Interview with Ricardo García Manrique by Peru Erroteta
Professor of Philosophy of Law, at the University of Barcelona. Writer. He is especially interested in the theory and history of Human Rights. Among his books, the essays La libertad de todos (El Viejo Topo) and Se vende cuerpo (Herder), and novels Un día sin Teresa and La mujer dormida (Piel de Zapa). He is part of Universitaris per la convivència and Impulso Ciudadano.
What does it feel like when, in a Cloister, one is insulted, the companions are silent, and the Rector implies that he understands the insulter more than the insulted one?
The meeting was telematic and I was at my house. Even so, I felt loneliness due to the lack of support from my colleagues and the Rector (as president of the Senate), and also sadness. It must be said that it was not a direct insult (you are a certain …), but an indirect one, which made it more insidious. What I said (questioning the legitimacy of the Cloister to issue partisan statements) was described at that meeting and that attitude of mine and that of some colleagues was crossed out as “fascist.” It was a way of disqualifying those who think otherwise. I do not take it as a personal insult, but as an undemocratic and degrading act for the university.
Which, of course, is derived from a totalitarian breeding ground, typical of nationalisms …
It can be explained this way: he, or they, feel so close to the truth and perceive you so far from it that they consider that you do not deserve any respect. The insulter and those who think like him are completely convinced of the justice of their cause and of the error and bad intention of those who do not share it, since they cannot imagine that a position other than their own can defend themselves against it. good faith. This happens frequently in the environment of political polarization in which we live, even more accentuated in Catalonia due to the friend / enemy dialectic imposed by nationalism.
Is it an aggravation that this happens in a university context?
Yes, because it has always been considered that the university is a privileged seat of the public forum, where reason and arguments must reign more than anywhere else, and where there is no room for insult, much less coercion. It is a sign that intolerance is also polluting campuses, and it is not an isolated phenomenon. At the University of Barcelona an act of homage to Cervantes has been boycotted to the cry of fascists out of university. In the Autonomous University, a few days ago, some students were forcibly prevented from expressing their ideas publicly, and it is not the first time nor the second. All this supposes to despise the values and the way of working and relating that are typical of the university, although the Catalan rectors do not seem to care much, because they always complain about other things, never about this.
And why the silence?
A universal human drive is that of gregariousness. Being in the minority is risky or at least uncomfortable. What is specific about Catalonia is that questioning the dominant political discourse is understood as a denial of Catalan identity. When identity is the protagonist in politics, people become more aggressive towards those who do not think like them, and that is why disagreeing is more difficult. Not all those who were silent in that episode of the Cloister, or those who keep it in many other areas, agree with what is supposed to be the majority thinking, but they are afraid and that is why they remain silent.
Silence in the University, where it seems that less should exist …
It is true, but it must also be borne in mind that a critical attitude is not encouraged or compensated, because access to teaching staff and progress in the academic career may depend on the conformity with the ideas of those already within and above . Contrary to what would be desirable, the university teaching staff is not a union where independence of criteria prevails.
Does the University also detect what Cristian Segura calls the Catalan “Mandarinate”?
There have always been academic mandarins, here and everywhere. It is not uncommon for a professor to prefer to promote a mediocre but docile young man rather than a worthy but wayward young man. The current accreditation system may have weakened the power of the mandarins, but, in return, the option for contractual professors instead of civil servants, which is the trend in recent years, undermines the freedom of teachers. The contractual has a less solid position than the civil servant, especially when that contract is precarious, as it usually is until well into his thirties. In Catalonia, one should add the fact that nationalist power seeks to dominate all areas of institutional life, including the university. Between one thing and another, expressing minority ideas is more difficult because it can have unpleasant consequences, especially for the youngest.
For a time, Basque nationalism aligned significant academic spheres for its cause. Is this happening in Catalonia?
The teaching staff of Catalan universities continues to be very plural in every way and here no one is threatened with guns. What happens is that access to certain privileged positions inside and outside the university requires adherence to the postulates of nationalism or, at least, requires not questioning them in public. This comes from behind, but things have gotten worse, because there is a barely concealed operation underway to take control of the governing bodies of the universities by the nationalists. Of course, it is legitimate for teachers of any orientation to want to hold positions of responsibility. On the other hand, it is not to take advantage of the position to put the university at the service of a partisan cause. It is not legitimate, for example, the cataract of institutional declarations with which our rectors have been giving unconditional support to those who violated the rules of democracy in 2017. With this, it is hoped that the university will be another soldier of the liberation army of Catalonia, but our thing is not to war, but to think and teach to think.
Does this situation extend to primary and secondary education?
Yes, but I would say that the extension goes in the opposite direction. In other words, an attempt is made to extend to the university the ideological function that primary and secondary education have already assumed to some extent, for example by underlining what separates us from the rest of Spaniards and not what unites us, or by conveying the impression that Catalan is one of our languages more than Spanish, as if what is common to all was not also ours. The claim of many that the school be at the service of national construction is no secret. At the university, this is more difficult, due to the very nature of its activity, but also due to the aforementioned plurality of teachers, for which I know much greater than that of primary and secondary teachers. At the university, students receive very diverse information, guidance and perspectives, and this should continue to be the case.
What role does Catalan play in all this?
It is evident that the language is sometimes used to discriminate, and hence the idea that in the public media or in the institutions one should speak in Catalan, as if one were a worse citizen for speaking in Spanish. Language immersion has, in my opinion, this same discriminatory intention and not only, as its supporters maintain, an educational function. All this is foolish and undemocratic in a bilingual society, in which, in addition, Spanish is the majority, especially among the popular classes. Luckily, in college, the language issue has been quite peaceful so far. Each one, teacher or student, expresses himself in the language of his choice and, of course, we all understand each other perfectly. However, for some time now, the attempt to open the university front of the linguistic battle has been detected, trying to create a problem where there is none, perhaps because nationalism always needs that, new conflicts with which to keep the tension alive. social society from which it feeds, new fronts in which to continue to consolidate its ideological domination. If the Catalan university wants to continue to be attractive to students from outside Catalonia and not to become provincial, it will have to resist the attempt to make Catalan prevail over Spanish.