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Saturday June 30th 2018Tim Candler9

 

    "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.

 

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    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."

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