YO FUI ESCLAVO DEL TABACO

He estado a punto de morir con la gentil colaboración de Tabacalera española. Puedo hacer esta afirmación con absoluta certeza porque he sido fiel a sus productos nacionales desde 1957. El consumo salvaje de las marcas Celtas y Ducados me permite afirmar que los asesinos hablan mi idioma. Cuando he residido en el extranjero han sido Gitanes y Gauloises, con la aportación decididamente cutre de los Nazionali cuando viví en Roma. Y todos en cantidades tan ingentes que justifican el título de este artículo, al estilo de “Yo fui una madre soltera” o “Yo fui un Frankenstein adolescente”. O, siguiendo con el cine: “Me llamo Lillian Roth y soy una alcohólica”. Así, pues, confesión pura y dura.

Descartando los factores obvios sobre los que inciden razonablemente todos los escritos contra el tabaco, sí quisiera esgrimir mis derechos al récord del tabaquismo; y, puesto que me había sido diagnosticado un enfisema pulmonar en grado avanzado, mis aspiraciones al Guinness de la estupidez.

Estamos hablando, naturalmente, de una compulsión, pero en lenguaje llano puedo llamarlo obsesión, delirio y hasta locura. Sólo con epítetos un tanto desorbitados puedo calificar a los alucinantes momentos en que intenté desengancharme. Y esto en una época en que el enfisema ya había convertido mi caso en cuestión de vida o muerte. Vértigos, estados de histeria, alucinaciones, agresividad, eran algunos peldaños que me hacían subir directamente a la desesperación. Tales reacciones me hacían ver que casi cuarenta años de tabaquismo habían hecho su efecto. No era una constatación demasiado útil. El reconocimiento de un fallo y su enmienda no siempre van juntos; sobre todo cuando la adicción es tan traidora como para aportar a cada causa su justificación; sus coartadas a menudo múltiples. La primera de ellas : “Si no dejo el tabaco es porque no quiero. Y, después de todo, siempre hay tiempo para hacerlo”.

Pero el tiempo transcurre, las facultades menguan, la basura va invadiendo los pulmones, al final los devora y la dependencia crece hasta convertirse en una esclavitud. Lo más lógico es reconocer de una vez que me he convertido en una piltrafa, pero los Ducados pueden más. Pertenezco a la clase de fumadores que quieren dejarlo… sin quererlo dejar.

Con mi enfisema debidamente diagnosticado continué consumiendo el veneno y reduciendo mi calidad de vida al mínimo, por no decir a la nada absoluta. Nunca faltaron excusas. ¿Cómo iba a escribir una sola página sin mis aliados, los cigarrillos? Pero los Ducados no me han convertido en Joyce. ¿Cómo hacer el amor sin aspirar, después, una calada, como hacían las heroínas de la Nouvelle vague? pero no se me presentó la oportunidad, porque gracias al tabaquismo entré directamente en la impotencia sexual, con el consiguiente deterioro de mis relaciones de pareja.

En tales circunstancias no podía recurrir a las frases estilo “virgencita mía, ¡qué cruz me has mandado!”; y no podía porque la cruz me la busqué yo, aunque no sin ayuda. A los dieciséis años recurrí al cigarrillo como tantos otros: no para hacerme el macho –comprenderán que esto siempre me importó un pito–, sino como forma de distinción social, aprendida en la moda y, desde luego, en los dioses del cine; pero las tabacaleras todavía no me alertaban con esa astuta advertencia que adornaría las cajetillas muchos años después, cuando ya era demasiado tarde: “El tabaco perjudica seriamente la salud”.

Santo aviso, pero ambiguo. El tabaco entraría a formar parte de las múltiples cosas que pueden dañar la salud en mayor o menor grado, pero nunca en anuncios o cajetillas, he leído que los cigarrillos CREAN ADICCIÓN. Y es aquí donde los fumadores perjudicados estamos en el derecho de exigir responsabilidad y de acusar a las tabacaleras de criminales.

Porque no es cierto, como han escrito recientemente algunos compañeros, que el fumador pueda dejar de fumar de la noche a la mañana; no es cierto que se trate de un simple problema de albedrío. La adicción es la trampa mortal. Y lo es en un grado que no he conocido en cosa alguna.

Los Ducados han permanecido a mi lado, año tras año, día a día, minuto a minuto. ¿De qué poderosa materia estaban hechos esos diablillos como para irme convenciendo de que eran amiguetes cuando, de hecho, eran mojones en mi camino hacia el desastre?

