Lectura 1 - GODKIN LECTURES
BREAKTHROUGH FROM NATIONALISM - A Small Island Looks At a Big Trouble - 28 al 30 de abril de 1959.
(Discurso pronunciado en Inglés)
I propose that we ask ourselves certain basic questions; Who are we? What is our real situation? What do we need?
Who are we? Certainly not only those of us that happen to be so pleasantly gathered here today, although I daresay we are of many origins and of several citizenships. I propose that as part of the possible usefulness of the occasion, an effort be made to so limit our sense of diversity as to refer to ourselves as part of the membership of Man. Diversity has its place as a friend of Man, but this Is an aspect which I hope to consider later.
So here we are -- a part of the membership of Man. Although the history of this idea -- at least of its practice -- is not too encouraging, I submit it would not at this time prove too difficult an exercise if we consider our real situation: that we are closely pursued by a common enemy of measureless force -- and the presence of an enemy has always intensified solidarities and decreased the capacity to misunderstand. All birds are as if of a feather when the storm blows. So let us practice, even if only as calisthenics, being we, the world. This particular set of muscles will not suffer by a little flexing.
Who is our enemy? The tremendous, incredible destructive power of nuclear energy, this force "brighter than a thousand suns. Faced with the possibility of a return of this man-made apocalypsis, the world is living in terror; this time civilization, life itself, is in danger, in imminent danger, in practically certain danger, of total death. The finger Is on the trigger all the time. There is not one minute of each day that does not contain several possibilities of irreparable accident or error. The possibilities have been mentioned often: a radar screen that goes wrong and announces that destruction is on the wing, the miscalculation of a political leader, the frayed nerves of a pilot, the brashness of an unknown colonel. One is reminded of the Archangel Gabriel in "The Green Pastures" living under the constant temptation of putting the trumpet to his lips and blowing hard and with finality.
Now, what do we need? We need peace, a word that part of our membership -- the Russian -- would like selfishly to monopolize. We need peace, but not an interval between killings, not a time in which to fear war, not this deadly game, this continuous ride, at once cautious and reckless, along the thin edge of fate. We need peace as the way out of the dead end, as that great leap forward with which we say "no" passionately to the cessation of mankind.
And we need other things, things that can only be brought effectively about in a peaceful world. In stating them, let us not pretend that assurances can be easily given that we will get them within any time that could be called brief. As long range objectives I feel sure we shall achieve them if we break through the cold war in the direction of peace.
We need to abolish economic scarcity and hence provide to all our membership more nourishment., more health care, more adequate shelter and more of the modest good things of life.
We need to close the gap between the poor and the prosperous regions of the world.
We need to have "our" government, the government of all of us. It Is obvious that we in America are today being partly governed by the Russians and the Russians are being partly governed by the United States. It would be better if we had "our" own government, the government of all o£ us, but with more self-government for both America and Russia. A supranational executive power obeyed by all, but only in regards to a few Important things. And plenty of local self-government in regards to most things. For you see, we need to be diverse and richly plural if we are to be as good and valuable to ourselves as we no doubt aspire to be.
We need education for all, but not education as a preparation for life, but as the wisdom of life constantly enriching our experience, our growth, our values, our aspirations, as part of its very weave.
We need the maximum respect for that minimum minority which is the individual and hence we need to protect human rights through effective regional and international devices, and more still by making this a concern of all of us.
We need a civilization that shall be less economically determined, of which the human spirit shall be more In command than in attendance.
Probably some of these needs seem contradictory among themselves. Man has so often been a contradictory animal to his own prejudice, that I am sure there can be no objection to his making occasional good use of this talent.
Having stated some of our basic needs, let us once more remember that we are besieged by a great dread. And, like all besieged, we have to aim for a breakthrough. We have been surrounded before. It has been a part of our tradition to fall into big traps. And it has been also a part of our tradition to earn through boldness, courage and good faith, our liberation. We have been the "breakers" par excellence. Were we not in earliest times surrounded by darkness and did we not discover fire to break the wall of shadows? Were we not encompassed by a ring of seas and yet learned to break the ring with the boat, the oar and the sail? Have we not In our times learned to break the mystery of space - or rather to break personally into it - and break the sound barrier and break the atom? We carry, like Aladdin, a wonderful lamp, producing, it is true, more genii than illumination.
