Javier Elzo is Sociologist, emeritus professor at the University of Deusto where he has worked for several years. He was principal researcher for Spain in the “European Values Study”. He, perhaps more than anyone else, knows the Basque youth. A committed intellectual, his ideas are taken into consideration in circles which carry out analyses on European youth.
What references does the Basque youth have nowadays?
This is a difficult question. One would be tempted to say that there are no references for the youth group as a whole, since this youth group as a whole doesn’t really exist. There are many young people out there, but I couldn’t vouch for a multiplicity of references because the youth mosaic is different. If one had to point out a reference that is shared by most young people, then I’d have to say the point of reference is the youth group itself.
The current young generation, as a whole, is the first one to try and make its own rules. What this means is that all the inputs they receive are measured by their vital experience, something which has both pros and cons. In contrast with earlier generations during different historical moments, when society was more closed-minded than now and without the current broad outlook, it is now more difficult to distinguish their references. Forty years ago, it was easy to perceive a series of references or models that young people looked up to. Not just one or two, but a series of clear references or values –this is impossible today–. I realize that the answer to this question is complicated, but it is important to realize that we are dealing with a highly complex reality.
Yet, when we talk about values, one of your books comes to mind: “Values of the Basque and Navarra People” Are Basque and Navarra people different?
No, no. Actually, the title of the book should be explained. It is the third book of a series corresponding to 1990, 1995 and 2000, in the “Deusto Group Values Study” at the University of Deusto, within the framework of a the “European Values Study”, something that I’ve been working on for quite a number of years. The title of the work itself sheds some light on the changing relationship between the Basque and Navarra Autonomous Communities. Three of my studies focused on Euskal Herria1, the first of which was published with the title “Are Basques Different? Euskalerria within the context of the European Values Study”. In the second study, I was not allowed to use the term Euskal Herria and it was published as: “Values in the Basque and Navarra Autonomous Communities. Developments from 1990-1995”. The third was called: “Basque and Navarra people in the new millennium. Third application of the European Values Study (1990, 1995, 1999)”. Next May, we start with the next part of the field study. I have no idea what title I’ll be allowed to use, because the work is funded by the Basque Government (we are also seeking funds from Navarra) and it will be a political decision. At any rate, I’m quite sure that I’ll have to clearly differentiate between the two...
The two communities...
Yes, two different communities.
As if the two had different values?
It was really just an issue of funding. If I didn’t agree to use that title, they wouldn’t publish my work.
I hope you didn’t have to change the content...
The content of the study had been written beforehand and choosing the title was the last step. There really aren’t any major differences between the two Communities. The results of the study speak for themselves: Basques as a whole –excuse me, the people of the Basque Autonomous Community– lean leftwards on the political spectrum and they are slightly more post-modern than their Navarra counterparts. However, if we study the results more carefully, we observe that a greater proportion of young people in Navarra are non-religious or self-proclaimed atheists and non-believers. If we continue to sift through the data, it is clear that the society in Navarra is less homogeneous than in the Basque Autonomous Community. Navarra society is more heterogeneous and the value systems tend to be more polarized than in the Basque Autonomous Community.
That’s interesting, isn’t it?
I think the answer lies in history, which is beyond my academic scope. What I do know is that in Navarra there is a strong element of traditionalism that is alive and well today. In part, and in response to this traditionalism, there has been a powerful movement –groundbreaking, actually– that is akin to the most radical postmodernist outbreaks, often more powerful than what can be observed in the province of Bizkaia, which is home to the most balanced society of all. What I mean by this is simply that it has the least standard deviation, statistically speaking, while Navarra has the highest standard deviation, followed closely by the province of Álava. Álava is another fascinating phenomenon: although to a lesser extent than in Navarra, we can find minority groups that display traits closely associated with radical postmodernism. In fact, the province of Gipuzkoa, as a whole, is the most well-versed in the spirit of postmodernism and I would venture to say that this is due to French influence.
It seems contradictory because when we talk about the radical left wing, it doesn’t seem to be so obvious in Navarra and Alava...
You won’t find the majority of leftists there, but the ones that are there are generally very radical, even more so than in Gipuzkoa.
