Las Indias in English

An interesting life

las Indias Cooperative Group

Manuel Ortega

Manuel Ortega 4 ~ August 14th, 2014 ~ 6

Pasporta Servo kaj la Eŭropo de la kundivido

DSCN0411Post nia restado en Tuluzo ni daŭrigis nian vojaĝon al aliaj Eŭropaj urboj: Nia esplorvojaĝo al la Eŭropo de la kundivido. En ĉiuj urboj ni gastis ĉe Esperantistoj dank’ al Pasporta Servo, laboris en oficejoj de samloka laborado, prelegis pri nia vojaĝo kaj ĝuis nenombreblajn interesajn konversaciojn. Dank’ al tiuj konversacioj nia vojaĝo pli kaj pli riĉiĝis kaj kreskis tempe kaj enhave.

DSCN0410Post Tuluzo ni vizitis Parizon kie ni prelegis en la sidejo de Espéranto Paris Île-de-France. Fine de la prelego ni daŭrigis la konversacion kun la ĉeestantoj, en la sidejo kaj poste en proksima restoracio, pri la kundivida ekonomio, pri la graveco de la libera programaro kaj pri la defioj kaj limoj de la mondo de la Interreto kaj la distribuitaj retoj. Alia temo pri kiu ni parolis dum nia konversacio estis la Esperantaj terminoj por la servoj kaj fenomenoj de la kundivida ekonomia, fakte ĉu la termino «kundivida ekonomio» mem estas bona? Pluraj el la ĉeestantoj kontribuis per aliaj eblaj terminoj kaj fine «e-kun-um-i» estis unu el la plej ŝatataj. Plej granda helpo ĉi-kampe estas la laboro de Le Monde diplomatique en Esperanto kaj ĝia artikolo «Posedi aŭ kundividi?».

DSCN1646En Parizo ni vizitis kaj laboris kelkajn tagojn en Numa kie ni konatiĝis kun Charlotte Boutier kiu amplekse informis nin pri la historio kaj celoj de Numa. Ankaŭ en Parizo ni ĝuis la okazon, dank’ al la elpaŝoj de Didier Loison, vespermanĝi en la ateliero Zinzolin kaj konatiĝi kun Irena Havlicek. Dum tiu vespermanĝo la konversacion ĉefe nutris la demando: Ĉu eblas kunlaboro inter asocioj kaj entreprenoj?

Post Parizo ni vizitis Antverpenon kie ni prelegis en la sidejo de FEL okaze de la vendredaj kunvenoj de la klubo «La Verda Stelo». Plian fojon nia konversacio post la prelego estis pleje interesa kaj ni longe babilis pri la ekonomiaj modeloj de la libera programaro. En Antverpeno ni vizitis la oficejon de Indian Caps por renkontiĝi kun Matthias Levrie.

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De Antverpeno ni vojaĝis al Roterdamo por viziti la oficejon de Creative Factory kaj du tagojn poste ni plu vojaĝis al Berlino. Nun ni troviĝas en Pollando, en Bydgoszcz, kie ni pasigos plurajn semajnon kaj planas detale afiŝi pri nia vojaĝo, spertoj kaj renkontiĝoj en la Eŭropo de la kundivido. Sed antaŭ ĉio kaj prioritate ni volas sendi niajn plej sincerajn dankojn al Poór Veronika, Baptiste Darthenay, Sylvie Roques, Christine Vidotto, Dennis Keefe, Floréal Martorell, familio Cash, Didier Loison, Aj Nouri, Guido Van Damme, Roy McCoy, Fabien van Mook, Dennis Bemmann kaj al ĉiuj kiuj helpis nin dum nia vojaĝo.

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Koran dankon!

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 65 ~ August 13th, 2014 ~ 0

Learning about community and work with Adler

primera comunidad en el kibutzAs we discussed in the prior post, for Adler, our behavior is oriented by goals, by objectives that are formed in the first years of childhood. The point of departure is the “feeling of inferiority” of the child in its first community: the family. That feeling is not in itself negative, because, as Adler says:

The behavior of all our life movements is is to progress from incompleteness to completeness. Accordingly, all of our personal life path has a tendency towards improvement, a tendency to grow, seeking to be superior.

But if fear, rejection or the sense of not having a place of ones own where one belongs, inside from the family, they increase this feeling of inferiority in the child until it is overwhelming. It will be oriented toward wrong strategies: drawing attention, exercising power, seeking vengeance or isolation (creating imagined deficiencies or exaggerating real deficiencies, for example).

Because, as beings guided by goals, the strategies (right or wrong) appear when we are little. In the bosom of our community of origin and as a function of it, we give ourselves our first life objectives. It is then that our first prejudices also arise about others and about ourselves, which Adler calls “private logic.” The joining of life goals (acceptance, belonging, recognition…) with private logic (“friends always fail,” “no one loves me,” etc.) will give shape and coherence to our sensations and feelings throughout our lives, and with them, the way we live, our “lifestyle,” an important concept that Adler defines as

the set of strategies of behavior and safeguards that orient us towards our successes and our failures.

But what is it that makes that our lifestyle fall on one side (the useless side, the side of wrong compensation) or the other (the useful that allows us grow) for our whole life?

The Adlerian Virtus

Virtus y HonosThe Roman “Virtus” was virtue that consisted of having the courage necessary to confront fear in critical situations and be able to improve a difficult situation for one’s community. It was usually represented accompanied by “Honos,” a similar, though less demanding virtue that referred not to personal improvement for one’s own benefit, but to the assumption of the costs of being fair with outsiders. In classical Rome, it was associated with the army, and over time (and several semantic slides), became contemporary “honor.”

Adler’s “courage” looks a lot like its Latin ancestor. For him, it’s not right to expect a life forever free of distress. Distress is just the constant expression of our fear of failing and therefore being rejected. From childhood, distress points out challenges to us, situations in which we don’t feel valuable or strong enough, clever or capable enough, to get ahead. That feeling of inferiority to others and of fear of change is not, in itself, negative. Just the opposite — for Adler, the contrast between our limitations and our life objectives is the engine that gets our creative capacities moving.

True courage, Virtus, is the ability to confront our life tasks, to go from the useless side to the useful side when we make adjustments and compensations. It is decide to take risks and feel a sense of belonging.

Only those that are capable of finding courage and moving towards the useful side, considering themselves a part of a whole, are at home on this Earth and with humanity.

If Virtus is not a daily part of our lifestyle, the fear of being wrong — amplified by social rules based on social punishment of error — will lead us to look for “bad compensation,” which include fictitious paralyzing goals such as the “search for perfection” or strategies of compensation that provide us with a destructive feeling of superiority over others (obsession with earnings, exercising power, “staying on top,” etc.). Perhaps, simply, we try to compensate falsely some aspects of life with others, as if success in certain objectives could make up for deficiencies in others.

The community and “learning” about Virtus

1920 construyendo el kibutz Gan ShmuelOf course there are also right compensations, compensations that help us to grow, but, once again,there is the crucial factor in the whole Adlerian perspective: the Gemeinschaftsgefühl, community feeling, the knowing how to grow with others that requires and produces Virtus.

That community Virtus is none other than the overcoming of the fear of making a mistake, taking risks, and feeling like a part of something in common. It does not mean, as Yang, Milliren and Blangen remind us, not being afraid, but overcoming it on the basis of intelligence, patience, constancy and determination. The Adlerian Virtus is a capacity that can be learned and be developed, a “psychological muscle” that allows us to grow using cooperation and contribution when we understand that the good of the people we love is the ultimate meaning of of life.

The idea according to which community feeling can be learned and practiced is already in Epicurus, even though, interestingly, the above-mentioned authors recall the Confucian idea in which courage is tempered through “ritual, love of knowledge and the development of a certain feeling of righteousness.”

Cooperation and contribution

Sailors working on a deck covered in mangrove polesIn the Adlerian vision, in any case, “community spirit,” which is principally an attitude, can be developed through the practice of cooperation and contribution until it become an “ethos,” and an inseparable pair of values through which the individual him/herself judges the coherence and utility of his/her actions.

What capacities should be practiced to “learn to cooperate”? Adler points to the ability to identify with others through learning to hear and to have the view of the other, which we Indianos have always insisted:

Life presents us with problems that require the ability to cooperate to solve them. To hear, see or speak “correctly” means dissolving the “I” completely in another person or in a situation, and being identified with them. The ability to identify with others, which makes us capable of feeling friendship, empathy, sympathy, worry and love, is the basis of community feeling and can only be practiced together with others.

But cooperating is only one of the aspects of the community life. The other is contributing. Contributing, for the Adlerians, means including the other members of the community in our effort to improve and get ahead. The desire to contribute is made clear only when it is understood that there is no scorecard, no direct relationship between contribution and reward. The path of personal improvement and of community spirit is about wanting to give more than one receives. The well-being of the whole is the base of every contribution worthy of that name, and the improvement of one’s personal situation can only be secondary.

Why is the proposal so strong, so clear, so contrary to the dominant ideology concerning contributing? Because for Adler, contributing is what truly empowers each of us. Through contributing, we feel useful, we value ourselves, and we build our self-esteem. If we make cooperation a way of life, it takes hold of us and contributes to our identity. To contribute and feel that we contribute is the type of individuation that strengthens us and makes us grow.

