The bitter truth beneath sarcasm

(Note: this is a long post. For the lazy ones or those who do not have time enough, it is perfectly safe to go straight to the conslusions and final thoughts in sections #5 and #6.)

Sarcasm is a ‘hate it or love it’ form of expression: generally, people either admire or despise it, but it does not leave many of us indifferent. Now, how even or imbalanced is this thumbs up/thumbs down scoreboard?

On one hand, I have seen out there way more articles praising than disapproving of sarcasm; which given its decidedly negative nature (I’ll go into the definition in a minute) has come as unexpected to me. Is that because, as those able to write articles are generally smarter, therefore more capable of producing sarcasm, they may also be more prone to positively speak of it? Further down I will throw in some conjectures.

On the other hand, how do most other people feel about sarcasm? Statistically, and pretty obviously, the world is not populated by above-average humans, and it’d be safe to say that, sarcasm requiring a higher degree of wit, not all of us are able to either understand or enjoy it, let alone use it. Rather, we are likelier to become its targets or victims. So, based on my intuition and a few opinions from people around me, my guess would be that the nays probably abound much more than the ayes.

1. The definition

Anyhow and first of all — what exactly is sarcasm?

The word comes from ancient Greek sarkasmós, ‘to tear flesh’, which back then became, eventually, a metaphor for ‘speaking bitterly’.

Let me stress it: ‘speaking bitterly’. That’s the etymology. Remember this, for I will go back to it at the end of the post.

After having read the whole variety of definitions modern dictionaries give for sarcasm, I would comprehensibly condense them like this: Harsh, cutting, or bitter derision; sharply ironical taunt, gibe or jeer; a sneering or caustic remark, made mockingly, ironically or in bitter contempt so as to show some foolishness on the part of the listener; a mode of satirical wit using bitter, caustic, and often ironic language intended to convey scorn or insult, or to give pain, usually directed against someone.

Excuse me for the long text in bold italics, but it is absolutely essential for the reader to keep this definition in mind throughout the present pseudo-essay, and stay alert, in order to not fall for the frequent fallacies we are going to be presented with in what lies ahead, which is opinions or ‘findings’ by writers often thrilled by sarcasm.

Thus, given the semantic meaning of the word sarcasm, it is not difficult to identify three core elements in it: bitterness, irony and scorn (or synonyms thereof). And by the way, so as to make sure we do not mistake the part for the whole, it is important to also know the definition of irony, which is very simple: “the humorous or mildly sarcastic use of words to convey or imply the opposite of what they normally mean.”

In this regard, and as per Wordreference, whereas the essential feature of irony is the opposition between the literal and intended meaning of a statement –one thing is said and its contrary implied–, in sarcasm however ridicule or mockery is used harshly, often crudely and contemptuously, for destructive purposes. Therefore, the fundamental difference between those two lies in the intention: sarcasm is generally meant to hurt, whereas irony is not. Please try to remember this one too.

2. Celebrating sarcasm

Several of the many articles out there about sarcastic language begin by ironing out its true nature. For instance, one says it is a form of humour, albeit dictionaries do not mention the word ‘humour’ in any definition of sarcasm that I’ve found. Sure, those who use it may often try to be humorous, but this tells more about them than about sarcasm itself. Maybe it would be closer to the truth to deem it as ‘a form of insult’ instead.

Another one, a lengthy, comprehensive –yet often contradictory– article by Sanju Pradeepa, found in Believe in Mind and titled ‘Is sarcasm a sign of intelligence?, offers us a friendly face of it when describing it as a form of verbal irony where the speaker says the opposite of what he means, often to humorous or emphatic effect; which might seem more accurate than ‘a form of humour’ if it weren’t because Sanju’s description is simply a poor and tautological definition of irony itself . To her credit, though, later on she explains that the sarcastic speaker uses a sharp, cutting tone to convey contempt or disapproval.

In a highly enthusiastic article on Medium titled ‘Why being sarcastic is a sign of intelligence?‘ Dr. Maheen Khaliq opines that sarcasm remains a misunderstood art, often misinterpreted as cruelty or insensitivity. No less than an art, mind you, but misinterpreted as cruelty by the populace, who, you see, tend to mistake for cruelty what is only cruel by definition, not by Dr. Khaliq’s authorized opinion. Probably Lucifer also opines that evil remains yet another misunderstood art.

Besides these misrepresentations, there is no shortage of appreciative stances about sarcasm online.

According to a questionable post in Curious Minds Magazine titled ‘10 reasons why sarcastic people are smarter‘, some Dr. Shamay Tosoory had reportedly conducted a study in which was proved that one’s ability to use sarcasm is linked to the understanding of people’s mind and feelings.

The website Learning Mind (I wonder, by the way, is the word mind in the above websites’ names a clue to something?) has also an entry called ‘3 reasons sarcastic people are more intelligent, backed by science‘, and focused on ‘typical British sarcasm’, in which a study is mentioned allegedly proving that people who engage in sarcastic conversations perform up to three times better on creative tasks: Sarcasm encourages us to use abstract thinking in order to decode the hidden meaning behind the words, which helps us make creative connections within our minds.

Even more passionately, a blog called Your Tango sets forth similar ideas on a post titled along the very same lines: Why sarcastic people are smarter, according to science‘. Its writer is thrilled by the scientifically proven virtues of sarcasm: according to the results of a study […], being able to understand sarcasm and use it like a pro is actually a sign that you are super-intelligent and highly creative. Super-intelligent! Tell me you wouldn’t like that. It is now sufficiently clear that we can go around dishing out our bitter derision meant to hurt (as per the definition of sarcasm) and feel proud about it. What a deal.

Yet another article can be found on Lifehack, by Brianna Johnson, whose headline says it all: ‘Researchers find 3 reasons sarcastic people are more intelligent‘. At this point, I figured the picture was clear: most online sources extol sarcasm.

For such euogies, all authors of the above webpages resort invariably to pretty much the same ‘reasons’, which are all (remember!) backed by science. This is primordial, for science gives the necessary quality stamp for anything to be reputed as truth, like when science proved lockdowns, face masks and jabs helped check the spread and lethality of covid-19, for instance. Thus, the said reasons have reportedly been taken from scientific research. Of course I am in no way denying such studies exist: simply, I have not taken the trouble of checking them (and no need to: I blindly believe anyone invoking science). Quite another thing is how their results and conclusions have been interpreted by Brianna, Shamay, Khaliq, Sanju, etc.; supposing the did read them, that is.