So these are the movements that set the trend. Are there any others?
No, these are the ones that really set the trend. As I said before, the majority of Navarra tends toward rightwing politics and left-wingers are a minority, but if we dig more deeply and make distinctions, we can find greater disparities in Navarra than in Gipuzkoa, for example, where young people are more militant, farther left and more ardent regionalists than anywhere else. Gipuzkoa is also more homogeneous than Navarra and...
Yes, than Álava as well, but not more than Bizkaia, which, as a whole, is more clear-cut, more right-wing and it is the society that is best equipped to harmonize its role as being both Basque and Spanish; it is also the place where the militant left is the least significant. It is fascinating to observe that in some cases the borders between provincialism, Basque nationalism and the Partido Popular are quite fuzzy. From a sociological standpoint, it is important to understand that greater Bilbao, in my opinion –after working for 26 years at the University of Deusto– is the Guggenheim Museum. Everything that can be seen from my office in Deusto and everything it implies stems from the dynamics of the Museum; that is, a concomitance of a moderate Basque nationalism with a strong dose of bizkaitarrismo or provincialism, combined somehow with the Basquism of the local Partido Popular, which is in fact very moderate and provincial in character.
There is no doubt that there has been a clear change of votes during the last thirty years from PNV in Bizkaia to the Partido Popular. This phenomenon must be understood in a context of political centrality, both provincialist and Basquist; above all, Basque, but quite different to what is considered to be Basque by some people in Navarra and Alava, and very different from the perspective of many people in Gipuzkoa.
I think I know what you mean. Young people in Bizkaia that are not militant are often more Basquist than a non-militant youth in Gipuzkoa...
In a way, but I’m referring to both youths and adults. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the non-militant youth from Bizkaia is more Basquist; actually, I believe they are less anti-Basque than in Alava and far less than in Navarra and, to some extent, some sectors in Gipuzkoa. Right now, for example, the anti-Basquism (to coin the expression) of the Partido Popular in Gipuzkoa and its spokesperson, María San Gil is far more radical than bouts of anti-Basquism that come from Basagoiti in Bilbao. The same occurs, of course, with young people.
Yes, but are the values and objectives of our youth more concentrated?
Well, I believe that if you are referring to values in general, then our conversation is taking a political turn, isn’t it? Okay, if we compare with the situation thirty years ago, which is a long time ago, I am convinced that it would be historically accurate to say that the basic trend or undercurrent has not varied. No matter how you look at it, Euskal Herria, is made up of the Autonomous Basque Community, Navarra and Iparralde2 (I have also carried out studies in Iparralde) and I conclude that the undercurrent remains the same. What I mean is that society is just as nationalist today as it was thirty years ago, with only slight differences. What has changed? Very simply put: outer appearances, vocal expression, its significance, the externalization of the personal feeling of Basque nationalism or non-nationalism. Of being a radical militant or not; a spirit that existed thirty or forty years ago and that is still with us today, but manifested in a different way.
Thirty years ago, there seemed to be a need to externalize the fact that you were a nationalist: when the ikurriña3 was legalized, when new political parties arose, when on San Sebastian day the old quarter was full of waving ikurriñas. And yet, today this is not the case, or at least not as much. Some say that young people are becoming apolitical. What is true is that the fervency and the power that this implied just thirty years ago is no longer with us. Nevertheless, at exceptional moments and when society is deeply concerned, such as in the 2001 elections, the streets were filled with people, young and old. At first glance, one could conclude that politics is simply less appealing now than thirty years ago. There is no doubt that from a political standpoint, the visual indicators of protest marches, in particular on Aberri Eguna4, and the number of flags has decreased sharply. Despite this undercurrent, the act of voting and where one sits on the political spectrum are all still very important notions for both adults and young people.
Maybe if someone asked us thirty years ago, we would have clamoured about freedom and even of independence, because these were our top objectives. But if today all of this is relegated, and in spite of the continuing undercurrent, what are our top objectives today?