What is preventing our breakthrough? Why are we in big trouble?
Alloy me a little brief authority to look at this big trouble as one belonging to a people who are,"breakers" in their own modest way. For the people of Puerto Rico had to breakthrough that great unsound barrier of our times: the barrier of nationalistic feeling, to find their way to a world of hopeful achievement and spiritual creativity.
A basic factor in "our" state of mind lies in that pervasive lack of confidence between the two great blocks of peoples that are locked in cold civil war. East is East and West is West and never the twain shall believe each other even when both may be telling the truth, which does happen sometimes: This is the barrier of barriers. Without confidence there can be no very fruitful conversation.
Who has no confidence? We have seen that, some mutual credence develops when men like Stevenson, Humphrey, Lippmann, talk with men like Khrushchev, Mikoyan. What kind of beings are these that lack this essential attribute for vanquishing the common enemy, Nuclear Force? Almost incapable of confidence are those creatures known as National States. The French Republic has no confidence. The United States has not confidence. The Soviet Union has not confidence. The United Arab Republic has no confidence. Allies have between them something that encouragingly look like confidence, but I need not remind you of how precarious it can get. Still, if not too much strain is put upon it there is confidence among allies. A substantial part of it, I suspect, derives from a sense of common danger seen in terms of nation-to-nation threat, bloc-to-bloc menace. It is all within the civil war. The capacity to fear and hate the human threat while we impotently only fear and have not yet been able effectively to hate and oppose the non-human threat, may not be insuperable impotence, a fatal sign of total mortality.
Our troubled, thinking could here be directed to the manner in which cultural political attitudes, specifically that of nationalism, produce a politics somehow at variance with the deeply altered realities.
If we envisage nuclear force as The Enemy we cannot help surmising that the site of the balance of power has radically shifted from nations and armies to the place in the soul of each of us where: the will to thwart the common enemy lies bewildered and in torpor. At least, I would say that an additional balance of power between nuclear energy and mankind must be sought. The old concept of balance of power relates to what we are referring to here as the civil war and as such it is still essential to the precarious peace. Between nuclear force and man there is no such balance. It can destroy him any time. He has found no way of destroying It. On the contrary, he reinforces It continually from Eastern and Western sources. It is Nationalism, then, Nationalism inside each one of us, that we are confronted with. Each one of us, of the West and the East, lives in two worlds, one inhabited by our common humanity and the other by our national humanity. The house has two parts; one seldom visited, the other constantly lived-in, full of warm memories, sorrows, proud trophies, little and big plans for the future.
Nationalism, a relatively modern system of solidarity, contains many ingredients and presents itself in many shapes. It is a feeling generated by various causes. Sometimes" -- as John Stuart Mill pointed out -- "it is the effort of identity of race and descent. Community of language, and community of religion, greatly contribute to it. Geographical limits are one of its causes. But the strongest of all is identity of political antecedents; the possession of a national history, and consequent community of recollections; collective pride and humiliation, pleasure and regret, connected with the same incidents in the past." This is as good a brief definition as any. Still, on the basis of this definition, would Puerto Ricans be proud or humiliated because of the results of the Spanish-American War? Would they feel dissatisfied that slavery had been abolished peacefully with the land owners willing to free their slaves without compensation, or should they feel the sorrow that a tragic war had to be fought before the same purpose could be accomplished in the United States? Or are they to feel a pride in the fact that the New World was settled by hard-working Puritans or a shame that it was conquered by military adventurers in search of gold? There is a comfort in the thought that Puerto Ricans, North Americans and Spaniards can probably agree to the proposition that the United States, Puerto Rico and Spain all won the Spanish-American War.
