Arquivo mensal: junho 2011

Parada Gay, por Angeli

Por Angeli, em 28 de junho de 2011

 

Anúncios

As artes de Roger Bastide (Fapesp)

HUMANIDADES | SOCIOLOGIA
Artigos sobre o Brasil foram fundamentais para a formação de seu pensamento
Carlos Haag
Edição Impressa 184 – Junho 2011

© ARQUIVO / AE

Há 60 anos, o sociólogo “francês abrasileirado” (como o chamava Gilberto Freyre) Roger Bastide (1898-1974) realizou um sonho antigo, acalentado desde pouco depois de sua chegada ao país, em 1938, vindo como substituto do antropólogo Claude Lévi- -Strauss à frente da cadeira de sociologia da Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Em dois dias plenos de cerimônia, entre 3 e 4 de agosto de 1951, Bastide foi iniciado no candomblé como filho de Xangô e passou a usar o colar de contas vermelho e branco com grande orgulho. Por um curioso paradoxo, a passagem religiosa foi o ápice de suas pesquisas científicas no Brasil e, ao mesmo tempo, expressão sincera do seu “encantamento” pelas descobertas. “A pesquisa científica exigia de mim a passagem preliminar pelo ritual de iniciação. Até a minha morte serei reconhecido a todas as Mães de Santo que me trataram como um filho branco e compreenderam, com seu dom superior de intuição, minha ânsia por novos alimentos culturais e pressentiram que meu pensamento cartesiano não suportaria as novas substâncias como verdadeiros alimentos”, escreveu em Estudos afro-brasileiros.

Chegou ao Brasil sem saber o que encontraria. “Partiremos em algumas horas e as gaivotas traçam sinos cabalísticos no céu”, escreveu a bordo do navio que o trazia aos trópicos, revelando o espírito aberto ao oculto, ao irracional. Aqui, deparou-se com uma questão complexa: gostaria de ser um intérprete do novo país, mas como fazer isso sendo um estrangeiro em busca da compreensão da “identidade brasileira”? Será seu encontro com os modernistas, em especial Mário de Andrade, que o ensinará a procura do “exótico do exótico” do “outro do outro”. Daí a importância de sua iniciação e, também, da sua inserção na discussão sobre as artes plásticas que os modernistas realizavam. “As artes plásticas, o folclore, o barroco ensinam a Bastide que a originalidade da cultura brasileira era seu hibridismo, a solução ímpar que aconteceu aqui com o cruzamento de civilizações distintas”, explica a antropóloga Fernanda Arêas Peixoto, professora da USP e autora deDiálogos brasileiros: uma análise da obra de Roger Bastide. Do Bastide do candomblé muito se fala, mas o crítico de arte que arregaçou as mangas e saiu da universidade para os jornais é bem menos conhecido, apesar da importância de seus escritos para a compreensão de seu pensamento. Essa lacuna está sendo, aos poucos, preenchida, como revela o lançamento de Impressões do Brasil (ver resenha “Impressão do Brasil”), livro recém- 
-lançado pela Imprensa Oficial, que reúne 11 artigos que retratam o processo de ambientação intelectual do francês no país e seu envolvimento com a cultura nacional. “Essa paixão pelas artes e pelas letras não era um passatempo dominical de Bastide, mas uma disciplina estética que ele soube cultivar. Os textos revelam a inclusão crescente de temas brasileiros em seu repertório intelectual. E de como, com rapidez e profundidade, ele se enganou com a matéria brasileira, antiga e contemporânea”, avalia o professor de literatura da USP, Samuel Titan Jr., que, ao lado da socióloga Fraya Frehse, foi responsável pela organização dos artigos do livro, entre esses: “Machado de Assis, paisagista”; “Igrejas barrocas e cavalinhos de pau”; “Estética de São Paulo”; “Variações sobre a porta barroca”; “Arte e religião: o culto aos gêmeos”; entre outros.

Há ainda outras boas-novas. “Os estudiosos da obra de Bastide são, em geral, das ciências sociais. Apesar da eficiência desse fio de Ariadne para nos movimentarmos nos aspectos gerais da sua produção, a literatura abre ramificações próprias. Ele trouxe uma contribuição importante com o seu olhar estrangeiro e aberto, iluminando de uma forma diferente a nossa própria literatura”, acredita Glória Carneiro do Amaral, professora livre-docente aposentada da USP, atualmente pesquisadora do Programa de Pós-graduação em Letras da Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, autora de Navette literária França-Brasil: a crítica de Roger Bastide, recém-editado pela Edusp em dois volumes que analisam as críticas literárias bastidianas e as reúnem pela primeira vez, muitas delas quase desconhecidas de pesquisadores de sua obra.

“Bastide pensou e escreveu sobre o Brasil à medida que o foi conhecendo. No exercício rotineiro da crítica jornalística, ele comenta as artes visuais e a literatura nacional, discutindo obras no calor da hora. A arte é lida por ele como forma de compreensão da cultura brasileira mais ampla, ligando-se à análise cultural. Foi a partir da matéria artística que ele pensou os processos de ‘aculturação literária’, a incorporação do negro à literatura e mestiçagem estética. O mesmo se deu em outros campos da arte. Ele praticou a interdisciplinaridade num momento em que isso não era praticado como hoje em dia”, analisa Fernanda Peixoto. “O Brasil que emerge das artes e da cultura popular é um Brasil mestiço do que Bastide se aproxima dos mais diversos ângulos. Ele deve ser visto como um elemento de ligação entre o meio universitário e o cenário intelectual mais amplo, representando, com esses textos, dentro da universidade, a articulação entre a academia e os jornais; entre a sociologia acadêmica, a crítica e o ensaísmo; entre as ciências sociais e o modernismo literário”, completa a pesquisadora. “Bastide se interessou a fundo pela nossa arte e pela nossa literatura, tornando-se crítico militante e um estudioso que pesou de maneira notável na interpretação de fatos, ideias e obras. Sua visão sociológica concorria para a ampliação das interpretações, sendo um dos raros estudiosos a usar com segurança e felicidade essa combinação difícil da sociologia e da crítica da arte”, escreveu o ex-aluno Antonio Candido em Recortes.

Mas não se trata aqui da “arte pela arte”. “Nas análises que fez sobre a produção artística brasileira, eruditas ou populares (folclore, artes plásticas e literatura), Bastide se concentrou na busca das marcas africanas que estariam impressas nessa produção ou, nas palavras dele, ‘buscamos a raça na trama da obra escrita’. O que essa produção revela é a presença de uma África em surdina, oprimida por modelos cultos europeus, exemplificando o drama do africanismo oprimido no país. Daí ele ter se voltado, ao mesmo tempo, para os escritos sobre arte e os estudos sobre as religiões afro-brasileiras que obrigam a redefinir suas análises anteriores”, observa Fernanda. “Se as manifestações artísticas o levam a ver o Brasil a partir de uma trama sincrética (a competição desigual entre a civilização europeia e a africana, que luta para impor seus valores e modelos), a religião trouxe a ele outro ângulo de observação”, continua. Segundo Bastide, nota a pesquisadora, os cultos afro-brasileiros seriam redutos privilegiados da reação, o polo de resistência africana e permitem que se possa “decantar” a África pela sua composição mestiça, uma forma nova de compreender a presença africana no Brasil. “Esse é o campo de observação de Bastide aqui: o triângulo África, Europa e Brasil, este último o lugar da barganha dos dois sistemas simbólicos, africano e europeu”, diz a professora. A religião teria o poder de inverter o sentido da equação sincrética, pois seria o lugar em que a contribuição negra é a base e, assim, oferece ao intérprete o caminho preferencial para entender a África no Brasil.

Mas por que a opção africana? O encontro entre Bastide e a África aconteceu em território brasileiro na sua primeira viagem ao Nordeste, em 1944. “Diante da fonte europeia e africana, que alimenta o misticismo brasileiro, ele vira sua atenção para a matriz africana. Isso não significa uma escolha, mas, pensa, a única opção segura para quem quer entender o caráter particular do misticismo nacional. Pode-se dizer que não é o intérprete que elege o mundo africano como objeto de reflexão, mas é a África que se impõe ao observador”, nota Fernanda. Afinal ela “penetra pelos ouvidos, pelo nariz e pela boca, bate no estômago, impõe seu ritmo ao corpo e ao espírito, obrigando-o a passar do estudo da mística das pedras e da madeira talhada para a religião dos pretos”, como escreveu Bastide emImagens do Nordeste em preto e branco, “reportagem literária” feita pelo francês em 1944 a pedido da revista O Cruzeiro. “A civilização africana, nos termos de Bastide, é recriada no Brasil a partir (e apesar) do encontro entre as três civilizações. Assim, a África brasileira, longe de cópia de um modelo original, é reelaboração, um produto também híbrido. É uma África sincrética, composta de brancos e negros, como mostram seus estudos sobre arte e literatura. Para ele, o negro está ao mesmo tempo unido e separado na sociedade brasileira.”

Assim, se Gilberto Freyre, referência fundamental para Bastide, ao lado dos modernistas e Florestan Fernandes (seu aluno e colega de pesquisas), estudou o sincretismo do ponto de vista da civilização brasileira, Bastide virou-se para as civilizações africanas, com isso, como escreveu, pretendendo “retomar o problema pelo outro lado da luneta”. O sincretismo bastidiano é, acima de tudo, sinônimo de resistência africana. Isso gerou críticas ao sociólogo, visto como passadista, um romântico em busca de purezas perdidas no tempo. “Se ele se esforça em isolar os universos africanos do amálgama mestiço, ao mesmo tempo está preocupado em entender como esses ‘nichos africanos’ se articulam na sociedade. A procura de ilhas africanas é inseparável da análise de relações, de aproximações e afastamentos”, nota Fernanda.

“O Brasil é um caso exemplar de interpenetração de civilizações a ser observado e produtor de teorias que Bastide irá usar, não apenas para entender as especificidades do Brasil, mas também para criar seu instrumental analítico e conceitual”, avisa Fernanda. “Bastide não era um sociólogo de gabinete, mas um intelectual que realizou detalhadas pesquisas etnográficas e históricas e seus textos têm o valor de reabilitar a cultura negra, agora vista como elaborada e plena de valores, recusando a perspectiva preconceituosa de autores brasileiros que o precederam”, observa o sociólogo Lísias Nogueira Negrão, professor titular da USP e autor de Roger Bastide: do candomblé à umbanda.

“Para Bastide, olhar a África no Brasil implica obrigatoriamente o mo-vimento inverso: olhar o Brasil sincrético a partir da África, já que sem o termo africano é impossível pensar o país”, nota Fernanda Peixoto. Entre 1950 e 1951, esse raciocínio avançará em novas direções por causa do convite feito a Bastide pela Unesco para investigar as relações raciais no Brasil, já que então o país parecia, ao menos de longe, sofrer menos do que os outros os efeitos do preconceito racial e seria desejável entender as raízes dessa suposta harmonia. Bastide une-se ao ex-aluno Florestan Fernandes na tarefa e o diálogo entre os dois será fecundo ao pensamento bastidiano em sua fase final, em especial na avaliação dos nexos entre “novo” e “velho” na sociedade brasileira.

“O tom otimista das previsões de Florestan não encontra eco em Bastide, mesmo que ele considere notável a maior aceitação dos negros pelas novas gerações”, observa Fernanda. “Mas, para Bastide, a matriz da análise é dada pela persistência dos elementos da sociedade tradicional no mundo moderno, e não pela mudança. As dificuldades dos negros para se organizarem politicamente se dão nesse contexto em que não há ideologia da revolta. Fruto de uma ambivalência ideológica entre o orgulho de ser negro e a sensação de inferioridade, a adoção do ponto de vista branco.” Nisso, apesar das críticas que sofreu, Bastide não vê uma aversão ao moderno. Pelo contrário, como revela numa palestra feita em 1973 quando remete seu pensamento ao mito de Prometeu, torturado pelos deuses com um abutre ao dar o “fogo divino” do saber aos homens. “A civilização ocidental traz em seu mito de origem o progresso e a decadência, gerados pela mesma fonte. Não é possível, diz Bastide, refletir sobre a civilização e sobre a modernidade (Prometeu) sem incorporar a análise da antimodernidade (o abutre), faces de uma mesma moeda.”

Assim, segundo o francês, a exportação de valores para países do Terceiro Mundo (a generalização da modernidade) que levaria a uma homogenização do modelo ocidental não aconteceu. Bastide, então, questiona se haveria mesmo só um único modelo para alcançar a modernidade e se coloca em defesa das “modernidades diferenciadas”, fruto do que viu e observou no Brasil com a cultura africana. Foi um entusiasta dos movimentos jovens dos anos 1960, exemplos da contramodernidade produtiva: a contestação jovem à sociedade ocidental era feita tendo como modelo as formas arcaicas de sociabilidade reeditadas porhippies e outros. O que provaria a vitalidade dos modelos arcaicos, que logram sobreviver às revoluções mais violentas, refugiando-se em nichos. “Na produção de Bastide, mesmo depois de seu retorno à França, persiste o interesse pelas ‘Áfricas’ do mundo todo”, analisa Fernanda. Um pensamento forjado em terras baianas, como recorda Jorge Amado ao lembrar-se do amigo francês, que falava um português enviesado, em visita a um terreiro. “Como se entenderam o sociólogo francês e a mãe- 
-pequena baiana, não sei até hoje; é para mim um mistério tão grande quanto o da Santíssima Trindade.”

Noviça pintada pelo orixá © JOSÉ MEDEIROS / ACERVO INSTITUTO MOREIRA SALLES

Cresce número de negros em universidades particulares (Folha de S.Paulo)

JC e-mail 4288, de 28 de Junho de 2011

Após dez anos de cotas, crescimento de pretos e pardos foi menor nas públicas.

Dez anos após a implantação das primeiras leis de cotas no país – no Rio de Janeiro e no Rio Grande do Sul -, ao menos ou 23% das vagas em universidades públicas são reservadas para políticas de ação afirmativa.

O dado é de um estudo do Grupo de Estudos Multidisciplinares de Ações Afirmativas (da Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro).

Isso representa cerca de 54 mil vagas. Porém, foram as instituições privadas as principais responsáveis pelo aumento da proporção de pretos e pardos no ensino superior.

Dados tabulados pela Folha a partir da Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios do IBGE mostram que, no ensino superior, a proporção de auto declarados pretos e pardos cresceu de 21% para 35% de 2001 a 2009.

No ensino superior público, o aumento foi de 314 mil para 530 mil, uma variação de 69%. No privado, o crescimento foi de 264%, de 447 mil para 1,6 milhão. No total da população, a proporção desses grupos variou de 46% para 51%.

O sociólogo Simon Schwartzman, presidente do Instituto de Estudos do Trabalho e Sociedade, lembra que o aumento da proporção de pretos e pardos já havia acontecido no ensino médio por causa da expansão das matrículas nesse setor.

“No caso do ensino superior, como foi o setor privado que mais cresceu, foi nele também que ocorreu o maior aumento de pretos e pardos”, afirma.

Públicas – Entre as 98 universidades públicas do País, 70 adotam alguma ação afirmativa, segundo o estudo da Uerj. Uma dessas vagas foi ocupada pela médica recém-formada Mariana Ribeiro, 27, na Uerj. “Na minha turma, não vi grandes disparidades entre os que passaram via cotas e os demais”, afirma ela.

“É um processo que leva tempo. Corrigir tudo pela política de cotas é difícil, mas ela é melhor do que o que tínhamos antes, que era nada”, afirma João Feres, um dos autores do estudo.

Hoje, ao menos 18 universidades públicas já formaram cotistas. Sete delas fizeram avaliações.

Na UnB e nas universidades do estado do Rio de Janeiro, da Bahia e Estadual de Londrina os alunos cotistas tiveram resultados quase iguais aos dos não cotistas.

Na Federal de Juiz de Fora (na área de ciência e tecnologia) e estadual de Montes Claros o desempenho dos não cotistas foi superior. Já na Universidade Federal da Bahia, eles tiveram avanço superior aos demais durante os cursos.

Paul Virilio: “Minha língua estrangeira é a velocidade, é a aceleração do real” (L.M. DIPLOMATIQUE Brasil)

03 de Junho de 2011

ENTREVISTA

“Minha língua estrangeira é a velocidade, é a aceleração do real”

por Guilherme Soares dos Santos

Uma das maiores personalidades da França atualmente, o filósofo e urbanista Paul Virilio ocupa um lugar de destaque na cena intelectual. Escritor prolífico, no seu currículo sucedem-se livros, exposições e artigos tais como Velocidade e política, Guerra e cinema, O espaço crítico, Máquina de visão e, recentemente, O grande acelerador [sem tradução ainda para o português] em que ele desenvolve uma cultura crítica, alguns dizem “catastrofista”, sobre as técnicas modernas, bem como seus efeitos de aceleração sobre nossos comportamentos e nossa percepção do mundo, no momento em que a economia mundial depende cada vez mais do investimento na tecnologia.

