Planetary Articulation: The Life, Thought, and Influence of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy
1-4 June 2002 • Allerton Park Conference Center, Monticello, Illinois, USA
Olavo de Carvalho
This conference was organized with the objective of discussing projects for the translation of Rosenstock’s work into several languages. In the case of my own personal project, it is not a project anymore, but a reality. Here is the Brazilian edition of Rosenstock-Huessy’s The Origin of Speech. This copy reached my hands from printing just a few days ago. Many other copies are now being distributed to Brazilian bookshops and libraries.
To understand the orientation I took in this translation, we need to examine some details on the general guidelines of this editorial collection, and of the pedagogical use I intend for the translation. Also, we need to understand the Brazilian cultural scenario into which this book will make an entrance.
In the first place, this translation is not my work only, but a collective work done by my philosophy students in City University Center of Rio de Janeiro (Centro Universitário da Cidade), the institution where I teach. This translation served to give my students the first feel of Rosenstock’s work, and also as an occasion to make them aware of the current state of the Portuguese language, seen in the light of his teaching; in such a light we could measure the accuracy of Rosenstock’s observations on the intimate relationship between grammar and society.
It was not only a pedagogical activity, but also an effort of truly investigative work, for there is still in Brazilian society very little discussion on the transformations suffered by our language in the last decades, and of the social crisis these transformations express. I can say this coordinated activity with my students was the first serious attempt to examine this question in Brazilian academe, and this attempt would have been impossible without the help from Rosenstock’s ideas.
Created as the result of a court revolution in the XIVth century, Portugal was the first nation-state in Europe, while the Portuguese language was the last Roman language to emerge in History. It seems the result from this strange combination of the first with the last was such that, when Portuguese finally reached the state of a stabilized literary language with the great classics of the 16th and 17th centuries, the new language was closer to Latin than any other European language of the time, and it remained so until the 20th. century.
We can say that the only substantial difference separating it from Latin is the supression of Latin declensions, efficiently substituted by a rich stock of prepositions. The most startling similarity is that the rich system of Latin verbal tenses remained practically the same in modern Portuguese, while it suffered drastic suppressions and modifications in other Roman languages. For instance, Latin’s more-than-perfect tense, which signifies a remote past as viewed from a more recent past, is designated in French by the composed form: “Il avait aimé”, English’s past perfect, he had loved. In Portuguese, the contracted form of the Latin more-than-perfect tense remained intact, while at the same time the composed form – which is equally Latin in spirit – was also adopted, so Portuguese-speaking people from Portugal, Brazil and Africa have at their disposal two forms of the more-than-perfect, two ways of viewing the remote past from the standpoint of a more recent past. The contracted form (“amara”, “louvara”, he had loved, he had praised) is used in a pure narrative and casual way, while the composed one – tinha amado, tinha louvado –, inasmuch as it breaks the unity of the idea between the pure meaning of the main verb and the temporal reference given by the auxiliary one “ter” (to have), serves explicitly to stress the anteriority of the time one is refering to. A more precise idea of what this means in the practical use can be obtained by the following difference: a novelist or a journalist that simply reports the previous background of an event can at ease make use of the contracted form – “Ele fizera isto ou aquilo”, he had done so and so – while an attorney at bar, who needs to stress the precise temporal sequence in order to obtain criminal proof will surely choose the composed time: “Ele tinha feito isto ou aquilo”, he had already done so and so.
So fine a distinction (as many others of similar importance) can be found not only in the indicative mode but also in the subjunctive one.
The richness of the verbal system that Portuguese brought forth and developed from Latin allowed for the construct of very extensive sentences gathering together simultaneously several temporal dimensions, and a great variety of logical relationships, harmonically. – without loss of either unity nor clarity.
Rosenstock-Huessy says that the great pedagogical virtue of Latin is that every sentence exhibits in a transparent way all the fabric of social relationships existing in the context of speaker and audience. Much of this transparency was maintained in Portuguese, and that permited the development of two social phenomena of great importance: first, Portuguese is the only language in which an almost literal translation of scholastic authors, such as St. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scott, sounds very natural and requires little adaptation. Due to this, the fine terminology of scholastic thought could be absorbed and integrated in a more modern philosophical language, in the work of the greatest Brazilian philosopher, Mario Ferreira dos Santos, opening to the Portuguese language the perspective of becoming a wonderfully proper language for philosophy. Second, the juridical tradition of Portuguese comes directly from Roman Law, and thanks to these properties of our language it kept great precision, together with nuances that took form in two outstanding pieces of Brazilian Law: the Brazilian Civil Code of Francisco Campos and the Philosophy of Law by Miguel Reale.
