Saturday June 30th 2018Tim
"I am I and my
circumstances." Life, existence, from birth until
death, whatever you want to call it, Ortega Gasset
suggested was a drama on the one side of which was
necessity and on the other side was freedom. Ortega was
a philosopher and a psychologist. He lived through the
first part of the 20th Century, he died in his homeland
of Spain in 1955. I guess in a way, for Ortega reality
was the sum of all human knowledge and experience, an
ecology rich with magic and opportunity. There's always
debate of course, but outside the drawing room, I would
argue that by 'freedom' Ortega was thinking more in
terms of 'possibilities' and as everyone knows
'possibilities' are pretty much limited to the point of
being absent when men and women become entrenched in an
idea that cannot be challenged. Ortega was a Liberal
thinker, a shining light to a bunch of Spanish Poets who
either died in jail or were forced into exile by
Franco's Fascists. And his view of science was a cold
shower for those of us who seek salvation from it, he
thought it useful but shallow, a fast food jingle in its
grasp of the complexities of existence, his word back
then was mediocre or ordinary.
In his 1929 book,
Ortega argued that Liberal was an extraordinary and
truly remarkable form of generosity in which the
majority gives rights to minorities. This determination
to share existence with an enemy, even when the enemy
was weaker, was so supremely noble and against nature
that it was no wonder that we people often did our very
best to totally get rid of Liberal. It wasn't elites, it
wasn't aristocracy or any of the ocracies, it was a
discipline of mind toward "I am I and my circumstances"
that preserved the splendor of Liberal. Ortega's book
was called Revolt of the Masses. The masses, no matter
whose masses they were, crush everything, he suggested.
Their banner "To be different is to be indecent."
Ortega's point about the masses was simple: they get
their way through violence, so if you're interested in
the wealth of possibilities avoid letting the masses get
their hands on the state. Classically enough both the
temporal Ayn Rand and spiritual Gandhi were influenced
by Ortega's writing. Not long afterwards Europe was
engulfed by violent attempts to obliterate differences.
Nowadays the smooth talkers prefer to quote the
Uruguayan, Eduard Galeano, global soccer's preeminent
man of letters - "History never says goodbye, rather it
says, see you later."