talking to

Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Argentina

Our guest is Pablo Lázaro, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Argentina, an active Freemasonry that is involved in the life of the city. The central theme of today’s interview is the involvement of Freemasonry in social dialogue.

Freemasonry in Argentina has declared 2024 “the year of dialogue as a guarantee of peace”. What motivated you to take a public position on this? Please tell us what are the methods approached by the Grand Lodge of Argentina so that this motto becomes a reality?
Freemasonry in Argentina has a long tradition of being a guarantor of spaces where political opponents could meet and reach agreements to overcome conflicts through dialogue and mutual respect. The Lodge of National Unity (Tenida de unidad nacional) is one of the best known examples of Argentine Freemasonry’s participation in conflict resolution through dialogue, but of course there are many others.
Argentina is going through a historical moment of division in society. On both sides of this fissure there are well-meaning people who want a more just society. We believe that Freemasonry’s role must continue to be that of an institution that guarantees respect for all points of view, neutrality, freedom of thought and agreement for the common good as the basis for this dialogue.

Lately, social dialogue is in fact a monologue of power or of separate groups interested in presenting their message and spreading their image. The dialogue is promoted lately especially in crisis situations and is conducted ad hoc, spontaneously, without a well-defined strategy, in other words, it acts out of “necessity”, without all partners being considered valid interlocutors.
How do you intend to “sit down at the same table” separate groups with different, even contradictory messages and what is the way to disseminate the information in society afterwards so that the messages reach as many people as possible?

The first thing to bear in mind is that all groups can sit at the table if they are provided and guaranteed fair conditions of participation, something similar to how mediation works. As for the second part of the question, the dissemination must also be consensual, avoiding disclosure and making known what the parties have agreed and in the agreed terms. We cannot be naive when it comes to communication in the age of social media.

Are state institutions or representatives also involved in these discussions so as to make it easier to bring them closer to citizens and listen to their voice?
Participants are those interlocutors who are significant in terms of what is being discussed. Sometimes public officials participate, and sometimes personalities whose opinion is relevant. There are no conditions. The only requirement is that the dialogue must be functional in order to obtain conclusive positions or to achieve the objectives for which it was convened.

We are living in a diverse society from many points of view, this is why dialogue should mean opening up spaces for different voices to be heard, creating an environment where you interact naturally with the other – and not sending those who are different from you to another world. How do you think understanding and acceptance of diversity should be approached as a basic premise for dialogue?
In this regard, Freemasonry in Argentina also has a very simple and clear position: people’s private life is just that, their private life. In this sense, we have supported and promoted campaigns against all kinds of discrimination. We have made public our commitment to the international definition of anti-Semitism, just as we have committed ourselves to the fight against aporophobia, which is no more and no less than contempt for people suffering from all kinds of deprivation. We explicitly support the fight against exclusion of minorities and discrimination in all its forms.

How are masonic principles integrated into the dialogue itself from this perspective of the diversity of contemporary society?
We have a very pragmatic vision of the fight against discrimination. We believe that the best way to fight discrimination is simply not to discriminate. We avoid statements: we simply don’t discriminate. In our house, in our forums and at our events, you naturally meet brethren and non-masons, people of all kinds. At events open to the public, people are often surprised to see Brethren who do not fit the stereotype of Masons. Or, such a meeting is the most effective way to break down prejudice.

Does the strength of Masonic dialogue also come from the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes? I think this principle would also help the political world a lot when setting public policy.
Yes, of course, maybe this is the key to solve many, many problems. Empathy is fundamental. It is not possible to reach agreements of any kind without a serious understanding of each other’s position.

I would like to dwell a little on two concepts that have been appearing lately in the public space: “­nation” and “nationalism”. They are concepts that present the defining notes of identity, questioning the relationship between nation, state, patriotism, nationalism versus globalisation, the approach to national values in relation to regional or global ones. Do you think that, from this perspective, there are barriers to constructive dialogue?
There is no doubt that globalisation, as a political, economic and social phenomenon, deeply affects the concepts of nation and nationalism. But there is another concept that is equally affected, namely sovereignty. Technology has erased many borders, but at the same time it has drawn new ones. We are now talking about other types of sovereignty: food sovereignty, technical sovereignty, cultural sovereignty and, of course, territorial sovereignty. I believe that many ideas about the national need to be rethought to avoid anachronisms.
The contemporary world is in a rapid and unpredictable evolution of science and technology, generating a gigantic movement of ideas, inventions and discoveries, an exponential growth of information and high technologies. Thus our society is becoming increasingly complex. However, building a democratic and value-based society must take history into account, and teaching it becomes an act of profound civic responsibility.
I believe that history could support a kind of society. Not a society in which the protection of diversity is guaranteed by fair rules, which would allow conflicts to be limited or eliminated, but one in which there is a dynamic balance between the affirmation of identities and the promotion of dialogue, a society that recognises conflicts and constantly looks for mechanisms to manage them constructively.

I believe that today’s society has a deficit of models, of landmarks. How important are the models of people from the past, whatever their field of activity? In your opinion, what would be the way to present them and their role in the society of their time so that they matter for the society we live in?
Throughout history, all societies have invoked certain figures as models, ethically, scientifically, militarily, culturally and so on. I don’t think there is a lack of models, maybe we can’t see them because it is very difficult – or impossible – to evaluate our own era. I think the models that will appear will have to be communicated or disseminated in a different way than in the 19th or 20th century, simply because the dynamics of communication are different. Now everyone has a device in their pocket with which they inform themselves, and even with which they generate information. Everything is very fast for and against them; think how someone can be cancelled in a few hours. The same power can also work in someone’s favour.
The fact that universities are full of young people is a sign that there are positive models, even if they are different from traditional heroes. I believe that the 21st century requires a different way of thinking and that Freemasonry must be at the forefront of this new paradigm, as it was in previous centuries, because this open attitude is what explains its success and relevance.