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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Laureates  

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Jean Daniel

Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities 2004

Your Highness,

I will resist the temptation to say that I do not know if I am worthy of the honour of receiving an award that bears your name and your title. It would be tantamount to suggesting that, after hearing the opinions of the members of the jury and the public figures that supported me, you might have erred on the side of indulgence.

Others, I know, could today have taken the place you have assigned me. I am nevertheless delighted to take it myself. There have been laureates before me, some of great renown. There will be others after me. For my part, I would like to savour this unexpected and surprising moment which never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to be the crowning point of my career.

The Prince of Asturias Award of which I am the laureate is for 'Communication and Humanities'. The juxtaposition of these two words indicates an intent that has not escaped my notice. All too often, man tries to communicate without the slightest humanity. Equally too frequently, respect for the humanities does not lead on to communication. In my youth, we used to "do humanities" when we studied Greek and Latin at school. It was the famous tribute that a Judeo-Christian society paid to the splendours of Greco-Roman Antiquity. It was a link with the outstanding figures of the Renaissance ? who added knowledge of Arabic and Hebrew to that of Greek and Latin.

Nevertheless, in every era, the word humanities "be it in singular or plural form" brings to mind the study of a universal science. "I am a man and nothing related to man is alien to me", as Terence said. The quest for this Renaissance man was the concern of all the great thinkers and all the great creative minds. It still concerns us today.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, mankind believed it would regain an intellectual communion and a common destiny, as well as its freedom. The major idea of the time, which still stands today, was to reconcile the universal nature of values with the diverse nature of cultures. We believed in a homeland for citizens of the world in a global village. It was to be the end of nationalisms and class struggle. It was to be the end of ideologies that functioned like religions. Unfortunately, we very quickly had to stop deluding ourselves and to witness exactly the opposite process. We now know that when Empires retreat, ethnic groups advance, and we also know that religions, for their part, can function as ideologies.

The barbaric start to the twenty-first century is, curiously, the outcome of a major event of emancipation ? the end of Soviet totalitarianism. We thought that ideology had died. However, it continues to flourish, particularly in its Islamic embodiment - a wayward turn of a great religion.

I have had two parallel roles 'one as a man of the media, which consists of living History, and the other as an observer, which consists of thinking about it. Both activities constantly feed off each other, and have led me to a verification and a rule. The verification is that what we usually call the human condition is a swing of a pendulum, a dialectic to-and-fro between uprooting and putting down roots, between intensity and duration, between affirmation of difference and nostalgia for similarity, between unity and multiplicity, homogeneity and heterogeneity, and ultimately, between the desire to die for freedom and the fear of living in solitude; between reason, according to Descartes, and life, according to Unamuno. Moderation, a concept we inherited from the Greeks, consists of respecting opposites and stopping them becoming antagonists.

That is the verification.

As for the rule, I have learnt, as did Camus, that we should not add to human misfortune by lying, and that we should call things for what they are. I have learnt to distrust all thoughts, all texts and all acts that do not aim or manage to avoid antagonism between universal values and the individuality of civilizations.

I began to mistrust those who favour the general to the detriment of the individual and similarity to difference, those who try to find universality in their particular values and who look down on others´ cultures in their fascination with the universal. None of them contribute, I believe, to a heritage of mankind that ranges from the Codes of Hammurabi, the Tablets of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount right down to the maxims of Kant, the great revolutions and the Charter of Human Rights.

However, Your Highnesses, I do not want to forget that I live in a world of misfortune. When this new evil we call terrorism - heir to the absolute evils of Nazism and Bolshevism' is spoken about in my circles, I usually listen first to those who know what they are talking about and have something to say, like the Spanish. They know that even though in principle you can vaguely see the reasons why brother would kill brother, as soon as blood is spilt, it is always the same colour and is unbearable everywhere. Next, you forget why you kill and why you die. Violence only fuels violence. Once history was born of it. Today it devours its children.

There is undoubtedly a desire to maintain a certain familiarity with death within Spanish tradition. However, there is another desire, according to the great philosopher I have quoted -"the tragic sense of life" - spawned of a quest for immortality and a will to live. Rarely has praise and exaltation of all that sparks, fosters and safeguards the will to live been subject to such profound examination. For Unamuno, Don Quixote is obviously the person who best epitomised this.

Today, European life is a value that we defend. In this meeting of free peoples whose wish to live as one honours Mankind, it is a holy cause. Yet it has nevertheless again been suddenly threatened by the forces of death.

Spain has learnt what needs to be done and not done to combat terrorism: not to take on the values of the enemy you want to defeat; not to imitate the enemy´s means with the pretext that the ends are different, because it is precisely the means that justify the ends. To know, in short, that no nation alone can aspire to embody good, virtue and universality. Let us leave that aspiration to God.

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