Nationalism, although it is a phenomenon of unusual strength and can be clearly distinguished among any other of the powerful ideas that have moved history, defies exact definition. It can be unmistakably recognized wherever seen; the eye perceives it, even while the tongue refuses to give us an adequate description. This in itself is significant of its personality among ideas. It is real; It is elusive.
What beliefs and conditions are present in Nations? Is a common language one? Yes, often enough; but in many countries, like Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Russia, more than one language is spoken, while many nations which speak a common language do not join together in a national unity; such is the case in Latin America.
Is it the belief in cultural nationality? Yes, in many cases! The French, the British and the Germans, for example. But a cultural nationality does not necessarily have to coincide with a juridical and political nationality. It does not in Switzerland, in the Soviet Union or In the case of the United States and Puerto Rico, where juridical nationality does not preclude cultural diversity.
Is it a common religion? Yes, as in most Latin American countries and in Spain and in large segments of the Arab world; not in the United States, not in France, or Germany, or India, not even in England, where there is a state religion. It can be said, though, that in the Western World Christianity, considered as a unit, is a common denominator. But Christianity is more a supranational than a national common denominator.
Is it a common history? It must be common for some time back, but that time is often very short, and many nationalities, like the East European, contain groups that were not together a few generations back and they joined In the present nationality, as In the case of Yugoslavia, from varied historical sources. The same can be said, more strongly still, about a common racial origin.
Is it a community of habits, attitudes, value-judgements? In many cases; by no means in many others, as witness the Southern part of the United States, Catalonia in Spain, and the Walloon country in Belgium, not to speak of Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia in America.
Is it the sharing of common economic Institutions? Common economic institutions, like capitalism in its different degrees of development, have, of course, characterized modern nations, as communism has characterized some others in more recent times. This is not a characteristic of one nation but of many. This is more the characteristic of a time. As yet, we have no nation that combines capitalism and communism. (There is, of course, a little socialism in every capitalism and vice-versa, as, according to an old song, there's a little bit of bad in every good little girl and vice-versa). Mr. K. is proposing it, no doubt with his versatile tongue in his chubby cheek, for Germany. Could we assure that it will not happen in the future when technology has made productivity ample enough to transcend and minimize the importance of systems of economic management?
Is it a certain preference for fellow nationals, in general, although they may not be held individually in high esteem; and, in general also, a certain indifference or hostility to foreign nationals, saving when, by exception, their individual qualities endow them with a special appeal not connected with their nationality?
Defining the term is so difficult that, as Florian Znaniecqi has pointed out, several encyclopedias have omitted the word "nation" altogether. Among them, the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, the International Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica. And still everyone does know what it is. Have we empirically any doubt as to what France is, or Switzerland, or Sweden, or Spain, or Cuba, or India? We have already noted that definition is difficult, recognition inescapable. A look at Puerto Rico will bring about the same recognition, -- not because it resembles, for instance, Cuba, which in some ways it doesnt. nor the United States, which in some ways it does, but because it has its own way of resembling them both and of not resembling either.
Nationalities are strong, self-assertive entities, but only as to time are they more enduring than the shape of this mornings cloud. If, as a Puerto Rican poet has said, "Civilization is a gesture of nature." Nationalism is a moment of that gesture.
Hans Kohn has written: "Nationalities are products of the living forces of history and therefore always fluctuating, never rigid...Nationality is therefore nothing absolute, and it is a great mistake, responsible for most of the extremities of today to make it an absolute, an objective a priori, the source of all political and cultural life."
Political growth has not stopped with nationalism. In the contemporary world new forms of federalism are emerging. Puerto Rico itself is contributing, I hope usefully, to this growth. For Puerto Rico has by-passed the political emotions of nationalism.
In Puerto Rico we are not Puerto Rican nationalists and have not become American nationalists. We are loyal, non-nationalist citizens of the United States.
