Stephen R. C. Hicks
 

Relacionando epistemologia e política

Estamos prontos agora para tratar da questão levantada no final do primeiro capítulo: por que um importante segmento da esquerda política adotou estratégias epistemológicas céticas e relativistas?

A linguagem é o centro da epistemologia pós-moderna. Em suas argumentações sobre temas específicos da filosofia, da literatura e do direito, os modernos e os pós-modernos diferem  não  apenas  quanto  ao  conteúdo,  mas  também  nos  métodos  de  empregar  a linguagem. A epistemologia é a causa dessas diferenças.

A  epistemologia  coloca  duas  perguntas  sobre  a  linguagem:  qual  é  a  relação  da linguagem com a realidade e qual é sua relação com a ação? As questões epistemológicas sobre a linguagem constituem um subconjunto de questões epistemológicas sobre a consciência em geral: qual é a relação da consciência com a realidade e qual é sua relação com a ação? Os modernos e os pós-modernos têm respostas radicalmente diferentes a essas perguntas.

Para os realistas modernos, a consciência é tanto cognitiva quanto funcional, e esses dois traços estão integrados. O propósito primário da consciência é estar ciente da realidade. Seu propósito complementar é usar essa cognição da realidade como guia para atuar nela.

Para os antirrealistas pós-modernos, ao contrário, a consciência é funcional, mas não cognitiva, por isso sua funcionalidade nada tem a ver com a cognição. Dois conceitos-chave do léxico pós-moderno, “desmascaramento” e “retórica”, ilustram a importância dessas diferenças.

Desmascaramento e retórica

Para o modernista, a metáfora da “máscara” é um reconhecimento do fato de que as palavras nem sempre devem ser tomadas literalmente ou como afirmação direta de um fato — de que as pessoas podem usar a linguagem de maneira elíptica, metafórica ou para afirmar inverdades, de que a linguagem pode ser texturizada com camadas de significado e de  que  pode  ser  usada  para  encobrir  hipocrisias  ou  para  racionalizar.  Portanto, desmascarar significa interpretar ou investigar para chegar a um significado literal ou factual. O processo de desmascaramento é cognitivo, conduzido por padrões objetivos, com o propósito de alcançar uma cognição da realidade.

Já para o pós-modernista, a interpretação e a investigação jamais encerram com a realidade. A linguagem se relaciona apenas com mais linguagem, nunca com uma realidade não linguística.

Nas palavras de Jacques Derrida, “o fato da linguagem é provavelmente o único fato que resiste, no fim, a qualquer colocação entre parênteses”288. Ou seja, não podemos ficar fora da linguagem. A linguagem é um sistema “interno”, autorreferencial, e não há como ficar “externo” a ela — embora falar de “interno” e “externo” tampouco faça sentido para os pós-modernos. Não existe nenhum padrão não linguístico ao qual relacionar a linguagem, portanto, não pode haver nenhum padrão que permita distinguir o literal do metafórico, o verdadeiro do falso. Então, em princípio, a desconstrução é um processo interminável.

O desmascaramento nem mesmo termina em crenças “subjetivas”, pois “subjetivo” contrasta com “objetivo”, e essa é também uma distinção que os pós-modernistas rejeitam. As “crenças e interesses de um sujeito” são, elas próprias, construções sociolinguísticas; assim,  desmascarar  uma  peça  linguística  para  revelar  um  interesse  subjetivo  oculto significa apenas revelar mais linguagem. E essa linguagem, por sua vez, pode ser desmascarada para revelar mais linguagem, e assim por diante. A linguagem consiste em máscaras, do começo ao fim.

Em qualquer época, porém, o sujeito é uma construção específica com um conjunto específico de crenças e interesses, e utiliza a linguagem para expressar e promover essas crenças e interesses. Portanto, a linguagem é funcional, o que nos leva à retórica.

Para o modernista, a funcionalidade da linguagem é complementar ao fato de ser cognitiva. O indivíduo observa a realidade perceptualmente, forma crenças conceituais sobre a realidade com base em suas percepções e, então, age na realidade a partir desses estados  cognitivos  perceptuais  e  conceituais.  Algumas  dessas  ações  no  mundo  são interações sociais, e em algumas dessas interações a linguagem assume uma função comunicativa. Ao se comunicarem entre si, os indivíduos narram, argumentam ou tentam passar adiante suas crenças cognitivas sobre o mundo. A retórica, portanto, é um aspecto da função comunicativa da linguagem; refere-se aos métodos de usar a linguagem que auxiliam na eficácia da cognição durante a comunicação linguística.

Para o pós-modernista, a linguagem não pode ser cognitiva porque ela não se relaciona com a realidade, seja esta uma natureza externa ou algum eu subjacente. A linguagem não tem a ver com estar ciente do mundo, ou distinguir entre verdadeiro e falso ou mesmo com argumentos, no sentido tradicional de validade, consistência e probabilidade. Assim, o Pós-modernismo reformula a natureza da retórica: é persuasão na ausência de cognição.

Richard Rorty deixa isso claro em seu ensaio A contingência da linguagem. O malogro da posição realista, diz ele, mostrou que “o mundo não nos ensina que jogos linguísticos devemos jogar” e que “as linguagens humanas são criações humanas”. O propósito da linguagem, portanto, não é argumentar na tentativa de provar ou refutar alguma coisa. Consequentemente,  conclui  Rorty,  não  é  isso  que  ele  está  fazendo  quando  utiliza  a linguagem para tentar nos persuadir de sua versão de “solidariedade”.

Obedecendo aos meus próprios preceitos, não vou oferecer argumentos contra o vocabulário que desejo substituir. Em vez disso, tentarei fazer com que o vocabulário que defendo pareça atrativo, mostrando de que maneira pode ser usado para descrever uma variedade de tópicos.

A linguagem aqui é a da “atratividade” na ausência de cognição, verdade ou argumento. Por uma questão de temperamento e no conteúdo de sua política, Rorty é o menos radical dos líderes pós-modernistas. Isso fica evidente no tipo de linguagem que ele usa em seu discurso político.

A linguagem é um instrumento de interação social, e o modelo de interação social de uma pessoa determina o tipo de uso que se fará da linguagem como instrumento.

Rorty vê muita dor e sofrimento no mundo e muito conflito entre os grupos, assim, para ele, a linguagem é, antes de tudo, um instrumento para a resolução de conflitos. Com essa finalidade,  sua  linguagem enfatiza  a  “empatia”,  a  “sensibilidade”  e  a  “tolerância”  — embora ele também sugira que essas virtudes só se aplicam ao âmbito de nossa categoria “etnocêntrica”: “na prática, devemos privilegiar nosso próprio grupo”, escreve, o que implica que “há muitos pontos de vista que simplesmente não podemos levar a sério”.

A maioria  dos  outros  pós-modernistas,  no  entanto,  considera  os  conflitos  entre  os grupos mais brutais — e nossas chances de empatia, muito mais limitadas — do que Rorty. Usar a linguagem como instrumento para a resolução de conflitos, portanto, não é algo que eles contemplem. Em um conflito no qual não se consegue chegar a uma resolução pacífica, o tipo de instrumento que se deseja é uma arma. Assim, considerando os modelos de conflito das relações sociais que predominam no discurso pós-moderno, faz total sentido que, para a maioria dos pós-modernistas, a linguagem seja principalmente uma arma.

Isso explica a aspereza de boa parte da retórica pós-moderna. O uso regular de argumentos ad hominem e de falácias, bem como as frequentes tentativas de silenciar as vozes de oposição são consequências lógicas da epistemologia da linguagem pós-moderna.

Stanley Fish, como vimos no capítulo 4, chama de racistas todos os oponentes da ação afirmativa e os coloca no mesmo grupo da Ku Klux Klan.

Andrea Dworkin chama todos os heterossexuais masculinos de estupradores e repetidamente rotula a “Amerika” de Estado fascista.

Com uma retórica dessas, verdade ou mentira não vem ao caso: o que importa, antes de tudo, é a eficácia da linguagem.

Se acrescentarmos agora à epistemologia pós-moderna da linguagem a política de extrema-esquerda dos líderes pós-modernistas e sua cognição direta das crises pelas quais passaram o pensamento e a prática socialistas, então o arsenal verbal será explosivo.

Quando a teoria se choca com o fato

Nos últimos dois séculos, muitas estratégias foram buscadas por socialistas do mundo todo. Os socialistas tentaram esperar que as massas chegassem ao socialismo de baixo para cima e tentaram impor o socialismo de cima para baixo. Tentaram alcançá-lo pela evolução e pela revolução. Tentaram versões do socialismo que enfatizam a industrialização e as que são agrárias. Tentaram esperar que o capitalismo entrasse em colapso e, quando isso não aconteceu, tentaram destruir o capitalismo por meios pacíficos. E, quando isso não funcionou, alguns tentaram destruí-lo pelo terrorismo.

Mas o capitalismo continua a se sair bem e o socialismo tem sido um desastre. Nos tempos modernos, foram mais de dois séculos de prática e teoria socialistas durante os quais a preponderância da lógica e da evidência depôs contra o socialismo.

Há, portanto, uma escolha a fazer com respeito ao que se pode aprender com a história. Se alguém tem interesse na verdade, então, a resposta racional a uma teoria que não funciona é a seguinte:

  • Decompor a teoria nas premissas que a constituem.
  • Questionar essas premissas vigorosamente e verificar a lógica que as integra. Buscar alternativas para as premissas mais questionáveis.
  • Aceitar a responsabilidade moral por qualquer consequência infeliz de tentar colocar em prática a teoria falsa.

Não é o que temos visto acontecer nas reflexões pós-modernas sobre a política contemporânea. A verdade e a racionalidade estão sujeitas a ataques, e a conduta que prevalece com respeito à responsabilidade moral é bem-explicitada por Rorty: “Acho que uma boa esquerda é aquela que sempre pensa no futuro e não se importa muito com nossos erros passados”.

O pós-modernismo kierkegaardiano

No capítulo 4, delineei uma das respostas pós-modernas aos problemas da teoria e da evidência para o socialismo. Um socialista inteligente e esclarecido, ao se deparar com os dados da história, certamente sofrerá algum abalo na sua crença. O socialismo, para muitos, é uma visão cativante do que seria uma bonita sociedade, o sonho de um mundo social ideal que transcenda todos os males de nossa sociedade atual. Uma visão que é acalentada de maneira tão profunda acaba se tornando parte da própria identidade daquele que crê nela, e qualquer ameaça a essa visão necessariamente será percebida como ameaça à própria pessoa que crê.

A partir da experiência histórica de outras visões que enfrentaram a crise da teoria e da evidência, sabemos que é forte a tentação de se fechar para os problemas teóricos e de evidência e simplesmente se determinar a prosseguir na crença. A religião, por exemplo, forneceu muitos exemplos desse tipo. “Dezenas de milhares de dificuldades”, escreveu o cardeal Newman, “não fazem uma pessoa duvidar”.

Fiódor Dostoiévski expressou isso de maneira mais categórica em uma carta a uma benfeitora: “Se alguém me escrevesse dizendo que a verdade não está em Cristo, eu escolheria Cristo à verdade”.

Também sabemos, a partir da experiência histórica, que é possível desenvolver estratégias epistemológicas sofisticadas com o propósito de atacar a razão e a lógica que causaram problemas para a visão. Foi essa, em parte, a motivação clara de Kant em sua primeira Crítica, de Schleiermacher em Sobre a religião e de Kierkegaard em Temor e tremor.

Por que isso não aconteceria com a extrema-esquerda? A história moderna da religião e a do socialismo exibem semelhanças notáveis em seu desenvolvimento.

  • Tanto a religião quanto o socialismo começaram com uma visão abrangente que acreditavam ser verdadeira, embora não fosse baseada na razão (a exemplo de vários profetas e Rousseau).
  • As duas visões foram então contestadas por outras baseadas em epistemologias racionais (pelos  primeiros  críticos  naturalistas  da  religião  e  pelos  primeiros críticos liberais do socialismo).
  • Ambos, a religião e o socialismo, responderam dizendo que podiam satisfazer os critérios da razão (como na teologia natural e no socialismo científico).
  • Ambos enfrentaram sérios problemas de lógica e evidência (como os ataques de Hume à teologia natural e as críticas de Mises e Hayek ao cálculo socialista). Ambos reagiram, por sua vez, atacando a realidade e a razão (como Kant e Kierkegaard e os pós-modernistas).

No final do século 18, os pensadores religiosos passaram a contar com a sofisticada epistemologia de Kant. Ele lhes dissera que a razão estava separada da realidade; assim, muitos abandonaram a teologia natural e de bom grado usaram a epistemologia kantiana para defender a religião.

Em  meados  do  século  20,  os  pensadores  de  esquerda  passaram  a  contar  com sofisticadas teorias de epistemologia e linguagem que lhes diziam que a verdade é impossível, que a evidência está carregada de teorias, que a evidência empírica nunca resulta em prova, que a prova lógica é meramente teórica, que a razão é artificial e desumanizante e que os sentimentos e as paixões são guias melhores que a razão.

As epistemologias céticas e irracionalistas que prevaleceram na filosofia acadêmica forneceram, desse modo, à esquerda uma nova estratégia para responder à crise. Qualquer ataque ao socialismo, em qualquer forma que fosse, poderia ser descartado, reafirmando- se o desejo de acreditar nele. Os que adotavam essa estratégia sempre podiam dizer a si mesmos que estavam simplesmente agindo como Kuhn dissera que os cientistas agiam — colocando as anomalias entre parênteses, deixando-as de lado e prosseguindo com seus sentimentos.

Segundo essa hipótese, portanto, o Pós-modernismo é um sintoma da crise de fé da esquerda. É fruto da decisão de usar a epistemologia cética para justificar o salto de fé pessoal, necessário para continuar acreditando no socialismo.

Segundo essa hipótese, a predominância das epistemologias céticas e irracionalistas em meados do século 20, por si só, não é suficiente para explicar o Pós-modernismo.  O impasse do ceticismo e do irracionalismo não determina que uso será feito do ceticismo e do irracionalismo. No momento do desespero, uma pessoa ou um movimento pode apelar a essas epistemologias como mecanismo de defesa, mas o que leva alguém ou um movimento ao desespero são outros fatores.

Nesse caso, o movimento em apuros é o socialismo. Mas os apuros do socialismo, por si sós, tampouco são uma explicação suficiente. A menos que se assentem os fundamentos epistemológicos, qualquer movimento que recorra aos argumentos céticos e irracionalistas sairá do tribunal debaixo de risos. Portanto, para dar origem ao Pós-modernismo, é necessária a combinação dos dois fatores: o difundido ceticismo com respeito à razão e a crise do socialismo.

No entanto, essa explicação kierkegaardiana do Pós-modernismo é incompleta para descrever  a  estratégia  pós-moderna.  Para  os  pensadores  de  esquerda  que  se  veem arrasados pelas falhas do socialismo, a opção kierkegaardiana fornece a justificativa necessária para continuarem a acreditar no socialismo como questão de fé pessoal. Para aqueles  que  ainda  desejam  levar  adiante  a  batallJa contra  o  capitalismo,  as  oovas epistemologias possibilitam outras estrategias.

Trasímaco ao revés

Até aqui, meus argumentos explicam o subjetivismo e o relativismo do Pós- modernismo, sua política de esquerda e a necessidade de estabelecer uma relação entre ambos.

Se essa explicação estiver correta, então o Pós-modernismo é o que eu chamo de “trasimaquineanismo reverso”, em uma alusão ao sofista Trasímaco, da República de Platão. Alguns pós-modernistas entendem que parte de seu projeto é reabilitar os sofistas, o que faz total sentido.

Depois de algum tempo praticando Filosofia, uma pessoa poderia passar a acreditar sinceramente no subjetivismo e no relativismo. Consequentemente poderia acreditar que a razão é um derivado, que a vontade e o desejo governam, que a sociedade é uma batalha entre vontades antagônicas, que as palavras são apenas instrumentos na luta de poder pela dominação e que tudo é válido no amor e na guerra.

Era isso que os sofistas argumentavam 2.400 anos atrás. A única diferença, portanto, entre os sofistas e os pós-modernistas é de que lado eles estão.

Trasímaco era representante da segunda e mais rude geração de sofistas, que arrolava argumentos subjetivistas e relativistas em defesa da afirmação política de que a justiça serve aos interesses dos mais fortes. Os pós-modernistas — entrando em cena após dois mil anos de cristianismo e dois séculos de teoria socialista — simplesmente inverteram essa afirmação: o subjetivismo e o relativismo são verdadeiros, só que os pós-modernistas estão do lado dos grupos mais fracos e historicamente oprimidos. A justiça, ao contrário do que dizia Trasímaco, serve aos interesses dos mais fracos298.

A conexão com os sofistas afasta a estratégia pós-moderna da fé religiosa em direção à realpolitik. Os sofistas ensinavam retórica não como meio para promover a verdade e o conhecimento, mas para vencer os debates no mundo beligerante da política cotidiana. Na política cotidiana, não se alcança nenhum sucesso efetivo fechando-se os olhos para os dados.

