His is the optimism of the will, and of the thought. “Our time is the best in history,” he thinks, for example; and in fact the disease of the time has passed, and he has recovered, as if this had been a setback that also has to do with his way of storing experiences to feel that he is alive and with the risk of living adapted to the size of your hope. In everyday life, this man, Javier Gomá (Bilbao, 56 years old), goes every day to a luxurious and beautiful place, the Fundación Juan March, in Madrid, of which he is the director. And of all the places that are given to him to carry out his occupation there, the one that he likes the most, because there he feels as comfortable as at home, is the small public (and free) library that the institution has open in the gardens in those that, for example, reign an impressive sculpture by Martín Chirino. He has just published a theatrical trilogy (A fifty year old man Gutenberg Galaxy), which includes the dramatic monologue Inconsolable, moral comedy I want to get tired of you or the danger of good company and the tragedy The tears of Xerxes. This is the pretext for our conversation.
Question. In the prologue to the work he has this phrase: “Fatal blow of melancholy.” And these words can be underlined: humor, comedy, exemplary, family, cry, triumph. Do those terms define this time?
Answer. Montaigne once says: “The subject of this book is me.” And again he said: “What interests me about myself is not me, but the experiences that I share with the human race.” We do not expect from Montaigne a succession of anecdotes or occurrences about his private life, but in what way his personal life is a window to contemplate that human condition. In the same way, I would like to think that my way of living in the present is just a secret corridor to access the invariability of the human condition. Have I ever said that I am a “joyous child of my time.” I defend why our time is the best in history. Regarding these concepts, this trilogy speaks above all of a feeling of grief and humor that decides who you want to get tired of. Says a character: “At the end of life we end up tired. The true art of living is how and with whom you want to get tired ”. Another feeling is melancholy. It is neither my own grief, nor my tiredness, nor my melancholy. In fact, I don’t have a melancholic temperament. What happens is that the human condition has reasons, sometimes, for all this. So I live my concrete life and what interests me most about myself is what is generalizable.
Powerful people with whom I have sometimes spoken confirm to me that power in the highest instances has a strongly sloppy element. And that is liberating
P. The generalizable thing now is the disease, this kind of war of the XXI century.
R. Pemán reproached Ortega for generalizing, and the philosopher told him that we generalize little … The problem is when it is not generalized. I know that it is much better to say that everything is a disaster, to fan the just resentment of the people regarding your life. Humanity as a species has many times been on the brink, but in the end has made an adaptive decision. As we are a species that is sometimes hard to learn, we often put ourselves on the edge of the precipice. But to this day I believe that the adaptive principle has triumphed. And in this case I am a supporter of the sloppy theory. The botch explains things. People who do not know power inside can imagine that power acts in a rational and coordinated way. You can imagine that all the drug companies are united, for example, in a plan to take over the world. And I think not. Powerful people with whom I have sometimes spoken confirm to me that power in the highest instances has a strongly sloppy element. And that is liberating, because botch makes us free in the sense that the conspiracy of the powerful is impossible. There is an element dedicated to random. And so, paradoxically, progress is guaranteed.
P. Where do you see the fudge today?
R. In the management of the pandemic from politicians in general, so I think that many times the criticism they receive is not justified, although I know that criticizing them produces good conscience. There is always someone dumber than you, clumsier than you, and that is what produces a good conscience. But I see no reason why the politicians, whom you may have recently voted for, being in such a transcendent situation, should all be so clumsy, so evil and so mediocre on an issue that is the same in practically the whole world. The pandemic has been a tsunami. You are having a cocktail on the beach and suddenly a 30-meter wave comes. There is a first moment of every man for himself, to do what one humanly can. Doing what you can is already a lot and it has to do with the possibility that Plutarco spoke of. They asked him about the laws he had made and he said: “I have made the best laws that the Athenians could bear.” Not the perfect ones, but those that could be received by its citizens and fulfilled according to their possibilities. The management of the pandemic has had something of creative botch. Everything has a botched air because the evil that was coming our way was too great, but everyone has tried to do what they could to try to combat it. This creative bungling is mixed, of course, with the law of politics, which is the fight without quarter. And sometimes with the friend-enemy struggle of politics, whose only aspiration is electoral. There is nothing human that is pure. It is always polluted.
P. In the dialogue between Aeschylus and Pericles, in The tears of Xerxes, it speaks of the man consumed by glory. As power is today, do you see those who wield it consumed by glory?
R. No, I do not see it. I like, even provocatively, the concept of glory. Pericles refers to literary glory, which is the best according to him, who was then a 19-year-old young man, and considers that political events, unlike poetic ones, are not remembered later. Today no one remembers Themistocles, who won at Salamis, but everyone remembers Aeschylus, whose work stands the tests of time. Aeschylus bases his work on the idea that freedom by itself triumphs over tyranny, even if the tyranny has a larger army. What happens today is that politicians in democracy do not have time for glory, they are too busy with electoral glory, which can happen, at most, every four years.
P. You have written that human beings are “a delicate flower.” And what about democracy? Could it be a delicate and endangered flower?
R. I think so. On Public exemplarity defined democracy as an egalitarian project on finite bases. You cannot say: “This is because God wanted it, the country wanted it or history wanted it,” but because citizens of legal age have decided to govern themselves. That forces consensus. That is why the expression “one man, one vote” fascinates me, which today would be “one man, one woman, one vote”, because it is telling you that in democracy it is not about the best, nor the richest, nor the most powerful, nor the wisest, nor the most technical, but rather tells you that we are going to devise a system in which each and everyone has a voice according to their dignity. Before, for the survival of a country, you could hope that the wisdom or the power or the skill of the monarch would preserve you. Today the democratic system depends entirely on the age of majority of the citizens. We are more exposed, because if before it was a question of everything depending on the king, now it only depends on all citizens being of legal age. And democracy is a fragile, vulnerable matter, that is why the education of citizens is so important. The law, the government or the institutions no longer save us. We have to save ourselves. And if we don’t, democracy is going to fall apart.