PRO

Where Your Ideas can change Minds

Please visit our new forum at

http://www.4forums.com

CON


YouDebate.com Forum
» back to YouDebate.com
Register | Profile | Log In | Lost Password | Active Users | Help | Board Rules | Search | FAQ |
Custom Search
» You are not logged in.   log in | register

  YouDebate.com Forum
   Politics Debates
     The Desaparecidos
       Moral Indifference by an Intellectual Elite

Topic Jump
« Back | Next »
[ Single page for this topic ]
Forum moderated by: admin
    

    
Guest

|     |       Report Post



Newbie
Post Score
Adjustment:
n/a

Rate this post:

The "Desaparecidos" (Missing) and the Moral Indifference of an Argentine Intellectual Elite. The Halperín Donghi Case.  
by Eduardo R. Saguier
    Senior Researcher (CONICET)
                     e-mail:saguiere@ssdnet.com.ar

In a previous message I authored entitled "Mutar los Silencios en Lenguaje" [Muting Silences in Language], published in the Pol-Cien Electronic Discussion List (Buenos Aires), on July 9th of the current year, I stated that Tulio Halperín Donghi, due to his celebrity as a scholar, had the moral obligation of articulating, during the Military Process (1976-1982), “...public accusations and press conferences in Washington, advocating for human rights and for the defense of his own fellow citizen- colleagues and students who were in prison or had disappeared”. Furthermore, I disclosed that “...his prudent silence and self-censorship really obeyed his stingy eagerness to succeed in keeping his passport, regularly visit his family and control ties with institutions such as the Instituto Di Tella and CEDES/CISEA/PEHESA". I also underscored the fact that Halperín’s “low profile” during such Military Process "...was not replicated by other colleagues who, as in the Ernesto Laclau case, in spite of having his family in Buenos Aires opted for not coming back during those long years".

I must make it clear that this is not the first time I mention such moral surrender --for I had previously pointed that out-- but only in reference to a “…reputed Argentine historian residing in Berkeley". As my critique was reproved by some colleagues, saying it was the result of chicanery, ingratitude, personal resentment, or a parricide zeal and extreme cruelty toward human miseries, and that who was I to question Halperín’s moral integrity, I preferred not to insist on the issue. But today, vis-à-vis the great moral crisis we are experiencing, and faced with the new political instance of a just and redressing hope that seems willing to reopen with the fall of the Neoliberal Model, science and humanities must also stop living on their knees and stand up. That’s why I decided to rehash on that bitter controversy, with all the professional risks this might entail, and certain that the apothegm “dogs will not eat dogs” can only be applicable to morally collapsed intellectuals, severed from all personal dignity.

Many might ask themselves why Halperín and not some other of the many  who, like him, lived abroad and also kept quiet? Simply because, contrary to other colleagues who livened up the fire of an anachronistic and opportunistic adventure (see Pasado y Presente editorial entitled La "Larga Marcha" al Socialismo en la Argentina, 1973) [The ‘Long March’ to Socialism in Argentina], Halperín didn’t show signs of a guilty flank or political reproach whatsoever, neither could anyone, in good faith, doubt that by then Halperín personified the summit of Argentine and Latin American intellectual elite, that his work in such historiography is unparalleled, and that its content will live on probably forever in continental records. But then, if the one who climbs to the summit “is silent and consents”, what can be expected of those who ride on the hillside? Not to mention those who pasture in the deep valleys. How impressive must the Halperinian mirror have been and how many may have thus justified their silence?

Now then, how is it possible for an intellectual so sensitive and aware of the past and of the consequences of an unfortunate recurrence could have kept silent when such an unpromising and gloomy tragedy took place? A tragedy which Halperín himself had predicted in some of his writings (Argentina en el Callejón, 1964) [Argentina in the Alley], and whose antecedent had premonitorily portrayed it as a "concealed civil war" (Myers, 1997, p.160).