Na verdade, ela requer abertura para as novas realidades e flexibilidade para adaptar- se às circunstâncias. Ampliar essa flexibilidade a ponto de tratar com descaso a verdade ou a coerência dos argumentos pode parecer, como muitas vezes pareceu, parte de uma estratégia para obter êxito político. Cabe aqui citar Lentricchia: o Pós-modernismo “não busca encontrar os fundamentos e as condições da verdade, mas exercitar o poder visando a mudança social”.

Discursos contraditórios como estratégia política

No discurso pós-moderno, há uma explícita rejeição da verdade, e a coerência pode ser um fenômeno raro. Considere os seguintes pares de afirmação:  Por um lado, toda verdade é relativa; por outro, o Pós-modernismo a descreve tal como realmente é.

  • Por um lado, todas as culturas merecem igual respeito; por outro, a cultura ocidental é exclusivamente destrutiva e má.
  • Os valores são subjetivos — mas sexismo e racismo são realmente um mal.
  • A tecnologia é má e destrutiva — mas é injusto que alguns povos tenham mais tecnologia que outros.
  • A tolerância é boa e a dominação é má — mas quando os pós-modernistas chegam ao poder, a correção política se instala.

Existe um padrão comum: subjetivismo e relativismo em uma respirada, absolutismo dogmático na seguinte. Os pós-modernistas estão bem cientes das contradições — especialmente porque seus oponentes se deliciam em apontá-las sempre que surge uma oportunidade. E, é claro, um pós-modernista pode refutar citando Hegel: “Trata-se meramente de contradições da lógica aristotélica”. Mas uma coisa é dizer isso, outra muito diferente é sustentar psicologicamente as contradições hegelianas.

Portanto, esse padrão levanta a seguinte questão: que lado da contradição é mais profundo para o Pós-modernismo? Será que o Pós-modernismo está realmente comprometido com o relativismo, mas às vezes resvala no absolutismo? Ou os compromissos absolutistas são mais profundos, e o relativismo é um manto retórico?

Veja mais três exemplos, desta vez sobre os conflitos entre a teoria pós-modernista e o fato histórico.

  • Os pós-modernistas dizem que o Ocidente é profundamente racista, mas sabem muito bem que o Ocidente foi o primeiro a acabar com a escravidão, e que é somente nos lugares onde penetraram as ideias ocidentais que as ideias racistas estão na defensiva.
  • Dizem que o Ocidente é profundamente sexista, mas sabem muito bem que as mulheres ocidentais foram as primeiras a ter direito de voto, direitos contratuais e oportunidades que a maioria das mulheres do mundo ainda não tem.
  • Dizem que os países capitalistas do Ocidente são cruéis com seus membros mais pobres, subjugando-os e enriquecendo-se à custa deles, mas sabem muito bem que os pobres no Ocidente são muito mais ricos que os pobres de qualquer outro lugar, tanto em posses materiais quanto em oportunidades de melhorar sua condição.

Para explicar a contradição entre o relativismo e a política absolutista, existem três possibilidades:

  1. A primeira possibilidade é a de que o relativismo seja primário e a política absolutista, secundária. Qua filósofos, os pós-modernistas enfatizam o relativismo, mas qua indivíduos particulares, eles acreditam em uma versão particular de política absolutista.
  2. A segunda possibilidade é a de que a política absolutista seja primária, ao passo que o relativismo é uma estratégia retórica usada para promover essa política.
  3. A terceira possibilidade é a de que ambos, o relativismo e o absolutismo, coexistam no Pós-modernismo, mas as contradições entre eles simplesmente não têm importância psicológica para aqueles que as sustentam.

A primeira opção pode ser excluída. O subjetivismo e seu consequente relativismo não podem ser primários para o Pós-modernismo por causa da uniformidade da política do Pós-modernismo. Se o subjetivismo e o relativismo fossem primários, então os pós- modernistas  estariam adotando  posições  políticas  variadas  dentro  do  espectro,  e  isso simplesmente não é o que acontece. Assim sendo, o Pós-modernismo é primeiro um movimento político, e um tipo de política que só recentemente chegou ao relativismo.

Pós-modernismo maquiavélico

Tentemos então a segunda opção, a de que o Pós-modernismo se interessa primeiro pela política e só secundariamente pela epistemologia relativista.

“Tudo, ‘em última análise’, é político”. Essa frase de Fredric Jameson, tantas vezes citada, deve ter recebido um viés fortemente maquiavélico, como se fosse uma declaração da disposição de usar qualquer arma — retórica, epistemológica, política — para alcançar fins políticos. Então, o Pós-modernismo se revela, surpreendentemente, nada relativista. O relativismo   se   torna   parte   de   uma   estratégia   política,   algum  tipo   de   realpolitik maquiavélica usada para tirar a oposição do caminho.

Por essa hipótese, os pós-modernistas não precisam acreditar muito no que dizem. O jogo de palavras e boa parte da raiva e da fúria que utilizam, tão características de boa parte de seu estilo, podem ter a finalidade não de usar as palavras para afirmar as coisas que acreditam ser verdadeiras, mas de usá-las como armas contra um inimigo que ainda esperam destruir.

Cabe aqui citar novamente Derrida: “A desconstrução só tem sentido ou interesse, pelo menos a meu ver, como radicalização, isto é, também na tradição de um certo marxismo, em um certo espírito do marxismo”.

Discursos retóricos maquiavélicos

Vamos supor que você esteja discutindo política com um colega estudante ou um professor. Você não consegue acreditar, mas parece que está perdendo a discussão. Todos os seus quatro gambitos argumentativos estão bloqueados, e você continua acuado nos cantos. Sentindo-se encurralado, você então se pega dizendo: “Bem, é tudo uma questão de opinião; é pura semântica.”

Qual o propósito, nesse contexto, de apelar para a opinião e o relativismo semântico? O propósito é tirar o oponente das suas costas e conseguir algum espaço para respirar. Se o seu oponente aceitar que é uma questão de opinião ou semântica, ou então, se você perder a discussão, não importa: ninguém está certo ou errado. Mas se o seu oponente não aceitar que tudo é questão de opinião, então a atenção dele será desviada do assunto em pauta — ou seja, política — para a epistemologia. Pois agora ele precisa mostrar por que não se trata apenas de semântica, e isso vai  tomar-lhe tempo. Enquanto isso, você conseguiu afastá-lo. E se achar que ele está se saindo bem no argumento semântico, você pode sair-se com esta: “Bem, mas e quanto às ilusões perceptuais?”

Para adotar essa estratégia retórica, você realmente precisa acreditar que é uma questão de opinião ou pura semântica? Não, não precisa. Você pode acreditar piamente que está certo em sua visão política; e também pode estar ciente de que seu único objetivo é usar as palavras para se livrar do sujeito de tal maneira que pareça que você não perdeu a discussão.

Essa estratégia retórica também funciona no âmbito dos movimentos intelectuais. Foucault identificou a estratégia de maneira clara e explícita: “Os discursos são elementos ou bloqueios táticos que operam no campo das relações de força; pode haver discursos diferentes e até mesmo contraditórios dentro da mesma estratégia”.

Desconstrução como estratégia educacional

Eis  aqui  um exemplo.  Kate  Ellis  é  uma  feminista  radical.  Ela  acredita,  conforme escreve na Socialist Review, que o sexismo é mau, que a ação afirmativa é boa, que o capitalismo e o sexismo andam de mãos dadas e que, para conquistar a igualdade entre os sexos, é preciso derrubar a sociedade atual. Mas ela acha que tem um problema quando tenta ensinar esses temas aos alunos. Julga que eles pensam como capitalistas liberais — acreditam na igualdade de oportunidades, na remoção de barreiras artificiais e no julgamento justo para todos, e também acreditam que, por meio da ambição e do esforço, podem superar a maioria dos obstáculos e alcançar sucesso na vida. Isso significa que seus alunos estão identificados com todo o esquema capitalista liberal que ela considera um erro absoluto. Então, escreve Ellis, ela vai lançar mão da desconstrução como arma contra essas antiquadas crenças do Iluminismo.

Se ela conseguir minar a crença dos alunos na superioridade dos valores capitalistas e do conceito de que as pessoas é que são responsáveis pelo próprio sucesso ou fracasso, isso vai desestabilizar seus valores essenciais.

Ellis acha que a ênfase no relativismo pode ajudar nisso. E quando as crenças iluministas  dos  alunos  forem  esvaziadas  pelos  argumentos  relativistas,  ela  poderá preencher o vazio com os princípios políticos corretos, de esquerda.

Uma conhecida analogia pode ser útil aqui. Segundo essa hipótese, os pós-modernistas não são mais relativistas do que os criacionistas em suas batalhas contra a teoria evolucionista. Vestindo sua batina multiculturalista e afirmando que todas as culturas são iguais, os pós-modernistas se assemelham aos criacionistas, que reivindicam simplesmente um tempo igual para o evolucionismo e o criacionismo. Os criacionistas às vezes argumentam  que  o  criacionismo  e  o  evolucionismo  são  igualmente  científicos,  ou igualmente religiosos, e que, portanto, deveríamos tratá-los igualmente e conceder-lhes o mesmo tempo. Os criacionistas realmente acreditam nisso? Tudo o que eles querem é um tempo igual? É claro que não. Eles são, em essência, contrários à evolução — estão convencidos de que ela é um erro, um mal, e, se estivessem no poder, eles a aboliriam. No entanto, como tática de curto prazo, enquanto estiverem perdendo o debate intelectual, haverão de enfatizar o igualitarismo intelectual, argumentando que ninguém conhece de fato a verdade absoluta. Os pós-modernistas maquiavélicos sustentam a mesma estratégia — reivindicam igual respeito para todas as culturas, mas o que realmente querem, a longo prazo, é eliminar a cultura capitalista liberal.

A interpretação maquiavélica explica também o uso que os pós-modernistas às vezes fazem  da  ciência.  A  Teoria  da  Relatividade,  de  Einstein;  a  Mecânica  Quântica;  a Matemática  do  Caos;  e  o  Teorema  da  Incompletude,  de  Gödel,  serão  citados  com frequência para provar que tudo é relativo, que não se pode conhecer nada, que tudo é caos. Na melhor das hipóteses, uma pessoa encontrará nos textos pós-modernistas interpretações dúbias dos dados, porém, o mais comum é que ela não tenha uma ideia clara do que trata o teorema em questão ou como se dá sua comprovação.

Isso é particularmente evidente no famoso caso do físico Alan Sokal e do periódico de extrema-esquerda Social Text. Sokal publicou um artigo nesse periódico dizendo que a ciência havia desacreditado a concepção iluminista de que existe uma realidade objetiva, cognoscível, e que os resultados mais recentes da Física Quântica corroboravam a política da esquerda radical307. Ao mesmo tempo, Sokal declarou na revista Lingua Franca que o artigo era uma paródia da crítica pós-moderna à Ciência.

Estarrecidos, os editores e defensores do Social Text reagiram. No entanto, em vez de argumentar que consideravam verdadeira ou legítima a interpretação da Física apresentada no artigo, os editores ficaram profundamente constrangidos e, humildemente, insinuaram que Sokal é que havia violado os sagrados laços da honestidade e integridade acadêmica.

Estava claro, porém, que os editores não sabiam muito de Física e que o artigo fora publicado por causa dos benefícios políticos que pensavam em auferir dele.

A interpretação maquiavélica também explica por que os argumentos relativistas são arrolados apenas contra os grandes livros do Ocidente. Se alguém está comprometido com objetivos políticos, seu principal obstáculo são os livros influentes escritos por mentes brilhantes que se encontram do outro lado do debate. Existe na literatura um vasto corpo de romances, peças, poemas épicos, e poucos deles apoiam o socialismo. Grande parte dessas obras apresenta análises convincentes da condição humana, feitas de perspectivas opostas.

No Direito Americano, existe a Constituição e todo o conjunto de precedentes do common law, e pouquíssimos deles favorecem o socialismo. Consequentemente, se você é estudante ou professor de Literatura ou Direito com vocação para a esquerda, e se vê confrontado com o cânone jurídico ou literário do Ocidente, você tem duas escolhas: pode enfrentar as tradições oponentes, pedir que os alunos leiam os grandes livros e as grandes decisões e discutir com eles em classe. Esse é um trabalho árduo e também muito arriscado — os alunos podem concordar com o lado errado —; ou pode encontrar um meio de descartar toda a tradição e ensinar apenas os livros que se encaixam na sua política. Se está procurando atalhos, ou se tem a sorrateira suspeita de que o lado certo pode não se dar bem no debate, então a desconstrução é tentadora. Ela permite que você descarte toda a tradição literária e jurídica, por se basear em pressupostos sexistas, racistas ou exploradores, e serve de justificativa para afastá-la.

No entanto, para empregar essa estratégia, você realmente tem de acreditar que Shakespeare era um misógino, que Hawthorne era um puritano disfarçado ou que Melville era um imperialista tecnológico? Não. A desconstrução pode ser usada simplesmente como metoda ret6rico para livrar-se de mnobsticulo.

Portanto, segundo essa hip6tese maquiavelica, o P6s-modemismo  nao e run salto de fe para  a  esquerda  academica,  mas, antes, uma estrategia  politica  perspicaz  que, embora utilize o relativismo, nao acredita nele.

Pós-modernismo do ressentimento

Existe ainda um traço psicologicamente mais sombrio no Pós-modernismo que nenhuma das explicações anteriores detectou até agora. O Pós-modernismo foi explicado acima como uma resposta ao ceticismo radical, como uma resposta de fé à crise de uma visão política ou como uma estratégia política inescrupulosa. Essas explicações dizem respeito à epistemologia e à política do Pós-modernismo e resolvem a tensão entre seus elementos relativistas  e  absolutistas.  Na  explicação  “kantiana”  do  Pós-modernismo,  a  tensão  se resolve colocando o ceticismo em primeiro plano e o compromisso político em segundo, como consequência acidental. Nas explicações “kierkegaardiana” e “maquiavélica”, a tensão se resolve colocando o compromisso político em primeiro plano e tratando o uso da epistemologia relativista como racionalização ou estratégia retórica.

A última opção é não resolver a tensão. A contradição é uma forma de destruição psicológica, mas as contradições às vezes não têm relevância, do ponto de vista psicológico, para aqueles que as vivenciam, pois, afinal de contas, nada importa.

No movimento intelectual pós-moderno, o niilismo está próximo da superfície como nunca antes na história.

No mundo moderno, o pensamento de esquerda foi um dos terrenos mais férteis para a disseminação da destruição e do niilismo. Desde o reinado do Terror a Lênin e Stálin, Mao e Pol Pot, até o surto de terrorismo nas décadas de 1960 e 1970, a extrema-esquerda exibiu, repetidas vezes, sua disposição de usar a violência para alcançar objetivos políticos e demonstrou intensa frustração e raiva diante de seus fracassos. A esquerda também incluiu muitos companheiros de viagem oriundos do mesmo universo político e psicológico, mas que não contavam com nenhum poder político. Herbert Marcuse, que claramente sugeriu usar a Filosofia para a “‘aniquilação absoluta’ do mundo do senso comum”, foi apenas uma voz recente e explícita de maneira incomum. É sobre essa história do pensamento e da prática esquerdistas que as vozes de esquerda mais moderadas, como Michael Harrington, empenharam-se em nos advertir. Refletindo sobre essa história, Harrington escreveu: “Quero evitar essa visão absolutista que torna o socialismo tão transcendente a ponto de incitar seus sectários à cólera totalitária, no esforço de criar uma ordem perfeita”.

Da cólera autoritária ao niilismo é um passo curto. Como observou Nietzsche em Aurora: Alguns homens, quando não conseguem realizar seu desejo, exclamam raivosamente: “Que o mundo todo pereça!”. Essa emoção repulsiva é o ponto alto da inveja, cuja implicação é: “Se não posso ter algo, ninguém pode ter coisa alguma, ninguém deve ser coisa alguma!”

O ressentimento nietzscheano

Paradoxalmente, Nietzsche é um dos grandes heróis dos pós-modernistas. Eles o citam por  seu  perspectivismo  na  epistemologia,  pelo  uso  que  faz  da  forma  aforística  — enigmática e de estrutura fluida — em vez da forma de tratado, mais científica, e pela agudeza psicológica com que diagnostica a decadência e a hipocrisia. Quero usar Nietzsche contra os pós-modernistas para variar.

O conceito de ressentimento de Nietzsche é semelhante ao que conhecemos, mas denota uma  amargura  mais  rançosa,  mais  ácida,  mais  tóxica,  e  represada  por  muito  tempo. Nietzsche usa ressentimento no contexto de sua famosa descrição da moral dos senhores e dos escravos em Além do bem e do mal e, de maneira mais sistemática, na Genealogia da moral. A moral dos senhores é a moral dos vigorosos, dos fortes apaixonados pela vida. É a moral dos que amam a aventura, dos que se deliciam na criatividade e em seu próprio senso de propósito e assertividade. A moral dos escravos é a moral dos fracos, dos humildes, dos que se sentem vitimados e temem se aventurar em um mundo grande e mau. Os fracos são cronicamente passivos, principalmente porque têm medo dos fortes. Por isso, os fracos se sentem frustrados: não conseguem o que querem na vida. Passam a ter inveja dos fortes e, secretamente, começam também a odiar-se por sua fraqueza e covardia. Mas ninguém pode viver achando que é abominável. Então, os fracos inventam uma racionalização — uma racionalização que lhes diz que eles são os bons e os morais porque são fracos, humildes e passivos. A paciência é uma virtude, dizem, assim como a humildade e a obediência, e é virtude também estar do lado dos fracos e oprimidos. E, é claro, o oposto dessas coisas é mau — a agressividade é má, da mesma maneira que o orgulho, a independência e o sucesso físico e material.