Paul Virilio recebe o filósofo brasileiro Guilherme Soares dos Santos em Paris, e fala com exclusividade ao Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil sobre suas teses, que tratam da corrida, da lógica da velocidade, ele que é visto por muitos como um reacionário ou um visionário, fala ytambém de sua biografia.

VIRILIO: Há uma coisa fundamental que explicará, talvez, o aspecto “catastrofista” do qual me acusam. Eu sou uma criança da guerra, um war baby, e é um elemento que não foi suficientemente compreendido, porque tentou-se fazer esquecer a guerra. Há dois momentos importantes na Segunda Guerra Mundial (eu a vivi, eu tinha 10 anos, eu nasci em 1932). Houve primeiramente a Guerra Relâmpago, a Blitzkrieg. Censurou-se esse aspecto, e alguns historiadores negam a blitz, isto é, o fato de que a velocidade esteve na base da grande ruína, primeiro da Polônia, e em seguida da França. E então essa Blitzkrieg se esgotou nos países do leste e na União Soviética, porque lá havia a profundidade de campo que permitia amortecer. Eu sou, portanto, uma criança da Blitzkrieg, eu diria mesmo que eu sou talvez o único, o único que desde então jamais cessou de ser marcado pelo poder da velocidade. Não é somente o poder dos transportes, os carros de assalto contra a cavalaria polonesa que desembainhava o sabre contra os panzers… Há também a guerra das ondas da qual eu sou o filho: “Pom, pom, pom, pom”… a rádio de Londres que eu escutava no escuro com o meu pai. Há dois momentos capitais: a Blitzkrieg e a deportação que vai, aliás, junto com o mesmo movimento de invasão. Se a guerra de 1914 foi uma guerra de posição em que os exércitos se exterminaram no mesmo lugar durante anos, com a deportação, conduziu-se à Shoah no curso da Segunda Guerra Mundial.

DIPLOMATIQUE: O senhor é muito sensibilizado pelas tragédias que ocorrem em nossa época. O senhor quis inclusive que fosse criado um “Museu dos Acidentes”, após a exposição feita sobre esse tema na Fundação Cartier para a Arte Contemporânea. O senhor já avançou essa ideia, mas por enquanto sem sucesso junto às instituições, e agora o senhor propõe a criação de uma “Universidade do Desastre”. De que se trata exatamente? Não se poderia pensar que a guerra terá sido, para o senhor, uma universidade do desastre?

VIRILIO: Com efeito. Quando eu falo de “Universidade do Desastre” não é de modo algum o desastre da universidade, é o contrário: eu quero dizer que “o pior provoca o melhor”. A universidade europeia apareceu em Bolonha e alhures aproximadamente em 1100, 1200, após o “grande medo” do ano 1000, em oposição à grande barbárie. E ela foi, essa universidade, um coletivo judeo-cristão, greco-latino e árabe. Alguns negam o grande medo do primeiro milênio, como alguns negam, hoje, a blitz. Há aí alguma coisa que, no meu entendimento, faz parte do segredo da velocidade. Se “o tempo é dinheiro”, a velocidade é poder. Eu lembro que para os banqueiros, para que haja mais-valia, é preciso que haja a velocidade de troca. A questão da velocidade é uma questão mascarada; não mascarada por um complô, mas mascarada por sua simplicidade. Riqueza e velocidade estão vinculadas. É conhecido o vínculo da riqueza e do poder como da lei do mais forte. Mas a lei do mais forte é a lei do mais rápido. A questão da “dromologia” é a questão da velocidade que, hoje, mudou de natureza. Na origem, a velocidade é o tesouro dos faraós; é a tesaurização, quer dizer, a acumulação e, então, muito rapidamente, tornar-se-á especulação. E aí o movimento de acumulação vai passar na aceleração. Os dois estão vinculados. Acumulação do tesouro que tornar-se-á tesouro público, em seguida especulação, e hoje financeirização com os sistemas de cotação automática em alta frequência que fazem explodir a bolsa de valores. Veja, estamos diante de algo extraordinário, é que nós não sabemos o que é a velocidade em nossos dias. As pessoas me dizem que é preciso uma economia política da velocidade, e, de fato, é preciso uma, mas é preciso primeiro uma dromologia, ou seja, revelar na vida política, no sentido amplo do poder, a natureza da velocidade em nosso tempo. Essa velocidade mudou de natureza. Essencialmente ela foi a revolução dos transportes. Até o século XX, até a blitz, vimos que a revolução das riquezas é uma revolução dos transportes: o cavalo, o navio, o trem, o avião, os sinais mecânicos.

DIPLOMATIQUE: No final do século XX, passa-se não mais à revolução dos transportes, mas à das transmissões instantâneas.

VIRILIO: Durante a guerra, ainda garotinho, eu participei da Resistência com os meus pais graças à guerra das ondas que já era uma guerra eletromagnética. Uma guerra da velocidade das ondas. Marconi e sua invenção era, também, uma revolução da velocidade. Começava-se a pôr em obra a velocidade das ondas eletromagnéticas, isto é, das ondas da velocidade da luz. E, claro, com a televisão, os computadores e a Internet, nós entramos numa fase que hoje atinge o seu limite; a velocidade da luz em que o tempo humano, o tempo da negociação, da especulação, em que a inteligência do homem, do especulador, dos cotadores é ultrapassada pelos automatismos. Aliás, quando a bolsa quebrou em 6 de maio do ano passado em Wall Street, em alguns milésimos de segundos houve 23.000 operações, o sistema entrou em pane e bilhões foram perdidos em dez minutos.

DIPLOMATIQUE: O que preocupa o senhor são os limites do tempo humano?

VIRILIO: Sim, é preciso trabalhar sobre a natureza do poder da velocidade atualmente, porque a velocidade da luz é um absoluto e é o limite do tempo humano. Nós estamos no “tempo-máquina”; o tempo humano é sacrificado como os escravos eram sacrificados no culto solar de antigamente. Eu o digo, nós estamos num novo Iluminismo em que a velocidade da luz é um culto. É um poder absoluto que se esconde atrás do progresso, e é por isso que eu afirmo que a velocidade é a propaganda do progresso. Eu não tenho nada contra o progresso. Quando eu digo que é preciso “ir mais devagar”, alguns zombam de mim. Pensam que eu condeno a revolução dos transportes, dos trens, dos carros, dos aviões, que eu sou contra os computadores e contra a Internet. Não é nesse nível que as coisas estão em jogo…

DIPLOMATIQUE: O que o senhor combate é a aceleração do real que põe em questão a percepção das aparências sensíveis e daquilo que a fenomenologia chama de “ser-no-mundo”?

VIRILLIO: Sim, o que a revolução dos transportes era para a aceleração da história e os movimentos migratórios, a revolução das transmissões instantâneas o é para a aceleração da realidade percebida. É um acontecimento alucinante, estupeficante. A velocidade é uma ebriedade. Uma embriaguez que pode ser “scópica” ou sonora – daí, aliás, a passagem do muro do som. Com as telecomunicações, utiliza-se a força de impacto da aceleração para fazer passar coisas que não estão na realidade pública, ou seja, no espaço real público, mas na realidade privada, ou antes transmitidas em tempo real por sociedades privadas. A tal ponto que a questão da imaginação, e aquela, filosófica, do “ser-no-mundo”, do aqui e do agora, tornam-se centrais. Nós estamos, assim, em plena crise da ciência, do que eu chamo de “acidente dos conhecimentos”, “acidente das substâncias” e “acidente das distâncias”. Essa questão da velocidade, desde Einstein, está no cerne da relatividade outrora especial, e hoje generalizada, que está em vias de se chocar contra um muro, o que eu chamo de “muro do tempo”. O que se passou em Wall Street me interessa muito porque as pessoas de Wall Street se chocaram contra o muro do tempo e o muro do dinheiro. É um fenômeno político maior no momento em que os algoritmos e os programas de computador dominam a vida econômica, e eu pretendo que a “relatividade especial” deveria ser um problema encarado pelo Estado. Se o século XX foi o século da conquista do ar e do espaço, eu penso que o século XXI deveria se questionar não somente sobre as nanotecnologias, mas, também, sobre as nanocronologias, isto é, sobre o tempo infinitesimal, sobre a conquista do “infinitamente pequeno do tempo”.

DIPLOMATIQUE: Parece-me que, nos textos do senhor, o estilo quer sempre ecoar o assunto estudado, e quando senhor pensa a velocidade, é a própria escrita que deve ir rápido.

VIRILIO: Absolutamente. E nesse sentido, como o mostra Proust, todo verdadeiro escritor escreve “numa espécie de língua estrangeira”. Minha língua estrangeira é a velocidade, é a aceleração do real. No que respeita à velocidade da minha escrita, trata-se da herança dos futuristas, e eu sinto a dromologia como uma musicologia. O problema não é nem de acelerar nem de desacelerar, mas de seguir uma linha melódica.

DIPLOMATIQUE: Há quem diga que o senhor pratica uma “escrita rapsódica”.

VIRILIO: Trata-se do ritmo. As sociedades antigas eram sociedades ritmológicas. Havia o calendário, a liturgia, as festas que estruturavam a linha melódica de tal ou qual sociedade. Os ritmos são muito importantes, você sabe, pois trata-se do sopro. Quando Bergson e Einstein se encontraram, eles não se compreenderam a esse respeito. O primeiro falava de “duração”, do vivo; o segundo, do vazio e do veloz. Saiba, no entanto, que será necessário conciliá-los, caso contrário o futuro do século XXI será um caos global pior que o nazismo ou o comunismo, que não tem nada a ver com a anarquia. Não, um caos global pior que tudo!

DIPLOMATIQUE: É por isso que o pensamento do senhor torna-se mais e mais dramático e religioso nos últimos tempos?

VIRILIO: Eu sou um católico que se converteu já adulto, isso é importante. Meu pai era comunista, e minha mãe, católica. Acontece que eu conheci o abade Pierre e padres operários. Mas eu permaneço sozinho sobre a minha senda.

DIPLOMATIQUE: Alguns criticam o senhor por descrever situações que seriam exagerações fantasistas, quando o senhor descreve este temor da solidão gerado pelas telecomunicações, notadamente pela Internet ou o celular. Não estaria o senhor realizando, talvez, uma especulação sobre “mundos possíveis”, seguindo uma espécie de método “transcendental” de investigação?

VIRILIO: Eu quero reunir o que foi separado, quero dizer, a filosofia e a física. Trata-se fundamentalmente de uma reinvenção filosófica para fazer frente a esta matematização do mundo, esta rapidez que ultrapassa a consciência. Eu me sinto no limiar de uma filosofia sem igual. Tal como Heráclito ou Parmênides, estamos aqui na origem – daí a Universidade do Desastre. Todo o trabalho desta seria um questionamento sobre o “desastre do êxito”. O que se acaba de descrever é o sucesso da tecnociência. Ora, é imperativo reconciliar e lançar a “filociência”. O que está aí em jogo é a vida ou a morte da humanidade. Se o homem não pode mais falar e se ele transfere o poder de enunciação a aparelhos, encontramo-nos, pois, diante de uma tirania sem igual. Físicos que são meus amigos estão conscientes disso, do que se perfila, um “acidente dos conhecimentos”. Isso nos conduz à árvore da vida que só tem referência na origem do Gênese, ou seja, o mito da vida… E aí eu o digo enquanto cristão e enquanto escritor: o acidente dos conhecimentos é o pecado original.

DIPLOMATIQUE: O que significa em nossa época “ser sábio”, quando nós somos forçados a uma especialização crescente e incessante, assim como à busca de uma “resposta automatizada” nos motores de pesquisa e nos bancos de dados que ultrapassam de longe o que a memória individual pode abarcar em uma vida? Como nós podemos cultivar nossa lucidez nesta maré enlouquecedora de informações?

VIRILIO: No que me toca mais diretamente, eu sou um urbanista, quer dizer que eu trabalho sobre o habitat. E o próprio de um urbanista é trabalhar sobre o habitar, o “ser-aqui”. O “ser-aqui-junto”. É isso o habitat: é o lugar de nossos hábitos. Os dois mantêm um vínculo muito estreito, isto é, a possibilidade de durar; o hábito é o que se reproduz. É o “ser-junto”. Não simplesmente o “ser-junto” do socius, mas o “ser-junto” da natureza no habitat comum com a nossa irmã, a chuva, e o nosso irmão, o sol, como diriam os franciscanos… É isso a arquitetura! É abrigar o vivente.

DIPLOMATIQUE: Perante o excesso contemporâneo de informações, e à velocidade sempre acelerada do desenrolar dos acontecimentos se desdobrando mundialmente nas imagens de nossas telas, não estamos testemunhando uma verdadeira desconstrução da cultura geral?

VIRILIO: Você utilizou na sua pergunta a palavra “desconstrução”. Eu creio que Derrida tinha razão para o fim do século XX. O início do século XX é a destruição pura e simplesmente através da ruína das cidades, através da ruína dos corpos. É a destruição; não se pode dizer que Auschiwtz ou Hiroshima sejam “desconstruções”… São puras destruições. Ora, eu creio – e eu o digo e o escrevo – que o século XXI será a desorientação, quer dizer, a perda de todas as referências – se a humanidade continuar desse jeito, e ela não continuará. Portanto, eu não creio de maneira alguma no fim do mundo. Mas o que eu quero dizer é a desorientação: não sabemos mais onde estamos nem no espaço nem no tempo. E aí, o geômetra que eu sou, o arquiteto que eu sou, sabe o que é a orientação. A arquitetura é primeira; ela é composição; ela é habitat comum entre os seres e as coisas. Pois ser é “ser-no-mundo”, e é o que eu digo: o problema não é de ser, mas de ser-no-mundo, em outras palavras, de ser-no-corpo-territorial. Isso não tem nada a ver com nacionalismo. Simplesmente não se pode ser sem “ser-no-mundo”. Em nossa época, todavia, o essencial se passa no vazio. Se você olhar hoje em dia, o poder não é mais geopolítico, religado ao solo, ele é aeropolítico: as ondas, os aviões e os foguetes traçam o porvir. A história se transferiu da terra ao céu, com toda a dimensão mística de adoração do cosmos, do grande vazio sideral, das ondas que se propagam etc. que isso supõe. As sociedades históricas eram sociedades geopolíticas, ou seja, inscritas nos lugares. O acontecimento, conforme com que eu digo, o acontecimento “tem lugar”; logo existe uma natureza do lugar que tange ao acontecimento. E essa relação com o “ter lugar” foi ocultada. É uma noção tão banal… Significa, portanto, que eu não posso ser sem ter lugar. Não é um problema de identidade – não, situado, orientado, in situ, hic et nunc, aqui e agora.

DIPLOMATIQUE: Uma última pergunta. O senhor pensa que o sistema econômico já está sendo transtornado pela ecologia?

VIRILIO: Doravante a economia e a ecologia devem fundir-se porque o mundo é finito, porque o mundo é demasiado pequeno para o progresso. Nós esgotamos a matéria do mundo, nós poluímos sua substância e nós poluímos suas distâncias. E nós estamos perante à fusão próxima da ecologia e da economia. Vê-se bem as dificuldades com o encontro do Grupo de Informação sobre o Clima em Copenhague. Vê-se bem a dificuldade que há em plena crise econômica, nos Estados Unidos e no mundo, a tomar medidas ecológicas. Portanto, inevitavelmente, o fato de que a Terra é muito pequena para a velocidade, para a velocidade do progresso, exige a fusão dos dois. Daí a importância de uma Universidade do Desastre e a reinvenção de um pensamento, de um intelectual coletivo, como o foi a universidade das origens. É indispensável. Até o momento ela não existe; nós estamos na origem de um novo mundo. E eu gostaria de ser mais jovem para poder viver esse Novo Mundo que vai nascer na dor do confronto. Mas que é indispensável. Nenhum homem, seja qual for a sua cor política, não está à altura desse acontecimento que se assemelha à Renascença italiana… E ao mesmo tempo é tão excitante! É maravilhoso! Como já dizia Karl Krauss: “que grande época”!

Guilherme Soares dos Santos – Filósofo, mestre em filosofia política e ética pela Universidade Paris Sorbonne e, atualmente, é doutorando em filosofia contemporânea pela Universidade Paris 8, onde estuda o pensamento de Gilles Deleuze.