Life tasks

adler dando una conferenciaFor Eva Dreikurs, surely the most influential Adlerian psychologist after Adler himself, the three life tasks of a person are

Work, which means contributing to the well-being of others, friendship, which encompasses all social relationships with peers and relatives, and love, which is the most intimate unity and represents the strongest and closest emotional relationship that can exist between two human beings.

The classical Greeks distinguished between four forms of love: storge (the “natural” affection that we feel for relatives or the neighbors for the simple fact that they are who they are), philias (sympathy with those with whom we share ideas, situation or objectives), eros (proximity based on what we get from a relationship, whether sex or any other thing) and “agape,” unconditional and disinterested love that starts with identifying with the other. Needless to say, the Adlerians understand both friendship and the love of a couple or family as agape, and that, of course, the key that makes it possible to reach it is, once again, the practice of cooperation and contribution in the framework of a strong community feeling. The love of a couple, love for family and fraternity with friends, are all sustained in the same way of relating — agape — and build, as a whole, la real community of each individual.

Dreikurs adds two more tasks, which she calls existential tasks: self-acceptance — knowing how to be alone and learning to deal with with oneself — and belonging — finding a community through which we can create meaning for our own life. Both are especially important for the analysis of that dimension of our lives that the Adlerians call work.

The relationship with work

colaborandoAdler defines work as “any kind of task, activity or occupation useful for community.” It includes not only professional work, but housework, caring for loved ones, visits to friends, etc. Work is that space which is both personal and social through which we develop our life goals, and find belonging and mutual dependence. Even if you’re unemployed, there is “work” in your life. The question is how it happens, and how much.

As for the productive work, the Adlerian view allows us to understand why many people are identified with purely “functional” professional environments to the point of what some call “workoholism.” The cold” environments of the corporate world, which reduce our “contribution” to predetermined and identical tasks that don’t really need conscious cooperation from and with others, make it possible to (easily and mistakenly) compensate for deficiencies in other life tasks… including those of one’s own work.

But not even the most mechanical employment, within the most rigid procedures, protects us completely from challenges. And challenges once again give us that feeling of inferiority that forces us to improve ourselves or leads us to imaginary compensations. The more hierarchical and structurally unequal the relations in a business are, the more incentivized the feeling of inferiority is, most permanent it will become, and greater the distress and fear of self-improve will be. That is why in general terms, the corporate world suffers from what the Adlerians call a “collective inferiority,” a shared fear of the life task of work and belonging, which is expressed institutionally through the obsessive substitution of conversational processes by “procedures.” The more rigid the procedure, the easier it is to hide in it, and the easier it is to pass the blame when something goes wrong.

asamblea kibutzOf course, even in the most rigid corporate worlds, leaders appear from time to time who transform the environment, creating true community feeling, using intrinsic motivation (so work does good for community members) more than extrinsic (economic reward, status or public recognition), strengthening cooperation and contribution rather than comparison and competition with peers.

But it’s difficult: paradoxically, the more community feeling the individual tries to develop in a “traditional” work environment, the easier it is for another kind of wrong compensations, inherited from childhood through our “private logic,” to emerge. That’s when we see attempts to get attention (procrastinating, bypassing bosses, faking illnesses, deficiencies of all kinds, victimization, claims of incompetency, etc.), to exercise power (the tyrannical boss and his “fix that for me,” the obsession with climbing the corporate ladder, etc.) and finally, rancor and different forms of verbal and symbolic violence (the aggressiveness of the vendor, the arrogance of the consultant, the bitterness of the functionary, the obsessive hatred of those who are fired or chastised…).

Would “flattening” the business be enough to eliminate these risks? Would a cooperative, or a community company, be safe from “wrong substitutions?” Certainly not. “Flatter” businesses and cooperatives don’t reach the extreme “feeling of inferiority” that the old structures create. It’s easier for them to avoid or face the problems, but in the end, they’re not safe from the “private logic” of their members, which is not born of the system of organization but of a “lifestyle” formed in the family experience during childhood.

colaborando kibutzWhat the Adlerians would recommend is to orient people towards contributing in those fields where they could make positive substitutions that reinforce them, insisting on “see with the other person’s eyes” and right from the beginning, promote the objective of “giving more to others than we receive.” All this must be within a general discourse that clearly unites the real community of each person with the objectives and outcomes of work.

And, obviously, they also recommend a different kind of job interview, starting with a certain comprehension of the lifestyle of the applicant, to wisely evaluate whether or not there is capacity to integrate him/her, and whether or not the organization, such as it is, can provide him/her with ways to overcome his/her own fears. In the same way that a person cannot be friends with just anyone, not every enterprise, network or community is good for the development of a given person… or the other way around. That’s why the Adlerians who are specialized in team selection ask things as “strange” as whether the candidates see the creating of meaning and life goals in the position they are applying for, and understand it as a way of improving others’ lives and their own immediate surroundings. Because, in the final analysis, for the Adlerians,

work is what we use to build our meaning of life and find our social and emotional belonging

“Facilitating” Virtus

beethovenAn common example of positive compensation is the redefinition of Beethoven from performer to composer, when he went deaf. It was a full neurotic crisis, and he even thought about committing suicide, but he came through it by compensating for this fundamental deficiency for the lifestyle and self definition he had chosen by developing another latent ability (composition) and redefining himself on the basis of that. To be able to do so meant a good dose of courage, of Virtus, because all his life tasks, from being comfortable with himself to the relationship with his circle of friends and his family and wife, were affected, and certainly he must have felt fear of being mistaken.

Because Virtus is the key ability to be able face these changes, several Adlerians highlight the figure of the “facilitator,” a person (or several) from the surroundings that, through their interaction, demonstrate and encourage living life in their community in “agape.” The question is how to transform an environment of coexistence in “facilitation.”

When it comes to tools, once again, a classical reference appears in Adler: the Socratic dialogue. The Adlerian reading of the dialogue seeks to work with the other to investigate the feelings and fears behind their actions. The analyst or facilitator never asks “why,” and attempts to keep the conversation on-topic through new questions and comments that remove the centrality of facts so that the “lifestyle” of the interviewee is expressed freely, becoming visible to both.

mayeuticaIn many Adlerian texts, it says that “people need encouragement like plants need water,” so the facilitator reinforces everything that points towards the “community spirit” of the other with positive comments. The objective is to reinforce the tendency towards “community spirit” if it exists, or simply make sure to replace the tendency towards zero-sum logic. It starts from the psychoanalytical idea of helping the person discovering their own “private logic,” prejudices and fears from childhood that are impeding change, as a way to gain the strength to overcome them. This can be summarized in “the” Adlerian question: “how would your life change if I had magical powers and could make everything you want real?”

Beyond this, Adlerian analysts have developed a whole series of tools, from questionnaires to ways of representing the family we grew up in, but dialogue has to be the device from which the most can be learned outside of professional practice. This was an idea that Adler himself supported, since always asserted that many of the problems that psychologists deal with can be overcome without their help. Surely his final hope was not establish a form of therapy, but a practical ethic based on a common sense that does not reject humor, paradox, or irony.

Conclusions

Few contemporary authors have been able to rescue the classical inheritance with the finesse and the originality of Adler. His great merit was build a story about the pivotal elements of our life, and above all, about how to improve them, that begins with the communal logic of our species and our desires.

It is a story from which we can learn a lot about how to develop, through the practice of cooperation and contribution, an individual and community “ethos” that empowers each and every one of us in the real communities in which we live our lives.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 65 ~ August 12th, 2014 ~ ~ 12 0

Why we stopped believing in origins and essences

mapa copernicanoAs we have seen in previous articles of this series, the story of what we call “Western thought” is not all about Plato and his ontological and idealistic worldview:

The core of Platonism is the theory of ideas. According to this theory, the world as we perceive it is only a representation of another abstract world of unchanging ideas. Everything that is “real” for us is just a degraded form compared to its origin. This importance of the ideal and original nature of things (ontology) has shaped many of the ideologies that still live among us. For Christian ontological thought, the heir of Platonism, things are pure in their origin, for ideas are divine creations, and their “passage” through the world is nothing but a degradation, which only makes sense if history is understood as a road towards restoration, a return to the origin. This source would be God, as conceived by Christians, but the general template morphs into many avatars: the class emancipates itself and in turn emancipates all mankind in Marxism, the motherland that gains back its original essence through the assertion of a state of its own in a culturally “purified” identity, etc.

It was the accident of the rise and imposition of Christianity that established the essentialist worldview as hegemonic. The essentialist idealism of Plato and Aristotle will be Europe’s “single thought” for centuries. There was never a lack of contrary voices and thinkers, who built from Stoic and Epicurean perspectives, but the truth is that Platonism set up a core of ideas and prejudices so strong that it took something more dramatic than the development of science or large political revolutions to question them.

