To Know Who We Are

Thought for the day (okay – night):

“Somos un país cuya transición a la democracia estuvo pilotada por las mismas élites que lideraron la dictadura… y quizá no pudo ser de otro modo, pero es necesario saberlo.

…Porque hablar de políticas de memoria nunca es hablar de pasado, es hablar de presente, es hablar de identidad. La memoria es la capacidad de entender lo que somos y a la vez la voluntad de querer decidir lo que seremos.”

“We are a country whose transition to democracy was piloted by the same elite who led the dictatorship… and perhaps it couldn’t be in any other way, but it’s necessary to know it. It’s necessary to know who we are.

…Because talking of politics from memory is never talking of the past, it’s talking of the present, it’s talking of identity. Memory is the ability to understand what we are and, at the same time, the will to want to decide what we will be.”

Juan Diego Botto, an actor whose father disappeared during the Argentinian dictatorship wrote this about Spain in El País today. But it could have been written about my home country: Hungary. Countries that emerged from dictatorship…

Sometimes the price of a (relatively) peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy is to let the ruling class to get away with it. It may well be a price worth to pay; think England for a classic example (with its string of gradual reforms rather than repeating the upheavals of the Civil War of 1640-48). But we should never forget who we are and where we come from otherwise we soon lose what we gained. And we should never, ever, take democracy for granted: it survives only if we’re willing to practise it.


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