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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: The Ideas of Freedom – the Debate Continues
Latin American genius Carlos Alberto Montaner on Gloria Alvarez, conservatives, liberals, progressives and the future of Guatemala and Latin America.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Gloria Alvarez is charging again. She has written Cómo hablar con un conservador (How to Talk to a Conservative). This book is the logical derivation of another very successful and very controversial text she also wrote: Cómo hablar con un progre (How to talk to a progressive). Her new work carries two subtitles: “Why instead of encouraging it, conservatism obstructs freedom in our societies” and “Why liberalism is much more effective than conservatism to annihilate cultural Marxism.” (Liberalism, of course, understood as Europeans and Latin Americans understand it and not as the Americans imagine).

At one end, the progres (progressives), the socialists and (especially) the communists, felt justly alluded to and scolded Gloria: “Only the left makes mistakes?”. “How is it possible to come from a nation like Guatemala, where 65% of its population is poor, and preach the virtues of the market and minimum government?” Gloria responds intelligently. But, on the other end, the conservative right also attacked her. Gloria is militantly atheist and believers are often intolerant of those who do not worship “the true god,” which is, of course, theirs. Gloria is feminist in the liberal way, that is, without disguises of false morality. She is an ecologist, to the point of launching an organization dedicated to reforestation in her country in 2012.

Gloria is, above all, a free spirit. She believes in the decriminalization of prostitution and drug use. People can do with their bodies what they want, because that is the most urgent field of freedom. They even have the right to make mistakes like smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine through the nostrils, injecting themselves heroin or rubbing substances on their genitals that increase sexual pleasure. It is not up to society as a whole, let alone the State, to dictate how behavior in bed should be. What two adults, or more, do in the privacy of a bedroom is only their business.

Gloria attended a “gay pride” party wearing a T-shirt with a “heterosexual” legend to support the demonstrators. You do not have to be gay to feel solidarity with the gay cause. Gloria does not promote them, much less recommends them, but she knows that freedom includes diverse behaviors and attitudes. Freedom even includes the right to die with dignity. As a Spanish suicide wrote, “to live is a right, not a duty.”

As the worn-out communicators notice, Gloria’s ideas often provoke two contradictory attitudes. The bad one is that the most old-fashioned conservatism usually opposes all that. The good one is that liberalism has been gradually defeating the ideologies that have opposed it since it was born in the atmosphere of the Enlightenment in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The conservatives, the Marxists, the collectivists of all fashions, even the believers, although they do not recognize it, have had to accept liberal ideas and beliefs before the undeniable rational evidence.

Why, then, the resistance to the ideas of freedom? In my opinion, because they arise from the particular psychological nature of certain people. Gloria is a free spirit because she has confidence in herself. Her ideology arises from her psychological structure and not vice versa. Gloria is not afraid of life. However, there are countless people who are full of panics and prefer to feel protected by a higher entity. They are the people devoted to the strong governments, the unique parties or the caudillos. That is why the liberals, the libertarians, the anarcho-capitalists are a minority. A formidable minority that has impregnated the rest of the ideological formations, but it is still the behavior of the entrepreneurs and the free and fearless spirits.

That makes me think that it is very likely that How to talk to a conservative will be successful in penetration and sales, as it was How to talk to a progre, but will hardly convince those who support a conservative view of human beings. It is possible to change one’s ideas, as shown by a thousand valid examples ranging from Octavio Paz to Mario Vargas Llosa, but much more difficult is to renounce the psychological structure and self-perception. In any case, the debate goes on and it is very positive that Gloria Alvarez is the standard bearer of the virtues of the ideas of freedom. It’s excellent.

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.


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