Susan Sontag (1933-2004): Regarding The Pain of Others

Written on October 9, 2007 by Santiago Iñiguez in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Santiago Iniguez

It is an honour to be invited to participate in this blog, which will be the showcase for many of the intitiatives of the new Department of Humanities here at IE Business School lead by Arantza de Areila.

Susan Sontag (1933-2004): Regarding The Pain of Others

In today’s Western World, most of us are lucky to live distant from
external violence. Although our chances of suffering a violent attack
or an accident may vary, depending on countries, lifestyle or jobs,
they are not comparable to the defencelessness experienced by our
ancestors, centuries ago. The evolution of institutions, the rule of
law and moral progress achieved in our societies make the experience of
external violence an improbable event. However, we can still regularly
see violent phenomena through TV and other media, watching news on
wars, terrorist attacks, murders, natural disasters and similar
horrible events.

In a post I wrote in BizDeansTalk, I referred to Simone de Beauvoir’s splendid novel "Les Belles Images",
where the French café-philosopher and novelist describes a situation
which could be transferable to present days. The protagonist, a
conscientious mother, wonders why her daughter is worried about some
inevitable evils that exist in the world but occur far from home
–hunger, epidemics, natural disasters- and cause devastating effects
among huge numbers of poor people of the third world, although these
problems can not be solved solely by one person (if at all). This
impotence of the single individual to solve a given evil produces a
natural, defensive reaction in many humans. People like "belle images"
–beautiful images- and are not prepared to be constantly exposed to the
image of horror or suffering. The natural reaction of the mother is,
then, to change the TV channel or the subject in order to avoid the
exposure of her beloved daughter to the cruellest aspects of life. The
extreme version of the "belle image" syndrome is just to avoid talking
or showing pictures of some particular disaster. I am sure you identify
the syndrome I am talking about.

Sometimes I hear that managers should avoid being sensitive or
compassionate, since they should take hard decisions that may affect
thousands of people while keeping themselves calm and unaffected at the
same time. Imagine that you have to fire half of your team as a
consequence of a merger or a company downsizing. How could you cope
with the personal tensions derived from such measure without detaching
yourself enough to avoid suffering personally. Indeed, some managers,
and humans in general, develop some sort of defence mechanisms to
protect themselves from mental disruptions in times of crisis.

Read more…


Papyrus resists

Written on October 8, 2007 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Literature, Philosophy


Miguel Herrero de Jáuregui

“Time will tell” is the easiest opinion one can have about practically everything. Whenever one does not want to risk a thought on a fishy subject, it is advisable to stick to the judgement of Time. Apart from avoiding the dangers of reflection, appealing to Time has the glamourous flavour of cosmic justice. Old Chronos does not ask your name or place of birth, but only one question: What are you worth remembering for? As if History had an internal Darwinistic clock, people and facts, independently of their glory among contemporaries, are set by Time in their due place. So are books, so will be even blogs, perhaps.

Yet Time’s monarchy is not fair (classical political theory would call it tyranny). Take, for instance, the case of books. Of all the prose and poetry wrote by the ancients, only the few works which were thought worth being copied time and again throughout the centuries survived till the age of Gutemberg. The rest turned dust and ashes. And the transmission of ancient texts is so full of accidents, censorships, arbitrarities, burnt libraries and sunk ships that talking of balanced judgement of what should be preserved and what deserved oblivion seems pure mockery. N. Wilson’s Scribes and Sholars is a classical account of that process. And in the first of his fine best-sellers, Eco (with the immensurable help of Sir Sean Connery) put before everyone’s eyes the arbitrary destiny of ancient books. The third book of Aristotle’s Poetics on comedy is lost forever. Now, in the age of bits and bytes, anybody’s thoughts, no matter how dire they are, can be turned everlasting just with clicking on “save”. Is this justice? Is that fair?

Only some few chosen fighters keep resisting Time’s tyranny. Their name is papyri. Ancient books were written in papyrus rolls, which have survived only in extremely dry conditions. The burning sands of Egypt have given back to us most of these new texts from the remotest past: many poems of Sappho, for one, which were not copied by medieval monks for obvious reasons, are read and sung again thanks to the papyrus findings. Out of Egypt, accidents are needed, ancient tragedies which turn to be strokes of good luck for us: the sealed jars of Qumran, in Israel, were abandoned while fleeing from slaughter against their holders; the Derveni Papyrus, in Northern Greece, was going to be burnt in a funerary pyre, but it rolled out to the miraculous point were it would be far away from the fire not to burn and close enough to get dry and survive; the lava of Pompeii and Herculaneum, while destroying lives and cities, carbonized whole libraries and preserved them for modern scholars who patiently retrace ancient wisdom back from the ashes. Much has been discovered in Herculaneum, but there may be much more – tragedies, philosophy, new epics with old myths– waiting down there for us to dig, unroll and read: have a look at www.herculaneum.ox.ac.uk, where fighters against the tyrant  have joined the battle. There is yet hope. Time will not prevail.