The main concerns that young people have in their minds today correspond more or less with what adults are worrying about. I have argued for many years and I am confident that I can demonstrate that the values of young people and adults do not differ. They simply experience these values in a different way.
The fundamental values in today’s society are markedly prosaic: the values of well-being, living well, enjoying vital comforts, and constantly increasing worries about money. Another important factor is leisure and the work-leisure coefficient that one can achieve. It seems that today the most important aspect of life is the day-to-day, everyday, local, what is close at hand. This may be why many people are now identifying themselves with the city or town in which they live. Over time, it can be observed that the feeling of belonging to Spain has lost its essence, while the motivations derived from belonging to a localized place are gaining ground: I’m from Donostia, Arrasate or Getxo. The value of belonging to the Autonomous Community has risen throughout Spain, with the only significant exception being Madrid. This attachment has grown in Catalonia, Andalusia, Galicia and, possibly most sharply, in Euskadi.
The sense of belonging to Europe remains intact, although its importance is slowly increasing, while the idea of forming a part of the world is having its ups and downs. What values can be interpreted from these tendencies? The values of proximity, closeness, happiness on a day-to-day basis and all of this, somehow, is the other side of the coin of globalization, of not really knowing where the political, economic or true power lies. We cannot fish anchovies without a permit, but this permit is no longer issued from Madrid –now it comes from Brussels–. We really don’t know what is happening with the money we have saved up in the credit union or bank and we don’t know what will become of it, since the destiny of our hard-earned money is in the hands of the management of some unknown funds by a group of people from Shanghai and the New York Stock Exchange. This is giving rise to a feeling of smallness, of having no relationship with important decisions that are made somewhere else, but that have a direct effect on our daily lives. Debt-laden homebuyers are mainly concerned with what’s happening to their money. All of this spurs a reflex action towards what is near, comprehensible, close by. It is a serious perceptual error to declare that in this globalised world, local nationalisms are futile. What is really happening is the opposite, one need look no further than all of the new states that have formed in Europe in recent years.
You began speaking about the values of our youth. You then referred to proximity and comprehensibility. Tell me about your book, “Youth and Happiness”...
This work is my attempt to explain what happiness means to a young person. There’s a story behind it. Adela Cortina invited me to a conference in Valencia during a summer congress at the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo. She had organized a seminar on well-being with guest anthropologists, moralists, sociologists, philosophers, psychiatrists and psychologists. She asked me to speak about youth and happiness, so I studied the subject and in the end published this book. The main encumbrance I found was that I needed to define what happiness really was. At that same time, a book came out called “The Myth of Happiness” by Gustavo Bueno offering 260 definitions of happiness. I asked myself which one could be valid and then decided to change tack by analyzing the fact that when I interview young people, I can tell whether or not they are really happy, if they are having a good time, if they are a little bored or bored stiff. So, I concluded that “if a person goes to football matches it is because they like football and if people read books, then it is because they enjoy it.” If we consider how people use their free time, as a function of their preferences, as a function of their system of values, as a function of vital aspects, some young people say they are happier than others –I’m not saying they are, but simply that they say they are–. In this line, I wrote about the subjective happiness of young people and the factors that are associated with it.
This was my overall conclusion: First, girls tend to say they are happy more than boys do. Second, and this is fundamental, young persons that have a life project, whether it is clear-cut or incipient, are happier. Young persons that have an ethical outlook towards life are happier, which is line with the Socratic ideal of a happy man as a virtuous man, a fair man; and now 23 centuries later, surveys show that a young person who is virtuous, who is fair, who is cynical and responsible, feels and says that he or she is happy.
Another parameter is that altruists tend to say they are happy, which calls to mind Mathew 25: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink...” The idea of helping your neighbour, worrying about what goes on in your community, in your neighbourhood, in the world. All of this is accompanied by external indicators: the young person affiliated with Doctors Without Borders or Amnesty International or a Charity Organization or, in general, the young person that is concerned and restless, whatever it is, says that he or she is happy. Thus, the second important principle: happiness is correlated to altruism.