Anyway, allow me to summarize the arguments typically set forth –with little differences or variations– to applaud sarcasm. They can be grouped in two main categories:

  • Connection with cognitive abilities
  • Interpersonal benefits/skills

A. Cognitive capabilities implied and/or enhanced by sarcasm

  • Verbal intelligence. Understanding and expressing sarcasm requires a quick wit and the ability to make clever comebacks on the spot. This involves manipulating language in creative ways, therefore needs a strong grasp of semantics, syntax, and verbal reasoning, e.g. playing with ambiguous or subtle meanings, understanding implied ideas, making quick associations, twisting conventional phrases, etc.
  • Quick-wittedness and cognitive function. Clever sarcastic retorts are often made on the spot in response to someone else. The ability to make fast connections, process information rapidly, and generate a smart comeback requires intellectual quickness and mental agility.

I believe there can be no doubt about these two.

  • Abstract thinking. Some research shows that people who score higher on abstract reasoning and conceptualization also tend to be better at interpreting sarcasm.

This correlation also seems plausible to me.

  • Recognizing and using sarcasm well is a strong sign of social and emotional intelligence.

Really? “Emotional”, of all kinds of intelligence?

  • Mental complexity and mind expansion. Sarcastic people think on another level [sic]. The wit involved in coming up with an unexpected sarcastic quip that will be cryptic yet understood requires a fast, nimble and sophisticated mind and an extra layer of thinking. The mental processes needed for such humor are quite complex, and broadly associated with general intelligence. So both giving and receiving sarcasm allows the mind to expand, opening parts of it that we may not use in sincere conversation; sharpens our brain, as it needs to work harder; and improves our problem-solving skills.

If you are still not convinced of how beneficial sarcasm is for you, please keep reading.

  • Creativity enhancement. This mental workout can enhance our ability to think creatively: we are pushed to think outside of the box, be quick-witted and resourceful, and exercise our creativity. This offers a refreshing change of place. It’s a way to let our minds roam freely, indulging in the playful and creative aspects of humor. Researchers have found that those producing or subject to sarcastic comments were able to perform up to three times better on creativity tests. Also, 75% of those exposed to sarcastic content figured out a tricky creative task, compared to just 25% of those exposed to sincere content.

Well, if research says so, who am I to contradict science? In any case, I hope you’ve taken good note of the “outside of the box, roam freely, indulging in playfulness”, etc. If by now you have not become a staunch adherent of sarcasm, there is no hope for you.

  • Improved IQ. The real truth is that being sarcastic actually makes you smarter [sic]. New research shows that sarcastic people tend to have higher IQs and more creative thinking skills.

This is the ultimate panacea. Plus it is the real truth. No need for any stronger argument. This is why you shoud constantly train your sarcasm if you want to score higher in IQ tests.

All of the above sounds great, and I bet there is a good deal of truth in some of it. But the hype..! Plus let us try not to lose focus: first, actually most of those points can likewise be applied to irony, which is sarcasm but without the bitterness and contempt; second, some of them convey the causation all upside down. Genius is a natural trait, totally unaffected by the way we express ourselves. Sarcasm may be a sign of intelligence, but not the cause of it. It alone will not make you any bit smarter. Why are these street vendors trying to sell us the scornful and destructive variant of irony which is sarcasm, instead of the friendly and positive one, the plain good old irony?

B. Interpersonal benefits and/or skills

Sarcasm –the argument goes– does not always manifest as a simple, rude comment: it can instead serve many beneficial purposes.

  • Offers a refreshingly simple tool to build relationships, bring people closer together, foster camaraderie and create strong bonds between friends or family. Has a way of creating a shared experience that only a select group of people can understand. Allows us to better choose our friends, let our guard down and be our authentic selves, unafraid to express our opinions. While some folks regard sarcasm as caustic and unfriendly, the latest research has shown that, among friends, it does not create a vibe of contempt, as one might expect. In fact, it can even reinforce sincerity, as both parties interact honestly with each other.

Finally I understand why I have so few friends and so badly chosen, with whom I do not interact honestly; why my family bonds are so weak; why I am not my authentic self, and why I am so afraid to express my opinions: because I am not sarcastic. What I do not get, though, is how Some Folks© can regard as caustic, contemptuous and unfriendly a form of expression such as sarcasm, which is by definition a caustic, contemptuous and unfriendly form of expression. Some Folks© has to be a weird guy.

  • When wielded judiciously it can be an indicator of advanced communication abilities and interpersonal skills. The smartest and wittiest people know how to use it effectively without causing unintended offense. They have a strong sense of timing, context, and empathy for their listeners. Using sarcasm skillfully could be a sign you have the cleverness and social savvy to navigate subtle, unspoken interactions.

In other words, only the smartest and wittiest, with their social savvy, strong sense of context and empathy (empathy!) for others, know how to use sarcasm in such a way that it does not cause offense and therefore can hardly be called sarcasm any more.

  • Allows for a playful approach to social commentary, offering a non-threatening way to criticize the world, express discontent, call attention to political issues, highlight injustices, flaws and shortcomings of their society, challenge the status quo, encourage progress and spark change. Sarcasm is an evolutionary crucial survival skill, a part of nowadays people’s behavior and personality.

This falls short of saying that social progress has mostly been possible thanks to sarcasm. As to its evolutionary role, probably no more than one out of ten persons is sarcastic; maybe a lot less. Evidence of this survival skill’s evolutionary cruciality would be, for instance, to see that not sarcastic people are becoming extinct, or biologists considering changing the name of the species to homo sarkasticus.

  • Handling emotions and conflicting situations, like lightening the mood in a tense room or revealing an honest sentiment that others were afraid to say out loud. Those who understand sarcasm will know it is a way of humor, truly the best kind of humour.

Quite justly so. Most of use crack up every time a caustic, mocking, bitter remark is thrown at us.

  • Understanding and creating sarcasm also requires a well-developed theory of mind (the ability to attribute mental states to others and understand that people can have different perspectives). Sarcastics are skilled at recognizing what others may be thinking in order to cleverly subvert those thoughts.

I would like to learn whatever Theory of Mind means, so I can also enjoy cleverly subverting others’ thoughts.

  • There’s no denying the universal appeal of sarcasm, that has been making humans laugh for centuries, resonating with people of all ages and backgrounds. In a world where differences can often divide us, sarcasm is a universal language that unites us all.

One ring to rule them all. Remember sex-appeal? This is a lot better: sarcs-appeal, the universal one. And it has been there for literally centuries, making us roll on the floor with laughter and uniting peoples all over the planet, as history and ancient texts show: Jainist, Sanskrit, Greek, Persian, Indostani, Tuareg, Amerindian, Aboriginal, Eskimo books and scriptures are full of merry sarcasm. This is also thanks to what all societies and civilizations are so cohesive and closely drawn together.

  • Can provide a powerful barrier in the face of negative comments or criticism, a defense mechanism protecting oneself from the hurtful or negative emotions that come with being judged, and helping us to build resilience.

