From the death of Mandela to that of Elizabeth II through the war in Ukraine and Brexit. John Carlin has spent many years dedicating himself to journalism. With his critical eye, the reporter has written throughout all this time on major issues that have marked humanity and now includes some of his articles in his new book The future is what it was (Folch
How did this book come about?
Actually, more than this book, the question is how this thing of dedicating myself to writing opinion columns comes about when I have dedicated my whole life to being a reporter. It is what I do best, in fact, making reports. And I have stopped doing it, or at least full time, because there is much less money in journalism. Before they sent me to Chernobyl or Africa or Mexico and now this is something very complicated. Although I like doing them, sometimes I reflect and come to the conclusion that doing opinion columns is in a way a reflection of the economic state of journalism today.
If you could travel back in time, would you choose to pursue journalism again?
I don't know how to do anything else and I suppose that it would happen to me as at the time, that it would come naturally to me. I confess that it was not something vocational. When I entered university it was not even an option that crossed my mind. It all happened in Buenos Aires, where I went to live when I finished my studies. I had lived there as a child and I felt a certain nostalgia so I went there, despite the fact that they were in full dictatorship. I started writing longer and longer letters to my friends about everything that was going on. I realized that what I was really doing was reporting, and over time I ended up making the logical leap into journalism.
How do you remember that time?
That Argentina, that of the military, is the most sinister country in which I have lived to date. Much more than El Salvador or South Africa during apartheid. It is the closest I have lived to a Nazi context in my life. And that defined me and made me an actively political person. To date it had not been. In England I had a more or less quiet middle class life. And overnight I found myself in a chaotic world where things happened like, for example, my then partner's sister disappearing. From that experience in Argentina I learned to value democracy and started a trade.
Is the world more or less wild than it was?
In terms of material advances we are better than forty or fifty years ago. People live longer too. Also, although there is still a long way to go, there are advances in racism and in sexual freedoms and LGTBIQ rights in the Western world. But basically, we are irrational emotional beings and we will not stop doing crazy things like the war in Ukraine.
Do you believe in a nuclear threat?
I am pleasantly surprised that there has not been a nuclear attack since World War II. I don't know if it's a matter of luck or it's just that in the end we are a less stupid species than it seems. But what is clear is that we live in a situation in which we are closer to this possibility since the Cuban missile crisis. With Putin in charge, a person who does not value human life, anything can happen. But well, we have had other crazy people in front.
Who are you referring to?
To Trump, of course. It is the most aberrant political phenomenon I have ever seen in my life. I'm not saying it's worse than what I experienced in Argentina or Rwanda, but the contrast is brutal. How is it possible that in such a solid democracy this absurd and grotesque character emerges? It's something I never imagined I'd see. But the most worrying thing of all is not him, but that there are so many American voters who believe that this guy is worthy of leading their country.
He has also acknowledged on more than one occasion that he did not believe Brexit would take place.
It was unthinkable. I was living in London when it happened. I was devastated when I found out the results. I was living in London when Brexit happened. I remember going into my son's room and finding him and his friend. I looked at them and felt a stab in my stomach when I realized that none of them is going to have the privilege that I have had of being able to live in any European country and work and move around without a passport. All this had just been denied.
He has come to compare it with the Procés
The most obvious comparison is with Scotland. If the Scots had done what was done here, an illegal referendum, I am sure the reaction of the government, the media and the London establishment would have been to mock them. They wouldn't have taken them seriously, and they certainly wouldn't have sent agents. What a big mistake.
How do you think Mandela would have acted in this situation?
If he had been the Spanish president, he would have acted with more head. He would have traveled to Catalonia and called a meeting with the most important active forces there. He would have summoned them all in an emblematic place like the Palau de la Música and there he would have recognized that there are reasons for historical resentment but he would have somehow made it clear that there are more things that unite than separate. In Spain life is not bad at all.
Do you like life here?
You see what is happening in the United States and the United Kingdom and you realize that in Spain we are doing quite well, all things considered. Although it is not perfect, Spanish democracy has a point of maturity that you do not see in Anglo-Saxon countries, for example. Still, perfection does not exist. What place would be the closest to that utopia? What do I know, maybe Iceland. Anyway, in a country like Iceland or Spain, complaining is optional. You can live more or less outside of politics and your life is not going to change much.
The future is what it was. Why did you choose this title for her book?
It is the headline of one of my articles and I think it defined the concept of the book well. I wrote it when we were in full covid. Every day there was speculation about how the pandemic would change the world. We would be more supportive, more ecological, kinder and we would live everything with less haste. But the reality is that nothing has changed at all. But Homer already warned about that in his day, that nothing changes despite everything.