the present as if they were greater than ever, or worse than in other places. And that is not true. It does not mean closing one's eyes to the defects, but instead to take account that we ourselves did not invent the badness, that the world always carries much evil and many imperfections. It is important to be conscious of that, so as not to be discouraged, and to be better able to battle for improvement. Do you not think that the First World intervenes in Africa for selfish motives? Maybe the people who entered to overthrow Gadaffi had no altruistic spirit. Fine, certainly, since up to the day before they were Gadaffi's best friends. Yet that does not subtract from their help being good for the population. When the second World War ended, in Europe military dictatorships of the fascist variety still remained. In Spain it was thought that the Allies would intervene to do away with Franco and make way for democracy. It is what had been done in the rest of Europe, and would have been logical. However, the world powers made a pact at Yalta so that Stalin remained with the countries to the East, while the "Allies" remained with the rest, and decided not to remove the dictatorships of Spain and Portugal by force. Was it a good or a bad decision? It is true that to Spain, emerging from a civil war, lacked only enduring a foreign intervention. Of course those sufferings might have saved us 40 years of terror and of primitivism. They are not easy questions to resolve, are delicate moral problems. I did not feel much affection towards Gadaffi, but the images of people tearing at him in the street did not help me to feel hopeful about the future either. Possibly, that intervention implies human betterment for Libya. One can always say it is a hypocritical intervention, that to try to humanize through war is folly, because war is always a horror. Fine. Even in war there are things that are permitted and things which are not, as Macbeth says: "I dare do all that may become a man." If you take another step beyond you fall outside humanity, thus even in war there are laws that dictate how to behave, and it cannot be denied that sometimes military interventions, however hypocritical you want, have sometimes yielded favorable things, like the United Nations. What gives us the right to demand that they improve social welfare? We had various revolutions to abolish privilege and the dominion of a few over the rest. If we had not had them we would have no moral law, yet we did, and we benefited from them. I agree that we can only contribute if they want us to. But to help the blind person cross the street when they want us to help her is fine. And if in Africa and the Third World they live better than us? I remember a time when people went to visit Albania, which then was a communist regime, and upon returning said that they lived much better than ourselves. According to those Spanish visitors the Albanian citizens were privileged to live free from consumerist domination, that it did not matter having cardboard shoes nor that the city stores were closed. Naturally when the communist regime fell it was observed that the Albanians wanted none of that, but instead to live a life as similar as possible to that of the rest of the Europeans. Even so, I think their customs must be respected. In the Twenties of the last century the sulfonamides were invented, an indispensable element to cure infections. When the missionaries and the explorers went to Africa they went to small communities where sulfonamides were unknown. Thus all the women died of puerperal infections at the second child. That massacre had its social advantages, believe it, for the dead from childbirth maintained the population equilibrium, which helped them because they lived in restricted zones with very little space, that would not have supported a sudden demographic growth. Thus a moral dilemma was created: for if the sulfonamides were introduced, if the women did not die in their second childbirth, then, in place of two children, they would have eight, with the consequent demographic and social maladjustment. Depending how you see it, the arrival of civilization assumes the decadence and the destruction of the old culture. There were peoples in Europe who asked not to be given sufonamides, who asked what right we had to degrade a centuries-old culture. It is true that to help others plants that type of doubt. I, for an average illustration, want sufonamides to be given to people. Yet for me it is important that they be allowed to choose. Because I do not believe that someone might prefer to die at age 25 of a disease that no longer kills anyone in the rest of the world. If after everything they tell you: "Look, I am going to continue living in my fashion," it seems great to me, but it seems very bad to me that in a world where another planet has been walked upon to oblige people to stay within two kilometers from their house; that condemns children to comply with this because they do not know that the others exist. No, I prefer that the world which surrounds them be explained, that they know it and decide later. I do not clearly see what right we have to judge the customs of other peoples. All we humans share the same reason, and thus can judge the customs of other peoples: the ablation of the clitoris, that children cannot study nor choose their spouses... They are customs which we can understand, and some have even existed in our towns. And if after reasoning about their motives and their effects we continue to consider them bad, why would we not say so? Customs have no reason to be respected as if they were sacred cows. We do not have to accept them forthwith, neither in our societies nor in those of others. All cultures have had atrocious, discriminatory and violent customs... which in their moment were highly accepted. Yet they were bad, and moral progress consists in opposing that which is bad, and not conforming to what comes given, nor to let oneself be intimidated by arguments such as: "it is what has always been done here" or "what are you going to know as an outsider." Another thing is that to eradicate those customs we have to argue and discuss. You must expound the different options and allow them to choose. You are not