Julián Montaño


La zona de la tribu de los Conejos es de matorral bajo, plana y extensa, no muy seca en verano. Es la envidia de todo el valle. Cerca de un arroyo vive la tribu de los Conejos. La tribu de los Conejos –como así se denominan ellos- se dedica a la caza, pero tienen prohibido cazar conejos. Los conejos pueden acercarse con tranquilidad a la aldea y nadie los captura ni les hace nada, campean a sus anchas en los alrededores de la aldea o cerca de los patios de las casas. Una vez al año el Conejo Magnífico, que es el título del jefe de la tribu, sale en solemne procesión fuera del recinto de la aldea acompañado de los varones adultos. Una vez fuera grita “¡Al conejo!” y los varones adultos tienen permiso hasta el mediodía para cazar un conejo. El que lo cace será el jefe hasta el próximo verano. Este conejo lo comen los varones adultos en una fiesta formidable y muy divertida donde se danza el Baile del Conejo. Con esta fiesta se celebra el día en que el fundador de la aldea –el Gran Primer Conejo- huyendo de la tribu vecina de los Zorros consiguió no morir de hambre al dar caza a un conejo –el primero que veía en su vida- que es llamado en la aldea el Gran Conejo Primordial. Todo en la aldea de la tribu de los Conejos gira alrededor de los conejos. Los niños que nacen con labio leporino no tienen que trabajar y son mantenidos por sus familias. El saludo entre los miembros de la tribu de los Conejos consiste en fruncir el labio superior y olisquear desde lejos al vecino imitando la actitud de buena voluntad que tienen todos los conejos hacia las personas. Los ancianos piadosos cultivan zanahorias para dárselas a los conejos que se acercan a las lindes de la aldea.

Ahora bien el centro de la vida de la tribu de los Conejos, aquello que configura la forma de la aldea y es el lugar de reunión de todos, es la cueva que está en medio. En esta cueva el Gran Primer Conejo, en agradecimiento por haber sobrevivido había pintado la imagen del Gran Conejo Primordial (vid. imagen). Esta imagen es lo que mantiene en pie el mundo de la tribu de los Conejos, pues siendo la imagen verdadera del Gran Conejo Primordial bendice las cosechas de melones y proporciona la caza abundante (perdices, por supuesto, jamás conejos). Además asegura el buen parto de las mujeres que normalmente es muy numeroso, consecuencia de juguetear con el marido sólo cuando la constelación Conejo aparece en el cielo. Por lo demás el magnánimo Gran Conejo Primordial mantiene alejados de la aldea a los astutos y malolientes vecinos, los Zorros.

Read more…



Arantza de Areilza

This blog forms part of an initiative by IE Business School designed to bring humanities and social sciences closer to the world of business and law, and born of the conviction that humanistic disciplines such as art, history, literature, philosophy or music form an integral part of mankind’s intellectual development. Knowledge moulds the way we perceive and understand the world and ourselves, and enables us to participate in the creation of new values that serve as a catalyst for the change and development that are essential in all modern societies.

The different faces of culture foster the development of the imagination, the appreciation of humanistic values, aesthetic perception and critical reasoning, all of which play a key role in the human capacity for self-betterment and perfectionism. It is a permanent, liberating challenge in everyone’s life, which is the reason it forms a core part of our training programs.

This blog is an invitation to extend the vision of all those who are always curious to know more, and who want to share with us their ideas and experiences in the broad range of fields that comprise our environment.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to the blog authors for their enthusiasm for this idea and their generous collaboration. And now, without further ado, it’s my pleasure to invite you to reflect and comment on the first subject, lost paradises, that someone once described like this:

A Frayburu en despedida

¿Oyes como los murmullos de relatos resbalan en el verdín de tus rocas?

¿Las estelas de chalupas nocturnas en contrabando,

el chapoteo alegre de las pozas marinas escondidas, los laberintos de sirenas,

Y el nido de búho en la arboleda?

¿El gorgojeo de la llegada del agua de mar a la piscina probática,

la canción del viento del norte en el cañaveral?

¿Recuerdas la pita en flor envuelta en la rosaleda indomable,

El ancla de galeón en la entrada del zaguán,

Las dunas hechas de tiempo y las  higueras de tentación?

¿Los muros de piedra y las vigas que anuncian tormenta?

Viejo caserío de mirada atávica al mar,

playa de ánimas donde hoy mora una más.

1 401 402 403

We use both our own and third-party cookies to enhance our services and to offer you the content that most suits your preferences by analysing your browsing habits. Your continued use of the site means that you accept these cookies. You may change your settings and obtain more information here. Accept