Alejandro Gaviria in conversation with Sandra Borda

Academia: the place where nobody reads because everyone is busy writing things nobody reads, said a friend of Alejandro Gaviria, who always knows whom to quote to illustrate with great writ the landscape he would like us to observe. In conversation with Sandra Borda, on Sunday morning at the Adolfo Mejía Theater, Gaviria shared his great power to analyze and synthesize his ideas around corruption, politics, social justice and, of course, academia.

He started out speaking about the role of academia in society, stating that every academic article written in Colombia is read by, on average, two people. Despite his critical attitude towards academia, he firmly believes in the importance of universities to stimulate collective dialogue, democratic solutions to issues and refining the worldview of students. Universities exist thanks to the “existential need to connect with the world,” said Gaviria.

As the current head of the University of the Andes, one of the most important universities in the country, Gaviria has been interested in encouraging “the liberal illusion that ideas change the world.” Gaviria considers himself and optimist of evidence, that is, he acknowledges the possibility of social change, as long as critical thinking and new ideas can develop freely.

The conversation began to tackle politics and corruption, another expression of the value of collective efforts. Gaviria believes politicians have a talent for a “maximum of eloquence and a minimum of effectiveness.” When it comes to the portrayal of politics in public debate, corruption is simplistically regarded as the cause of all evil, when we actually have very complex problems that can’t be narrowed down to only that.

Gaviria ended the conversation reading his Tragic Optimism, reflections around morality, existentialism and social justice in the fight for transformation. He finally concludes: “compassion has to be our sincerest way of treading through the world.” So be it, Alejandro, so be it.