Thus, at first it would seem that a translation of Rosenstock into Portuguese was to find the best possible conditions to illustrate – through gramatical relationships – the structure of human society. However, what we found was precisely the opposite, for in Brazil the Portuguese language, in the last five decades, suffered a process of deterioriation and decomposition comparable only to the one Karl Kraus, Eric Voegelin and Rosenstock himself saw taking place in the German language during the thirties. The difference being that the richness and the efficacy of the German language could be maintained by German authors in exile, while the losses suffered by Portuguese language in Brazil, if not altogether irreparable, will take many decades to be corrected.
To begin with, two verbal persons simply disappeared from use, first in popular intercourse, then in literary usage, and finally in grammar compendiums. Those gramatical persons are – or were – precisely the ones Rosenstock would consider essential to the clarifying of social relations, and the very forming of human consciousness itself. They are the second persons, singular and plural – tu and vós – corresponding to the English you. They were substituted by verbal compromises using the third person, derived from old respectful forms of treatment having lost all respectful content in modern usage.
Now, how is it possible to speak with a person without saying you? How to distinguish the property of one or the other, if we only have the possessive pronouns of the third person? The difficulties in the construction of certain sentences of modern Portuguese are astounding, what makes the learning of the language so hard a task that even the literate classes would tend to write and speak in an obscure and incorrect way. Please note I am speaking but of one of the many losses Brazilian Portuguese suffered in the last fifty years. I am not aware of a similar occurrence in any other language in the world, being at a loss to imagine any other language losing two verbal persons in so short a time. But thanks to this and other phenomena of similar kind, the distance between spoken and written language in Brazil deepened to such an extent that the former became exceedingly confused and obscure, while the second often manages to sound artificial to the risk of being ridiculously pompous. Such situation scarcely makes it easy the circulation of ideas, for on the one hand people close themselves in simplified slogans that do not demand thought, while intellectuals get trapped in an empty and excessively intricate speech presumaby designed to give themselves an impression of thinking. During the last decades, intellectual decadence in Brazil has been so deep and extensive that gathering documents about that process in the several fields of mental activity – I was led to compose two volumes of a work called significantly “The Collective Imbecile”, and have since gathered material for three more volumes. The state of gradual loss of intellectual consciousness among Brazilian literate classes is so serious that if I was to fully describe it here to you, I might be justly accused of making negative propaganda of my country abroad.
My own written work – twelve volumes up to now – is but a hugely exhausting effort to restore the nobility and communicability of the language, using on the one hand the constructions inherited from the classics, and on the other hand the popular arrangements that – born from the decomposition of the language – could be used in some way as a sort of vaccine against it.
In my classes I have the habit of explaining to my students the state of the language and my reasons for writing as I do. The work on the translation of Rosenstock is part of this effort to make a reflection on both the disease of the language and the possibilities of a cure.
The first time the name of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy was mentioned before a Brazilian audience was in 1946, in a brilliant essay on European Revolutions written by Austrian born Brazilian literary critic Otto Maria Carpeaux. Carpeaux was, like Rosenstock-Huessy himself, a Jew converted to Christianity. Fleeing from the nazi invaders of his native country, he came to Brazil in 1939, mastered Portuguese with astounding speed and in a few years became the dean of Brazilian literary criticism.
He wrote many books and press articles and introduced a whole generation of Brazilian students to many authors they had never heard of. But that generation passed away before it was able to transmit to the next anything but a tiny piece of its rich human and intellectual experience. Carpeaux was forgotten, and so was his essay to make Brazilians read Rosenstock-Huessy. My own generation seemed interested in nothing more than Marxism. This kind of oblivion signals the phenomenon that Rosenstock-Huessy himself calls decadence: the older generation fails to transmit to the new one a set of values and a meaning of life. Decadence entails revolution.
Americans and other foreigners do not seem at all aware a revolution is taking place in Brazil. Many, misinformed by the media, believe that what is going on in Brazil is a simple democratic battle against corruption and poverty. But the campaigns against corruption never lessened corruption, having rather increased it, for they were simply used by the political left to destroy their adversaries, and not for a moral cleansing of the country. The fight against poverty is also more of a legitimizing slogan than a reality, for in no other country or epoch were so many people so rapidly removed from poverty by the mere spontaneous progress of economy. For instance, in the sixties more than fifty percent of our children had no schools. Today this number fell to two percent. People under the poverty line – a number that three decades ago reached forty percent of the population – today are but eight percent. So much progress and prosperity do not justify a general revolt against social dereliction. And yet, this revolt is much greater today than three decades ago. If it was not created by the increase in poverty, one can only find its roots in cultural and psychological causes. But then we might ask a Rosenstockian question: if the language is in decomposition to the point that even the word you disapears from it, can we not also expect that the whole society has great difficulty in becoming conscious of its own state and lives therefore in a state of hallucination and self-deceit, to the point of no longer being able to name its own evils?