We may be told that fear numbs people, constrains the keyboard and paralyzes the most daring of wills [Avellaneda, 1986), and that its syndrome self-transfers itself, even in the most remote of exiles, and in spite of enjoying guarantees and free press devices (Foster, 1987, 97).
Indeed, there is no doubt that terror has the power of breaking all consciousness and is able to turn a hero into a coward, and even into a traitor, as in fact has historically happened in many instances (Bodei, 1995, 163-165). Undoubtedly, Halperín’s case is not one of treason, nor can one attribute ignorance of the cruel reality taking place in Argentina. But then, what brought about so much omission and self-censorship, and so much forgetfulness, so much scorn or contempt at others’ defeat and tragedy (politically speaking)? Can you be a man of science, an artist or an
internationally renown intellectual, and be blind and deaf to a pervasive secret such as the Argentine holocaust? Is this about a selfish, narcissistic and/or cynical attitude, the result of a psychological, social and/or national identity crisis of someone who no longer cared to go back
to his homeland, or as a warlock’s apprentice who felt “...had lost control of his own product and heritage”? Or of someone who was unaware of the international weight of his own political opinion (Bauman, 1995)? Or, rather, was it not a matter of an ironic pessimism, the same thinking some authors practice to first understand fear and war and then condemn it (González, 1997, 122), a mental strategy that has nevertheless led certain current American intellectuality (Richard Rorty, Michael Walzer, Bernard Lewis, etc.) to encourage the Iraq War? Or are we simply faced with an
emotional distress inflicted upon oneself, a kind of slow and lengthy suicide of someone who was never a keen political activist nor intended to be a moral example or symbol whatsoever?

The case is complex because Halperín did not remain idle in USA, he would frequently travel to Buenos Aires, he went to Mexico to share academic events with exiled Argentine intellectuals, he had phone contact with the cultural elite of the Di Tella Institute and CEDES/CISEA, and he probably intervened off the record to rescue Emilio de Ipola from his kidnapping. We therefore ask ourselves, no one from Di Tella (Botana, Gallo, Cortés Conde), or from the CEDES/CISEA (Romero Jr., O'Donell, J. Sábato, Caputo) or those exiled in Mexico (Puiggrós, Jitrik, Aricó, Assadourian, Chiaramonte, Portantiero, Pucciarelli, Constantini, Giardinelli, Borón, etc.), Canada (Nun, Murmis), France (Saer, Garavaglia), England (Tandeter, H. Sábato, Míguez), Brazil (Pomer, González), Ecuador (Roig), or Venezuela (Plá, Calello),
demanded he then take on a public attitude in the US consistent with his liberal and humanitarian ideas and with his previous dignified resignation from the University of Buenos Aires [UBA] (1966)? No one reproached his silence nor hinted what his mentor José Luis Romero (deceased in January 1976) would have done under such circumstances?  For what reason or reasons didn’t
these hints or insinuations occur? It could be said, then, that in exile there was no political friendship whatsoever nor did its members know or visit each other but, why did his closest colleagues hide or consent to his moral weaknesses? Why is it that his most notorious critics, among which were Carlos Altamirano and Jorge Myers, haven’t mentioned any of these painful
absences?

As far as Halperín’s political behavior, why was he not consistent with the commitment displayed during the struggle against Peronism prior to ‘55 (Contorno, Sur), or when the Argentine Revolution (1966) took place, at which time he gave up his chair at the University and opted for exile? Or is it that the tyrannical change of events we suffered during the Military Process was
less cruel or bloody than those endured during the times of well known torturers (Lombilla,
Amoresano and the Cardozo brothers, 1950-54), or in the time of the Argentine Revolution (1966)? Or is it that the Military Process victims (1976-82) didn’t deserve an advocacy similar to that of those who were tortured and murdered during the first Peronist period (Bravo, Ingalinella)? If, as a
result of the Noche de los Bastones Largos [Night of the Long Sticks] (1966), Halperín resigned from his university chair and futilely looked for the protection and shelter of our Nobel Prize and CONICET President Bernardo Houssay, what leading attitude should he have taken ten (10) years
later, when in his long exile the Videla Coup (1976) and subsequent “disappearances” of colleagues and former disciples occurred? Was it right for him to have judged these crimes against humanity under the Theory of the Two Demons or with Guariglia’s doctrine (1987)? (Report to Tulio
Halperín Donghi by Felipe Pigna, 2002: http://www.elhistoriador.com.ar/php/prueba.php?archivo=57).

