Fernando Savater

Image: Stephen Pierce


Chronicle of an unethical morality

Working in bookstores can be one of the least painful forms of exploitation, given the unique “positive alienation” that occurs when surrounded by books. We lived this experience in Uruguay between 2003 and 2009 when we were booksellers. We also learned that the commercial sale of books sometimes involves offering products of dubious benefit for spiritual growth.

Fighting for a world worthy of our species, every time we sold a book by the famous Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater, among other authors, we believed we were adding a grain to the noble idea of ​​“enhancing reason”, the title of one of his works. If this reason were also endowed with sensitivity through ethical reflections, it would facilitate the possibility of correcting many injustices. In the year 2005 (save the date!), Ethics for Amador (1991) by Fernando Savater, continued to be a bestseller.

In its prologue, the author clarifies that it is not an ethics manual for students, but that any self-respecting education should promote “moral reflection”. The book addressed to his son Amador is presented as “personal and subjective”, from the universal relationship that a father would have with his son. He also adds that, far from intending to forge “well-thinking” or “bad-thinking” citizens, what the book intends to do is “to stimulate the development of free thinkers”.

Months ago, an article by Julio César Guanche on the website rebelión.org allowed us to meet an intellectual, also Spanish, who died in 2021 called Alfonso Sastre.[1] The interest generated led us to his work The Battle of the Intellectuals. Reviewing the edition of Clacso, extended by the Argentinian Atilio Borón,[2] we read with some surprise what many already knew. Fernando Savater and other intellectuals mentioned by Alfonso Sastre, had left behind his left-wing past to find himself today “smiling, in the ranks of the more patriotic right”. Right? This sought-after philosopher whose texts invited one to think? It was hard to believe.

Life wished that a few weeks later an occasion would present itself to reveal the truth. The President of Colombia Gustavo Petro was visiting Spain in May 2023 and, suddenly, as if he had been encouraged to speak out, Fernando Savater directed criticism against the illustrious visitor. His statements, immediately replicated by the Spanish right-wing media, were editorially labeled “demolishing”.

Leaving no doubt about his ideological preferences, Fernando Savater decreed that Colombia's “luck” had run out in electing its “first left-wing president”. Discrediting him politically, he accused Gustavo Petro of being an “institutional rebel”, intending to humiliate him intellectually under the accusation of being “provocatively ignorant” in several subjects. Fernando Savater even regretted that Gustavo Petro was so incapable compared to “the amount of talented Colombians we have met”.

Since Spain is the second destination for Colombian migration after the US, it was reasonable to assume that someone as informed as Fernando Savater was aware of the tragedy of death, violence and exclusion that made Colombia the country with the greatest internal displacement. of people of the world. FARC, ELN, guerrilla and armed conflict are terms associated with Colombia, but also Pablo Escobar, Drug Trafficking, Paramilitarism and Violence. It is to be assumed that a father who wanted his son to be a free thinker was also concerned about the constant shipments of drugs coming out of Colombia and flooding the Spanish “market”, destroying the lives of thousands of young people. Fernando Savater knows that those responsible for all this “bad luck” have been the right-wing governments, the only ones that controlled power in Colombia until the arrival of Gustavo Petro.

Without precipitation, we wanted to see in Fernando Savater's attacks against President Gustavo Petro, a certain influence of that atmosphere of retrogression and obscurantism that crosses Spain and all of Europe. We then seek other contexts with more balanced and objective judgments of the philosopher. We weren't "lucky". In 2018, while Colombia was still driven by narcopolitics, with UN reports confirming the increase in cocaine volumes leaving its territory, Fernando Savater already had Gustavo Petro in his “reflections”. Although DDHH's reports denounced the appalling situation in Colombia, Fernando Savater attacked Gustavo Petro's political proposals as “a disaster”, while maintaining total silence in the face of the genocidal Colombian reality. A rare and original way to enhance reason.

Looking further back, 2012, we found another curiosity. Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, widely denounced for his links with paramilitary groups, drug trafficking and other horrors, included Savater in words of thanks: “Thinkers like Fernando Savater and Edurne Uriarte and political programs like that of the Popular Party inspired our policy of Democratic Security and confirmed to us that, when terrorism is appeased with concessions, its destructive capacity increases”.[3]

The sinister Álvaro Uribe praising the ethics expert? Before taking you to the origin of this “elective affinity”, we need to present some data from the Colombian reality.