There are more conclusions, but one that really caught my attention, since it was the first one that I reached, was that there was a correlation among the use of free time on the weekend, alcohol and drug consumption and the subjective feeling of happiness. In all of the surveys taken, it showed that young people that said they were most unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives were the highest consumers of alcohol and drugs, the ones who drank more, who got home late drunk or high. I have to say that this was a great surprise for me.
Where was this survey taken?
In Euskadi and in Spain. But we’re not dealing with a single survey; I wouldn’t dare make such a statement based on a single survey. I was the first one to be surprised and as a professor (and now emeritus) at Deusto, I analyzed the data with my students. In one of my sociology lectures dealing with values, a girl in the class said: “Baina, Javier, hori normala da, horiek edaten daude gau osoan, eta iristen dira mozkortuta etxera. Gizajoak dira, gizajo hutsak dira,” which means, “It’s obvious, isn’t it? These poor souls get home in a state where they can’t even stand up straight. Of course they’re unhappy; not only that, we try to kick these people out of our group.” This was stunning and even had some exposure in the media, which doesn’t mean to say that happy boys and girls are only the ones that stay home listening to Wagner or Bach and reading Kant, no. The “homebody” is not the happiest, not in the least.
And this is another fundamental idea: the subjective feeling of happiness is highly correlated to a sense of harmony, generally between work time and leisure time. It is the harmony attained by kids who work, go to school and have fun with their friends, not just acquaintances, but friends, who are happy and go out and even overdo the fun part of it sometimes, but no problem.
I’m really happy with the book because it has given me personal satisfaction. When it came out in 2006, it had quite a bit of exposure and even though it was a reflective work, it sold quite well. Actually, it’s the only one that’s made me a little money. (laughing)
From what you’re saying then, happiness has something to do with altruism, solidarity, NGOs, charity, etc. I’m aware of your extensive involvement with Christian organizations. How is traditional religion understood among young people today?
Actually, religion, or religiosity if you prefer, has to be understood from two perspectives, which I defined and have been defending since my thesis in 1986. It is important to differentiate what I call the experience of religion or personal religious ideas from institutional religiosity. The experience of religion is the sense of religion derived by persons in relation to the fundamental issues in their lives: Who am I? Why am I here? Does life have any meaning? Thoughts about evil, happiness, life after death or is there nothing after this. This religion of experience is fundamental and it has a relatively high relevance among young people today. Current statistics show that around 30% of kids ask themselves these questions and, in some cases, quite frequently. Another 30% never raise these issues and the rest only do so once in a while.
Therefore, this religion of experience is always present, mainly because it involves the very origins of religion; that is, questions men and women have been asking themselves throughout the ages. In this sense, churches and organized religion are just society’s response to these issues. This is how religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam arose.
The second aspect of religion is religious institutions, which here in Euskadi means over ninety percent Catholic, if we don’t count the immigrants with different faiths. However, Basque society is secularizing and straying away from this modality of faith at a brusque and almost brutal rate in recent years. Starting with the Vatican Council of 1962 and the political transition in the mid 1970s, in a span of 12-13 years, Basque society has been greatly secularized and a part of the reason is the explosive changes for us and the western world imposed by ETA.
Today’s youth had not been born yet, but they continue to wean and live out these fundamental changes that rocked Euskadi in the span of a few short years. It was a real eye-opener for me to discover while writing my thesis in 1986 that young autochthonous people often showed a lower sense of institutional religion than young non-autochthonous people. It was clear that, a sense of institutional religion was only sustained by PNV voters and even this was decreasing. Among the young adults who voted HB, religion had been practically eradicated. The PSOE and Partido Popular militants were caught somewhere in the middle.
At an intellectual level, this was a shock for me. I didn’t expect it. I still had my notions of the euskaldun fededun... and yet, these results portrayed a non-traditional euskaldun5. I was familiar with the study made in the mid 1970s in Vitoria (R. Duocastella, J. Lorca and S. Miser. Sociology and Pastoral in a dioceses: Vitoria. Publicaciones del I.S.PA (Pastoral Institute of Applied Sociology) Vitoria 1965), which analyzes the degree of institutional religiosity in the people of Vitoria at that time in comparison to newcomers from other areas in Spain. The authors observe significant differences: the locals had notoriously higher levels of institutional religiosity, religious practice, confessional views, belief in God and faith in the Virgin. I found myself twenty years later confronted with the reverse situation. The young PNV voter had a sense of religion that was equivalent to the young socialists and was less religious than the young adults who voted for the Partido Popular, while the people in the sphere of HB were out of the picture, since it was rare to find any kids among them that had any inkling of religious curiosity.
