Letter from a journalist on his 90th birthday: could it be true that the past times were better? | International
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I just turned 90, of which 45 dedicated to working on this newspaper. There are those who ask me if I do not regret it. No, because EL PAÍS was more than a newspaper. It was the symbol of the Spain that was dawning in the light after the darkness of a Civil War and a dictatorship that distanced us from the world. This newspaper opened the door to all the freedoms and rights suffocated by the Franco regime. And I had the privilege of experiencing that festive euphoria that also allowed me to travel the world as a correspondent.
And now? I am an attentive reader of the letters and comments of the readers that judge us and stimulate us to improve. I was a Reader’s Advocate for a few years and I had the privilege of listening to hundreds of readers on the phone. They were always our best incentive. Was the newspaper better then than it is today? No. We were beginners. Francoism had castrated culture. We did not have the possibilities that my colleagues have today. They are much better prepared than we were and the journalists were a small minority. It was still a macho newspaper.
So isn’t the famous phrase that “past times were always better” true? No. Humanity has never experienced a period of so many advances in everything. Don’t they say that journalism is in crisis? No. It is evolving. Today I read the newspaper, its chronicles and opinions and I notice the jump that journalists have made. They write better than we did. They are more culturally prepared and there is a team of women like never before.
They tell me that it is difficult for me to be so optimistic at my age. It’s not that. It is enough to look back to see what the world was like only a hundred years ago. Who would have imagined then that women would one day come out of their atavistic slavery, that the children who were the property of their parents would have rights of their own? And let’s not mention the animals. If in my childhood I had told a farmer that one day bugs would also have a statute of rights, they would have laughed at me.
Today everything is better than yesterday: science, medicine, law, communications, the awareness that we are all equal, that slavery is barbaric and that women and those called different have the same dignity. Juan Luis Vives advised husbands not to let women read. “Women should not follow their own judgment since they have so little,” he wrote. The supposed inferiority of women, promoted from the authority of Aristotle, was the cause of keeping her away from books. And the doctor of the Church Thomas Aquinas questioned whether women have souls. Is it true that past times were better?
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And the war in the Ukraine? And the social injustices? And racism? Yes, but today we are aware that this is crazy. The paradigm has changed. Today there is no family that feels proud that a son is going to sacrifice himself in a war. War is seen not as a profession but as barbaric, just like slavery.
We complain that the right of the caves is back, the nostalgia of the Holocaust. We are right, but precisely the fear of this possible return to barbaric times shows us that the past was always worse than today.
My friends also ask me what time looks like from the top of my 90 years. I’m going to answer you with some verses from my book hope project, de Aguilar, in which I list 50 reasons that show that today the world, despite all its sorrows, is better than yesterday.
of my bones,
the grooves in my skin,
the worn iris,
what i was,
cabinets full of my essences,
is the now,
of my thoughts
as i write,
everything i love,
my wife reading by my side,
the sky full of clouds
the sound silence of the sea.
I don’t know tomorrow
hope for a new dawn.
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