We reproduce here Tomás Hirsch’s chat for TED-X Anogeia, in Crete, Greece, on August 8, 2015:
I feel profoundly moved on sharing with you this experience in this sacred place.
I’m one of the spokespersons for Universalist Humanism, a current of thought, and spirituality, as well as political and social action, founded by the Argentinean thinker Silo at the end of the sixties.
The Universalist Humanism of which I’m part places the Human Being as the central value. From a connection with a profound meaning it works for simultaneous personal and social transformation while promoting Active Nonviolence in the struggle to build a fairer world: a Universal Human Nation.
I come from Chile, a very distant country, yet very close to Greece in our hearts.
Chile and Greece share in common that we have both suffered cruel military dictatorships and, as a result of a false and deceptive neoliberal model, been burdened with painful economic crises. What Greece is living through today is what Latin America suffered in the eighties.
This is a country with a long history and a great culture. Your myths have given rise to Western civilization. Right here, at the foot of this mountain as the legend goes, Zeus was born.
I’d like to take this time to express solidarity with the people of Greece who are suffering the aggression of Europe’s powerful, and I congratulate you for the process that you have put into motion to defend your rights.
Believe me. Beyond apparent defeat, nothing can stop the changes that you legitimately aspire to.
The arrogance, meanness and clumsiness of the Troika cannot bring an end to the most ancient of democracies which, rightly, inspired Europe.
The time has come to say “enough” to the controllers of international financial capital.
Throughout my life, I have been a critic of the concentration of power. Together with many others we fought the Pinochet dictatorship, raising the banner of human rights and active nonviolence.
Now we are resisting this global financial dictatorship that has been imposed on nation states and is trying to subjugate the people, regardless of the suffering produced by this cruel imposition.
We feel the need to strengthen other values: cooperation; solidarity; mutual support; the value of diversity of race, religion and culture.
The paradigm of the new times must be reciprocity, the power of agreements, and the convergence of diversity; the opposite of hegemonic dominance and uniformity.
The success of this profound change will depend on abandoning the attempt to impose a single economic model and a single culture instead valuing diversity as humanity’s greatest treasure.
Truly human history is only just beginning. Today we know that this crisis will give rise to the birth of new types of social relationships that will have the Human Being as the most important value, leaving behind all forms of violence, whether physical, economic, racial, generational or sexual.
We know that this crisis is complex, as it affects every individual and society as a whole. Nevertheless, even though it’s difficult and brings with it instability, risks and fears, we experience the profound need to pass to another historical moment.
Today we are going to speak briefly about fundamental fears that we all experience and at the same time we are going to propose a reflection about how we can overcome them.
We have all felt fear in our daily life. I am afraid that what happened to me before will happen once again. I’m afraid that I will not attain what I had hoped. I fear losing what I have.
We turn on the TV and are terrified by images of cruelty. Bombings, executions, repression, assaults, accidents, and now the displacement of millions of desperate human beings that drown off our coasts.
We turn off the TV and are terrified of losing our jobs, not being able to feed our children, not being able to respond to the health needs of our parents.
In this violent society, we have all felt fear that our rights may be violated, fear of being persecuted for our ideas, for our beliefs, fear of repression or torture.
And above all, we share the fear of pain, of illness, of death.
We live so hard-pressed by our day-to-day commitments, that we become estranged from our loved ones and even from ourselves.
Little by little, we loose our connection with our feelings for others. The result? Depression and anxiety that health services try to resolve with drugs. So, instead of strengthening the search for Meaning in our lives, the remedy we are offered is an anaesthetic.
I said that I participated in the fight against the Pinochet Dictatorship in which we sought to recover democracy.
This struggle cost us beatings and prison. And many were disappeared, killed, tortured and exiled. And that produced an enormous amount of fear in people.
We came to understand that, in order to overcome this fear and to motivate many to join us, we had to set in motion creative, joyful, irreverent and participative, non-violent actions — impossible to be counterattacked by the regime’s police.
So it was that the Humanists of those years, a growing group of young people between 18 and 25, created new forms of nonviolent struggle. These tactics proved highly effective in their visibility and for the sympathy that they awoke in the population.
With all of these actions we surpassed the fear that had paralysed an entire country. And we generated a wave of social participation that connected with a new non-violent, joyful sensibility.
This allowed fear to be transformed into hope and the certainty of change.
When the dictator proposed a plebiscite about his continuing in office, instead of rejecting the idea, we accepted it. That way we could beat him at his own game, and we did.
We participated in the plebiscite, we created a massive “No” campaign, where we put the emphasis on hope. With the slogan, “Joy is coming” we defeated Pinochet and restored democracy.
Joint actions, team work, creativity, rejecting violent forms, bringing together new generations, establishing permanent dialogue, non-discrimination, not imposing one’s own ideas, working in psychological parity, valuing diversity, promoting direct communication, treating each other well, joy and sense of humour: All these are attitudes that helped us to surpass fear.
In a more personal dimension, to leap over fear is to connect with the profound and true meaning of life.
It is to leave behind indifference and connect with the suffering of others. It’s to break the lack of solidarity that ends up estranging me from myself, from my depths, from my Meaning.
We have believed that to be competitive is more important than to be compassionate, that winning is more important than being united in solidarity, that receiving is more important than giving.
To leap over fear is to recognise that we make a mistake when we fight only for things that have economic value, but no real existential, human value.
When I make a commitment with others, when I go beyond my own personal problems and direct myself towards building a better world, when I rediscover solidarity over unbridled individualism, when I multiply actions that aren’t for my own benefit but that of others, then I am leaping over my fears.
I leap over my fear when I apply this ancient Golden Rule that proposes that I treat others the way that I would like to be treated; when I reject the values and prestige of this cruel, inhuman and materialist society in order to turn my heart and my look towards other human beings, the anonymous, those suffering from discrimination.
There are no false paths to escape this historical crossroads in which institutions built on the base of power and violence collapse because of inadequacy and failure to adapt to a changing world.
Silo, the Latin American philosopher and writer who I mentioned before, the founder of the current of thought called Universalist Humanism, speaks in his books about the possibility that non-meaning in life can be converted into meaning and fullness for everyone, without limitations or external conditioning.
He proposes a spirituality that emphasises joy, love of the body, nature, humanity and the spirit; a spirituality in which the Worldly and the eternal are not opposed.
Silo talks about the “inner revelation at which all arrive who carefully meditate in humble search.”
He challenges us to “learn to resist the violence within us and around us.”
The totally interconnected world in which we live today makes it possible and necessary to advance towards a common multicultural civilization.
The interaction between cultures and nations, non-violent methods of social transformation and real participation of people in social-political decision-making processes are the keys that will allow for the integration of diverse communities as the vanguard of the universal human nation.
Definitively, fear is overcome by making contact with our own depths and becoming sensitive to the suffering of others.
Fear diminishes when faith in ourselves, in human beings and human destiny increases.
This awakening of a new sensibility leads to the encounter with the spiritual force that dwells in the depths of our hearts.
This spiritual force can grow and gain strength when we prefer reconciliation to rupture, when we elevate the value of others, with their diversity and differences, when we overcome what divides us, in favour of a greater objective.
Right now we can make contact with this inner force. We can feel our hearts and ask ourselves:
Is it important that my life is directed towards working with my loved ones and those close to me?
Is it important for me to do everything possible to help my people leave suffering behind?
Therefore the most important thing is to ask oneself:
What am I prepared to do to change the direction of my life?
What am I ready to do so that my people, my Crete, my Greece becomes a better place for everyone?
I leave you with these reflections