“No one knew what was coming; no one dared
to say what a new art was, a new man,
a new moral, or maybe a new organization
society. That’s why everyone was saying what they thought.”
The Man Without Attributes
“Greatness is simple,
and it’s vulgarity, everything brags
and commentary on greatness.”
The Matthew effect
The American Robert King Merton (1910-2003) supported by Matthew’s gospel chapter 13 in his verses 11–13.” The one who has will be given more and will have in abundance, but the one who does not have will still be taken away from what he has…” created what in sociology is known as the Matthew effect. This accredited sociologist referred to this difference established between constantly applauded scientists and those who make great efforts in their studies and receive no recognition. This idea can be manifested – among many other examples – in a book of social impact when it is named as an author only the one with the highest hierarchy or the one who is best known, even if the work is written by two authors; in fact, there is a very well-defined social stratification in this world of knowledge.
In the field of literature, a Canadian storyteller was rejected for his writings in a magazine on several occasions. He decided to do an experiment, took the content of the stories of some very famous ones such as Joseph Conrad and Jack London, renamed them the authors and their respective titles. They were rejected automatically. This shows the truth of this ancient popular saying I’ve heard since I was a child: “raise fame and go to sleep.” Afterwards, you can say any nonsense, that everyone will smile approving what you’re saying.
At the time I had just finished my PhD, I commented with a highly authoritative colleague on knowledge of the social sciences, who had encountered a serious content error in a published intervention by a person famous for his spectacular career. “Well,” he cut me, “he can say whatever he wants.” The nonsense said by idols seems not to be such, one more demonstration of Merton’s Matthew effect. Much later, I read a very old text showing two paragraphs that were plagiarized and published in a newspaper article, no less than for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Something indirectly linked to the Matthew effect is the question of impoverished, obscured values, reduced in the present day. In our case, a bureaucratic apparatus of trivialization of all knowledge and thought has been entrenched, unable to understand the complexities of the real.
Once I walked through one of the streets of Vedado, I was surprised by a sign in a house/institution that read: “Attention to Man”. With so much housing need in the country, paying a group of people officially dedicated to doing nothing specific is embarrassing. I imagine that the existence of such an establishment is synonymous with directors with their respective cars, petrol costs, meetings where they are simulated working, etc. Will this nomenclature have already been extinguished or will they think with the changes to found the Ministry of Care for Man? Just as much sadness caused me to see a house dedicated exclusively to the Film Festival and another to the gleaming Havana carnivals. Why not locate, for these events of only a few days, an office in their respective institutions?
Even the figure of José Martí was given several mansions. That man who carried all his belongings in a small suitcase and who well could say “everything I carry with me” and who at the time of his death bequeathed us not what he had, but what it was, it now turns out that in addition to the Center for Martyr’s Studies – to whom I pay all my respect for this great work of the critical edition of the Master’s texts, for his library, for his research, for his activities promoting martyrdom thought and the historical significance of the place where he lies – there are two more sumptuous residences, dedicated to what?, that the EMU cannot do.
The Man Without Attributes
On the other hand, there is the condition explained in luxury detail in the first volume of Robert Musil’s novel (1880-1942), Man Without Attributes. In it, the Austrian writer compares the difference between a running horse or a boxer, and a scientist. People admire the successes of the first two, you can see them at any event. An athlete with triumphs is someone who can achieve great fame, is described as great, while people who are engaged as an office to think – and do not belong to the circle of intellectual aristocracy according to the Matthew effect – are generally not popular or socially recognized.
In the first volume of his book, Musil writes about the kingdom of Kakania: “His portraits appeared everywhere and in numbers almost equal to the inhabitants of the kingdom. On the occasion of his birthday he ate and drank as much as on Christmas Day; bonfires were lit over the mountains, and the voices of millions of men proclaimed their filial love.” The foolishness is universal and versatile, it has the great ability to wear all the dresses of truth. However, the truth has only one suit, one path and often leads to difficulties and disadvantages.
Prayer of life
Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861–1937) was a philosopher who, as early as seniors, devoted herself to psychoanalysis to do mediating work and to learn that the main instrument of her specialty is to have “ears behind her ears”, thus delving into her ability to observe and her way of analyzing events. His speech exhaled in his time a vital attitude, his work did not transcend as much as his own life. At the end of it, she suffered from breast cancer and was, for that reason, operated on. The writer slides God into every experience as a manifestation of life. He speaks of Him as “the word that always means the most intimate and, at the same time, what transcends us most”. Therefore, I would like to end the poem written by this Russian writer, “Prayer to Life”, which he gave to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), who gave him music for choir and orchestra. Looks like it’s on YouTube, maybe twenty years from now – hopefully – we can hear it in our homes. Here I leave at least the poem:
No doubt a friend loves his friend
as I love you, life full of riddles!
The same if you’ve made me scream with joy as you cry,
the same if you have given me suffering that pleasure,
I love you with your happiness and affliction:
and if you need to annihilate me,
I’ll rip myself out of your arms in pain,
how the friend is ripped from the friend’s chest.
With all my might I embrace you:
Let your flame ignite my spirit
and that, in the burning of struggle,
find me the solution to the riddle of your being!
To think, to live millennia,
overturn everything you bring!
If you have no more fortune since giving me,
Congratulations, you still have your pain! Ω