23 julho 2008

in an airport

I am not used to get compliments for my intellectual life in my own country. Rather, I am used to get insults, disqualifications, threats, derisive comments and lots of ridicule. Therefore, I frankly do not know how to react to these posts by Joaquim and Rui.

There was a period in my life when I was quite active in the Portuguese media preaching and discussing the benefits of liberalism. I gave it up some ten years ago, with no intention of coming back. Occasionally, I still do get invited to write in newspapers or to appear on radio and on TV. I turn the invitations down, with added emphasis if they refer to any sort of participation in public debates.

As Rui brought up that period of my life in his post, a period which lasted for some twelve years, a couple of episodes came to my mind, which I would like to tell the readers of this blog. One occurred when a journalist with some connections to politics one day told me in my office in Oporto that for the people down there (by which he meant the politicians in Lisbon) I was the most puzzling man in the country because they did not understand what I wanted with my public interventions. I laughed a lot and told the journalist: "Tell them, if you can, that I do not want anything from them".

The second is of a more general nature and illustrates how people must develop some kind of defenses to deal with the abuses inherent to their public exposure. One of them is humour. Sometimes friends would ask me why I would subject myself to so much personal abuse in public, as a result of my controversial ideas.

I had a standard answer for them which run more or less as follows: "I don't mind the abuse. It is a typical reaction of the crowd when confronted with new ideas for which it has no arguments. The crowd always abuses you before it adores you. Look at Christ: the crowd abused him, even killed him, before adoring him. I am paying the price for eternity. Some day, once I am dead, they will put my name on a street."

And I would add, almost in secret:

"Even though what I would really like would be to have my name in an airport (because I am a maniac of airplanes)".

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