The Platonic nucleus of Western thought

That is why it is so difficult today to understand the failure of Copernicus. His empirical results now seem obvious, and the resistance of his peers to accept them seems fanatic. However, Copernicus was actually asking his contemporaries to abandon a whole intellectual machinery that had been built up for centuries, and which provided the framework for understanding and meaning — all this for the sake of a few results based on the observation of celestial bodies. His proposal meant becoming an intellectual orphan in exchange for very little. Copernicus should not have expected acclaim.

marxIn the medium term, ontological thought managed to rebuild itself, incorporating what the new empiricism and the new natural sciences were declaring. After all, science was riding a wave of economic and social changes that the power structures did not want to give in to… but it took them some time to digest them. The very idea of dynamics, of an almost permanent state of change that first seen in the Baroque and then in the Enlightenment, will also encompass the very conception of society with the American and French revolutions. With the invention and rise of nationalism in the early 19th century, the Platonic approach incorporates dialectics, the idea of an essential, internal dynamism to the nature of history that will also be considered as its driving force. Based on ideas from Thiers and historians of the French Revolution, first Hegel and then Marx will build the ultimate Platonic fantasy: the idea of ​​the existence of a series of “historical laws” that govern, over and above the people’s will and actions, the course of great social events, and that could lead the way to a new kind of perfect state based on a “scientific” ideology.

enfant sauvageBut ontological thought brought something else: a story of human experience, of what it means to be a human being in Nature and society. The Enlightenment had retained the idea that what defined a human being was their capacity not only for “practical reason,” but also for “moral reason,” and empiricist nineteenth-century science quickly found case studies (remember “L’Enfant sauvage“?) that “proved” that, indeed, humans  have an innate sense of justice, and therefore, of good and evil.

The Enlightenment idea of personal and social development through education and the exercise of reason translates into a “dynamic” conception of human experience in the 19th century. It was conceived as a coming from the immaculate, essential origin of moral reason that came “factory-installed” in us.

chagall

But that “natural” reason is increasingly interpreted as historical-moral reason. Hegel and Marx will culminate the Platonic pirouette with the horizon of a “new man,” a better man, closer to the ideal that would live within our moral core, waiting for its development. The road could be no other than the knowledge and subjugation of these “laws of history” which supposedly pointed towards a perfect state, either national (perfectly expressing and materializing the spirit of the people throughout history) or universal (a product and agent of the end of class society). The parallels with the religious world are obvious, and it is easy to recognize there the “shekhinah” (the historical course of the people of Israel towards God) of the Jewish Kabbala, the idea of ​​freedom as submission to the will of God present in the very word “Islam,” or universal redemption through the “second coming” in Christianity.

If nineteenth-century ideology begins the critique of religion, it is because somehow it has completely internalized the ontological notion present in the three monotheistic religions in medieval Europe. What Marx says of Luther can also be said of himself: “He removed the priests because he put a priest in the heart of every man.”

The World Wars and the genocidal State

soldados británicos 1916And so World War I arrived, that great “meat grinder,” the first systematic application of scientific and industrial rationality to war, with its wrist watches for synchronizing assaults and bombings as if they were production cycles.

The results play homage to the cult of large scales: during the first battle of the Marne alone, two million fighters slogged through the mud, and half a million were dead in four days. The Thirties brought the atrocities of building “socialism in one country” (a million dead just through collectivization efforts), the conquest of Abyssinia by Italy, and the Spanish civil war. And finally, the Forties will bring the main course: a new World War and the greatest genocide in history, the first done in an industrial fashion, making use of all the power of the best state machinery of the time.

The world is stunned. The Platonic ideal of progress based on the deployment of Reason collapses. But something beyond awe and dread was needed: the blowing up of the very roots of Platonism, refuting the “laws of history” and removing essentialist thinking from the story of human experience. It was imperative to put an end to essences.

Popper and Arendt

karl-popperThe first assault had arrived in 1936, the year of the end of the Abyssinian War and the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Paraphrasing Marx’s critique against Proudhon, it was called “The Poverty of Historicism” and its dedication reflected directly the author’s mood:

In memory of the countless men and women of all creeds or nations or races who fell victim to the fascist and communist belief in Inexorable Laws of Historical Destiny.

The following year, Popper emigrates to New Zealand. He will spend the war years writing his final assault. In a way, he is working on his own “ultimate philosophical weapon.” At first, he intends to call it Three False Prophets: Plato, Hegel, Marx, but a friend gives him the final title: The Open Society and its Enemies. Like a classic demigod, he is accompanied by the great intellectual heroes of the age, the latest theorists of liberal society in a time when everyone thinks that the future belongs to communism and fascism: Laski and Robbins proofread the text, and especially his two great friends, Gombrich – dedicated himself to finding a publisher for the work in the middle of the war — and Hayek, who paved the way for its dissemination.

The book does not deserve to be summarized, but read with pause and delight. It is one of those books that change the lives of those who read them. It starts with going back to the original point, the death of Socrates, to narrate how and why Plato betrays the early spirit of openness that characterized Greek democracy and which had impregnated his master. He then tells us how his ideas, which carry the seeds of totalitarianism, pass through to his disciple Aristotle, and from him to Hegel and Marx, intellectual fathers of the forces that are massacring humanity at that time in the name of “scientifically managed societies” that would be arriving on the back of inevitable historical laws. From Plato’s assumptions, from those ideal origins to which the historical course would “return” us to through “nation-building” or the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” could only arise totalitarian societies dedicated to worship the structures that purportedly embody them. Repression, totalitarianism, war, are not the consequences of excesses: they are in the original program.

Hannah ArendtBut something was still missing. Platonism and idealist ontological thought had gone beyond placing ideal figures on the origins of the great historical subjects (nation, class, etc.) It had also placed them at the heart of what human life itself means, on that supposedly innate sense of justice, of right and wrong, that would be our moral reason.

In 1957, the Mossad receives a tip: Adolf Eichmann, who organized the logistics of the Nazi death camps, was hiding in Buenos Aires. The young Israeli secret services kidnap him and take him to Jerusalem for trial.

Hanna Arendt realizes the historical importance of the moment and attends the trial sessions. The common explanation for the morality of the Holocaust does not convince her. She had lived through the rise of Nazi Germany and the way her own teacher and former partner, one of the great European intellectuals of the prewar period, Martin Heidegger, had ended up in collusion with the regime, while she had to go into exile to avoid extermination. She just could not believe in the idea of a million inherently evil, sadistic Nazis, enjoying a conscious moral choice, clouding the moral judgment of millions of other Germans through charisma and propaganda (a thesis from which sprang the anti-consumerist discourse and the anti-advertising paranoia of the counterculture). She had been there, and it had all “come of itself” through many small and endless concessions to power, to comfort, to safety, to common ideas about the need for a state that would restore the economy and the tranquil order of progress… Millions of Germans were accomplices of eugenics, repression, the Jewish and gypsy genocide, but they acted like zombies, not as moral beings who choose openly and consciously.

EichmannThe trial, and the defense that Eichmann opts for, give her the key to a simpler, more obvious interpretation, but which implies demolishing the foundations of what hegemonic Western thought had defined as a human being: the banality of evil.

I merely point out a phenomenon that, in the course of the trial, became clear. Eichmann had no reason except those demonstrated by his extraordinary diligence towards his personal progress. And by itself, such diligence was not criminal.

Eichmann would have been utterly incapable of murdering his superior to inherit his post. To put it in plain words, we can say that Eichmann simply never knew what he was doing. Eichmann was not stupid. Pure and simple thoughtlessness – which in no way we can equate to stupidity – was what predisposed him to become the greatest criminal of his time. And while this deserves to be classified as “banality,” and may even seem comical, and although even with the best intention it is not right to attribute Eichmann any diabolical depth, it is also true that we cannot say it is something normal or common.

To explain this, Arendt will need to distinguish between “thought” and “judgment” in order to indicate that the social development of the century has led to a point where “the very framework within which the understanding and judgment of [the society in which we live] could emerge is gone.” In other words, the ability to judge and discern between good and evil is a cultural construct, not an intrinsic quality. There is not a function that we supposedly come into the world with by virtue of being human, and that education and experience develops or stunts. Things that Platonism had shown us as part of our ROM, our inalienable essence, from moral reason to love, are conditioned by the environment and depend on our will to be incorporated into our lives. They are as optional as a printer to a computer or a GPS to a rental car. Their denial, what we call “evil,” does not have to be conscious, nor particularly sadistic or malicious. It may simply be… banal. In an elegant way, Arendt takes up the stoic thread according to which evil does not exist by itself – it is simply a dramatic and sad sort of stupidity.

Conclusions

So far in this series, we have discussed the idea that what we call “Europe” and “Western thought” has their roots in medieval Christianity and what that meant: the imposition of the Platonic-Aristotelian ideas as a structure of basic understanding of the world. This structure serves as a common basis of the great ideological systems of the great European expansion and Modernity.

But if as we have seen, thanks to Popper, these ideas can only lead to totalitarianism, and as Arendt said, we really are not “configured at the source,” as they claim, what is left of the European experience? What remains of the Western thought that we associate with the ideas of freedom and diversity that characterize an open society? Cynics, Stoics and Epicureans represent alternative paths to the necessary sorpasso of Modernity, to that postmodernity which we cannot renounce without accepting the revival of the Thirties that is taking shape underneath the social decomposition in which we live.

But how can life and history be thought of without a single system? How can we live morally in a world that is not based on all-powerful gods or inexorable historical laws, without essences or determinant origins? Which way is up in postmodernism?

Translated by Alan Furth from the original in Spanish.

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 65 ~ August 10th, 2014 ~ ~ 12 1

Fraternity and its paths

fraternitasOf the three elements of the revolutionary triad -Liberty, Equality, Fraternity- the third seems the most vague and difficult to define. Perhaps this is so because it is usually argued for in two opposite ways that are usually presented rhetorically as equivalent. But they are not.

Aristotelian Fraternity

The two major religions of the West, Christianity and Islam, speak of the “first Christians” and of the first three generations of Muslims, the “Salaf,” and try to extrapolate the fraternity that allegedly united the members of those small communities to define the ‘ought’ of their two major constructs: Christianity and the Umma. But equating the feelings in a small community whose members share a purpose and a way of living to an imagined community of millions of people unknown to each other is not straightforward. It is a problematic conceptual leap that was built during the Middle Ages, at the height of Aristotelianism.

