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Jose Inazio Basterretxea Polo > Extracts

Essay (literary and non-literary)

2003 | Zerberri

through pain

There are human beings and societies in the world (in countries, territories, nations, states, unions); or if you want to put it another way: people and groups. And both people and groups each have their own character: their own feelings and their own reasons; in other words, that just as people have their own personalities, collectives themselves also have their own particular characteristics and can operate as autonomous bodies. So, we are faced with a tricky starting point: because not all people are the same, not all countries are the same, and not all people in the same country are the same. We are all the same in that we differ.

We read in the works of Aresti: "Each one sees things through his or her own eyes;" so you can't say that anyone is more than anyone else, at least not because the rest are nobodies. We are all said to be somebody, especially in our own homes. And others also have homes, just as we do. However, there is more to this than meets the eye. And what appears to be easy is difficult. How do you link individual and collective rights in an attractive way, when individuals and collectives are not (or cannot be) seen?

When adopting the aim of comfortable coexistence among those who are different, the question here and now is to regulate the differences that equalize people. The others appear to receive little respect. Respect for the others on the whole will be lost and this is very painful. But respect towards the smallest in particular has been lost, towards the others who are us, towards ourselves. This poem of Basarri's should remind many people of this; and not just outsiders, of course. "Errespetoa gorde zazue, ez jarri bide txarretik, hainbeste irain ez da egin bear, erri baten bizkarretik" (Keep your respect/ don't take the wrong path/ you mustn't hurl so many insults/ on account of a country.) Loss of respect: laughter and insults.

Regulating individual and collective differences constitutes one of the challenges facing modern society if the aim is to facilitate coexistence: maintaining the very differences, without annihilating them of course. We need to be comfortable in our difference, modern human beings have to relearn how to live with dissent; I believe it is something we have forgotten how to do.

In social communication there is but a short distance between stereotypes and intolerance; it is no more than a sign in individual relationships. "Bourgeois mass media emphasise the intolerance of minority peoples, forgetting that oppressor states keep these nationalities in the minority1." I wonder whether the very ones who most vehemently defend tolerance might not be the most intolerant ones.

That being the case, the real problem is not being unable to put up with people who are different, but being unable to accept people who are different (the latter being even more serious). When the authorities demand tolerance from countries or minorities, as Sarrionandia says, "they are ordered to put up with their subordination patiently, because their winter is not so difficult to withstand". In the field of intolerance the cruellest is holy water. The crossbreeding that is preached to us very likely means that we are destined to be content with poverty. Only when much destruction has been committed does crossbreeding begin to turn into wealth, like many adversities in history2."

1 Sarrionandia, J., (1988): Marginalia, Elkar, Donostia.
2 Azurmendi, J., (2003): "Irakurketari jarraituz gogoetan" in Aiestaran, I., Munstro abertzalea, Elkar, Donostia.
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