What is taking place in Brazil is a crisis of/in articulation. Wherever one looks, informal, inarticulate language proliferates in a hallucinating flowering of word plays of very short duration, untranslatable dialects that very soon are forgotten and are not understood by anyone. On the other hand, formal and articulate language holds on to repetitive schema and stereotypes that move further and further away from the possiblity of expressing reality. From this comes the general complaint againt hunger, precisely in the moment when poverty is fast receding. “Miséria” became only the conventional name of a diffuse evil whose nature no one can express. That is why, actually, the country’s region where there is the greatest rebellion and revolutionary spirit, especially in the rural areas, is the one with the most prosperous agriculture, and less incidence of poverty. Foreigners sometimes cannot imagine how cheap food is in Brazil. When I remember that one of the promises of Roosevelt’s New Deal was to ensure that every American family had the guarantee to eat a chicken a week, and notice on the other hand that in Brazil even the poorest family can eat a chicken a day, I know exactly why this sounds untruthful abroad, for everyone hears about the social agitation in Brazil, and hear the Brazilian intellectuals themselves say that it is caused by desperate poverty. People hear about, for instance, the rising criminality rates, and associate it with extreme poverty, for that is the easiest association to make, but the fact is that there is no criminality in the poorest regions of the country, and on the places where, on the contrary, criminality peaked, the quality of living of the population has increased significantly in the past decades. People hear, for example, of the slums. But the word that designates them in Portuguese, favelas, means a house made of cardboard, because in the past freed slaves having found refuge there lived in houses made of cardboard. In these regions simply there are no more houses made of cardboard. There are houses made of brick and mortar, often with a satellite dish on top. The prosperity of the small construction industry inside the favelas was so great that a friend of mine – civil engineer and constructor –, a Brazilian of Canadian origin called Donald Stewart Jr., made a study suggesting that the model of real estate negotiations on the favelas served as a model for the rest of the country. And it was precisely in the middle of this prosperity boom in the favelas that the development of criminality and drug-dealing activities found their customers and market share. Regardless of that, the association between poverty and criminality seems to have taken over the minds and hearts of Brazilians to the point they do not see the peculiar characteristics of what is happening. People who cannot speak cannot think. The whole situation is a great hallucination, and I do not see another way to try to understand it and remedy it except through the Rosenstockian science of language.
Rosenstock saw his philosophy of language not only as a theory, but as a remedy for the suffering of society. More than ever, Brazilians need to learn how to speak, so they can tell each other what they are really going through in the experience of life. This dialogue is not the easiest task at the moment. All one hears are angered insults on the one hand, and abstract formalities on the other. When we thought of translating Rosenstock, our hope was that this helped us to heal our own speech, and that, once healed, we could maybe spread around a little health.
It would have been very dificult to express the fine print of Rosenstock’s considerations on the diseases of speech in a language that is very ill itself. To translate The Origin of Speech, we had once too often to do violence to modern Portuguese usage in Brazil, including the reintroduction of the two lost verbal persons, in such a way that the translation work in itself became an exercise on the therapy of language, and therefore the reconquering of consciousness. Every individual that took part in this work was transformed and stengthened by it. I have the impression that the same, in a smaller scale, will happen to the readers. For instance, in the universities where there reigns a strict strucuturalist and Saussurean dogmatism, or else a Marxist one, certain affirmations made by Rosenstock, in themselves obvious and undeniable, will have the effect of an electric shock on a catatonic patient. The affirmation, for instance, of the anteriority of formal and solemn language over the informality of everyday urban language will suddenly show to many that they have been studying linguistics with the wrong material. In Brazil there is a dogmatic belief that grammar is an instrument of domination invented by the rich classes to oppress the poor, and owing to that each new decomposition of language is celebrated as a huge progress, no one realizing that this phenomenon corresponds to a loss of the expressive ability and the widening of the abyss between the classes, which makes it even more difficult for people of poorer origin to have access to the creations of higher culture. Rosenstock’s book will help to build a bridge between those on the lower and those on the upper end of society.