There is another element that would require further study. I have contemplated it for a long time now, but it hasn’t been studied in depth yet. There are towns in Euskadi, such as Ataun, where 40 years ago it was hard to find a family without one of their sons or daughters in the service of the Church. Just 25 years ago, the area of Goierri was a breeding ground for militants and radical ETA supporters. This phenomenon can be observed in other areas as well, but there is insufficient data. If I’m not mistaken, I was the first sociologist to address this issue in the XII Congress of Eusko Ikaskuntza in 1993. Further analysis has been performed by Izaskun Sáez de la Fuente in her doctoral thesis, published by Desclee in 2002. But there is still a lot to study in this respect if we are to gain insight on this transcendental phenomenon in Euskal Herria that hints at the displacement from religious faith to the political arena.
You’ve spoken about the proximity of values and the day-to-day search for happiness. Therefore, the future projection of kids today is quite short, isn’t it? Is it possible to operate with utopias in a horizon of proximity?
I believe this is one of the tragic deficits in Euskadi. The kids have some highly positive values and it would be unfair to say that our youth lacks ideals. This would be a lie. They have values, of course they have values, and some of them are positive.
In general, young people place a high value of loyalty, honesty, transparent social, educational and labour relations..., fair dealing, anti-nepotism, not getting something simply because you know somebody with influence. This is a great outlook and I can safely say that today’s young people have surpassed our own generation at this moral level, in which we generally understood that if your father had friends in high places, then you could get ahead faster. This is no longer acceptable to today’s youth and this is an important value.
Nevertheless, the proximity you’re referring to tends to limit our youths’ view of the future. In general, young people are fairly well-focused on the day-to-day, on the present and what is on hand. This is not just the case with youth, but it is more preoccupying when it happens with young people. This idea of focusing on the present, of just thinking about today and limiting oneself to solving the problems at hand, makes it more difficult for anybody to make long term commitments. This often leads to actions that shock us, the adults... for example, I have data that shows that parents with 25 year old sons or daughters are generally more worried about their child’s career than their own. Young people are generally planning ahead for 3-4 years. As a professor, I sometimes have to deal with students that have failed one of my exams; they cry and they beg me to pass them and when I explain to them that their exam results are just too low to do anything about it, they take it very calmly and just say that they can try again in the September exam session or just repeat the class- no problem. In such cases, the professor is greatly concerned and usually more worried than the students themselves.
I find it surprising when I see young people today form a couple and go into debt together for 30, 40 or even 50 years in the purchase of a home, when everyone knows that one in three couples end up in divorce, maybe even more. It’s not just the separation; most of them will remarry and start up another family unit. And sometimes, a third. So if the probable scenario for young people today that are 22, 24, or 25 years old is to get married, have one or two kids, get divorced, remarry and maybe have another kid, then how are they going to manage the mortgages? How are they going to manage their lives? It seems that we are more concerned about these events than they are.
What I’m trying to say is that this is a symptom of over-focusing on the present and the lack of the ability to look at and plan for the future. This worries the adults because our generation has always had to look forward, while the kids are living in the present, something that gives them a strong capacity for instant adaptation –our own generation lacks this–. And this trait of not worrying about the future, which would seem to be a counter-value, has actually become a significant value in the volatile society in which we are now living, with constant change. Young people are equipped to adapt to such changes and we have a hard time understanding them.
So what you’re saying Javier is that there is no longer a capacity for utopia?
