This text was going to deal with the concept of rigor. It seemed to me that his absence could be seen as the basic thread of the political and media debate of recent weeks in our country. It was my intention to investigate the origin of the concept and delve into it in the different contexts that have become relevant in the public debate -the academic, the parliamentary and the journalistic-. As I reflected on the subject, the political and mediatic tension reached such heights that I ended up wondering if writing about rigor would not be an exercise between candid and vain. While, like many other citizens, he tried to digest the totum revolutum of accusations, false accusations, extortions, lies and half-truths poured into the public forum, I was surprised by a peculiar association of ideas between rigor mortis and flush. The association is not so arbitrary: against the rigidity of death, the blush as an expression of life. The ability to lie without blushing some of the protagonists of the current political and media context invites reflection on the blush. Not by chance Charles Darwin defined it as "the most peculiar and most human of all the expressions".
"It is not the feeling of guilt, but the thought that others think we are guilty, which makes our faces red," Darwin said.
In The expression of emotions that Darwin published in 1872, the physiological dimension of flushing, that is, "the relaxation of the muscular covering of the arteries from which the capillaries fill with blood", quickly acquires a moral dimension when it explains "mental states" that they provoke it. These would be "shyness, shame and modesty, being the essential component of all of them being aware of oneself". According to Darwin, humans begin to pay attention to our appearance by taking into account the opinion of others and conclude: "In complete solitude, the most sensitive person would be completely indifferent to their own appearance." And he says: "It is not the feeling of guilt, but the thought that others think or know that we are guilty, which makes the face red. A person may feel tormented at all for having said a little lie without blushing, but it is enough to suspect that they have noticed it so that they instantly blush, especially if the person who has noticed it is someone they respect. "
The natural dimension of blush is accompanied by another artificial no less interesting that reveals the millennial history of makeup and the fascinating cosmetic game between paleness and blush. As Lisa Eldridge tells us in Face Paint: The Story of Makeup (Abrams, 2015), ancient cultures as disparate as Chinese and Greek coincided in their desire to acquire facial tonalities as clear as possible. Almost at the same time, the first cosmetics and techniques to cause blush on the lips and cheekbones emerged: from the ocher mixed with the fat of the Egyptians to the simple gesture of pinching the cheeks of Victorian women.
On the one hand, pallor was a sign of femininity and a symptom of a life of little physical activity and little exposure to the rigors of climate, therefore, typical of the upper classes. On the other, blush on cheekbones and lips was associated with youth, good health and nulliparity in women, explains psychologist Nancy Etcoff (The survival of the most beautiful.) The science of beauty. Debate, 2000). Eldridge adds that red, because of its physical properties, is also the color that stimulates a stronger unconscious response. The artificial recreation of the pallor and the blush reaches its paroxysm in the nineteenth-century fashion of the false victims of tuberculosis of white complexion and reddened cheekbones emulating fever.
To hide or to pretend certain expressions and states is therefore an old human art. The history of makeup shows us how we have sought to control or emulate pallor and facial flushing with different purposes. In parallel, certain involuntary physical expressions have historically been valid as proof of the innocence or guilt of a person. For centuries, the inquisitors used torture to provoke certain unthinking reactions and try that someone was possessed by the wrong. In some places, the polygraph is still used to establish the truth of a statement.
While today there seems to be some scientific agreement on the impossibility of sustaining a strict association between "mental states" of which Darwin spoke and certain involuntary physical expressions, it is worth returning to the moral dimension of the observations of the father of modern genetics . From these it is inferred that, only by renouncing the respect of the other, convincing oneself that one is alone in the world and nobody observes him when he lacks the truth, it is possible to avoid that "the little glasses of the face become filled with blood because of the emotion of shame. "
In a sense perhaps more metaphorical than real, it is worth asking if it is not necessary in the current context to claim the value of the blush as an expression of the human capacity to feel shame. Assuming that this is a precondition for the apology and the amendment.
Olivia Muñoz-Rojas She holds a PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics and an independent researcher. His blog is www.oliviamunozrojasblog.com