Liberation

Our reading of Uranga invites us to consider (the lesson that we should take away) that when the other, be it the European other or the Anglo- Saxon other, presents himself under the aspect of superiority and legitimacy, his affirmations should be held suspect. What we should understand is that the other, like my self, is accidental, and his substantiality is a mere spectacle. Lacking such an understanding, it is easy to see why we (those of us who flee from the recognition of our accidentality and insufficiency) bend to the will and illusion of power—we take the spectacle as real, never seeing it for what it is, namely, a negation like us. We all share in accidentality, and, as Uranga puts it, “accidentality is insufficient in the face of substance, it is precarious in the face of massive and compact being of subsistence” (1952, 39).

More to the point: for an Uranga-type existential analysis to be of value to Mexicans and, ultimately, for Latino/a life, it must lead to the recognition, assumption, and sublation of one’s, and the other’s, ontological insufficiency and accidentality. If we, as humans, understand ourselves as accidents, as fundamentally insufficient, then it is possible to realize that the “meaningful process” that “beckons” our involvement does not demand absolute commitment but merely our (limited and flawed) participation; it does not demand absolute self-control, or total self-mastery, but merely the recognition that our being, insufficient and accidental, is enough for the project of life in which we find ourselves. Moreover, while I can choose to leave the creation of my world to the other, who is likewise constituted as accident, I forfeit my right to demand a different world from the one in which I find myself, regardless of how impoverished that world may be.

The cold-blooded approach to life of the cynic is thought to be the closest one can get to full appropriation of this recognition. “The cynic,” writes Uranga, “lives his insufficiency in the most authentic way possible: everything is a horizon for accidentality and anxiety” (1952, 60). The cynic, that is, exists authentically because she knows in advance that what gives itself as substantial or final might be part of a larger deception; everything is always expected to be something that it is not, and so she has no illusions. But, ultimately, this approach is antithetic to generosity, and so cynicism, as a living in the future of expectation, ceases being an option for us. The option that the analysis of Mexican existence as accident, insufficiency, lacking, fragmentation, and so on gives us is one where each of us exists in the now, not in the future of expectation, facing our limitations and willingly taking on the task of life for ourselves, that, not without significance, implies that in taking it for ourselves we take it for others as well, in acts of solidarity and generosity.

The end result of Uranga’s project is ultimately to bring about those profound transformations mentioned at the start. He writes, “we cannot, we must not, remain the same as we were before after having executed our autognosis” (1952, 10). In other words, in the process of confronting ourselves, our limitations, of accepting our otherness and our sameness, we must expect change as an end to that process: change in ourselves and in our circumstance. This is a lesson that, while I, the reader of Mexican existentialism, could learn elsewhere, comes to me from a familiar place—Mexico, that through blood, family, and history constitutes one- half of my being. And Uranga believes that it is a lesson to be had. As he puts it toward the end of his brilliant text: “We have a lesson to teach, we owe the world a lesson of a crisis that is vital, that is virile [hombruna], that is courageous” (1952, 99). And the lesson here is that we have to look at our human situation in concrete terms, and not in the abstract, as this is the only way in which we can address the existential crises that belong to each of us, to those around us, and finally, to those who we cannot see, namely, the rest of the human community in the now and in the future.

 
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