Mientras me convertían en adicto, en obseso, en esclavo, me hacían creer que me estaban ayudando. Pero, ¿y qué? Los problemas, cualesquiera que fuesen, seguían existiendo aunque los disfrazase tras una cortina de humo. Más aún, generaban un nuevo problema que no era sino el reconocimiento de mi irresponsabilidad. Si no fumaba caía en la desesperación, si fumaba me desesperaba por ceder. Y a fe que intenté dejarlo por todos los medios aconsejados: libros de ayuda, acupuntura, ondas electromagnéticas, parches de nicotina, pastillas, boquillas… Sólo que faltaba lo más importante: la decisión verdadera, asumida, de querer dejarlo realmente. Los cojones que Tabacalera me había arrebatado.

Mientras, el enfisema seguía su curso. Y el tabaco también. Una pintoresca pulmonía doble vino a completar el cuadro. Y a mayor peligro, más tabaco.

Enlazo con el principio: he visto a la Muerte cara a cara. No era como la de Ingmar Bergman, negra, ni como la de Woody Allen, blanca. Era azul, como un paquete de Ducados, y cada vez que en la clínica me agujereaban venas y arterias para introducirme sueros o sondas, imaginaba que me estaban incrustando cigarrillos. Después de todo es lo que había estado haciendo yo mismo durante 40 años. En esta excursión a las fronteras del Más Allá descubrí el único final de la abominación, que no es otro que romper con ella a rajatabla. Con ayudas pertinentes, llámense parches, pastillas, comidas –nunca saboreadas antes-, horas de sueño, lo que sea pero siempre como elección inevitable.

Me siento muy orgulloso de mí mismo, pero al mismo tiempo me tengo por estúpido por no haberlo dejado antes. Y es que el deterioro ha sido inexorable. Por más que haga a partir de ahora, seguiré viviendo con mis facultades considerablemente disminuidas. Ninguna reforma conseguirá devolverme el trozo de pulmón que me falta, por no hablar de deficiencias cardiovasculares, sexuales y algunas bendiciones más. Mi falta de voluntad me ha convertido en un medio hombre. Y todo gracias a Tabacalera Española, que me presentó a mis asesinos cuando tenía la tierna edad de dieciséis años y no estaba en condiciones de reconocer los variopintos disfraces de la Muerte.

Terenci Moix.

Gran columna del bueno de Terenci. Una pena lo que vino después aunque se agradece su conmovedora sinceridad.

Sí, volvemos a intentarlo.

Louis Armstrong

Dejamos atrás la calle del artista.

Esperábamos algo tan acogedor y tan modesto, pero no ha dejado de asombrarnos que fuera tan acogedor y tan modesto. El impacto de respirar la humilde intimidad de alguien del que ya nadie niega su grandeza, ni artística ni humana. Pero en este caso no hay cursilería ni sentimentalismo en la emoción. No hay manera de vincular la procelosa vida de Amstrong con la nuestra. No podemos imaginar cómo alguien que creció en el lumpen, que vivió de la caridad o que padeció la humillación del racismo pudo encarar la vida con tanta alegría. Era un ser tocado por la gracia, un elegido. Podría haber sido un delincuente, podría haber sido un cabrón, podría haber sido un desgraciado. Pero fue un hombre de buen corazón y generoso.

Su museo está donde tiene que estar, en Corona. Cuando pintaron el exterior de su casa se empeño en pintar también la de los vecinos porque le daba apuro que su casa pudiera resultar ostentosa.

Elvira Lindo, Lugares que no quiero compartir con nadie.

La zorra y el racimo de uvas

Estaba una zorra con mucha hambre, y al ver colgando de una parra unos deliciosos racimos de uvas, quiso atraparlos con su boca.

Mas no pidiendo alcanzarlos, a pesar de sus esfuerzos, se alejó diciéndose:

-¡Ni me agradan, están tan verdes!

Nunca traslades la culpa a los demás de lo que no eres capaz de alcanzar.

Fábulas, Esopo.

Death penalty

Juror 8: You want to see this boy die because you personally want it, not because of the facts! You’re a sadist!

El precepto de la duda razonable -fundamental para un veredicto de culpabilidad- ha quedado violado esta noche, cuando se quitó, de forma legal, la vida a un hombre sobre el que siete testigos, no uno ni dos, siete, se han retractado sobre la acusación que hicieron en un primer momento. Demasiadas dudas para practicar tan definitiva -sin vuelta atrás- decisión: matar a un ser humano. Más en El País.

Ateísmo y moral

In the course of the Crusade of King St Louis, Yves le Breton reported how he once encountered an old woman who wandered down the street with a dish full of fire in her right hand and a bowl full of water in her left hand. Asked what she was doing, she answered that with the fire she would burn up Paradise until nothing remained of it, and with the water she would put out the fires of Hell until nothing remained of them, ‘Because I want no one to do good in order to receive the reward of Paradise, or from fear of Hell; but solely out of love for God.’ The only thing to add to this is: so why not to erase God himself and just do good for the sake of it? No wonder that, today, this properly Christian ethical stance survives mostly in atheism.

