« ZurückWeiter »
When he had finished, and in the silence which succeeded the applause, an army officer jumped to his feet and hurled these words at the venerable beard of the master: ‘Down with intelligence!' It was a dagger-thrust. And old Unamuno, who had been a great walker and had climbed with mighty strides over all the Spanish sierras in his enthusiasm for pure air, went forward now towards the shades, grievously wounded in spirit. A few steps further, and the tomb awaited him.
What happened to Don Miguel is neither new nor peculiar to Spain. Relations between the cultured and the uncultured man, the world over, have not always been cordial. Socrates was the most learned man in Athens because he knew that there were many things he did not know. Naturally, those who thought they knew everything when, in fact, they knew nothing despatched him to the next world. This happened in the most cultured city of the time in a sense, the most cultured in the whole of history.
Such things result from political incompatibilities, which need not surprise anybody. In exercising government, men look for simple ideas which will work directly on the people, or get themselves ready to enjoy the fruits of power. In either case, they are exasperated by the wise man's doubts and reservations - his moral allocutions, or that superior mental development which provides him with an intellectual coat of mail impervious to the clumsy assaults of an ignorant man of action.
An intellectual, conscious of the dignity of his calling, moves in a climate of free criticism. If his political shafts hit their mark, this is not because party politics play any sort of part in his natural functions. For the genuine man of intellect who works for the cultural advancement of his country, the only possible political party is the country itself. He pursues truth through dialectical criticism. And the most important adversary against whom he has to fight is himself. Doubt is a permanent battlefield where his soul and spirit have a daily rendezvous. And the first thing he must know is how to lose, sacrifice prejudices and discard truths which prove not to be truths. Freedom is essential if he is to carry out these activities, which are the means whereby we approach greater certainly in our ideas.
But, obviously, freedom inconveniences a dictator. With this dialectical, contradiction-creating process, it may happen that
the decrees of the Leader (who considers himself infallible) have judgment passed upon them, in the name of reason and good sense.
Let the reader bear this clearly in mind. He who accepts dialectical argument as the means of investigating truth, must respect the freedom of such as are not afraid to formulate the antithetical side.
Thus, there are collisions, on the personal plane, between the intellectual and political worlds. They are truly allergic to one another. But there is more besides. Nowadays, 'intelligence' has come to be associated with a certain 'bourgeois' class. Nor is this an entirely arbitrary classification. For when the middle classes rose to power in Europe it was in the company of the intellectuals. These gave them a philosophy, wrote treatises for them on the art of government, gave them their poetry and their music. All this is undeniable. And when the new sovereigns, or the republics, made their appearance and the industrial revolution got under way, the intellectuals were drawn from the ranks of the middle classes. The nobility had little use for letters. Their traditions were such as to make them rather cling to their characteristic illiteracy than allow themselves to be pushed into the libraries. Workmen had small opportunity of sending their children to the university, and when from their ranks or those of the peasantry men appeared who reached the higher branches of learning – or, to put it more concretely, the professions – they were in the habit of breaking with their antecedents and joining the ranks of the new class; that is, turning themselves into 'bourgeois'.
This was the general state of things during the nineteenth century. The doctor, the lawyer, with their top-hats and gold repeaters, together with the learned gentlemen who accompanied them in academic processions, constituted one of the most striking adornments of the middle class. Much of this kind of thing is still preserved in those countries where the cult of the liberal professions remains strong. Where, on the other hand, the university is in more intimate contact with common material activ
ities, serves directly the cause of industry, and encourages academic theses on everyday subjects such as to bring a smile to the lips of learned folk, those who specialize in philosophical activities associate freely with those who, as it were, will not become more than workmen with superior technical qualifications. In this way, not only are class divisions reduced to vanishing point, but the outlook of the intellectuals is modified, by their being humanized.
By pointing to intelligence as the distinguishing mark of a class that is behindhand in the field of social justice, we turn that class into an easy target for popular resentment. Of recent years, we have seen workmen's manifestations calling for the university's blood and attacking the student body. Perhaps no other age has witnessed to the same extent as ours mass deportations of teachers, bonfires of books, patrolling of libraries, humiliation of faculties, censorship of manuscripts – all done in the name of popular opinion. Sometimes, when the strong man in the State picks out the most venerable figure in the university to bring it low, he is playing up to a people which looks on intelligence with suspicion.
