A walk on the frontiers of thought - Chronicle of Friday 14 October
It is well known that Aristotle used to relax his muscles and reason by strolling outside the Lyceum in Athens. Today we have been invited to do the same in the streets of Sant Andreu, discussing the idea of metamorphosis. As a space that has undergone multiple transformations, the chronicler thinks, the Canòdrom is a good starting point. "Our cells die and are renewed every ten years. Can everything be transformed?", asks the guide to the ten or so peripatetics who are about to set off on their journey. Doubt is the driving force at our feet.
The next stop is at the Fabra i Puig water pillar, the hydraulic structure erected in 1910 to supply and give pressure to the drinking water network in the area. Pleased by the good weather and the intimate conversation, we look up to contemplate the bricks of the building. "Who knows what transhumanism is? We talk about the revolutions of that time: the scientific and the thought revolutions. The chronicler notes that in the language of the Nicaraguan Miskitos, 'revolution' and 'shedding skin' share the same word. Meanwhile, the group continues to debate in full communion. On science and immortality, on the ethical dilemmas of supermen, on life on Mars.
Three hundred metres further on is the modernist building of Can Guardiola. Its transformation into a hotel for entities is an excuse to talk about Kafka's Metamorphosis, the construction of individual identity and the influence of the currents of thought of a 20th century marked by the great wars: psychoanalysis, surrealism, existentialism... thinking about the journey ahead, the chronicler underlines 'World War I' in his notebook.
Then the accordion of peripatetics arrives at Carrer Gran de Sant Andreu and the so-called Casa de la Bala (House of the Bullet). No one notices that the bomb embedded in the façade during the Jamancia revolt of 1843 is at the junction with the street named after another philosopher, Socrates. Here the debate revolves around collective identity. "On what basis is it constructed? Social class, says someone, ethnicity, history, gender, say others. The chronicler doesn't want to intervene, but he can't avoid answering the enemy: to what extent does the roar of the bombs establish borders in the identity of those who feel them explode, asks the chronicler as he underlines the word 'enemy' on the way to Fabra i Coats.
We make our last stop at the old textile factory. We return to talk about the industrial Sant Andreu and how Barcelona annexed it in 1897 (slyly, the chronicler underlines 'annex'). "So, what is identity? What doesn't change, what is the essence? A young woman replies, "Globalisation is assimilating us all". The reporter finds it pertinent to close the notebook here: the next event to cover is entitled 'Deglobalisation?'.
The meeting is in another old textile factory in Poblenou, Can Felipa. There, the Italian philosopher Elettra Stimilli and the Catalan journalist and philosopher Josep Ramoneda try to avoid answering the question of the title with a resounding yes or no. If by de-globalisation they mean a return to nation-states under the banner of the values of fatherland, family and god, as advocated by the extreme right in their country, Stimilli's answer is no. According to the author of Debt and Guilt, the only way Europe can be reborn from the rubble is by starting from the condition of fragility that the war in Ukraine and the covid pandemic have exposed. What needs to be globalised in any case, he says, is the "rediscovery of the differences of class, race, gender... which are the problems that unite our societies on a global scale". "There is an emancipatory impulse coming from communities at the grassroots who are fighting for change from the local level. We must think with different institutions, not with a dimension that closes itself off and tries to exclude, but with another that launches itself into openings and different communities", he adds.
For Ramoneda, following Edgar Morin, "the problem is that we are not constituted as humanity. We are not aware of how much we share, nor do we accept the existence of shared common rules. "Societies", Ramoneda adds, "can only be free if they are based on empathy". The director of La Maleta de Portbou says that if politics were to respond to citizens, they would not move to the right, but that if the future is obscured, it is fundamentally for one reason: nihilism. "When people lose track of limits, anything can happen: Putin is a caricature of this. The great threat is that nihilism will spread, so it is necessary to confront it ruthlessly".
These words still resonate when three of the most renowned writers from Ukraine, Finland and Lithuania take the stage in the Plaza Josep Maria Huertas Claveria. If there is one thing that Oksana Zabujko, Sofi Oksanen and Alvydas Šlepikas, the speakers at the event 'Europe, Russia and the Frontiers of Democracy' shared, it was their empathy for each other's pain. All, in their own way, traced the imperialist anxieties and the origins of bad relations with Russia: Zabujko traced back to the 17th century ("It is up to us now to correct what our ancestors did"); Šlepikas spoke of Lithuania's historic occupations during World War II and how lucky we "did not listen to the West and declare our independence in 1990"; and Sofi Oksanen recalled how the invasion of Ukraine has revived the "traumas" of the wars in the country, which "changed public opinion on the need to join NATO". But the most forceful and expressive was the Ukrainian writer Oksana Zabukhko, who, with the sky already blackened, wanted to break down the borders of Europe to call for vigilance: "This is not a regional conflict, it is a continuation of what was silenced in World War II", she said: "This is the third act". The chronicler writes it down in his notebook, fences it and leaves, losing himself in the frontiers of thought.
Jorge de Miguel