"You should only stop being quiet when you have something to say that’s worth more than silence”, wrote Joseph Antoine Toussaint Dinouart, a priest of the diocese of Amiens. Preacher, polemicist, writer and defender of women’s rights in 18th century France. Naturally, he came close to ending up at the stake.
The art of being quiet is an additional chapter for Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Dinouart encourages being quiet at the appropriate time because “talking, talking too much or not talking enough are the ordinary effects of language”. Being quiet also involves not writing and fighting against the rush, the drive to write without first cultivating study, reflection, experience and appropriate restraint.
One of Dinouart’s best ideas is that too much is written on useless things, too much on the best things and, above all, that people write without respecting “the limits imposed on the human mind in all the areas of knowledge denied us by the designs of Providence”.
An essential voice
Those of us who work at this newspaper take many decisions every day about which questions are worth publishing and merit our readers’ time. We all also choose many words every day to express opinions, inform about and analyse the world we live in and the world we want. Today we publish an essential text. One of those that pushes us forward collectively. A reflection that comes from a place of absolute honesty, a fight against the self-deception that we often construct to avoid the harshness that is living. Sebastià Alzamora has confronted his (and our) demons, the monsters that can live in all of us, those we see so clearly in the small hours and which can leave all souls abandoned. He has exposed his weaknesses and his strengths. In short, how life’s greed destroys us and saves us.
Our piece on alcoholism isn’t just another story. For us it’s an energetic bet, a red light against something that our culture trivialises and which destroys so much. Alzamora tells us about his time in hell. And if it means that those who read it can confront the truth, that everyone is aware of the devastating power of excessive consumption and the power of addiction, that young people ask themselves what the limit is, then it will have been useful.
Drink well and read well
We have to teach young people to drink, says the sociologist Javier Elzo, in the same way we educate them about other topics. Drinking well, like eating well, is as important as reading well.
Due to our culture and ease of access, the adult population of Catalonia has high levels of alcohol consumption. Experts explain that 75% of those who would meet the criteria for alcoholism aren’t receiving treatment because they don’t even want it themselves, don’t know they need it, or ignore the fact. Re-reading those last sentences, I think they sound alarmist. Yes, me too. Why? Because culturally our tolerance for access to and consumption of alcohol is very high and we tend to ignore experts’ warning considering them hyperbole. Today’s special dossier also describes how alcohol causes a lot of harm to third parties. Specifically, for example, in violence, accidents or unprotected sex.
We all can and must help alcoholics. Without the slightest look of superiority. In the same way that society has learnt to have fun in smoke-free places, it will also have to learn to do so with a moderate or zero consumption of alcohol, being aware that excessive consumption turns it into the worst drug, the most readily available one, the most acceptable, the least stigmatised, the one which supposedly stimulates creativity. Before destroying it.
Drinking should not be equated with having fun and young people should be able to grow up without the tribe submitting them to an alcoholic coma. Let’s not push towards drinking, let’s not trivialise it, and let’s help them learn that “no” is more difficult to say than “yes”.
To resist the abyss
We live looking for heroes, despite already having them to hand. Read and re-read Josep Maria Esquirol, specifically his indispensable La resistència íntima [literally, “The Intimate Resistance”; currently untranslated], a guide to responding to what can sometimes become the abyss of living. “The most elementary things may already be pierced by the will to respond to or resist the darkness of the outside world. One doesn’t overcome nihilism, in the same way that one doesn’t overcome finiteness: you confront it. We move between closeness and the abyss and closeness is already a reply to the abyss”. The deepest thing, that which can improve our individual and collective lives, is the closest.
Our heroes are those that look forward lucidly, they fight and, naked, have the courage and the generosity to explain how they embraced life.