I think that utopia for today’s kids is found in the present. This is not escapism- it is well thought out. I don’t think their utopia is in the future, it is in their day-to-day operation. This is why they insist on demanding legality now, day-to-day frankness, things having to be correct right now, for the rules of the game to be clear today and to have access to the right and loyal answers immediately. The notion of today’s blood, sweat and tears for a better tomorrow... absolutely not. “Euskadik behar zaitu” or look towards the future. No way. This cult of the present shouldn’t be looked at as something negative, because it is the pursuance of a present utopia that involves a more loyal and just society- this is how our youth puts it. As well, and just like us adults, they have a very hard time visualizing the future. I have the obligation of keeping up with my profession, of studying and reading, and I also find it quite difficult to imagines myself in ten years. Who really has the ability to project themselves in this way? What will the state of affairs be in Euskadi in a decade? Who could have told the people of Montenegro ten years ago that they would become an independent state? Let’s take a political issue that can be demonstrated: What will Euskadi be like in ten years? Will we enjoy autonomy inside the Spanish state? Will the pursuance of autonomy peter out and will people just say, “Leave me alone, I don’t want problems”? Will we become an independent state? I don’t have the answers to these questions.
Will the new generation of young sociologists be able to work with the same parameters as your generation or can we expect a revolution? I’m asking this because it seems that you are speaking from the perspective of a fragmented society that is stuck in the present. The puzzle is complex in the family scenario that you have just portrayed. Will the parameters that have been valid for decades now become worthless?
I don’t really know. Regarding the future, my concern goes well beyond Euskadi, even Spain. I think our future problems have to be confronted at a planetary level. Future sociologists will need to formulate new parameters as new forms of society arise that have nothing to do with current society. We are experiencing profound changes today, although the basic values that people have are not that different from what they were forty years ago. I would even venture to say that they are not a far cry from the values of our grandparents.
My main concern about the future is that we are in the midst of a spiral of consumption, in which capital is king, money is the supreme value, no one really knows who holds the power, the wealth differential among countries is on the rise, the wealth differential among persons in the same society is also increasing, poverty is widespread and nobody can really tell where all this will lead us.
I enjoy reading Edgar Morin, who has also been an inspiration to Sarkozy. Who would have thought that someone like Edgar Morin could say that we are heading for an abyss! He is over eighty years old and his only aim is to tell the truth. I’m not sure if we are on the abyss, but I do have the sense that our society has lost direction and that the greatest effect on society right now is economics. If you consult financial people, they will agree. We are seeing concentrations of companies that greatly worries me. I can only think of one reason for the three Basque savings banks to fuse into a single entity. I was much more comfortable with the municipal or provincial savings bank, because my dealings were at a human level, people there knew me and relations were warm. The only advantage to the fusion seems to be that if they don’t join forces, then tomorrow they’ll be under the control of Tokyo banks, which will eat them for breakfast. This is the argument that I am given and I have to shut up, because that is our future... Is this utopia? If so, in a few years, the world will only have 3, 4 or 5 major banks and another 3, 4 or 5 consortiums that will make all the important decisions. At my age of 66, I can only rebel against this hypothesis.
Yes, but this isn’t the fault of the younger generations!
Of course not! They are not to blame.
This is really our own doing.
Yes, sadly, but among us, some more than others...
I firmly believe we are living in a moment in which we need philosophers more than sociologists. We need to think about where we want to go. People need to think. A critical mass of thinkers is needed and these people should be allowed to help govern the world. The low calibre of our leaders in Euskadi and Spain worries me. They aren’t leaders, just managers. Their political parties have been transformed into platforms that are almost exclusively dedicated to getting power. We can see this very clearly during the electoral terms –everything they do seems to be focused on maintaining power or getting more of it–. I don’t think that is what being a leader should be all about. Why is this the case? Are all politicians intrinsically bad? I don’t think so and maybe the question should be: Who aspires to be a politician? Who is willing to renounce a professorship in a university or a post in a research facility or make more money as a notary public or registrar, in order to go into politics? Who is willing to live a life open to shame and insult from today’s pitiless media? Why give up the comfort and the safety? Is this sacrifice made to satisfy the ego or is it just lust for power? It is not just a matter of poor leadership, but also of the sad fact that very few people want to go into this line of work. Other than people like Zapatero and Rajoy, who... haven’t the faintest idea of what leadership means.
