In the Eyes of God: A Study on the Culture of Suffering

In the Eyes of God: A Study on the Culture of Suffering

In the Eyes of God: A Study on the Culture of Suffering

In the Eyes of God: A Study on the Culture of Suffering

Synopsis

“Every culture needs to appropriate the universal truth of human suffering,” says Fernando Escalante, “... to give its own meaning to this suffering, so that human existence is bearable.” Originally published in Spanish as La mirada de Dios: Estudios sobre la cultura del sufrimiento, this book is a remarkable study of the evolution of the culture of suffering and the different elements that constitute it, beginning with a reading of Rousseau and ending with the appearance of the Shoah in the Western consciousness—“The memory endures, and this constitutes a fundamental transition for the Western conscience: we have witnessed.”Drawing on writings from the Greeks to Cervantes, Voltaire to Nietzsche, and Freud to William James, Escalante combines his considerable knowledge of politics and political theory with a vast array of literary examples to arrive at an intellectual understanding of the history and meaning of suffering. His investigation encompasses the rise of popular politics, the role of messianism in modern nationalism, and the contemporary implications of the Shoah.This book will appeal to a wide audience: students of political theory, humanism, and philosophy, as well as the general reader interested in a glimpse into the mind of a highly original Latin American thinker.

Excerpt

Suffering has been a basic theme in political, legal, and philosophical debates in the last twenty years. It should not be surprising: there are more than enough reasons. It cannot be said that there is more suffering in the actual world than ever before. In fact, a great deal of the pain and hardship of everyday life has been alleviated in recent times—at least, for the affluent portions of the world population. Suffering still matters: in a way, it appears more outrageous, unjust, and unbearable than ever before, all the more because we cannot conceive a human society free of pain, injustice, and suffering, and it is hard to imagine on what grounds suffering could be justified.

We are used to enjoying comforts unheard of in any past time. At the same time, we are confronted with the pain of others every day, as an undeniable reality. There is the hitherto very real possibility of witnessing wars’ devastation and natural catastrophes; in the media, we see, read, or hear every day and everywhere of people suffering from hunger, persecutions, illnesses, and massacres. And there is the contrast of such suffering as that in Africa, Asia, or Latin America—with the relative comfort and abundance of both Europe and the United States. Suffering is much more evident, present, and familiar; but at the same time, our witnessing of so much suffering is different from witnesses from other eras—we cannot escape the feeling that, to a great extent, much suffering could be avoided.

After both World War II and the processes of decolonization, an acute and vaguely guilty consciousness has arisen in the Western world. How can we do away with the conviction that, somehow, all that pain, all that violence and misery, concerns us all? A new hu-

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