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I am not an independent intellectual: El pensador (The Thinker), by Marcelo Pogolotti

pensador marcelopogollotiWe human beings are animals with opinions. Some internal force drives us to vehemently assert what we consider to be truths – something that would appear natural if not for one simple detail: to date, no human has demonstrated that he or she has the absolute truth about anything.

A few days ago, I went out for a walk and someone said to me, “Wow, that was a really good article you published. Everybody liked it.” Halfway down the block, another person grabbed my sleeve to say, “That article you published was really bad. Everyone is criticizing it.” After a few minutes of consternation, I remembered one of Nietzsche’s maxims, “The world is much smaller than the world of imagination.”

Of course, we are not objects, but rather subjects; that is why we are more subjective than objective. I am being ironic, but if you pick up a cylinder and place it in front of a light, you will see a circular shadow from one angle, and a rectangle from another. Such skepticism may provoke a kind of “expressive anorexia.” But certain internal projections allow us to see our opinion as good and fat, while it may only be a few bones, and no one can convince us otherwise, even resorting to the axioms of mathematics (kilograms per centimeters of height).

But human beings are also thoughtful. Perhaps that is why we have invented so many philosophies, societies, clubs, congregations, castes, communities and religions. For some reason, a flat truth spoken by many becomes round.

Naturally, if a single newspaper or media outlet gives an opinion, not everyone accepts it. But if the same opinion appears in several – even if they are all owned by the same person, or someone else who is actually a clone – for many, what is said becomes a truth. This is why “media conglomerates” are created.

I have a Google alert for Cuba. For every news item with the word Cuba in its title, Google emails me a brief summary. This way, I see how certain “currents of opinion” function, often promoting campaigns intended to demonize persons or institutions. Opinions that appear to come from various sources, using different words, give the impression that the world has reached consensus on the issue. Nonetheless, when you begin to unravel the tangle, you can make some interesting discoveries.

Let me provide one example. The Spanish corporate group Prisa, a champion in the orchestration of worldwide media campaigns, owns more than 1,250 radio stations in 22 countries, each one with its own website. As if this were not enough, it owns – in their entirety or as a principal stockholder – publications read around the world like El País, As, Cinco días, The Huffington Post, and MeriStation; educational publishing houses like Santillana and Alfaguara; and important television broadcasters like Mediaset, Telecinco and Cuatro in Spain; TVI in Portugal and V-ME in the United States. When the chief executive of Prisa expresses a personal opinion, it appears to be held by the entire world.

One of these “currents of opinion” asserts that I am not an independent intellectual, because I live here in Cuba, nor, as a consequence, do I have freedom of expression. I could argue that they say this because they would like to see me repeat their half-truths instead of my own. What a paradox! Flouting a freedom with the intention of enslaving my thinking.

I could also say that nothing infringes more on my freedom of expression than a global campaign to present as fact that, simply because I live here, I do not have this right. Perhaps herein lies the real purpose: asserting, via intimidation and slander, that no dissenting opinion coming from Cuba has any credibility.

Nonetheless, I have my very own opinion about what constitutes intellectual independence. This is why I assert that I do not have it. Note the paradox! Let me emphasize what I have said. I am not an independent intellectual. Not because someone has bribed me or whispers in my ear what I must say, but because my opinion is based on an ideology, on historic memory, a culture, certain moral principles and what I understand as ethical.

I cannot comprehend a fact without considering the context, the social foundation, or the dialectical processes that produced it. This would be inconsistent. I cannot reduce to one adjective or one topic anything that is diverse and complex within the human condition. This objectifies people.

I cannot presume that my point of view should be assumed by all, since it is only one note within the dynamic of consensus.

But my opinion is also based on an aesthetic, and thus in some way, it is free (or perhaps I should say libertine.) If what is important is fighting, not conversing, the job is easy. It is no accident that homo sapiens traveled a long distance between grunting and words. As soon as they invented pottery, human beings began to etch drawings on their earthenware. What good are designs on a pot, if they contribute nothing to better protecting the food? Perhaps the most important evolutionary leap made by our species was developing a sense of beauty.

But form is not the only dictate. In this Flaubertian effort, I also attempt to free myself from stereotypes, rhetorical vanity, platitudes, stock phrases, common places and poor imagination. I don’t digress or resort to verbal juggling acts to

avoid the complexity of a phenomenon. On the contrary, I take on another equally controversial. I am absolutely convinced that one can always express the most polemic opinion. Although finding the words is an arduous task when the reader is considered, when one has some self-respect.

(Source: Granma)

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