Friday, May 02, 2003


Today is a quiet day for Raven and me. Tea instead of coffee. Soft-boiled eggs for me; bread and cheese for Raven.

We have been reading and discussing a book I brought back from Caracas: “Mensaje sin destino” (Message for No One in Particular?) by the historian Mario Briceño-Iragorry. The book was written in 1950 to address the crisis of Venezuela—primarily that of cultural identity—and includes, at the end, some pointed commentaries in regard to the “grand crisis of the universal civilization” which could easily have been written this morning, and which Raven and I have decided to translate:

“To find a way out of the problems of our world, it would be necessary ‘that people begin one day to separate themselves from the present, and to look for the way to disappear from it, advises Maritain. It would be necessary to turn our backs on the world of lies in which we live…If we believe in justice and equality and liberty as normative possibilities, let’s not cultivate injustice, nor celebrate inequality, nor even less serve plans which try to enslave people. If we talk about a Christian society, let’s install the fraternity, charity and justice which form the essence of Christianity, and let’s help our neighbor to live in such a way that he sees in us the realistic expression of a fraternal world. In this way we will have the peace sought by the same people, and not the armistice imposed as a balance of fierce forces of empires.”

“We just need to update to the singular,” Raven opines: “Empire—not empires.”

Don Mario continues:

“This past July (1950), while the Security Council of the United Nations was debating the problems of the world and inviting the peaceful nations to go, along with the great powers, to punish the North Korean aggression, I was walking one evening in a park off Riverside Drive, in New York. The plain folks gathered there uniformly demonstrated in their luminous faces the most intense joy—facing the marvellous spectacle of an exceptional sunset, whose blazing colors were more majestic that the architecture of the skyscrapers. I, too, enjoyed my part of the sunset; but I thought with grave sadness about the imminent war and the terrible bomb that could destroy tomorrow, in one minute of scientific barbary, the proud expression of the constructive power of the human intelligence. I thought about the uncertainty of man’s destiny and the madness with which certain financial interests proclaim the war as a favorable circumstance for their profits….”

I don’t think we need to update anything in that last part, Rave. More than half a century later the script is uncannily the same. Even North Korea as one of The Usual Suspects.

“Yeah, and it says here that the book prevented Don Mario from being given a visa to visit an old friend who was very ill in the US.”

They didn’t give a visa to Hugo Chávez, either, until he had been elected President.

“Guess they have it in for Venezuelans who tell it like it is. Although Don Mario was apparently no prophet in his own land, either. Not long after the book was published, in 1952, he entered the electoral fray as a candidate for Congress. Then the traditional electoral process—aka golpe de estado (military coup) forced him into exile in Spain. He returned in April of 1958, when the dictatorship fell—but died less than two months later.” Raven looks up from the book. “Don’t you suppose he died of a broken heart?”

Rave, how could he not have? My heart is very heavy after reading this, and seeing that nobody listened to him. How many times will we go down the same road to Bagdad?

“If the Mayans were right, only as many times as can be fit into the next 8 or 9 years.”

And if we follow the advice of Maritain, and distance ourselves from the present?

“That sounds very much like the question, If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to witness it, does it make a sound?”

Raven looks vaguely smug.

I think it does, Rave. The problem is we are deaf.

Sometimes I like to have the last word, too….

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