For instance, protecting oneself from the hurtful or negative emotions arisen by harsh derision intended to insult us. I.e., a defense mechanism against others’ sarcasm thrown at us. Sure, why not. Like in everybody carrying a gun so we can protect ourselves from others’ guns.

  • A tool for building self-esteem and confidence. By putting a humorous spin on negative situations, we can diffuse the tension and shift the focus away from our own insecurities.

Because, of course, the best way of putting a humorous spin on negative situations is to harshly, crudely or contemptuously use ridicule or mockery for destructive purposes.

  • Sarcastic people rule the world.

Verbatim. No explanation needed for this self-evident truth, it seems.

What else can I add? At this point only one idea comes to mind: besides attacking others, what can we achieve with harmful sarcasm that we cannot achieve with harmless irony? Sure, there are two things. I will share them with you at the end of this post.

3. But then — not so great?

You wouldn’t believe it, but despite the hype, two or three of the aforelisted articles try to convey a somewhat balanced take on sarcasm, toning down a bit their stated associations with intellgence or social skills and mentioning some of its downsides and limitations — albeit in sort of an unpersuaded way, as if just to make up for their enthusiastic applause (thus satisfying all sorts of readers) or, worse yet, as if they actually didn’t know a word about what they were talking: funny enough, several of the shortcomings of sarcasm head-on contradict what the very same articles state.

Let us see what qualifiers they use for the celebrations listed so far.

  • Although popular opinion perceives sarcastic people as quick-witted or clever, the research on this is mixed. Not all studies have found a direct link between cognitive skills and the ability to produce or comprehend sarcasm: some relate it with verbal fluency, others find little to no connection with intelligence. Though smart people may have more potential for masterful sarcasm, there is more to it than just raw brainpower. In any case, sarcasm itself is not always the best measure or indicator of how smart someone really is. Constantly mocking or belittling others is not a sign of intelligence but rather a lack of emotional and social intelligence.

On the one hand, I wonder what the ‘not always‘ in that sentence is supposed to mean. Does it mean almost always? Then, ought psychologists to forget about IQ tests and just measure sarcasm instead, almost always getting more reliable results?

On the other hand, that “little to no connection with intelligence” straightforwardly contradicts everything expounded in part #1 of this post. Something must be really, really flawed or biased in the reported ‘research’ or in the way the above authors portray the ‘scientifical’ findings. I wonder what kind of ‘studies’ they are reading when they come up with such incoherencies. Or, are they reading any at all?

  • Regardless of its connection with intelligence, sarcasm is actually a learned skill that depends a lot on one’s environment and upbringing. It involves understanding subtle social cues, empathising with the speaker and navigating relationships. The listener has to understand the speaker’s intent and any shared context to get the quip. Moreover, not all clever people are inclined towards sarcasm; in fact, many of them are not, since it can be hurtful or confusing; besides, it often reflects more the speaker’s emotional state than his wit. Therefore, it is not always the most constructive way to demonstrate your mental capacities.

Once again this ambiguous ‘not always’.

You see, not all clever people are ready to exploit the full potential of such great form of expression because it can be hurtful. Not that it necessarily is, of course, but can be. Except that by definition it usually is. Mark how even when trying to nuance the wonders of sarcasm they keep mistaking it with irony. Anyhow, two things are true, I believe: sarcasm is a learned skill and it often reflects more the speaker’s emotions than his wit.

  • Research shows that personality traits like cynicism, hostility and belligerence also play a role. Frequent use of sarcasm is related to verbal aggressiveness. One study discovered that 56 percent of the participants from northern countries thought that sarcasm is funny, versus only 35 percent of participants coming from southern countries. There may be some truth in the stereotype that southern people are more sincere.

I find this an extremely telling piece of information, suggestive of two quite interesting ideas.

First, even in those ‘northern’ countries (which I, not having read the study, assume to more or less represent the Protestant/Anglo-Saxon world), only little above half the participants found sarcasm to be funny, whereas the results go down to little above one third among participants from ‘southern’ countries. So, it would seem accurate to say that, in general, the majority of people do not find sarcasm funny — which is a total surprise, given that, as we have been told, sarcasm is truly the best kind of humour.

Second, by extrapolating those results one should expect to find 60% more people enjoying or approving of sarcasm in northern countries than in southern ones. And given the association between sarcasm and personality traits like cynicism, hostility and belligerence, I cannot help drawing some hardly flattering conclusions regarding Protestants in general, unless I am very wrong in identifying ‘northern countries’ with Protestantism.

But I do not think I am. Actually, in support of that, the author of the blog entry in Learning Mind focused on ‘typical British sarcasm’ graciously concedes that ‘sarcasm isn’t a form of humour that everybody understands and is comfortable with. If a person is from a different culture that doesn’t appreciate it as openly as the British or simply doesn’t understand your sarcasm, it can make that person feel uncomfortable‘. You see, beings from a non-British culture, with a poor sense of humour, might not crack up –as they should– when receiving the bitterness and scorn usually present in sarcasm.

  • It often doesn’t translate well in written communication. Without tone of voice and facial expressions to provide context, sarcastic comments can easily be misinterpreted as sincere.
  • Although it can be a way to express annoyance or get your point across, the sarcastic approach is not always constructive and should only be used occasionally. There is a fine line between good-natured irony and dismissive flippancy. Constant ironic and cutting remarks get tiresome quickly, make you seem cynical, distrustful and contemptuous, and make others feel like targets of mockery. Over time, it can damage relationships, credibility and likability. In sum, excessive sarcasm loses its cleverness and comes across as obnoxious, rude or meanspirited.

Here, once again we bump into uncompromising modifiers: sarcasm would be meanspirited only when in excess; it is not always (i.e. almost never) destructive; it makes the speaker seem contemptuous (implying he’s really not); it makes others feel like targets of mockery (implying they’re too sensitive or wary), etc. Besides, all such statements deny once and again the semantic meaning of sarcasm, according to which it is contemptuous or scornful, it is usually destructive and targeted against someone.

4. Why the whitewashing?

For some reason, all the laudatory articles above misdefine sarcasm. More often than not, what they actually mean is irony. Many of their eulogies, the positives sides they see in sarcastic language, and even the shortcomings they admit, refer in reality to irony; and can only be linked to sarcasm insomuch as the one often involves the other; except that between them there is a key difference I have hopefully sufficiently stressed: sarcasm is a cruel and bitter form of irony. Nothing to be too supportive of, one would say.

Such insistence, on the part of many authors, in celebrating sarcasm against its very definition, and promoting it as just a harmless, impish variation of merry and wellmeant irony begs the question why. Of course I do not know the answer and can only conjecture. Here are the three possibilities I have come up with off the top of my head:

  • They have never checked the term in a dictionary and, genuinely ignoring what it means, mistake it for playful irony.
  • Subconsciously and irresistibly influenced by the link between sarcasm and above-average IQ, they sense their disapproval would be tantamount to disapproving intelligence.
  • They are themselves sarcastic persons simply trying to exorcize any possible guilt feeling.

