Saturday, January 05, 2013


The President Quotes Seneca

Not the President of the United States, but the President of Uruguay, José Mujica.

Simon Romero, "After Years in Solitary, an Austere Life as Uruguay’s President," New York Times (January 4, 2013):
He lives in a run-down house on Montevideo's outskirts with no servants at all. His security detail: two plainclothes officers parked on a dirt road.

In a deliberate statement to this cattle-exporting nation of 3.3 million people, Mr. Mujica, 77, shunned the opulent Suárez y Reyes presidential mansion, with its staff of 42, remaining instead in the home where he and his wife have lived for years, on a plot of land where they grow chrysanthemums for sale in local markets.

Visitors reach Mr. Mujica’s austere dwelling after driving down O'Higgins Road, past groves of lemon trees. His net worth upon taking office in 2010 amounted to about $1,800 — the value of the 1987 Volkswagen Beetle parked in his garage. He never wears a tie and donates about 90 percent of his salary, largely to a program for expanding housing for the poor.


Quoting the Roman court-philosopher Seneca, Mr. Mujica said, "It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor."


Finally, Mr. Mujica's eyes lit up as he remembered a passage from "Don Quixote," in which the knight-errant imbibes wine from a horn and dines on salted goat with his goatherd hosts, delivering a harangue against the "pestilence of gallantry."

"The goatherds were the poorest people of Spain," said Mr. Mujica. "Probably,” he added, "they were the richest."
The Seneca quotation comes from one of his letters to Lucilius (2.6):
non qui parum habet, sed qui plus cupit, pauper est.
Hat tip: Arsen Darnay.

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