But it so happens that when we look on the reverse side of the medal we discover something equally reprehensible: this time it is the irresponsible intellectual. He is a cultured man whose intellectual enjoyments and contact with abstract ideas have caused him to become separated from the vulgar plane occupied by his fellow men who thereby cease to be his fellows. The ordinary worker has not, in order to be able to face the hard, daily grind, any ingenious philosophy on which to fall back; nor does his intelligence appear clothed in learned trappings. So, in relation to him, the irresponsible intellectual takes on an Olympian attitude. Rejoicing in his privileges, he shows himself indifferent to the decay of liberties which for him have ceased to be of fundemental importance. In overvaluing his superior position he can become arrogant. Increasing in power, he tramples disdainfully on the personal dignity of those below him. He does not seem to realize that personal dignity is a feeling which is just as likely to be found in the heart of the humblest countryman or the blackest of blackamoors, as in that of the whitest and most respected of citymen. Furthermore, he forgets that it is precisely in the world of the frustrated and the dispossessed that feelings are most acute.
One can explain the aggressive attitude of men of little schooling with regard to the intellectuals: they lack education, that cultivation of the spirit which would enable them to appreciate the highest forms of thought. The offensive attitude of the intellectuals with gard to those below them can also be explained: they lack human feeling, that understanding of the heart which would enable them to appreciate the basic qualities of people less educated than themselves. These two sorts of men have not, in fact, been friends. They have not known how to converse together, to shake hands.
Thus, it is a question of two niggardly lives running parallel: of two lives which, coming into contact, have turned the history of our times into a life story of animosity. These two men, the cultured and the uncultured, belonging to opposite sides of the medal, are both equally limited. As representatives of human values, they are diminished beings. Neither can understand life in its historical purposefulness. The one below does not see that by casting mud at ideals which are above the present level of his understanding he is militating against his own potential development, against something towards which he ought naturally to be drawn, were he not led astray by the bitterness engendered by his frustrated existence. While the one above, in his turn, forgets the humble sources which form the root of culture of his own culture.
The word 'culture' is one of the characters that has suffered the most ups-and-downs in all languages, in a universal masquerade of misunderstanding. Those responsible thought that, by taking the word away from its obvious and natural meaning (stemming directly from the root word 'cultivate') and trying to turn it into a grand lady dressed in her Sunday best, they were going to create the most important character in the drama of enlightenment'. We are now coming to the moment when it is necessary to consider whether such an aberration must be considered definitive, or whether the time has not arrived for a radical change which should place culture in the simple context of human rights not in that of a privilege pertaining to an intellectual class. For
culture is a forward movement whose object is to cultivate the mind, to form the personality. At the root of all' nations lie the common hopes, the imaginative stirrings of the popular mass: on the golden bough we find their poetic image, philosophical expression, and mystical perfume. Everything comes from the same tree. To keep unobstructed the stream of vital sap rising from below to above ground – that is the primary function of culture.
In the sixteenth century culture was synonymous with cult or worship, which is cultivation of the love of God. In an old French chronicle – La Couronne Margaritique – we read: 'She ... chose from among them all Agilulfo, Duke of Turin, a warrior, handsome and circumspect, who was nevertheless given up to the false culture of idols.”. In our century, culture has been turned into the cultivation of self-esteem: 'we, the representatives of culture,' say the intellectuals in their manifestoes. A humanized culture, if a revision of the concept were undertaken, would consist in the cultivation of something which already figures as a divine ordinance: Love one another ... Maybe we have here a valid inter-connection between what is a commandment to love and at the same time an essential principle of culture. Fundamentally, culture is born of love - is an incarnation of love.
At all events, culture is not a privilege reserved for men of letters. There is such a thing as a literary culture. Books are today one of the most powerful means of spreading and advancing many different cultures. If books were placed under lock and key, the circulation of thought would now suffer a degree of paralysis. But there have been analphabetical cultures: peoples which have reached the highest levels of imaginative expression, which have had a poetry, a religion, a civilized life, and epics, without ever having invented any alphabet. This is evidenced by the clay vessels of the Peruvians, of those Incas whose arts and government Prescott recorded in a book which is conclusive as regards the history of cultures.
When Professor Vittorio Santoli composed for the Italian Encyclopaedia his article on culture, he confused literary culture with culture, defining the latter thus: 'Culture is the ensemble of accomplishments and capacities, mental or social, to acquire which wide and varied reading is necessary, though not by itself sufficient.' Enlarging upon his definition, the Professor goes on to explain how the essential thing is to read, to read a great