We will be told, then, that this Halperín was not the same as he once was, that circumstances have changed, that those twenty (20) years gone by from the fall of Perón (1955); can change anyone, and that Halperín never alleged having been exiled nor did he try to come back or be a moral symbol or paradigm whatsoever, but that he no longer could bear the northern winters or loneliness, and that he was skeptical, unconscious of his own moral power, nostalgic and tired. That same recurrent tiredness that overwhelmed our Asturias Prize Ernesto Sábato when he refused to go into exile and visited Videla instead to beg for the “disappeared” poets (Urondo, Bustos, Santoro, etc.). Or our Nobel Prize Houssay when he accepted to continue with the CONICET Presidency during Onganía’s Dictatorship (1966-71), in turn emulating Mariano R. Castex’ “moral fatigue” in giving up when accepting the post of Vice-Chancellor of the UBA in the time of Uriburu dictatorship (1930). The latter emulating the exhaustion of Juvenilia author Senator Miguel Cané and that of the author of "The National Tradition" and Minister of the Interior Joaquín V. González when the Ley de Residencia (Residence Act) or the expulsion of “undesirable” foreigners was imposed (1902). And the latter in turn copied the capitulations practiced in times of Rosas (1836-1852) by the later reputed codifier Dalmacio Vélez Sársfield. But, can moral fatigue reproduce itself in the intellectual elites as just another cultural pattern, and can the spiritual resignation this entails be accepted without demanding any right of inventory at all?  Can this reflex mechanism be accepted, that of a “perpetual  return”, of someone who paradoxically devoted his life to probe into the behavior and “pathetic miseries” of patrician elites?

What is the responsibility and ethical virtues of a modern intellectual elite in dull and drab times?  Aren’t they justice, truth and truthfulness, without which “...the corrupting power of institutions couldn’t be resisted”   [MacIntyre, 1984)?  What are the roles members of an elite should serve under gruesome circumstances? Aren’t they those same “stable fly or sting” roles (Todorov, 1991), or those of  "legislator and guide" which Halperín himself refers to constantly in his work (Altamirano, 1997, 21)?  Wasn’t this the attitude adopted during the Military Process by David Viñas, Osvaldo Bayer and Gregorio Selser? and in times of the Nazi threat, María Rosa Oliver, Victoria Ocampo and Renata Donghi de Halperín (mother of Tulio Halperín Donghi), and even more remotely Echeverría, Mármol and Varela (Generation of 1837), issues Halperín spoke about in depth more than a decade ago (Halperín Donghi, 1987), and upon which he also narrated one of the most beautiful and memorable pages of Argentine historiography [A Nation for the Argentine Desert]? Can an intellectual elite relinquish moral responsibilities? Can it stop telling the truth to everyone and at all times? Can it remain indifferent, motionless and disciplined vis-à-vis tragedy, whatever the ideology? Can such intellectual leadership, in case of deserting, pretend to continue setting itself up as an elite and demand acknowledgment as such? Shouldn’t it provide some explanation or self-criticism?

This is the issue we should address now. Those who serve and have served Halperín as a complacent and subservient court, and have even reproduced in its shadow a kind of patron-client network at an international scale, pretend to go on holding the academic power, as if nothing at all
had happened in the country, as if the surrenders of the past  –even those that took place during the times of Afonsín, Menem, De la Rúa and Duhalde-- had been for free, and no one had to pay a price for them, as if all this disciplining were a title of honor to seek when, the truth is, they
deserve the harsh treatment of a critique which is lacking till this day, and why not also the treatment of some moral tribunal?