Hitherto, the term “fraternity” had a much narrower sense. For the Epicureans, who valued it very highly, it was a form of friendship, the product of a shared experience, and therefore an interpersonal relationship that could only live in real communities.

aristóteles

But Aristotle took the opposite route. He based the concept of fraternity on his Metaphysics: following Plato, fraternity would be based on the equivalence relationships among the abstract ideas that inform things. That is, fraternity would be based on those characteristics we share with others, and thrive within imagined communities: those where the alleged members cannot all know each other, but they can recognize each other through the features they have in common. Thus, sharing a passport or a cultural background would make us co-nationals, being of the same sex would make us fellow men or women, sharing a certain age range would make us part of “youth,” “adults,” or “the elderly,” etc. And what is more important, the idea of ​​the nation to which we would belong, that of masculinity or femininity, of youth or of old age, would define our interests, our way of being, and even our affections.

One might say, following Antisthenes the Cynic, that the concrete, real horse is one thing, and the abstract idea of ​​”horse-ness” is another; and that, similarly, fraternity within a real and concrete community of Christians, Muslims or retirees is one thing, and it’s quite another to think that Christianity (the imagined community formed by all Christians), the Umma, or the “senior citizenship”  will or should produce fraternal relations between people that don’t know each other for the simple fact of sharing a particular characteristic. mercaderes

This is the somersault between the fraternity of Stoics and Epicureans -the joy of living and learning together in community- and Aristotelian fraternity to which, we are told, we should aim for at the heart of large-scale political and social imaginary constructs, supposedly of a more elevated nature than the modest reality of our families, friends, and actually existing networks.

But is this not obviously the great Western myth? No. The origin of fraternity as political myth, the fraternity of the first medieval urban democracies, was based on the real community of life, work, and celebration that was Medieval Art. And nothing was further from its spirit than pretending to be or to represent an abstract and universal collective. foucault

The Aristotelian concept of fraternity entered politics not through medieval communes and the first democracies, but through the development of absolute monarchies. Foucault tells us how the state then begins to experience a new form of power. Rather than limiting itself to establishing norms and punishments, it now pretends to condition and statistically guide the behavior of its subjects, conceptualized as the “body politic of the king” (later to become the nation). To do that, it first starts splitting that first imagined community into delegate subjects (social classes, races, etc.), linked together by alleged collective interests and fraternal ties which have, since then, allowed States to make constant calls for sacrifice for the common good.

But let’s not forget that, as Popper tells us, the monster that is the Platonic “common good” and its corresponding Aristotelian conception of fraternity necessarily lead us towards totalitarianism, national wars, and barbarism, just as in the Middle Ages the fraternity of Christianity and the Umma were rallying cries for the Crusades and Jihad.

Conclusion

meshThe underlying definition of fraternity shapes the prevailing forms of social cooperation: it will determine whether we see it as the result of relationships among peers, or the product of mediation – and therefore centralization – through external institutions.

For the descendants of Aristotle, from the Sun King to Lenin, through Hegel and nationalism, the community will be a spirit that will not have a body without a king, a ruling party, a State, or more or less coercive and more or less “participatory” external superstructures.

For the descendants of Epicurean and Stoic communitarianism, the community is the natural space for direct cooperation between peers with no mediator needed.

This dichotomy has traveled through the history of Europe and is found at almost every historical crossroads. Even in the collaborative economy of recent years, in the dilemma between centralized services that purport to represent and group abstract communities of persons defined by their consumption habits, and the distributed logic of P2P.

And this is so because ever since the origins of European and Western thought, fraternity is a basic concept with two possible readings… that lead us through opposite paths.

Translated by Alan Furth from the original in Spanish.

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 65 ~ July 24th, 2014 ~ ~ 12 0

Community and personality

adlerAlfred Adler is in the expository handbooks that university textbooks are because of his debate with Freud and his departure from the Psychoanalytical Society, of which he was the first president. The big headline tells us that this early rupture in the psychoanalytical world was due to Adler’s resistance to accepting Freud’s theory that the origin of neuroses is in the repression of the libido.

But nothing is more unfair for something intellectually interesting than to see it reduced to headlines. And certainly, if there is a case in contemporary thought in which the headlines have hidden the content of a work to the extreme of looting it, is that of Adlerian psychology. And yet today, the great ideas and concerns of Alfred Adler turn out to be strangely current and suggestive.

A communitarian conception of personality development

Lexico y apuntesThere’s a lot of the Epicurean teachers in Adler. For him, the idea of communal belonging is central. We define ourselves and complete ourselves in a family community from birth, and we feel our deficiencies in relation to those around us. With them, we try to complete ourselves, compensate for deficiencies by developing other skills, and mature a through of improvement and contribution, an ideal form of a healthy Gemeinschaftsgefühlcommunity feeling. In this context, our personality is built not only with desires, but with goals and objectives through which we grow and overcome our feelings of lacking.

The drive for meaning, a willingness to improve the inferiorities that we feel at every moment of our development, will feed a life cycle of learning that makes us grow, since our problems, at the same time as our feeling of belonging, our definition of community, are expanded from our family to the surroundings, and finally project the idea of contribution towards humanity as a whole.

From the viewpoint about the family as community, Adler put the accent not so much in conflicts of the discovery of sexuality and desire as on the place of the individual in the structure of the family network. He wondered about the derivatives roles of being a boy or girl, or the place in birth order, to reconstruct expectations and understand the feelings of lacking and abandonment in the early phases of childhood, especially prior to eight years old.

familia AdlerBut if, for whatever reason, we don’t feel part, if the family as first community of belonging doesn’t serve to support us and overcome those first insecurities, a whole series of wrong goals appear that seek wrong compensations for the vacuum of meaning in life that come from not feeling community protection: the search for attention and recognition first, the need to exercise power over others later, and finally, when the pain makes fruitlessness of all these false goals obvious, bitterness and the desire for revenge. It is the pathological path, the path of inferiority complexes, empowered and exaggerated by a hierarchical culture of falsely competitive values, exclusion and individualism.

With a whole series of issues going unanswered, or even worse, badly answered, the individual will develop defensive or defeatist narratives, and will develop a private logic made of convictions that often times contradict their own common sense. In it, there will be false reasons for the exclusion of others and for inaction itself. The attempt to fit everything together and justify avoiding aspects of some of four four big fields of Adlerian relationships (work, love, sex and other people) make up a lifestyle recognizable by its critical elements — among other things, because of its moments of violence and its feelings of guilt. These feelings, to Adler, are reactions of common sense to the inaction that private logic leads to. A healthy person, for Adler, does not have feelings of guilt: s/he learns and acts accordingly through contributing and from renewed effort.

Meaning and belonging

KibutzNot long ago, Javier wondered if there was a relationship between the dysfunctional development of productive scales that reinforced the destruction of community settings and the massive emergence of a series of personality disorders beginning with World War II. Adlerian psychology would undoubtedly respond affirmatively: deprived of real community, the human experience can only be plunged into a lack of meaning, and an erroneous substitution of an interesting life with strategies of power and revenge.

But once the experience of community is made possible, Adler’s thought is optimistic and trusts in the capacity for personal strategies of compensation, within a healthy community setting, have to build people more and more empathic with humanity in general. In an inclusive real community, it is our problems and deficiencies that help us grow and make our life interesting. Additionally, healthy personal development leads to expanding the borders of the family community towards a more and more extended real community, towards friends and classmates or co-workers; and finally, from abstract forms and the generosity of the communal relationship towards a general empathy towards humanity.

In fact, while Freud was pessimistic and denied the possibility of a non-nuerotic culture and society, Adler understood the development of community spirit, Gemeinschaftsgefühl, not only as a basis for individual therapy, but as a way of social transformation, as a path that, if developed, would modify the way a society sees itself and change the way it manages its inevitable conflicts.

Ceremonias del día de la bandera en EcuadorOn the path of the development of community spirit, Adler, child of his time, accepted that intermediate onion layers could exist between the feeling of belonging to a community and love for what is generically human: abstractions like national identity or class. But experience leads us to think that, in general, imagined communities, and especially the nation, have a different nature. Recent empirical works in the field of international adoption show how the adoptive parents who are most resistant to giving a place to the biological mother in the story of the origins of the child, were the most inclined to include those same children in courses on the culture and national tongue of the country in which s/he had born, even though s/he has no memory of its use, having been adopted prior to learning to speak. These same families are the ones that least often allow contact with the biological family to continue. The national story of the country where the child was born serves to substitute for the memory of the family of origin. A similar thing occurs where States drive strong nationalism: the family history, beyond a certain point, normally the grandparents, is confused and blurs with the official history of the nation and its myths. National identity seems like a virus that reproduces by inserting itself into community and family memories to be perpetuated using their own mechanisms of reproduction (domestic stories, the memories of living relatives, the stories of life, etc.).

Aristotelian identities, which belong to imagined communities, are corrosive to Gemeinschaftsgefühl – Adlerian community spirit — not a consequence of its development.

Communal microsociology

AsambleaBut maybe the most suggestive of Adlerian contributions today is not his social hopes, but rather the fact that the logic of the goals and the definition of the lifestyles are the basis for a true communal microsociology.