One other aspect of this translation relates to the general editorial collection it is inserted into. Each book in this collection was chosen for the fact they had two characteristics. Firstly, it had to be a truly precious and rare piece of work. It is a collection on hidden treasures. Secondly, it had to be a piece of work that helped to rescue and salvage the Brazilian spirit. To enlarge the effect of each of these books, I added to each of them footnotes and comments that compared them to the other works in the collection, creating thus a dialogue between philosophers that, on most cases, never met. In such notes I try to articulate a debate and an understanding among these thinkers, as if they composed the staff of a single university, in which the readers would be the students. I did this because, substantially, the universe of readers of the collection is the same as the students and audience of my courses and conferences. I have a few thousand ex-students spread all over Brazil, that follow with interest and often passion the activities of our circle of studies. It is my hope they would come to form the nucleus of a future Brazilian intellectual elite, in which – I pray – the heritage of the past centuries will be salvaged as a continuous line to help to build the future. Each work in this collection is integrated in this effort to unite different times through language. In my notes Rosenstock dialogues, for example, with the Basque philosopher Xavier Zubiri, the German Eric Voegelin, the Romanian Constantin Noica, and with other authors he never heard of and in which work we always find a wonderful convergence of an incredibly rich and varied human experience.
Our edition of Rosenstock is not, therefore, an isolated editorial product, but an organic component of a vast pedagogical effort directed to a very specific public, a public conscious of itself as having a unity and playing a historical role in the Brazil of the future.
Rosenstock himself never separated his scientific work from his effort in social and pedagogical causes. I believe that in this sense, we have worked in a line to which he would give his approval.
Thank you very much.
On July 23, 2013, Olavo de Carvalho delivered a
lecture on the current condition of Brazilian Higher Education.
I am aware that the presence of educators and speakers of various nationalities at this conference would suggest to me the convenience of speaking about universal and borderless themes. However, the situation of education in Brazil has become so dire that it barely can be understood by foreign observers. A sense of urgency, then, impels me to breach etiquette and address Brazilians more directly than others here present.
Since we are all gathered in this place to meditate on the ends and means of education in a serious manner, I would like to start my speech by making a vow: may God forbid and keep my speech from going beyond what I can personally do. The easiest and cheapest thing in the world for an educator to do is to propose grandiose and even universally comprehensive goals and purposes, which he will never bring about and whose results he will never be held accountable for. Ninety percent of those who are praised as pioneers, reformers, and revolutionaries of politics, education, or thought are prophets of the imponderable, that scum of mankind who have always had the prudence to withdraw from this low world before their beautiful proposals have been transformed into the depressing and often bloody realities that they foretell.
The first thing that should be required of any educator is that he knows precisely whom he intends to educate, for how long he needs to educate his students, and what are the evaluation criteria with which he will gauge the success or failure of his venture. Virtually none of those who are today lauded as great educators pass this test. Neither Paulo Freire, nor Jean Piaget, nor Vygostky, nor Emilia Ferreiro. The disastrous results of socio-constructivism are already so old and so widely known as the very idea that generated them, and yet the prestige of this school does not seem to have been shaken in the least, precisely because the public has become used to the contemporary idea that what one should expect from an educator is not that he educates people, but rather that he helps them “change the world.”
People’s mindset has been so imbued with the cult of universal change that nowadays there is virtually no person who does not follow, unconsciously at least, the maxim of that greatest prince of elegant stupidity who was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “A new untruth is better than an old truth.”
The greatest of all educators, Socrates, never made plans for global education nor ever thought about pre-formatting the minds of future generations, but he merely confined himself to educating those who were within his reach, that is, a single generation, a small circle of students, out of which emerged two other great philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, whose teaching still continues to educate us today.
So, God forbid that I should create any educational project which I cannot personally carry out and whose results I cannot myself evaluate during the course of my life.
Accordingly, any education project that I might dare to subscribe should be a provisional response to a given situation and not a model to be imitated per omnia seculae saeculorum. The immediate problem that my personal educational project attempted to tackle is the complete debacle of university education in Brazil. Of course, there is not a single country in the world in which people do not talk about a similar debacle, but we must be careful not to be misled by the use of the same word to qualify different situations. For the word “debacle” just describes a generic quality and does not convey an idea of the extent of the problem, and it is in the quantitative aspect of the collapse of its higher education that Brazil goes beyond the imagination of those who complain of the poor state of university education in their own countries. Maybe you can have a better idea of Brazil’s state of things in education when you know the fact that my native country, having more university professors per capita than any other nation, and now having virtually no children out of school, produces students who usually rank last in international education tests. Not coincidentally, Brazil is also a country in which all public discussion about education always revolves around funding and investments, without educational contents and techniques ever becoming a discussion point—consequently, one must infer that, to the Brazilian national imagination, money must have some educational power in itself, transcending human agency. Even more characteristic of the Brazilian mind of today is the fact that our former president, Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has become an object of general admiration not because he has risen from a poor background thanks to a cultural improvement he achieved through his own effort, but precisely because he managed to climb up the social ladder with no cultural improvement at all. People even compared him to Abraham Lincoln, but the contrast could not be greater between the poor axeman who developed intellectually to become one of the best writers of the English language and the man who distinguished himself rather by his physical transfiguration of a bearded and tattered poor man into an elegant figure with polished nails and dressed in sumptuous Armani suits than for any remarkable progress he made to overcome his original illiteracy. Brazil’s history is laden with poor people who acquired an education through their own effort and rose, by their own intellectual merits, far above their original station in life. I would even say that they preponderate numerically over the notable men of the upper class. The public prestige of Mr. Luiz Inácio is, in this sense, a most significant sociological phenomenon because it indicates a radical change in the judging criterion employed to evaluate the social rise of the humble. Previously, the value of an education acquired by one’s own merits prevailed over the hierarchy of social positions, but the success of Mr. Lula shows that this judgment has been reversed: being in high places is valued in itself, much more than any effort of self-education.