Mas, naturalmente, trata-se de uma racionalização, e os fracos inteligentes nunca vão se convencer completamente disso, pois essa constatação causaria um estrago dentro deles. Enquanto isso, os fortes zombam dos fracos, e isso causa um estrago dentro deles. E os fortes e os ricos ficarão cada vez mais fortes, mais ricos e continuarão a aproveitar a vida. E ver isso causa estragos. No fim, os fracos inteligentes desenvolvem um sentimento de ódio de si mesmos e de inveja dos seus inimigos, e precisam revidar. Eles sentem necessidade de ferir seu odiado inimigo da maneira que puderem. Mas, é claro, não podem se arriscar ao confronto físico direto — são fracos. Sua única arma são as palavras. Assim, argumentava Nietzsche, os fracos se tornam extremamente hábeis com as palavras.

Em nossa época, o mundo criado pelo Iluminismo é forte, ativo, exuberante. Durante algum tempo no século passado, os socialistas acreditaram que a revolução era iminente, que o infortúnio se abateria sobre os ricos e que os pobres seriam abençoados. Mas essa esperança cruelmente se desfez. O capitalismo parece agora um exemplo de “dois mais dois  são  quatro”,  e,  como  o  homem subterrâneo  de  Dostoiévski,  é  fácil  ver  que  os socialistas mais inteligentes odiariam esse fato. O socialismo é o perdedor da história, e, se souberem disso, os socialistas odiarão esse fato, odiarão os vencedores por terem vencido e odiarão a si mesmos por terem escolhido o lado errado. O ódio, quando se torna crônico, leva à necessidade de destruir.

No entanto, o fracasso político é uma explicação muito limitada para a gama de temas niilistas presente no Pós-modernismo. Os pensadores pós-modernos afirmam que não foi só a política que fracassou — tudo fracassou. O ser, como diziam Hegel e Heidegger, realmente se tornou nada. Portanto, em suas formas mais extremas, o Pós-modernismo trata de enfatizar isso e fazer o nada reinar.

É evidente que estou flertando com a argumentação ad hominem aqui, por isso deixarei que os pós-modernistas falem por si.

Foucault e Derrida sobre o fim do homem

Em sua introdução à Arqueologia do saber, Foucault fala, em certo momento, na primeira pessoa. Discorrendo autobiograficamente sobre suas motivações para escrever e seu desejo de extinguir-se: “Posso me perder e aparecer, finalmente, diante de olhos que jamais voltarei a encontrar. Decerto não sou o único que escreve para não ter mais um rosto”.

Foucault estende seu desejo de aniquilação a todo o gênero humano. No final de As palavras e as coisas, por exemplo, ele quase que anseia pela iminente extinção da humanidade: O homem é “uma invenção recente” que logo será apagada, como um rosto desenhado na areia à beira do mar”. Deus está morto, escreveram Hegel e Nietzsche. O homem também estará morto, espera Foucault.

Derrida também reconhece o tipo de mundo que o Pós-modernismo está promovendo e declara sua intenção de não estar entre os que permitem que sua náusea leve a melhor. Os pós-modernistas, escreve ele, são aqueles que não “desviam o olhar quando diante do ainda inominável, que só se anuncia e pode fazê-lo, como é necessário sempre que um nascimento se aproxima, sob a espécie da não espécie, na forma informe, muda, infante e aterradora da monstruosidade”.

O nascimento de monstros é uma concepção pós-moderna do processo criativo, que anuncia o fim da humanidade. Outros pós-modernistas enfatizam a feiura da criação pós- moderna ao mesmo tempo que sugerem que a humanidade simplesmente passou do ponto. Kate Ellis observa, por exemplo, o “pessimismo caracteristicamente apolítico da maior parte do Pós-modernismo, segundo o qual a criação é tão somente uma forma de defecação”.

Monstros e produtos refugados são temas  centrais  na Arte do século 20, e há um paralelo elucidativo entre os desenvolvimentos ocorridos no universo artístico durante a primeira metade do século e os desenvolvimentos ocorridos nas demais ciências humanas na segunda metade do século. Com Marcel Duchamp, o mundo da arte chega ao  Pós- modernismo antes do restante do mundo intelectual.

Solicitado pela Sociedade de Artistas Independentes de Nova York a submeter algum trabalho para exposição, Duchamp enviou um urinol. É claro que ele conhecia a História da Arte. Sabia o que havia sido realizado — que, durante séculos, a Arte fora um veículo poderoso, que exigiu o mais alto desenvolvimento da visão criativa humana e rigorosa habilidade técnica; e sabia que a Arte tinha o incrível poder de exaltar os sentidos, o intelecto e as paixões dos que a experimentavam. Refletindo sobre a História da Arte, Duchamp decidiu fazer uma declaração. O artista não é um grande criador — Duchamp foi comprar em uma loja de material de hidráulica. A obra de arte não é um objeto especial — era um produto de massa feito em uma fábrica. A experiência da Arte não é empolgante e dignificante — na melhor das hipóteses, é intrigante e, na maioria das vezes, deixa no outro uma sensação de repulsa. Mas não só isso, pois Duchamp não escolheu um objeto pronto qualquer. Ao escolher o urinol, sua mensagem era clara: A Arte é algo em que você urina.

Os temas dadaístas giram em torno da ausência de significado, mas suas obras e manifestos são declarações filosóficas significativas no contexto em que são apresentados. Kunst ist Scheisse (“Arte é merda”) foi, adequadamente, o lema do dadaísmo. O urinol de Duchamp foi o símbolo adequado. Tudo é dejeto a ser mandado para o esgoto.

Segundo essa hipótese, portanto, o Pós-modernismo é uma generalização sobre o niilismo do movimento Dadá. Não só a Arte é merda, tudo é.

Os pensadores pós-modernos herdaram uma tradição intelectual que assistiu à derrota de todas as suas grandes esperanças. O Contrailuminismo, desde o início, suspeitou do naturalismo iluminista, de sua razão, de sua visão otimista do potencial humano, de seu individualismo na ética e na política, de sua ciência e tecnologia. Para os que se opuseram ao Iluminismo, o mundo moderno não ofereceu nenhum conforto. Os defensores do Iluminismo diziam que a ciência substituiria a religião, mas a ciência ofereceu os espectros da entropia e da relatividade. A ciência seria a glória da humanidade, mas ela nos ensinou que o homem evoluiu, com sangue nos dentes e nas garras, do lodo. A ciência faria do mundo um paraíso tecnológico, mas gerou bombas nucleares e superbacilos. E a confiança no poder da razão, que está por trás de tudo isso, revelou-se uma fraude no entender dos pós-modernistas. A ideia de armas nucleares nas garras de um animal irracional e voraz é assustadora.

Enquanto os pensadores neoiluministas se conciliaram com o mundo moderno, da perspectiva pós-moderna o universo estilhaçou-se, tanto metafísica quanto epistemologicamente. Não podemos nos voltar para Deus nem para a natureza, e não podemos confiar na razão nem na humanidade.

Mas  sempre  houve  o  socialismo.  Por  pior  que  tenha  se  tornado  o  universo  na metafísica, na epistemologia e no estudo da natureza humana, persistia ainda a visão de uma ordem ética e política que transcenderia tudo para criar a linda sociedade coletivista.

O fracasso da esquerda política em realizar essa visão foi apenas a gota d’água. Para a mente  pós-moderna,  são  estas  as  lições  cruéis  do  mundo  moderno:  a  realidade  é inacessível, não se pode conhecer coisa alguma, o potencial humano é zero e esses ideais éticos e políticos deram em nada. As reações psicológicas à perda de tudo são a raiva e o desespero.

Mas os pensadores pós-modernos também se veem cercados pelo mundo iluminista que não entendem. Os pós-modernistas se veem desafiando um mundo dominado pelo liberalismo e pelo capitalismo, pela ciência e tecnologia, por pessoas que ainda acreditam na realidade, na razão e na grandeza do potencial humano. O mundo que eles diziam ser impossível e destrutivo realizou-se e está prosperando. Os herdeiros do Iluminismo estão governando o mundo e marginalizaram os pós-modernistas, confinando-os à academia. À raiva e ao desespero somou-se o ressentimento.

Alguns se refugiaram no quietismo, outros se retiraram para um mundo privado de jogo estético e autocriação. Outros, no entanto, revidam com a intenção de destruir. Mas, novamente, as únicas armas do Pós-modernismo são as palavras.

A estratégia do ressentimento

O mundo artístico do século 20 fornece, mais uma vez, exemplos prescientes. O urinol de Duchamp mandou o recado: Urino em você, e seus últimos trabalhos colocaram essa atitude em prática. Sua versão da Mona Lisa foi um claro exemplo: uma reprodução da obra-prima de Leonardo da Vinci ganhou um bigode caricato. Essa também foi uma declaração: Eis aqui uma realização magnífica que não tenho a esperança de igualar, então vou desfigurá-la e torná-la uma piada.

Robert Rauschenberg foi mais adiante que Duchamp. Sentindo-se à sombra das realizações de Willem de Kooning, pediu que lhe trouxessem uma pintura do artista, que ele então apagou e pintou por cima. Isso foi uma declaração: Não consigo ser especial, a menos que destrua antes o que você fez.

A desconstrução é uma versão literária de Duchamp e Rauschenberg. A teoria da desconstrução diz que nenhuma obra tem significado. Qualquer significado aparente pode ser convertido no seu oposto, em nada, ou revelar-se uma máscara que esconde algo repugnante. O movimento pós-moderno contém muitas pessoas que gostam da ideia de desconstruir o trabalho criativo de outras. A desconstrução tem o efeito de nivelar qualquer significado e valor. Se um texto pode significar alguma coisa, então não significa nada mais que qualquer outra coisa — nenhum texto, portanto, é grandioso. Se um texto encobre algo fraudulento, então começa a insinuar-se a dúvida com respeito a tudo que aparenta ser grandioso.

Faz sentido, portanto, que essas técnicas desconstrutivas sejam mobilizadas principalmente contra trabalhos que não se enquadram nos compromissos pós-modernos.

A estratégia não é nova. Se você odeia alguém e deseja feri-lo, então atinja-o naquilo que é importante para ele. Quer ferir um homem que adora crianças e odeia quem as molesta sexualmente? Faça insinuações e espalhe boatos de que ele aprecia pornografia infantil. Quer ferir uma mulher que tem orgulho de sua independência? Espalhe o rumor de que ela se casou com quem se casou porque ele é rico. Se os boatos são falsos ou verdadeiros não vem ao caso, e se as pessoas vão acreditar em você ou não, não importa de fato. O importante é desferir um golpe certeiro e contundente na psique do outro. Você sabe que essas acusações e rumores causarão tremor, mesmo que não deem em nada. Restará, dentro de si, o brilho maravilhosamente sombrio de saber que foi você. E, afinal, pode ser que os rumores deem algum resultado.

O melhor retrato dessa psicologia vem de um homem europeu muito branco e há muito morto: William Shakespeare, em seu Otelo. Iago simplesmente odiava Otelo, mas não tinha esperança de conseguir derrotá-lo em um confronto aberto. Como destruí-lo então? A estratégia de Iago foi atacar Otelo no seu ponto mais sensível: a paixão por Desdêmona.

Iago insinuou indiretamente que ela andava dormindo fora de casa, espalhou mentiras e suspeitas sutis sobre a fidelidade dela, semeou a dúvida na cabeça de Otelo sobre a coisa que ele mais prezava na vida e deixou que essa dúvida agisse como um lento veneno.

Assim como os pós-modernistas, as únicas armas de Iago eram as palavras. A única diferença é que os pós-modernistas não são tão sutis a respeito dos alvos que pretendem atingir.

O mundo iluminista contemporâneo orgulha-se de seu compromisso com a igualdade e a justiça, de sua mente aberta, das oportunidades que oferece a todos e de suas realizações na ciência e na tecnologia. O mundo iluminista está orgulhoso, confiante e sabe que é a onda do futuro. Isso é insuportável para uma pessoa totalmente identificada com uma perspectiva oposta e fracassada. É esse orgulho que ela quer destruir. O melhor alvo de ataque é o senso iluminista de seu próprio valor moral. Acusá-lo de sexismo e racismo, de difundir o dogma da intolerância e de ser cruelmente explorador. Minar sua confiança na razão, na ciência e na tecnologia. As palavras nem precisam ser verdadeiras ou coerentes para causar o estrago necessário.

E, como Iago, o Pós-modernismo não precisa ficar com a garota no final. Destruir Otelo é suficiente.

Pós-modernismo

Mostrar que um movimento leva ao niilismo é importante para compreendê-lo, assim como mostrar que um movimento niilista e fracassado ainda pode ser perigoso. Rastrear as raízes do Pós-modernismo de volta a Rousseau, Kant e Marx explica de que maneira se entrelaçaram todos os seus elementos. No entanto, identificar as raízes do Pós-modernismo e relacioná-las às nocivas consequências contemporâneas não refuta o Pós-modernismo.

Faz-se necessário ainda refutar essas premissas históricas e identificar e defender alternativas a elas. O Iluminismo baseava-se em premissas opostas às do Pós-modernismo, mas, embora tenha criado um mundo magnífico com base nessas premissas, ainda não as articulou e defendeu por completo. Esse ponto fraco é a única fonte de poder do Pós- modernismo contra ele. É essencial, portanto, completar a articulação e a defesa dessas premissas para garantir o progresso da visão iluminista e protegê-la das estratégias pós-modernas.

                                                                                                                                               

O presente ensaio foi tirado de: http://pablo.deassis.net.br/wp-content/uploads/Explicando-o-Pos-modernismo-Stephen-R.-C.-Hicks.pdf

Explicando o Pós-Modernismo é uma publicação da Callis Editora, que lançou uma 1ª edição eletrônica em 2011. Coordenação editorial: Miriam Gabbai; Tradução: Silvana Vieira; Revisão: Ricardo N. Barreiros; Preparação de texto: Maria Christina Azevedo; Projeto gráfico e diagramação: Idenize Alves.

O ensaio publicado nesta edição de PortVitoria corresponde ao capítulo 6 do livro acima citado, cujo título original é  Explaining Postmodernism. Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Focault) de Stephen R. C. Hicks. Primeira edição 2004, Scholarlgy Publishing. Edição expandida em 2011, Ockham’s Razor Publishing.

O objetivo de publicar esse ensaio em PortVitoria é apresentar o relevantíssimo tema do Pós-Modernismo através de uma amostra do brilhante livro de Stephen R. C. Hicks. Aproveitamos a oportunidade para encorajar os nossos leitores a adquirir e ler o livro completo de Stephen R. C. Hicks.

Brian Duignam

O pós-modernismo,  ou pósmodernismo, na filosofia ocidental, é um movimento do final do século XX, caracterizado por amplo ceticismo, subjetivismo ou relativismo; uma suspeita geral da razão; e uma sensibilidade aguda ao papel da ideologia na afirmação e manutenção do poder político e econômico.

Pós-modernismo e filosofia moderna

O pós-modernismo é em grande parte uma reação contra as suposições e os valores intelectuais do período moderno na história da filosofia ocidental (aproximadamente, do século XVII ao século XIX). De fato, muitas das doutrinas caracteristicamente associadas ao pós-modernismo podem ser descritas de maneira justa como a negação direta de pontos de vista filosóficos gerais que foram tomados como garantidos durante o Iluminismo do século 18, embora não fossem exclusivos desse período. Os mais importantes desses pontos de vista são os seguintes.