We’ve known for some time that systems of industrial organization that practice participatory methodologies in collectives that don’t share broad reflection and previous interaction, end up reinforcing charismatic or professionalized leaders as the only way to overcome the risk aversion that transparency exacerbates. The result, in the end, produces those same indifferent attitudes that were criticized as characteristic of traditional systems.

Seder de Pesaj en un kibutzThat is why businesses, even the ones that seek democratic innovations, easily become sick communities. In the first place, because are not usually formed out of the deliberation of their members, so generally there’s no excess of community feeling. And when ideas are brought in from outside, the changemakers usually think that changing procedures or rules is enough. The results, logically, fall well short of expectations. In practice, the leaders themselves very frequently end up continuing mistaken strategies: anxiety for recognition, the need to exercise power to be affirmed… all very Adlerian.

No wonder in other realms with similar problems, from the communities of neighbors to boards of foundations, courses and manuals on coexistence abound. And in all these collectives, that microsociology outlined in the Adlerian proposal, seems to be clamoring to become community knowledge.

This is the least-developed line of Adler’s ideas, but also, surely, one of the most powerful, above all if we accept the original epicurean idea that sums up all his thought: the feeling of belonging to a community, and the experience of create meaning from it, are basic for healthy personal development… at any stage of life.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

María Rodríguez

María Rodríguez 5 ~ July 15th, 2014 ~ ~ 12 0

Spaces of the path or, what the Romans left us

Castro asturWhen one reads ancient and medieval history on the Iberian Penninsula, one finds the most entertaining things. For example, studies of texts from the times and archaeological remains indicate that all the tribes that inhabited the Cantabrian coast, from the Gallaeci to the Gascones, were very similar, basically Celts, with more Roman influence in some cases than others, but with few significant differences.

However, Luggones and Pesicos tried not have anything to do with Asturians — much less the Gallaeci and Vascones — and defined their differences and borders with everything the technology of the time allowed. That changed, however, with the barbarian invasions, when the tribes joined together in the defense of a common culture and territory. They really joined together for efficiency, because separately, there were few of them, and the barbarians were very brutish, but since that the Kingdom of Asturias would end up being the embryo of the future Spain, the first explanation sounds better.

CovadongaThe identity-based discussion ended with Visigoth domination which, as we already know, had a very good reputation a posteriori, because they came from the north. But they had little depth, and in reality, took advantage of the Roman structures and organizations to make their domination work passably well. When the Umayyad Caliphate, which was militarily and culturally very superior, took control of the Peninsula, a caudillo from the village of Sueve, the famous Pelayo, manages to overcome Munuza‘s Berber troops in Covadonga, which led to the best story-telling in the history of Spain.

Which is undoubted is that Pelayo becomes very popular. No one was pleased about the arrival of the Romans, but in the end, they had to recognize that the quality of life there had increased a lot since their arrival. The Visigoths were a disaster, but in the north, they hadn’t modified things too much. The arrival of a third party from who-knows-where wasn’t appetizing to anyone, even though they were more handsome and sophisticated that the earlier ones.

El oso de FavilaSo, Pelayo was chosen princeps and began what is known as the Asturian monarchy, which was elected until Ordoño I, even though the son of the deceased king was almost always elected — or alternative heir, as in the case of Favila, son of Pelayo, who lasted a short time, because one of those beautiful bears that appear in the Principality’s advertising ate him up while he was taking a nap.

Since then, there was an era of peace with the Berber south and internal war between families, with the Gallaeci and Vascones people helping one band or another, according to what suited them. This ends with the second reign of Alfonso II, the Chaste (791-842), the great creator of stories, and from then on there would be no more peace with the south, at the same time as the true cultural and territorial development of Asturias was beginning.

In close relationship with the marketing of the Camino and the peninsular reconquest are the architectural works that began to be built more or less around the time of the the arrival of Alfonso II, which was doubtlessly due to the new importance of spaces in the strategy general of global positioning. Today, these works are called Asturian art or pre-Romanic Asturian, but in reality they are not the least bit pre-Romanic.

santullanopinturasJust as in the case of the Byzantine art, pre-Romanic Asturian art is really Roman art, which had not disappeared in Asturias, much the way the Roman religion resisted Christianity on the Cantabrian coast until many centuries after its imposition as the official religion. Its definition as the continuance of Visigoth art is part of the story, as well as its similarity with Carloingian art. The most significant changes come more from the change in ritual taking place in its interior than from the introduction of new elements.

Visigoth art itself also was Roman art, and the name “Visigoth” derives from the tribe that had power during the period between Roman Hispania and the Castillian kings, but not its own style of representing things and building buildings. When Romanesque arrived in Europe, by Alfonso’s Camino, it was mixed with what they already had — which was Roman — and was modified little by little.

NarancoThe church of San Julián de los Prados, built by Alfonso II, is the best proof of the continuity of Roman art because of its similarity with what was found in the archaeological site of Veranes.

But without a doubt, the most original and most significant building of that time is Santa María del Naranco. While it is called a “church” and worked as one later, Alfonso’s successor, Ramiro I, had the building built as a second residence, which, by its design, functioned basically as a party house. We were also told that the large room was no more than a throne room, but there’s no place for one. Anyone who knows the place will see clearly that it is the best setting to throw parties: the capital already was in Oviedo, and the main room is perfect to put out tables with the finger food and where the waiters can calmly serve wine between the coolest people of the century IX.

Naranco desde el interiorRamiro himself was responsible for continuing the campaign of his predecessor, Alfonso II, with the legend of the battle of Clavijo, in which the Apostol Saint James appeared to Ramiro’s soldiers astride a white horse to help them in the battle. This victory put an end to the tribute of the 100 damsels annually that the Asturians had to pay Cordoba and Ramiro, grateful, established a remembrance of Saint James, for which a large quantity of rents (an extra tithe of grapes and other crops) would go to the church of the Apostol, as well as a part of the booty of each battle won against the kingdom of the south.

Apart from creating the unpleasant representation of Saint James as matamoros [the Moor-killer], it was a smart way of sending funds towards what must have been the main course of the spatial strategy. The end of the Camino de Santiago couldn’t disappoint anyone. There were many outsiders who married locals, from Navarre and La Rioja to the Atlantic coast. No expense could be spared, and what better way than medieval crowdfunding to make sure there would be nothing lacking?

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish).

Natalia Fernández

Natalia Fernández 8 ~ July 14th, 2014 ~ ~ 12 0

The camino of stories and markets

Beato UrgellIn 1987, the Council of Europe declared the Camino de Santiago as the first European Cultural Route. Beyond religious beliefs and spiritual quests, over the centuries it has become a space for lovers of nature, art, and gastronomy. Since its resurgence in the late twentieth century, the experience of the Camino has gradually become less of an endurance test or an act of faith. Today there are many “caminos” tailored to the needs and pleasures of each. Customization and sophistication have turned the pilgrimage into an experience that more than 200 thousand people enjoy every year; and investment in the recovery of roads, lodges, and hostels, allowed the economic rebirth of many locations far away from the regular tourist routes.

Codice CalixtinusThis relationship between development and pilgrims is nothing new. The Codex Calixtinus, developed in the twelfth century by the cleric Aymeric Picaud, dedicates the last of its five volumes to the description of the different routes that were available at the time for performing the Camino from France. It recommends itineraries, the organization of stages, locations of bridges, towns, hostels, descriptions of peoples and their customs, and churches to visit. It is considered the first “Guide du Routard” for single travelers.

The artistic journey is full of surprises. Porches of churches that tell stories about the imposition of Catholicism, pagan symbols, octagonal floors that reveal the presence of the Templar order in remote places …

If there is anything that characterizes the Camino is its ability to Capilla de Santiagoaccommodate stories, to reinvent itself again and again. Inventions considered to be historical and original. Nothing is more typical than the Santiago pie: the first and duboius reference is from the sixteenth century, and does not exist in its current form until the late nineteenth century. The opposite is also true for dishes that were considered delicacies and were present along the Cantabrian region and southern France, as the goose, which, according to medieval records, is one of the iconic animals of the Camino de Santiago along with the scallop. Indeed, the veneras (symbol of Venus) and geese (Celtic symbol) represent the continuity of the Christian story with previous legends of the road towards Ara Solis.

Beato de UrgellFor a long time, the scallop symbolized the completion of the Camino and the arrival to Santiago. To ensure the accuracy of this distinction as well as the control of its rents, the Catholic Church established a monopoly on the sale of shells, and the excommunication of whomever sold them privately. However, it is possible to slow trade, but not to stop it, so a clandestine trade of souvenir shells made out of wood and stone quickly flourished at the gates of the city. It was necessary to reach an agreement formalizing a franchise of sorts. From this market that leveraged a small legal loophole to thrive, was born in Santiago the guild and neighborhood of os concheiros.

The markets of the camino

The Camino de Santiago opened routes of passage by creating a trade corridor between the French regsions and the North of the Iberian Peninsula, including Portughese lands. Although its opening takes place in the ninth century, it is during the eleventh and twelfth centuries when it will truly flourish, being one of the engines of the “Commercial Revolution” which at that time all Europe would go through.