Puerto Rico had been a colony during practically all of the 450 years since its discovery by Columbus and the beginning of its settlement by Ponce de Leon, and its peoples were seeking, groping for a way out of colonialism. To overcome the obviously obsolescent colonialism, we shall see, Puerto Rico did not embrace the darkly hidden obsolescence of nationalism. Puerto Ricans are anti-colonialists and still not nationalists -- a fact unique and of some Illumination.
In other regions, where the prevailing colonial relationship was between peoples of European and non-European stocks, nationalism was adhered to as a necessary step In creating a new social cohesion, a sense of differentiation, a people and a state.
I do not question the usefulness or validity of the national idea In those specific historical circumstances nor when it came to substitute the people for undemocratic, royal and feudal masters. But I hold that for the larger task now confronting mankind, the national idea -- the sovereign-nationstate -- is obsolescent.
The idea of the nation, the sovereign-nation-state, is not obsolescent because it is weak. It is far from weak. It has a fearful strength. The obsolescence comes from the measureless changes in the world in which it lives. It is precisely its pertinacity in a world in which it is coming not properly to belong, that makes our time so tragic in its potentialities.
Civilizations based on certain ideas have fallen, along with the collapse of those ideas, and a new civilization brought forth by the very destroyers of the former one. This we all know has happened before. Did not the barbarians revitalize European society as Roman power vanished? The barbarians of yesterday are the priests and nobles and intellectuals of tomorrow. By this token the West can envisage Itself as being threatened by waves of Eastern barbarians, Including Par Eastern. The Russians and Chinese certainly see themselves as the vigorous peoples destined to overthrow the effete profit-mongering, pleasure loving, featherbedding, fin-de-race, of a historical period, and perhaps the Chinese in turn will come to see the Russians in that light.
This is not the case. It would not be the case, either, if it were reversed, if the West looked upon itself In the role of vigorous conqueror of an unjust, unfree, unworthy civilization to the East. The Barbarian of our times is quite another. He is the Ultimate Barbarian, for all practical purposes infinite in strength, therefore final, a thing constructed by the magnificent scientific intelligence of man and practically out of control by his poor political intelligence. It Man perishes, as Rome did, there will be no equivalent of Germanic barbarians to bring forth with time another civilization. The Barbarian of today moves by enslaving the intelligence of man and lashing it into operating him. It has a slave brain to move it. His body is boundless power. His mind is the unwisdom of man, the nationalistically split mind of man. We can only change its mind by changing "our" mind, the mind of the World.
Has our society, the human society that is menaced, the vitality to respond to this challenge like national societies have had it in the past to respond to each others' challenges? The signs that it has are weak. It finds it difficult to conceive itself as a basic unit facing a basic problem. It is too immersed in the feelings, attitudes, and values of nationalism. And yet it is too clear that we cannot handle our common enemy with divisive national policies nor deal hopefully with the times in which we live with ideas of another time. Perhaps if there were an invasion from Mars composed of well-armed Martian nationalists, our own nationalism would dissolve and our strength would remake itself In the strong bonds of common solidarity born of common human danger, I wonder whether an invasion from a still more mysterious place than Mars, has not arrived already -- this invasion from the depth of the mystery that is In the human heart and soul, this Fire-God, this Moloch that we have invented out of the strength of our knowledge and creativeness to pursue us in the weakness of our vision and the adolescence of our politics. It is in the paucity of our talent for confidence (almost structural in humanity), our proneness to error and miscalculations, our taste for power and esthetic enjoyment of belligerence. All this may have come from the Garden of Eden, but a number of legacies from that Garden have been considerably tamed. And one thing that did not originate in the Garden was nationalism!
We shall escape only by the extremely good luck that no accident will happen, by a mellowing of our present stalemate, or by a breakthrough.
Perhaps it will be a technological breakthrough, like an air-tight manner of detecting nuclear explosions, or even of nuclear weapons, this leading to a feasible disarmament.
