In 1951, the writer Albert Camus receives a shocking letter from a woman, Jeanne Héon-Canonne, in which she asks him for a foreword to a book in which he will tell of his experiences as a resistant. Together with her husband, the two doctors and the Resistance, they had been arrested and tortured by the Gestapo in 1944. Jeanne is struck by the doubt – as she tells Camus – once peace has arrived, that “such a sacrifice was justified ». “That doubt – Camus will tell him in a beautiful answer text – after all, accompanies all the sacrifices that, without it, without that doubt, would be blind immolations.” But in addition, this doctor asks another key question, extremely painful: what should
She will answer her children the day they tell her that “they would have preferred a living father to a dead hero.” The reasons, accepting bodily pain, even agony, in the case of those heroic resisters, had their origin above all, the great French intellectual author of ‘The Stranger’ will tell you, “in the love of his own.”
Will it be worth it, will many parents think today who simply defend the law and an insignificant 25% of the teaching of their language loved and shared by many, Spanish, in the schools of Catalonia? Will their people one day reproach them for having made them pass through a true martyrdom, at the mercy of packs filled with hatred in Canet and elsewhere? The perpetrators of violence, many of them fathers and mothers as well, know it perfectly: there is no better way to break the will of individuals than to touch the natural and inalienable affections that accompany every human being, from birth . That is, as Camus said: “The love of his own.”
In his recent memoirs, told based on brief scenes and anecdotes rescued from the great magma of the past, and very specifically from a past involved in considerable catastrophes that had to do with our western civilization, the German Hans Magnus Enzensberger, awarded in 2002 with The Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities, recalls a term that he once read to an American philosopher, of which he unfortunately affirms that he “does not remember the name.” The term coined was ‘moral luck’, moral luck. As you will say, your parents’ generation suffered the sad reverse fate: moral bad luck. That is to say, in the German case, and in addition in that of practically all European countries, this consisted of the bitter and difficult task of surviving two world wars, various economic crises, hunger and the absolute lack of the smallest resources, both during the chained warlike conflicts and in the long postwar wars that followed, with hardly a respite.
The degradation and ruin, both physical and economic, that is, external to the individual, caused by all these disasters, as well as moral, deep within broad layers of society, would cost a lot to be healed. While the cities were being destroyed, but they were being rebuilt more less quickly, the devastation, the internal rottenness, was reluctant to leave and remained present for many years to come. The new times of peace, well-being, the reconstruction from the democracies of spirits accustomed to the worst savagery would do their job, little by little, thanks to political systems bent on a general re-education of once sick societies.
What nobody could imagine is that, in our days, in various countries and areas of Europe, there would be a notable setback in freedoms and harmony acquired after much work, and not a little generosity on the part of many, as happened in the case of our Transition. Or put another way: an important setback in what was believed, perhaps naively, the unstoppable advance of an increasingly perfected modernity, increasingly moral and aware of various historical flaws and defects. Quite the contrary, populations that thought they were already civilized, today joyfully indulge in the most shameful ceremonies of brutalized irrationality and a joyous entry back into pre-democratic caves.
Not only in the case of Spain, but throughout many European and American countries, it will increasingly be important to differentiate not between the hackneyed and traditional gap between right and left, but in the division, very clear today, of those who want to continue firmly on the path of democracy and democratic values, and those who choose daily to follow the nefarious and destructive paths of populism, authoritarianism, the growing hostility towards democracy, the absolute denial of those who think differently, intolerance and hatred. Those ‘oceans of hatred’ of which the Austrian Musil spoke that directly favored entry into the First World War.
At every moment in history, many Europeans, well-known or simply resistant intellectuals and anonymous activists, have sacrificed for the truth, for justice, for compliance with the law and for enforcing human rights that were denied at that time. There would be the philosopher Jan Patocka, confronted first with the Nazis and then with the Communists and died in 1977 as a result of a savage interrogation carried out by the Czech police, when our country had recently left the dictatorship and entered the democracy, in a tough and difficult process that some now despise. Or if not, honest writers who chose to move from the ‘fixed’ photo in moments of fierce intolerance, as would happen in the case of the Catholic Bernanos who denounced the atrocities committed by the two sides fiercely confronted in our Civil War, as well as did Chaves Nogales, or one of the first ‘escapees’ from communism, the great Hungarian-British writer Arthur Koestler. The bravery of all of them, and many more, survivors of concentration camps, relentless persecution, ferocious insults and inclement lynchings at every moment in history in which the barbarians seemed to have taken over the land, honors them today by be remembered. The same is happening today with anonymous and courageous advocates of coexistence who feel an inescapable, albeit extremely costly duty, to act “out of love for their loved ones.” This is how Albert Camus expressed it in that distant and beautiful letter of 1951, a great and firm sentinel in his day of dignity, justice and the tireless fight against intolerance and totalitarianism, no matter where they came from.
Mercedes Monmany is a writer