Beato de LiebanaThese new routes and flows will have a great social, urban, and commercial impact. The central figure in this process is the pilgrim, who adpots different roles in their passing. First, as a consumer of services: the first urban centers emerge in order to meet their needs, the village being the smallest of all of them, organized around a church (usually built on the “castrum”), a hospital or hostel for pilgrims, and houses clustered at the edges of the road. All this created job opportunities for the guilds and professions (tailors, weavers, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, tanners…)

Pilgrims created the need for increased agricultural and livestock production to ensure supplies, and also to provide exchange mounts or draft animals for the wagons. But according to the Codex Calixtinus the pilgrim is also a seller, he is used to carry light goods to trade and cover the costs of accommodation and meals on the road. They almost always carry jewelry, fabrics, and generally things that can pass as personal items in toll booths in order to avoid paying tax. Upon their arrival at the villages, an improvised trade takes place, and with time it gains structure, resulting in weekly markets of food, farming and gadgets is given. Later on, the great yearly fairs will emerge, and with them, the gradual specialization of several markets. With the fairs, travelers will be able to arrange their arrival to different locations depending on their needs.

Seeing the impact generated by the new floating population, monarchs and feudal lords launched offers to encourage permanent settlement, creating the privileges of the villas and the “Right of Franks“: A regulatory framework to facilitate access to property that contemplated a more favorable tax system, and structured the relationship between newcomers and established residents.

With pilgrims and franc merchants the population increases and new urban centers arise. And with them arrive new products, consumption habits, and perhaps most importantly, new technologies applicable to the professions which will have continuity in monasteries, the knowledge centers of the Christian Middle Ages.

An unstoppable flow

El codice calixtinoThus, the Camino shaped the peninsular north, but also the entire continent, as a driver of the Commercial Revolution that would rebuild the foundations of a continental market from the eleventh century. And indeed, the Renaissance ushers in a long decline leading to its virtual disappearance.

But when roads capable of deeply transforming the economy and culture open up, the potential to generate wealth does not disappear so easily. The story, the inspiring power of myth, survived the pilgrimage practice. A series of campaigns and public investments, especially that mythical Xacobeo 93, reactivated the flow and mobilized thousands of people, Catholic and non-Catholic, worldwide.

Art Miniatura XII Codice de San Andres del Arroyo Los cuatro jinetes de ApocalipsisAnd the flow continues. In the last Xacobeo year, 2010, the Camino represented, for Galician GDP only, more than 250 million euros in the midst of an economic crisis, more than ninety euros per member of the community. There will not be another Xacobeo until 2021, but only during the month of June this year, more than 33,000 people ordered their compostelana, so surely in 2014 there will be more than 200,000.

It is common to hear, as a criticism, that more and more pilgrims do not undertake the Camino driven by religious beliefs but by the desire to live the experience with others, to enjoy the route, and to dive into a historical journey. Others suggest that it is “only” another form of tourism. Probably both are true. But isn’t the “miracle” of a small humanity in motion, learning with the journey, and generating wealth in its wake, much more powerful than any other story?

Translated by Alan Furth from the original in Spanish.

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 65 ~ July 13th, 2014 ~ ~ 12 2

The camino

caminos de santiagoHaving grown up in Spain, it is difficult not to have been in contact with the Christian myth of the origin of the Camino de Santiago. According to the Calixtino Code,

After Herod killed James the Apostle in Jerusalem, his disciples got hold of the dismembered body and head and sailed with it through maritime and fluvial ways to Iria Flavia (Padrón). From there, while looking for a good place to bury the Holy Body, his disciples had to pass through the lands of a powerful woman who has gone down in history as the Queen Lupa. According to the legend recorded in the Codex Calixtino, which recounts the arrival of the body of the Apostle to Santiago, Queen Lupa (Loba), was an ally of the Romans who lived in a castro that was very close to Pico Sacro, and ruled over those lands. The disciples of the Apostle asked the woman for a cart and oxen to transport the body and a burial place, but what the evil queen did was offer them to work with huge wild bulls that would surely end up killing them. Indeed, the bulls attacked them, but when they were about to die, the men knelt and began to pray. Because of this, the bulls calmed down. Seeing this miracle, Queen Lupa decided to become a Christian, and offered them the “Field of Stars” as a burial site, where nine centuries later the body of St. James would be “recovered.”

Obviously, it is a pious legend, but like so many medieval stories, it contains items from earlier pagan stories: Queen Lupa reminds us of the legend of the wolf and the Bear; the bulls are reminiscent of the Mithraic myth, and abundant references to geese in the Camino’s topology and symbology point to other narrative recycling of Celtic origin. But the truth is that today historians tell us that it is very likely that the one who occupies the sarcophagus attributed to the apostle is the famous Priscillian, head of one of the earliest Christian movements in the peninsular Northwest, and first heretic executed by order of the Catholic Church.

But the most suggestive aspect of the origin of the Camino de Santiago is probably closer to politics and strategy than to literature or the history of religion in Europe.

The Camino de Santiago for consultants

mapa ibericoAlfonso II the Chaste was a remarkable politician: he turned Oviedo into something minimally comparable to a capital, and recovered in it the Visigoth symbolisms in the monarchical ritual to signify its historical continuity with the Toledo court, legitimizing the Asturian monarchy “backwards.”

And more importantly, he projected it forward into the future creating the idea of the “Reconquista,” an ideology with long-term impact that proved to be remarkably popular among Christian populations.

Alfonso II el CastoThis view of Alfonso II as ideologue is probably the key to understanding the birth of the Camino. One should not be deceived by his military triumphs -the origin of the later Castilla- as they surely did not deceive him as to the fundamental weakness of his kingdom, sandwiched between the two main European states of the time -the Emirate of Córdoba and the Frankish kingdom of Charlemagne. The Asturian monarchy was, above all, in a state of dramatic demographic inferiority, which translated economically and militarily in constant military raids, and the fiscal voracity of its southern neighbors. For this very reason, Alfonso could not involve Charlemagne directly in his southward expansion if he didn’t want to risk becoming a tributary state of the power of Aachen.

In an era of very low productivity of land, in which the very Carolingian Empire merely enjoyed a minimum population increase, Alfonso’s true needs could not be fulfilled by the states. And yet… it seems that he was able to see beyond that limitation. “Discovering” the alleged tomb of the apostle allowed him to appeal to what we now call “European citizenship” above states, and without the hateful company of alien troops. The floating population not only generated a real local economic and technological renaissance, but also changed its demographics more deeply than the clearing of the lands that Charlemagne carried out up North. A complete local development model that certainly brings echoes of later historical events in the same region.

caminocarolingioAnd what is no less important, the opening of the Camino was the beginning of a whole new map of alliances: financial and technological with the extension of Cluny in the peninsula, which in time would bring about a whole line of transformations and socio-economic development; political and military with Charlemagne, as in the end his territories would benefit as much as the Asturians from the population movement on a map where the other two major cities of Christian pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem were out of reach.

Moral

The birth of the Camino was part of a political gamble that was as bold as it was innovative: to build stories that transformed reality beyond what was then within the reach of any state. “Camino” also meant spaces and returns: physical transformations and ideological contagion far beyond the kingdom of Asturias. The Europe we think of when we talk about “European values​​” is not, except for extreme statists, that of Aachen as celebrated today by the European institutions, but that of the first great medieval network of cities, hostels, and travelers motivated by ideas.

Translated by Alan Furth from the Spanish original.

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 65 ~ June 29th, 2014 ~ ~ 12 1

The legend of the wolf and the bear

lobo e indianasIt must have been the mid nineties when a good friend encouraged us to visit what back then was the Provincial Museum of Oviedo. At that time, we cyberpunks visited Colunga in the island quite often, and the beach was becoming the reference site of more than a few meetings and discussions that would, few years later, lead to the creation of las Indias. This friend, who knows the local history very well, encouraged us to look for a tombstone found in the late eighteenth century in the Church, and that had been incorporated into the first collection of the Museum around 1880.

lapida mitra la islaThe tombstone, dedicated by someone by the name of “Fromto” to the imperial cult, and that should “preside over the pater patrarum besides the lion,” proved the existence of a Mithraeum on the island. Originally dated in the third century, the archaeological debate has pushed forward the date to the fourth or even the fifth century.

It was found in 1786 as part of the portico of the Church and had been part of the first collection of the museum in 1880. New remains appeared with the construction of the new church in the late nineteenth century, but most of it got lost. It seems that one of them was the pedestal of the wolf illustrating this post, which in the 90′s appeared in the museum as originating in the island and dated on the fifth century, but now – many years after the museum was closed – appears in the medieval hall without dating and with a short caption that reads “unknown origin.”

Aesthetically, the image is very powerful: a wolf walking under the stars towards the West. In the top frame, a stylized human figure, and what looks like a shooting star or a comet. I remember we left the Museum wanting to know more about this pedestal that no one seemed to have payed much attention to.

The pieces of the puzzle

The first pictorial representation of a wolf on the peninsula is probably the Tajo Cave of Figures, in the current Casas Viejas, painted in a hunting scene that is about 20,000 years old. But the first thing one finds when researching the appearances of wolves in Peninsular iconography is its importance for the pre-Roman Iberian world, in which it is the guardian of the Hades and the groundwaters.

The figure of the wolf appears frequently in sites from the third century BCE, like the famous head found at El Pajarillo Hill (Huelma, Jaen). The wolf walking under the stars first appears in an Ace coined in the Oretan mint of Iltiraka (near present Jaen). In the peninsular north, the wolf was the main attribute and form of Tautates or Dispater, the Celtiberian Mars, a God of the community (dis-pater = father of each) with traces until the thirteenth century in the Cantabrian mountain range, which influenced the subsequent conversion of Santiago into a warrior.

