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By Fernanda Navarro
Below we republish the full interview:
Paris | France. The meeting was on October 2 in Paris, where Berger usually spends half the year; the other, in the French Alps near the border with Switzerland, where he lives with and like the peasants of the region. After remembering his unforgettable trip to Mexico, invited to the Zapatista Encounter held at the University of the Earth, in San Cristóbal de las Casas in 2007, we began to talk about the idea of the new virtual magazine Desinformémonos. It seemed original and at the same time punctual for the times in which the information, far from fulfilling a formative function, stuns and confuses. However, he made the clarification: "We must not confuse the deliberate intention to misinform ourselves with being uninformed."
He added that precisely - in recent times - he had been thinking about the need to abandon certain words with which the media and politicians harass us daily with their speeches, emptying them of all meaning, of all meaning. Words like democracy, freedom, human rights, justice, progress, development, are hollow, without any real reference.
FN. In other words, what you are suggesting is abandoning those words that populate our vocabulary, those ideas that inhabit us and condition our way of seeing the world and life.
JB. Exactly! I agree. What you have to do is redefine human qualities, their needs, their limitations, the ability to see ourselves from our own experiences, with new concepts.
On the other hand, it is necessary to have another perspective of time, with a historical sense, not only to consider the present in its immediacy, as does the political class under capitalism, which only seeks immediate profit, without thinking about future consequences or in the past, that is, in the sacrifices of so many dead who gave their lives to achieve what we have today.
FN. To the extent that we manage to configure a new mentality, disinformed, what priorities should we have for the resistance struggle and take another step towards action?
JB. First of all, listen ...
FN. May I have a parenthesis? I don't know if you know a German author, Carlos Lenkersdorf, who lived with the Tojolabales for 20 years. Well, his latest book is entitled "Learning to listen". There he explains the meaning of listening in the Mayan languages. He makes the distinction between hearing and listening. He points out that listening implies understanding, putting oneself in the place of the Other, in the shoes of the Other and thus it is possible to explain why the word "enemy" exists in none of the 14 languages spoken in Chiapas: because he listens to it - by promoting understanding - sister, and between brothers, there can be no enemies. Thus, it turns out that the word enemy was learned in Spanish, in Castile.
JB. I find it very interesting. I was just referring to the importance of listening to and observing all nature, all physis, what has physical existence; what has not been created by man. And so we can see that nature encompasses a great complexity and cohesion of different elements that cause us astonishment, that amaze us, that give us the feeling of the sacred ... the recognition that despite everything, life is a gift, a gift, and that of course in nature there is no place for the dictatorship of the market. However, there is no doubt that we currently live under an economic dictatorship.
FN. Indeed, when it comes to human nature, there is a change.
JB. Yes. Qualities and risks of human nature have been highlighted at all times and in all spaces. Thinking has been regarded as the most distinctive and unique human ability, but one danger - abstract thinking - has not been emphasized enough. That is, when an idea is separated from its concrete consequences.
FN. And yet, a great quality is attributed to abstract thought, at the level of knowledge. Abstraction allows the universality of concepts. It is not true?
JB. This has been greatly exalted, on the other hand the negative aspect has remained more silenced, as is the case of the impressive capacity of the human being to exercise cruelty, and which is always linked to an abstract idea referring to the Other, to the different. The opposite position - he says excitedly - is the one that does take into account the consequences and the concreteness, as in the case of Antígona when she addresses Orestes: "I cry, you rule."
Berger later speaks of the increasingly abysmal distinction between rich and poor. It alludes to the 19th century French philosopher, Proudon, for whom property was simply theft. John Berger affirms that deep down today the rich all suffer from paranoia, which can be seen in their constant recurrence of expressions such as “terrorists”, directed at anything that could constitute a threat. And, on the other hand, the growing consideration of social activists as criminals or potential criminals. It also highlights the solidarity ties that exist in these sectors. And he makes an interesting point regarding the Indian peoples: “due to their strong sense of identity and their strong relationship with nature, they have a potential for special resistance -as well as the capacity for patience they have shown- which means that they do not need to be rescued".
FN. Finally, I would like to ask you how you would describe the historical period that we are currently experiencing. As you said at the beginning, it makes no sense to say that it is unprecedented, since this can be said of any era ...
JB. Okay. In fact, lately I have been looking for a reference point that does not pretend to be an exact definition, only an approximation. I am afraid that it is quite strong, even brutal, especially for those who consider the era of globalization as a period truly marked by the elimination of borders, which opens up a certain idea of freedom. The point of reference that I have found to describe today is the prison. And it is not a metaphor, it is real. But to describe it you have to think in historical terms.
Michel Foucault showed how the prison state was invented at the end of the 18th century, linked to industrial production, its factories and its utilitarian philosophy. Then came the model of the Panopticon, as Jeremy Bentham - John Stuart Mill's teacher and apologist for industrial capitalism - conceived it by introducing the circularity of the cells and the guard-lookout at the center for constant and absolute vigilance.
Today, in addition to modern technology that has access to the most intimate of your ideas, dreams and plans, we have another reality offered by the oases that borders have become for migrants from so many third world countries that, anonymous, starving or maimed, they leave their lives, their dreams and their names in the corners of the first promising worlds of freedom and progress.
And in rich countries, where there is employment and well-being, suicides are reported as now in France TeleCom. or the new "legal" type of deaths from "surmenage", overwork, where the last drop is squeezed from the employee.
The final benchmark is not tactical, it is strategic. The fact that the tyrants of the world are ex-territorial explains the extent of their surveillance power, but it also shows the imminence of a weakness. They operate in cyberspace and sleep in secured co-properties. They don't know anything about the land around them. They are unable to listen to the earth. There, they are blind. Locally, they are lost.
The resistance is knowing how to listen to the earth. Freedom is discovered little by little, not on the outside, but in the depths of the prison.
Returning to cyberspace, it offers the market a practically instantaneous speed for exchange. It is used night and day for stock market operations and it is thanks to this speed that the tyranny of the market can be exercised in a space outside of any territory. However, such speed has a pathological effect on those who practice it: anesthesia. It does not matter what happens, at the end of the whole business, the "business" continues.
However, in today's world prison, cyberspace has found a way to reverse its effects and use them against the ends of those who started it.
FN. It is the idea of Uninform ourselves.
FN. From below?
JB. Yes, collecting, listening, the voices of the earth ... below.
Let's get uninformed