Fundamentalism do(what they perceive as) good deeds in order to fulfil God’s will and to deserve salvation; atheists do them simply because it is the right thing to do. Is this also not our most elementary experience of morality? When I do a good deed, I do not do it with a view to gaining God’s favour, I do it because I cannot do otherwise- if I were not to do it, I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror. A moral deed is by definition its own reward. The eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume, a believer, made this point in a very poignant way when wrote that the only way to show a true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God’s existence.

Violence, Slavoj Žižek.

Shall we choose death?

Bertrand Russell

BBC Radio, London, 30 December 1954

Bertrand Russell’s claim to be remembered by his history rests on his work in mathematic and symbolic logic and his profound influence on philosophy. Yet he was also constantly involved in political affairs. Russell (1872-1970) was deprived of his fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge, during the First World War because of his pacifism. He was imprisoned in 1918. During the Second World War, however, he abandoned his pacifism because of his hatred of Fascism. When the atom bomb was followed by hydrogen bomb, he became a campaigner for nuclear disarmament- and this speech on BBC Radio was a characteristic example of the powerful rhetoric he used against the arms race that built up between the United States and Soviet Union, the two great superpowers, and which, he argued, was endangering the human race.

The broadcast was made after the explosion of the first H-bomb, his thin singsong voice charged with the detached intensity of a prophet.

I am speaking not as a Briton, not as a European, not as a member of a western democracy, but as a human being, a member of the species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt. The world is full of conflicts: Jews and Arabs; Indians and Pakistanis; white men and Negroes in Africa; and, overshadowing all minor conflicts, the titanic struggle between communism and anticommunism.

Almost everybody who is politically conscious has strong feelings about one or more of these issues; but I want you, if you can, to set aside such feelings for the moment and consider yourself only as a member of a biological species which has had a remarkable history and whose disappearance none of us can desire. I shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it. We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps. The question we have to ask ourselves is: What steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all sides?

The general public, and even many men in positions of authority, have not realized what would be involved in a war with hydrogen bombs. The general public still thinks in terms of the obliteration of cities. It is understood that the new bombs are more powerful than the old and that, while one atomic bomb could obliterate Hiroshima, one hydrogen bomb could obliterate the largest cities such as London, New York, and Moscow. No doubt in a hydrogen-bomb war great cities would be obliterated. But this is one of the minor disasters that would have to be faced. If everybody in London, New York, and Moscow were exterminated, the world might, in the course of a few centuries, recover from the blow. But we now know, especially since the Bikini test, that hydrogen bombs can gradually spread destruction over a much wider area than had been supposed. It is stated on very good authority that a bomb can now be manufactured which will be 25,000 times as powerful as that which destroyed Hiroshima. Such a bomb, if exploded near the ground or under water, sends radioactive particles into the upper air. They sink gradually and reach the surface of the earth in the form of a deadly dust or rain. It was this dust which infected the Japanese fishermen and their catch of fish although they were outside what American experts believed to be the danger zone. No one knows how widely such lethal radioactive particles might be diffused, but the best authorities are unanimous in saying that a war with hydrogen bombs is quite likely to put an end to the human race. It is feared that if many hydrogen bombs are used there will be universal death – sudden only for a fortunate minority, but for the majority a slow torture of disease and disintegration…

Here, then, is the problem which I present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race1 or shall mankind renounce war? People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war. The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations of national sovereignty. But what perhaps impedes understanding of the situation more than anything else is that the term ‘mankind’ feels vague and abstract. People scarcely realize in imagination that the danger is to themselves and their children and their grandchildren, and not only to a dimly apprehended humanity’ And so they hope that perhaps war may be allowed to continue provided modern weapons are prohibited. I am afraid this hope is illusory. Whatever agreements not to use hydrogen bombs had been reached in time of peace, they would no longer be considered binding in time of war, and both sides would set to work to manufacture hydrogen bombs as soon as war broke out, for if one side manufactured the bombs and the other did not, the side that manufactured them would inevitably be victorious…

As geological time is reckoned, Man has so far existed only for a very short period one million years at the most. What he has achieved, especially during the last 6,000 years, is something utterly new in the history of the Cosmos, so far at least as we are acquainted with it. For countless ages the sun rose and set, the moon waxed and waned, the stars shone in the night, but it was only with the coming of Man that these things were understood. In the great world of astronomy and in the little world of the atom, Man has unveiled secrets which might have been thought undiscoverable. In art and literature and religion, some men have shown a sublimity of feeling which makes the species worth preserving. Is all this to end in trivial horror because so few are able to think of Man rather than of this or that group of men? Is our race so destitute of wisdom, so incapable of impartial love, so blind even to the simplest dictates of self-preservation, that the last proof of its silly cleverness is to be the extermination of all life on our planet? – for it will be not only men who will perish, but also the animals, whom no one can accuse of communism or anticommunism.