As de Iltiraka (segunda mitad del S II aec), el lobo camina de Oriente a Occidente bajo la estrella lobo en heraldicaThus, the wolf as a symbol is clearly associated with the “old gods,” and that’s the way the thriving Christian culture of the Middle Ages understood it, identifying it with danger, paganism, and irrational ferocity. From being a watchdog that protects from death, it turned into a symbol of greed and savagery. In the Iberian Peninsula, the wolf will occupy the place given to the Bear in the Central European medieval Christian symbology: a symbol of the past and of the beliefs to be rejected.

And yet, it will become the second most common animal of Hispanic heraldry, or the first if we separate the catalanphone world and Galicia from the peninsular story. This vexilological attribute reinforces the perception of the strength of the polytheistic substrate in the culture of the kingdoms of Cantabrian origin of the peninsula.

The legend

El lobo y la OsaWhy this fixation with the wolf? Although the topic does not seem to have worried historians too much, there is a hypothesis that our friend who introduced us to the treasures of the Archaeological Museum of Asturias told us for the first time, and that has appeared several times in our discussions with specialists throughout these years: the presence on the Cantabrian coast and the Pyrenees of polytheistic groups that arrived from elsewhere in Europe -perhaps linked to the armies of late imperial times- because they had not accepted the decrees that imposed Christianity. And although we have heard about it quite often, the truth is that there are no scientific works to support it. So instead of a hypothesis, perhaps it is better to call it a legend – its value as a story is not diminished by the fact that it has not been proven.

It is a beautiful story, and even if perhaps there is not enough archaeological evidence available to write a paper about it, it would definitely be good source material for a good historical novel. Imagine a group – perhaps ex-legionaries, and therefore probably practitioners of Mithraism – that, being unhappy with the religious reforms and fed up with the political and military turmoil, decides to defect and take the path of Ara Solis, a direct antecedent of the Camino de Santiago of which there is evidence from Celtic times, and which had been a widespread religious reference back then.

Escudo de los Elorriaga de OñatiThe Ara Solis was an altar located in Finisterre, the most western point of the then known world, where the the dusk was celebrated. From Augustus onwards it will have an annex temple where, apparently, the birth of Venus was also celebrated – that is the reason why the “pilgrim’s shells” of today are known as “veneras” (scallops).

This also explains the change in the direction of the wolf (the East was usually represented towards the right back then) and the replacement, common in later centuries, of the stars of the Little Dipper for scallops, as in coat of the Elorriaga de Oñati family (pictured).

The historical basis

The great religious reform promoted by the Emperor Constantine, which ended up imposing Christian monotheism and prohibiting traditional worship throughout the Empire with the Edict of Thessalonica of Emperor Theodosius in 380 CE, did not happen instantly or without resistance.

In the Iberian Peninsula, there is in fact a direct order of destruction and Christianization of temples until 435 CE, and its assertive and violent character indicates the persistence of the old religion, which in the late fourth century was, according to historians of the late Roman Hispania, practiced by a majority. It is known that the Iberian West had maintained considerable religious autonomy. The famous pedestal dedicated to Erudinus, which appeared in the Dobra Peak (Santander), dated 30 years after the decree of Theodosius, does not seem to represent an isolated incident whatsoever, although the dating has been questioned.

The association of Mars with the legions, the appearance of the wolf walking from east to west, several shields mentioned in the “Notitia Dignitatum,” and the island’s Mithraic temple, could signal a military origin of our pedestal. However, we have not been able to locate in the Cantabrian any of the units symbolized by wolves in the Notitia between the third (dating of the temple of Mitra) and fifth (dating of the pedestal) centuries. However, in tauroctony (the central myth of Mithraism, a symbolic sacrifice of a bull that generates primordial abundance), the wolf – or some times a dog – represents Humanity, which benefits from abundance in the form of grain that the blood of the sacrificed bull turns into.

Lobo en la Iglesia de OlcozThis also would be consistent with findings of the last decade demonstrating the persistence of the religio within sectors of the Cantabrian upper classes as recently as the eighth century.

In fact, the struggle of the Catholic Church against the traditional polytheistic practices continued until much later, as seems to suggest the “pagan door” of the Church of Olcoz already in the twelfth century, where, by the way, the wolf takes center stage.

Leyend, story, and inspiration

The truth is that it matters very little whether anything other than our dear pedestal arises as supportive evidence for the hypothesis that our friend told us twenty years ago. Although we cannot know whether it is true, it has -despite the buts we have found ourselves- a certain plausibility, and it definitely is inspiring.

Logo del Grupo Cooperativo de las IndiasThe “story of the wolf and the Bear” became, from that very first time we heard about it, the novel that we always wanted to write. The timeless story of those who choose to leave the great conflicts of their time to prioritize the people they cherish. We have not writen it yet. But somehow, the reason we took a version of the main theme as the logo of las Indias, was that we had already started, in a way, to live it.


Translated by Alan Furth from the Original in Spanish.

Carolina Ruggero

Carolina Ruggero 1 ~ June 25th, 2014 ~ 0

The tourist of the humdrum life

Epcot world showcase

When I was teenager, I visited the other hemisphere for the first time. As I already commented on at other opportunities, my relatives were spreading across an extensive geography, and Argentine economic policy made it easy for us to take a relative recognition trip to the United States.

Winding up the exciting tour, we made one last stop in Florida. There, we visited Epcot Center, where, apart from enjoying the “futuristic” attractions, I was left slack-jawed by the reproductions of emblematic buildings from different latitudes. In one short hour, I saw the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramid of Chichen Itza, Chinese and Japanese temples, and Moroccan and Italian landscapes.

Back in Buenos Aires, I had fun for a while fooling the unsuspecting, showing them the photos and making them think I had gone around the world. Then I showed an image taken from the lake the different scenes are located around, showing that they were next to each other.

Around the same time, I started to discover what tourism means for an important portion of the [globally] periferal middle class: sleeping in better beds than the ones at home, having better-decorated rooms, eating in fancier places than back home in the neighborhood, driving better cars. That’s what vacations were, a trip to comfort.

Luckily, on one side of my family, learning to travel in any condition is practically in our DNA. Since I was a girl, they explained to me that to spend money on travel was to invest to learning how to get to know different places and people. The difference is between wanting get to know different experiences with hungry eyes, nose and ears, and looking for a controlled experience.

The demand for transparency and the option for slavery

dbnewsTransparencia3Last month Juan talked to us about the feeling produced in him by a presentation given without stuttering, smoothly, without nuances, and he made reference to Byung-Chul Han and his definition of the transparency society as a hell of sameness.

Han, also, refering to the dialectic of the master and slave, says that “today’s slave is the one who has opted for submission” in exchange for a way of life that is barely interesting — “a mere life, as opposed to a good life”:

In exchange for that, mankind cedes its sovereignty and freedom.

This way, the discourse of transparency brings with it not only the lack of surprises about others, but also about our own intimate experiences, resulting in an apathetic life experience.

Touristification

Also last month, Alberto referred us to an article by Niccolò Viviani, addressed to millenials, which he starts by saying:

We are a generation of happy slaves… we are lazy, empty, decomposed, irresponsible, disrespectful. We don’t know how to suffer, we don’t know what it means to sweat and earn things, we don’t want to grow up and assume responsibility… the cause of this is that we went brought up in a zoo. We were taught in a happy prison, a bubble that has protected us from real life, pain, fatigue, commitment, need, uncertainty, ambiguity…

touristsnativeperformersIn other words, Viviani describes to us the tour, from the first indication that we should not put our hand on the stove through university and work, through which we learn the key to make everything happen without the slightest stress, until we reach that happy ending called “retirement.”

Additionally, in the article, Viviani picks up on a concept of Nassim Taleb: Touristification.

It’s about the systematic elimination of uncertainty and the randomness of things, trying to make everything very predictable down to the smallest detail. All for the good of comfort, convenience and efficiency.

Tourists, contrasted with Benjamin’s traveler, who enjoys that immense and tangled space that is life, look for a safe and predictable trip: transparent.

Spain Financial Crisis

Tourists only have to follow the common and efficient path, and their purpose is to take a selfie in the most popular places, to show the world where where they were.

They don’t live the journey, they only think about how they’ll show it to their friends when they get back.

We all tend to reduce spaces of uncertainty — it’s normal, we do it so as to not go crazy. But there was a moment when this survival instinct was amplified, effectively denying the possibility of any authentic experience.

We cannot grow and mature in a controlled way, without uncertainty. Life experience without choices and the possibility of loss is a life in which desire does not intervene. It’s not possible learn predictably, because there exists no passion without unknowns, because there lies the spirit of adventure.

Being afraid of fear or of making choices, one opts for non-freedom, and tourism is confused with experience. So, a two-week internship becomes job experience, a study trip becomes the adventure of being educated transnationally, showing up to a massive, homogeneous party in Plaza Sol/Vodafone becomes participation in a revolution…

So, everything is reduced to…

JuniorAchievment

So everything is reduced to an experience controlled enough to be able to feel the sense of euphoria that novelty produces without the responsibility that the unknown entails. The possibility of building the story of oneself without dedicated work it takes to build a biography.

Epidermal learning. All false empowerment allows is opting out of being free.

What is «las Indias»?

David de Ugarte65 ~ July 26th, 2014 ~ 1

Bruce Sterling against the disguised recentralization of the “Sharing Economy” and “Smart Cities”

brucesterlingWhat happens if the taxis of major cities are replaced by Uber? What if a central part of your urban transportation system depends on an app based on California? Do you think that a city hall could stand up to an multinational with the kind of battles it wages against taxi unions? What happens when your streets and your cars are commodities that are coordinated thanks to software and a set of rules that you don’t control? And perhaps the most clarifying: Do you really think that in California would let its transportation system be run from Barcelona?