5. The bitter truth

But then, what does really lurk beneath sarcasm?

When searching for documentation online I came across just one article, by some Tom Jerry, pointing a finger at the reality beneath that form of expression, not paying undue homage to it nor divorcing from its definition:

Most of the time —Tom Jerry writes— sarcasm used in daily speech is the sign of something lurking underneath, deep inside the person who uses it: bitterness.

I can’t agree more. Indeed, to me sarcasm is a cover for bitterness. I had intuitively come to this conclusion time before I begun searching around or even grabbed a dictionary for checking the meaning of the term. My recent readings and analysis have only proved my gut feeling to be true. For if we scroll up to the long list of words different dictionaries use for defining the term (harsh, cutting, bitter, derision, sharp, irony, taunt, gibe, jeer, sneer, mock, contempt, scorn, insult, pain, destructive, ridicule, disapproval), there is only one among them especially belonging to sarcasm: the adjective bitter. This is perhaps the feature that best characterizes sarcasm, most of all considering how etymology supports this idea: remember the metaphor the word sarkasmós turned into in ancient Greece: ‘speaking bitterly’.

Now eulogists can embellish such way of expression with all the frills and flowery they want, calling sarcasm the best ever kind of humour, a creativity enhancer, relationship builder, defense mechanism, universal language or crucially critical evolutionary skill; they can link it to high IQ and abstract thinking (which is generally true); but none of that can alter its intrinsically bitter nature; and maybe we should not let ourselves be fooled by such festooned wrap concealing the truth deep inside it.

Coming back to Tom Jerry’s article, and even though I do not share his religious approach in the least (all his assertions come presumedly corroborated by clearly unrelated and totally vague passages of the Bible), I find his ensuing statements fully in accordance with my own thoughts and, most importantly, with the real definition of sarcasm. Tom says:

  • It robs us of joy,
  • is focused on the self and is selfish,
  • counters compassion and is opposite to forgiveness,
  • causes ill feelings and damages relationships,
  • usually expresses disapproval in a way that insults or breaks down another person and
  • has no regard for the suffering of others and makes us cold to them.

These points make a startling yet refreshing contrast, even antithetic, with all the previous panegyrics: instead of being funny, sarcasm robs us joy; instead of on sharing, it focuses on the self; rather than building or reinforcing relationships, it damages them. What a discrepancy, no? And yet, when I stop and think of it, I can’t but realize that, most of the time, sarcasm does indeed turn out to be selfish, unforgiving, annoying…

But enough of quoting and commenting on other’s opinions. It is about time to write

6. My own ideas

I do not know why sarcasm so often comes to my thought. Maybe it is because some persons whose opinions and wit I most respect are very fond of it. And perhaps it is not a coincidence that, along my life, I have lost two or three good friends who, as it just so happens, are very satirical. Did this trait have something to do with the loss of affection? I suspect it did.

Also, outside my circle of acquaintances, a few of the reporters I more closely follow –for they are bright and knowledgeable– tend to frequently express themselves in very sardonic terms; which I end up finding quite annoying. As some of the articles previously analysed accurately say, constant sarcasm gets tiresome quickly and make one feel the target of scorn, even if it is not directly addressed to the listener — and regardless of one’s intellectual self-assurance. Personally, in general I appreciate plain ironical jeer, and insult only rarely scrapes my confidence; I can bear a reasonable amount of shaply critical and derisive talk, even verbal abuse, directed to me as part of the audience. And yet, why only sarcasm ends up bothering me? What particular characteristic does it have that makes it notably annoying?

After some thinking and analising both the essential elements of sarcasm and the emotions it arises within my deep self, I believe I eventually happened to identify the culprit: acrimony, bitterness. I believe this is the very aspect of sarcasm that differentiates it from other akin forms of expression.

A sourness transmitter

Not that I condemn acrimonious people. On the contrary, I have a lot of compassion for them, perhaps because unfortunately there is some sourness within my soul, too. But, who knows, maybe this is precisely why I am better able than others to spot bitterness and undestand its destructive power: it is a very contagious sentiment, easily impartible, with a potential to infect even the healthiest minds.

And as turns out, sarcasm is but a sourness transmitter. One that does not even liberate of such feeling those who spread it.

For, ultimately, what is the invisible and often subconscious goal of sarcastic people? There are one hundred kinds of taunt or gibe, one hundred ways of showing contempt, of conveying ridicule or insult, one hundred forms of criticising society or others. But sarcasm alone is so insidious, for behind a pretendedly humorous cover it stealthily, furtively delivers its poisonous acrimony, infecting the receiver unawares, escaping the emitter also unawares.

Acrimony is what makes sarcasm sterile and selfish, unforgiving and destructive. Its effect incapacitates others to no good. By chosing sarcasm over other alternative, even similar ways of expression, what the individual tries to do –most probably without even realizing it– is to communicate his stinging feelings to others so as to make them as miserable. Because I see sarcastic persons not only as generally bitter: often I find them also envious, even rancorous. As if, not enjoying being the only sour folks in the classroom, in order to ease their discomfort –and instinctively relying on the petty solace of a shared pain– they needed everyone else to feel the same.

All of this is not to say we should avoid sarcasm at all costs, nor to imply sarcastics are all a bunch of despondent sourpuss. But I believe that, while a good humoured satirical quip among friends or family may come as funny and refreshing, it should only –as some of the above mentioned authors write– be used occasionally: excessive sarcasm comes across as obnoxious or meanspirited.

IQ strutting and pedagogic inadequacy

Moderating their sarcasm should, I think, be specially important for those with a public voice: popular bloggers and podcasters, reporters, analysts, ‘influencers’ of al kinds, etc. Sure, I agree that sarcasm may be a ‘playful’ approach to social commentary, a good way to express criticism, highlight injustices or political issues, but I seriously doubt it to be, when used constantly, the best road to ‘encouraging progress and spark change’. In my news radar there are a couple individuals or three who, basically, speak only in sarcastic language (quite typical of cynics, by the way); but I do not think it pays off: the negative effects probably outweigh the positive.

Besides transfering bitterness, there lies, I believe, a second utility underneath sarcasm. Regardless of whichever studies allegedly show ‘little to no connection with intelligence’, I think there is no denying good quality sarcasm requires good cognitive abilities: verbal skills, quick-wittedness, abstract thinking, etc. (emotional/ social intelligence being quite a differnt thing though). And I have a strong suspicion that obsessively sarcastic folks are more interested in displaying around their wit than in conveying their ideas, let alone convincing people or sparking social change.