So we are stuck in a vicious cycle...
Yes, that’s right. We are in a vicious cycle. Why? Because we don’t have leaders that are capable of thought. Some do think... for example, I think John Paul II was a good leader in some ways, but his folly was that he lasted too long. A twenty six year pontificate in a rapidly changing society is just too long. I have always said that the Catholic Church should make changes and make them quickly. First, change the system so that all Episcopal and papal nominations are temporary and without the possibility of renewal. Second, whatever a man can do for the Church, a woman can do the same. I don’t think that requires further explanation.
And how many years is Javier Elzo going to wait for that to happen?
I’m not going to see it, but I’m sure it’s going to happen.
Recently, Bishop José María Setién told me that he is not scared of the structure of the Church. What scares him is the people that are being placed in that structure. This concern is in line with your concerns...
Yes, but there is an advantage and I trust that Setién would agree with me: the Episcopal mediocrity today, at least in the world that we can perceive. The advantage of this Episcopal mediocrity is that if tomorrow a Pope comes along and says, “Not this way, let’s change,” most of the Bishops are so mediocre that they will simply accede, without a murmur. This is why today’s Church has its problems with the Company of Jesus, because the latter is not mediocre. Their obedience to Ignacio de Loyola and their notion of loyalty to the Pope is not shared by the Bishops. The Jesuits say “if you want me to go and wash dishes in the remotest place in Africa, I’ll go. But if you want me to think in a certain way, it will depend on whether I agree with you or not.” Obviously, if this divergence increases, the Company will have to leave. In this sense, I would like to translate the institutional maturity of the Jesuits to the Catholic Church. But I see that my rambling has led to the subject of the Church and...
This type of crisis is manifested more strongly among young people, obviously...
The biggest problem that young people express to me is that while trying to be good Catholics, they discover fundamental values that they never even thought existed. Probably, as adults, we haven’t been able to transmit these values to them. The concept of universal fraternity, for example, which we owe to Paul when he confronted the Council of Jerusalem and, for me, was the fundamental council of the Church. Peter, as successor of Jesus, tried along with James and his brother, Zebedee, to limit the Church to the Jews, as a sect within the Jewish world, and nothing else. Just like the Essenes and the Zealots. Paul said no way, because Christ had died for all of us. And no more circumcision rituals, since he was sharply opposed to this ritual. This was the point where the Church became universal; that is, catholic in the literal sense. This is the notion of universal fraternity, of a single God. The other important aspect is that of incarnation, of an incarnated God. We are unlike others that have a God who is there, but suddenly goes and dictates, through the medium of the face of Saint Gabriel, what needs to be done about Mohamed. For us, there is a figure of a person that is a man and that is God. Everything we can say about God is through a specific man. This gives a whole new dimension to religion and it establishes the historicity of the religious phenomenon. This is of capital importance. If I accept the historicity of the religious phenomenon via the figure of Jesus, then I cannot negate the historicity of the religious phenomenon when it takes the form of Mohamed, for example, thus obligating me to enter into contact and sustain an interfaith dialogue. This fact, along with the concept of catholicity, opens the door to interfaith discourse. This gives Ratzinger goose bumps, but we’ll see what happens after Ratzinger!
It is true that there are many concepts that we haven’t transmitted. Javier, you spoke before of the day-to-day utopia. A long time ago, John Lennon declared that “the dream is over.” I’m not sure if dreams are possible now, but I’d like to ask you this last question: Would you like to be a young person today?