I mention this phenomenon because, more than any other, it denotes the mental state of affairs in contemporary Brazil. The worship of high places, coupled with the most arrogant contempt for knowledge, has become the general rule. In Brazil, a person is no longer required to have made discoveries, created works, and generated great ideas to be acknowledged as an intellectual and an educator of the masses. Rather, what is required of him is that he has occupied civil service positions, held the offices in the public administration, been a member of government commissions; in short, what counts is not who he is in terms of the substance of his creative and thinking person, but in terms of his place in the state bureaucracy.
I began documenting this state of things in my 1995 book The Collective Imbecile: Brazilian Uncultural News. But since then the situation has worsened so formidably that it can no longer be described in a comic and satiric key as it was in that book. Public stupidity has grown to the point where it has become fearful. It has established itself as a form of power which can impose upon a whole generation of students the most complete ineptitude as an essential regulatory obligation.
Because of this state of things, in 2005 I created an online Philosophy Seminar, which today has about three thousand students from all over Brazil and also some other countries. Based on the final projects I have received so far I am sure that these students, whom I asked to refrain from any public activity until they are properly prepared for it, are already an intellectual elite incomparably superior to that which has come out of Brazilian universities and occupied the most important positions in the media, education, and the publishing industry.
Never have I thought about educating other people than those who fell within my reach through the Philosophy Seminar . Nor do I have suggestions about the teaching of subjects which are outside my field of expertise. My students are being educated in the fields of literature, philosophy, and social sciences, precisely those which have been most affected after four decades of absolute rule of the semi-illiterate mandarinate.
However, from this limited experience I can draw some conclusions which may be useful to other people who have the intention of becoming educators.
The first is that the contempt for knowledge in Brazil has always been coupled with the worship of outward signs which stand for knowledge and which, seemingly with some advantage, replace it: degrees, diplomas, titles, honors, media space, good connections in high circles, and so on and so forth. The phenomenon has been so widely documented and satirized in our best fiction literature (Lima Barreto and Graciliano, for example) that I see no need to insist on it.
But the worst is that a circle of mutual reinforcement between those two complementary vices was formed a long time ago, and this circle seems impossible to break .
It works like this: since our business and political elite is not exactly well educated, the well-meaning souls who emerge from it having the laudable purpose of remedying the national evils are by themselves unable to distinguish—through a direct examination of works and ideas—between who is competent and who is an eminent airhead among the available intellectuals. As a result, they will have to judge them by outward signs—those darn titles and positions—and they will end up giving heed to those who have nothing important to tell them nor useful to suggest. Unculture generates unculture with the fertility of a couple of rabbits.
This becomes even worse when a deceiving prestige comes from abroad, landing in Brazil with all the pomp and ceremony suited to “the most modern thing of all.” In the Vargas administration, a beautiful project of popular education ended up taking as model the ideas of John Dewey, then very celebrated by the American media as a great innovator. Today it is known that Dewey was, in fact, the destroyer of the American education, which until then was the best in the world. From 1960s onwards—during the military dictatorship in Brazil—, social constructivism became fashionable, being adorned with names such as Jean Piaget, Emilia Ferrero, Vygotsky, and many others. For half a century the application of this nonsensical theory has brutalized the minds of our children with admirable constancy, at the same time that the triumphal expansion of the number of schools and the increasingly centralized control of national education has spread the democratization of ineptitude to the farthest corners and the poorest people of the country.
And why do these things happen? Because Brazil’s uneducated elite goes along with the media and the volatile prestige of the cultural celebrities of the day instead of examining and testing their ideas. And by doing so our elite only heaps up errors and disasters with an obscene persistence.