An excess of derisive remarks and sour cynicism is anything but educational or edifying, I am afraid. While newcomers to any given sarcastic broadcast may at first find the style original and stimulating, in time they will begin resenting the transmitted bitterness, feeling uneasy, then getting bored and eventually disliking or distrusting such communicators. Too much vitriol and gall pushes the general public away, and without public there is no shaping nor enlightening any society.

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Cynics and patriots

I often wonder, can cynics be patriots? How does a cynic entertain a patriotic feeling?

Before trying to make my point, I will clarify what by cynic I mean here, since I have chosen that word for lack of a more suitable one. The personality type I have in mind shares some elements of the misanthrope and the asocial too, but is not quite either. If I were to coin a word for what I mean, it would be ‘despiser’. Thus, for the purpose of this article, let us define cynic as “a person who believes the worst about people, or who shows a bitterly or sneeringly contemptuous, negative or pessimistic attitude, as by making scornful, disdainful or derogatory remarks about most others”.

On the other hand, and more importantly for my opening question, there we have the word patriot; though I could as well have said nationalist, a close synonym despite the subtle -yet significant- differences between the two. One can find hundreds of articles out there trying to explain or establish those differences, but that is not the purpose of this post. I will simply copy the dictionary definitions so you know what I am referring to.

A patriot is “a person who vigorously supports his country and its way of life”; alternatively “a person who loves, supports, and defends their country and its interests with devotion”. The word comes from Greek patriotes (fellow-countryman, lineage member); cf. Latin pater (father) and patria (fatherland).

A nationalist is “a person who believes in, is devoted to or advocates nationalism”, which in turn means “a sentiment based on common cultural characteristics that binds a population; a devotion and loyalty to one’s own nation or country; spirit or aspirations common to the whole of a nation; patriotism”. It derives from Latin nation (birth, tribe) < nasci (to be born).

As we can see, both etymologies are quite akin, referring to the notions of birth, lineage, tribe or land. Thus, by mixing up these two words I can pull out the idea to be highlighted and used in this post – that of a patriot (or nationalist) being someone who loves, is devoted to, supports and believes in his nation’s way of life, common cultural characteristics, spirit and aspirations. And it is from this concept that stems the question I have begun the article with: can cynics be actual patriots?; by which I mean: being the skeptics they are, thinking the worst of others, believing only in selfishness as the driving force behind human actions — in which way may cynics feel sincerely and coherently commited to their nation’s habits, culture or spirit?

This question has been bugging me of late while reading or listening to two curiously similar persons (or personas), one Russian and one Spaniard. Let me begin with the latter.

The very talented and controversial Spanish theologist, doctored historian and lawyer César Vidal Manzanares (now USA nationalized and resident) has a popular website and Telegram channel in which, among several other topics, he analyzes world news and sets forth his views on history, religion and geopolitics. Born and raised as a Catholic (like all Spaniards his age), in his teens he joined Jehovah’s Witnesses, which he then left for eventually becoming a Protestant of the Evangelic Church (to this day). Intelligent, a polyglot, extremely cultured, very well informed and lucky possessor of an astonishing memory, he unceasingly and relentlessly attacks and rejects, with utter disdain, centuries-old Spanish monarchy, Catholicism and Catholic Church, Spain’s short-lived republic, Franco’s autarchy and Spain’s present democracy (in short: all of Spanish history since the 7th century up to the present), while at the same time attacking everything he considers to be hostile or detrimental to both his fatherland and fellow-countrymen. And so, when listening to his podcasts, I can’t help wondering: but then, which is the Spanish nation he stands for and allegedy loves?

Since approximately the fall of the Western Roman Empire until the last decades of the past century, Spain has been inseparable from -and arguably the world’s staunchest defender of- Catholicism, which is not only a religion but a culture in its own right. For one and a half millennia Spaniards have been Catholics from head to toe, and even today, despite the accelerating decline of Catholic mores and traditions -let alone churchgoer numbers- that sentiment still plays a big role in Spanish society. Wherever you look at there is a reference to that Church, liturgy, beliefs, festivities, celebrations, names, sayings, expressions, habits, institutions… Spaniards have been breastfed Chatolicism since their cradle, it has run through their veins and been an inescapable part of their upbringing, character, idiosyncrasy, way of life and mentality from time immemorial. And thus, when you scorn Catholicism and, besides that, you also scorn the monarchy (which is as long), plus Franco’s 40 years of autocracy, plus Spain’s contemporary democracy, then you are scorning the Spanish nation altogether, past and present (as per the above definition): its way of life, common cultural characteristics, people’s spirit and aspirations. There is nothing left for you to love, believe in, support or be devoted to as a patriot. With those contempts, then, how can César Vidal be a nationalist of any kind? True: he does not explicitly claim to be one, but then how else can anyone interpret his vows of love, concern and support for Spain and the Spanish folks? What nation does he have in mind? Or is he a pharisee?

As regards to the other persona I said, the Russian one, he is an even more puzzling case. The man, who stays anonymous, fancies to go by the initials R.S. (maybe his real ones?), to which he assigns whimsical and changing names. Let us call him Russlan Smirnov. His biography being unknown to most, I am only acquainted with his claimed Russian descent and what his writings distil: his character, abilities and opinions. Hence I could say he is an exacerbated duplicate of César Vidal: even more intelligent and talented, equally cultured and skeptical, more bitter, same staggering memory, more contemptuous and verbally aggressive, way more cynical, allegedly agnostic, Russlan claims to be a true Russian patriot. With a derision and bile the like of which is hard to find anywhere else, in his Substack blog he unwaveringly sneers at and insults the whole of humankind, not sparing Russians and even mistreating them worse. To him, except for the oligarchic class, ruling elites and their secret agents, most other humans are gullible idiots, retarded (one of his favourite adjectives), a herd of low-IQ fools, his fellow-ethnics being no exception at all. And one of the traits he most ridicules Russians for is their religious beliefs, credulity and superstiton.

Now, I have found that ethnic Russians tend to be, indeed, quite credulous (at least spiritually) and superstitious. And for all I know, this has been so for many centuries and even in pagan times. One just needs to read Russian classics or watch old Russian or Soviet films to realize this; or, nowadays, travel around the country and look how Orthodox Church is ubiquitous, its beliefs partout, people attending to mass tenfold more than in the West, icons and candles in their homes’ krasniy ugol. Even during the very atheistic Soviet times millions of Slavs secretly held to their Orthodox beliefs and practices. And then their superstitions: the venerated bread, sitting on the suitcase before a trip, the loaf atop a vodka glass for the dead, plus others I do not remember now. As with Spain and Catholicism, one could say the slavic nation is Orthodox from head to toe. Russians’ idiosyncrasy (leaving aside, of course, the increasing Muslim population) is intimately linked to that credo. Yet, Russlan sneers at all what his fellow-ethnics have been for the last millennium: he despises the tsarist times with their submissive serf souls, Orthodox Church, Christian beliefs, superstition, credulity, the Revolution, the Soviet times and of course Putin’s Westernised Russia. This is why, then again, I wonder: with that contempt for his nation’s customs, culture and spirit, what is the Russia Russlan devotes his supposed nationalism to? What is left that he loves, supports and defends? What sort of patriot is that? Or is he?

