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A Civilized Man

MƒEXICO D.F. 19 NOVIEMBRE2007.-El escritor Sergio Pitol, presento su nueva obra literaria que lleva como titulo “Trilog’a de la Memor’a” esto en la Casa del Refugio. FOTO: GUILLERMO PEREA/CUARTOSCURO.COM

Mexican author Sergio Pitol Deméneghi (1933-2018) was a man of the world. As a writer and diplomat, he traveled the world and wrote some fascinating books that were a curious mélange of literature, autobiography, and travel. The following is taken from his The Art of Flight.

[Italian philosopher] Norberto Bobbio offers a definition of the “civilized” man that embodies the concept of tolerance as daily action, a working moral exercise: The civilized man “lets others be themselves irrespective of whether these individuals may be arrogant, haughty, or domineering. They do not engage with others intending to compete, harass, and ultimately prevail. They refrain from exercising the spirit of contest, competition, or rivalry, and therefore also of winning. In life’s struggle [civilized men] are perpetual losers. […] This is because in this kind of world there are no contests for primacy, no struggles for power, and no competitions for wealth. In short, here the very conditions that enable the division of individuals into winners and losers do not exist.“ There is something enormous in those words. When I observe the deterioration of Mexican life, I think that only an act of reflection, of critique, and of tolerance could provide an exit from the situation. But conceiving of tolerance as it is imagined in Bobbio’s text implies a titanic effort. I begin to think about the hubris, arrogance, and corruption of some acquaintances, and I become angry, I begin to list their attitudes that most irritate me, I discover the magnitude of contempt they inspire in me, and eventually I must recognize how far I am from being a civilized man.