  1. Existe uma realidade natural objetiva, uma realidade cuja existência e propriedades são logicamente independentes dos seres humanos – de suas mentes, sociedades, práticas sociais ou técnicas de investigação. Os pós-modernistas descartam essa ideia como uma espécie de realismo ingênuo. A realidade que existe, segundo os pós-modernistas, é uma construção conceitual, um artefato da prática e da linguagem científicas. Este ponto também se aplica à investigação de eventos passados por historiadores e à descrição de instituições, estruturas ou práticas sociais por cientistas sociais.
  2. As declarações descritivas e explicativas de cientistas e historiadores podem, em princípio, ser objetivamente verdadeiras ou falsas. A negação pós-moderna desse ponto de vista – que decorre da rejeição de uma realidade natural objetiva – é às vezes expressa ao dizer que não existe a verdade.
  3. Através do uso da razão e da lógica, e com as ferramentas mais especializadas fornecidas pela ciência e tecnologia, é provável que os seres humanos mudem a si mesmos e a suas sociedades para melhor. É razoável esperar que as sociedades futuras sejam mais humanas, mais justas, mais esclarecidas e mais prósperas do que são agora. Os pós-modernistas negam essa fé iluminista na ciência e na tecnologia como instrumentos do progresso humano. De fato, muitos pós-modernistas sustentam que a busca equivocada (ou não) do conhecimento científico e tecnológico levou ao desenvolvimento de tecnologias para matar em grande escala na Segunda Guerra Mundial. Alguns chegam ao ponto de dizer que ciência e tecnologia – e até a razão e a lógica – são inerentemente destrutivas e opressivas, porque foram usadas por pessoas más, especialmente durante o século 20, para destruir e oprimir outras.
  4. Razão e lógica são universalmente válidas – ou seja, suas leis são as mesmas para, ou se aplicam igualmente a qualquer pensador e qualquer domínio do conhecimento. Para os pós-modernistas, razão e lógica também são meramente construções conceituais e, portanto, são válidas apenas dentro das tradições intelectuais estabelecidas em que são usadas.
  5. Existe uma natureza humana; consiste em faculdades, aptidões ou disposições que, em certo sentido, estão presentes nos seres humanos ao nascer, em vez de serem aprendidas ou instiladas por forças sociais. Os pós-modernistas insistem que todos ou quase todos os aspectos da psicologia humana são completamente determinados socialmente.
  6. A linguagem se refere e representa uma realidade fora de si. Segundo os pós-modernistas, a linguagem não é um “espelho da natureza”, como o filósofo pragmatista americano Richard Rorty caracterizou a visão iluminista. Inspirados no trabalho do linguista suíço Ferdinand de Saussure, os pós-modernistas afirmam que a linguagem é semanticamente autônoma ou autorreferencial: o significado de uma palavra não é uma coisa estática no mundo ou mesmo uma ideia na mente, mas sim um gama de contrastes e diferenças com o significado de outras palavras. Como os significados são, nesse sentido, funções de outros significados – que são funções de outros significados, etc. – eles nunca estão totalmente “presentes” ao falante ou ouvinte, mas são infinitamente “adiados”. A auto referência caracteriza não apenas as línguas naturais mas também os “discursos” mais especializados de comunidades ou tradições particulares; esses discursos estão embutidos nas práticas sociais e refletem os esquemas conceituais e os valores morais e intelectuais da comunidade ou tradição em que são usados. A visão pós-moderna da linguagem e do discurso se deve em grande parte ao filósofo e teórico literário francês Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), o criador e principal praticante da desconstrução.
  7. Os seres humanos podem adquirir conhecimento sobre a realidade natural, e esse conhecimento pode ser justificado, em última análise, com base em evidências ou princípios que são, ou podem ser, conhecidos imediatamente, intuitivamente ou de outra maneira com certeza. Os pós-modernistas rejeitam o ‘fundacionalismo’ filosófico – a tentativa, talvez melhor exemplificada pelo dictum cogito, ergo sum do filósofo francês do século XVII (“eu penso, logo existo”), de identificar um fundamento de certeza sobre o qual construir o edifício do conhecimento empírico (incluindo o científico).
  8. É possível, pelo menos em princípio, construir teorias gerais que expliquem muitos aspectos do mundo natural ou social dentro de um determinado domínio do conhecimento – por exemplo, uma teoria geral da história humana, como o materialismo dialético. Além disso, deve ser um objetivo da pesquisa científica e histórica construir tais teorias, mesmo que nunca sejam perfeitamente atingíveis na prática. Os pós-modernistas descartam essa noção como um sonho superficial e, na verdade, como sintomático de uma tendência doentia nos discursos do Iluminismo de adotar sistemas de pensamento “totalizadores” (como o filósofo francês Emmanuel Lévinas os chamava) ou grandes “metanarrativas” de aspectos biológicos humanos, históricos e do desenvolvimento social (como alegou o filósofo francês Jean-François Lyotard). Essas teorias são perniciosas não apenas por serem falsas, mas porque efetivamente impõem conformidade a outras perspectivas ou discursos, oprimindo, marginalizando ou silenciando-as. O próprio Derrida equiparou a tendência teórica à totalidade ao totalitarismo.

Pós-modernismo e relativismo

Conforme indicado na seção anterior, muitas das doutrinas características do pós-modernismo constituem ou implicam alguma forma de relativismo metafísico, epistemológico ou ético. (Note-se, no entanto, que alguns pós-modernistas rejeitam veementemente o rótulo relativista.) Os pós-modernistas negam que há aspectos da realidade que são objetivos; que há afirmações sobre a realidade objetivamente verdadeiras ou falsas; que é possível ter conhecimento de tais afirmações (conhecimento objetivo); que é possível que os seres humanos saibam algumas coisas com certeza; e que existem valores morais objetivos ou absolutos. Realidade, conhecimento e valor são construídos por discursos; portanto, eles podem variar com eles. Isso significa que o discurso da ciência moderna, quando considerado à parte dos padrões evidenciais internos a ela, não tem maior importância na verdade do que perspectivas alternativas, incluindo (por exemplo) astrologia e bruxaria. Às vezes, os pós-modernistas caracterizam os padrões evidenciais da ciência, incluindo o uso da razão e da lógica, como “racionalidade da iluminação”.

O amplo relativismo aparentemente tão característico do pós-modernismo convida uma certa linha de pensamento a respeito da natureza e função dos discursos de diferentes tipos. Se os pós-modernistas estão corretos quanto à realidade, conhecimento e valor serem relativos ao discurso, então os discursos estabelecidos do Iluminismo não são mais necessários ou justificados que os discursos alternativos. Mas isso levanta a questão de como eles vieram a ser estabelecidos em primeiro lugar. Se nunca é possível avaliar um discurso de acordo com o que leva à Verdade objetiva, como os discursos estabelecidos se tornaram parte da visão de mundo predominante da era moderna? Por que esses discursos foram adotados ou desenvolvidos, enquanto outros não?

Parte da resposta pós-moderna é que os discursos predominantes em qualquer sociedade refletem os interesses e valores, em termos gerais, de grupos dominantes ou de elite. Os pós-modernistas discordam sobre a natureza dessa conexão; enquanto alguns aparentemente apoiam o ditado do filósofo e economista alemão Karl Marx de que “as ideias dominantes de cada época sempre foram as ideias de sua classe dominante”, outras são mais cautelosas. Inspirados pela pesquisa histórica do filósofo francês Michel Foucault, alguns pós-modernistas defendem a visão comparativamente matizada de que o que conta como conhecimento em uma dada era é sempre influenciado, de maneiras complexas e sutis, por considerações de poder. Há outros, no entanto, dispostos a ir além do que Marx. O filósofo e teórico literário francês Luce Irigaray, por exemplo, argumentou que a ciência da mecânica dos sólidos é mais desenvolvida do que a ciência da mecânica dos fluidos porque a instituição de física dominada por homens associa solidez e fluidez aos órgãos sexuais masculino e feminino, respectivamente .

Como os discursos estabelecidos do Iluminismo são mais ou menos arbitrários e injustificados, eles podem ser mudados; e porque refletem mais ou menos os interesses e valores dos poderosos, devem ser mudados. Assim, os pós-modernistas consideram sua posição teórica como exclusivamente inclusiva e democrática, porque lhes permite reconhecer a hegemonia injusta dos discursos do Iluminismo sobre as perspectivas igualmente válidas dos grupos não elites. Nas décadas de 1980 e 1990, os defensores acadêmicos em nome de vários grupos étnicos, culturais, raciais e religiosos adotaram críticas pós-modernas da sociedade ocidental contemporânea, e o pós-modernismo se tornou a filosofia não oficial do novo movimento da “política de identidade”.

                                                                                                                                   

Brian Duignan é editor sênior em filosofia na Encyclopaedia Britannica. Tradução: J Pires-O’Brien (UK). Ensaio publicado na Encyclopaedia Britannica on line, e sua última atualização é de 20 de Sep de 2019. Fonte: https://www.britannica.com/topic/postmodernism-philosophy

Many Westerners remain unaware of the inculcations of Postmodernism and the threat it represents to the West.

This issue of PortVitoria is dedicated to Postmodernism, a late 20th-century movement characterized by broad scepticism, subjectivism, or relativism, a general suspicion of reason, and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power. Postmodernism started in the field of literary criticism, where it promoted the idea that there are countless ways to interpret a text. Postmodernism became a threat to the West when it began to be applied to society. Inspired by Karl Marx (1818-1883) and the Marxist French philosopher and psychologist Michel Foucault (1926-1984), this is exactly what the sociologist Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) did when he modified Marx’s view of the power relation between capitalists and the proletariat to one between oppressors and the oppressed. According to the postmodern interpretation of society, all the values of the Enlightenment such as reason, science, technological progress, dialogue, individual liberty, etc., are all masks to hide the truth, which is the power relationships that exist between different groups in society. A major consequence of Postmodernism is identity politics, which is behind every existing social conflict within Western society such as male versus (vs) female, black vs white, gay vs straight, etc. Another consequence of Postmodernism is the inculcation that it is acceptable to put the past on trial and to judge it through the morality of the present. Some examples are the defacing of public monuments, the scrutiny of everyday speech, and the idea that pecuniary reparations are owed by the West to the descendants of those who were oppressed by slavery and colonialism. All of these things are enveloped by hate, which serves to the objective of power of Postmodernism. The unwanted consequence of this hate is to remove the old wisdom of ‘let bygones be bygones’, which allows individuals to move on with their own lives.

To move on with one’s life is a necessary condition to enter the path of the ‘good life’  defined in Western philosophy as ‘a life of virtue that is the way to a happy existence’. Postmodernism is unconcerned with the ‘good life’ and dismisses traditional philosophy just as it dismisses the Enlightenment, labeling both as ‘grand narratives’ designed to give power. Undermining the values of the West is part of the postmodern strategy of social construction and deconstruction which is normally staged on the media by the social constructivists. One of their tricks to enhance a piece of news is to synchronize press releases in different communities. It is not surprising that many social constructivists are versed in the art of propaganda. Their narratives normally reveal a preference for short narratives and powerful imagery that emphasize the grim, the outrageous, and the eye-catching. There is the hallmark of Postmodernism in the rise of political tribalism and collective identity, the infestation of web bots, and the current proliferation of fake news.

This edition offers a neutral description of Postmodernism extracted from Encyclopaedia Britannica, as well as two critical opinions, one by Norman Berdichevsky and the other by myself. Berdichevsky’s article is entitled “How the Left wins arguments by narratives; Postmodernism, and the ‘greater moral significance’”, and it focuses on the postmodernist transgression of the traditional pattern of the narrative. My article is entitled ‘What is Postmodernism’, and it is an essay taken from my 2016 book O Homem Razoável (The Reazonable Man).

Another offering in this edition is a chapter from Stephen R C Hicks’ book Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, which was published initially in 2004 by Scholarly Publishing, and in 2011 by Ockham’s Razor Publishing. The article was taken from the Portuguese translation of Hicks’ book. In it, Hicks explains that social media has given an edge to Postmodernism by luring people into group-thinking.

The awareness of Postmodernism allows a clarifying hindsight of past events that we were unable to comprehend fully when they occurred. An example is the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, or simply Rio 92. It was supposed to solve the conundrum of how to develop without destroying the natural environment, but instead, it turned out to be more of a great spectacle to grab media attention. Although the hindsight examination of UNCED clearly reveals Postmodernism in action, such as the construction of iconic personas, there are two eye-witnesses that confirm this. They are two Canadian journalists, Elaine Dewar, who recorded her findings in her 1995 book Cloak of Green, and James Cobett. The latter revisited the event with Dewar, in an interview conducted in February 2016. This interview complements the arguments presented against Postmodernism.

The two books reviewed in this edition dwell on the problems of Postmodernism. The first book is Provocations (2018) by Camille Paglia, a massive collection of essays on high and low culture, including Postmodernism and the damage it has caused to higher education. The second book is The Madness of Crowds. Gender, Race and Identity (2019) by Douglas Murray, an in-depth analysis of the upsurge in political identity groups of women and LGBT. In his book, Murray points out some of the problems of group political identity, especially the abuse of power on the part of their leaders. Assigning the label of racist to people they dislike, demanding the sack of an academic for merely expressing an opinion, and insufflating disturbances on campuses are some examples he cites.

Finally, a Postmodernism-free space, in the Poetry slot, which is dedicated to Noel Rosa (1910-1937), one of Brazil’s most creative composers and lyricists. Although Rosa died age 26, of tuberculosis –  he managed to compose over 300 songs during his short life, mostly ‘sambas’ and lively carnival songs called ‘marchinhas’ . Three of Rosa’s songs are shown, accompanied by their English translations, after his biography. I often speculate on how far Rosa would have gone if he had not died so young. He might have been a Brazilian alternative to Bob Dylan.

I hope this edition will provoke thought and even, a questioning of some modern-day misconceptions.

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

Editor’s Note. Two important points of this interview are Maurice Strong (1929-2015), the organizer of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, June 3-14, 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, and how this conference fostered the emergence of a number of new environmental NGOs, which, despite being designated ‘non-governmental’ and projecting an image of enemies of large corporations, received money from both the Canadian government and Canadian oil companies. The interview also underlines the hypocrisy of Canada’s foreign policy in employing foreign aid to divert potential sedition from French-speaking Africa in support of Quebec’s separation, and in the years preceding Rio 92, to move the same sedition from Canada to Brazil, by funding NGOs knowingly that part of the money would be used to fund political candidates in Brazil. This hypocrisy plus the use of the media to direct public opinion are hallmarks of the social constructionism characteristic of Postmodernism. All pf this point to the need to ask what other hypocrisies and dishonesties were committed by the organizers Rio 92 with the connivance of the UN. Jo Pires-O’Brien

James Corbett (JC): Welcome friends, James Corbett here, corbettreport.com Today is the first of February 2016 and we are going to talk about something that I wrote about recently on the website, namely Maurice Strong, and you will be forgiven if all of your knowledge of Maurice Strong comes from the recent coverage of the memorials that were taking place for him in Ottawa[1]. You may be forgiven for thinking he was simply an environmental leader in a straight forward sense and simply concerned with the planet or something along those lines and certainly we have seen a lot of people paying tribute to him as a visionary who was interested in changing the world for the better, but there is a much, much more interesting, much more detailed, much more nuanced story that paints an altogether, I think, different picture of the modern environmental movement and, more specifically, the international institutions and organizations that have been created to forward that movement.

And on that note, again, people who read my recent article will be familiar with Elaine Dewar, a Canadian journalist who wrote a book a couple of decades ago called [The] Cloak of Green which I mentioned in that article and which I would highly recommend as an interesting source on the environmental movement and its development and also Maurice Strong who she also had the opportunity to interview for that book. She is at elainedewar.blogspot.com and you can check out some of her other books including Smarts: The Boundary Busting Story of Intelligence, and The Second Tree of Clones, Chimeras and Quests For Immortality but today we are going to be asking her to stretch her memory back a couple of decades to talk about Cloak of Green. Elaine Dewar, thanks for joining us today on the program.

Elaine Dewar (ED): Well, thanks for asking me.

JC: Well, as I say, you did write this book a couple of decades ago and I understand that this was an extension of your own experience in the late 1980s being concerned, as most of the planet was at that time, with some of the types of stories we were hearing the destruction of rain forests and the depletion of the ozone layer and that led you on a personal journey that took you in places that perhaps you weren’t expecting to go. I would love to hear about how Cloak of Green came together and what really propelled you towards writing it.

ED: Well, it got started in the strangest way; actually, I was looking for an escape. I’ll just quickly tell you this in background,that prior to this story I’d been working on a very large and complex story about a developer family which ended up in a huge lawsuit and it was consuming and I really needed a story that would take me away from my daily concerns. And the story presented itself was about the dangers of the expansion of Brazilian society and the building of a large series of dams on the Xingu River system in the Amazon and what that might mean to the global climate, to the atmosphere, to all of us.

The theory then was that the major CO2 sink in the world was, in fact, the forest and the forest was being destroyed by development and the only people who stood in the path of that development were a group of native people from Brazil called the Kayapo.

So I attended a major fundraiser that took place at a church in downtown Toronto and I believe it was 1989, perhaps 1988, in which Paiakán, one of the leaders of that group, was presented to the crowd as a representative of who would take the money, put it to good use, defend the rain forest, and protect us all from a massive and dangerous impact on the global environment.

I should point out to you that I found it very strange that in Canada where we have had a very complex and unkind relationship to native people that so many people would have turned out to support a native person from another country. I mean it was great to see and it was also very odd. What was also odd was as it transpired, the native group in question was, in fact, trying to use changes in the Brazilian political structure to afford a kind of sovereignty to themselves to delineate their territory to prevent people from coming in and out and, in fact, to take a kind of sovereign control that had been taken away from them by an encroaching Brazilian state.

So that was where the story started and I followed it down and I was surprised to find a number of Canadian environmental organizations that I had reasons to rely upon in the past as a reporter, which were suddenly turning their attention away from Canadian environmental issues to the Amazon rain forest and they were all trekking down there, going to conferences, raising money, and, in any case, slowly and carefully, layer by layer, I was dragged down to an understanding that these groups that I thought I knew and thought I understood and thought were democratic and related to the community, turned out to be groups that, in effect, took direction and took certainly large whacks of money from the corporate interests that they were decrying in public and from governments which were organizing towards what’s called the Rio Summit. And that introduced me to Maurice Strong.

JC: Exactly.

ED: I had, in fact, met Mr. Strong years before at a dinner that was given by a colleague of mine and had always been sort of interested in what he had done with the formation of Canada’s national oil company, which is called Petro Canada. I had reason to do a piece about Petro Canada after Mr. Strong left the organization and it was run by someone else. So I had sort of bits and pieces of information about him and I knew lots of people in common who knew him, and so, connected but not connected and the Kayapo story took me to the preparatory conference for the Rio Summit, which Mr. Strong was organizing for the UN.

