Throughout 2009, the first Wednesday of every month was spent talking about historical memory at the Mapocho discussion group in Santiago de Chile. Month after month these debates provided the perfect context to understand that if something is not present in memory then people perceive that it did not exist and on the other hand, if something is present in memory then it is taken for granted that it did happen. And so we see that memory does little to protect the environment, but instead wastes and squanders our natural resources. Memory can also be classist and prejudiced.
Classism means discriminating against people because of their class and forms part of the basis of social classification that conditions, indentifies and separates people. Often these classifications are founded on notions of aristocracy or family history; in other cases they are determined simply using financial criteria.
Just like all forms of discrimination, class discrimination damages the possibility of forming friendships. Within classism relationships are based on superiority or inferiority, and a sense of conditionality is even present between equals: “we are the same”. When building a strong social fabric, the most stable relationships are based on friendship. Friendship can only exist between equals. When a relationship is influenced by the idea that one of the people involved is in some way better or worse than the other, we compromise our friendship with that person, and moreover, we make ourselves heirs of a nonexistent advantage, indeed no one person inherits more or less dignity than anyone else.
We will now use the 11th history in 22 medical histories on Existential Realism to point out some of the aspects that best reflect how important it is to heal the so-called guilt that is passed from one generation to the next. Medical history 11 suggests that social classes are idols that are adored by certain societies, and more specifically the people within them. In Alfredo Rubio’s book, Pepe and Francisco are two conflicting characters. Pepe is working class and Francisco is the son of a rich businessman. They clash with each other because the irrational idea that they should hate each other that has been fed to them since birth pushes them into confrontation: if they are from different social classes then they should not be friends. This Existential Realist story shows us the path towards friendship, but the main characters must then walk along this path and the story is left unresolved. Becoming friends with people, as the Letter of Peace invites us to do, is a choice.
In order for a group to exist there must be some kind of connection between the people within the group. Story 20 of Rubio’s book looks at the issue of intermediary social groups. Here the author points out that in order for people to really embrace change, society must take an active role in helping to bring about this change. (This point is also made in the Letter of Peace when it discusses how important it is to enthuse young people, which it says must be done “with the help of society”).
Point 1 of the Letter of Peace quite rightly indicates, “The misdeeds done in History cannot be blamed on those living today, for the simple reason that we did not exist at that time” . The issue of class is also reflected here. If we paraphrase this point, we could say that “the people of today inherit no social merits from our ancestors, for the simple reason that we did not exist at the time and did nothing to earn them” We certainly do inherit the following things; being born into a family with greater or fewer resources, going to a more or less liberal school, learning about dialogue or manipulation from a very early age. And yet within this context we still have the opportunity to build a less conditioned society for current generations.
Elizabeth Subercaseaux, the Chilean journalist who now lives in the United States, has recently written a novel about this situation entitled “House for sale in a good neighbourhood” (“Vendo casa en el barrio alto”). According to the author the book “aims to provide an X-ray of Chilean society from the point of view of someone living in the United States” , but could be applied to classism as a whole: “It critiques the Chilean class system and classism in general, including top down and bottom up classism, it works in both directions and produces a society full of resentment”.
One of the tasks we face in building peace today is building relationships based on the things that unite us, the beings who are calling out for change.