Hopefully I have made my point intelligible.

Personally, I have nothing against cynicism. I believe it is a legitimate and justifiable attitude in life, since most people are indeed selfish and half of them stupid. To some extent, I might even consider myself as one. But there is -besides bitterness- a good deal of misanthropy in cynicism, of unsociability, and certainly there is scorn towards humankind: towards all of it, including one’s own kin, tribe, lineage, fellow-countrymen, nation… patria. And we can hardly love what we disdain. This is why I do not clearly visualize in which way cynicism is compatible with patriotism or nationalism. Perchance those cynics who see themselves as loving and supporting their nation, the likes of César Vidal and Russlan Smirnov, are either hypocrites or, simply, self-delusive individuals.

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The power of semantics in minds shaping

Source: flosspapers.org

One of the things we, in our consensus-fabrication team, feel most proud of is our skill in manipulating semantics and the vocabulary in order to confound, mislead, condition and ultimately shape people’s minds, thoughts, opinions and attitudes. The strategy is to use the huge potential of language for modifying the audience’s ideas, introducing new ones, as well as profiling people’s perception of reality. We do this in several ways, like by coining new terms, adscribing other meanings to existing words, replacing or displacing concepts, semantic substitution, etc. Though these are very old techniques, nowdays most of this manipuative language comes from our think-tanks, even if not seldom some or other of the many thousands of local and small-scale activist workshops worldwide come up with a new gem of their own discovery that we promptly feed to the policy propagandists so they arrange its widespreading via mainstream/social media and the policy enforcers’ public addresses. Needless to say, this is closely connected with political correctness: first we present the public with whichever new product from our laboratories by flooding the media with it, then we convince people that the old term or any opposing idea (usually better but too crudely representing reality) is offensive, derogatory, insolidary, etc, and therefore socially incorrect to express, shameful to think or feel. Continue reading

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Noise and the decadence of man

‘Noise is a torture to intellectual people’

–Schopenhauer

In many animal species, including Homo sapiens, males need to attract the females’ attention in order to have a chance of passing on their genes to future generations. This is a fact of life. No attention-seeking –> no pussy –> no descendancy.

Along life evolution, for achieving this goal those species have developed a variety of technics, associated in some way or other with ‘good quality’ genes and higher probability of guaranteeing survival for the progeny: lustrous plumage or fur, garish antlers, loud and melodious trill, outstanding skills, plain physical strength, etc.

As to humans, when culture and civilization begun interferring in evolution both the function and the manifestations of those genetically hard-coded patterns underwent subtle changes: on the one hand, some splashy behaviours or features no longer had a connection with the ability to engender -and provide for- healthy offspring, whereas on the other hand some specimens begun developing a psychological (i.e., not purely biological) need for catching everybody else’s attention not solely -or at all in some cases- for the purpose of getting laid. Lastly, as societies ‘progressed’ and begun worshipping knowledge, education or intelligence while at the same time presumedly condemning violence, often the males’ showiness became less apparent, more subtle. And this, I guess, has been overall the state of affairs in human societies for the past few centuries or millennia: every other man trying to stand out from the crowd to the best of his means, displaying whatever he thinks attractive enough to grant him the damsels’ favours (and by the way: ethics have never been a priority, since those idyllic beings called women do not care excessively for the means their men resort to to bring food home; which is the reason why criminals have wives and lovers like any other man, when not more; but I digress).

So, from the richest and handsomest to the ugliest and poorest of men, all did their best, and even the very humblest peasant or villager tried to prove they could shoe a mule or grow potatoes better than the neighbour. And to some extent things still work the same way, except that the said patterns are very rapidly changing as sex gets increasingly detached from procreation, thus becoming increasingly cheaper: since for a variety of reasons men are no longer seen as ‘providers’ by women, the ‘requirement standards’ decrease correspondingly: females can full consequence-free mate with the most hopeless of males. Certainly, despite ‘social evolution’ (isn’t that an oxymoron?), human biology has not changed a iota, and therefore men still have the instinct to draw women’s attention, but as female & offspring survival is much less dependant on a man’s skills, worth or health, less is expected from him, having therefore no big incentive to strive harder. This to some extent implies a decadence of the species.

Hence, we might try to determine the degeneracy status of a given civilization by measuring the average usefulness of its men, for which a good indicator might be to observe what is the best that its most incompetent men are able to do. And this is how we arrive to noise: among the inmeasurable panoply of flashy or striking conducts a man can adopt to catch the public’s eye, noise is arguably the very easiest, as it stands within the grasp of even the clumsiest and dumbest of hominids: no ability, aptitude, gift, flair, knowledge or effort whatsoever is required: suffice to get your car/bike’s muffler removed or turn your amplifier full blast and, lo and behold!, the whole neighbourhood is looking at you. With a cheap 200 Watt loudspeaker or a simple de-muffled 50 c.c. moped you suddenly become tenfold more noteworthy than the smartest or richest man in town, and for all I know this might grant you some extra pussy, for nobody would persistently behave that way if it did not pay off. This is the level our civilization has reached.

(Mark that in this text I am not referring to noise pollution, which is an unwanted–and certainly disgusting–consequence of nowadays’ lifestyle and social activity, but to deliberate loud noise with the specific–though often subconscious–aim of attracting attention.)

Of course irritating noise has been easy since the times of tam-tam, but back then this tool served a valuable tribal or social purpose. Only recently (in historical terms), for the last several decades, gratuitous noise began getting more popular and replacing other infinitely more commendable and creditable achievements. I lack the skills (or the motivation) for writing an essay on The history of noise, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it all begun with rock music or any such pesumedly ‘social protest’ movement or activity. Anyway, whatever its origin, I stay convinced that the incidence or regularity of uncalled-for annoying noise is a symptom, and a measurement, of a society’s decadence status in general, and of the degradation of male specimens in particular. No wonder Schopenhauer deemed noise to be a torture to intellectual persons.

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Did the Kremlin take revenge on Prigozhin?

I really doubt governments engage in emotional behaviour like vengeance, since governments have by definition no emotions: they are usually ready to do whatever might be in their best interest, but vengeance serves no practical purpose whatsoever except that of satisfying someone’s desire to requite for a perceived affront. Thus, I am not sure how likely would it be for the Kremlin to assassinate Prigozhin out of revenge.