Foto e tradução: Guilherme Soares dos Santos

Palavras chave: Paul Virilio, velocidade, transformação, corrida, cultura, teoria

Reveling in the Pain of Others: Moral Degeneracy and Violence in the “Kill Team” Photos (Truthout)

By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis
Monday, 20 June 2011

Cpl. Jeremy Morlock poses with the body of an unarmed Afghan boy named Gul Mudin in the village of La Mohammad Kalay. (Photo: US Army)

The inability to identify with others was unquestionably the most important psychological condition for the fact that something like Auschwitz could have occurred in the midst of more or less civilized and innocent people…. The coldness of the societal monad, the isolated competitor, was the precondition, as indifference to the fate of others…. Regressive tendencies, that is, people with repressed sadistic traits, are produced everywhere today by the global evolution of society…. Everywhere where it is mutilated, consciousness is reflected back upon the body and the sphere of the corporeal in an unfree form that tends toward violence. -Theodor Adorno

War, violence and death have become the organizing principle of governance and culture in the United States as we move into the second decade of the 21st century. Lacking a language for the social good, the very concept of the social as a space in which justice, equality, social protections and a responsibility to the other mediate everyday life is being refigured through a spectacle of violence and cruelty. Under such circumstances, ethical considerations and social costs are removed from market-driven policies and values just as images of human suffering are increasingly abstracted from not only their social and political contexts, but also the conditions that make such suffering possible. Moreover, as public issues collapse into privatized considerations, matters of agency, responsibility and ethics are now framed within the discourse of extreme individualism. Unexpected violence, aggression and the “‘masculine’ virtues of toughness, strength, decisiveness and determination … are accentuated,” along with the claims of vengeance, militarization and violence.(1) The collapse of the social and the formative culture that make human bonds possible is now outmatched by the rise of a Darwinian ethic of greed and self-interest in which violence, aggressiveness and sadism have become the primary metric for living and dying. As the social contract is replaced by social collapse, a culture of depravity has emerged in American society. The spectacle of violence permeates every aspect of the machinery of cultural production and screen culture – extending from television news and reality TV to the latest Hollywood fare. Of course, this is not new. What is new is that more and more people desire spectacles of high-intensity violence and images of death, mutilation and suffering and their desires should no longer be attributed to an individual aberration, but instead suggest an increasingly widespread social pathology.

Death and violence have become the mediating link between US domestic policy – the state’s treatment of its own citizens – and foreign policy, between the tedium of ever expanding workdays and the thrill of sadistic release. Disposable bodies now waste away in American prisons, schools and shelters just as they litter the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. America has become a permanent warfare state, with a deep investment in a cultural politics and the corollary cultural apparatuses that legitimate and sanctify its machinery of death. The American public’s fascination with violence and death is evident in the recent popular obsession with high-octane action films, along with the ever-expanding volume of vampire and zombie films, TV shows and books. We also see death-dealing and violent acts accrue popularity with Hollywood films such as the 2010 academy-award winning “The Hurt Locker,” in which the American bomb disposal expert, William James (Jeremy Renner), repeatedly puts himself at risk in the face of defusing various bomb threats – thus to highlight the filmmaker’s concern with a growing “addiction” to war. As Mark Featherstone points out, there is more represented here than the reckless behavior of immature and hyper-masculine soldiers. He writes, “James takes unnecessary risks and lives for the limit experience…. [H]e feels most alive when he is closest to death … When James … throws the bomb suit away and stands before the bomb with no protection, he puts himself at the mercy of the bomb, the embodiment of the death drive.”(2)

“The Hurt Locker” is only one of a number of serious films that address, if not mirror, a psychological state in which the production of a virulent masculinity now augurs both a pathological relationship with the body, pain and violence and a disdain for compassion, human rights and social justice. The death drive in American society has become one of its fundamental characteristics and, undoubtedly, its most disabling pathology. More than a trace of this mode of aggression and moral indifference now dominates contemporary American life. Marked by a virulent notion of hardness and aggressive masculinity, a culture of depravity has become commonplace in a society in which pain, humiliation and abuse are condensed into digestible spectacles of violence endlessly circulated through extreme sports, reality TV, video games, YouTube postings and proliferating forms of the new and old media. But the ideology of hardness and the economy of pleasure it justifies are also present in the material relations of power that have intensified since the Reagan presidency, when a shift in government policies first took place and set the stage for the emergence of an unchecked regime of torture and state violence under the Bush-Cheney regime. Conservative and liberal politicians alike now spend millions waging wars around the globe, funding the largest military state in the world, providing huge tax benefits to the ultra-rich and major corporations, and all the while draining public coffers, increasing the scale of human poverty and misery and eliminating all viable public spheres – whether they be the social state, public schools, public transportation, or any other aspect of a formative culture that addresses the needs of the common good.

Mainstream politicians now call for cutbacks in public funding in order to address the pressing problems of the very deficit they not only created, but gladly embrace, since it provides an excuse either to drastically reduce funding for vital entitlements such as Medicare and early childhood education or to privatize public education, transportation, and other public services, while putting more money into the hands of the rich and powerful. The real deficit here is one of truth and morality. The politics of austerity has now become a discourse for eviscerating the social state and forcing upon cities, families and individuals previously unimaginable levels of precarity, suffering and insecurity. As Rania Khalek points out, conservatives want to “exploit the budget crisis in order to starve government…. The truth is that the economic crisis, sparked by decades of deregulation and greedy financial forms, caused high levels of unemployment that dramatically reduced state and local tax revenues. Add to that years of tax cuts for the wealthy and decades of corporate tax-dodging and you’ve got yourself a budget crisis.”(3) The discourse of “deficit porn” now justifies the shift in public policy and state funding further away from providing social protections and safeguarding civil liberties toward the establishment of legislative programs intent on promoting shared fears and increasing disciplinary modes of governance that rely on the criminalization of social problems.(4)

The broader cultural turn toward the death drive and the strange economy of desire it produces is also evident in the emergence of a culture of depravity in which the American public appears more and more amenable to deriving pleasure from images that portray gratuitous violence and calamity. As mentioned above, exaggerated violence now rules screen culture. The public pedagogy of entertainment includes extreme images of violence, human suffering and torture splashed across giant movie screens, some in 3D, offering viewers every imaginable portrayal of violent acts, each more shocking and brutal than the last. The growing taste for sadism can be seen in the recent fascination on the part of the media with Peter Moskos’ book “In Defense of Flogging,” in which the author seriously proposes that prisoners be given a choice between a standard sentence and a number of lashes administered in public.(5) In the name of reform, Moskos argues, without any irony, that public flogging is more honest and a sure-fire way of reducing the prison population. Not only is this book being given massive air time in the mainstream media, but its advocacy of corporal punishment and flogging is treated as if it is a legitimate proposal for reform. Mind-crushing punishment is presented as the only choice left for prisoners outside of serving their sentences. Moreover, this medieval type of punishment inflicts pain on the body as part of a public spectacle. Moskos seems to miss how the legacy of slavery informs his proposal, given that flogging was one of the preferred punishments handed out to slaves and that 70 percent of all current prisoners in the United States are people of color. Surely, the next step will be a reality TV franchise in which millions tune in to watch public floggings. This is not merely barbarism parading as reform – it is also a blatant indicator of the degree to which sadism and the infatuation with violence have become normalized in a society that seems to take delight in dehumanizing itself.

As the social is devalued along with rationality, ethics and any vestige of democracy, spectacles of violence and brutality now merge into forms of collective pleasure that constitute what I believe is an important and new symbiosis among visual pleasure, violence and suffering. As I have suggested, taking pleasure in violence can no longer be reduced to a matter of individual pathology, but registers a larger economy of pleasure across the broader culture and social landscape. The consumption of images of human pain as a matter of personal pleasure and taste has given way to representations of human suffering, humiliation and death that circulate across the culture as part of the collective indulgence in gross spectacles that persist in being called entertainment, news and knowledge sharing. What is more, privatized pleasures and violence translate increasingly into forms of structural violence that are mobilized by the death drive and use the spectacles of violence to generate a source of gratification and intense socially experienced pleasure. Amplified sadism and voyeurism are now characteristic of a contemporary society that has narrowed the range of social expression and values to the receipt of instant gratification and the pursuit of pleasure as one of its sole imperatives. As images of degradation and human suffering become more palatable and pleasurable, the body no longer becomes the privileged space of agency, but “the location of violence, crime and social pathology.”(6) Americans now find themselves in the midst of a brutal authoritarianism in which freedom is reduced to the narrow realm of individual needs, narcissistic pleasures and the removal of all forms of social responsibility, particularly those imposed by the government. Sovereignty and governance, under the guise of “personal choice,” are instead produced and defined by the market and the power of large corporations and financial institutions. As decadence and despair are normalized in the wider culture, people are increasingly exploited for their pleasure quotient, while any viable notion of the social is subordinated to the violence of a deregulated market economy and its ongoing production of a culture of cruelty.(7) For all intents and purposes, politics as a matter of public governance is dead in the United States.

How else to explain the insistent demand by many conservative and liberal pundits and the American public at large that the government release the grisly images of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, even though the fact of his assassination was never in doubt? How might we understand the growing support among the American populace for state-sanctioned torture and the rising indifference to images which reveal its horrible injustices? Just as torture is sanctioned by the state and becomes normalized for many Americans, the spectacle of violence spreads through the culture with ever-greater intensity. Whatever bleeds – now gratuitously and luxuriously – brings in box office profits and dominates media headlines, despite being often presented without any viable context for making sense of the imagery, or any critical commentary that might undercut or rupture the pleasure viewers are invited to derive from such images. Representations of violence and human tragedy now merge seamlessly with neoliberalism’s culture of depravity in which risk and mayhem reinforce shared fears rather than shared responsibilities and a Hobbesian war of all against all becomes the organizing principle for structuring a vast array of institutions and social relations.

As corporate capitalism translates into corporate fascism, prominent politicians such as Sarah Palin, radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and media monopoly moguls such as those who deliver Fox News repeatedly deploy the vocabulary of violence to attack the social state, labor unions, immigrants, young people, teachers and public-service employees. At the same time, the depravity of aesthetics gains popular currency in organs of the dominant media that reproduce an endless stream of denigrating images and narratives of people constrained by the forces of poverty, racism and disability. Their pain and suffering now become a source of delight for late-night comics, radio talk show hosts and TV programs that provide ample narratives and images of poor families, individuals and communities who become fodder for the “poverty porn” industry.(8) Programs such as the reality TV series “Jersey Shore,” the syndicated tabloid TV talk show series “The Jerry Springer Show” (and its endless imitators) and “The Biggest Loser” all exemplify what Gerry Mooney and Lynn Hancock claim is a massive “assault on people experiencing poverty [seizing] on any example of ‘dysfunctionality’ in poor working class communities … [exhibiting] expressions of middle-class fears and distrust, [while] also [displaying] a fascination with poverty and the supposedly deviant lifestyles of those affected – where viewers of moral outrage are encouraged to find the worst and weakest moments of people’s lives also funny and entertaining.”(9)Disconnected from any moral criteria, the search for ever more intense levels of sensation and excitation become the pedagogical and performative force par excellence in shaping the world of entertainment. Within this context, the pleasure of humiliation and violence is maximized and cruelty is elevated to a structuring principle of society.

What has led to this immunity and insensitivity to cruelty and prurient images of violence? Part of this process is due to the fact that the American public is bombarded by an unprecedented “huge volume of exposure to … images of human suffering.”(10)As Zygmunt Bauman argues, there are social costs that come with this immersion of the culture in staged violence. One consequence is that “the sheer numbers and monotony of images may have a ‘wearing off’ impact [and] to stave off the ‘viewing fatigue,’ they must be increasingly gory, shocking and otherwise ‘inventive’ to arouse any sentiments at all or indeed draw attention. The level of ‘familiar’ violence, below which the cruelty of cruel acts escapes attention, is constantly rising.”(11) Hyper-violence and spectacular representations of cruelty disrupt and block our ability to respond politically and ethically to the violence as it’s actually happening on the ground. In this instance, unfamiliar violence such as extreme images of torture and death becomes banally familiar, while familiar violence that occurs daily is barely recognized, becoming, if not boring, then relegated to the realm of the unnoticeable and unnoticed. An increasing volume of violence is pumped into the culture as yesterday’s spine-chilling and nerve-wrenching violence loses its shock value. As the need for more intense images of violence accumulates, the moral indifference and desensitization to violence grow, while matters of cruelty and suffering are offered up as fodder for sports, entertainment, news media, and other outlets for seeking pleasure.

Under the regime of neoliberal policies, relations and values, profit-making becomes the only legitimate mode of exchange; private interests replace public concerns; and unbridled individualism infects a society in which the vocabulary of fear, competition, war and punishment governs existing relationships. Within an economy of pleasure and commodification, freedom is subsumed by a calculated deficit that reduces agency to a regressive infantilism and degraded forms of gratification. What Leo Lowenthal called “the atomization of the individual” bespeaks a figure now terrorized by other human beings and reduced to living “in a state of stupor, in a moral coma.”(12) This type of depoliticized inward thinking – with its repudiation of the obligations of shared sociality, disengagement from moral responsibility and outright disdain for those who are disadvantaged by virtue of being poor, young or elderly – does more than fuel the harsh, militarized and ultra-masculine logic of the news and entertainment sector. This “atomization of the individual” also elevates death over life, selfishness over compassion and economics over politics. The spectrum of disdain and vulnerability has been extended at the current historical moment to contempt for life itself. Life reduced to “bare life” and the vulnerability it produces elicits imperviousness at best and a new kind of pleasure at worst. Precarity, uncertainty and misfortune no longer evoke compassion but disdain, while simultaneously opening up a space in which vulnerability offers a pretext for forms of pleasure that reinforce a culture of cruelty.(13) But even more so, it produces a kind of dysfunctional silence in American society in the face of widespread hardship and suffering – virtually wiping out society’s collective memories of moral decency and mutuality.

The merging of violence and pleasure has been on full display throughout American history, though images of such depravities have often been hidden. Exceptions can be found in the history of racism and the startling and disturbing images of the public lynching of African-Americans, the brutal murder of Emmett Till and the mass killings at My Lai depicted in photographs of American soldiers relaxing and smiling after the carnage. More recently, a number of photographs have once again surfaced which display grotesque acts of violence and murder by a select group of American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. The images released by Rolling Stone magazine in the United States focused on the murderous actions of 12 US soldiers, who decided to kill Afghan civilians allegedly for sport. They used the moniker “The Kill Team” to refer to themselves, aptly registering both the group’s motivation and its monstrous actions. In the five months during which these soldiers went on a murderous rampage in Kandahar Province, writes one reporter, “they engaged in routine substance abuse and brutality toward Afghan locals that led to four premeditated murders of innocent civilians, the ritual mutilation of corpses (some of the soldiers reportedly severed fingers from their victims to keep as trophies) and the snapping of celebratory photographs alongside the deceased as if they were bagged deer.”(14) The soldiers’ actions exhibited their immersion in a death-driven culture that differs only in degree from the one I have been documenting throughout this article. Their actions were neither isolated nor individualized, but reflect their evident belief that killing for sport in such a culture could take place with impunity. Proudly bearing the title “Kill Team” registers “the pure depravity of the alleged crimes.”(15) In one particularly disturbing photo celebrating a kill, one of the soldiers, Jeremy Morlock, is shown posing with the body of Gul Mudin, a 15-year-old Afghan boy. With a grin on his face and a thumbs-up sign, Morlock is kneeling on the ground next to Mudin’s bloody and half-naked corpse, grabbing a handful of hair to lift up his bloodied face.