Sources

Altamirano, Carlos (1997): Hipótesis de lectura (sobre el tema de los intelectuales en la obra de Tulio Halperín Donghi), en Roy Hora y Javier Trímboli, comp., Discutir Halperín. Siete ensayos sobre la contribución de Tulio Halperín Donghi a la historia argentina (Buenos Aires: Ed. El Cielo por Asalto), 17-29;

Avellaneda, Andrés (1986): Censura, autoritarismo y cultura: Argentina, 1960-1983 (Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, Biblioteca Política Argentina, nos.: 156-158);

Bauman, Zygmunt (1995): Legislators and Interpreters (Polity Press);

Bodei, Remo (1995): Geometría de las Pasiones. Miedo, Esperanza, Felicidad: Filosofía y Uso Político (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica);

Foster, David William (1987): Los Parámetros de la Narrativa Argentina durante el "Proceso de Reorganización Nacional", en Daniel Balderston, et. al., Ficción y política: la narrativa argentina durante el proceso militar (Buenos Aires: Alianza), 96-108;

González, Horacio (1997): Culpa y escarmiento. Cómo habla la historia en el terror, en Roy Hora y Javier Trímboli, comp., Discutir Halperín Siete ensayos sobre la contribución de Tulio Halperín Donghi a la historia argentina (Buenos Aires: Ed. El Cielo por Asalto), 113-124;

Guariglia, Osvaldo (1987): "La condena a los ex-comandantes y la ley de extinción de las causas: un punto de vista ético", Buenos Aires: Vuelta Nº9, 9 a 13 pp.

Halperín Donghi, Tulio (1987): El Presente transforma el Pasado: El Impacto del Reciente Terror en la Imagen de la Historia Argentina, en Daniel Balderston, et. al., Ficción y política: la narrativa argentina durante el proceso militar (Buenos Aires: Alianza), 71-95;

MacIntyre, Alasdair (1984): After Virtue (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press);

Myers, Jorge (1997): Tulio Halperín Donghi y la historia de la Argentina contemporánea, en Roy Hora y Javier Trímboli, comp., Discutir Halperín Siete ensayos sobre la contribución de Tulio Halperín Donghi a la historia argentina (Buenos Aires: Ed. El Cielo por Asalto), 155-178;

Todorov, Tzvetan (1991): Les morales de l´histoire (Paris: Ed. Grasset y Fasquelle);


 


Posts: 0 | Posted: 9:32 PM on August 8, 2003 | IP
Guest

|     |       Report Post



Newbie
Post Score
Adjustment:
n/a

Rate this post:

WOW
August 7 2003 at 12:35 AM shon (Login shonstir)
Manitou Friends
from IP address 24.53.88.65


Response to The Desaparecidos (Missing) and the Moral Indifference of an Argentine Elite

---

usually i never stop in this forum. i am glad i did. what an informative piece and very well stated. i don't think i am qualified to give any explanation or any opinion but it was awesome filling my mind with more than nickelodeon! thanks for the awesome post! shon

 


Posts: 0 | Posted: 2:59 PM on August 18, 2003 | IP
Guest

|     |       Report Post



Newbie
Post Score
Adjustment:
n/a

Rate this post:

Re

I remember when, while studying in Mexico City, hearing about those who were taken from their homes in the middle of the night, of pregnant women who were dropped from helicopters, of students who never returned from their classes....

It's sad that those who should have spoken out chose to do nothing, to keep silent. I'm reminded of the Church's silence during the Holocaust.

There's a popular saying: "It takes a village to raise a child". Well, I can add my own: "It takes a village to stop a butcher"...
___
http://sassure1.tripod.com
 


Posts: 0 | Posted: 8:09 PM on August 27, 2003 | IP
    
[ Single page for this topic ]

Topic Jump
« Back | Next »
[ Single page for this topic ]
Forum moderated by: admin
    

Topic options: Lock topic | Unlock topic | Make Topic Sticky | Remove Sticky | Delete thread | Move thread | Merge thread

 

© YouDebate.com
Powered by: ScareCrow version 2.12
© 2001 Jonathan Bravata. All rights reserved.