LXXXIX - (Re) leituras: En Folkefiende (an Enemy of the People) by Henrik Ibsen, comments by André Bandeira
This is the most important play of Henrik Ibsen, the most important writer of Norway. Here is the plot: in a town, the municipal baths are attracting tourists and enriching the population. The physician, who makes part of the board of directors, finds out that a tanner's shop is polluting the waters which feed the baths, and spreading diseases among the sick people who are using them. He decides to make public his findings.His brother, who happens to be the Mayor, and Chief Constable, dissuades him of doing that, because the repair will take two years and will cost a fortune, therefore diverting the tourists to other towns and ruining the local Economy. If the physician goes ahead -- as he is determined to, for the sake of the customers's health and the honour of the community -- he will lose his job, his brother tells him. The physician's father-in-law, the owner of the tanner's shop, buys all the shares of the baths, before the report comes out, and tells the physician that if he denounces the wrondoing, all the money he had spared and invested, as legacy for the physician's wife and children, will boil down to useless paper sheets. The newspapers who first decided to publish the report, conspiring to replace the Mayor with people of their own, finally ask the physician to deffuse the rumours, because they are afraid of losing readers. In a public gathering, where he toils to speak up, he manages to utter the most important words of Ibsen: «The majority has the Power - unfortunately - but has no right. The right, that's what I have and other few. The minority is always right». The throng bashes him, and the self-proclaimed free journalists call him, first, «aristocrat since yesterday's eve» and,then, «revolutionarist». He's finally voted «enemy of the people», loses his job, has his home both foreclosed and attacked, and becomes impeded of practicing Medecine. After having a possible migration to America aborted, the physician gathers his family, tries to rebuild a way of living, and says to his daughter: «...den staerkeste mand i verden, det er hen, sam staer mest alene» (the strongest man in the world is the one who stays most alone). There is a frightening statue of Ibsen, at the top of Oslo's main boulevard, Karl Johan. The physician, in the play, doesn't mind of losing everything, in order to save weak and ailing people who come to town, from faraway, looking for relief. He doesn't mind either in his quest for prioritizing honesty rather than a rotten welfare. But he is not fighting for any majority, neither he claims to be either a superior being or a new leader. Actually, after he realizes all the quicksands on which the community is founded, he doesn't defend it any more, no matter the one which holds a majority or the one which is looking to build a new majority. He defends himself, and the right of being unique and integer against the balance of forces. Precisely: the right against any might, as if they where the Sun and the Moon. And if Ibsen proved us that the minority is sometimes right, one man, alone as he means it, he is always right. Each and every man, even caught by surprise and shot twice, long before growing up to be a man.