HAVANA TIMES — One day, when he was four, my son showered me with questions: “Why does it rain?” “Why don’t planes fall from the sky?” Then there were others, more difficult to answer: “Why are there wars?”
As he grew up, he began to notice contradictions I hadn’t paid attention to: “Why do people smoke if the cigarette pack says that smoking is bad for your health?” “Why do we use the word murder for people and “killing” for animals? Animals also suffer and scream, and run away if they can…”
One afternoon, he came back from school and I was watching a film not suited for children, so I said to him: “Go play in your room, this is a violent movie.” He was taken aback and asked: “So, why are you watching it?”
After the initial confusion wears off, one manages to articulate convincing answers, and time takes care of turning surprise into indifference. Such is the logic of society, leading us to a point in which we forget (or quite simply cease to formulate) these kinds of questions.
As we travel from the past to the future in a circle, at the threshold of old age we begin to look back on the questions children posed to us and the answers we gave as parents. One begins to doubt the quality of these answers and, what’s worse, acknowledging that one has accumulated similar queries.
Why are products harmful to our health sold legally? Why is “murder” still a relative term? Why are increasingly violent films being made? Why, despite so many years of civilization behind us, do we still have wars? What’s technological progress good for if it doesn’t guarantee our happiness and peace?
Recently, a question of this nature came to me after watching the film Still Alice, starring Julianne Moore (who received an Oscar for her masterful portrayal of a woman diagnosed with a premature case of Alzheimer’s). Her professional life begins to fall apart and, consequently, so does her emotional, family and social life. What was most chilling, however, was what the doctor tells her, that patients with higher educational levels experience a more accelerated mental deterioration.
How can we fail to apply the logic of children and ask: what’s the use of so much education and if cultivating our intellect if we can’t ultimately preserve it? What good is it to cram our brains with information that won’t prevent its degeneration?
Are neurologists out of harm’s way in terms of neurological conditions? Are psychiatrists immune to mental illness?
Inflicting “legal” forms of suffering on others, we aspire not to suffer ourselves and, while discriminating for specific reasons, we demand not to be discriminated for others. The well-intentioned pacts or democracies, human and even animal rights, are not enough, for the gap between aims and reality is abysmal.
Truths revealed by the documentary Cowspiracy (informing us that the main cause of pollution around the world is the meat industry) change nothing in practice. They become diluted in the effervescence of protests, applause, debates and the relentless machinery of consumption.
Today, I can only acknowledge that maturity brings back the embarrassment caused by the first questions a child asked me, and I wonder how it is we came to accept such monstrous contradictions as natural.