“Oblivion is much more powerful than the damage suffered”

Philosopher and poet Chantal Maillard, who has just published her new collection of poems, “Medea”, talks to Efe about the current situation, the coronavirus pandemic, nature, death, violence, compassion or fear. “Oblivion is much more powerful than the damage suffered,” he says.

Born in Brussels in 1951, Maillard renounced Belgian nationality to adopt Spanish. He has lived in Malaga since 1963. He is a specialist in Indian philosophy and religions, and the author of numerous poetry books such as “Matar a Platón” and essays. He is also a specialist in María Zambrano, and the National Prize for Poetry and Criticism, among many other awards. Q. – How do you assess what is happening in this crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic? A.- Occasionally something reminds us that nothing is permanent. A pandemic is nothing “otherworldly”. Humanity was never free from disasters, and it is good that from time to time something reminds us that this is an uncertain world. Q. – The only thing clear in this is the vulnerability of the human being and that at some point we are all going to die. Do you think that the human being will learn something, will he be more humble, or will we continue being the same? Will we resist evolving and creating a new way of life? R.-It would be desirable that many of the reflections that have generated this pandemic lead us to a radical change, that this shaking was enough to carry it out. But it is more than doubtful that this will happen. This that seems so important to us now, tomorrow will have been forgotten and each one will recover their strange “normality”. The children will return to confine themselves in the nurseries, the elderly in the nursing homes, and the rest, each in his own galley. The regeneration of empathetic relationships will return to its larval stage. Forgetting is much more powerful than the damage suffered, and this seems to be the case. If the animal – which we also are – were not able to forget, it would commit mass suicide. Q.- Now it seems that nature and silence return, while the human being stays at home. In these weeks the birds are listened to, the animals walk through the city, the waters are cleaner, the skies are clearer … What does the human being ignore of nature, of animals, what does he not understand, or, Better, what does the human being not know how to feel in life? A.- We resist thinking that we are an integral part of a natural system in which nothing is independent. We still function according to the old biblical anthropocentrism and the precept of an ancient population at risk: grow and multiply. When a species continues to multiply in good times, it becomes a plague. What distinguishes us from other animals is not what we have gained, but what we have lost: passing without disturbing the order that keeps the planet in balance. Q.- It has been shown that we need a society with a good healthcare system and professionals dedicated to care, with treatment and decent payment. Do you think that will change? R.- What we need, above all, is to eliminate the factors that make ours a sick society (devitalized food, corrupt environment, acoustic daze, compulsive stimulation, alienation from work, school stress, geriatric isolation, sound daze, hypermedicalization, etc.) and, then, something we have forgotten: knowing how to die. Death is not the reverse of life, but its possibility. Dignity consists in accepting the end – his own and the other’s – when it comes, and in wanting it to be so. If we do not understand that disappearance is part of life, we have unlearned what is fundamental. Q.- Are capitalism and globalization mortally wounded? R.- Not at all. Capitalism always comes out of the disasters generated by natural catastrophes. A recent example is how, as soon as the state of alarm started, the Andalusian Government hastened to modify six laws and twenty-one decrees that eliminate the procedures for construction in protected areas. As for globalization, this is the logical consequence of a system that, having as its end its own growth, needs to extend and colonize indefinitely. Q.- In your essay “Is a world without violence possible?” (Vaso Roto), says that “both anxiety and dissatisfaction rest on fear” What will translate the fear felt by the entire population now? And the distance with the other? R.-Death has many disguises. When she appears with one of them, we confuse the emptiness of her being with her appearance, and fear – pain, loss, disappearance – adopts the colors of her clothing. If it takes the form of a virus, we fear the virus. As soon as the virus disappears we will stop fearing it. But fear will still be there, beating, even if we stop having it in mind. Our cravings, our compulsive purchases, our constant dissatisfaction, our discontent, our phobias, our inability to rest and silence will be the symptoms that allow us to detect it. Q.- In your last book of poems, “Medea” (Tusquets), where you study guilt and compassion, you say: “Everything that lives is sustained by hunger. And hunger is the other …” Could you go deeper into it? A.- This is a world in which violence is law. Hunger is violence. However, every animal is innocent. It does not kill out of greed or pleasure, but to feed itself. Hence, pitying him is easy. Compassion is the complete opposite of sentimentality. Compassion is to suffer with another the violence that is exerted on him and also the one that he is forced to exercise. But to the natural, the human being adds another violence, exercised by cruelty, ambition or pleasure. Hence, pitying him is more difficult. Innocence we participate to the extent and only to the extent that the animal that we are still inhabits us. Q.- “Anyone who subverts the norm is dangerous,” he says in the poetry book. After this crisis, do you think there will be more submission and a curtailment of freedoms by totalitarian or populist leaders? A.- The problem is not so much the leaders, but the strength of the capital they serve, their chain of corruption. Individual monitoring has been planned for a long time, just waiting for the opportunity to start it up. It is the hidden face of computer globalization and the price we will pay for the benefits that we do not want to do without. It is evident that, weakened by fear, the population readily accepts what it would not accept at other times. And unfortunately, rebellion is a rare commodity.

By Carmen Sigüenza


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