According to the report presented in early 2021 by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace of Colombia (JEP), in the first two decades of this century, at least 6.402 young people were extrajudicially executed. Of these crimes, 78% (almost 5) occurred between the years 2002-2008 of Álvaro Uribe's government (2002-2010). The deaths were somewhat hidden, while the army communiqués disclosed figures of “guerrillas killed in combat”. It was then, thanks to the denunciations of the mothers and relatives of these boys, that in 2008 the truth emerged.

Uribe's so-called “Democratic Security” policy, which in his praise of Savater claimed not to give “concessions” to “terrorists”, needed to show results. As if it were a factory, management demanded productivity (more dead), offering “incentives” in the form of awards and advancement in the military career. This is how “false positives” were born, murdered young people, especially peasants, who were soon dressed as guerrillas. These killings just lacked organization on an industrial scale to resemble the Nazis' "Final Solution".

In the mathematics of horror, the average number of young people murdered during the 6 “most productive” years of Uribe's presidency was around 832 per year. This means that until 2005, 2.500 young people had the opportunity to dream and become free thinkers, as Savater wanted for his son in “Ética para Amador”. What is special about the year 2005? Cynicism and perversity. That year Savater visited Colombia, not to sympathize with the suffering families, but to give “intellectual” legitimacy to the government responsible for these crimes. He offered several lectures, including the most stellar one, promoted and presented by Álvaro Uribe himself. In other words, we resolved two unknowns: Uribe's thanks to the philosopher in 2012 and Fernando Savater's regret in attacking Gustavo Petro because he was not a Colombian with “talent” like others he had known.

Before his conference, in the presence of the talented Uribe, Savater managed to hypnotize himself, abstracting himself from the genocide carried out by the policy of “Democratic Security”. The new ideology of those who had been anarchists, now epistemologically blocked their free will, preventing them from investigating, due to elementary human sensitivity, what was really happening in Colombia. However, the horror was so present in the environment that even though he refused to see it, so as not to point it out to his hosts, he was encouraged to say that Colombia was looking “almost desperately, for effective formulas to meet democracy, education and ethics”.

Overcoming this rhetorical relapse into sensitivity, Fernando Savater returned to the pedantry of beautiful words disconnected from reality, applying the hypocritical maxim: “do as I say, but not as I do”. As if to remind the audience of his passion for promoting thought, he clarified that ethics is “reflecting on whether what we are doing is humanistic”.

Undoubtedly, giving support to the government of a criminal was the “quintessence of being human” and, for this reason, Savater smilingly accepted that Uribe would make his presentation at the “Tertúlia com Fernando Savater” on April 28, 2005 (Bogotá – Cundinamarca).[4]

The host began with a “Thank you very much, master, you honor us a lot with your visit”, and then informed the philosopher that Colombia had passed “from the period of rhetorical guarantees to the period of effective guarantees, thanks to the Democratic Security”. The closing couldn't have gone better. Showing the great thinker that he was in the presence of a president of “enormous generosity”, Uribe spoke of the future that never arrived: “The moment the acts of violence cease, the Government accepts that the minimum conditions have been created to be able to advance in a process of dialogue”. Although the dialogues for the true pacification of Colombia are only taking place now with Gustavo Petro, almost twenty years later, Fernando Savater considers that Colombia's luck is over. More miserable could not be.

The closing of Uribe's presentation must have brought the Spanish philosopher to an ecstasy of emotion and incredulity. The great paramilitary chief, in an act of magnanimous humility, concluded his words by saying: "I won't tell you more, master, because we have come to listen to you."

The German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, when confessing his displeasure at Martin Heidegger's refusal to make a self-criticism of his adherence to Nazism, posed this question: "The main task of those who dedicate themselves to the craft of thought is not to shed light on the crimes committed in the past and keep awareness about them? ”

Fernando Savater is outside this reflection. He is a defendant, a repeat offender, in the stupidity of evil.

*Anisio Pires is a professor at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV).


[1] https://rebelion.org/el-tercer-hombre-analisis-de-una-utopia-reflexiva/

[2] http://biblioteca.clacso.edu.ar/clacso/se/20100604034038/sastre.pdf 

[3] https://www.larazon.es/historico/9132-espana-ejemplo-de-madurez-por-alvaro-uribe-ULLA_RAZON_443344/

[4] http://historico.presidencia.gov.co/prensa_new/sne/2005/abril/28/13282005.htm – (Words by President Álvaro Uribe when setting up the Tertúlia with Fernando Savater)

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