The platoon’s squad leader, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, was so pleased with the kill that he desecrated the young boy’s dead body by severing one of his fingers. Mark Boal quotes one soldier’s account of the incident: “‘It was like another day at the office for him’…. Gibbs started ‘messing around with the kid, moving his arms and mouth and acting like the kid was talking.'” Boal adds, “Then, using a pair of razor-sharp medic’s shears, [Gibbs] reportedly sliced off the dead boy’s pinky finger and gave it to [the soldier], as a trophy for killing his first Afghan.”(16)Gibbs’ instinct for barbarism appears utterly ruthless and lacking in any sense of ethical consideration or self-reflection – to say nothing of the political and social costs incurred by the US-led mission. The staff sergeant was so intent on killing Afghan civilians that he actually boasted about it, telling one soldier, “Come down to the line and we’ll find someone to kill.”(17)Revealing the depth of his inhumanity, Gibbs reportedly told his soldiers that all Afghans were savages, and talked to his squad about how they might be inventive in killing civilians. In one almost unbelievable scenario, the soldiers considered throwing “candy out of a Stryker vehicle as they drove through a village and shoot[ing] the children who came running to pick up the sweets. According to one soldier, they also talked about a second scenario in which they ‘would throw candy out in front and in the rear of the Stryker; the Stryker would then run the children over.'”(18)

Unlike the Abu Ghraib prison photos that were designed to humiliate detainees, the “Kill Team” photos suggest a deeper depravity, an intense pleasure in acts of violence that are preplanned and carried out with no impending threat, culminating in the sadistic collection of body parts of the slain victims as trophies. The “Kill Team” was after more than humiliation and the objectification of the other; it harbored a deep desire to feel intense excitement through pathological acts of murder and then captured the savagery in photos that served as mementos, so they could revisit and experience once again the delight that comes with descending into the sordid pornographic hell that connects violence, pleasure and death. The smiles on the faces of the young soldiers as they posed among their trophy killings are not the snapshots of privatized violence, but images of sadism that are symptoms of a social pathology in which shared pleasure in violence is now commonplace. As my colleague David L. Clark points out, the smiles on the faces of these soldiers suggest something perverse and alarming. He writes, “This isn’t Hannibal Lecter, after all, but G.I. Joe [and these photos appear as] symptomatic evidence of a certain public enjoyment of violence for the sake of violence, i.e., not the smile of shared pleasures between intimates (one form of the everyday), but a smile that marks a broader acceptance and affirmation of cruelty, killing for sport. Those smiles register a knowing pleasure in that violence and say that it is okay to kill and okay to take pleasure in that killing.”(19)

The “Kill Team” photographs are important because they signify a new register of what can be called a failed sociality. In this instance, the social does not disappear as much as it is overwritten by a sociality of shared violence – a sociality marked not by the injurious violence of the lone sociopath, but instead by a growing army of sociopaths. The “Kill Team” photographs offer a glimpse into a larger set of social conditions in a winner-take-all society in which it becomes difficult to imagine pleasure in any other terms except through the spectacle of violence buttressed by a market-driven culture and dominated by a survivalist ethic. What is it about these photos that reveals the smear of the pornographic, a titillation grounded in maximizing the pleasure of violence? What are the political, economic and social forces bearing down on American society that so easily undercut its potential to raise critical questions about war, violence, morality and human suffering? What forms of responsibility and what pedagogical strategies does one invoke in the face of a society that feeds off spectacles of violence and cruelty? What forms of witnessing and education might be called into play in which the feelings of pleasure mobilized by images of human suffering can be used as “a catalyst for critical inquiry and deep thought?”(20)Rather than being reduced to a mechanism for the cathartic release of pleasure, a society saturated in the claims of violence, war, aggression and poisonous modes of masculinity must serve as an indictment, a source of memory and evidence of the need to imagine otherwise.

In contrast to the “Kill Team” photos, we have seen images from Libya, Syria and Iran where the murder of young students and other protesters by state militia thugs have been captured on video and circulated the world over. Such images become a pedagogical tool, a critical mode of public pedagogy capable of forms of witnessing that allow people to imagine the unimaginable. What is emancipatory about these images, as Georges Didi-Huberman points out in a different context, is that they work to refuse what he calls the “disimagination machine”; that is, these are images that are “images in spite of all” – bearing witness to a different and critical sense of remembering, agency, ethics and collective resistance.(21) These images have ignited massive collective protests against repressive governments. Such images did not feed the basest of collective desires and pleasurable fantasies detached from any real consequences. To the contrary, such images of abuse and suffering have inflamed a society in which a formative culture exists that enables people to connect emotional investments and desires to a politics in which unthinkable acts of violence are confronted as part of a larger “commitment to political accountability, community and the importance of positive affect for both belonging and change.”(22)

America has lost the formative culture that would allow us to contest, challenge and transform the prevailing culture of unbridled individualism, consumerism, militarism and desire for instant pleasure. Both major political parties now impose harsh penalties on the poor, young people, the elderly, immigrants, and other groups considered disposable. We are on the brink of an authoritarianism in which war and violence not only cause unbearable hardship and suffering for the vast majority of the American people, but also produce a larger social pathology in which the actions of the “Kill Team” soldiers who sought out pleasure in the most vile and grotesque acts of violence are symptomatic of something that is becoming normalized and commonplace in American society. This is a violence being waged against democracy and the public good, one that feeds on mobilization of desires and collective pleasures in the face of the suffering of others.

Footnotes:

1. Richard J. Bernstein, The Abuse of Evil (London: Polity, 2005), p. 49.

2. Mark Featherstone, “The Hurt Locker: What is the Death Drive?” Sociology and Criminology at Keele University – Blogspot (February 25, 2010). Online here.

3. Rania Khalek, “Death by Budget Cut: Why Conservatives and Some Dems Have Blood on their Hands,” AlterNet (June 13, 2011). Online here.

4. See, for instance, Loic Wacquant, “Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity,” (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009).

5. Peter Moskos, “In Defense of Flogging,” (New York: Basic Books, 2011).

6. Paul Gilroy, “‘After the Love Has Gone’: Bio-Politics and Ethepoetics in the Black Public Sphere,” Public Culture 7:1 (1994), p. 58.

7. I take up in great detail the notion of a culture of cruelty in Henry A. Giroux, “Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism,” (New York: Peter Lang, 2011).

8. I have taken the term “poverty porn” from Gerry Mooney and Lynn Hancock, “Poverty Porn and the Broken Society,” Variant 39/40 (Winter 2010). Online here.

9. Ibid.

10. Zygmunt Bauman, “Life in Fragments,” (Malden: Blackwell, 1995), p. 149.

11. Zygmunt Bauman, “Life in Fragments,” (Malden: Blackwell, 1995), pp. 149-150.

12. Leo Lowenthal, “Atomization of Man,” False Prophets: Studies in Authoritarianism (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1987), p. 182.

13. Judith Butler touches on this issue in Judith Butler, “Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence,” (London: Verso Press, 2004).

14. Jim Frederick, “Anatomy of a War Crime: Behind the Enabling of the ‘Kill Team,'” Time (March 29, 2011). Online here.

15. Ibid.

16. Mark Boal, “The Kill Team,” Rolling Stone, (March 27, 2011). Online here.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. David L. Clark, personal correspondence, May 15, 2011.

20. Mieke Bal, “The Pain Of Images,” in “Beautiful Suffering,” ed. Mark Reinhardt, Holly Edwards and Erina Duganne (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), p. 111.

21. Georges Didi-Huberman, “Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz,” trans. Shane B. Lillis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 1-2.

22. Clare Hemmings, “Invoking Affect: Cultural Theory and the Ontological Turn,” Cultural Studies 19:5 (September 2005), pp. 557-558.

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department. His most recent books include: Youth in a Suspect Society (Palgrave, 2009); Politics After Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy (Paradigm, 2010); Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Paradigm, 2010); The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (co-authored with Grace Pollock, Rowman and Littlefield, 2010); Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (Peter Lang, 2011); Henry Giroux on Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011). His newest books: Education and the Crisis of Public Values (Peter Lang) and Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm Publishers) will be published in 2012. Giroux is also a member of Truthout’s Board of Directors. His website is www.henryagiroux.com.

Climate of Denial: Can science and the truth withstand the merchants of poison? (Rolling Stone)

By AL GORE
JUNE 22, 2011 7:45 AM ET

Illustration by Matt Mahurin

The first time I remember hearing the question “is it real?” was when I went as a young boy to see a traveling show put on by “professional wrestlers” one summer evening in the gym of the Forks River Elementary School in Elmwood, Tennessee.

The evidence that it was real was palpable: “They’re really hurting each other! That’s real blood! Look a’there! They can’t fake that!” On the other hand, there was clearly a script (or in today’s language, a “narrative”), with good guys to cheer and bad guys to boo.

But the most unusual and in some ways most interesting character in these dramas was the referee: Whenever the bad guy committed a gross and obvious violation of the “rules” — such as they were — like using a metal folding chair to smack the good guy in the head, the referee always seemed to be preoccupied with one of the cornermen, or looking the other way. Yet whenever the good guy — after absorbing more abuse and unfairness than any reasonable person could tolerate — committed the slightest infraction, the referee was all over him. The answer to the question “Is it real?” seemed connected to the question of whether the referee was somehow confused about his role: Was he too an entertainer?

Scorched Earth: How Climate Change Is Spreading Drought Throughout the Globe

That is pretty much the role now being played by most of the news media in refereeing the current wrestling match over whether global warming is “real,” and whether it has any connection to the constant dumping of 90 million tons of heat-trapping emissions into the Earth’s thin shell of atmosphere every 24 hours.

Admittedly, the contest over global warming is a challenge for the referee because it’s a tag-team match, a real free-for-all. In one corner of the ring are Science and Reason. In the other corner: Poisonous Polluters and Right-wing Ideologues.

The referee — in this analogy, the news media — seems confused about whether he is in the news business or the entertainment business. Is he responsible for ensuring a fair match? Or is he part of the show, selling tickets and building the audience? The referee certainly seems distracted: by Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen, the latest reality show — the list of serial obsessions is too long to enumerate here.

But whatever the cause, the referee appears not to notice that the Polluters and Ideologues are trampling all over the “rules” of democratic discourse. They are financing pseudoscientists whose job is to manufacture doubt about what is true and what is false; buying elected officials wholesale with bribes that the politicians themselves have made “legal” and can now be made in secret; spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on misleading advertisements in the mass media; hiring four anti-climate lobbyists for every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. (Question: Would Michael Jordan have been a star if he was covered by four defensive players every step he took on the basketball court?)

This script, of course, is not entirely new: A half-century ago, when Science and Reason established the linkage between cigarettes and lung diseases, the tobacco industry hired actors, dressed them up as doctors, and paid them to look into television cameras and tell people that the linkage revealed in the Surgeon General’s Report was not real at all. The show went on for decades, with more Americans killed each year by cigarettes than all of the U.S. soldiers killed in all of World War II.

This time, the scientific consensus is even stronger. It has been endorsed by every National Academy of science of every major country on the planet, every major professional scientific society related to the study of global warming and 98 percent of climate scientists throughout the world. In the latest and most authoritative study by 3,000 of the very best scientific experts in the world, the evidence was judged “unequivocal.”

But wait! The good guys transgressed the rules of decorum, as evidenced in their private e-mails that were stolen and put on the Internet. The referee is all over it: Penalty! Go to your corner! And in their 3,000-page report, the scientists made some mistakes! Another penalty!

And if more of the audience is left confused about whether the climate crisis is real? Well, the show must go on. After all, it’s entertainment. There are tickets to be sold, eyeballs to glue to the screen.

Part of the script for this show was leaked to The New York Times as early as 1991. In an internal document, a consortium of the largest global-warming polluters spelled out their principal strategy: “Reposition global warming as theory, rather than fact.” Ever since, they have been sowing doubt even more effectively than the tobacco companies before them.

To sell their false narrative, the Polluters and Ideologues have found it essential to undermine the public’s respect for Science and Reason by attacking the integrity of the climate scientists. That is why the scientists are regularly accused of falsifying evidence and exaggerating its implications in a greedy effort to win more research grants, or secretly pursuing a hidden political agenda to expand the power of government. Such slanderous insults are deeply ironic: extremist ideologues — many financed or employed by carbon polluters — accusing scientists of being greedy extremist ideologues.

After World War II, a philosopher studying the impact of organized propaganda on the quality of democratic debate wrote, “The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false.”

 

Is the climate crisis real? Yes, of course it is. Pause for a moment to consider these events of just the past 12 months:

• Heat. According to NASA, 2010 was tied with 2005 as the hottest year measured since instruments were first used systematically in the 1880s. Nineteen countries set all-time high temperature records. One city in Pakistan, Mohenjo-Daro, reached 128.3 degrees Fahrenheit, the hottest temperature ever measured in an Asian city. Nine of the 10 hottest years in history have occurred in the last 13 years. The past decade was the hottest ever measured, even though half of that decade represented a “solar minimum” — the low ebb in the natural cycle of solar energy emanating from the sun.

• Floods. Megafloods displaced 20 million people in Pakistan, further destabilizing a nuclear-armed country; inundated an area of Australia larger than Germany and France combined; flooded 28 of the 32 districts that make up Colombia, where it has rained almost continuously for the past year; caused a “thousand-year” flood in my home city of Nashville; and led to all-time record flood levels in the Mississippi River Valley. Many places around the world are now experiencing larger and more frequent extreme downpours and snowstorms; last year’s “Snowmaggedon” in the northeastern United States is part of the same pattern, notwithstanding the guffaws of deniers.

• Drought. Historic drought and fires in Russia killed an estimated 56,000 people and caused wheat and other food crops in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to be removed from the global market, contributing to a record spike in food prices. “Practically everything is burning,” Russian president Dmitry Medvedev declared. “What’s happening with the planet’s climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us.” The drought level in much of Texas has been raised from “extreme” to “exceptional,” the highest category. This spring the majority of the counties in Texas were on fire, and Gov. Rick Perry requested a major disaster declaration for all but two of the state’s 254 counties. Arizona is now fighting the largest fire in its history. Since 1970, the fire season throughout the American West has increased by 78 days. Extreme droughts in central China and northern France are currently drying up reservoirs and killing crops.

• Melting Ice. An enormous mass of ice, four times larger than the island of Manhattan, broke off from northern Greenland last year and slipped into the sea. The acceleration of ice loss in both Greenland and Antarctica has caused another upward revision of global sea-level rise and the numbers of refugees expected from low-lying coastal areas. The Arctic ice cap, which reached a record low volume last year, has lost as much as 40 percent of its area during summer in just 30 years.

These extreme events are happening in real time. It is not uncommon for the nightly newscast to resemble a nature hike through the Book of Revelation. Yet most of the news media completely ignore how such events are connected to the climate crisis, or dismiss the connection as controversial; after all, there are scientists on one side of the debate and deniers on the other. A Fox News executive, in an internal e-mail to the network’s reporters and editors that later became public, questioned the “veracity of climate change data” and ordered the journalists to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”

But in the “real” world, the record droughts, fires, floods and mudslides continue to increase in severity and frequency. Leading climate scientists like Jim Hansen and Kevin Trenberth now say that events like these would almost certainly not be occurring without the influence of man-made global warming. And that’s a shift in the way they frame these impacts. Scientists used to caution that we were increasing the probability of such extreme events by “loading the dice” — pumping more carbon into the atmosphere. Now the scientists go much further, warning that we are “painting more dots on the dice.”  We are not only more likely to roll 12s; we are now rolling 13s and 14s. In other words, the biggest storms are not only becoming more frequent, they are getting bigger, stronger and more destructive.

“The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change,” Munich Re, one of the two largest reinsurance companies in the world, recently stated. “The view that weather extremes are more frequent and intense due to global warming coincides with the current state of scientific knowledge.”

Many of the extreme and destructive events are the result of the rapid increase in the amount of heat energy from the sun that is trapped in the atmosphere, which is radically disrupting the planet’s water cycle. More heat energy evaporates more water into the air, and the warmer air holds a lot more moisture. This has huge consequences that we now see all around the world.

When a storm unleashes a downpour of rain or snow, the precipitation does not originate just in the part of the sky directly above where it falls. Storms reach out — sometimes as far as 2,000 miles — to suck in water vapor from large areas of the sky, including the skies above oceans, where water vapor has increased by four percent in just the last 30 years. (Scientists often compare this phenomenon to what happens in a bathtub when you open the drain; the water rushing out comes from the whole tub, not just from the part of the tub directly above the drain. And when the tub is filled with more water, more goes down the drain. In the same way, when the warmer sky is filled with a lot more water vapor, there are bigger downpours when a storm cell opens the “drain.”)

In many areas, these bigger downpours also mean longer periods between storms — at the same time that the extra heat in the air is also drying out the soil. That is part of the reason so many areas have been experiencing both record floods and deeper, longer-lasting droughts.

Moreover, the scientists have been warning us for quite some time — in increasingly urgent tones — that things will get much, much worse if we continue the reckless dumping of more and more heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere. Drought is projected to spread across significant, highly populated areas of the globe throughout this century. Look at what the scientists say is in store for the Mediterranean nations. Should we care about the loss of Spain, France, Italy, the Balkans, Turkey, Tunisia? Look at what they say is in store for Mexico. Should we notice? Should we care?

Maybe it’s just easier, psychologically, to swallow the lie that these scientists who devote their lives to their work are actually greedy deceivers and left-wing extremists — and that we should instead put our faith in the pseudoscientists financed by large carbon polluters whose business plans depend on their continued use of the atmospheric commons as a place to dump their gaseous, heat-trapping waste without limit or constraint, free of charge.

 

The truth is this: What we are doing is functionally insane. If we do not change this pattern, we will condemn our children and all future generations to struggle with ecological curses for several millennia to come. Twenty percent of the global-warming pollution we spew into the sky each day will still be there 20,000 years from now!

We do have another choice. Renewable energy sources are coming into their own. Both solar and wind will soon produce power at costs that are competitive with fossil fuels; indications are that twice as many solar installations were erected worldwide last year as compared to 2009. The reductions in cost and the improvements in efficiency of photovoltaic cells over the past decade appear to be following an exponential curve that resembles a less dramatic but still startling version of what happened with computer chips over the past 50 years.

Enhanced geothermal energy is potentially a nearly limitless source of competitive electricity. Increased energy efficiency is already saving businesses money and reducing emissions significantly. New generations of biomass energy — ones that do not rely on food crops, unlike the mistaken strategy of making ethanol from corn — are extremely promising. Sustainable forestry and agriculture both make economic as well as environmental sense. And all of these options would spread even more rapidly if we stopped subsidizing Big Oil and Coal and put a price on carbon that reflected the true cost of fossil energy — either through the much-maligned cap-and-trade approach, or through a revenue-neutral tax swap.