Whoever notices this phenomenon cannot but conclude that Brazil’s chief educational problem is precisely the opposite of what people usually say it is. That is to say, our problem is not that we have educated the elite and left the people behind, but rather that we have tried to provide education to all the people before we have a qualified elite to educate them, or even to seriously examine the problem of popular education.
Anyone who has been a teacher at least for a day immediately realizes that the educational process has a radiating structure: first you educate ten people, who in turn will go on and educate a hundred people, who in turn will educate a thousand people, who in turn will educate one million, and so on and so forth. To reverse this order is like wanting children to generate their parents. The rulers of this country have promised education to millions of people before they have been able to gather together ten serious educators to discuss how they are going to do this. Why not educate the first ten people? And to those who may object that this is right-wing elitism, I recommend they read Lenin and ask themselves why he organized the Communist party’s elite first and then the mass. Lenin knew that the tail does not wag the dog.
How to break the vicious circle of an uneducated elite guided by amateurs as inept as itself ?
In my view, there is only one way: we have to raise, outside the official educational system, far from the mainstream media, far from long-established prestige, a new, sincere, and well-prepared class of intellectuals, who, moreover, must be aggressive enough to, in due course, behead airheads, expel sacred cows, and start dealing with problems in a serious manner.
A second conclusion is that a government can only define “programs,” “methods,” budgets, that is, the more external and insubstantial aspects of education. None of these abstract universals has the ability to go into the classroom and guide the souls and minds of students towards their better development. The teacher’s personality is all. You can ask any student of any grade about it. Some teachers make deep impressions on students and have an almost hormonal influence on their intellectual and human growth, others are justly forgotten after a few years, and still others become traumatic obstacles to any conceivable progress.
The problem here is somewhat the same as everywhere else: the problem of human quality. Governments are so helpless about it that sometimes the worst regimes in the world raise, by the power of suffering, the best personalities; and as soon as conditions improve, the souls settle down and deteriorate.
The raising of better individuals can only come from society itself, from spontaneous cultural initiative. Religious organizations, neighborhood associations and clubs, labor unions, community centers can do a lot about it, provided that they are not committed to any political agenda aimed at standardizing minds to use them as pawns. In Brazil, to find a civic association which is free of this commitment has become increasingly difficult.
Finally, there remains the problem of home education. In Brazil, the permanent state of social and economic insecurity leads parents, in their desire to seek an immediate guarantee of livelihood for their children, to deliberately turn their kids into mediocre human beings, inducing them to get an education only to be able to pass civil service exams, instead of promoting the development of their intelligence to reach more ambitious goals in the long term. A good intention deformed by fear is no longer a good intention and becomes a deforming prosthesis. I have observed this phenomenon in virtually all Brazilian families I have met.
A little bit of educational experience shows that the desire for premature social adaptation can cripple a mind and severely limit the very prospects for social ascension. People do not come with their vocations stamped on their foreheads, nor with a manual where they can find out in advance their most promising talents. But what is absolutely certain is that one can only be successful in those things which reflect one’s deepest innate talents. A teenager who dreams of trying his hand at sports, fine arts, or any profession which seems exotic to his family—like a career in the merchant marine, in polar expeditions, or animal caretaking—can easily be induced to failure if his parents impose upon him choices which seem more “realistic” in a limited and mediocre mental atmosphere. I dare say that this is one of the most widespread causes of human failure in Brazil.
If you think your child is a moron who cannot survive in a field of free choice and without the crutches of a depressing government job, it would have been better if you had not generated him, or if you had given him to be raised by a more optimistic family.
Besides, what help can the Brazilian government offer in such matters if it is itself predominantly staffed with inept people for whom the epithet “mediocre” would even be a compliment?
To the present Brazilian government, as to most of its Latin American counterparts, the new generations are but instruments for the implementation of nominally saving policies which despise the present generation in the name of an elusive and unattainable future. I say “unattainable” not only because they are unrealizable in practice, but because their conception is already infected with the promise of endless deferral. Every revolutionary politics, which aims to reshape the world in its image and likeness, begins by denying all higher values in order to be able to establish its own values, which implies that a revolutionary politics cannot accept any judge superior to itself. This is why only the “permanent revolution” exists, that is, the pursuit of goals which have neither a definition nor a deadline to be achieved, so that the revolutionary work might never be judged but might always keep pushing itself further into the future so that it might perpetuate its condition of sole judge of all things.
