We have talked to Pia Figueroa Edwards, an activist for non-violence and peace from Chile. We have asked her questions about humanism as the right way to go, about her socio-political acitivity, about her strategy. A great woman, strong, and dynamic. With many objectives for her next future to leave non-violence.
Milena Rampoldi: How did you recognise that humanism and pacifism is the right way to go in life?
Pia Figueroa: We were living the sixties; the time of Vietnam, the Beatles and Che Guevara. These were times in which there was no indifference because commitment lurked in every corner. What moved us then was in the social soul or within oneself, it was a culture that demanded freedom. In such atmosphere of phosphorescent colours the lifestyle in which we’d been formed felt too constrained.
“My teaching is not for the triumphant, but for those who carry failure in their hearts”, said Silo on a little card distributed door to door. I immediately recognised this sentiment. Nothing that the system offered me gave me comfort, the need for a new world was burning within me, the failure of expectations had left me in a situation of search and the options that I had to hand ranged from drugs to armed terrorism, via a trip to Kathmandu, psychoanalysis or liberation theology.
In those convulsed and radical sixties, while new TV screens were broadcasting the weightless steps of the first man to walk on the moon, a simple man wearing white overalls, at the foot of Mount Aconcagua gave his first public speech in front of hundreds of followers who converged to listen to him despite the wind and the snow, defying the batteries of machine-guns that were manned by the border guards of Ongania’s Argentine government.
It was the speech known as ‘The Healing of Suffering’ which Silo gave on the 4th of May 1969, proposing a nonviolent way through which we could change the world and overpass our own internal violence. Among those present was a Chilean, Antonio Carvallo, who created the first groups in my city and through whom it was easy for me to join in.
So began the adventure of Humanism, a path of profound personal and social transformations that I would travel over the following decades, reaching to the confines of the mind and also the most remote places of our planet.
MR: What are the most important principles in your socio-political activity?
PF: “To treat others as you would like them to treat you”. It is by the exercize of non-violence and non-discrimination that we are orienting ourselves towards a future Universal Human Nation.
As Silo said at the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit: “As we all know, the themes of ecology and environmental protection have taken root in our societies. While some governments and certain stakeholders deny the dangers of neglecting the ecosystem, they are nonetheless being obliged to take progressive steps because of the pressure of a population increasingly concerned about the deterioration of our common home. Even our children are becoming more aware each day of the dangers of the situation. Through the media, and even in the humblest schools, attention is paid to issues of preventing environmental deterioration and no one can escape these concerns.
But we’re considerably behind this when it comes to concern over the issue of violence. What I mean is that the defence of human life and the most basic human rights have not yet taken root at a global and general level. It seems we’re still apologists for violence when it comes to arguing that it’s for defence or even ‘preventive defence’ against possible aggression. And even massive destruction of defenceless populations doesn’t seem to horrify us. Only when violence touches us in our civic life through violent crimes do we become alarmed, but we still do not stop glorifying the bad examples that poison our society and children, starting in earliest infancy.
It’s clear that both the idea and the sensibility that would provoke a profound repudiation and moral disgust that will move us away from the horrors of violence in its various forms have yet to take hold.
For our part, we will make every effort to install in the social environment the validity of the themes of Peace and Nonviolence and it’s clear that the time will come when both individual and mass reactions will be produced. That will be the moment of a radical change in our world.”
MR: What does humanism and pacifism means for your personally?
PF: It is to learn to make the qualitative leap that our specie is needing, in order to live in conditions in which every human will be able to develop without having to experience pain or suffering. It means an extraordinary audacity. Is there anything more important, more fascinating than this?
MR: Please tell us the most important things about your books?
PF: I would rather tell you about what people has done with my last book, called “Silo, the Master of Our Times”: they have translated it into English, French, Italian and Portuguese, even some of the stories have been translated into Hungarian, Check and Greek. Aside from circulating it as e-pub and other digital formats, it has been printed in these different languages and of course in the original Spanish version. And people have organized public presentations of the book in universities, bookstores, halls, book fairs, theaters, art galleries, etc, making it become an experience of inspiration and joy. I have already presented it in 36 occassions, none of them similar to the other one – since thay are done according to the culture of the place and to the needs of the people that organize the event – and I have to still go to Mexico at the end of this year and to Greece on the next one, to meet this great people that is reading about Silo and wanting to share his message and proposals.
MR: Why is it so important to write to change the world?
PF: Well, actually, I do not write only books or research studies. My main activity is writting and editing for Pressenza, international press agency that focuses on non-violence, disarmament, humanism, non-discrimination and human rights, as many other volunteers do along the world. Daily we are giving opinion regarding what is happening, proposing a different way of looking at the facts, searching for the inclusive attitude and reconciliation, proposing a non-violent alternative in front of the current discriminations and conflicts. We are interviewing so many people that share this new sensitivity and are building new ways of organization, new social movements and cultural expressions, new economical and political proposals and we are building a huge net of relationships among those that share the aspirations of a new humanized horizon.
I am certain that if a humanist point of view would spread, a new future would be build, since we would assume that it is possible to organize society in a different way and that we are a great majority of people claiming for justice, disarmament, reciprocity and fairness.
MR: What are the 4 most important things you would like to transmit to the next generation?
PF: I think we should pay a lot of attention to young people; they’re the future that’s coming. They’re starting with what’s new, that’s for sure. Because generations don’t succeed one another meekly, they always succeed one another with generational clashes and dialectics. The values that are established in older generations don’t interest them. Generations don’t succeed one another peacefully. We can already see this and it’s not difficult to understand. What’s happening is that they don’t have the same values.
Don’t be surprised if this time it’s in reverse! It may be that the others, the adults, now turn out to be very superficial while young people achieve profundity. Young people are now appearing. They’re something else; something extraordinary. They’re fulfilling our expectations. The others, those over forty years old, they’ve had their chance, and what have they done other than get themselves comfortably established? They don’t seem to have substantially changed anything. They’ve done nothing more than find their comfortable little place in the system. The youngest are seeking references, not in the mass media or among those in collar and tie. All you have to do is put yourself in tune with young people and you’ll perceive it. Here in Chile, in Spain, Greece, Hong Kong, Istambul, Sao Paulo or New York.
Young people are appearing on the public scene in all latitudes, they’re a global phenomenon, very active, all very messy, but with new impulses, they’re creative, rebellious. There they are, moving. This new generational layer is appearing. Young people don’t want to participate in anything that’s contradictory for them, they don’t want to be complicit in the disgusting things they see. How else could they be with the pressures they face?
One can notice the presence of a new generation that’s already in motion on the historical scene and that doubtlessly is producing its manifestations. Fraternity and justice are returning to find space in the hearts of young people. This is really happening and I only have to learn from them, support them, help them if I can. I just would like to transmit them hope, gratitude, joy and support.
MR: What have you achieved until now with your work and what are your objectives in the near future?
PF: May be a bit of coherence… I try to feel what I think is correct and to do what I feel is important, so there is no contradiction among what I think, feel and do. And that is already so much! As for the near future, I feel I am launched on this direction and will keep moving forward, giving diffusion to the proposals of a peaceful and nonviolent world.
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