The meaning of vengeance

Vengeance (or revenge) is the act of inflicting harm or humiliation in return for an injury or other offence received. Definitions vary slightly depending on the dictionary, but most of them stress the elements of offence, humiliation, unforgiveness, resentment…, all of which are subjective and highly emotional. Thus, what would be the main purpose of revenge? Ultimately, to retaliate with moral damage for moral damage; to make the offender feel as bad as the offended has felt. This spiritual harm comes often alongside material injury, but this is not a requirement and might even not be the norm. When the harm is purely material, the victim usually does not feel a personal affront and is more inclined to seek justice instead, or in some cases retaliation, but not revenge, which is a deeper personal feeling. An offence can come hand in hand with material disservice when this is done to us out of bad will or animosity, but this is precisely the characteristic element that will trigger our wish for revenge: the moral insult, rather than the material loss itself. Still, many affronts do not involve material harm. Prigozhin, for instance, slandered Shoigu while causing him no physical or material injury whatsoever, and thus the latter (but not the Kremlin!) may have felt the desire to avenge the reviling.

Also, for the purpose of this exposition, I need to establish a sui generis distinction of my own coinage regarding the difference between vengeance and retaliation. I believe both concepts, though similar, are different in essence. Although they share a “retributory” and an “exemplary” component, I understand retaliation as having an unemotional, rather “educating” or “punishing” aim whereas vengeance serves emotional requital, and generally can only be taken by the offended. (Not seldom revenge is done on behalf of someone else, as is the case of feuds for instance, but that is because the avenger feels, out of closeness with the victim, the insult as personally inflicted on him too. As a matter of fact, very often in vendettas someone is slain in order to harm not so much him, but his family.)

And one last important idea: the vindictive mind needs the offender to know–or guess at the very least–that revenge is being taken on him. Killing or harming him without he ever getting to realize who did it and why does not serve the aim of vengeance and will therefore not fully satisfy the avenger. Not in vain it is said that “revenge is a dish to be served cold”. We vindictive minds need our wrongdoer to morally suffer in payment for whatever he did to us, so he “regrets” having done it and “learns the lesson”; otherwise our action will not quite be a vengeance, but rather a “frustration reliever” or the result of momentary wrath.

All of this is to say that, supposing the Kremlin is behind Prigozhin’s murder, it is not likely it was done out of revenge stricto sensu, for “the Kremlin” as an institution cannot take offence. If we want to blame the institution for the crime, it would be good we explained what practical goal might have been wanted to achieve with it. Alternatively, if we want to adduce vengeance, then we should point to a person, not an institution: Shoigu or Putin, for instance, rather than “the Kremlin” as such. Both things at the same time–a vindictive Kremlin–cannot be.

The Kremlin did it

As to the first option (a guilty Kremlin), whatever might the non-personal, purely political or practical reasons be to kill Prigozhin, it is for those who make such claim to provide a realistic explanation, some credible thesis. Pure antipathy towards Putin or the “spook state” does not convince me. I myself can think of a few possibilities, but only so far as making the questions, not giving the answers.

  • Did Wagner’s command pose a threat to Russia’s government? If so, what particular threat? The likelihood of a new mutiny, for instance? Might be, but how probable was that? Prigozhin and Utkin tried their luck and for whatever reason gave up, or simply failed, as a result of which Wagner troops are supposedly no longer in Russia. How could they try again a coup from abroad and succeed this time? Hard to imagine.
  • Did the Kremlin want to behead Wagner in order to “seize” the PMC and use it at their will? This might be a good one; however, if those fighters feel the slightest loyalty to their deceased bosses I would not bet on them to now happily work for the latter’s murderers. If this was the goal, a fair trial would have made better sense and been more effective. In any case, and oddly enough, I have not seen this argument put forward by the Kremlin blamers.
  • Did the Kremlin seek plain retaliation -not revenge– against those who dared march on Moscow, with the aim of forewarning whomever thinks of doing something similar in the future? Plausible version, and some pundits’ favourite; but then why Prigozhin and Utkin weren’t simply arrested after their mutiny, judged and sentenced? This would surely be infinitely more exemplary than an unclaimed murder. Some argue that Russia is simply too weak, disastrous and crooked a state to deal out justice like any decent and strong state would; and maybe they are right. But still, by not even tacitly admitting authorship, the presumed “warning” objective would not be particularly well achieved, since potential perpetrators of future rebellions, not being sure this was a punishment, might therefore not be sufficiently dissuaded from trying their luck. On the other hand, even the clumsiest, dumbest, weakest and crookedest government should not have much difficulty in getting Wagner’s command fairly judged, sentenced and condemned for the riot, since from a legal point of view the charges were simple and undeniable.

In any case, let us assume the action was plotted and carried out by the said impersonal author for any of the above reasons (or others I am unable to guess). Why would the Kremlin do it in such an embarrassing and unprofessional way, for people and governments to suspect them of having murderously beheaded Wagner (plus a handful of other totally innocent Russians)? They had many, far better and infinitely more discreet ways of killing the rioters (Africa being possibly the optimal scenario) than by a noteworthy plane crash right in the middle of the BRICS summit, compromising Russia’s “morality” when and where it is trying to present itself as the world’s moral superpower. Moreover, in fact, during the last days of his life Prigozhin was somehow doing Russia a service, since his businesses in Africa couldn’t but be generally perceived as a sort of “assistance” for some African countries on the part of Moscow, which is always helpful for the oligarchs. Would they get rid of him when he was being useful?

The Lukashenko objection

Another possible objection to the Kremlin’s authorship is that Putin would have now forced Lukashenko to come out and make some statements he probably wasn’t very excited about making as a way of “safety disavow”. By -presumedly- killing Wagner’s command that way, it was reasonable to assume many people would point at Moscow as the main suspect, and thus, for keeping rumblings away, Luka feels now the need to declare that Prigozhin had not asked him for any security guarantees when he cut the deal between Wagner and the Kremlin. There was no need to risk compromising and upsetting Lukashenko, whose support Putin needs so badly no matter how much (as per some pundits) he is hated by Russia’s liberal oligarchs.

Of course Luka’s words can be interpreted as proof of the Kremlin’s authorship: “Why else would he say that Prigozhin’s safety was not his responsibility?”, would the argument go. “Does this not evidence that Lukashenko is blaming the Kremlin?” But this would be a flawy syllogism. In good logic, Luka’s words prove nothing except the fact that he is protecting himself against the possibility of Putin being behind those deaths.