The third and final conclusion relates to the difference between education and instruction. To instruct a student is simply to pass on to him a set of procedures, habits, techniques, and even mental tics that the teacher has received ready-made. The Department of Education should be called the Department of Instruction, because every educational activity whose model comes from above and is uniformly imposed to an entire population is only instruction. Education, as the etymology of the word implies, has something to do with opening the eyes of the student so that he might see the larger world around him, and he might see it with his own individual and intransferable eyes, without anybody imprisoning him in a preexisting framework. Clearly, if instruction can be a social activity performed by a collectivity of technicians, education, in the sense that I understand it, must be a deep connection between the soul of the teacher and the soul of the student, a relationship that imitates on a smaller and limited scale the relationship between father and son. Thus, it is clear that the teacher has to convey to the student, rather than this or that particular piece of knowledge, a certain inspiration, a power, an enthusiasm, and a love for the search for the truth. And it is also clear that no one can give what he himself does not have. True education is a laborious and late result of the effort of self-education, which takes place in the soul of the educator and precedes education.
These considerations, however, are so far above the current state of affairs in Brazilian education that I do not see any way to put them into action except in small groups, without any illusion of interfering in the present state of things, but preparing, perhaps, a better future.
Olavo de Carvalho
A Brief Presentation Delivered At The Atlas Economic Research Foundation, Washington D.C.,
September 15, 2005
For fifteen years the Brazilian media refused to tell the public about the “São Paulo Forum”, the controlling center of communist and pro-communist organizations in Latin America, founded in 1990 by Fidel Castro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Far from the public’s eyes, the Forum has had time enough to prepare Lula’s ascension to the Presidency as well as to articulate it with the simultaneous victories of the leftist parties in the neighbor countries and with the growing power of Colombian guerillas. It has had also time enough to set up, under the protecting mantle of general silence, the gigantic corruption machine that has been giving financial support to the Brazilian Workers’ Party and to other leftist organizations.
It is not at all a coincidence that the Workers’ Party politician more directly
involved in the recent corruption charges, Mr. José Dirceu, was precisely the one that has the closest personal links with Fidel Castro and with the São Paulo Forum. Corruption is deeply rooted in the Workers Party, not as a vulgar way for personal moneymaking, but as a technical instrument to erode the moral basis of capitalistic society and to fund the revolutionary strategy. These two objectives are closely intertwined. Funded by corruption, the growth of leftist parties strengthens the credibility of the attacks they make against society, as if capitalism were equally immoral without their own deliberate efforts intended to degrade the moral standards.
The articulation of a variety of leftist parties in the São Paulo Forum, added to the public’s ignorance of the very existence of that organization, allows them to follow a unified blueprint for the conquest of absolute power while at the same time simulating a pluralism of political discourses in a normal democratic competition.
This shrewd strategy got to isolate the conservative parties and to deprive them of any ideological substance, up to the point when they became inhibited to criticize the leftist ideology as such. Some degree of leftism became the first moral duty of every good citizen. Many conservatives turned into active allies of the government in order to ensure themselves a humiliating political survival. Those who had no stomach for that chose instead the strategy of passive adaptation. They made their best to hide their convictions and to pay large amounts of lip service to the honorableness of their adversaries’ ideas. Consistently, they tried to limit any criticisms to precise points lacking any ideological relevance, chiefly those concerned with administrative inefficiency and corruption, hoping these charges would so not offend any ideological susceptibilities in the left and could perhaps obtain some support from the best men in the left itself.
This self-weakening strategy was condemned to failure from the outset. It got to destroy the conservative parties, but, when all seemed to be lost, it suddenly turned into a mortal poison inside the government’s belly. This happened because a conservative ally of the Workers’ Party, representative Roberto Jefferson, a strange and unpredictable character, decided to commit political suicide, confessing the crimes he and many other rightwing members of the Parliament had committed in exchange of government’s bribes. By accusing himself, this ambiguous type, at once a swindler and a hero, exposed the huge government corruption machine in such a persuasive terms that nobody could any more deny its existence.
In the weeks that followed, the amount of attacks and evidences, including many murder charges, grew to astronomic proportions and the government’s moralistic façade fell down at once.
Should we commemorate it? Of course not, because between Lula’s election and the disclosure of the government’s crimes the leftist apparatus had the time and the means to spread its agents everywhere, to tear down any consistent opposition, to take absolute control over the judicial system, to corrupt the media, to strengthen the Brazilian ties to Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro and to allow the Colombian narcoguerillas to act freely in Brazilian territory under semiofficial protection. The Workers’s Party may fall, but no conservative force will rise to its place. The sole beneficiaries of the main leftist party’s disgrace are the lesser leftist parties of the São Paulo Forum, kept and protected as in a freezer during all these years and now ready to present themselves to the public as the new incarnation of the highest morality.