JC: Now, I think that’s an extremely important background and it does help to elaborate on the point that this book is about the bigger picture of these environmental organizations and their connections. But I think Maurice Strong is the perfect microcosmic example of that, from his own biography. And to give people a sense of Maurice Strong and the organizations he was involved in… I mean it’s so almost laughable that when you actually try to line them all up and just enunciate them; and I pulled this from his official website talking just about post Rio Summit years of his career where he

continued to take a leading role in implementing the results of Rio through establishment of the Earth Council, the Earth Charter movement, his chairmanship of the World Resources Institute, membership on the board of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the African American Institute, the Institute of Ecology in Indonesia, the Beijer Institute of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and others. Also, Strong was a lifetime founding director of the World Economic Forum, a senior adviser to the president of the World Bank, and member of the International Advisory of Toyota Motor Corporation, the advisory council for the Center for International Development of Harvard University, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the World Conservation Union, the World Wildlife Fund, the Resources for The Future, and the Eisenhower Fellowships.

And that’s just a slice of a couple of decades of his biography. It’s…

ED: It’s missing a lot of stuff like the Ethiopian famine, et cetera. No, this is a very, very, very interesting human being. I don’t know if your listeners care to know about how he grew up, but you know he was born in Oak Lake Manitoba, a very small community not far from Brandon, which is not far from Winnipeg. His parents really suffered during the Depression. His mother apparently died in a mental institution. There was a lot of hunger. Life was really bloody tough. He ran away from home, I think he was in grade 9 or grade 10, got himself on lake boat, got himself onto the Coast Guard, this was all during World War II and eventually you know finished grade 11 and then went up to Chesterfield Inlet which if your listeners are familiar with Canadian geography is on the coast of Hudson’s Bay, way up north and went to work for a Hudson Bay Company factory at a very, very interesting time when the government of Canada was trying to figure out if it could actually defend our northern borders by moving troops up to the north up to the Copper Mine River and then down to Edmonton and when they were also searching for uranium. As you may recall uranium became a strategic material because of the Manhattan Project and everybody from 1945 on was trying to find uranium. And uranium was, in fact, found at Baker Lake.

So, Mr. Strong enters the big world through a guy by the name of ‘Wild’ Bill Richardson who was a sort of prospector married into an oil family called McColl, whose company was called McColl-Frontenac, it was a major importer of oil from the middle east. It that had been taken over long since by the Texaco Company through a brokerage house called Nesbitt Thomson. In a way, Mr. Strong was introduced to the world of big oil and the world of resources at a very young age. He was picked up as a very smart kid taken under the wing of a man named Paul Martin Sr. who was a cabinet minister and whose son would go on to become the Prime Minister of Canada. and introduced to the oil patch though people at the very top and that would include David Rockefeller.

So, his life story is a story of layers of understanding how networks work and being introduced at the very top rung of the, I guess you would say, the industrial and resource developers who were advancing the American empire at the end of World War II. That’s where he gets his start and he very quickly became a very significant figure in the Liberal Party, the dominant political party in this country for many years became very active in the oil patch in Calgary. He was allowed to run an oil company by the time he was 31, backed effectively by Rockefeller owned or Rockefeller controlled independent oil companies and became a very active player in the Y network. The YMCA in the immediate postwar period was a very interesting organization both nationally and internationally. It had outlets in places on the other side of the cold war boundaries; so it had outlets in China, it had outlets in Russia, and a great deal of the political discourse that went on postwar happened in unofficial and informal places likes the Y(MCA) so Mr. Strong was extremely well placed in all three: politics, business, and what we call `civil society` at the same time, and he advanced himself through those networks very quickly.

JC: Now I think an important aspect of this story is the types of organizations that Strong himself really spearheaded or set up or was the founding director of that appear on first glance to be governmental or at least quasi-governmental organizations but when you scratch the surface are much different entities underneath and I think one example of that from relatively early in his career would be after he was appointed to Canada’s external aid program and developed the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the International Development Research Center (IDRC) which probably not a lot of Canadians have heard about but continue to function to this day.

Of course, set up as ostensibly a program extending Canadian aid to developing nations but, as you note in your book, really an interesting way of peddling political influence in the developing world that, of course, was…

ED: Yeah, and for Canada that was particularly important, because you know we had going on in Quebec, in the early 60s, something called the ‘Quiet Revolution’ in which the strictures of a very conservative Catholic church were being overthrown by a population that was for the first time getting access to higher education in big numbers.

Mr. Strong, at that point, was working as the vice-president and then the president of Power Corporation, another one of those layered organizations that had huge political influence as well as huge business influence. Power Corporation ended up having a huge pile of cash deposited in its lap when its hydro operations in, I believe, Manitoba British Columbia [and] in Quebec were taken over by those provinces; and suddenly with cash to spend (it) sort of turned itself away from being a power operation into being a different form of power operation with a great deal of political influence.

So Mr. Strong left Power Corporation when his colleague and partner Mr. Paul Martin Sr., who was head of external affairs, the Minister of External Affairs, took on external aid which had in those days a very small budget and almost no staff. [He] turned it into the Canadian International Development Agency, again, with almost no money and almost no staff; and so he made a deal with SNC, which is now known as SNC-Lavalin, a huge engineering firm, to hire people that he approved of, not hire people he didn’t approve of, and take on contracts in francophone Africa.

The concern at the time was that a French Gaullist government would stir the pot in Quebec and that it would stir that pot by one of its colonies in Africa, suddenly recognizing Quebec as a sovereign state. That was ‘the fear’. So the question for the government of Canada was how do we forestall that, and the answer turned out to be, go and do a bunch of aid deals make them nice and sloppy; allow people to be as corrupt as nature allows them to be and meanwhile do some good in the world, but keep your ear to the ground in French Africa and keep control of events.

So Maurice Strong basically led that effort.

JC: Such a remarkable political coup and yet it only represents, again, just a tiny fraction of what Strong was involved in but I think gives a sense of the way that he used the various organizations. He certainly leveraged a lot of the power that he was given or appointed.

ED: He saw business as the answer to how he would get power. He didn’t have an advanced degree. he wanted to be in external affairs, and they wouldn’t take him. They wouldn’t even let him apply because he didn’t have any university education so he decided okay business is my entry point and he used it pretty brilliantly. A very smart man.

JC: Indeed, well, let’s talk about another extremely important organization that he helped to found after first chairing the first major global environmental conference, the United Nations Conference On The Environment in Stockholm which led to the development of the United Nations Environment Program which was situated in Nairobi, Kenya and as you write in Cloak of Green, Nairobi was Strong’s old stomping ground having, I believe, lived there in the 1950s briefly. Placing UNEP in Africa was…

ED: Working for Caltex by the way.

JC: Yes, a Rockefeller company…

ED: ….he was working for an oil company stomping all over East Africa.

JC: Yes, and then you go on to say “Placing UNEP in Africa was explained as a sop to the developing countries, who had been suspicious of Western intentions. But it was also useful for the big powers to have another international organization in Nairobi. After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Nairobi became the key spy capital of Africa.” Which again I think lends another intriguing layer to the possibilities of someone like Strong and his involvement in organizations like the Y.

ED: Right, his major gift is information. Using it, finding it, sharing it and leveraging it.

JC: And, yes, using narratives to help paint pictures that will help place him in positions of other power.

Well, then let’s project this forward we could talk about the Brundtland Commission and other things he was involved in but, as you say, this leads towards the 1992 Earth Summit, the Rio Conference, which is I would assume for anyone who was at least alive at that time will probably remember that conference and all of the media coverage that surrounded it and it still is today cited as one of the major touchstones of the environmental movement and, of course, it was chaired by Maurice Strong. Let’s talk about your relation to that conference and as you say the preparatory work for that conference where you actually got to meet with Strong and interview him for the book.

ED: Right, and he was very helpful. I mean, a naïve Canadian reporter who really doesn’t really understand the way the world works go to see Mr. Strong, that would be me, and he opened every single door there was to open, he asked every question that…every question I put to him he answered. Had I not prepared I’m sure the answers would have been different, but, you know what I was looking at was how is it that all these environmental groups which are supposedly located in locales, that would be Canada, in the cases of the groups I was following most closely, but also have all these international connections. How is it that all of these groups are getting funded by governments and by really large oil and gas interests and shipping interests and whatever?

How did that work and what are they doing at this conference? In the case of the Canadian organizations actually appearing on the Canadian delegation, on the one hand, and on the other hand, when they are meeting in a private room or a room they hope to remain private, but which I sort of busted my way into. How come these NGOs are being organized by people who are in fact being paid by the government of Canada to organize it? I mean, it became a kind of exercise for me to see who was connected to who, and how they all ended up in Maurice Strong’s lap. And they all did. They all had either funding or governmental help or were reporting back to the government; when they were presenting themselves to the world as non-governmental organizations, which is to say representatives of the grassroots. There was nothing grassy or ‘rooty’ about any of them.

JC: Which I think lends itself to the question, the fundamental question of what this is about because Maurice Strong obviously had his own interests to peddle and he had his own power, influence, and money and things of that nature; but, this is clearly about something more than one man or his vision.

ED: Sure. This is about shaping political opinion and about shaping political opinion in places where you know where one man cannot make a difference so if you are trying to shape the political opinion of the United States of America there better be lots and lots and lots of people out there carrying that message, the message that you are trying to shape in the public eye. One guy standing on a soapbox is going to make no difference. Thousands of organizations with their own advertising campaigns and their own local impact are going to make a difference and he understood that from I would say the early part of the middle sixties when, for example, Pierre Elliott Trudeau became Prime Minister in 1968 didn’t just get visited upon the Canadian public from nowhere but in fact had been groomed for a public role by Power Corporation years before so he understood the power of the right phrase being carried out of the right mouth and appearing on the right television show at the right time.

In the conference in Rio his major ally for that conference for getting his message out was Ted Turner who covered the thing on CNN right, left, and center, and whose people at CNN were working with the Kayapo from Brazil trying to raise funds and trying to bring attention to the Amazon issue long, long, long before the conference actually took place so he started organizing for that conference in, I believe, 1986 – 1987 when the Swedes asked him to take it on and the conference took place five years later so that’s five years of relentless organizing, relentless fundraising, large corporate interests to NGOs, NGOs funding other NGOs. It was an incredibly complex bit of business, which he orchestrated brilliantly.

JC: Well, let’s talk about what they were ultimately hoping to leave as the impression for the general public if this was an operation to influence public opinion. What was that geared towards and let me just point out this passage from your book that I thought was particularly important in that regard:

Rio was publicly described as a global negotiation to reconcile the need for environmental protection with the need for economic growth. The cognoscenti understood that there were other, deeper goals. These involved the shift of national regulatory powers to vast regional authorities; the opening of all remaining closed national economies to multinational interests; the strengthening of decision making structures far above and far below the grasp of newly minted national democracies; and, above all, the integration of the Soviet and Chinese empires into the global market system. There was no name for this very grand agenda that I had heard anyone use, so later I named it myself–the Global Governance Agenda.

Can you tell us about that agenda?

ED: Well, I think if you think about what was going on at the time you’ll sort of have it. I mean, Brazil was chosen or self-chosen, chose itself as the site for this conference as it was coming out of its last throes of the military dictatorship. It was becoming a new democracy and it was trying to control the shape of that democracy and many parties who had interest in Brazil, Canada being one, were attempting in their own way how to shape how that democracy would function.

The Canadian Embassy was very active with the Brazilian government, on the one hand, and with Brazilian NGOs on the other. Funding NGOs with the “right views” and those NGOs because of the rules in Brazil were putting money into the political process. In other words, giving money to political candidates and helping them get elected. I mean that kind of thing was legal in Brazil, it’s illegal in Canada, it’s illegal in the United States, but, you know, different rules for different folks.

So, at the same time, things were very strange in China, it was going down the opening of its economy road while also repressing a democratic movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989. So they wanted to have political control with an expansion of a more and more capitalist based economy.

Russia was going through a collapse, I mean, in effect, Gorbachev’s democratic and perestroika reorganization of the way the Soviet state conducted itself had basically become unstuck and it was transiting very, very quickly from a totally authoritarian state to something entirely different; everything was up for grabs and it’s a huge oil state so people with interests in oil and gas were very concerned about the political structures that would ensue in the Soviet Union or the post-Soviet Union at that time.

The World Economic Forum, which Maurice helped to found, was a place where all of these groups came together to have discussions out of the public eye. So, if you were a Chinese official and you were trying to open up your economy but you were afraid of going too far and losing political control, there were lots of people at the World Economic Forum at Davos who would sit and talk with you about how you might manage these transitions and there were lots of corporate interests who were happy to tell you they were happy to help and, you know, who knows maybe your kid could be educated at Harvard and you could have a nice house in Vancouver five years down the road.

So, all of these places, these sites that Maurice organized, were organizing towards a larger open global economic system, where local political authority would have less control and larger, possibly non-democratic authorities, would have more control over the shape of things to come. The European Union was coming into existence, I mean, when you think about the amount of political change that was going on, say, from 1986 to 1996 it was absolutely bloody staggering. And he was sitting in the catbird seat for a lot of that change.

JC: And in a way, you were riding shotgun for that ride, perhaps sneaking in the side door. As you alluded to, perhaps they weren’t necessarily expecting someone like yourself in the midst of writing about this. What was your sense with Maurice Strong? Was he guarding and defensive with his questions and answers or was he quite open about this?

ED: Nope, very open. One of the things that interested me was the question of whether he set up an intelligence system for this country that functioned abroad that was informal. I put that question to him and he basically said to me I really didn’t think about it that way but, you know, now that you mention it, well, yes, I guess.

He also described his situation at the UN, he loved working at the UN because, he said, he had more unfettered political power at the UN than any Canadian cabinet ministry, even a Prime Minister would have. He was able to fund his own office, he was able to fund his own officials, he could do it without being audited, he could move money here, there, and everywhere without anybody asking him any questions, I mean, he had unfettered power. And he also described the UN system as an open leaky ship in which everybody was watching everybody else. So, he assumed that the KGB or the follow on organization, the FSB, was watching him. He assumed that MI5, and MI6, and CIA, and everybody was watching everybody else and they often gave him information or shared information with him that might be of use. And, yes, he was open about that, he did not back off one bit when I asked those questions.

JC: That is fascinating and perhaps, I mean, again, it doesn’t seem like he was very secretive about this; it was just that no one paid attention to was he was doing, in the general public for the most part, despite the extraordinary number of connections that he had in the business and civil society world.

ED: Actually, quite a few people paid attention to him here. You can’t do this kind of, how should I call it, weaving of interests, without running into trouble and he ran into several problems, especially in the later course of his career when things began to pile up. I mean, people noticed that he had acquired the ownership of a ranch in Colorado sitting on top of a huge aquifer and that there was a business plan that he was a part of to sell the water from that aquifer while he was running the Rio Summit and people said what the hell, you know, what’s going on here? How can an environmentalist be selling off the aquifer that all these people rely on? What’s going on?

There were many moments in Mr. Strong’s career when he was close to the line and people thought he went over the line and there were a hue and cry. Plenty of them.

JC: And yet he had nine lives until the oil for food scandal.

ED: He did.

JC: And that…

ED: Even there, what happened to him? Nothing!

JC: Nothing legally.

ED: He was a happy boy.

JC: He ran away to China. Did you maintain any kind of contact…?

ED: He ran away to the largest economy in the world and he seems to have had significant influence over the shape of things in China.

JC: Fascinating, especially given the historical influence of the Rockefeller family in China as well. Maybe just a continuation of things earlier.

ED: And the Desmarais family in China.

JC: Indeed, the Canadian Rockefellers.

Again, so many different aspects to this. I guess the final question, did you maintain any sort of contact with Strong over the years or did you follow his career after that point?

ED: I followed his career as best I could from a distance, obviously I went on to other stories. In Canada…I don’t know where you are from James. Are you from here?

JC: I am from Calgary.

ED: From Calgary. So, you understand that this is a smallish place and especially if you are in the media you are going to know lots of people who know lots of people so you’ll be in a kind of milieu where there are lots of connections so, for example, Mr. Strong’s protégé John Ralston Saul is a very active, politically active writer in this country and I would run into him on other issues for years after this book was published.

One of his friends and associates was Adrienne Clarkson, the Governor-General, and I would run into her, so it’s like…. it’s not as if I looked for Mr. Strong after this but there were lots of sort of crossovers that continued on.

JC: His influence is difficult to miss I guess if you’re moving in high circles in Canada.

ED: Well, it’s not high circles, it’s media circles. If you do this kind of work you are going to cross paths over and over again with people who are making decisions because it’s a small number of people making decisions in this country.

So Stephen Lewis lives a few blocks from me. Stephen Lewis and Maurice Strong were working together on the conference in Rio and worked together on African issues and, you know, you’re going to keep crossing paths.

JC: Well, then I guess my final question may be a bit unfair since you haven’t looked at this issue for a couple of decades now but I guess I would be interested in your take on whether you believe that these organization that you’re covering in Cloak of Green, do you think they’ve fundamentally changed since the time you were covering them or are they operating under the same principles?

ED: No, they’re operating under that same principles, they’re not democratic organizations, this is the thing that I found most staggering. You know, I operated under the assumption that since people came to my door and asked me for money that they were voluntary based organizations with, you know, huge numbers of people supporting them. In fact, when I went back after that prep com and started to actually look at these organizations, just look at what they published about themselves, interviewed the people who ran them, it became staggeringly obvious that they were not membership organizations in that memberships control their behaviors, control their agendas, they were very small organizations that raised large sums of money and used those sums of money to have political influence.

That’s what they were about and I’m talking about World Wildlife Fund, I’m talking about Pollution Probe, another spin-off from a pollution front called Energy Probe – small organizations with a large political reach.

JC: Fascinating issue and probably one that there is still a lot of meat left on that bone to pick at.

Hopefully, you or someone can be recruited to do that at some point in the future but I guess we’ll leave that….

ED: The question you haven’t asked, though, is whether they were correct in their arguments about the environment. I mean, to me, the really important thing, the thing that drove me to this story in the first place was to generate [an] air conditioning; you know, we’re breathing stuff that’s crap; is global warming real or is it not; and, there are a number of questions that were very alive in the late 1980s early 1990s, and the question is whether they were right. Were they right that the global environment is degrading, that the climate is changing and changing radically and that human beings have a large role in those changes?

And, to me, the answer is yes, human beings do have a large role in those changes and we need to do something about it. The question is what and how?

JC: Well, exactly, if every single organization of any political influence is controlled in some way then what is the ultimate aim of this and how do you go about changing the way that it’s structured?

ED: Well, nothing stops us from starting our own organizations that nobody controls but us.

JC: Tall order. I think you put a tall order on the plate for the listeners out there who are concerned about these issues. Alright, I think we will leave it there, but as I say Cloak of Green we’ve talked about that book quite a lot throughout this conversation. I’ll obviously link to your website but I am dismayed to note that the only actual copies of that book that I can find online are used copies since it’s out of print and the cheapest one that I could possibly find was seventy plus dollars and the most expensive one was twelve hundred dollars….so.

ED: Yeah, I think the thing to do is to go to the Formac site, the publisher’s name is Lorimer, and ask for a copy and I am sure they will send it to you.

JC: Any chance there will be an E-book re-release of this book at some point?

ED: This book was done long before, you know, digitization became ubiquitous and the only thing I can think of is for awhile there when Google was basically grabbing all books in libraries and making them available online without permission, it was available then, you could click right through and read the whole thing online. Since then, it’s been taken down but I’m sure that a book can be purchased from Formac which is the name of the company that does the printing for Lorimer out of Halifax.

JC: Alright, well once again we’ll direct people to ElaineDewar.blogspot.com and I understand you are writing a new novel but you’re putting it online for free. Tell us about that.

ED: Yeah, the novel I wrote a few years ago but there is another one that follows on after that so I’ve been having fun.

JC: Interesting stuff, well Elaine Dewar, I do genuinely thank you for taking the time to talk about this today it’s an important subject and your book was very important on breaking a lot of that ground so thank you for your time.

ED: Thank you.

Transcription by: ‘phreedomphile’, a Corbett Report member.

Tagged with: books • environmentalism • Maurice Strong • oil • Rockefeller

[1] The post by James Corbett

https://www.corbettreport.com/meet-maurice-strong-globalist-oiligarch-environmentalist/

 

Notes:

This is a transcript of the interview published in ‘The Corbett Report’ on 01.02.2016, prepared by ‘phreedomphile’, a member of the Corbett Report

Elaine Dewar is a Canadian journalist, researcher, and author of: Cloak of Green (1995), Bones: Discovering the First Americans (2001), and The Second Tree: Of Clones, Chimeras and Quests for Immortality (2005).

James Corbett is a journalist and broadcaster and presenter of ‘The Corbett Report,’ an independent, listener-supported alternative news source. It operates on the principle of open-source intelligence and provides podcasts, interviews, articles, and videos about breaking news and important issues from 9/11 Truth and false flag terror to the Big Brother police state, eugenics, geopolitics, the central banking fraud and more.

Rob Hopkins

Review of the book Reclaiming Conversation: the power of talk in a digital age by Sherry Turkle, Penguin Press, 2015, 436 pp.

This is one of the best books I have read in a very long time.  Essential reading for any parent, for anyone who interacts with digital technologies, social media, smartphones, indeed for anyone living in the complex world of 2017.  It’s a book that had a deep impact on me, and I think it will on you too.  Sherry Turkle is a psychologist who has spent 30 years studying the psychology of how people relate to technology.  Initially she researched what, in games, the avatars people created for themselves revealed about them.  But as time went on, she became increasingly concerned with the impact that technologies, in particular the smartphone, are having on society, and in particular on our ability to seek out and sustain conversations with each other.

We find ourselves, she argues, at the beginning of a new “silent spring”, one in which “technology is implicated in an assault on empathy”, and where we are being “cured of talking”.  While we live in a time when most of what we hear is the positives of these new technologies, their ability to enable us in our pursuit of the new, to keep in touch, to feel connected.  “We like to hear [these stories]”, she reflects, “because if these are the only stories that matter, then we don’t have to attend to other feelings that persist – that we are somehow more lonely than before, that our children are less empathic than they should be for their age, and that it seems nearly impossible to have an uninterrupted conversation at a family dinner”.

Something is going horribly wrong, she suggests.  Research shows that college students who have grown up with these technologies as commonplace are 40% less empathic than their equivalents 10 years before.  It shows that frequent multitasking is associated with depression, social anxiety and trouble reading human emotions.  It shows that even the presence of a phone, or open screens, degrade the ability of everyone who can see them to do the task they were doing before.  Even putting your phone on the table during a meeting or a conversation has been shown to change the quality and depth of that conversation.  Teachers report that children are not developing empathy in the way they should and not only struggle to sustain a conversation, but actively avoid putting themselves in situations where conversation will be required.

So why is conversation so important?  As Turkle writes:

It is the most human – and humanizing – thing we do.  Fully present to one another, we listen and learn.  It’s where we develop the capacity for empathy.  It’s where we experience the joy of being heard, of being understood.  And conversation advances self-reflection, the conversations with ourselves that are the cornerstone of early development and continue throughout life.

Yet the amount of conversation actually taking place is in decline.  We increasingly prefer to communicate via email, via Facebook, where we can edit ourselves, and minimize the risk that we will end up in conversations that are uncomfortable, that leave us exposed in some way.  Some families now argue not in the kitchen, but over email, as they find it is somehow neater, more controlled, and less likely to spill over into family life.  Some couples do the same, finding that having a record of their arguments means they have something to refer back to.

Yet there is a contradiction at the heart of our sense of “being connected”.  As we detach from the conversations that since forever formed the bedrock of our culture, we imagine that the ability to be always connected will make us less lonely.  And yet loneliness is a national epidemic.  Three-quarters of older people identify as being lonely, and chronic loneliness has health impacts equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  Yet ironically, at the root of our troubles with technology is that they deny us the opportunity, the possibility, of being alone, quiet, still.

As Turkle writes, “If we are unable to be alone, we will be more lonely.  And if we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will only know how to be lonely”.  Believing that we are in conversation through texting on our mobiles, rather than sitting with each other, means we miss out on the very kind of conversations we need, those that Turkle identifies as “artless, risky and face-to-face”.

We are experiencing what neuroscientist Richard Davidson calls a “national attention deficit”.  The myth that we can “multitask” is a pervasive one, the idea that we can text while we read while we update our Facebook profile while we draft emails while we check the news while we plan our travel next week while we shop for shoes online.  Yet all that multitasking does, research shows, is lead to us doing lots of things badly, as she puts it, “multitasking degrades performance”.

She calls for ‘unitasking’, consciously creating the space and self-control to relearn to do one thing at a time, and thereby to do it better.  Many businesses are now learning that, as she puts it, “the more you talk to your colleagues, the greater your productivity”.  Offices are being redesigned to maximize interaction and opportunities for conversation.  Meetings are being designed with a ‘parking lot for smartphones’, and regular opportunities, say 10 minutes per hour, for people to check their phones.

This is a book that is so rich with fascinating research, and with implications, that I am still digesting it.  That phone in your pocket is just a phone, right?  No.  As Turkle writes, “It’s not an accessory.  It’s a psychologically potent device that changes not just what you do but who you are”.  And yet this is not a depressing book.  It is a powerful call to review and rethink your relationship to that phone, to the technology in your life.  To redouble your efforts to not itch the scratch that arises in any quiet moment that offers the possibility of boredom to reach for our phone.  The hopeful message of this book is “conversation can cure”.  Research shows that after just 5 days at a summer camp that bans all electronic devices, children show greater empathy and attention.

For me, this book a powerful affirmation of the Transition approach, that where possible we seek to bring people together, to enable and foster conversation, to create spaces where people meet and imagine together.  Might it be that the best antidote to loneliness, to the drifting apart of our communities, to the pervasive sense of hopelessness, is to enable, to invite, public conversations? As Turkle writes: “A public conversation can model freedom of thought.  It can model courage and compromise.  It can help people think things through”.

I always start my talks by inviting people to introduce themselves to their neighbour.  So far at least 3 couples have come up to me and said “you remember that talk in [wherever] where you said to turn to the person next to you?  That’s how we met!”  And there has been, so far as I know of, one baby that resulted from it.

If you only read one book this year, make it this one.  It is delightfully readable, incredibly well-researched, rich with insight, and will make you rethink your relationship to that device in your pocket.  And invite conversation back into your life, indeed to insist upon it.  The kind of conversation that is slipping out of our culture, and out of our lives, the kind she describes as “a certain kind of face-to-face talk.  Unplanned. Open-ended. The kind that takes time”.

                                                                                                                             

Note

This review was originally published on the blog ‘Imagination taking power’, in April 2017. Source: https://www.robhopkins.net/2017/04/17/book-review-reclaiming-conversation-the-power-of-talk-in-a-digital-age-by-sherry-turkle/

How social media try to manipulate your mind

Phil Ebersole

Review of the book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier. London, Bodley Head, 2018.

Any time you log on to Google, Facebook, Twitter or other ‘free’ social media, information on every keystroke is being fed into powerful computers somewhere. Algorithms in these computers correlate this data.  They compare you with other people with similar profiles,  The algorithms –‘intelligent,’ but blind –, experiment with ways to use this information to modify your behavior so you will do what they want. What they usually want is for you to respond for an ad for a particular product or service. But they can be trying to influence you to vote – or not to vote.

In his new book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018), Jaron Lanier, a scientist and entrepreneur who pioneered virtual reality, discusses the questionable use of people’s personal data by the social media companies. However, his book is not a call to arms against social media but an alert to the harmful effects of social media, such as addiction and mind manipulation. Lanier suggests how the social media business model can be reformed.

Lanier describes as sinister the way the big digital media companies use algorithms to discover things about you that you haven’t revealed directly. Their business model involves finding the ways of attracting and holding your attention so that you can be influenced by advertisers, politicians and other paid clients for their purposes, not yours. A vast amount of data is collected about you, moment to moment, including your facial expressions, the way your body moves, who you know, what you read, where you goes, what you eat, and your likely susceptibility to assorted attempts at persuasion. This data is then used by algorithms to create feeds of stimuli – both paid ads and unpaid posts – that are designed to boost your ‘engagement’ and increase the effectiveness of ‘advertisements.’  As Lanier points out, Facebook executives have written that they deliberately incorporated addictive techniques into their service, which is why the honest terms would be ‘addiction’ and ‘behavior modification stimuli.’

Advertising has evolved considerably from printed media to digital media. In the printed media, advertising was mostly a one-way street; the advertiser sent forth the ad and hoped for the best.  In the digital media, advertising accompanies the connections that people have and change their product accordingly. The way advertising works in social media involves monitoring the user closely, to measure the effect of what is called an ad so that a personalized stream of stimuli can be incrementally adjusted until the person’s behavior is finally altered.  Most social media customers are now living in automated virtual Skinner Boxes (laboratory chambers used to study animal behavior, so-called after B. F. Skinner) and everyone is susceptible of being influenced on the biochemical level by positive and negative stimuli.

On social media, positive stimuli conveyed might include being retweeted, friended, or made momentarily viral. Negative stimuli include the familiar occurrences of being made to feel unappreciated, unnoticed, or ridiculed. Unfortunately, positive and negative online stimuli are pitted against each other in an unfair fight. Positive and negative emotions have comparable ultimate power over us, but they exhibit crucially different timing.  Positive emotions typically take longer to build and can be lost quickly, while negative ones can come on faster and dissipate more slowly.  It takes longer to build trust than to lose it.  One can become scared or angry quickly, but it takes longer for the feelings to fade. The sour and lousy consequence, which no one foresaw, is that the negative emotions are the most often emphasized, because positive ones take too long to show up in the feedback loop that influences how paying customers and dark actors use these services to manipulate ordinary users and society.

Another problem of social media comes from its role as a major gatekeeper for news. What this means is that more and more of us will be in filter bubbles, in which we only get news that pushes our psychological buttons. It could not be otherwise, as much material on the Internet is generated by people who are not what they pretend to be, or even by computers, and distributed on a mass scale by robots.

The Internet can be a means of bringing people together, but anger, paranoia, xenophobia and conspiracy theories are more engaging. Social media feeds you stuff that is intended to stimulate your emotion, and it is easier to stimulate feelings of anger, fear and resentment than it is feelings of joy, affection and security. This is deeply corrupting to the political process in various ways. The feedback from social media is to reinforce whatever it is you happen to be – liberal, conservative, pro-gun, anti-war – thus diminishing you ability to understand people who think differently from you. Whatever divisions exist in society are likely to be widened by social media.

A strong point that Lanier makes is that social media operates below the level of awareness of its users. The only way you can discover how much you are being sublimely influenced by it is by turning off your social media accounts for a certain period of time, say six months, and see what happens. This is enough time for you to judge how social media affect you and whether it’s worthwhile to continue. Does it seem far-fetched that large numbers of people would do this? Once it seemed far-fetched that large numbers of people would give up smoking. To Lanier, the problem is with advertising-based social media. To him, a fee-based social media would operate for the benefit of customers.

I think that the problem is deeper, and lies in the very nature of our economy and technology. Many of the tricks used by social media were already in use in traditional media. I know this from my newspaper experience.  Back in the 1990s, my old newspaper made a big effort to discover what kind of news our readers wanted.  In surveys and focus groups, they said that wanted positive news—articles about people accomplishing good things.  But the article they remember the best was a horrible story about a dead baby being found in a Dumpster. The people who answered the survey weren’t hypocrites.  Not at all.  It is just that we human beings react in ways we don’t choose, and this leaves us open to manipulation. I was shocked when I read about Cambridge Analytica, the campaign consultant that worked for the Trump presidential campaign, and its claim that it could manipulate voter behavior on an individual basis.  But I later came to realize that this was the standard Facebook service, and could have been available to the Clinton campaign. Lanier takes the charges of Vladimir Putin’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States more seriously than I did.  The Russian ads seemed amateurish to me (unless they were decoys to divert attention from the real influence campaign) and most of them were posted after election day. But the effectiveness of the 2016 ads is beside the point.  If the combination of Big Data, artificial intelligence and behavior modification algorithms can influence voting behavior, Putin is sure to use it, and he doesn’t, some other foreign government or institution will.  Not to mention our own NSA and CIA.

Lanier saw no problem with Amazon or Netflix using computer algorithms to suggest books or videos you might like, because this is done with the intend of getting your business, not of influencing you for the benefit of some third party. To him, the problem is the business model of the large social media companies such as Facebook and Google, which is designed to engage your attention and then selling it to third parties. He doesn’t think regulation is the answer.  When there’s a profit motive, there’s usually away to get around any rules. Lanier’s answer to the problem is a new business model, in which the social media companies get their revenue from users, not third parties. The social media companies also should compensate individuals for using their material. The benefit of this is that the users of social media would be the customers, and not the product. Lanier’s solution involves charging for their services, suggesting that such charges would be small and affordable to most people. The technology to make payments in pennies or fractions of a cent exists and is feasible to use, according to him.

Although I am inclined to agree with Lanier regarding the manipulative power of social media, I am also inclined to think  that his solution would be very hard to implement.  Newspapers at the height of their power and influence were never able to free themselves from dependence on advertisers.  Many profitable print publications are giveaways and get their income solely from advertising, but few that do without ads and depend only on subscriptions, and my impression is that these few depend on donations to offset losses. On the other hand, the economics of internet publishing are different from print publishing, so maybe Lanier’s proposal would be feasible. There remains the problem of persuading a profitable business with no serious competitors to give up what Lanier identified as a source of problem.

                                                                                                                             

Phil Ebersole is a retired newspaper reporter living in Rochester, N.Y. This review is an edited version of published on his blog on 21 September 2018. Source: https://philebersole.wordpress.com/

Jo Pires-O’Brien

The Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) described Frank Russell, (1865-1931), the 2nd Earl Russell and the older brother of Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), as the most extraordinary of his friends. They met in 1886, in circumstances that can be described as extraordinary, too. Santayana was 22 years old and in his last year as an undergraduate at Harvard University. The young Earl Russell had been sent to Boston by his paternal grandmother to seek a tutor. His guide in Boston, Herbert Lyman, a friend of Santayana, took Russell to meet Santayana at his student accommodation in Hollis Hall. In his memoirs, Santayana reveals that he never knew for sure why Lyman thought that Russell might have liked to meet him. Could it be because his room in Hollis Hall had a view of a picturesque brick path? Was it because Lyman thought that Santayana was a comparatively articulate bloke and known to write poetry? Or could it be because Lyman was his friend? Perhaps Lyman took all of these things into account. Here is Santayana’s description of Russell, taken from his 1947 book The Middle Span:

He was a tall young man of twenty, still lithe though large of bone, with abundant tawny hair, clear little steel-blue eyes, and a florid complexion. He moved deliberately, gracefully, stealthily, like a tiger well-fed and with a broad margin of leisure for choosing his prey. There was precision in his indolence; and mild as he seemed, he suggested a latent capacity to leap, a latent astonishing celerity and strength, that could crush at one blow. Yet his speech was simple and suave, perfectly decided and strangely frank. He had some thoughts, he said, of becoming a clergyman. He seemed observant, meditative, as if comparing whatever he saw with something in his mind’s eye. As he looked out of the window at the muddy paths and shabby grass, the elms standing scattered at equal intervals, the ugly factory-like buildings, and the loud-voiced youths passing by, dressed like shop assistants, I could well conceive his thoughts, and I said apologetically that after Oxford all this must seem to him rather mean; and he replied curtly: “Yes it does.” I explained our manner of life, our social distinctions, our choice of studies, our sports, our food, our town amusements. He listened politely, obviously rather entertained and not displeased to find that, according to my description, all I described might be dismissed for ever without further thought. Then he sat good-naturedly on the floor and began to look at my books – a rather meagre collection in some open shelves. He spied Swinburne’s Poems, and took out the volume. Did I like Swinburne? Yes, perhaps he was rather verbose; but did I know the choruses in Atlanta in Calydon? No? Then he would read me one.  And he read them all, rather liturgically, with a perfect precision and clearness, intoning them almost, in a sort of rhythmic chant, and letting the strong meaning shine through the steady processional march of the words. It seemed the more inspired and oracular for not being brought out by human change of tome or of emphasis. I had not heard poetry read in this way before. I had not known that the English language could become, like stained-glass, an object and a delight in itself.

He stayed a long time, until, the daylight having decidedly failed, he remembered that he was to dine with the James’. My own dinner was long since cold. He was off the next day, he said; but I must look him up whenever I come to London. I saw no more of him at that time; but I received through the post a thin little book bound in white vellum, The Bookbills of Narcissus, by Richard Le Gallienne, inscribed “from R.” And William James not long afterwards took occasion to interrupt himself, as his manner was, as if suddenly thought had struck him, and to say to me: “I hear you have seen this young grandson of Lord John Russell. He talked about you; you seem to have made an impression.” The impression I had made was that I was capable of receiving impressions. With young Russell, who completely ignored society and convention, this was the royal road to friendship. (pp. 51-52)

The opportunity for a second meeting between Santayana and Russell came in March 1887, when Santayana, who had been studying in Germany since the fall of 1886, travelled to England. Russell was not in London but in Reading, looking after the Royal, his 100 tons steam yacht, that was moored at the Kennet Canal. It was there that Santayana met him. When Santayana arrived, Russell was discussing boating matters with the mechanic, and only after he finished he greeted Santayana properly. On that occasion Santayana noticed that Russell had a knack for the latest mechanical novelties such as the small dynamo used for the illumination of the yacht.  When Santayana asked Russel what electricity was, Russell pulled him to stand close to the dynamo’s large magnet, and when Santayana felt the pull, he said to him: ‘That is what electricity is.’ The two young friends spent a couple of nights at the local inn, and when the yacht was ready, Russell and Santayana sailed it down the Thames towards London, while Santayana did his best to learn what was required of him as a second mate.

Later that same year Santayana met Russell again in Marseilles, for another trip on the Royal. To Santayana, that second trip sealed their friendship, for it enabled the two young men to get to know each other better. Here is Santayana’s recollection of it.

Two men in their early twenties eating and sleeping for three weeks in the same cabin, seeing the same sights and living through the same incidents without one moment of boredom, without one touch of misunderstanding or displeasure, could not but become very good friends. But we were predestined to become friends before, in fact ever since our acquaintance; and I don’t think this trip through Burgundy made such a difference. Friendship in any case didn’t mean for Russell what it meant to me. There was no dramatic curiosity in it for him, no love of speculation and unanimity. He cared nothing about what other people might be in themselves or in their feelings and careers; nor did he have the least need of embosoming himself. He was frank enough and didn’t take the pains to disguise facts in his own life, when the interest of the moment led him to refer to them.

In spite of their different social circumstances, the friendship that Santayana had with Russell lasted for many years. Santayana explained that on the fact that neither of them were a nuisance to the other. As he wrote in his memoirs, “he respected my freedom unconditionally and gladly, and I respected his.”

References

Santayana, G. The Middle Span: The background of my life. London, Constable, 1947.

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (1923- 2014), the woman who gained posthumous fame for having had a friendship with Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla) for more than thirty years, was a Polish American phenomenologist philosopher. In this essay I try  to show that although it was Tymieniecka’s  friendship with Pope John Paul II that has caught the interest of the greater media, she was an accomplished individual in her own right.

At the time of Tymieniecka’s death in 2014, age 91, she was still active in the World Phenomenology Institute (WPI), the institution that she founded in 1968, in Hanover, New Hampshire.  She served WPI for many years, as its president and as the editor of its official publications: Analecta Husserliana and of Phenomenological Inquiry.  A search of her books in Amazon shows her name as editor until close to her death. Tymieniecka’s biography provide many clues to her motivation as well as to her personality.

According with Marek Jerzy Minakowski, a Polish genealogist who has an extensive blog in the internet (https://minakowski.pl/), the biography of Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (1923- 2014) that appears in Wikipedia is not completely accurate. The version in Wikipedia states that “she was born into an aristocratic Polish-French family,” but although she comes from an aristocratic family, it was a Polish-Jewish one, for her connections to French aristocrats are too remote to count. Minakowski states that was the great-granddaughter of Abraham Loewenstein, from the Jewish commune in Kazimierz, and a descendant of Szmul Niederkowir, the richest Polish Jew of early ‘9th century. The version in Wikipedia also states that Anna-Teresa’s mother, Maria-Ludwika de Lanval Tymieniecka, introduced her to philosophy of Henri Bergson (1859-1941). To that, Minakowski makes two points. The first is that Tymieniecka’s mother probably had a proper Jewish name at birth, inferring that she was the daughter of Jews who converted to Catholicism. The second is that she would know the French philosopher Henri Bergson, because he too was a descendant of Szmul Niederkowir.[1]

Tymieniecka was born on an estate in Masovia, Poland, in a well to do family. As a young woman, she was drawn to the Lvov–Warsaw Philosophical School, the most important movement in the history of Polish philosophy, established by Kazimierz Twardowski (1866-1938) at the end of the 19th century in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, capital of the province of Galicia, which at that time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire[2]. She was especially interested in Twardowski’s most important book Zur Lehre vom Inhalt und Gegenstand der Vorstellungen (On the content and object of presentations). As far as her formal higher education is concerned, Tymieniecka studied simultaneously and the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts. At the Jagiellonian University she began systematic studies of philosophy under the guidance of Roman Ingarden (1893-1970), who himself had studied with Kazimierz Twardowski and Edmund Husserl (1859-1938).  At the end of her undergraduate studies, she moved to Switzerland to continue studies under another important Polish philosopher and logician, Józef Maria Bocheński (1902-1995), at the University of Fribourg. Her doctoral study, dedicated to explorations of the fundamentals of phenomenology in Nicolai Hartmann and Roman Ingarden’s philosophies, was later published as Essence and Existence (1957). From Fribourg, Tymieniecka moved to Paris, where she enrolled herself at the Sorbonne, to study French philosophy and literature, obtaining her second Ph.D. from this institution in 1951. In the years 1952-1953 she did postdoctoral researches in the field of social and political sciences at the College d’Europe in Brugge, Belgium. According to her main biographer, from that moment on, Tymieniecka started her own way in philosophy, by developing a special phenomenological attitude that was neither entirely Husserlian, nor entirely Ingardenian.

Tymieniecka imigrated to the United States in 1954. Upon her arrival she held two short term academic appointments, the first to teach philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, and the second to teach mathematics at Oregon State University, in Corvallis. According to her biography, after these she did postdoctoral research at Yale, and after that, in 1957, she became an assistant professor of philosophy at Pennsylvania State University, lecturing also at Bryn Mawr College, also in Pennsylvania. From 1961 to 1966 she taught at the Institute for Independent Study at Radcliffe College, a women’s liberal arts college in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her last academic post was as a  professor of Philosophy at St. John’s University, New York city, from 1972-1973.

In 1956 Tymieniecka married Hendrik S. Houthakker (1924-2008), Professor of Economy at Stanford University (1954-1960) and Harvard University (from 1960) and member of President Nixon’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1969 to 1971. The couple had three children: Isabella Houthakker, Louis Houthakker and Jan-Nicolas Houthakker. Although Tymieniecka’s biography does not provide any details of her married life, one could make an educated guess that she must have endured the usual hardships of trying to find a job somewhere near that of her husband’s. However, Tymieniecka had the courage and the determination to carve her own working niche, founding the WPI and locating it somewhere accessible to her family home, first in Lebanon (NH) and then in Pomfret (VT). This is the kind of compromising that spouses do for the sake of their relationship and their family. We cant’t know for sure that the married of Tymieniecka and Houthakker was a happy one, but the evidence points to that.

The WPI that Tymieniecka founded soon made its mark through its various activities and publications. Many of its meetings were conducted in rooms rented at Harvard University. Tymieniecka herself was well respected in the academic circles.  About the time Tymieniecka was founding the WPI, she became acquainted with two books by the Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, after which she developed an interest in meeting Wojtyla in person. These books were Miłość i Odpowiedzialność  (Love and Responsibility; 1960) and Osoba i czyn (Person and act or The acting person; 1967). Love and Responsibility is about the complexity of sexual feeling and response, and an extension of the Thomist view that all sexuality must be generative. The Acting Person stresses that man must ceaselessly unravel his mysteries and strive for a new and more mature expression of his nature, which includes his struggle to live with dignity.

The opportunity for Tymieniecka to meet Wojtyla appeared in 1973, when she was invited by the Seventh Centennial International Thomas Aquinas Congress to represent American scholarship on its Scientific Committee. She decided to invite the Cardinal Wojtyla to present a paper in the phenomenology section, of which she was the moderator, and to travel to Poland to deliver the invitation in person. Their first meeting must have been as momentous as one would expect of a meeting of two kindred spirits with sharing interests. After their first meeting, Tymieniecka and Cardinal Wojtyla became friends.

A friendship between a priest and a married woman is bound to raise eyebrows, especially so with the priest happens to be a Cardinal or a Pope. There is no evidence of impropriety in the friendship between Tymieniecka and Cardinal Wojtyla. On the contrary, their friendship served to show that it is possible for a spiritual leader to cultivate the life of the spirit and be engaged with the world. Tymieniecka’s husband, Houthakker, who was intelligent and cosmopolitan did not object to hi wife’s friendship with Cardinal Wojtyla. In fact, he too became a friend of the Cardinal according to biographers Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi in their book His Holiness (1997). We learn from their book that Cardinal Wojtyla and his private secretary, Father Stanislaw Dziwisz, visited Tymieniecka and her husband in their Vermont country home in the summer of 1976. According to them, the cardinal celebrated mass each morning at a picnic table in the backyard; he borrowed her husband’s shorts to wear beneath his swimming trunks when they swam in a neighbour’s pond; and they took long walks (usually in the company of Dziwisz) to discuss philosophy and their work. After Wojtyla was elected to the papacy in October 1978, he insisted in carrying on meeting with Tymieniecka. Their friendship lasted until the death of Wojtyla in 2005.

There are two important things about Tymieniecka that her biographers agree. The first is that she was intellectually equal to her kindred spirited friend, the late Pope John Paul II. The second is that their friendship was platonic. We can go further to say that their friendship was of the ‘complete’ (teleion) type described by Aristotle, which is only possible between those who are sensible and virtuous.

Tymieniecka’s  exceptional intelect can be infered both from her academic qualifications and her books. As shown in her selected bibliography, below, Tymieniecka is the author of seven books of great significance. She was the editor of Analecta Husserliana and of Phenomenological Inquiry, the two main publications of The World Phenomenology Institute. In addition to that, she was also a co-Editor of the Springer (formerly Kluwer Academic Publishers) book series: Islamic Philosophy and Occidental Phenomenology in Dialogue, with Gholamreza Aavani and Nader El-Bizri. Tymieniecka’s editorial signature can be deduced from the various titles she helped to put into print, which included the aforementioned books by Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II.

Tymieniecka sold her archive to the National Library of Poland in 2008, but the letters she reveived from Pope John Paul II were handed to them only after her death, on June 7, 2014, in Pomfret, Vermont, United States.

When in The World Phenomenology Institute held its 39th Annual Cambridge Conference, in June 4-6, 2015, one of its Session was entitled ‘Homage to Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka. Its plenary session was conducted by Daniela Verducci[3], WPI CoPresident (European/Asian Division), who spoke on The Subject/Object Relationship According to the Phenomenology of Life of Anna Teresa Tymieniecka.

Conclusion

As a long admirer of Karol Wojtyla, the late Pope John Paul II, when I learned about his long lasting friendship with the philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, I simply dismissed any innuendos of wrong doing. My recent interest in the philosophy of  friendship drove me do this brief inquire into the life of his friend Tymieniecka, and not to my surprise, I discovered another exceptional person. The friendship between Tymieniecka and Wojtyla was of the complete type that Aristotle described. This type of friendship only happens between very exceptional people. Complete friendships are the diamonds of humanity: tough, beautiful and extremely rare. They are morsels of meaning that fill the void of existence.

Selected bibliography of Tymieniecka

Tymieniecka, A.-T. Essence et existence: Étude à propos de la philosophie de Roman Ingarden et Nicolai Hartmann (Paris: Aubier, Editions Montaigne, 1957).

—. For Roman Ingarden; nine essays in phenomenology (’s-Gravenhage: M.Nijhoff, 1959), viii + 179 p.

—. Phenomenology and science in contemporary European thought. With a foreword by I. M. Bochenski ([New York]: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1962), xxii + 198 p.

—. Leibniz’ cosmological synthesis (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1964), 207 p.

—. Why is there something rather than nothing? Prolegomena to the phenomenology of cosmic creation (Assen: Van Gorcum & Comp., 1966), 168 p.

—. Eros et Logos (Paris: Beatrice-Nauwelaerts, 1972), 127 p.

—. Logos and Life (Dordrecht; Boston: Kluwer Academic, 1987–2000, 4 vols.).

Bibliography

Bernstein, Carl and Politi, Marco. His Holiness. 1997.

Minakowski, Marek Jerzy. The next friend of the Pope was a descendant of Jewish bankers. https://minakowski.pl/najblizsza-przyjaciolka-papieza-byla-potomkini-zydowskich-bankierow/ . Consulted on 09.04.2019.

Stourton, Ed. The secret letters of Pope John Paul II. BBC News, 15 February 2016. Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35552997

Verducci, Daniela. The ‘Sacred River’ Toward God: Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka’s Phenomenology of Religious Experience. Open Theology 4:630-639, 2018.

Wikipedia. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (February 28, 1923 – June 7, 2014). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna-Teresa_Tymieniecka

                                                                                                                             

Joaquina (Jo)  Pires-O’Brien is the editor of PortVitoria, a magazine of the Iberian culture, being published since July 2010.

Key words: Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka; Pope John Paul II; Cardinal Karol Wojtyla; Analecta Husserliana; The World Phenomenology Institute; Aristotle; Henri Bergson; complete friendship; Daniela Verducci;

Notes

[1] Bergson was a Jew who regarded Catholicism with sympathy, as shown in his book Les deux sources de la morale et la religion (1932), which was very influential to a number of Catholic thinkers. During World War II, when France was occupied by the Germans, Vichy regime issued a decree ordering the Jews to register themselves, but in a separate decree it exempted those Jews who had achieved distinction in the areas of science, literature, art, etc. Although the 80 year old Bergson fitted the latter category he opted to register in solidarity to other Jews. He died soon after that, on January 3, 1941.

[2] Its other members included Tadeusz Kotarbiński, Stanisław Leśniewski, Jan Łukasiewicz and Alfred Tarski.

[3] Verducci is the author of La fenomenologia della vita di Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka. Prova di sistema (Italian) Paperback, 1 Jan 2012. Verducci’s more recent paper about Tymieniecka appeared in 2018 in the journal Open Theology.

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

The building of a Brazilian national identity began with the country’s independence from Portugal in 1822. Since then, it has taken different forms that accompanied the evolution of Brazilian society throughout history. Among the various scholars who described the Brazilian national identity, Gilberto Freyre (1900-1987) is the most outstanding. Although he was only 33 years old when he published  Casa grande e senzala (The Masters and the Slaves)[1], this book remains unsurpassed as a comprehensive and penetrating analysis of Brazilian society, based on history, geography, literature, folklore, and art. The thesis Freyre developed in this book is that the Brazilian society was shaped around the sugar cane industry, where the Portuguese colonizers and the Brazilians – peasants, native Indians and black slaves –, maintained a peaceful relationship, and as a result of which, the Brazilian society emerged as a nation of mixed-blood population that evaded the scourge of racism.

Freyre was well acquainted with the two major literary movements of the twenty century in Brazil,  “Modernism”, which took off in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and ‘Regionalism’, which was based in the Brazilian Northeast. He wrote:

These two movements will probably stand as the most significant in revolutionizing the letters and the life of Brazil in the direction of intellectual or cultural spontaneity, creativeness, and self-confidence set against the tradition of colonial subordination to Europe or the United States.[2]

About the Modernist movement, Freyre cites the writer Mario de Andrade (1893-1945), who had expressed regret that the movement “did not go far enough in developing its social implications”.[3] This note by Freyre is a testimony of his genius with which he distilled the essence of the Brazilian society. However, there are plenty of social implications in the character Macunaíma that Andrade introduced in an eponymous novel that appeared in 1928.

Macunaíma: the proverbial Brazilian scoundrel

Most critics recognizes Macunaíma, a character created by Mario de Andrade[4], as the proverbial Brazilian scoundrel. Macunaíma is the son of a native Indian woman, born black, with an adult body but a child’s mind, which would explain some of his vices. He is hyper-sexualised, lazy, glutton, and as if that wasn’t enough, a megalomaniac who believed he could manipulate monsters and deities, and control the universe.

As the novel unfolds, Macunaíma lived a simple life in his village near forest, but one day he heard about a big city called São Paulo, and decided that he wanted to go there. While he is toying with the idea of going to São Paulo, his mother dies. In grief, Macunaíma wanders inside the forest, when he discovers a magic fountain, bathes in it, and when he comes out of it he has become white. Macunaíma arrives in São Paulo as a white man, although his whiteness is not genuine, and he will be found out. His lover, a white guerrillera, gives birth to a black baby. When Macunaíma becomes homesick for his village he writes to the “Icamiabas”, the legendary Amazons. His letter is in a formal European Portuguese style, a strong contrast with the colloquial Brazilian Portuguese style of the novel itself, typical of the Realism style, of which Mario de Andrade was a pioneer. The formal style in Macunaíma’s letter is the symbol of his new persona as a respectable city dweller. It is also  a way the author devised mock Romanticism.

Macunaíma is described by his ethnicity and by his personality. He has all three races of Brazil, since he was born black, his mother was a native Indian, and by the force of destiny he became white. He is a hero without principles – um herói sem-caráter. There is an obvious cognitive dissonance in this description, since the idea of a hero implies having principles. Could it be that Macunaíma’s lack of principles resulted from his mixed-race condition?  Statistics shows that correlation is not necessarily causation, but the nineteen century scholars who were ignorant of statistics believed that the high level of interracial breeding in Brazil was creating a descent of undesirables.

The Anthropophagous Manifest

In 1928, the writer Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954), brother of the aforementioned Mário de Andrade, published his Anthropophagous Manifest (Manifesto antropófago), in poetic prose, proposing that Brazilians should ‘cannibalize’ the European cultural legacy, and digest it, in order to create an art that is typically Brazilian[5]. The example given is how Shakespeare’s phrase “To be or not to be” can become “Tupy or not Tupy”[6]. As others have pointed out, the Manifest’s objective was not to oppose European culture but to oppose the mind-set that only things that come from abroad are good. Brazilians should value its indigenous culture, and draw inspiration from it.

The metaphor of the cordial man

The ‘cordial man’ is a metaphor for the Brazilian personality or temperament, introduced by the Brazilian historian and sociologist Sérgio Buarque de Holanda (1902-1982), in his 1936 book Raízes do Brasil (Roots of Brasil)[7]. In this book, Buarque de Holanda traces the Brazilian mind-set to the time when Brazil was a colony of Portugal, when its social structure was unstable and the order precarious and the only thing that appeared as permanent and certain was the sugar industry of sugar. It was a time marked by many sources of conflicts, including the uncertainties regarding slavery, when patriarchy offered protection from the constant threat of violence. Colonial patriarchy is the root of the Brazilian patrimonialist State, where private interests trump the common good. Patriarchy continued to after Brazil gained its independence from Portugal, and even after the abolition of monarchy and the republic regime was introduced.

The metaphor of the cordial man created to depict the Brazilian mind-set is misleading, because the word ‘cordial’, which comes from the Latin cordis, meaning ‘of the heart’, has other meanings such as ‘amiable’ and ‘polite’, whilst Buarque de Holanda used ‘cordial’ in the strict sense. Thus, the metaphor of the cordial man depicts Brazilians as individuals fixated in delimiting friends and foes, and who use emotion rather than reason to separate the two. Although one could argue that the trumping of emotion over reason happens in every country in the world, there is a twist in the Brazilian fixation with ‘friends close to the chest’ (amigos do peito) and the others. This twist has to do with the peculiar way in which Brazilians define their circle of trust. The sentences below are examples I found in the internet:

 “So and so is very snobbish, for he remains working at his desk instead of having a coffee with us!”

“That individual is well qualified but is not fun to be with, he will never be promoted in the company.”

“My boss is so good, he treats me as if I was part of the family!”

“So and so got a promotion at the company, but he misses more than he works.”

“I can’t foresee any problems in him,  he is one of us .”

Judging from those examples above, one can infer that Brazilians have a very limited circle of trust.

The Friend of the Beast – O Amigo da Onça

The metaphor of the ‘cordial man’ points to the Brazilian fixation with ‘friends of the chest’ and his suspicion of all others. The typical ‘other’ could be described as the individual who would find pleasure in one’s misfortune, and who could very well be close by, posing as a friend. A popular cartoon character called ‘o amigo da onça[8] or ‘the friend of the beast’, that appeared in Brazil in the 1940s and lasted for many decades, is the best depiction of this ‘other’, and could very well be the cordial man’s alter ego.

 

Figure 1. Cartoon of the ‘friend of the beast’ and his ‘beast’ friend, a Brazilian jaguar (onça).

Although the Brazilian national identity is a work in progress, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda and the Andrade brothers pointed to the Brazilian self-doubt and lack of trust in the things that typify Brazilian-ness. When Buarque de Holanda created the metaphor of ‘the cordial man’ to depict the typical Brazilian, the concept of low trust and high trust societies was not yet described in sociology. Since then, the social scientists have shown that interpersonal trust is a key defining factor of society and that societies where people tend to trust each other (high trust societies) have stronger democracies, richer economies, better health, and less crime and corruption.

Brazilian national identity. A work in progress, stalled

The Brazilian national identity is a work in progress and this can be seen through the way it oscillates between excessive optimism and pessimism. An example of the excessive optimism is the depiction of Brazil as the country that is blessed by God or even the phrase ‘God is Brazilian’. Another example is how Brazilian-ness is described through the love of football, carnival, beach volleyball, etc., and Brazil through a litany of things in which it is the greatest in the world. Last but not least, Brazilian school children are taught that Santos Dumond, and not the brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright, invented the airplane.

But Brazilian identity also has phases of excessive pessimism and lack of confidence. During such phases, Brazilians hear in their head the murmur of a familiar phrase attributed to Charles de Gaulle: “Brésil n’est pas un pays sérieux” – “Brazil is not a serious country”.

One could say that the Brazilian identity is bipolar, and that this could be traced to the first sociological depictions of the country, some very unfavourable and some very favourable. A common concern of the nineteenth century sociologists and ethnographers was with miscegenation and what it could bring. A French diplomat called Joseph Arthur Gobineau (1816-1882), who spent one year in Brazil in 1869, believed that Brazil was condemned to perpetual misery and chaos due to its miscegenation. In the twenty century, the optimist account of Brazilian society by Gilberto Freyre showed the formative years of Brazil, including its racial miscegenation, under a positive light.

The polarization of Brazilian society in 2018

The year 2018 became marked as the year when Brazilian society became polarized between the political right and the political left. The reason this polarization happened now and not before is that it is only now that Brazil has a significant ‘right’, in the sense of conservatism, to oppose the ‘left’, in the sense of socialism[9].

The presidential election of 2018 was to have a candidate of the right[10] with a good chance of winning: Mr. Jair Messias Bolsonaro, of Partido Social Liberal (Liberal Social Party) or PSL. The candidate of the left with equal chances of winning was Mr. Fernando Haddad, of Partido dos Trabalhadores (Worker’s Party) or PT. The supporters of Bolsonaro and Haddad confronted each other on the streets, and smeared one another in social media[11], including with the use of derogatory words.

A derogatory name used for the ‘left-wingers’ supporters of PT was ‘petralha’, where  the prefix ‘pet’ is another way of saying ‘PT’, and the suffix ‘ralha’ comes from ‘Irmãos Metralha’, the Portuguese name for the infamous Disney characters Beagle Boys, who are known bandits. A derogatory name used for the ‘right-wingers’ was ‘coxinha’ (little drumstick), originally a chicken pasty on the shape of a drumstick, which came to designate the Brazilian petit bourgeois, or Brazilian of lower middle class. The new meaning from some students from the University of São Paulo who used the word to refer to the police officers called to solve conflicts on campus, who had the habit of eating ‘coxinha’ for lunch Just like the tea party in the United States was associated with the working class, the word ‘coxinha’ linked supporters of  Mr. Bolsonaro to the lower classes.

Conclusion

It is commonly recognised that national identity, but not nationalism, is beneficial to people for it gives meaning and a unifying sense of belonging. Just like happened with the other Western nations, Brazil began to build its national identity in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was well into the twenty century when the first positive Brazilian national identity appeared, in the works Gilberto Freyre, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, and the Andrade brothers. The Brazilian national identity was still a work in progress when it was derailed by the sweeping idea of group identity politics.

It is a curious coincidence that 2018, a year that was marked by the left-right polarization of Brazilian society, also marked the 96th  anniversary of the publication of Mário de Andrade’s Macunaíma, and the 90th anniversary of  Oswald de Andrade’s paper ‘Manifesto antropófafo’, two poignant depictions of the  Brazilian mind-set, as well as the 78th anniversary of the publication of Sérgio Buarque de Holanda’s book The Cordial Man. In the 1920s and 1930s, when they described the Brazilian mind-set by its low regard for Brazilian-ness and the obsession with ‘friends close to the chest’ and ‘friends of the beast’, the concept of low trust and high trust societies was not yet described in sociology. Since then, the social scientists have shown that interpersonal trust is a key defining factor of society and that societies where people tend to trust each other (high trust societies) have stronger democracies, richer economies, better health, and less crime and corruption.

The left-right polarization of Brazilian society observed during the presidential election of 2018 is a split of world views that could be mended with dialogue. The observed polarization camouflages the more serious problem of identity politics groups, whose identity-based claims and reckoning of past mistakes prevent a unifying vision of society to come through.


Joaquina Pires-O’Brien is a Brazilian who lives in the UK, and the editor of the magazine PortVitoria, for speakers of Portuguese, Spanish and English.

Notes

[1] FREYRE, G. (1946). The Masters and the Slaves. New York, Alfred A Knopf, 1946. 537 pp+. First published 1933. Guttenberg.

[2] FREYRE, G. (1945). Brazil: An Interpretation. New York, Alfred A Knopf. 212p. Avail. Guttenberg. p. 176.

[3] Idem – p. 179.

[4] ANDRADE, M. (1928). Macunaíma. Edição Projeto Livro Alicia M. Dercole, São Paulo, 2016. 134 pp.

[5] ANDRADE, O. de Manifesto antropófafo e Manifesto da poesia pau-brasil. Revista de Antropofagia, Ano I, No. I, maio de 1928.

[6] Tupy. A reference to the Tupi language family, interrelated languages spoken by the indigenous peoples who lived along the coast of Brazil. It includes the Guarani language that is still spoken in Paraguay.

[7] BUARQUE DE HOLANDA, S. Raízes do Brazil. J. Rio de Janeiro, Olímpio Editora. 18ª ed., comemorativa do jubileu de ouro do livro. Open Library.

[8] It was created by Péricles de Andrade Maranhão (1924-1961), from Pernambuco, for the weekly magazine O Cruzeiro  and was so successful that even after the death of Maranhão it continued to be produced. According to Wikepedia, the editor of O Cruzeiro asked Maranhão to create a character inspired on the ‘Enemies of Man’ cartoons that appeared on the Esquire Magazine and on the character ‘El enemigo del Hombre’ created by Guillermo Divito for the Argentinian magazine Patoruzú. https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Amigo_da_On%C3%A7a. Maranhão died by suicide in 1961, on the last day of the year, when he shut himself I his home and turned on the gas. There are very little published material about him.  https://designices.com/o-amigo-da-onca-1943-1961-por-pericles/

[9] The reestablishment of the Brazilian right started in 1983 with the creation of Instituto Liberal (IL) by Donald Steward Jr., in Rio de Janeiro. Initially IL concentrated its efforts in the translation and publishing of books and pamphlets on liberalism, and eventually began to promote talks. One of IL most dedicated collaborator  was Professor Og Leme, who was on the staff until September 2003.  There are analogous IL in almost every capital of Brazil. Other similar institutes were created in Brazil, such as Instituto Mises Brasil, the Institutos de Formação de Líderes, the Instituto Millennium, the  Instituto Liberal do Nordeste, the Instituto Ordem Livre and the o Estudantes pela Liberdade, all of which being institutional partners of IL. Brazil has many conservative and classical liberal blogs. Among those which are not linked to a newspaper or magazine is the Direitas Já was launched in 2012 by Renan Felipe dos Santos and his friends, with many interesting and well researched postings covering the most important liberal thinkers and their ideas.

[10] The Brazilian right, or what is referred as right in Brazil, is conservatism or centrism, and not far-right in the sense of certain parties in Europe.

[11] The arrival of social media opened the way for the citizen journalist and opinion leaders. Many Brazilians were already users of Orkut, a social media owned and operated by Google, when Facebook was launched worldwide, in February 2004, For that reason, Brazilian took some time before embracing Facebook. Only after the closure of Orkut, in September 2014, Brazil’s participation in Facebook became significant. However, by 2018, Brazil had become the third largest user of Facebook, along with Indonesia, after India and the United States. Brazilians also become great users of Twitter, blogs and YouTube.

The systemic corruption involving the State and the private sector since 2003 is a tragedy whose consequences will haunt Brazilians for years to come. This tragedy is linked to others, like the colonized complex, that blames everything on the Portuguese colonization. The very existence of  Operation Car Wash (Operação Lava Jato) shows a change in mentality from a fixed mind-set of blaming others to an ethics of responsibility. Because of these two polarized views, Brazilian society is fighting a war of ideas, and the resulting lack of dialogue is a tragedy that could turn Brazil into a failing state.

During the presidential election campaigns of 2018 the Brazilian society became polarized between the right and the left. This polarization is a symptom of a problem even more serious, the country’s social fragmentation caused by the proliferation of identity politics groups. My two essays published in this edition cover these topics. The first essay deals with the Brazilian identity and the description of the Brazilian mind-set. The second essay covers the polarization of Brazilian society, the prolonged hegemony of the left and the emergence of the right. Both papers point out the problem of the lack of dialogue, without which Brazil will not be able to repair its fractures, find its way, and move on to better times.

As if the above tragedies were not enough, Brazil suffered another gigantic tragedy in the fire of the National Museum, in Rio de Janeiro, which occurred on the night of the 3rd of September,  2018. Founded in 1818 by D. João VI, Brazil’s National Museum housed more than 20 million items, including historical documents, botanical, zoological and mineralogical collections, ancient Greek and Roman artefacts, the largest Egyptian collection in Latin America and the oldest human fossil discovered in the present Brazilian territory, named ‘Luzia’. In the aftermath of the fire, Alexandre Garcia, a 78 years old journalist and political broadcaster, recorded a scathing lamentation of this tragedy, whose transcription is made available in this edition of PortVitoria.  Also provided is an in-depth account of the tragedy of the loss of the National Museum in the article by João José Fermi.

Reflecting on the tragedies of  Brazil reminded me of some English idiomatic phrases linked to good administration, such as ‘Not on my watch’  and ‘The buck stops here’, and the result is an English lesson written in the form of an article, which I hope some readers of PortVitoria will find useful.

The only review in this issue is of Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018). Peterson is a Canadian psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto who gained notoriety in Canada in 2017 for his opposition to an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act (Bill C-16) adding ‘gender identity or expression’ to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination, arguing that it would interfere with the right of free speech. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life appeared in January 2018 and in just a few weeks became a bestseller in all Anglophone countries. The Portuguese edition appeared later in May, and the book appears to be selling well in Brazil. Peterson attributes the success of his book to the fact that it filled a much needed void in the market, but it is obvious that his internet presence, in e-videos and podcasts, also played a substantial role. I confess that I became a fan of Peterson after watching a couple of his YouTube videos, having bought his book afterwards. Peterson’s ideas describe many of the problems that affect Western civilization and I am certain that they can help Brazilians sort out their cognitive dissonance.

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

January 2019

 Post Scriptum. Following the publication of this editorial, I read in La Nacion of a video recording of Brazil’s National Museum created under Google’s Arts & Culture programme. I encourage you to visit the Google site: ‘Inside Brazil’s Museu Nacional. Rediscover the collection before the fire in 2018’. Thank you Google!

How to reference

Pires-O’Brien, J. Editorial. The tragedies of Brazil. PortVitoria, UK, v.18, Jan-Jun, 2019. ISSN 2044-8236.