All over the world, the grassroots movement in favor of changing public policies to confront the climate crisis and build a more prosperous, sustainable future is growing rapidly. But most governments remain paralyzed, unable to take action — even after years of volatile gasoline prices, repeated wars in the Persian Gulf, one energy-related disaster after another, and a seemingly endless stream of unprecedented and lethal weather disasters.

Continuing on our current course would be suicidal for global civilization. But the key question is: How do we drive home that fact in a democratic society when questions of truth have been converted into questions of power? When the distinction between what is true and what is false is being attacked relentlessly, and when the referee in the contest between truth and falsehood has become an entertainer selling tickets to a phony wrestling match?

The “wrestling ring” in this metaphor is the conversation of democracy. It used to be called the “public square.” In ancient Athens, it was the Agora. In the Roman Republic, it was the Forum. In the Egypt of the recent Arab Spring, “Tahrir Square” was both real and metaphorical — encompassing Facebook, Twitter, Al-Jazeera and texting.

In the America of the late-18th century, the conversation that led to our own “Spring” took place in printed words: pamphlets, newsprint, books, the “Republic of Letters.” It represented the fullest flower of the Enlightenment, during which the oligarchic power of the monarchies, the feudal lords and the Medieval Church was overthrown and replaced with a new sovereign: the Rule of Reason.

The public square that gave birth to the new consciousness of the Enlightenment emerged in the dozen generations following the invention of the printing press — “the Gutenberg Galaxy,” the scholar Marshall McLuhan called it — a space in which the conversation of democracy was almost equally accessible to every literate person. Individuals could both find the knowledge that had previously been restricted to elites and contribute their own ideas.

Ideas that found resonance with others rose in prominence much the way Google searches do today, finding an ever larger audience and becoming a source of political power for individuals with neither wealth nor force of arms. Thomas Paine, to take one example, emigrated from England to Philadelphia with no wealth, no family connections and no power other than that which came from his ability to think and write clearly — yet his Common Sense became the Harry Potter of Revolutionary America. The “public interest” mattered, was actively discussed and pursued.

But the “public square” that gave birth to America has been transformed beyond all recognition. The conversation that matters most to the shaping of the “public mind” now takes place on television. Newspapers and magazines are in decline. The Internet, still in its early days, will one day support business models that make true journalism profitable — but up until now, the only successful news websites aggregate content from struggling print publications. Web versions of the newspapers themselves are, with few exceptions, not yet making money. They bring to mind the classic image of Wile E. Coyote running furiously in midair just beyond the edge of the cliff, before plummeting to the desert floor far beneath him.

 

The average American, meanwhile, is watching television an astonishing five hours a day. In the average household, at least one television set is turned on more than eight hours a day. Moreover, approximately 75 percent of those using the Internet frequently watch television at the same time that they are online.

Unlike access to the “public square” of early America, access to television requires large amounts of money. Thomas Paine could walk out of his front door in Philadelphia and find a dozen competing, low-cost print shops within blocks of his home. Today, if he traveled to the nearest TV station, or to the headquarters of nearby Comcast — the dominant television provider in America — and tried to deliver his new ideas to the American people, he would be laughed off the premises. The public square that used to be a commons has been refeudalized, and the gatekeepers charge large rents for the privilege of communicating to the American people over the only medium that really affects their thinking. “Citizens” are now referred to more commonly as “consumers” or “the audience.”

That is why up to 80 percent of the campaign budgets for candidates in both major political parties is devoted to the purchase of 30-second TV ads. Since the rates charged for these commercials increase each year, the candidates are forced to raise more and more money in each two-year campaign cycle.

Of course, the only reliable sources from which such large sums can be raised continuously are business lobbies. Organized labor, a shadow of its former self, struggles to compete, and individuals are limited by law to making small contributions. During the 2008 campaign, there was a bubble of hope that Internet-based fundraising might even the scales, but in the end, Democrats as well as Republicans relied far more on traditional sources of large contributions. Moreover, the recent deregulation of unlimited — and secret — donations by wealthy corporations has made the imbalance even worse.

In the new ecology of political discourse, special-interest contributors of the large sums of money now required for the privilege of addressing voters on a wholesale basis are not squeamish about asking for the quo they expect in return for their quid. Politicians who don’t acquiesce don’t get the money they need to be elected and re-elected. And the impact is doubled when special interests make clear — usually bluntly — that the money they are withholding will go instead to opponents who are more than happy to pledge the desired quo. Politicians have been racing to the bottom for some time, and are presently tunneling to new depths. It is now commonplace for congressmen and senators first elected decades ago — as I was — to comment in private that the whole process has become unbelievably crass, degrading and horribly destructive to the core values of American democracy.

Largely as a result, the concerns of the wealthiest individuals and corporations routinely trump the concerns of average Americans and small businesses. There are a ridiculously large number of examples: eliminating the inheritance tax paid by the wealthiest one percent of families is considered a much higher priority than addressing the suffering of the millions of long-term unemployed; Wall Street’s interest in legalizing gambling in trillions of dollars of “derivatives” was considered way more important than protecting the integrity of the financial system and the interests of middle-income home buyers. It’s a long list.

Almost every group organized to promote and protect the “public interest” has been backpedaling and on the defensive. By sharp contrast, when a coalition of powerful special interests sets out to manipulate U.S. policy, their impact can be startling — and the damage to the true national interest can be devastating.

In 2002, for example, the feverish desire to invade Iraq required convincing the American people that Saddam Hussein was somehow responsible for attacking the United States on September 11th, 2001, and that he was preparing to attack us again, perhaps with nuclear weapons. When the evidence — the “facts” — stood in the way of that effort to shape the public mind, they were ridiculed, maligned and ignored. Behind the scenes, the intelligence was manipulated and the public was intentionally deceived. Allies were pressured to adopt the same approach with their publics. A recent inquiry in the U.K. confirmed this yet again. “We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence,” Maj. Gen. Michael Laurie testified. “To make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence, the wording was developed with care.” Why? As British intelligence put it, the overthrow of Saddam was “a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies.”

That goal — the real goal — could have been debated on its own terms. But as Bush administration officials have acknowledged, a truly candid presentation would not have resulted in sufficient public support for the launching of a new war. They knew that because they had studied it and polled it. So they manipulated the debate, downplayed the real motive for the invasion, and made a different case to the public — one based on falsehoods.

And the “referee” — the news media — looked the other way. Some, like Fox News, were hyperactive cheerleaders. Others were intimidated into going along by the vitriol heaped on any who asked inconvenient questions. (They know it; many now acknowledge it, sheepishly and apologetically.)

 

Senators themselves fell, with a few honorable exceptions, into the same two camps. A few weeks before the United States invaded Iraq, the late Robert Byrd — God rest his soul — thundered on the Senate floor about the pitiful quality of the debate over the choice between war and peace: “Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent — ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.”

The chamber was silent, in part, because many senators were somewhere else — attending cocktail parties and receptions, largely with special-interest donors, raising money to buy TV ads for their next campaigns. Nowadays, in fact, the scheduling of many special-interest fundraisers mirrors the schedule of votes pending in the House and Senate.

By the time we invaded Iraq, polls showed, nearly three-quarters of the American people were convinced that the person responsible for the planes flying into the World Trade Center Towers was indeed Saddam Hussein. The rest is history — though, as Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Because of that distortion of the truth in the past, we are still in Iraq; and because the bulk of our troops and intelligence assets were abruptly diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq, we are also still in Afghanistan.

In the same way, because the banks had their way with Congress when it came to gambling on unregulated derivatives and recklessly endangering credit markets with subprime mortgages, we still have almost double-digit unemployment, historic deficits, Greece and possibly other European countries teetering on the edge of default, and the threat of a double-dip recession. Even the potential default of the United States of America is now being treated by many politicians and too many in the media as yet another phony wrestling match, a political game. Are the potential economic consequences of a U.S. default “real”? Of course they are! Have we gone completely nuts?

We haven’t gone nuts — but the “conversation of democracy” has become so deeply dysfunctional that our ability to make intelligent collective decisions has been seriously impaired. Throughout American history, we relied on the vibrancy of our public square — and the quality of our democratic discourse — to make better decisions than most nations in the history of the world. But we are now routinely making really bad decisions that completely ignore the best available evidence of what is true and what is false. When the distinction between truth and falsehood is systematically attacked without shame or consequence — when a great nation makes crucially important decisions on the basis of completely false information that is no longer adequately filtered through the fact-checking function of a healthy and honest public discussion — the public interest is severely damaged.

That is exactly what is happening with U.S. decisions regarding the climate crisis. The best available evidence demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that the reckless spewing of global-warming pollution in obscene quantities into the atmospheric commons is having exactly the consequences long predicted by scientists who have analyzed the known facts according to the laws of physics.

The emergence of the climate crisis seems sudden only because of a relatively recent discontinuity in the relationship between human civilization and the planet’s ecological system. In the past century, we have quadrupled global population while relying on the burning of carbon-based fuels — coal, oil and gas — for 85 percent of the world’s energy. We are also cutting and burning forests that would otherwise help remove some of the added CO2 from the atmosphere, and have converted agriculture to an industrial model that also runs on carbon-based fuels and strip-mines carbon-rich soils.

The cumulative result is a radically new reality — and since human nature makes us vulnerable to confusing the unprecedented with the improbable, it naturally seems difficult to accept. Moreover, since this new reality is painful to contemplate, and requires big changes in policy and behavior that are at the outer limit of our ability, it is all too easy to fall into the psychological state of denial. As with financial issues like subprime mortgages and credit default swaps, the climate crisis can seem too complex to worry about, especially when the shills for the polluters constantly claim it’s all a hoax anyway. And since the early impacts of climatic disruption are distributed globally, they masquerade as an abstraction that is safe to ignore.

These vulnerabilities, rooted in our human nature, are being manipulated by the tag-team of Polluters and Ideologues who are trying to deceive us. And the referee — the news media — is once again distracted. As with the invasion of Iraq, some are hyperactive cheerleaders for the deception, while others are intimidated into complicity, timidity and silence by the astonishing vitriol heaped upon those who dare to present the best evidence in a professional manner. Just as TV networks who beat the drums of war prior to the Iraq invasion were rewarded with higher ratings, networks now seem reluctant to present the truth about the link between carbon pollution and global warming out of fear that conservative viewers will change the channel — and fear that they will receive a torrent of flame e-mails from deniers.

Many politicians, unfortunately, also fall into the same two categories: those who cheerlead for the deniers and those who cower before them. The latter group now includes several candidates for the Republican presidential nomination who have felt it necessary to abandon their previous support for action on the climate crisis; at least one has been apologizing profusely to the deniers and begging for their forgiveness.

“Intimidation” and “timidity” are connected by more than a shared word root. The first is designed to produce the second. As Yeats wrote almost a century ago, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Barack Obama’s approach to the climate crisis represents a special case that requires careful analysis. His election was accompanied by intense hope that many things in need of change would change. Some things have, but others have not. Climate policy, unfortunately, is in the second category. Why?

First of all, anyone who honestly examines the incredible challenges confronting President Obama when he took office has to feel enormous empathy for him: the Great Recession, with the high unemployment and the enormous public and private indebtedness it produced; two seemingly interminable wars; an intractable political opposition whose true leaders — entertainers masquerading as pundits — openly declared that their objective was to ensure that the new president failed; a badly broken Senate that is almost completely paralyzed by the threat of filibuster and is controlled lock, stock and barrel by the oil and coal industries; a contingent of nominal supporters in Congress who are indentured servants of the same special interests that control most of the Republican Party; and a ferocious, well-financed and dishonest campaign poised to vilify anyone who dares offer leadership for the reduction of global-warming pollution.

In spite of these obstacles, President Obama included significant climate-friendly initiatives in the economic stimulus package he presented to Congress during his first month in office. With the skillful leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and committee chairmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, he helped secure passage of a cap-and-trade measure in the House a few months later. He implemented historic improvements in fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles, and instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to move forward on the regulation of global-warming pollution under the Clean Air Act. He appointed many excellent men and women to key positions, and they, in turn, have made hundreds of changes in environmental and energy policy that have helped move the country forward slightly on the climate issue. During his first six months, he clearly articulated the link between environmental security, economic security and national security — making the case that a national commitment to renewable energy could simultaneously reduce unemployment, dependence on foreign oil and vulnerability to the disruption of oil markets dominated by the Persian Gulf reserves. And more recently, as the issue of long-term debt has forced discussion of new revenue, he proposed the elimination of unnecessary and expensive subsidies for oil and gas.

 

But in spite of these and other achievements, President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change. After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates — including one Republican — felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that “drill, baby, drill” is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.

The failure to pass legislation to limit global-warming pollution ensured that the much-anticipated Copenhagen summit on a global treaty in 2009 would also end in failure. The president showed courage in attending the summit and securing a rhetorical agreement to prevent a complete collapse of the international process, but that’s all it was — a rhetorical agreement. During the final years of the Bush-Cheney administration, the rest of the world was waiting for a new president who would aggressively tackle the climate crisis — and when it became clear that there would be no real change from the Bush era, the agenda at Copenhagen changed from “How do we complete this historic breakthrough?” to “How can we paper over this embarrassing disappointment?”

Some concluded from the failure in Copenhagen that it was time to give up on the entire U.N.-sponsored process for seeking an international agreement to reduce both global-warming pollution and deforestation. Ultimately, however, the only way to address the climate crisis will be with a global agreement that in one way or another puts a price on carbon. And whatever approach is eventually chosen, the U.S. simply must provide leadership by changing our own policy.

Yet without presidential leadership that focuses intensely on making the public aware of the reality we face, nothing will change. The real power of any president, as Richard Neustadt wrote, is “the power to persuade.” Yet President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis. He has simply not made the case for action. He has not defended the science against the ongoing, withering and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community — including our own National Academy — to bring the reality of the science before the public.

Here is the core of it: we are destroying the climate balance that is essential to the survival of our civilization. This is not a distant or abstract threat; it is happening now. The United States is the only nation that can rally a global effort to save our future. And the president is the only person who can rally the United States.

Many political advisers assume that a president has to deal with the world of politics as he finds it, and that it is unwise to risk political capital on an effort to actually lead the country toward a new understanding of the real threats and real opportunities we face. Concentrate on the politics of re-election, they say. Don’t take chances.

All that might be completely understandable and make perfect sense in a world where the climate crisis wasn’t “real.” Those of us who support and admire President Obama understand how difficult the politics of this issue are in the context of the massive opposition to doing anything at all — or even to recognizing that there is a crisis. And assuming that the Republicans come to their senses and avoid nominating a clown, his re-election is likely to involve a hard-fought battle with high stakes for the country. All of his supporters understand that it would be self-defeating to weaken Obama and heighten the risk of another step backward. Even writing an article like this one carries risks; opponents of the president will excerpt the criticism and strip it of context.

But in this case, the President has reality on his side. The scientific consensus is far stronger today than at any time in the past. Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act.

Those who profit from the unconstrained pollution that is the primary cause of climate change are determined to block our perception of this reality. They have help from many sides: from the private sector, which is now free to make unlimited and secret campaign contributions; from politicians who have conflated their tenures in office with the pursuit of the people’s best interests; and — tragically — from the press itself, which treats deception and falsehood on the same plane as scientific fact, and calls it objective reporting of alternative opinions.

All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality. We ignored reality in the marketplace and nearly destroyed the world economic system. We are likewise ignoring reality in the environment, and the consequences could be several orders of magnitude worse. Determining what is real can be a challenge in our culture, but in order to make wise choices in the presence of such grave risks, we must use common sense and the rule of reason in coming to an agreement on what is true.

 

So how can we make it happen? How can we as individuals make a difference? In five basic ways:

First, become a committed advocate for solving the crisis. You can start with something simple: Speak up whenever the subject of climate arises. When a friend or acquaintance expresses doubt that the crisis is real, or that it’s some sort of hoax, don’t let the opportunity pass to put down your personal marker. The civil rights revolution may have been driven by activists who put their lives on the line, but it was partly won by average Americans who began to challenge racist comments in everyday conversations.

Second, deepen your commitment by making consumer choices that reduce energy use and reduce your impact on the environment. The demand by individuals for change in the marketplace has already led many businesses to take truly significant steps to reduce their global-warming pollution. Some of the corporate changes are more symbolic than real — “green-washing,” as it’s called — but a surprising amount of real progress is taking place. Walmart, to pick one example, is moving aggressively to cut its carbon footprint by 20 million metric tons, in part by pressuring its suppliers to cut down on wasteful packaging and use lower-carbon transportation alternatives. Reward those companies that are providing leadership.