In order to grasp the real intentions of these parties, you should only know that the most promising one, the PSOL, is under the ideological guidance of Mr. Achille Lollo, an Italian terrorist who some years ago set fire to one of his political enemies’ house in Rome, burning to death his two children. The spiritual highness of the master is the standard for the morals of the disciple. Look at Mr. Lollo and you will see the future of Brazil.
If now you are kind enough to hear me a few more minutes, I will tell you what all these things have to do with Americans.
Since the late Dr. Constantine Menges’s warnings against the Lula-Castro-Chavez “little axis of evil” were published in 2002, I have been expecting the American government to take a firm stand against the rise of neocommunist parties in Latin America and especially in my own country. As I personally had been uncovering the growing tide of leftist arrogance, being the last and only conservative voice in Brazilian big media, I was candid enough to fancy that the powerful support my opinions were receiving from an outstanding Hudson Institute scholar might be the sign of some auspicious changing in the U. S. policy towards Latin America. Perhaps the “scoundrel times” when Clinton’s Ambassador to Brazil proclaimed Lula to be “the Brazilian incarnation of the American dream” were at last approaching their end.
Instead, the American government went on and on dispensing a regular amount of flattering accolades to Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, treating him as if he were the very antidote to Hugo Chavez’s revolutionary emagoguery and a champion of capitalist democracy in the continent.
At the same time, American official agencies and billionaire foundations
continued to give full financial support to Brazilian leftists, allowing them to pose as harmless reformers and to deceive Brazilian voters.
Under the best of disguises, these people went on to implement the blueprint for general subversion designed by Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Colombian narcoterrorists at the annual meetings of the “São Paulo Forum”.
For Brazilian lovers of freedom, America ‘s unbroken support for Lula and his Worker’s Party was superlatively disappointing. As the reality of a communist conspiracy in Latin America was concealed from the public opinion for more than a decade by Brazilian big media, the whole country fell under Lula’s spell, believing him to be some kind of naïve Christian populist, too much unsophisticated to be conceivably mixed with a Machiavellian plot. The few intellectuals and journalists who knew the truth were isolated, powerless, unable to spread it among the general public. I paid a high price for trying to do so as a press columnist, suffering insults and death threats for years and finally being fired from two newspapers and a magazine. The political inspiration of the dismissals was too visible to deceive my readers, who sent hundreds of letters protesting against the suppression of my columns. But the letters, of which I kept copies, were never published. The concealing of truth is never perfect
unless it conceals itself.
Meanwhile, I and some of my colleagues did our best to use the internet as a means to fight the massive suppression of truth. But we were few and devoid of any financial support. We paid from our own pockets to keep the standards of real journalism alive, while a continuous cash flow from state banks and private corporations, both from Brazil and abroad, allowed communist and procommunist websites, newspapers, magazines and TV shows to flourish everywhere. When, against all probabilities, our penniless electronic newspaper “Mídia Sem Máscara” (Unmasked Media) was chosen by popular vote to win the second prize in a national contest against its millionaire leftist competition, some of us could not avoid tears dropping from our eyes. But it was only a moral victory, with no practical results whatsoever. We were still so powerless that it was easy for our foes to deny publicly not only the communist continental strategy but the very existence of the “Sao Paulo Forum”. They were strong enough to triumph over truth even after we published in “Mídia Sem Máscara” the complete proceedings of the twelve meetings of the Forum, the full proof of the intimate connections between the Worker’s Party and Colombian narcoterrorists.
Truth was everywhere downtrodden, derided, humiliated. Rejected and isolated in our own country, we turned our eyes to America, excited by George W. Bush’s second electoral victory and by Dr. Menges’s precise diagnosis of the situation.
America was our last hope, and America failed us.
Now that the deep corruption in Lula’s administration became visible to the eyes of everybody and that Brazilian people are conscious of the awful trap set up to catch them, it is due time for the American government to reassess the gain it obtained from appeasing Lula and disregarding the true friends of America in Brazil. President Bush is now seen by every Brazilian voter as the main foreign supporter of the dirtiest and most despicable administration we ever had. Leftist parties, aware that it will be impossible to save Lula’s reputation, are managing to associate the government debauchery to its American links, in order to blame the “right” for the crimes committed by the left. It is the most creative strategy of damage administration ever seen, and it is working. For a whole decade, many
Brazilians hated America because they loved Lula. Now they hate America
because they hate Lula.
Perhaps there is still time to change the course of events, but action must be
quick. The crimes of the Brazilian government are neither isolated facts nor the late results of Lula’s mythical “turning to the right”, but the natural implementation of the Worker’s Party plans for total domination, devised in
close association with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Why should America once more pay for the misdeeds of its foes? The American government has to choose between telling the truth and falling victim to a lie.