Commitment to liberty of expression, Mexico 2009

Carlos Slim signed as witness of honor the Commitment to Liberty of Expression, Mexico 2009, convened by the Foundation for the Liberty of Expression AC, (FUNDALEX).  The ceremony was held in the presence of the press, experts and researchers from different disciplines.
August 17, 2009 Mexico City.

The signing ceremony was held in the National Museum of Anthropology where Mr. Slim underlined that “responsible, committed and universal liberty of expression is needed for the functioning of our new civilization”.   He referred to this while speaking about the society of services that we live in today, and after having recalled different periods in the history of humankind.

“What is important about this new civilization is that is based on the wellbeing of others”, he added, “social investment, which is not a public sector expenditure, is indeed an investment; it deals with nutrition, education, and the possibility of establishing a social network with minimum benefits, with reduced current expenditures, and greater public and private investment as feedback for growth.  This growth is what will sustain our new society.”

FUNDALEX President, Armando Prida Huerta, stated that there is no liberty without responsibility; when liberty of expression dies, silence speaks.

Some of the most important principles defended by this international commitment, particularly in Latin America and Spain, are:  to guarantee liberty of expression, safeguards for this liberty, pluralism and diversity, the right to access information, education in liberty and other topics involving the media (public and private), new technologies, etc.

The Commitment to Liberty of Expression, Mexico 2009, is comprised of 19 principles.  Signatory parties to the Commitment must strive for these efforts, actions and activities in order to fulfill those principles.

Statement of Mr. Carlos Slim during the signing ceremony of the Commitment to Liberty of Expression, Mexico 2009, in the National Museum of Anthropology, August 17, 2009.

Good morning.  I am grateful to the Directive Council of the Foundation for the Liberty of Expression for having invited me and I would like to take this opportunity to describe our new civilization and its new paradigms.

A new era has recently begun, due to remarkable scientific and technological progress, entailing an accelerated increase in productivity that allows us to produce more and better products and services, in less time and at lower cost, with renewed opportunities to create more and better jobs and revenues.

The paradigms underlying these new societies and this new civilization are:  liberty, democracy, pluralism, diversity, creativity, division of powers, human rights, environmental protection, accountability, social mobility, human capacity building through higher education and digital education, social wellbeing, globalization, competition and technology.

In contrast with our current era of civilization, human societies of the past where our ancestors lived for probably two or three million years, performed activities of a somewhat primitive nature, with difficulties similar to those faced by animal life, even if this may sound improper.

For several years, society was comprised of nomadic groups of 40 or 50 people that organized themselves as hunters and collectors.  There are some theories that signal to the existence of scavenger societies.  Even today, there still exist several small places in the Amazons, Africa and other areas where societies live in a similar level of development.

Through discovery, development and the possibility to advance in technological terms; from the stones they first used to the ones they began to transform into weapons or other utensils, society made further progresses.

At the end of the last Ice Age ten thousand years ago, it is estimated that eight to ten million people lived in small groups of 40 to 50 persons.  Soon these groups found abundant water sources, flora, fauna, paradisiacal lands and became sedentary communities thus giving birth to agriculture.

I mention this because the paradigms of an agricultural society are completely opposed to our current paradigms, at 180 degrees.

As we all know, agricultural societies –which we can find in the present time- were ruled by monopolistic powers, emperors, pharaohs, tlatoanis, kings or monarchs that descended from a celestial divinity.  These rulers held simultaneously the political, religious, military and economic powers.  There was a sort of social immobility and a total lack of liberty.

Even when the printing press was invented its massive use was restricted for several years, or even centuries, because rulers wanted to avoid the education of society and preferred to keep it in a precarious state, with no change, as it was customary.  This was one of the characteristics that made agricultural societies function.

Production and economy were a zero sum operation.  There was good and bad weather, labor was intensive and consumption was kept low, there was slavery, conquest wars, and more.