It is quite possible, as a matter of fact, that a technological breakthrough has been made already, that we have been living with it, promiscuously and immorally instead of respectably, imaginatively and creatively. The techniques of mass production, those developed from the electronic sciences, the availability of automation, the creative power of the atom itself, all these combined and added unto each other constitute in themselves a great, even if not a sudden, breakthrough. Only one thing is wrong with it: it has not broken through. It has largely served to clutter the Sears-Roebuck catalogues. What actually is wrong is the archaic cultural and political prison in which it lives. The technological breakthrough in this sense has been made, is continually gathering force. It awaits the political breakthrough, the great, imaginative breakthrough to peace.
Is there a possibility of a mellowing of tensions? Can our present behavior, the behavior of us, the world, offer some hope in this regard? Are the ways in which we are attending to our needs offering some possibility of creating conditions that will enable us gradually to overcome the bitter stalemate?
What are "we" doing about it? Regarding peace, the world has stumbled into the techniques of cold war to avoid the hot war. Insult, I suppose, was originally an ingenious invention to avoid murder, though it often has provoked it. The cold war is a distressing invention that at any moment may provoke hot war, but, so far, since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wars have been localized or prevented, and the Ultimate Barbarian has not heaved its destruction upon mankind. One element of the Cold War has been the Russian bent of absorbing neighbors or creating satellites, a bent that the Red Chinese have been prone to imitate. Let us admit that not only ideological considerations, but also fear has played a vital role in the Red expansionist tendencies. I can conceive that some communist leaders may sincerely believe that the capitalistic West would annihilate the Communist government if it could. However desirable military strength might have appeared to the Bolsheviks for the propagation of their ideas, force became a measure of desperate urgency for the survival of the system. And every move of the capitalist countries was to be viewed with fear, every motive interpreted as aggressive.
In the wake of Ideology wedded to force and fear, followed expansionism and absorption. In quick succession the Baltic States, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czechoslovakia, China, North Korea, found themselves in the Red orbit. This was not merely the triumphant march of the communist ideology. It was also the plunging, reckless devices of Red fear, the hasty erection of buffer states against possible western aggression and of bases convenient for an attack upon the West.
The West answered with the policy of containment. It stopped the Communist thrust to the Mediterranean. It began lining up friends with no questions asked as to their democratic convictions. Asking no questions in Latin America, by the way, or ignoring the obvious answers to the unasked question, has recently yielded some adverse results. The West recreated a grand alliance against the Kremlin. It developed a defensive ring around the impatient, rash movements of the Russo-Chinese giant, with military bases. This the West viewed as proper precaution against aggression. But the Russians -- remember the incapacity for confidence -- could not accept these measures as defensive any more than their own expansionism in Europe and Asia could be accepted by the West as purely defensive devices of the communist system.
The West, to its everlasting credit -- If we ever survive the present crisis -- did not launch a preventive attack on Russia when the West had the monopoly of atomic weapons -a demonstration of sanity in a time out of joint.
The Russians have their nuclear bombs and their missiles, and although they remain dangerously addicted to their probing and testing in search of chinks in the Western armor, they have refrained from using their nuclear power. And this is, so far, a gleam of sanity though from a possibly less civilized motive, since the West has adequate power of retaliation. In spite of the bewildering succession of crises, of which Berlin II is the latest example, it seems safe to presume that the Soviets do not wish to initiate a war that under optimum circumstances from the viewpoint of its leaders, would break all hope, different but not conflicting, for the materialistic communist dream for generations. So "we" have strong motivations for not going to hot civil war, for not committing suicide or at least inflicting disastrous mayhem on "ourselves". However, our finger is on the trigger all the time. Certainly we are not trigger happy; but trigger-sad, and someone at any moment might become trigger-nervous or trigger-careless.
So far "we", the world, have escaped the attack of the Ultimate Barbarian. The men who have accomplished this deserve the deepest of gratitude of all peoples, East and West. They are, so far, men of the Wept. Not much help has been forthcoming from the East. The fact that solutions sought by current diplomatic methods are difficult, involved, and in need of long time and utter patience, could encourage us to think that taming the wild horses of nationalism is a task that can be feasible and of deeper results and of vaster reach.