Third, join an organization committed to action on this issue. The Alliance for Climate Protection (climateprotect.org), which I chair, has grassroots action plans for the summer and fall that spell out lots of ways to fight effectively for the policy changes we need. We can also enable you to host a slide show in your community on solutions to the climate crisis — presented by one of the 4,000 volunteers we have trained. Invite your friends and neighbors to come and then enlist them to join the cause.

Fourth, contact your local newspapers and television stations when they put out claptrap on climate — and let them know you’re fed up with their stubborn and cowardly resistance to reporting the facts of this issue. One of the main reasons they are so wimpy and irresponsible about global warming is that they’re frightened of the reaction they get from the deniers when they report the science objectively. So let them know that deniers are not the only ones in town with game. Stay on them! Don’t let up! It’s true that some media outlets are getting instructions from their owners on this issue, and that others are influenced by big advertisers, but many of them are surprisingly responsive to a genuine outpouring of opinion from their viewers and readers. It is way past time for the ref to do his job.

Finally, and above all, don’t give up on the political system. Even though it is rigged by special interests, it is not so far gone that candidates and elected officials don’t have to pay attention to persistent, engaged and committed individuals. President Franklin Roosevelt once told civil rights leaders who were pressing him for change that he agreed with them about the need for greater equality for black Americans. Then, as the story goes, he added with a wry smile, “Now go out and make me do it.”

To make our elected leaders take action to solve the climate crisis, we must forcefully communicate the following message: “I care a lot about global warming; I am paying very careful attention to the way you vote and what you say about it; if you are on the wrong side, I am not only going to vote against you, I will work hard to defeat you — regardless of party. If you are on the right side, I will work hard to elect you.”

Why do you think President Obama and Congress changed their game on “don’t ask, don’t tell?” It happened because enough Americans delivered exactly that tough message to candidates who wanted their votes. When enough people care passionately enough to drive that message home on the climate crisis, politicians will look at their hole cards, and enough of them will change their game to make all the difference we need.

This is not naive; trust me on this. It may take more individual voters to beat the Polluters and Ideologues now than it once did — when special-interest money was less dominant. But when enough people speak this way to candidates, and convince them that they are dead serious about it, change will happen — both in Congress and in the White House. As the great abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass once observed, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.”

What is now at risk in the climate debate is nothing less than our ability to communicate with one another according to a protocol that binds all participants to seek reason and evaluate facts honestly. The ability to perceive reality is a prerequisite for self-governance. Wishful thinking and denial lead to dead ends. When it works, the democratic process helps clear the way toward reality, by exposing false argumentation to the best available evidence. That is why the Constitution affords such unique protection to freedom of the press and of speech.

The climate crisis, in reality, is a struggle for the soul of America. It is about whether or not we are still capable — given the ill health of our democracy and the current dominance of wealth over reason — of perceiving important and complex realities clearly enough to promote and protect the sustainable well-being of the many. What hangs in the balance is the future of civilization as we know it.

This story is from Rolling Stone issue 1134/1135, available on newsstands and through Rolling Stone All Access on June 24, 2011.

Analysis: ‘Lulismo’ Appeals in Latin America but Hard to Copy (N.Y. Times)

By REUTERS
Published: June 22, 2011 at 12:12 PM ET

RIO DE JANEIRO/LIMA (Reuters) – It was a political pilgrimage that surprised no one.

Within days of winning Peru’s presidential election, Ollanta Humala flew to Brazil to learn more about its success over the past decade and meet former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who inspired Humala’s journey from the radical left toward the political center.

Humala’s election victory was the latest sign that Lula’s mix of market-friendly policies and social programs for the poor, credited with turning Brazil into an economic powerhouse, is going international. Call it the Brasilia Consensus, or “Lulismo.”

The former union boss established an enviable electoral formula by making deep inroads into poverty in his eight years in power while pleasing Wall St. bankers and elevating Brazil into the league of emerging market powers like China and India.

Leftist Mauricio Funes won El Salvador’s presidency in 2009 at the head of a party of former Marxist guerrillas after convincing enough middle-class voters that he was inspired by Lula rather than Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez.

One of Lula’s leading election marketers even helped him craft his campaign, and other former advisers to Lula’s party helped Humala craft his campaign message in Peru.

In South America, several leaders have opted to take the Lula path — most notably Jose “Pepe” Mujica, a former guerrilla who was elected president of Uruguay in 2009.

Paraguay’s President Fernando Lugo has also steered clear of copying the more radical leftist policies of the region since his election in 2008.

And pointing to the Lula model is now smart politics for any left-wing candidate in Latin America looking to ease voters’ concerns that he or she might be too radical.

“Brazil is the lodestar, the reference for a lot of governments as an example of success,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.

“There are vast differences between Brazil and other Latin American countries but there does seem to be a formula, a consensus that has produced real results.”

EASIER SAID THAN DONE

Still, copying the Lula formula is easier said than done, as Humala may discover in the coming months.

Lula’s two-term presidency — which ended on January 1 when his hand-picked successor Dilma Rousseff was sworn in as president — was built on a long journey to the political center by his Workers’ Party, a sustained boom in global commodities prices and his own magnetic charisma.

In contrast, Humala’s embrace of center-left policies came much later and his party lacks the institutional strength of the Workers’ Party in Brazil. Peru, whose previous government had center-right policies in line with countries such as Chile, Colombia and Mexico, has a tiny budget that limits its ability to help poor, rural areas.

“Any emulation is going to face serious limitations,” said Matias Spektor, an international relations professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a think tank in Rio de Janeiro.

“That said, what Humala seems to be doing is realizing that there is a message for progressive parties in the region that you do need financial stability with some degree of redistribution. It’s not about people on the street fighting the old elite, it’s about minimal-level redistribution.”

Lula himself has hailed Humala’s win as a step forward in Latin America for the progressive left, in which he included Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and his closest disciples, Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa.

“While in the European continent, politics is moving to the right and conservatives are occupying space, in Latin America it is the progressive sectors that are advancing,” Lula was reported as saying in Sao Paulo with Humala on June 10.

LULA OR CHAVEZ?

But there has long been a clear divide between Chavez’s more radical brand of socialism opposed to U.S. influence and Lula’s more moderate version. Lately, it is Lulismo that is gaining ground while the socialist, anti-U.S. alliance spearheaded by Chavez has run into trouble.

The economies of the Chavez-led leftist bloc have mostly struggled. Venezuela has been unable to tame double-digit inflation and economic growth has been patchy. The private sector has shrunk, nationalized companies have performed poorly and there are frequent shortages of basic goods.

Chavez has also lost support among ordinary Latin Americans in recent years with strong-arm policies such as threatening media freedoms, said Yehude Simon, a former leftist who served as prime minister under Peruvian President Alan Garcia.

“The Chavez of 2006 is nothing compared with the Chavez of 2011. He made a series of errors,” he said. “Chavez can be very friendly and charming but sometimes he’s very authoritarian.”

In Peru, Humala repeatedly borrowed tactics from Lula, going as far as to hire two experienced aides from Brazil’s Workers’ Party to help run his campaign.

They had Humala — who narrowly lost the 2006 election running on an ultranationalist platform that spooked investors — codify his promises to fight inflation and run a balanced budget in a letter to the Peruvian people.

The tactic was borrowed directly from the playbook of Lula, who won the presidency in 2002 on his fourth try by casting himself as a moderate who had outgrown his hard-left roots.

Humala also wants to emulate another pillar of Lulismo — wealth distribution policies that in Brazil have helped lift millions of poor people into a thriving lower middle class.

Humala has proposed taxing the windfall profits of wealthy mining companies for a fund to help the one-third of Peruvians who are poor, but critics say that model will only work if commodity prices stay high.

“Humala is going to need a lot of skill to keep foreign and Peruvian businesses investing here while managing demands from the provinces for better social programs,” said Simon.

Peru and other countries in the region have much smaller federal budgets, limiting the ability of governments to copy Lula’s heavy spending on social programs.

Their economies are also far less diversified than Brazil, so they are more vulnerable to economic shocks caused by a slump in commodities, for example. A sharp downturn in prices could quickly undermine their ability to keep financial markets and their poorer citizens happy at the same time.

In the end, it may be communist China — now Brazil’s No. 1 trade partner and Peru’s second-biggest — that could be the most important factor determining the success of Lulismo inside and outside Brazil.

“If China’s economy suffers a slowdown, it will be a problem for Humala,” said Simon. “Much of Latin America is dependent on China.”

(Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas; Editing by Todd Benson and Kieran Murray)

O futuro do presente no pretérito (Fapesp)

HUMANIDADES | LITERATURA
A ficção científica brasileira e a relação do país com a ciência e a tecnologia

Carlos Haag
Edição Impressa 184 – Junho 2011

A Presidência da República dos Estados Unidos do Brasil estava confiada a uma mulher. O país estava mais forte, mais belo e rico. Para aqui convergiam povos de todos os recantos da Terra. A Amazônia está urbanizada, o analfabetismo foi abolido e, na roça, os trabalhadores cantam trechos da última ópera a que assistiram ou recitam, de cor, os poemas mais lindos.” Aviso: isso não é um texto institucional desvairado do governo atual. A autora, Adalzira Bittencourt (1904-1976), descreveu essa “previsão” em 1929 em Sua Excia. a presidente da República. Mas esse “paraíso” de ficção científica tem um porém: tudo isso foi conseguido graças à ascensão na política das mulheres, que implementam um rígido programa de eugenia e higiene social. Por uma ironia do destino, a presidente, dra. Mariangela de Albuquerque, apaixona-se pelo pintor Jorge, que só conhece por cartas amorosas. Cansada de esperar o amante, a primeira mandatária ordena que seja trazido, algemado, em sua presença. “Era lindo de rosto, mas tinha não mais do que 90 cm de altura e tinha nas costas uma corcunda enorme.” A presidente eugenista ordena, implacável, a eutanásia profilática no amado. “Era mulher”, encerra-se, em tom vitorioso, a novela.

O tom “ideológico” da novela percorreu, e ainda se mantém, a produção de ficção científica brasileira, infelizmente pouco estudada e vista, em geral, como “produto de segunda ordem” e indigno do cânone literário. “Desde o século XIX o gênero provou ser um veículo ideal para registrar tensões na definição da identidade nacional e do processo de modernização. Essas tensões são exacerbadas na América Latina e, por isso, a produção da ficção em países como Brasil, Argentina e México, grandes representantes desse gênero no continente, é muito mais politizada do que a escrita nos países do Norte. No Brasil, o gênero ajudou a refletir uma agenda política mais concreta e os escritores, ontem e hoje, estão mais intimamente envolvidos com os rumos futuros de seu país e usaram o gênero nascente não apenas para circular suas idéias na arena pública, mas também para mostrar aos seus compatriotas suas opiniões sobre a realidade presente e suas visões sobre um tempo futuro, melhor e mais moderno”, explica a historiadora Rachel Haywood Ferreira, da Universidade do Estado de Iowa, autora de The emergence of Latin American science fiction, que acaba de ser lançado nos EUA pela Wesleyan University Press. “A ficção científica brasileira permite traçar a crise de identidade que acompanhou a modernização, juntamente com o senso de perda que a persegue, e que é parte da entrada do Brasil na condição pós-moderna. A ficção nacional em parte exemplifica a erosão da narrativa latino-americana de identidade nacional, porque ela se torna cada vez mais influenciada pela troca cultural inerente à globalização iniciada nos anos 1990”, concorda a professora de literatura Mary Ginway, da Universidade da Flórida, autora de Ficção científica brasileira: mitos culturais e nacionalidade no país do futuro (Devir Livraria). Apesar disso, o gênero continua considerado como “menor”. “É uma pena, porque o deslocamento da tradição da ficção para o contexto de um país em desenvolvimento nos permite revelar certas assunções sobre como se dá esse desenvolvimento e determinar a função desse gênero nesse tipo de sociedade. A ficção científica fornece um barômetro para medir atitudes diante da tecnologia, ao mesmo tempo que reflete as implicações sociais da modernização da sociedade brasileira”, avalia Mary. “Há mesmo uma variação gradual de um clima de otimismo para outro, de pessimismo: a ciência parece não mais ser a garantia da verdade, como se pensava, e o impacto da tecnologia pode nem sempre ser positivo, o que dificulta que se alcance o potencial nacional. Tudo isso se pode ver na ficção científica latino-americana: a definição da identidade nacional; as tensões entre ciência e religião e entre campo e cidade; a pseudociência”, nota Rachel.

Para a pesquisadora, a literatura especulativa é importante em paí-ses como o Brasil, onde “ciência e tecnologia têm um papel-chave na vida intelectual, já que a tecnologia é vista como a solução possível para que o país possa superar o atraso histórico do desenvolvimento econômico com a esperança de se criar uma sociedade melhor e mais utópica”. Infelizmente, foi justamente essa ligação com o nacional que representou a glória e o desprezo da ficção científica no Brasil, apesar de termos acompanhado com certa rapidez a expansão do gênero na Europa. A primeira ficção científica nacional data de 1868 (foi publicada no jornal O Jequitinhonha até 1872), Páginas da história do Brasil, escrita no ano 2000, de Joaquim Felício dos Santos, uma obra satírica sobre a monarquia que leva dom Pedro II numa viagem pelo tempo até o futuro, onde descobre como seu regime de governo era pernicioso ao país. “Obras como essas que adentram o século XX, até os anos 1920, mostram que havia interesse dos brasileiros em desenvolver narrativas utópicas, fantasias moralizadoras e até o romance científico, um corpo de ficção especulativa que poderia ter sustentado uma produção maior nas décadas seguintes. Infelizmente, como viria a acontecer nos anos 1970, os exercícios nacionais não resistiram à pressão estrangeira, à pressão da crítica, que não criou um nicho para o gênero no Brasil, e ao relativo desinteresse do público leitor”, analisa Roberto de Sousa Causo, autor de Ficção científica, fantasia e horror no Brasil: 1875-1950 (Editora da UFMG). “A separação rígida entre a literatura sancionada e a não sancionada redundou na quase total ausência de uma pulp era no contexto brasileiro. A ficção especulativa perdeu esse espaço de inventividade desregrada, de abertura de novas possibilidades, de constituição de uma tradição mais empreendedora”, avalia.

Como observa Antonio Candido, em sua Formação da literatura brasileira, há uma posição fechada no país de considerar a literatura como prática constitutiva de nacionalidade, um pragmatismo que implica até hoje a diminuição da imaginação, pelo interesse de se usar politicamente as letras como forma de representar a experiência social e humana. Nesse movimento, avalia Causo, os usos da literatura como instrumento de formação da nacionalidade teriam preferido a documentação realista e naturalista orientada pelo progresso e pelo determinismo. “A versão brasileira sofre duplamente por causa de suas associações com ‘arte baixa’, fruto de uma tradição autoritária nacional que abomina a cultura de massas e a arte popular, e por ser um gênero imaginativo num país que dá alto valor ao realismo literário”, concorda a brasilianista Mary Gingway. Num conto de Jorge Calife, um dos mais conhecidos autores contemporâneos de ficção científica, Brasil, país do futuro, um jovem, em 1969, durante a ditadura, tem como dever de casa escrever um ensaio sobre o Brasil do ano 2000. Ele, de fato, consegue viajar no tempo e ver o Rio do futuro, uma dolorosa decepção ao descobrir que nada mudara e a vida dos brasileiros continuava miserável. De volta ao quarto, escreve o texto descrevendo uma cidade imaginária sob um domo, com medo de ser reprovado pelo professor se falasse a verdade. “Essa história é um lembrete de que, a despeito da modernização global, o Brasil pode enfrentar uma longa espera antes de receber os benefícios da tecnologia”, afirma a pesquisadora americana.

Os inícios da ficção científica foi o chamado romance científico, desenvolvido entre 1875 e 1939, que tomava como modelos europeus os livros de Jules Verne e Wells. “Embora as contribuições científicas latino-americanas desse período fossem pequenas em comparação com o resto do mundo, os cientistas desses países estavam em sintonia com o que fazia na Europa e a adoção da eugenia é um sinal da aprovação generalizada da ciência como prova de modernidade cultural. Os textos criados nesse espírito não se revelam como imitações de modelos literários imperialistas que mostravam sociedades imaginárias baseadas em tecnologias inviáveis, mas em obras que descreviam o presente com a autoridade do discurso científico e almejavam o futuro brilhante que viria com certeza. São textos utópicos que acontecem em lugares remotos ou tempos distantes, descrevendo sociedades inexistentes em detalhes”, analisa Rachel. A eugenia dessas obras, porém, vem embalada numa versão mais soft, um ramo alternativo das noções hereditárias de Lamarck, em que havia espaço para a reforma das deformações humanas, algo que entusiasmava os brasileiros, já que ofereciam soluções científicas viáveis para os “problemas” nacionais. “Era um neolamarckismo tingido com cores otimistas em que reformas do meio social poderiam resultar em melhoras permanentes e que o progresso, mesmo nos trópicos, era possível. Mais tarde, o darwinismo social se juntaria ao caldo que produziria a ficção”, conta a pesquisadora. Um bom exemplo é o romance pioneiro no gênero, Dr. Benignus (1875), de Augusto Zaluar, uma expedição científica ao interior do Brasil, com direito a seres vindos do Sol, muita conversa e pouca aventura. Para Benignus, a ciência serviria para dar valor ao cidadão importante ou resgataria a nação “bárbara” e abandonada.

