Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bullfighting, Communism, Irrationalism and Ethics


We understand very well why bullfighting is so popular (say, in Portugal, say, among Portuguese, tourists and residents). The first impact is sensorial: there are the colors: the glare of the toureiro suits, the red dance of the capotes, the vibration of the bandarilhas. Then, there are the sounds: the trumpet, the applauses, people's manifestations of enthusiasm and admiration. And the shouts of the forcados.

The second impact is also aesthetic and emotional: the tourada is a play of courage and pride. It is an wonferfully balanced event of art, sport and entertainment. It is both a dance and a sport. See a man fast horse riding with his both hands occupied with fighting a heavy black furious bull! And after inflicting the punishment of the farpas on the bull, there goes the cavaleiro all round the arena to distribute smiles and retrieve roses from the ladies.

It is also thrilling, appealing to the irrational: see the forcado with his naked hands on his hips calling the bull to run in the direction of his stomach. And see him looking into the bull's eyes a fraction of a second before he finally rolls his arms around the bull's neck in the very same moment is belly is stricken by the bull's head.

So many colours, so many emotions, the human life now thrown valiantly to danger, now emerging with pride and glory!

Isn't that blood on the bull's back, its sad stagger, the total absence of complacency towards a defenseless irrational creature, the sufferings inflicted while the bull is "prepared" prior to the fight - aren't all these just details, minor little facts that count nothing compared with the grandeur of bullfighting? For passionate people, yes they are. Bullfighting is too big an art that such details are unimportant and unmentionable.


We understand very well why communist culture and movements were so popular in many regions and even countries of West Europe during, for instance, the sixties and the seventies. There was freedom for the students, there was the institutionalization of rebeldom, there was the sexual revolution, there were teenagers and young adults actively engagé in a fight that allowed them freedom and a sense of heroism. There were drugs and naked people on the beach (when no beaches had been yet assigned to nudism). There was the notion that power belonged to everyone and that power could actually change the world. There was the notion that people could really change the world. The power could after all be used by the common individual right there on the streets.

What could be more appealing to young wanna-be intelectuals thrilled by grandieuse easy to read ideology mixed with cheap drugs than the culture of free radios, protest and light fights with the local police? How easy after all it was for one to become a hero! Anyone could be a Che, it was as easy as buying a red poster with his black printed serious face.

And how much enthusiasm there was in organizing a trip to South America (or Soutwest Europe 75/76...) to help the poor yet-ideologized-to be-people liberate themselves into the promising communist regimes!

Really, only the stillest hearts wouldn't vibrate with so much of action, freedom, love, sex, ideology and drugs. And that was what communism was able to imediately provide to middle- and upper- middle class universitarians and intelectuals. The classless society and absolute equality and the end of exploitation of men by men would come in the later days of utopia; a lot of freedom, a little of violence, and more than the usual doses of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll had already come and had come to stay.

And what about Budapest 1956? What about Prague 68? What about the Red Terror, the Great Purge, and the inflicted famines and other gigantic crimes? Oh well, for the passionated engagé young at heart, these were vague rumors, probably minor unpleasant steps towards the ultimate equal and free society, more probably were they devious lies propagated by capitalists, plutocrats and the reactionary. And isn't that true that the one in love only sees what (s)he wants to see, for her(im) there is only beauty within her/his love's heart?


Once there was a child who got slapped on the face by a Catholic priest during Sunday school. From that moment until eternity, that person hated everything related with the Catholic Church. The adult still and forever remembered the experience, but now she had many arguments against the church and the doctrine and the hyerarchy and everything. But would she have all those strong rational arguments and positions had she not been offended by a priest?

We first feel; we then rationalize. Our strongest deepest choices have nothing to do with ideas and reasons. No: they are all rooted in the most emotional nature of our real life experiences. We first emotionaly experience some reality; we then emotionally choose (if choosing is the proper word...); and then, later, the ones with a bigger propensity for rationalization will try and find very rational and based-on-studies reasons to defend their very emotionaly based choices.

People are, say, right-wing liberals because their parents dealt with them at the age of 13 as if they were already 18; because those very same parents made those children feel important and happy with success and down with defeat; because the parents made the children feel fully free to choose and fully responsible to bear all the good and painful consequences of their own free decisions.

And only after one has become (most certainly during childhood) emotionally left-winger, christian-democrat, social democrat, communist, ... - will he or she later in life find arguments to defend his or her political choices, which are only political in their content, not in their nature.

Bullfighting, communism, ... so many other possibly good, possibly bad ideologies, activities, choices, beloved things: whether they are believed and choosed or rejected and hated - that's allways the responsibility of emotions. Reason only comes when one has to justify towards the self and the others those "choices".

And because emotions are not changeable at will, so people cannot change their prefered ideology or favorite hobby overnight: the only thing they can do is to try and avoid facing any drawbacks, any incoherences, any blood jet that spills too notoriously from some bandarilha of some stalin or che.

People do not love and hate what they do because they want to; rather, people love and hate according to the emotional impact of their real life experiences. As a consequence, people end up seeing and ingnoring what they just want to, so as to protect their loves and to attack the object of their hatred.


But then people can just turn a blind eye on what a blind and cold hearted reasonable judge might deem as, say, a genocide; people can simply ignore some, say, colateral cruelty. Where will then moral, ethics, the good and the evil stand when people are but emotional choosers?

Since people don't really choose the good and the evil, but their emotions take all the decisions, and since emotions are not controlable - thus people who hold to some evil oppinion cannot, in principle, be considered bad just because of that oppinion.

A green individual was violently robbed by a gang of blue individuals. From that moment onwards the green one will claim all blues are violent and should not live here. In the sense that such a generalization about the green ones is untrue and unfair, the oppinion of the green person is bad. But he didn't choose to support that oppinion: the emotional impact of his real life violent experience has chosen for him! Thus, he cannot be considered a bad person because of his holding an evil oppinion.

Again, then: where do good and evil lay? The base of moral and ethics is always intention. Where is intention in this example then?

After the real life experience, after emotions, people can intentionally decide or not to screen the emotions associated with that experience and from that exercise they can see how rational, how good or how evil, the oppinions or "decisions" stemming from those emotions are. This is exactly the opposite of accepting accritically one own oppinions and then trying to find in some collection of rational arguments what are the ones that fit best to the (previously emotionally chosen) oppinions one just never considers to criticize.

The "ethical exercize" goes in the opposite direction: instead of finding arguments to rationalize an oppinion that is already held to (say, the oppinion that bullfighting is good), one puts his oppinion into question and asks what arguments are there to support and to reject that oppinion. And one looks dispassionately at those arguments and, at the same time, one considers the oppinion under evaluation as if it didn't belong to oneself. One considers the oppinion as if it was fully detached from any factually felt emotions.

Further, one can just ask: why do I have such oppinion? What are the emotions that have supported within me this oppinion in the first place? And what was or were the real life experiences that have triggered those emotions? Were those life experiences good or bad?

People are not responsible for their emotions nor for the "decisions" those emotions take. But one is responsible for choosing to inspect critically and rationally one's own oppinions. Refusing to do so, specially when there might be some exterior signs that the oppinions held to are not that good, or taking the intentional decision of thinking about the own oppinions - this might be the criterion to distinguish the wicked from the righteous.


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