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14 / 06 / 2004
Humberto Maturana: “Democracy is an attempt at coexistence, it is based on mutual respect”

The Forum´s 141 questions (36): “Why is `democracy´ a feminine noun and `power´ a masculine noun in the Spanish language?” Humberto Maturana, Chilean biologist and scientist, convincingly said “this has nothing to do with human gender, but rather with Spanish grammar”

More information about 141 questions

Today’s session of “141 questions,” moderated by journalist, Francesc Cruanyes, was characterized by the wide participation of the public. Maturana´s brief initial participation gave rise to the questions from the numerous people who participated in the gathering, which took place inside in Hall 117 in the Convention Center at the Forum Site.

Humberto Maturana stated that “power is based on obedience, the person who obeys gives power to the person who orders.” He stated that “men and woman can be equally discriminating, gender doesn’t matter. It depends on the relationship that we as humans establish among ourselves. This deals with relational behavior, it is a way of relating oneself to others, it has nothing to do with the masculine or feminine gender. It is not biological, but cultural.”

Maturana used the example of the shrew, a very common animal in central Europe. This animal, he explained, regularly repeats its path in its daily life. This said, if the shrew changes its path, it returns to its cave, and starts the path again. “First it is surprised, then it repeats the path, and then it invents a new one. Something similar also happens to humans. When there isn’t a routine we become disoriented, but, in the end, we are creative.”

In answer to a participant’s question, he reminded the public of something he has said in the past (“love is above all respecting the legitimacy of the other”), Maturana stated that “love has nothing to do with feelings, it is a way of relational behavior.” The Chilean biologist and scientist insisted that the semantic value of words do not condition their meaning, what does condition them, however, is the emotion that receives them. “The problem is not in the masculine and feminine gender, it is rooted in the relation of power and submission.” Maturana added that “Democracy is an attempt at coexistence, it is based on mutual respect. Democracy is an intentional act: it is a creative act, a work of art” that is built everyday day.

It is an answer to a public intervention, Maturana wanted to make clear that he doesn’t deny the masculine and feminine genders, but rather he defends the fact that the way human beings relate to one another can be changed, “it’s a matter of attitude.” He said that the history of humanity has not always been patriarchal. He reminded the public of examples of central-European cultures from the period 8,000-5,000 BC, from which archeological evidence is preserved that shows that there are no differences between women and men. “We are living our history, but it hasn’t always been like that. We have to respect differences because they exist: we are men and women, but we are all human beings.” In his opinion, the relationships that we establish between one another are another thing. We have to want to change this type of relationship and, to do so, start with the education of the young ones.