May 21, 2013
Music and moral philosopy
Mini-portait of a divided nation
The midday concerts of the Mozarteum are one of the delights of Buenos Aires. They are free and take place in the superb Teatro Gran Rex, which is a delight in itself. (See http://www.ub.edu.ar/investigaciones/dt–nuevos/229– Casal.pdf for more information on Modern Movement architecture). The programme last Wednesday was particularly fine, featuring the choir and orchestra from the Bolivian town of San Ignacio de Moxos.
The audience was transported musically to the 17th and 18th century when the Jesuits introduced baroque music to the Moxo people.
But before the musicians and dancers from the past erupted into the auditorium, there was a prologue that captured present-day Buenos Aires.
In the front two rows of the theatre there was a raucous clash between a lady who became extremely angry because a man sitting in front of her mentioned that he had seen a documentary film about the Moxos choir and orchestra on the television channel Encuentro. The lady, who was an exceptionally bad mood, announced loudly that she only watched TN.
What ensued then was a microcosm of what is going on in the nation at large: a furious battle between opposites, between black and white, River and Boca, Peronist and anti-Peronist, Up and Down, In and Out, High and Low, Cowboys and Indians, you name it... It was a minature portrait of a deeply divided nation.
The man who likes Encuentro, a state-owned television channel which concentrates on cultural affairs, became angry at the mention of TN, the cable news channel that is part of the Clarín Group. The lady who likes TN responded by praising City Mayor Mauricio Macri for supporting culture. The man who likes Encuentro then denounced Macri as a fascist and “mafioso.” The lady responded by claiming the president is corrupt and will end up in jail. The man sitting behind her gave her very loud vocal support. He attacked the government for attacking the opposition media.
The people around were seething, with most people trying to hush the angry ones, los indignados.
Fortunately, the lights dimmed and the dancers and the musicians came down the aisles from the back of the theatre and the angry ones were stilled. The lady left, announcing that this not what she came for. I think she meant the music, not the argument because she was looking for a fight from the moment she took her seat.
Later in the programme, the baroque sonatas and songs from 17th and 18th century that the Jesuits taught the Moxos calmed everyone.
My reactions are still mixed. It seems to me that it is good that people are not afraid to speak their minds, but less good in that they are so aggressive, fortunately only verbally.
This display of political polarization was surprising because it was in public, between people who were strangers to each other. In private, in family circles, the same black and white situation exists.
Within a few days of the concert my wife Maud and I were witnesses to the one-sided worlds that people inhabit today. We had tea with an elderly couple who are “super K” — devoted supporters of the government and fervent admirers of the President. This is easy for them because they read only pro-government newspapers (Página/12 and Tiempo Argentino), watch state television Channel 7 and revel in 6,7,8 the pro-government talk show.
A few days earlier we had tea with an old friend who reads only La Nación and scrupulously cuts out all the most negative articles and presents them to me in bulky envelopes to make certain that I know just how bad things are.
There was some agreement between the “super Ks” and our anti-K friend that the cost of living is rising, but the criticism was reluctant on the part of the former and vehement in regard to the latter.
It is obvious that the government’s figures for the cost of living are way out, a fact signalled by the 30 percentage difference between the two exchange rates, the official and the black (or blue-chip) market rates. A rational friend who likes Cristina is annoyed because the government will not admit what is obvious, that inflation is running at 25 to 30 percent, not the official 10 percent. “They are treating us as if we were idiots,” she said.
I can understand people who are loyal to the point of self deception and I sympathize with people who are so angry about the loss of personal freedom and threats to private property that they exaggerate to the extreme by denouncing the Kirchner administration as a dictatorship.
But I cannot agree with people who say. “Life today is worse than it was under the military.”
Such a statement, which I have heard on a number of occasions from people who should know better, is unacceptable, indeed immoral.
Personally, I don’t need any reminders about the horrors of the dictatorship or the atrocities committed by both sides before the military takeover on March 24, 1976.
But I constantly find myself surprised to learn, even after more than 36 years, new turns of the screw of the terror that seized the nation by the throat.
As I mentioned in a column published on October 7, a recent book, Montoneros, Soldados de Massera by Carlos A. Manfroni (Sudamericana) helped me fill in some gaps in the history of what I described as “a time of total terror” and which I now think of as a time of complete corruption.
I learned from Manfroni’s research what I had long suspected. The terrorist attacks, known as “the counteroffensive,” carried out by the Montoneros in October 1979 were allowed to happen because the nominal dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was too weak, or to cowardly, to stop them. By that time the former Navy commander Emilio Massera was working with the Montoneros to seize power and he would stop at nothing to achieve his ambition to be, as he put it, “the next Perón.” Manfroni reveals the sinister alliances that Massera formed with the Propaganda Due, a mafia-like organization led by Licio Gelli, an admirer of Hitler, and the leadership of the Montoneros.
The late Carlos Nino, whose work as a moral philosopher retains its validity, used the term “radical evil” to describe the military dictatorship. It is radically wrong even to suggest a comparison with the present government.
If a love of music fails to bring people together, a history lesson may help. Manfroni’s book should be required reading for people who have forgotten the past, so that we will not repeat it.