A young activist, during a protest for the climate emergency in Palo Alto, California, on September 15. Tayfun Coskun (Anadolu Agency/ Getty Images)
Saul Alvidrez. Don Pepe, with all that experience that you carry on your back, and knowing the great love you have for humanity, what would you say to all the young people of the planet?
Pepe Mujica. Don't believe, I don't have that much love for humanity [smiles]; I have a love for life, which is much more than humanity. Humanity is just part of the torrent of life. In that I am almost animistic. But for the love of life, with Nietzsche, I think that man can have a cause to live and that, to be able to give meaning to life, distinguishes him a little from the rest of the animals. Being alive is a miracle, it is the greatest miracle for each of us. But you can live simply because you were born, as a vegetable, or, after being born, you can give meaning to life. That is the luxury that consciousness gives us and that allows us to create civilization: to live with a cause. (...) To live is to be free, and to be free is to take off the blindfold. (...) Don't let yourselves, boys, don't let yourselves be robbed of freedom! They cannot surrender freedom to the market! Freedom must serve life, not life must serve freedom. Because you have to own your own life, and not allow it to be managed with a television screen or a cell phone. That's why the image of the blindfold seems beautiful to me. The problem is that there are young people who are already old, who are totally absorbed by the consumerist dynamics imposed by society and live vegetatively; They don't question, they just happen. But there is, fundamentally at the base of universities, among younger people who have the opportunity to begin to educate their head, a margin of intellectual, questioning, critical restlessness, which is a promising and positive lever. That's where I see the most important reserves of a human hope for the future. My generation dreamed of an independent proletariat, strong men in overalls and caps in gigantic factories... That happened. What's coming is what's entering the world of universities today. But the battle is that the idea of changing the car for a newer one or the longing for the trip to Miami does not end up absorbing them, and that they can have a sense of responsibility with the society to which they belong. But we must also understand that there is another humanity, one that is neither young nor old, that is the one that hurts the most, the surplus humanity, those who have no place in the world, anywhere, and who apparently were born to be victims. It's those crowds from Africa, those crowds from Latin America who want to emigrate, those who jump on the train in Central America, all those, the desperate ones of the world who are growing. Well, they are neither young nor old, they are victims. The battle is for that, to incorporate them into human existence. This is not an easy task, this marketing civilization takes you by the nose to transform you into a relentless consumerist. You have to put aside consumerism the image of the happy man, who, according to the Bible, had no shirt – maybe he lived in a tropical country and did not ask for so much – but let's understand that happiness is not in wealth. Happiness, either you achieve it with little, or you do not achieve it with nothing. And I think there are two ways to die: resigning or fighting. Young people are the ones who are going to succeed us, and their fundamental contribution in this world and at this moment in history is to save nature and force governments to amend this disaster; Otherwise, we only contribute with our resignation to pave the path of the holocaust of human civilization. If humanity does not defuse the war and fight to reverse climate change, we are lost. Because governments are not going to do this, unless young people cover the streets and force them.
José 'Pepe' Mujica and the 50th anniversary of the coup in Chile: "You have to have memory, but you have to look forward too"
Noam Chomsky. We should be ashamed of the fact that we have imposed this burden on young people. When Greta Thunberg stands in Davos, at meetings of the rich and powerful, and simply says "we have been betrayed", she is right. Our generations betrayed you; We have set young people the task of rescuing civilization from our failure. We destroy it and it is their task to try to rescue some of this chaos we left them. It's ugly, but it's true. And young people are reacting; we saw it dramatically in Glasgow, at the international meeting to combat climate change. Two very different parallel events took place there: while inside the glamorous venues full of elegant people there was talk about how to avoid doing something, outside, in the streets, tens of thousands of young people protested demanding that they do what must be done to save us from disaster. The question is: which of these two forces will prevail? We should be doing what they say. We cannot give up the fight; We must do all we can to help the younger generations overcome the crimes of our generations.
Pepe Mujica. No doubt. The worst struggle is the one that does not occur. Life taught me that no lamb was saved by wandering alone, and that, as such, the defense of life obliges us to unite and to encourage those young people who move trying to save life above the planet. Deep down, that's the real cause.
Noam Chomsky. We have to stop this madness and listen to the indigenous people of the world about how to live in harmony with nature, and we have to listen to the young people who demand that we escape this suicidal race.
Pepe Mujica. For the world to continue to exist, the younger generations will have to force governments to soak their beards and change their attitudes. I know it's very difficult, but nothing will change if people don't fight. Human history teaches us that everything that could be achieved in terms of rights and conquests in favor of human life was because there were people who had the ability to give a good part of their existence to the struggle for these things. Nothing fell by gift of the gods; We must be clear about this. It is very difficult to change course, but if we do not force governments to do so, much of our future humanity is doomed, and we cannot behave like criminals with the future; That is why we have to talk about things simply and clearly. There is no other way than to win the streets and fight for these things, and the university world and the young world are the ones who have the floor at this moment. Let us not expect the fossilized world that rules Europe, the Western world and the Eastern world; In any case, let us hope for a ray of hope from the new generations, particularly from the university world, the student world and the young workers of our land. With them and for them! Let us not expect anything from the United Nations, from international organizations; We must act so that people force their own governments, and encourage the militant and activist peoples of the central countries, who have the historical responsibility for what is happening. That's called Europe, that's called the United States, Russia, China, that's called the developed world. Look, if you walk through a mountain, sleep at night and get up early, you will be surprised that at dawn, in half light, almost all the birds sing and talk ... And you get the impression that they are grateful that the night passed, the day came, and they are alive. There is no point in eternal sorrow, eternal submission; Every day dawns and you have to start again. The value of life is not in triumphing; There is no triumph, because in the end death always awaits us. The real triumph is to get back up every time you fall and start over, in the most prolific sense you can think of. To start again is to fall in love again when one is young and has failed, it is to recover from an illness and start again, it is to lose a job and get another, it is to be betrayed by a friend and continue cultivating friends, it is to have the ability to overcome hopelessness and not that hopelessness defeats you. Farewell.
Saúl Alvídrez Ruiz (Chihuahua, Mexico, 1988) is an activist and documentary filmmaker. This text is an excerpt from the book Chomsky and Mujica. Surviving the XXI Century, by Debate, which is published on September 28.
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