All these questions are part of the conclusions Bruce Sterling draws about “Smart Cities.” The discourse on the “Sharing Economy” has detoured the debate and hidden the project of recentralization of networks and the power of the Internet giants. But it’s still there. And as the father of cyberpunk reminds us, it not only has political consequences in the city, but globally, and geopolitically.

So, does Sterling want to close the door on the “Sharing Economy” or the “Smart City?” Absolutely not. He’s simply reminding us that is a battlefield on which the different subjects must recognize what network structures and what architectures of power create a world where we have space. And in recentralization, there’s no space for citizenship.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

RecetarioIdiomas

David de Ugarte65 ~ ~ July 13th, 2014 ~ 0

Community and happiness

imageThe Philosopher’s Mail, the blog of Alain de Botton and the followers of atheism 2.0, published an article about the Epicureans. Its most interesting aspect is that, in a nutshell, it proposes that Epicurean communitarianism is based on its founder’s minimalist definition of happiness:

With his analysis of happiness in hand, Epicurus made three important innovations:

Firstly, he decided that he would live together with friends. Enough of seeing them only now and then. He bought a modestly priced plot of land outside of Athens and built a place where he and his friends could live side by side on a permanent basis. Everyone had their rooms, and there were common areas downstairs and in the grounds. That way, the residents would always be surrounded by people who shared their outlooks, were entertaining and kind. Children were looked after in rota. Everyone ate together. One could chat in the corridors late at night. It was the world’s first proper commune.

Secondly, everyone in the commune stopped working for other people. They accepted cuts in their income in return for being able to focus on fulfilling work. Some of Epicurus’s friends devoted themselves to farming, others to cooking, a few to making furniture and art. They had far less money, but ample intrinsic satisfaction.

And thirdly, Epicurus and his friends devoted themselves to finding calm through rational analysis and insight. They spent periods of every day reflecting on their anxieties, improving their understanding of their psyches and mastering the great questions of philosophy.

Epicurus’s experiment in living caught on. Epicurean communities opened up all around the Mediterranean and drew in thousands of followers. The centres thrived for generations – until they were brutally suppressed by a jealous and aggressive Christian Church in the 5th century. But even then, their essence survived when many of them were turned into monasteries.

De Botton forgets that that Epicurean, familiar, and mixed monasticism of the 5th century, common and even dominant in places like the Iberian peninsula and the island of Ireland, was gradually enclosed from Rome and finally removed with the Gregorian reform. The spirit of Epicurean communitarianism would then begin to thrive in a very different environment. But that’s another story.

Translated by Alan Furth from the Spanish original.

las Indias20 ~ May 17th, 2014 ~ 1

Market activism

Aesires en acción (From Indianopedia) Market activism is our term for the design and trade of products with the goal of spreading values and ideas. The name was coined in 2012 by Juanjo Pina from “aesirs,” based on a previous debate on entrepreneuralism held by “las Indias Group of Cooperatives” since 2009, linking the idea of the phyle to the medieval arts and guilds:

We believe the kind of knowledge that enables us to make beautiful and socially useful things cannot be reduced to technical knowledge. It must contain a social meaning, a work ethic and a worldview. Goods offered in the marketplace carry with them a vision of the world, of social projects and a moral points of view.

Some examples

  • In 2007 the indianos combatted «rankism», a narrative on the blogsphere spread by the media that we saw as a danger to its distributed structure. As a response, we developed feevy, the first dynamic blog-roll for blogs. It not only made it easy to link and share audiences between blogs, it made it obvious that the “star blogger system” was just a media myth. Feevy had soon 60,000 users/blogs, making it possible to map hundred of thousands of blogs in Spanish and how they were connected. We called this map the map of flowers, and was, itself, a refutation of the narrative imposed by the mainstream media. Feevy, carefully developed not to use personal data, was programmed as free software, and its platform sold later to a a big firm.
  • Since 2011, the whole “neovenetianist milieu” did its best to transform its knowledge into useful tools to combat the European unemployment crisis:
  • In 2010, Alain de Botton launched his atheism 2.0. His main tool would be “The School of life,” an international chain of stores supplying consumer goods, courses and motivational seminars for businesses

las Indias20 ~ April 22nd, 2014 ~ 0

Vote for Guerrilla Translation in the 2014 OuiShare Awards

Our friends of Guerrilla Translation are among the nominees for the 2014 Ouishare Awards. You can vote for them or in any case know a little more about them and this Awards.

las Indias20 ~ February 11th, 2014 ~ 3

The fruits of an interesting life

festival-de-las-linternasToday our front page has a new banner: series. That’s what we have called the thematic threads that have been forming since we started to focus “El Correo de las Indias” on the idea of an interesting life. And in fact, the first series tries precisely to answer the question what is an interesting life? This leitmotif that was born in another series, the only one now finished: “Towards a new narrative,” by Juan Urrutia. And of course, we can’t leave out our love of cooking, our pulp heroes, and Go. They all continue growing and will appear again in the future. For the moment take a peek, and we hope that you’ll like them.

(Note from your translator: if there are older posts you want to see translated, please leave a comment!)

David de Ugarte65 ~ February 7th, 2014 ~ 0

What’s left when the state falls?

These days, the press all over the world is talking about the Michoacan self-defense movement, since the Mexican State is confronting them, after letting the “Knights Templar” camp there for years. This mafia was the beneficiary of decomposition, accelerated by the State itself, of the formerly, and sadly celebrated “Michoacan family.” The debate is now the typical trap of decomposition between the defense of the monopoly on violence by the state and the verification of a captured and corrupt state that for years abandoned the life and treasure of thousands of people to a terrible mafia.

So rather than entering the debate, I’d like to draw attention to an element of “self-defense” and the form that its process of legitimation took: the reemergence of a series of forms, like open town councils, which come from the birth of urban democracy in medieval Europe.

These forms are not “natural,” but rather cultural and historical. Born with urban development, they became revolutionary in community revolts, and reappeared in the open crisis of the Napoleonic wars – which led to the birth of the Mexican State – and during the large civilian conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries. And now they return in the middle of decomposition. Quijote told Sancho on the path to the island of Barataria to “be careful of your vassals or they will take the government from you or form communities by themselves.” The “Long live the commoners!” shout is heard in the Michoacan town halls. In my view, there are issues here to reflect upon and learn from.

las Indias20 ~ February 5th, 2014 ~ 0

Interesting people

marianoypilarTomorrow we will publish a beautiful post by Mariano Gistain answering what is an interesting life to you?

Before him, Michel Bauwens and Kevin Carson paved the way, and Steve Herrick, Daniel Bellón and Mar Abad not only wrote and provided posts, but joined the team to present us with new articles.

So, the most gratifying thing about “El Correo de las Indias” in this new stage is not, as we expected, debates about the direct economy, or even the exploration of new topics and ways of living… but rather the friends, the people who are joining us to do it… and surely, those still to come!

Steve Herrick7 ~ December 14th, 2012 ~ 9

Seeking feedback

English-speakers, I need to hear from you.

There is a thriving cooperative movement in Spain and throughout Latin America. In the English-speaking world, and in the US particularly, we hear nothing about it (apart from Mondragon). Some members of my co-op want to remedy this situation. This would likely take the form of an e-book with around a half-dozen essays in it, written by academics and established movement members, and translated by us. It would sell for around $2, and assuming the first one does at all well, there would be more.  I received several generous donations for my work on the Indiano Manifesto (thank you again!), which gives me hope that a larger number of people would support this work with smaller amounts.

So, the question for you is, would it be worth $2 to you to hear what Spanish-speaking cooperators are doing these days, in their own words, professionally translated by fellow cooperators? What topics would be most interesting to you, or, conversely, least interesting?

Steve Herrick7 ~ December 14th, 2012 ~ 2

Buscando retroalimentación sobre la traducción

¿Qué pensáis los lectores?

Hay un movimiento cooperativista vigoroso tanto en España como a lo largo de Latinoamérica. El mundo de habla inglesa, y EEUU en particular, lo desconoce (con la excepción de Mondragón). Algunos miembros de mi cooperativa (ubicada en EEUU) quiesieramos cambiar eso. Pensamos hacerlo en la forma de un e-libro con unos seis artículos escritos por académicos y participantes en el movimiento, y traducidos por nosotros. Lo venderíamos por unos US$2, y si tiene buena acogida, publicaríamos más. Varias personas me dieron donaciones generosas por mi trabajo en el Manifiesto Indiano (¡gracias de nuevo!), lo que me da la esperanza de que más personas apoyarían este esfuerzo con cantidades menores.

Mi pregunta es, ¿creéis que vale la pena crear semejante fuente de noticias para una audiencia de habla inglesa? ¿Cuáles son los temas más importantes — o, por el contrario, menos importantes?

Steve Herrick7 ~ November 19th, 2012 ~ 0

Flattr us!

On the advice of a reader, Evan, we’re beginning to integrate Flattr buttons into this site. Flattr lets you make online donations to sites you want to support — see the site for more details. The first page we’ve put a button on is the English version of the Indiano Manifesto. All contributions will go to Las Indias, although if this proves as successful as we hope, I’ll add another button, so readers in English can also support these ongoing translation efforts.

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