going to arrive in a tank and fire a cannon round for them to be good and abandon those pernicious customs. Yet it is insufficient to help them in any fashion whatsoever, since they must be helped with things that they truly need. Albert Camus writes in some of his notes that every day in Paris he encountered a beggar who lived near his house. At times he spoke with him and the beggar told him: "It is not that people are bad, no, it is that they do not see." Maybe it is true, and the evil is that in an age when we have extraordinary means of communication available we neither see nor hear the neighbor well. It is true that this concerns not only seeing and hearing, because we all see a massacre and a famine on television, and then we go to finish our soup; we need something to motivate us more, something like effective listening. To listen to the person whom you are going to help is the most important, but just seeing them is a step. There is a refrain which says that if you encounter someone who does not know how to fish, before giving them a fish they would thank you to teach them how. And I am in considerable agreement. It is curious that there are doctors without borders, clowns without borders...yet there are no teachers without borders, which perhaps is the O.N.G. that we lack. On the other hand, it is also true that we always learn things from each other, such that if you hear an individual who is teaching you a sure cure for gangrene you might learn something from him, because at root we all share the same rationality. How are we going to do away with dictatorship in other nations or reform capitalism when we ourselves love to have a new cause every month? That is a good reflection. No one can be believed who begins to criticize the society, the political system and her fellows without beginning by criticizing their own behavior. At the moment when you say: "I am outraged by everything except myself," it is then you are a hypocrite. The objection that you make towards others may be justified, yet will not be credible unless you begin by trying to change how it involves you, instead of only how it bothers you. Many of us love the saint and alms, want to have the car and clothes at a low price, without there being exploitation. Have we ever stopped to think whether they are compatible? Before beginning a rant, have we spent an hour to reflect upon how we might solve the situation that so offends us? For these abuses within societies are not inevitable, are not something against which we cannot fight. There was a time when slavery was a given fact, and another when its abolition was discussed as a burning subject, just as today we argue about abortion or genetic manipulation. There were persons who argued: "How are we going to end slavery, or are we all going to contribute to build the pyramids?" Today it seems like a monstrosity, yet in its day slavery was seen as something natural and indispensable, a necessary evil. Many centuries had to pass in order to crack that impression. Many of the situations that today seem so rooted that it is impossible to fight against them, perhaps could be defeated if committed persons were to appear. What I think is that a middle ground can be reached, that you can have a vehicle and not change it every two years. You can have a car and be concerned about the situation of others. It is true that the problem with cars is the abuse. We do not have to dispense with something that provides good things and there is no reason to enslave ourselves. At least unless its use overflows and the apparatus controls us. Yet do not think that it happens only with cars, for when human desires are in question, the latent danger is to go off the rails. The two aspects of life that are the most dangerous can become ends in themselves and turn against us are linked to human desire: money and sex. They are useful, excellent things, full of positive possibilities, yet upon becoming goals of a desire like our own, which is by nature insatiable, one must go gingerly. Perhaps to dominate desire and control it in this era is the most difficult, given the enormous quantity of demands that surround us; that indeed would be a definitive proof of maturity, and probably no one would pass in a definitive manner. Nor is it a danger specific to our time. It has always occurred, since the Phoenicians invented money, at the dawn of Greek civilization; the era is unknown when money has not been abused. You have said that since we are human and mortal we have to concern ourselves with ethics. But if one day we attain a just world, would not many moral preoccupations disappear? That would be to reach a perfect society, but it is an aim that does not seem plausible to me. Even in that perfect society, in which everything were well organized, in which there were no thefts nor aggressions nor abuses... The moral commitment of each to the others, the effort to be generous, to speak the truth...will continue being moral commitments that depend on free will. Even living in that paradise we would have to keep living with moral arrangements, with caution, to avoid it being ourselves who introduce negative elements, evils, into the social fabric. Grievances and moral concerns are not evils, and it is a good signal that they exist. Since perfection is not something human, since there always will be something to improve, zones in the society delivered over to crime or corrupt, it is good that the faculty of imagining new and better possibilities than those in circulation stays awake. We live a life that to a man in the 14th century probably would have seemed an absolute paradise. We have everything that he would have wanted, and things that he did not even dream and, nevertheless, if you begin to excessively eulogize our society and our time, surely we would not hesitate to respond: "Do not believe it, it is not so great, that goes badly and that over there and the other..." That is the question. Although we enjoy things that in other centuries one would not dare to dream of, we know that we can still dream more and more, keep our demands alive, and that when all our present problems have been solved, those persons who are alive at that moment will continue to dream of new betterments.