Outro tema característico aparece em O presidente negro ou O choque das raças (1926), de Monteiro Lobato, que mostra como a divisão do eleitorado branco em 2228 permite a eleição nos EUA de um presidente negro, o que faz os brancos se unirem novamente para colocar os negros “sob controle”. Para o escritor, a mestiçagem era justamente o fator responsável pelo atraso econômico e cultural. A solução era seduzir os negros com um alisador de cabelos, os “raios Ômega”, que provocavam a esterilização do usuário. De forma menos agressiva, o tom eugenista transparece nas obras do jornalista Berilo Neves, autor da coletânea A costela de Adão (1930) e O século XXI (1934), histórias satíricas passadas no futuro cujo alvo preferencial eram o feminismo e as frivolidades femininas. Em geral suas narrativas misóginas envolvem a criação de máquinas de reprodução humana que fazem as mulheres obsoletas ou um mundo futuro em que os gêneros aparecem trocados. Em A liga dos planetas (1923), de Albino José Coutinho, o primeiro romance nacional a mostrar uma viagem espacial, o narrador constrói seu “aeroplano” e finca a bandeira brasileira na Lua. Mas não foge do pensamento corrente: a missão espacial tinha como justificativa um pedido presidencial para que o herói encontrasse, em outros mundos, gente de qualidade, porque aqui isso não acontecia.

Mas houve exceções honrosas ao darwinismo social, como A Amazônia misteriosa (1925), de Gustavo Cruls, inspirado em A ilha do Dr. Moureau, de Wells, com uma solução nacional: o protagonista perdido pela Amazônia se encontra com um cientista alemão, o professor Hartmann, que faz experiências em crianças do sexo masculino desprezadas pelas amazonas. Como se isso não bastasse, o médico, após tomar uma droga alucinógena, topa com Atahualpa, que descreve a ele os abusos feitos pelos europeus. O protagonista vê que esses foram mantidos pelo cientista tedesco e rejeita as explorações colonialistas e o abuso da ciência. Em A república 3.000 ou A filha do inca (1930), o modernista Menotti Del Picchia descreve uma expedição que se depara com uma civilização de grande tecnologia em pleno Brasil Central, isolada sob uma cúpula invisível. Os protagonistas rejeitam os postulados positivistas, fogem com a princesa inca e tudo se encerra com uma elegia à vida simples. Jerônymo Monteiro, o futuro autor do personagem Dick Peter, usa seu romance Três meses no século 81 (1947) para mostrar o seu protagonista Campos confrontando o próprio Wells sobre a viagem do tempo, usando o recurso da “transmigração da alma”, provocada por médiuns. “O herói de Monteiro não apenas viaja no tempo, mas lidera uma rebelião de humanistas contra a elite massificadora da Terra futura, aliando-se aos marcianos com quem o nosso planeta está em guerra”, diz Causo. “Por um lado, a nossa ficção científica vai se imbuindo da realidade trágica do subdesenvolvimento e ilumina a compreensão do leitor sobre a conjuntura particular em que vive, o que nos diferenciava da ficção científica do Primeiro Mundo. Ao mesmo tempo, reconhecer isso nos fez rejeitar conceitos importados, como o darwinismo social. Não havia mais razão na convivência entre esse discurso e uma conjuntura de neocolonialismo, como se vê na ficção científica brasileira do final do século XIX e início do XX, salvo dentro de uma postura elitista interna ao país”, analisa o pesquisador.

Enquanto isso, florescia nos EUA, em revistas populares, as pulp magazines, uma ficção científica tecnófila, pouco preocupada com o estilo ou com a caracterização de personagens, mais interessada no engajamento do leitor na ação, na aventura e na extravagância das ideias, as pulp fictions. Apesar dos esforços pulps de Berilo Neves e em particular de Jerônymo Monteiro (considerado o “pai da ficção científica brasileira”), essa forma popular não vingou no país. “O Brasil perdeu ao não ter acesso a esse material ou por não ter criado a sua versão de uma era de revistas populares, em que a inventividade estava presente e o público reagia, criando um forte vínculo entre produtores e consumidores de ficção científica”, lembra Causo. Ao lado dessa golden age anglo–americana, a ficção nacional, também em função dos efeitos do pós-guerra, passa a apresentar uma desconfiança básica da ciência e da tecnologia nas mãos dos humanos por conta do poder da razão em face dos excessos da emoção. “Em razão da aguda divisão de classes da sociedade brasileira, com forte concentração de renda nas mãos da elite, a tecnologia é vista como um elemento divisor, e não unificador. Para os brasileiros, a tecnologia é mais um problema político e econômico, e não uma forma de resolvê-lo”, analisa Mary Ginway. Apesar disso, os anos 1960 presenciam uma explosão do gênero graças aos esforços do editor baiano Gumercindo Rocha Dorea, criador das Edições GRD, que passam a batizar e abrigar uma nova geração de escritores, incluindo-se criadores do mainstream convidados a criar ficção como Dinah Silveira de Queiroz, Rachel de Queiroz, Fausto Cunha, entre outros.

Entre EUA e Brasil passam a acontecer descompassos ficcionais. “Se a ficção científica americana abraça a tecnologia e a mudança, mas teme rebeliões ou invasões por robôs e alienígenas, a ficção brasileira tende a rejeitar a tecnologia, mas abraça os robôs e acha os alienígenas como sendo indiferentes ou exóticos, mas pouco ameaçadores, quando não portadores de uma mensagem de paz ao mundo”, afirma Mary. Tampouco as visões americanas de megalópoles plenas de mecanismos futuristas agradavam aos brasileiros. “A sociedade brasileira, por seu passado rural e patriarcal, valoriza o personalismo nas relações, colocando valo no contato humano. Assim, essa rejeição pode ser lida como a negação de uma nova ordem baseada na uniformização e na obediência cega a uma cultura organizacional”, continua a pesquisadora. A ficção científica nacional começa a colocar o seu sabor sobre os arroubos do futuro. “A tecnologia só pode ser solução, nessas obras, quando é reduzida e humanizada. Os alienígenas, comparados aos estrangeiros, são descritos como indiferentes aos humanos e seus destinos, tomando recursos e abandonando os humanos à sua sorte. A Amazônia, por exemplo, passa a ser alvo desses invasores, que pousam ali. Já os robôs são vistos com grande simpatia, talvez em função do passado escravista em que havia uma promiscuidade entre servos e senhores. Assim, os ícones da ficção são transformados pelas relações sociais brasileiras tradicionais e suas possibilidades como agentes de mudança social, enquanto possibilidades utópicas são geralmente negadas.” Os autores nacionais se apropriam de um gênero do Primeiro Mundo que lida com ciência e tecnologia e, ao transformarem seus paradigmas, tornam-no antitecnológico e nacional, segundo a pesquisadora, um gesto compreensível de resistência ante o temor da modernização que ameaçava destruir a cultura e as tradições humanistas do Brasil, como se verá com o golpe de 1964.

Esse período da ditadura marca o início da ficção científica distópica, ou seja, usar elementos familiares e fazê-los estranhos para discutir ideias e fazer denúncias. “Ao usar um mundo futurista imaginário, as distopias se concentram em temas políticos e satirizam tendências presentes na sociedade. Daí as distopias nacionais serem todas representações alegóricas de um Brasil sob regime militar, com alusões à censura, tortura, controle etc. Os enredos são sempre sobre rebeliões contra uma tecnocracia perversa e arbitrária”, nota Mary. É um abrasileiramento da tendência da new age da ficção científica internacional, sob os auspícios de Ray Bradbury, em que a tecnologia aparece como vilã ao roubar dos brasileiros a sua identidade (uma questão recorrente desde o século XIX), em especial quando em mãos de um governo autoritário. “No lado oposto está o mito da identidade, visto como natural e imutável, assumindo a forma da natureza, da mulher, da sexualidade, da terra”, nota Causo. Com o fim da ditadura, a ficção científica volta ao seu padrão em formas mais sofisticadas como o cyberpunk, a ficção hard e as histórias alternativas, muitas escritas por mulheres.

Em 1988, Ivan Carlos Regina lança o manifesto antropofágico da ficção científica brasileira, que como o manifesto de Oswald de Andrade, propõe uma “canabalização” do gênero pelos escritores brasileiros. “Precisamos deglutir, após o bispo Sardinha, a pistola de raios laser, o cientista maluco, o alienígena bonzinho, o herói invencível, a dobra espacial, a mocinha com pernas perfeitas e cérebro de noz e o disco voador, que estão tão distantes da realidade brasileira quanto a mais longínqua das estrelas.” “Ao combinar formas altas e baixas de literatura, ao unir mito, mídia, tecnologia moderna e ao abordar questões como raça e gênero sexual, a ficção nacional da pós-ditadura desconstrói a noção de Brasil como uma nação tropical exótica, cheia de gente feliz, oferecendo um mosaico pós-moderno dos conflitos brasileiros para lutar com a sua própria história e com a crescente globalização”, nota Mary. Nesse momento há mesmo quem advogue o gênero como terreno fértil para os escritores do mainstream. “Os heróis da prosa de ficção brasileira estão cansados. Faz pelo menos 20 anos que a sua rotina não muda”, avisa o escritor Nelson de Oliveira, autor de Os transgressores, em seu “Convite ao mainstream”. “Nossa sorte é que na literatura brasileira existem outras correntes além da principal. A mais vigorosa, brutal e vulgar é a ficção científica. Ela é como os bárbaros que puseram abaixo Roma. Os bárbaros são a solução para uma civilização decadente. Os temas da ficção científica são a semente desses guerreiros que, ao fecundarem a prosa cansada e decadente do mainstream, ajudarão a gerar contos e romances mais consistentes e menos artificiais.”

IPCC estuda geoengenharia para minimizar aquecimento (Carbono Brasil)

JC e-mail 4286, de 24 de Junho de 2011

Talvez motivada pela lentidão das negociações climáticas, entidade sugere que cientistas avaliem possibilidades para refletir os raios solares e até o depósito de ferro nos oceanos para estimular o crescimento de algas que absorvam o CO².

O jornal britânico The Guardian teve acesso a documentos do Painel Intergovernamental de Mudanças Climáticas da ONU (IPCC) destinados para os cientistas que formam o grupo de trabalho em geoengenharia da entidade e revelou que utilizar essa opção para lidar com as mudanças climáticas está sendo considerada com seriedade.

O grupo de cientistas se reúne na próxima semana em Lima, no Peru, e tem como principal objetivo fornecer sugestões para os governos de quais tecnologias de geoengenharia seriam mais eficientes e seguras.

Entre as propostas que o IPCC pede para serem avaliadas estão: Dispersar aerossóis de enxofre na estratosfera para refletir parte dos raios solares de volta para o espaço; Depositar grandes quantidades de ferro nos oceanos para o crescimento de algas que absorvam o CO²; Realizar a bioengenharia de culturas agrícolas para que tenham uma cor que reflita os raios solares; Suprimir a formação de nuvens do tipo cirrus, que agem acentuando o efeito estufa.

De acordo com o The Guardian, outras medidas que podem ser estudadas são a dispersão de partículas de água do mar nas nuvens para que reflitam os raios solares, a pintura de branco das estradas e telhadas em todo o mundo e diferentes maneiras de capturar e armazenar os gases do efeito estufa.

Apesar das ideias parecerem ficção científica, algumas delas já foram inclusive tiradas do papel. No começo de 2009, um navio de pesquisas alemão carregado com 20 toneladas de sulfato de ferro partiu em direção à Antártica com o objetivo de injetar o material no fundo do oceano. A operação acabou sendo suspensa no último momento pelo governo alemão que atendeu aos pedidos da comunidade internacional.

Realizar projetos de geoengenharia sempre levantou muita polêmica, tanto que em 2010 a Convenção sobre Diversidade Biológica (CDB) aprovou uma moratória desse tipo de iniciativa. Entretanto, a moratória permite a continuidade de estudos em pequena escala em circunstâncias controladas.

Mesmo a Sociedade Americana de Meteorologia (AMS), entidade que defende o uso da geoengenharia, alerta que ainda são necessários muitos estudos antes que seja feita qualquer alteração de grande porte nos sistemas terrestres.

“O potencial para ajudar a sociedade, assim como os riscos de consequências inesperadas, exigem mais pesquisas, regulamentações e transparência nas iniciativas”, ressalta a instituição.

Contrários até mesmo a continuidade de estudos sobre o assunto, 125 grupos ambientais e de direitos humanos de 40 países, incluindo a Friends of the Earth International e a Via Campesina, entregaram uma carta nesta semana para o presidente do IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, alertando que a entidade não tem competência para avaliar a opção da geoengenharia.

“Perguntar a um grupo de cientistas que trabalham com geoengenharia se é preciso fazer mais pesquisas sobre o assunto é igual perguntar se um urso quer mel”, afirma a carta. Segundo os ambientalistas, essa não é uma questão apenas cientifica, é política.

A geoengenharia voltou a ganhar força depois que foi registrado que em 2010 as emissões bateram um novo recorde histórico, apesar de todas as promessas dos governos mundiais. De acordo com a Agência Internacional de Energia, o ano passado registrou a emissão de 30,6 gigatoneladas de dióxido de carbono.

Além disso, o ritmo das negociações internacionais está muito lento, tornando praticamente impossível que seja criado um acordo climático global nos próximos meses.

A própria presidente da Convenção-Quadro da ONU sobre Mudanças Climáticas (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, afirmou que talvez seja preciso adotar tecnologias mais radicais para conter o aquecimento em no máximo 2°C e evitar as piores consequências das mudanças climáticas.

“Estamos nos colocando em uma situação onde precisaremos utilizar métodos mais drásticos para retirar as emissões da atmosfera”, concluiu Figueres.

Linguistic joke

A linguistics professor was lecturing the class.
“In English,” he explained, “a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative.”
“However,” the professor continued, “there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.”
Immediately, a voice from the back of the room piped up: “Yeah… right…”
(Posted on the LinkedIn Anthropology and Linguistics Group)

How the ‘ecosystem’ myth has been used for sinister means (The Guardian)

When, in the 1920s, a botanist and a field marshal dreamed up rival theories of nature and society, no one could have guessed their ideas would influence the worldview of 70s hippies and 21st-century protest movements. But their faith in self-regulating systems has a sinister history

Adam Curtis
The Observer, Sunday 29 May 2011

A small greenhouse at Biosphere 2 in Arizona in 1988. The attempt to create an enclosed ecological system ended in failure. Photograph: Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis

At the end of March this year there was a wonderful moment of television interviewing on Newsnight. It was just after student protesters had invaded Fortnums and other shops in Oxford Street during the TUC march against the cuts. Emily Maitlis asked Lucy Annson from UK Uncut whether, as a spokesperson for the direct-action group, she condemned the violence.

Annson swiftly opened the door that leads to the nightmare interview, saying: “We are a network of people who self-organise. We don’t have a position on things. It’s about empowering the individual to go out there and be creative.”

“But is it wrong for individuals to attack buildings?” asked Maitlis.

“You’d have to ask that particular individual,” replied Annson.

“But you are a spokesperson for UK Uncut,” insisted Maitlis. And Annson came out with a wonderful line: “No. I’m a spokesperson for myself.”

What you were seeing in that interchange was the expression of a very powerful ideology of our time. It is the idea of the “self-organising network”. It says that human beings can organise themselves into systems where they are linked, but where there is no hierarchy, no leaders and no control. It is not the old form of collective action that the left once believed in, where people subsumed themselves into the greater force of the movement. Instead all the individuals in the self-organising network can do whatever they want as creative, autonomous, self-expressive entities, yet somehow, through feedback between all the individuals in the system, a kind of order emerges.

At its heart it says that you can organise human beings without the exercise of power by leaders.

As a political position it is obviously very irritating for TV interviewers, which may or may not be a good thing. And it doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t a valid way for organising protests – and possibly even human society. But I thought I would tell the brief and rather peculiar history of the rise of the idea of the “self-organising network”.

Of course some of the ideas come out of anarchist thought. But the idea is also deeply rooted in a strange fantasy vision of nature that emerged in the 1920s and 30s as the British Empire began to decline. It was a vision of nature and – ultimately – the whole world as a giant system that could stabilise itself. And it rose up to grip the imagination of those in power – and is still central in our culture.

But we have long forgotten where it came from. To discover this you have to go back to a ferocious battle between two driven men in the 1920s. One was a botanist and Fabian socialist called Arthur Tansley. The other was one of the most powerful and ruthless rulers of the British Empire, Field Marshal Jan Smuts.