Exactly two months after the mutiny

I have also read people pointing out the date in which the murder took place as proof of its retaliatory nature, because Wagner’s mutiny had happened exactly two months earlier, on June 23rd. But this makes little sense to me, because how could the Kremlin convince the Wagner command to get on board that plane precisely that day to suit its evil design? Perhaps a trap was set for Prigozhin and Utkin, but what if they did not fall in it? Would have the Kremlin waited for the next 23rd to set another trap? I do not say it is impossible, but such a requirement (to kill him on a 23rd) renders the assassination a lot more difficult, and anyway to what end? For whom would the “message” be?

It was revenge

As to vengeance, in principle I can only think of two people in the Kremlin who might have felt personally offended by Prigozhin: the Ministry of Defence (for the insults directed at him, by his now victim, in the videos published during the battle for Bakhmut) and the President himself (for the treacherous mutiny that questioned his authority). According to my understanding of the word “revenge” as an emotional matter, unrelated with state affairs, I will stick to personal offences. Whose revenge exactly? Putin’s or Shoigu’s?

Prigozhin’s plea was against the corrupt generals responsible for the alleged ammunition shortages, and his recorded broadsides were never addressed to Putin. The rebellion, however, was quite another matter and directly threatened the President’s position; but still, did it constitute a personal insult to him that begged for vengeance, or rather a crime that deserved official or unofficial punishment? Besides, I am not sure whether Putin has the character, the resolve or even the authority enough to order a vindictive Red Code that would, besides, mean undeserved death for a few other persons unrelated with Wagner. His detractors constantly portray him as a girly, yellow and spineless guy almost devoid of any real power and brainwashed by liberal ideas — one of which happens to be morals. For all I know and perceive, he does not strike me as the kind of guy who would of his own accord and twisted revengeful mind have devised that operation.

With regards to Shoigu, he is certainly the number one person in the world with the best and most “legitimate” motivation for taking personal revenge on Prigozhin; but had he wanted to, there were better, more exemplary and adequate opportunities of doing it back then and there, when those insulting videos were being published, rather than waiting for a chance that might have never come. And even if he did not dare do it then (maybe thinking that Prigozhin enjoyed Putin’s favour, or that Wagner was still necessary to finish taking Bakhmut), what better opportunity than the march on Moscow to satisfy his resentment? Take the guy, throw him in a gulag jail and let him die there like a rat. That’d be a revenge!

Anyhow, whether the avenger was Putin or Shoigu, vindictive minds (at least the machiavelic, sophisticated ones) want their victim -as I said- to be aware that he is being returned the harm or the humiliation previously inflicted by him, for otherwise the revenge is meaningless. Every time in my younger days I felt like murdering my offenders (ideally scot free, of course) I stopped at the thought that, alas!, if I killed them without first letting them know it was me, there would be no requital at all. It would not be a proper vengeance, but plain distasteful and purposeless butchery, like hunting rabbits. Eventually, I came to realize that any revenge comme il faut needs for the victim to be aware not only of who is causing him pain, but also the reason why. So, what parody of a vengeance would Putin or Shoigu be performing were they to blow up Prigozhin’s flight without giving him time to realize what was going on? If they did it for revenge, well, certainly Prigozhin died without any remorse or regret for the affronts inflicted on his executioners, and ultimately without punishment, since dead people do not suffer.

Wrapping up

To sum up, I have the impression that straightaway blaming the Kremlin (for the beheading of Wagner PMC) without further evidence or a sound argument is slothful, and actually the analysts from whom I have read such instinctive take are bitter Kremlin despisers, seemingly more inspired by spite than backed by cool-headed reasoning. In the haste for vilifying Russia’s rulers (who probably deserve the whipping) one may easily overlook or minimize the several objections that can be made to such thesis; most of all taking into account that the mandatory question (qui prodest) yields in this case a list headed not by the Kremlin, Putin or Shoigu, but by other two or three suspects (France and USA at least) which would benefit sensibly more than Russia from those deaths; and also taking into account that Prigozhin/Wagner were not short of enemies who might as likely have planned and carried out the attack.

With all of this I am by no means stating that neither the Russian government nor any of its individual members are behind Prigozhin’s plane crash. Their authorship holds of course a credible theory, but perhaps not the most plausible one. I would simply like to see thesis that take into account all the possible objections and are better backed than by venomous contempt.

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Manco You-punky and the mannequins

For its fair quality-price ratio, the Brasa Viva is arguably the most popular grillroom in Moquegua’s capital city (we are in Peru). Its online rating is high and, unsurprisingly, it is usually full during eating peak hours, despite its fast-food style approach: with a limited range of dishes, quick service and an “order, eat (in or away), pay and leave” philosophy. Your order is taken as soon as you’ve made up your mind and, in little over five minutes, you are already enjoying your meal. But since there are not many tables (and rather small, at that) and many Moqueguanos like to go there for dinner, especially in the afternoon there is often at the door a line of customers waiting for others to finish. Continue reading

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The Hispanic peculiarity

It is any given midday of the mild winter in Torata, a small village in the mountains of Peru. A large group of schoolkids, dressed in blue and white, appear around a corner of the main square under the direction of several adults (presumably teachers) and, with a naiveté as touching as it is unfortunate, set about doing a kind of performance consisting of various acts not necessarily related to each other. In one of them, a handful of boys walk with backs bent as if under the weight of slavery (presumably inflicted by some fearsome dictator or – who knows? – by the Spanish conquistadors themselves) while four or five others behind mercilessly lash them with their make-believe whips, drawing groans of pain from the poor mistreated devils. In the next act, a group of girls (mark the sexist message) parade to the very reasonable–albeit listless and unconvinced–cry of: “We want freedom, long live democracy!“; from which one would infer that there is neither of both in Peru (which, ironically, is true in every corner of the world) or that however much of them there may be in this country has been brought by these young Incas and their protests, thus no longer suffering some tremendously authoritarian – and most probably heteropatriarchal – repression. Continue reading

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Torata and the mining canon

Torata is a village of around 2,000 inhabitants, located on the valley of its namesake river, some 2,300 metres above sea level and 20 miles upstream from the town of Moquegua; in the heart, therefore, of the Western Andean Range, whose peaks are the gate to the Peruvian altiplano, which some 250 miles farther to the northwest is finally walled by the Eastern Range, or the Andes proper as we know them from illustrations and films. Behind these, but many thousand foot lower, lies the immense Amazonian basin.

As the traveller approaches the village, on one of the many hills along the winding road he will read, in huge letters made of whitewashed heaped stones, this text: “TORATA CRECE GRACIAS AL CANON MINERO” (Torata grows thanks to the mining canon); which immediately provokes in me two somehow mutually inseparable reflections: a) What for needs Torata to grow?, and b) Does it mean that, in the name and in exchange for the sacrosanct growth, its inhabitants must rejoice for the mining industry to gradually pollute their valley until denuding it of the very charm precisely thanks to which Torata is still such an idyllic place to live? Rhetorical questions, obviously. Continue reading

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