Tony Judt´s take on “modesty” (an extract from Tony Judt´s “Ill fares the land”) // Opinión de Tony Judt sobre “la modestia” (extracto del libro de Tony Judt “Algo va mal”)
“ (Modesty)…. a political quality whose virtues are overestimated. We need to apologize a little less for past shortcomings and speak more assertively of achievements. That these were always incomplete should not trouble us. If we have learned nothing else from the 20th century , we should at least have grasped that the more perfect the answer, the more terrifying its consequences.
Incremental improvements upon unsatisfactory circumstances are the best that we can hope for, and probably all we should seek”
“( La modestia)… una cualidad política cuyas virtudes se sobreestiman. Debemos disculparnos menos por nuestras carencias en el pasado y hablar con más convicción de nuestros logros. Que éstos siempre hayan sido incompletos no debería preocuparnos. Si del siglo XX hemos sido capaces de aprender algo, deberíamos al menos haber comprendido que cuánto más perfecta es una respuesta, tanto más terroríficas son sus consecuencias.
Mejoras graduales en relación a circunstancias no satisfactorias son lo mejor que debemos esperar y, probablemente, lo único a lo que debamos aspirar.”
Broke as she was after having been laid off from the bankruptcy court she worked for in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, her life and livelihood in general were not at their best. However, if she happened to find some dollars in her purse, Mary would give herself a treat and gulp down her throat one of the cucumbers that the handsome grocer used to pitch from his counter on market days.
She was just feeding her eyes on the green merchandise while walking nonchalantly along the grocer´s stand and bending over, at times, to look closer at the edible ítems that stood before her , when she finally decided and said in what it wasn´t meant to be a dubious manner:
“Good morning, Mr. grocer, i´d like the cucumber you´re holding in your hand. It looks fresh, nutritive, invigorating… The cucumber, I mean, not your manly hand…”
Blushing at Mary´s comment and pointing at the cucumber he was duly holding in his hand the grocer replied:
“I appreciate your taste, madam, but i´m afraid that this cucumber is somewhat out of season. I ´m just trying to plant it on someone for business sake. It´s actually my heart what really keeps on beating with the force of a youngster, its longing for love keeps my life from withering”
“The love for your wife, I guess” Mary said
“Not quite, madam, my dear wife passed away long ago. I´ve been mourning her unconsolably until the moment you showed up and asked me for the cucumber i´m touting and holding in my hand”
The picture showed his father and him. His father appears smiling and he, wearing an expression of complaint on his face. The photo was taken long ago during some Christmas holiday´s that he and his family had spent in some seashore beach resort in the Atlantic. Given that in his hometown it should have been raining at the time of the year when the photo was taken and given all the amusements that were available for them, kids, in that seashore beach resort he should rather have been smiling at the camera as his father was. Instead, he´s making a grimace that expresses grievance as if he were complaining at the vain effort to shake off his father´s embrace. Actually, if one looks closer at the picture, it is not an embrace but rather his father´s hands encroaching upon his hair what is going on at the moment of the shooting. His father, moreover, isn´t exactly stroking his hair, his hands are aiming, stroke upon stroke, at straighten it out, at “taming” his dear son´s hair, as he used to say back in those days, so that the hair remained properly combed back like the hair of some of the movie stars his father was so fond of.
It would certainly be an exaggeration to state that that expression of complaint on his face stood for any risk-taking worth the name, hard to trace any shadow of heroism at the twisted corners of the kid´s mouth. However, as he looked at the picture for the last time while he sat up in the sofa and walked up to the tv set to turn it off, he couldn´t help feeling a vague sense of pride taking hold of himself, as if at the time when the photo was shot, he were already fighting a war he was barely conscious of.