Every time someone asks me this... the answer is always no. I do not miss my adolescent years, because it is just my own story and it is not important. There is a local artist from San Sebastian, Munoa, who I speak with often and who says that he is glad he is not a young person in today’s world. I find this cruel, because it is anti-Faustian. It’s the myth of Faust, but the other way around. I must confess, and this probably betrays my old age and senility, that I’d be scared to be young today. Of course, this fear is felt from my standpoint as an adult. I can’t be young. I write about youth, I write a lot and I’ve become a bit of a reference in this field... proof of this is that you are interviewing me right now. Many people consult me about subjects related to youth. I am fully conscious of the fact that when I write about young people, I’m not doing it because I’d like to feel younger and be more like them. I am not like them and I can’t be like them. This is why I wouldn’t want to be young at this moment- my personal education is not the same as the personal education of young people today. However, I truly believe that, deep inside, I can understand how they think. I confirm this every time I have conversations with them, something I try to do often now that I have retired from lectures. I never say no to conferences or seminars if I know the audience will be full of young people. I need their feedback. I am proud to say that young people agree with how I portray them, how they breathe, how they feel. But this doesn’t mean I wish I was young again. 1 Translator’s Note: Euskal Herria is the traditional name in the Basque language for Basque homeland. 2 Translator’s Note: Iparralde is the part of the Basque homeland within French borders. 3 Translator’s Note: Ikurriña is the name of the Basque flag in the Basque language. 4 Translator’s Note: Aberri Eguna is the Basque national holiday. 5 Translator’s Note: Euskaldun is the Basque term referring to members of their people. Francisco Javier Elzo Imaz
(Beasain, 1942) Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Deusto. Prime researcher for Spain in the “European Values Study”. Social researcher, preferably in the areas of “Systems of Values and of Relation”. “Sociology of Young People”, “Sociology of the family”, “Sociology of Youth Violence” and “Epidemiology and Sociology of Drug Addiction”. Among his publications the most notable, since 2000 are: “Valores Sociales y Drogas1” (2001),“Joventut i seguretat a Catalunya: Els Comportaments problemàtics dels joves escolaritzats”. Curs 2000-2001, (2002), “Hijos y Padres: comunicación y conflictos2” (2002), “Para una sociología del estudio de los valores3” (2002), “Familia y religión: ¿libertad religiosa o confrontación?4” (2003), “L’Occident et l´Islam: diálogue ou conflit” (2003), “La violencia juvenil: modalidades, diagnóstico sociológico y elementos de prevención5” (2003), “Tipología y modelos de relación familiar6”. (2003). “Más allá del botellón: análisis socioantropológico del consumo de alcohol en los adolescentes y jóvenes7” (2003), “La familia, entre la añoranza estéril y las incertidumbres del futuro8” (2004). “Euskadi hoy, claves para educar y construir un futuro pacífico9” (2005). “L’educació del futur i els valors” (2005), “Valores e identidades en los jóvenes10” in “Jóvenes españoles 2005”, “La educación familiar en un mundo en cambio11” (2005), “Los jóvenes y la felicidad12” (2006), “Los padres ante los valores a transmitir a los hijos13” (2006). “Jóvenes, Valores, Drogas” (2006), “La familia como agente de socialización en la sociedad actual14” (2007), “Socialización, género y familia15” (2007), “Etiología de la violencia juvenil16” (2007), “Enquesta de convivencia escolar i seguretat a Catalunya Curs 2005-2206”, (2007), “Evolución de valores en Euskadi 1975-200617” (2007), “Secularización y secularismo18” (2007), “Religión y religiosidad en España19” (2008). In the publication “Drogas y Escuela VII”. He is currently working on various research projects in the Basque Country and Catalonia, on a new book on Spanish adolescents, and on the European research on values in 2008 and their application to Spain and the Basque Country (field work May 2008). Born in Beasain in 1942, married, has one son and one daughter.
1 Social values and drugs. 2 Children and parents: communication and conflict. 3 Towards sociology of value studies. 4 Family and religion: religious freedom or confrontation? 5 Youth violence: modality, sociological diagnosis and prevention elements. 6 Typology and models of family relation. 7 Going beyond street boozing: socio-anthropological analysis of alcohol consumption in adolescents and young people. 8 The family, between sterile yearning and future uncertainties. 9 The Basque country today, keys to educate and build a peaceful future. 10 Values and identities in young people. 11 Family education in a changing world. 12 Young people and happiness. 13 Parents facing the values to transmit to their children. 14 The family as a socialising agent in current society. 15 Socialisation, gender and family. 16 Aetiology of youth violence. 17 Evolution of values in the Basque Country. 18 Secularisation and secularism. 19 Religion and religiousness in Spain.