One of the few consensus that exists around the relevance of someone in the Latin American context sees Jorge Luis Borges in the parnaso of literary excellence in the region.
Overcoming the prejudice of his nationality and his political activism, Borges presents himself as the undisputed writer whose legacy continues to amaze.
In 1981, Mario Vargas Llosa interviewed him in his modest apartment in downtown Buenos Aires, where he lived.
The extended dialogue gives way to a look back at the lives of those who were 82 at the time, on their sentimental journey, their literary tastes, their obsessions.
Vargas Llosa also asked Borges two questions which, due to his nature and my dedication, caught my attention. At first he asked questions about his ideal political regime. In the second, if there was a contemporary politician he admired.
These are two central questions in the political order because, as Giovanni Sartori pointed out in a brilliant metaphor, they concern “the machines and the machinists”, the institutions and those who run them.
Two questions put to an important figure of the last century, the answers to which cannot go unnoticed, because they fit perfectly into a precise context and help to define the spirit of the times.
The first has a more personal component. It refers to how an individual sees himself in the world. Borges, who admits to being baffled and discouraged – “like all my compatriots,” he adds – declares himself an old Spencerian anarchist who believes that the state is an evil, “but, for the moment, it is an evil. necessary “.
The second interests me more for the purposes of this article. The man who died in Geneva five years later replied: “I don’t know if it’s possible to admire politicians, people who are dedicated to accepting, bribing, smiling, being portrayed and, sorry. me, to be popular. .. “.
Borges is apparently hesitant about how much admiration he might have for the political class, but the premises of his qualification lead him to an obvious critical position.
However, leaving that aside, I think the central features of the work of politicians cannot be further spelled out. Let’s do it in stages.
Those who exercise politics are “people who are dedicated to acceptance.” Politics exists as long as there is conflict; conflict management is its goal and engagement is a sort of solution, probably partial and temporary. Reaching agreements means easing confrontation; polarization, so fashionable everywhere, supposes breaking this logic.
However, it is another thing to encapsulate under the umbrella of a closed and exclusive political caste.
The Salvadoran regime established after the 1992 peace accords gave power to the antagonists of the war who consolidated a political regime in which Arena and the FMLN monopolized power for 27 years, which had already happened in Colombia under the National Front regime between the Liberal Party and the Conservative. To party.
The political class manages the budget and the power options, articulated through administrative decisions that can go beyond abusive limits to reach crime, giving meaning to the term “corruption”, as Borges points out.
There are many examples of this over the past decade, ranging from Brazilian Lava Jato to José López – Secretary of Public Works – and Julio De Vido – Secretary of Planning – both under Cristina Fernández.
We also cannot forget what happened during the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto with Emilio Lozoya, director of Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos), and even less what is constantly happening in the regimes of Nicolás Maduro and Daniel. Ortega, without leaving out the Honduran Juan Orlando Hernández.
The recent cases of politicians and their closest collaborators in several countries who have skipped the vaccination protocol are another type of evidence of the abuse of power exercised.
Smiling is proof of human empathy. Umberto Eco spoke of laughter in his great novel “O Nome da Rosa”.
Protagonist Guilherme de Baskerville resolves the case of some murdered monks who presumably had access to hidden Greek comedy (and laughed).
A dangerous discovery that could disrupt the severe medieval monastic order. Laughter, however, is the bridge that unites the compassion and irony that are part of the foundation of the performance.
Borges, however, derives this from the histrionic demeanor that is the prelude to the farce and, therefore, the void of representation, acquiring a sinister meaning with many grinning expressions of politicians on the front page.
Therefore, the portrait is another Borgesian touchstone. It couldn’t be less in the age of communication. A la carte politicians who have passed all possible marketing tests and whose image is the instrument of access to the general public of consumers.
Iván Duque meets him every afternoon on Colombian television, Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the morning, Jair Bolsonaro via the management of social networks or Nayib Bukele for his former job as an advertiser; Peña Nieto, an icon built by advertising agencies, knew him.
There is no politician who avoids this path, the image assumes the substantive of his offer if he wants to come to power and stay there. The words that define the programs are left out.
Finally, politics is based on popular sovereignty and the vote supposes the enormous support that any political option requires and which is fundamental in the logic of democracy.
Capturing votes is the necessary and sufficient mechanism of political career. Voter control becomes the key to the process.
The masses of followers channeled by innovative communication and information mechanisms guarantee their support and make effective an empty level of popularity, but essential, unaware of the support always necessary because of the fulfillment of the promises or the accomplishment of the tasks demanded by people.
Borges has shown little interest in politics, but the scenario projected by Latin America in recent years updates this interview, which is now part of Vargas Llosa’s book “Medio siglo con Borges” (Half Century with Borges), published mid -2020 by Alfaguara.
Translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima