Human character is ambivalent by nature and by nurture, and this ambivalence is reflected in almost everything that man does. Nietzsche identified this ambivalence in art, through the concepts of Appolonian and Dyonisian art, the first appealing to logic, prudence and purity, and the second to emotions and instincts. Psychologists recognize that people often fall in one of the two clusters of values. One very common representation of human ambivalence is the different judgements of historical persons, while the capacity to judge oneself is another. This edition of PortVitoria has essays on three historical individuals who were judged incorrectly by public opinion: Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) and the Marquis of Pombal (1699-1782). As Wilfried McClay suggests in his article on Freud, he was vilified for about forty years, but that a fresh look into his legacy revealed him as an endowed and original social philosopher. In my essay on the Marquis of Pombal, I try to show that for over a century he was reputed as a power craze tyrant, until a fresh look on his life revealed his great intelligence and statesmanship in guiding Portugal in the aftermath of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Michelle Raji’s article on Agassiz, a Swiss biologist and geologist who in 1832 became a university professor first at Neuchâtel, Switzerland, and in 1847 of Harvard, when he gained notoriety for his method of observing and analysing fishes, deals specifically with an expedition he made to Brazil from 1865 to 1868. As Raji points out, Agassiz was a ‘sensational figure in his day’, loved by many of his colleagues, although one of the students who accompanied him to Brazil spotted his biases and was disgusted by them. The student in question was no other than William James (1842-1910), the future founder of pragmatism. A fourth character in this edition is the Mexican poet, thinker and a polymath Octavio Paz (1914-1998), a man I consider the most brilliant mind that came of Latin America, but who is sadly underappreciated among the speakers of Spanish and Portuguese.

It is easy to make mistakes in judging the character of other people; it is easy to ignore the deserving and to put the undeserving on pedestals. However, the problems that arise from our mistakes in judging others are now much greater, since the advent of the digital age and the availability of social media make everyone a potential judge of character, deeds and reputations. As early as 2013 Bruce Schneider, a technologist in safety, raised the alarm regarding the recrudescence of the court of public opinion since the advent of social media, in an article published in Wired,  here republished in Portuguese. To Schneider, the court of public opinion is about reputational justice, when the arguments of each party are measured in relation to reputation, and the end result is not justice but the loss of reputation. Reputation is also an important theme in the essay by Fernando Genovés, which is an excerpt from his latest book Dinero S.L De la sociedad de proprietaries a la comunidad de gestores, or Money Inc. (From the society of owners to the community of managers, Kindle edition. 2020). In this book, Genovés shows that in the existing conflict between the left and the right, the left wins not because it is the better alternative but because it has a kind of glamour that attracts people to it. As he points out, people don’t go for substance but for images, which is why it makes no difference that the glamour they fall for is false. Reading Genovés book reminded me how universities have become cohortative to the cult of image and false glamour. It inspired me to write an essay on the history of teaching and the universities, which I hope will serve as food for thought on the future of middle and higher education, especially in my native Brazil.

On a final note, when I created PortVitoria as the magazine of the Iberian culture, back in 2010, what I had in mind was well-informed scholarly articles that could incentivize reflection and discussion. This is obviously a disadvantage in a world that highly addicted to soundbites and images. The reader of PortVitoria is an individual who is well-educated but never takes his education for granted, habitually reflects about things that matter, and enjoys face to face conversation with others.  If this is you, and you would like PortVitoria to continue, you can help by putting a link to it in your site, or by simply spreading the word of mouth about it.

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

July 2020

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

Editorial. Friendship then and now

The revered British writer and lay theologian C.S. Lewis said that “friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another ‘What! You, too’? I thought I was the only one”. Lewis formula for friendship requires conversation, of the face-to-face type, which psychologists associate with engagement, empathy, and instant resonance of thought. The kind of friendship that Lewis referred is based on acceptance and freedom, which is why people would select their friends for their virtues, which included sensitivity to read each other’s mind. However, this type of friendship is now very rare due to the demise of face-to-face conversation, in an era when people prefer to communicate with one another electronically. Nowadays, people can have dozens of friends but friendship is flimsy, if not fulsome, for it is based on perceptions of the images people project of themselves. On top of that, maintaining numerous friends can be exhausting, as people are compelled to spend a lot of their time staring at some electronic device. This means that, unlike the old-fashioned type of friendship, the new type is not free, as people are imprisoned inside a vicious circle of reward-motivated behaviour.

Many sages of the ancient world recognized the importance of friendship, and the most noteworthy of them is Aristotle, to who treated friendship (philia) as a by-product of virtue. Aristotle’s view on friendships is the topic of a magnificent essay by the American philosophers Neera K. Badhwar and Russell E. Jones, presented here in Portuguese. Three other essays offered in this issue are about remarkable friendships of the old-fashioned type: Montagne and La Boetie, George Santayana and Frank Russell, and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka and Pope John Paul II.

The two books reviewed in this edition also relate to friendship. They are Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation: the power of talk in a digital age (Penguin, 2015), and  Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (Bodley Head; 2018). Both books highlight the unintended consequences of the technological wonders of the Digital Age such as social conditioning and mental manipulation. Turkle, a social scientist who has been studying digital culture for over thirty years, points out how we are constantly checking out smartphones and depriving ourselves of spontaneous interaction and from solitude. Lanier, a scientist and entrepreneur who pioneered virtual reality, tackles the insidious use of our personal data by the social media companies and points as a solution to change its business model from the current one which is based on advertising to a new one based on charging a fee to users.

In addition to the above, this edition also offers two items on George Santayana (1863-1952), a Spanish American philosopher, poet and humanist born in Avila, Spain, which I believe readers of PortVitoria would appreciate.

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

July 2019


How to reference

Pires-O’Brien, J. Editorial. Friendship then and now. PortVitoria, UK, v.19, Jul-Dec, 2019. ISSN 2044-8236.

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.

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the students revolution of 1968, which affords the opportunity to reflect on the event itself and the public perception of it since then. In 1969, just one year after the event, Raymond Aron (1905-1983) published the book La Revolution Introuvable: Réflexions sur les événements de mai, or The Elusive Revolution: Anatomy of a Student Revolt, in its English translation. Considered the most level headed witness of the events in Paris, Aron described 1968 as a ‘psycho-drama’, more like a revolutionary comedy than a real revolution. Aron was the kind of intellectual who always chose truth, whatever the cost. Being a fierce critic of Marxism at a time when almost everyone was engaged with the Left, meant not only giving away the chance of being popular but also exposing oneself to the contempt of other thinkers. But in spite of all the attempts to denigrate his image, Aron held his own ground. Aron finally got the deserved recognition at the end of his life, especially after the publication of his memoirs, one month before his death, on 17 October 1983.

This edition of PortVitoria reexamines the ideas surrounding the 1968 students’ revolts. The leading article is Peter Steinfels’ ‘Paris, May 1968: The revolution that never was’, firstly published in The International Herald Tribune on May 11, 2008, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of 1968, which is republished here in Spanish and Portuguese.  It is followed by Fernando Genovés’ essay ‘Raymond Aron y Jean-Paul Sartre: men of letters vs. intellectuals’, which highlights the parallels in the lives of Aron and Sartre, including the event in Paris, on 26 June 1979, when these two towering figures met again for the last time. An obituary of André Glucksmann, one of the leaders of the 1968 students revolts in Paris who later emerged as one of the New Philosophers of France, is our third article. It was published originally in The New Yorker on November 11, 2015, and is reproduced here in Portuguese. The fourth article is my own essay ‘1968 in a nutshell’, a brief account of the students’ revolts and their consequences.

A double review of Mark Lilla’s The Once and Future Liberal and The Shipwrecked Mind by James Meek, which was first published in 2017 in the London Review of Books, is offered here in Spanish and Portuguese. Previously, these books have been reviewed in several Spanish and Brazilian magazines and newspapers but Meek’s review captures with aplomb substance and intention, allowing a clear glimpse into the mind of this penetrating writer.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1968 and the account of the events surrounding it has also changed. Fifty years later, a growing number of critics seem to agree that it was a socialist utopianism that reached cult status. Even more relevant than the label that should be applied to 1968, is the fact that it inculcated many half-baked ideas in young minds and the hoi polloi. This had many unforeseen consequences, such the suffocation of debate in the public sphere, political populism, multiculturalism, tribalism and the debasement of academia. Latin America had all of that and the social fragmentation caused by the spread of Marxism and similar ideologies.

July 2018

 How to reference

Pires-O’Brien, J. Editorial. Revisiting 1968. PortVitoria, UK, v.17, Jul-Dec, 2018. ISSN 2044-8236.

[Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

I am proud to announce that PortVitoria is now entering its 8th year.

The main feature of this edition is an essay by the Spanish thinker Fernando R. Genovés explaining what defines the liberal mind. Genovés starts with the definition provided by Lord Acton (John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton; 1834-1902), who wrote that the liberal mind is the mind of the individual to whom the idea of liberty means something sacred, such as life and property. He then covers the meaning of liberty, which boils down to ‘not to be subjected to the domain of others’, and shows that the sacredness of life and property points to the necessity of individuals to learn how to control themselves and their lives. Liberty is thus the main object of the liberal mind, that is, the mind of persons who make their own decisions and accept responsibility for them. This is even more relevant in a time of post-truths, characterised by false news and by the tricks of constructionism. According with Genovés, liberals are neither conservatives nor radicals, and much less extremists, and, that they tend to not get cosy in political parties.

The other two essays of this edition are ‘Decálogo do livre pensador’ (The ten commandments of the free-thinker) by Miguel Ángel Fresdenal, and ‘El passaporte’ (The passport), which was taken from my new e-book El hombre rasonable y otros ensayos (The reasonable man and other essays; 2016). Fresdenal’s article touches precisely the problem of how to deal intelligently with the daily bombardment of ideas. My article provides a summary of the history of the passport and also shows how governments sometimes use the passport to further their illiberal agendas.

My e-book El hombre razonable y otros ensayos (7 November 2016, KDP Amazon) was reviewed by Norman Berdichevsky, an American writer with a special interest in the Hispanic and Portuguese cultures. This review is presented in both Portuguese and Spanish.

Another review offered in this edition is of Milan Kundera’s Slowness, which was published in French in 1995. The book was launched in Portuguese, in a pocket edition, in 2011, by Companhia das Letras.

During 2016 I managed to complete the migration of PortVitoria from an old-fashioned format to a more modern and flexible one based in WordPress. The new format is much more user friendly for it adjusts to all sorts of computer screens and hand held devices. Now you can bookmark PortVitoria in the home screen of your tablet or smartphone.

January 2017


Pires-O’Brien, J. Editorial. What defines a liberal mind? PortVitoria, UK, v.14, Jan-Jun, 2017. ISSN 2044-8236.

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

As a magazine about the Iberian culture PortVitoria could not ignore the recent referendum for independence held in Catalonia on Sunday, 1st October 2017, in which only 42% of the eligible voters participated, but resulted in a 90 per cent ‘yes’ vote. The national administration in Madrid has declared it unconstitutional and Spain’s Constitutional Court outlawed the referendum. Our editor and contributor Norman Berdichevsky, a cultural geographer with extensive knowledge and expertise on Iberian history, discusses various angles of the problem in his paper ‘The Catalonian referendum and what lay behind it’.

Could Catalonia’s referendum rekindle similar movements elsewhere which in turn could trigger a war? Lets examine the two opposing arguments. The ‘no’ argument states that most people are against violence and would prefer the stability of a normal life, even if backwards and faulty, to the instability of a war. The ‘yes’ argument states that Catalonia’s secessionist movement could rekindle similar movements around the world; fuelled by nationalism and ethnic claims, the same type that caused the wars of the 20th century.

In the 21st century, many State-nations face the problems of secessionism as well as subcultural affirmation. These two are connected by a crave for identity, which is the ‘dish of the day’ in the battle of ideas of the 21st century. One thinker who has contributed greatly to enlighten the battle of ideas of the 21st century is Thomas Sowell, an American economist and a Senior Fellow of The Hoover Institution at Stanford University, California. Among his many books, Sowell wrote on subcultural affirmation in his book Intellectuals and Society (2009), where he calls attention for the dishonesty of self-serving intellectuals behind the single issue activism of the 21st century. He writes: “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth, When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” We are pleased to offer the review of Sorwell’s book by David Gordon, a senior researcher at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

The compounding effects of the internet and the world’s super-population have brought the world’s ambiguities too close for comfort, making the battle of ideas in the 21st century much more volatile than of previous times. We in the 21st century should reflect upon the 20th century if we are to prevent the current battle of ideas from turning into war. No one depicted better the war of ideas of the 20th century and the mass movements it created than the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955). Ortega had a lifetime interest in capturing reality, and his books are still very relevant in the 21st century. His 1914 book Meditations on Quixote depicts the spirit of Spain itself in the character Sancho Panza. His 1929 book The Revolt of the Masses depicts changes as they were occurring all over Europe, describing the barbarism of lootings, the coerciveness of the mass movements and the homogenization of ideas. Ortega showed that the right to freedom comes with the responsibility to think for ourselves and that there is a relation between thinking and surviving: “We do not live to think, but, on the contrary, we think in order that we may succeed in surviving”. The two essays by Fernando Genovés presented in the current edition of PortVitoria cover the themes of Ortega the thinker and the battle of ideas. They were taken from Genovés 2016 book La riqueza de la libertad, and are offered in their English translation.

December 2017


How to reference

Pires-O’Brien, J. Editorial. Is individualism a kind of egoism? PortVitoria, UK, v.16, Jan-Jun, 2018. ISSN 2044-8236.

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

I had two reasons to choose individualism as a theme for the current issue of PortVitoria. The first is the disturbing revelations of Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) in Brazil. The second is the upcoming centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution (or October Revolution) of 1917 in Russia, which resulted in the establishment of the world’s first Marxist experiment and 74 years of oppressive collectivism. These two motives have a common denominator in the populist collectivist tint of the majority of the political parties in Brazil. Individualism is contrary to collectivism and also the antidote for the vice of not owning up to one’s responsibilities. However, due the populist collectivist rhetoric of politicians, individualism is often portrayed negatively as a form of egoism. The sophistry goes more or less like this: ‘If you are against the collective then you are an egotist’.

Is individualism a form of selfishness, as the populist collectivist mindset claims, or is it a simple preference for the individual, as opposed to the collective, as the liberals assert? These are some of the questions I try to answer on my essay on individualism. In it, I stress the fact that individualism is not a kind of egoism but a recognition of the importance of taking responsibility for what we do with our lives and how we act as citizens. Although the word ‘individualism’ only appeared at the start of the 19th century, the idea of the self is frequent in ancient Greek mythology, literature and philosophy. Socrates’ statement that “the unexamined life is not worth living” resonates well with the concept of individualism.

Brazil needs to build a culture of integrity if it wants to tackle corruption effectively. It needs good citizenship, which boils down to responsible individuals with the habit of thinking for themselves. The best way one can learn how to think for oneself is by learning the kind of things that matter to humanity, general things that are not connected to any specific occupation, otherwise known as liberal education. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote in his essay ‘Philosophy for laymen’ that the knowledge of general things that are not connected to any specific skill or profession, such as history and philosophy, could improve enormously the way people think, not only about practical things but also about polemic topics. A Portuguese translation of this essay is offered in this edition of PortVitoria.

Finally, there is a small contribution to history in general, in the two book reviews selected for this edition. David A. West’s book is Darwin’s Man in Brazil: The Evolving Science of Fritz Müller (2016), is reviewed by Amy Cox Hall, while Simon Winder’s book Danubia: A Personal History of Hapsburg Europe (2013), is reviewed by Andrew Wheatcroft. West’s book is about a German physician turned naturalist who immigrated to Brazil and ended up as a collaborator of Charles Darwin. In it, one learns how Müller was attracted to Brazil, to join a new German colony established in the 1850s by Hermann Blumenau and F. Hackradt. West notes that Darwin believed that Müller’s book was “perhaps the most important contribution in support of his ideas”, an example of which being the scientist’s testing of whether butterflies are born knowing exactly which flower had nectar, or if this skill was learned. Another example was Müller’s research on predation in butterflies. Winder’s book describes the lands in Central Europe that were once under the Austrian Hapsburgs, a dynasty which played a great role not only in Europe but also in Latin America. Brazil is the common denominator of both books, namely the German immigrants it received during the nineteenth century, which, in addition to Germans proper, included other peoples from the Austrian Hapsburg Empire such as various minorities from the Galicia–Volhynia region and Pomeranians.

July 2017


Pires-O’Brien, J. Editorial. On individualism. PortVitoria, UK, v.15, Jul-Dec, 2017. ISSN 2044-8236.


In reviewing Francis Fukuyama’s 2014 book Political Order and Political Decay for this edition of PortVitoria I distilled the important concepts contained in it. I was especially drawn to the subject of corruption, which according with Fukuyama stands on the way of political development, a reducer of inequality. Fukuyama shows the many other forms of government corruption apart from the direct kind, which he classifies into two types: rents and clientelism. He explains that although a ‘rent’ is not necessarily a corruption, since it simply means any special gain derived from a situation of scarcity, it becomes a form of corruption when resulting from an abuse of government power. Governments can be extremely creative in generating scarcities in order to collect rents, says Fukuyama. As for clientelism, Fukuyama defines it as the reciprocal exchange of favours between two parties: the ‘patron’ and the ‘client’. A further concept that caught my attention is ‘political trust’, which to Fukuyama is a kind of social capital and the most important intangible factor for good political functioning. There are lower and higher trust societies, and the latter has many advantages over the former, especially a functioning Rule of Law. A further idea that Fukuyama tries to inculcate is that each country has its own pattern of political order and democracy and therefore must find the solutions to its own problems.

There are many other interesting features for our readers in this current edition such as José de Ortega y Gasset’s The Coming of the Masses, which is the first chapter of his seminal 1930 book The Revolt of the Masses. My own essay (Knowledge of the Individual) quotes Ortega, namely his vision that people in the nineteenth century regarded the knowledge held by the minority with greater sensibility than the people of early twentieth century. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank every one who has helped PortVitoria over the past five years and to ask for your continued support with contributions, ideas and further promoting PortVitoria among all Lusophone and Hispanophone peoples around the world.
Jan 2015

Pires-O’Brien, J. Fukuyama on corruption. Editorial. PortVitoria, UK, v.10, Jan-Jun, 2015. ISSN 2044-8236.

Joaquina Pires-O`Brien

History provides a perspective of the world that is critical to the development of our humanity, defined as the sentiment that compels us to try to understand and to develop compassion to those who are not members of our country, community or group. It shows that in order to cope with death and the hardships of life, early man created the myths of the afterlife and the super-natural beings like gods and demi-gods. And when things took a turn for the worse, man created ceremonies to placate the wrath of the gods; and to protect all those untruths, man created religion. History also shows that most wars, until the advent of nationalism, were are fought in the name of religion.

In his article ‘What became of postmodernism and its deconstructive and iconoclast delusion?’, Fernando R. Genovés shows that postmodernism was a fraudulent interpretation of reality with the support of a kind of academic club. Its purpose was to serve its members and to demoralize non-members. The claim by certain peoples that they were the first to arrive in a certain place, another common untruth of man, is rebuked in the article ‘Nomads and settlers. The four stages of culture’, by Zénaïde Ragozin, who writes that ‘however far we may go back into the past, the people whom we find inhabiting any country at the very dawn of tradition, can always be shown to have come from somewhere else, and not to have been the first either’. This is exactly the case of Spain and Portugal before the arrival of the Romans, as Francisco Guijon shows in his article ‘Who were the Iberians?’.

The two books reviewed in this edition are linked by the fact that both consider man’s inclination to invent myths. Lincoln Paine’s The sea and civilization, reviewed by Juan J Morales, denounces the neglect to take into account the role of the sea in world history, even though the sea comprises two thirds of our planet. Irving Finkel’s The ark before Noah tells the story of the flood contained in the ancient Babylonian literature recorded in cuneiform writing, shows that people who lived much before the Hebrews produced not one but several narratives that are extraordinarily similar to several narratives of the Bible. The implication of this discovery could seriously challenge religion and the wars caused by it.

With all the lessons of history available, why is it that man finds it so difficult to accept truth? Why do people hang on to imagined worlds instead of embracing reality?

July 2014