In this society there were also great technological progresses:  irrigation, plough, windmills, bronze, steel and of course writing.  But it is remarkable that after 3 or 4 million years, only 6 thousand years ago or maybe more, our current civilization began and brought us to this advanced era.

We have come from a survival society of hunters and collectors, to an agricultural society abundant in water and goods.  Then we have gone from an industrial era into the society of services we now live in.

I underline this point because in agricultural societies with monopolistic powers, social immobility and lack of liberty, there were lots of slaves, wars of conquest, land and people exploitation and imposition of taxes, as we have learned from the Aztecs, the Incas, the Roman Empire and any other empire from the past.

This situation persisted for many years and was marked undoubtedly by the exploitation of men and land. Nevertheless, in the context of conquer wars there is also remarkable technological progress and development.  While it is difficult to identify which ones of these developments were particularly important it is undeniable that society was in evolution.

There were brilliant periods like the Greek Golden Age, with progresses in the arts, philosophy, science, including Aristotle and many others.  There are periods of enlightenment like the Renaissance.  The advancements of humanity during this agricultural era of 2,500 or 3,000 years were outstanding.

During that period one can also speak about globalization.  Globalization takes place when navigation is discovered.  The Mediterranean Sea is globalized with long haul transportation.  This allows for a faster evolution thanks to common learning, the exchange of experiences and the enrichment of a civilization that takes huge steps forward.

During the 19th Century we witness the arrival of sailing and the substitution of horsepower by steam and trains.  Whilst all these and other changes entail inevitable economic, political and social consequences, the difficult situation remains as the powerful elites make no concessions on liberty.

This is what we see today in some countries where there is an absence of total liberty and there is a sort of agricultural society that has not even turned into an industrial society.  From those 8 to 10 million inhabitants of the agricultural civilization we arrive at one billion human beings at the beginning of the industrial era.

Industrial society, as the service society of today, is the result of slow period of evolution that is suddenly faced with a violent breakthrough, a sudden mutation that affects all paradigms.  I am convinced that this change has taken place in a bad manner.  Bad is the word I would like to use to describe the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society.

As we are all aware, during the 19th and 20th Centuries, post-industrial societies have suffered from terrible wars, political, social and economic experiments, exploitation and, most notably across the world, lack of liberty.  This lack of liberty is weakening and thus provoking a change of paradigms.

Nowadays, we are arriving in a new society.  During the industrial period the world’s population probably grew from one to five billion.  Today, the society of services that was born in industrialized countries in the 50’s after the war and most notably during the 60’s, is characterized by the fact that the majority of the world’s population works in the service sector.

This is a major breakthrough in the way we work, produce and develop technologically.  It is no longer physical force what we are after but knowledge, education and training.  Since many years ago, universities have become a vehicle for transformation and social mobility.

Great changes begin to take place, above all thanks to education and to an ever growing sense of liberty which in the 20th Century starts to be considered as one of the major emblems of humanity.  This is still advancing.

This is what we are now living and what we will live.  We are undergoing critical transformations that will certainly bring about conflict in several places. However, albeit the paradoxical fact that this new society creates more and faster riches while poverty increases, and that it strives against ignorance, for health and education, the amazing feature of this new society is that it is based on the wellbeing of all.

This means that better standards of living in the majority of society, with more people participating in modernity, will bring about a better functioning of the whole.  As we have witnessed, hundreds of millions of persons have come out of poverty, most notably in China, India, Brazil and many other countries.

I would like to underline that social investment, which is not a public sector expenditure, is indeed an investment; it deals with nutrition, education, and the possibility of establishing a social network with minimum benefits, with reduced current expenditures, and greater public and private investment as feedback for growth.  This growth is what will sustain our new society.”

Finally, concerning the paradigms of this new services civilization, I would like to stress democracy, pluralism, diversity, creativity, knowledge, human rights and accountability.  In this new type of society it is clear that only in responsible, committed and universal liberty of expression will our new civilization succeed.

Thank you.


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