WLCentral 3. A confession

A confession is commonly understood as a statement—either spontaneous or pursued by someone else’s interrogations—made to others about what only the speaker knows. For the Spanish thinker María Zambrano, though, a confession implies also something transcendental, easier to understand from her catholic background: a strict action of auto-analysis and self-criticism based on the idea of being each of us, eventually, mistaken. The confession is made de facto in front of an authority—a priest, a policeman, the public opinion—but, on top of that, it is made in front of oneself and to oneself. “Every time Philosophy re-writes its own history, it forgets with disdain what men owe to other kinds of knowledge that are born either close to it or far away from it”, says Zambrano. She is opening with these words her essay Confession, a literary genre, which is about literature, but we can easily rethink her words focusing on our new uses of information, our new sources and our new audiences; our new boundaries: Philosophy—which I am going to grossly reduce here as the pursuit of Truth with pure reason—needs to readjust its timing to the current world, re-issuing relations between power of the individual and power of the institution in order to acknowledge—and eventually stop—the every day more constant abuses against the former. In other words, the individual, the thinker, needs to represent the authority, with which institutions must speak, must confess—in a transcendental rather than legal way of speaking—not only facts and actions but first of all its pertinence. Why is a system in which the institutions that allegedly serve the individuals actually destroy the very notion of individuality, for instance, needed? How is in any country’s interest to hold indefinitely a situation of war—against an abstract term? And why is more of a threat the one who speaks about abuses than the one who commits them? The literal answer to those questions must be “it is not”, and yet we still argue about it because reason has not reached life unveiling the Truth. It is difficult to accept the Truth, but it is imperative in order to create and keep valid systems and valid institutions. But here Zambrano’s words make the loudest echo to our current times: “the modern reason hasn’t offered something, demanding everything”. This is not a matter of the reason being wrong, but a matter of the reason being there at all, attending actual problems of the individual. And reason—it is embarrassing to keep saying this—is not reserved exclusively to philosophers: everybody needs to take the time to think what is on sight, what they read and hear and watch, otherwise any system in which they live is going to swallow their will, their rights and, eventually, their individuality.

Lately the relevance of the primary source in journalism and in the debates of our political landscape have been argued. Unfortunately, our systems of government abused the secrecy as a tool to pursue interests that have nothing or very little to do with the needs or convenience of the common people. What the systems does—often terrible abuses and crimes—is being done in our name as citizens of this country or the other. To allow those activities is not only criminal already but also stupid since the same abuses could be pursued against us eventually. The primary source works in this problem as a confession. It is not easy to acknowledge how vicious our institutions can be, but it needs to be done. And once we accept the Truth and allow ourselves to debate it—never basing our logic in morals but basing our morals in the logic—we will never want to give it up. A confession is not only a bunch of words: it is an action: “while being read, the confession makes the reader to verify it, to read it again inside oneself”, wrote Zambrano. This implies that we need the truth exposed in primary source as much as the institutions need to be exposed, to confess. Only by exercising that self-criticism we will be able to reject hypocrisy, maybe the most common vice we have seen while debating the secrecy of our states, and only then our word will gain back validity and pertinence.

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