I cannot believe that this is to be the end. I would have men forget their quarrels for a moment and reflect that, if they will allow themselves to survive, there is every reason to expect the triumphs of the future to exceed immeasurably the triumphs of the past. There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? I appeal, as a human being to human beings: remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, nothing lies before you but universal death.

The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches.

Language and violence

What if, however, humans exceed animals in their capacity for violence precisely because they speak? As Hegel was already well aware, there is something violent in the very symbolization of a thing, which equals its mortification. This violence operates at multiple levels. Language simplifies the designated thing, reducing it to a single feature. It dismembers the thing, destroying its organic unity, treating its parts and properties as autonomous. It inserts the thing into a field of meaning which is ultimately external to it. When we name gold “gold”, we violently extract a metal from its natural texture, investing into it our dreams of wealth, power, spiritual purity and so on, which have nothing whatsoever to do with the immediate reality of gold.

(…)

“Language, not primitive egoistic interest, is the first and greatest divider, it is because of language that we and our neighbours (can) ‘live in different worlds’ even when we live on the same street. What this means is that verbal violence is not secondary distortion, but the ultimate resort of every specifically human violence.”

Violence, Slavoj Žižek.

Ideologías y violencia

Our blindness to the results of systematic violence is perhaps most clearly perceptible in debates about communist crimes. Responsibility for communist crimes is easy to allocate: we are dealing with subjective evil, with agents who did wrong. We can ever identify the ideological sources of the crimes-totalitarian ideology, The communist Manifesto, Rousseau, even Plato. But when one draws attention to the millions who died as the result of capitalist globalisation, from the tragedy of Mexico in the sixteenth century through to the Belgian Congo holocaust a century ago, responsibility is largely denied. All this seems just to have happened as the result of an ‘objective’ process, which nobody planned and executed and for which there was no ‘Capitalist Manifesto’. (The one who came closest to writing it was Ayn Rand.) The fact that the Belgian king Leopold II who presided over the Congo holocaust was a great humanitarian and proclaimed a saint by the Pope cannot be dismissed as a mere case of ideological hypocrisy and cynicism. Subjectively, he may well have been a sincere humanitarian, even modestly counteracting the catastrophic consequences of the vast economic project which was the ruthless exploitation of the natural resources of the Congo over which he presided. The country was his personal fiefdom! The ultimate irony is that even most of the profit from this endeavour were the benefit of the Belgian people, for public works, museums and so son. King Leopold was surely the precursor of today’s ‘liberal communists’.

Slavoj Žižek, “Violence.”

Creencias

There is a small minority, for example, that believes that bad weather comes from bad thoughts. This is a rather mystical approach to the question, for it implies that thoughts can be translated directly into events in the physical world. According to them, when you think a dark or pessimistic thought, it produces a cloud in the sky. If enough people are thinking gloomy thoughts at once, then rain will begin to fall. That is the reason for all the startling shifts in the weather, they claim, and the reason why no one has been able to give a scientific explanation of our bizarre climate. Their solution is to maintain a steadfast cheerfulness, no matter how dismal the conditions around them. No frowns, no deep sighs, no tears. These people are known as the Smilers, and no sect in the city is more innocent or childlike. If a majority of the population could be converted to their beliefs, they are convinced the weather would at last begin to stabilize and that life would then improve. They are therefore always proselytizing, continually looking for new adherents, but the mildness of the manner they have imposed on themselves makes them feeble persuaders. They rarely succeed in winning anyone over, and consequently their ideas have never been put to the test-for without a great number of believers, there will not be enough good thoughts to make a difference. But this lack of proof only makes them more stubborn in their faith. (…)

By contrast, there is another group called the Crawlers. These people believe that conditions will go on worsening until we demonstrate-in a utterly persuasive manner-how ashamed we are of how we lived in the past. their solution is to prostrate themselves on the ground and refuse to stand up until some sign is given to them that their penance has been deemed sufficient. what this sign is supposed to be is the subject of long theoretical debates. Some say a month of rain, others say a month of fair weather, and still others say they will not know until it is revealed to them in their hearts. There are two principal factions in this sect-the Dogs and the Snakes. The first contend that crawling on hands and knees shows adequate contrition, whereas the second hold that nothing short of moving on one’s belly is good enough. Bloody fights often break out between the two groups-each vying for control of the other-but neither faction has gained much of a following, and by now I believe the sect is on the verge of dying out. (…)

If you happen to get wet in the rain, you’re unlucky, and that’s all there is to it. If you happen to stay dry, then so much the better. But it has nothing to do with your attitudes or your beliefs. The rain make no distinctions. At one time or another, it falls on everyone, and when it falls, everyone is equal to everyone else- no one better, no one worse, everyone equal and the same.

Paul Auster, “In the Country of Last Things.”