It all started with a dream. One night Tansley had an unsettling nightmare that involved him shooting his wife. So he did the natural thing and started reading the works of Sigmund Freud, and even went to be analysed by Freud himself. Then Tansley came up with an extraordinary theory. He took Freud’s idea that the human brain is like an electrical machine – a network around which energy flowed – and argued that the same thing was true in nature. That underneath the bewildering complexity of the natural world were interconnected systems around which energy also flowed. He coined a name for them. He called them ecosystems.

But Tansley went further. He said that the world was composed at every level of systems, and what’s more, all these systems had a natural desire to stabilise themselves. He grandly called it “the great universal law of equilibrium”. Everything, he wrote, from the human mind to nature to even human societies – all are tending towards a natural state of equilibrium.

Tansley admitted he had no real evidence for this. And what he was really doing was taking an engineering concept of systems and networks and projecting it on to the natural world, turning nature into a machine. But the idea, and the term “ecosystem”, stuck.

But then Field Marshal Smuts came up with an even grander idea of nature. And Tansley hated it.

Field Marshal Smuts was one of the most powerful men in the British empire. He ruled South Africa for the British empire and he exercised power ruthlessly. When the Hottentots refused to pay their dog licences Smuts sent in planes to bomb them. As a result the black people hated him. But Smuts also saw himself as a philosopher – and he had a habit of walking up to the tops of mountains, taking off all his clothes, and dreaming up new theories about how nature and the world worked.

This culminated in 1926 when Smuts created his own philosophy. He called it Holism. It said that the world was composed of lots of “wholes” – the small wholes all evolving and fitting together into larger wholes until they all came together into one big whole – a giant natural system that would find its own stability if all the wholes were in the right places. Einstein liked the theory, and it became one of the big ideas that lots of right-thinking intellectuals wrote about in the 1930s. Even the King became fascinated by it.

But Tansley attacked. He publicly accused Smuts of what he called “the abuse of vegetational concepts” – which at the time was considered very rude. He said that Smuts had created a mystical philosophy of nature and its self-organisation in order to oppress black people. Or what Tansley maliciously called the “less exalted wholes”.

And Tansley wasn’t alone. Others, including HG Wells, pointed out that really what Smuts was doing was using a scientific theory about order in nature to justify a particular order in society – in this case the British empire. Because it was clear that the global self-regulating system that Smuts described looked exactly like the empire. And at the same time Smuts made a notorious speech saying that blacks should be segregated from whites in South Africa. The implication was clear: that blacks should stay in their natural “whole” and not disturb the system. It clearly prefigured the arguments for apartheid.

And this was the central problem with the concept of the self-regulating system, one that was going to haunt it throughout the 20th century. It can be easily manipulated by those in power to enforce their view of the world, and then be used to justify holding that power stable.

Because, although Tansley and Smuts and their argument about power would be forgotten, hybrid combinations of their ideas were going to re-emerge later in the century – strange fusions of systems engineering and mystical visions of organic wholes.

Thirty years later, thousands of young Americans who were disenchanted with politics went off instead to set up their own experimental communities – the commune movement. And they turned to Arthur Tansley’s idea of the ecosystem as a model for how to create a human system of order within the communes.

But they also fused it with cybernetic ideas drawn from computer theory, and out of this came a vision of strong, independent humans linked, just like in nature, in a network that was held together through feedback. The commune dwellers mimicked the ecosystem idea in their house meetings where they all had to say exactly what was on their minds at that moment – so information flowed freely round the system. And through that the communes were supposed to stabilise themselves.

But they didn’t. In many communes across America in the late 1960s house meetings became vicious bullying sessions where the strong preyed mercilessly on the weak, and nobody was allowed to voice any objections. The rules of the self-organising system said that no coalitions or alliances were allowed because that was politics – and politics was bad. If you talk today to ex-commune members they tell horrific stories of coercion, violent intimidation and sexual oppression within these utopian communities, while the other commune members stood mutely watching, unable under the rules of the system to do anything to stop it.

Again, the central weakness of the self-organising system was dramatically demonstrated. Whether it was used for conservative or radical ends, it could not cope with power, which is one of the central dynamic forces in human society.

But at the very same time a new generation of ecologists began to question the very basis of Arthur Tansley’s idea of the self-regulating ecosystem. Out of this came a bloody battle within the science of ecology, with the new generation showing powerfully that wherever they looked in nature they found not stability, but constant, dynamic change; that Tansley’s idea of a underlying pattern of stability in nature was really a fantasy, not a scientific truth.

But in an age that was increasingly disillusioned with politics, the ghosts not just of Tansley but also of Smuts now began to re-emerge in epic form. In the late 70s an idea rose up that we – and everything else on the planet – are connected together in complex webs and networks. Out of it came epic visions of connectivity such as the Gaia theory and utopian ideas about the world wide web. And human beings believed that their duty was not to try to control the system, but to help it maintain its natural self-organising balance.

At the end of 1991 a giant experiment began in the Arizona desert. Its aim was to create from scratch a model for a whole self-organising world.

Biosphere 2 was a giant sealed world. Eight humans were locked in with a mass of flora and other fauna, and a balanced ecosystem was supposed to naturally emerge. But from the start it was completely unbalanced. The CO2 levels started soaring, so the experimenters desperately planted more green plants, but the CO2 continued to rise, then dissolved in the “ocean” and ate their precious coral reef. Millions of tiny mites attacked the vegetables and there was less and less food to eat. The men lost 18% of their body weight. Then millions of cockroaches took over. The moment the lights were turned out in the kitchen, hordes of roaches covered every surface. And it got worse – the oxygen in the world started to disappear and no one knew where it was going. The “bionauts” began to suffocate. And they began to hate one another – furious rows erupted that often ended with them spitting in one another’s faces. A psychiatrist was brought in to see if they had gone insane, but concluded simply that it was a struggle for power.

Then millions of ants appeared from nowhere and waged war on the cockroaches. In 1993 the experiment collapsed in chaos and hatred.

The idea of nature that underpinned all these visions of self-organisation was a fantasy. A fantasy that was born at a time when those who ran the British empire were desperately trying to cling on to power as the dynamic forces of history whirled around them. So they turned to science to create a vision of a static world where everything is stable and your moral duty is to make sure that nothing ever changes.

The other problem with the self-organising system is that it cannot deal with power. Although it sees human beings all linked together in a system, its fundamental rule is that they must remain separate individuals. Alliances and coalitions would compromise the precious autonomy of the individual, and destabilise the system.

And in a Newsnight studio on a March evening this year, this is what you could hear. Lucy Annson insisted again and again to Emily Maitlis that she was only a spokesperson for herself, and under the rules of the network no one could stand back and judge the system. Emily said: “You’re not a completely peaceful organisation.” Lucy came back with the killer line: “I don’t think anyone can make an assessment of that, other than the people involved in the actions themselves.”

What the anti-cuts movement has done without realising is adopt an idea of how to order the world without hierarchies, a machine theory that leads to a static managerialism. It may be very good for organising creative and self-expressive demonstrations, but it will never change the world.

At the end of Biosphere 2 the ants destroyed the cockroaches. They then proceeded to eat through the silicone seal that enclosed the world. Through collective action the ants worked together and effectively destroyed the existing system. They then marched off into the Arizona desert. Who knows what they got up to there.

A Amazônia da grande mídia (Mercado Ético)

16/06/2011 19:04:42 – http://mercadoetico.terra.com.br/arquivo/a-amazonia-da-grande-midia/

André Alves*

O programa Observatório da Imprensa da última terça-feira (14/06) transmitido pela TV Brasil e conduzido pelo jornalista Alberto Dines fez uma discussão sobre o estranhamento da grande mídia sobre a Amazônia. Participaram como convidados o cientista político Sérgio Abranches, o antropólogo Alfredo Wagner Almeida e a repórter de meio ambiente Afra Balazina, do Estado de S.Paulo. A tese do programa era a de mostrar as limitações da grande mídia (leia-se os veículos do sudeste) em cobrir o país em sua totalidade, sobretudo a Amazônia.

Os convidados deram uma grande contribuição à discussão mostrando que os problemas da região são muito mais complexos do que a mídia pressupõe. Wagner, coordenador do importantíssimo Projeto Nova Cartografia Social da Amazônia fez um paralelo sobre o aumento da violência no campo e a revisão no Congresso Nacional do Código Florestal. Abranches falou do enfraquecimento do interesse da mídia pelo tema e a jornalista do Estadão mostrou a dificuldade de se cobrir à distância assuntos delicados e urgentes.

No entanto, algumas abordagens sobre a Amazônia não foram consideradas como se deveria. Apesar do esforço do antropólogo em mostrar esses debates, Alberto Dines sempre voltava a questão da necessidade de mais profissionais dos maiores jornais distribuídos pelo país e em vários momentos criticou a cobertura dos veículos locais. Ainda que grande parte dos veículos pequenos mereça críticas e que o jornalista é um grande pensador brasileiro, seu enviesamento no programa deixou muitas abordagens interessantes sem serem discutidas.

Uma questão muito importante se refere ao fato de que a imprensa brasileira não conhece a Amazônia. Trata a região que abriga nove estados e mais de 60% do território brasileiro como se fosse uma coisa só, desconsiderando suas diferenças geográficas, econômicas, de biodiversidade, cultural, potencialidades e problemas. Essa limitação é ancorada num outro fator muito preponderante: o mito sobre a Amazônia. É do senso comum conceber a Amazônia como sendo uma grande floresta em que mesmo em capitais como Manaus, Belém ou Cuiabá é possível ver índios andando semi-nus nas ruas e não raro se deparar com uma onça pintada na esquina ou um jacaré saindo da beira do rio.

Mais do que isso, cria-se um imaginário quase onírico ou saído das páginas de José de Alencar sobre os povos que habitam a região. Já faz alguns anos que parei de contar as vezes que algum amigo, familiar ou jornalista fez considerações etnocêntricas sobre comunidades indígenas quando constatam, por exemplo, que em muitas (talvez a maioria das aldeias em Mato Grosso) existem escolas, telefone, televisão e seus moradores andem vestidos. “Nossa, eles deixaram de serem índios”, é o que mais escuto. Não necessariamente por maldade e sim por ignorância, mesmo. No sentido literal do termo.

É claro que a Amazônia tem que sair na mídia por conta do desmatamento que voltou a aumentar e a violência no campo que explodiu na mídia, embora aconteça sistematicamente desde antes da morte de Chico Mendes e Irmã Dorothy, em várias regiões. Mas também tem uma riqueza social, cultural, econômica e ambiental que tem que ser valorizada e discutida na mídia com intensidade parecida.

É muito fácil os jornalistas do sudeste criticarem as mídias do norte por não repercutirem tanto os descasos de sua região, embora sofram muito mais de carência de pessoal e infra-estrutura. E sim, e é claro que quase a totalidade das mídias locais pertence ou sofre severas influências de políticos locais que impedem a divulgação de determinados temas. Mas essa censura (às vezes velada, às vezes às claras) não é privilégio dos pequenos grupos.

As grandes corporações de comunicação também evitam assuntos ao máximo ou deturpam de tal maneira temas como Terras Indígenas, comunidades tradicionais e grandes obras de infra-estrutura que reforçam estereótipos e preconceitos de tal maneira que dificulta ainda mais que as vozes dos que precisam gritar sejam ouvidas. A grande mídia precisa descer do pedestal e de suas torres de marfins e ir mais a campo, contar com jornalistas locais e ouvir fontes mais diversas. Existe um mundo de organizações não-governamentais, associações de assentados, comunidades tradicionais e indígenas que sistematicamente divulgam suas lutas por sites, blogs e emails, que ajudam a diminuir a distância entre os fatos da Amazônia e os jornalistas do sudeste.

A mídia quando quer faz boa cobertura sobre qualquer assunto. E talvez seja esse o verbo que falte às redações!

* André Alves é jornalista em Mato Grosso e especialista em Antropologia

IPCC aprimora rigor científico e estratégias de comunicação (FAPESP)

POLÍTICA DE C & T
Em clima de diálogo

Carlos Fioravanti
Edição Impressa 184 – Junho 2011

Dos Andes para a Amazônia: bactérias da bartonelose se espalham. © EDUARDO CESAR

O Painel Intergovernamental de Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC) está em fase de reformulação. Deve ampliar o rigor científico com que sua equipe de cientistas tem trabalhado e se tornar mais sensível às inquietações de negociadores internacionais como Sir John Beddington, conselheiro científico chefe do governo do Reino Unido (ver entrevista). No dia 11 de maio, o primeiro de um workshop do Programa FAPESP de Pesquisa sobre Mudanças Climáticas Globais (PFPMCG), Beddington alertou para as consequências provavelmente dramáticas das mudanças do clima, da urbanização, da escassez de alimentos e de água no mundo. Dois dias depois, 13 de maio, em Abu Dabi, capital dos Emirados Árabes Unidos, os líderes do IPCC anunciaram que adotarão as recomendações sobre mudanças de métodos de trabalho e estratégias de comunicação propostas pelo InterAcademy Council (IAC), que embasam as mudanças em curso.

Em abril de 2010 as Nações Unidas, que mantêm o IPCC, tinham pedido ao IAC para formar um comitê independente de revisão dos procedimentos do IPCC, que havia perdido credibilidade após a divulgação de uma série de mensagens eletrônicas indicando que algumas previsões sobre os efeitos das alterações climáticas tinham sido precipitadas. Uma delas era que as geleiras do Himalaia desapareceriam até 2035. “Os erros, embora pequenos, tiveram um efeito imenso”, observou para Pesquisa FAPESP Robbert Dijkgraaf, membro do IAC, presidente da Academia Real Holandesa de Ciências e Artes e professor da Universidade de Amsterdã, Holanda. “Eles deveriam ter sido corrigidos imediatamente, mas o IPCC não achava que havia necessidade de comunicação ou de explicações, já que as medidas que apresentavam eram consensuais.”

Dijkgraaf acompanhou o trabalho do comitê do IAC, que reuniu 12 especialistas de academias de ciências e conselhos de pesquisa de diversos países, entre os quais o Brasil, representado por Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, diretor científico da FAPESP. “Os dirigentes do IPCC aceitaram a maioria de nossas recomendações e sugestões”, comentou o economista Harold Shapiro, professor e ex-reitor da Universidade Princeton, nos Estados Unidos, e coordenador do comitê.

As recomendações do comitê do IAC sugerem mudanças na governança e no gerenciamento, nos métodos de revisão do trabalho científico, na caracterização e na comunicação das incertezas científicas e nas estratégias de comunicação. “Qualquer organização precisa se rever, de tempos em tempos, porque os tempos mudam”, disse Shapiro para Pesquisa FAPESP. O comitê do IAC sugeriu que o presidente do IPCC tenha apenas um mandato e que todo o enfoque de trabalho seja revisto a cada quatro ou seis anos.

O IAC sugeriu que o IPCC explicitasse mais claramente os modos pelos quais os documentos técnicos serão revisados, apresentasse uma variedade maior de visões científicas, incluindo aquelas sujeitas a controvérsias. Outro ponto relevante: explicitar as incertezas científicas. “O IPCC e os cientistas do clima devem reconhecer mais claramente o que sabem e também o que não sabem”, disse Dijkgraaf. Outra recomendação seguida à risca: implementar uma estratégia de comunicação que enfatize a transparência e respostas rápidas e satisfatórias a qualquer interessado. “O IPCC deve se tornar mais interativo e os cientistas do clima, mais críticos do que fazem.”

Colaborações – Na abertura do workshop do Programa FAPESP de Pesquisa em Mudanças Climáticas Globais (PFPMCG), Shaun Quegan, pesquisador da Universidade de Sheffield, Reino Unido, comentou: “As estimativas anuais de áreas desmatadas em florestas tropicais são precisas e altamente confiáveis, pelo menos no Brasil”. No entanto, acrescentou, “a utilização desses dados para avaliar as emissões de carbono provenientes de mudanças de uso do solo traz grandes incertezas, principalmente porque o mapeamento da biomassa das florestas é precário”. O objetivo do encontro era estimular a integração entre as equipes dos vários projetos de pesquisa que compõem o PFPMCG, agora coordenado por Reynaldo Luiz Victoria, pesquisador da Universidade de São Paulo, que substituiu o climatologista Carlos Nobre.

Em uma das apresentações do segundo dia, o médico Manuel Cesario, pesquisador da Universidade de Franca (Unifran), relatou seu estudo sobre disseminação de doenças infecciosas na Amazônia – ampliadas pelas mudanças no uso da terra promovidas pelo asfaltamento de estradas, pelo desmatamento e pela urbanização – e as alterações do clima na América do Sul. Pesquisadores da Universidade de São Paulo, Universidade Estadual Paulista, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina e Fundação Oswaldo Cruz participam desse trabalho.

Cesario acredita que a bartonelose, doença de origem bacteriana com sintomas semelhantes aos da malária, antes restrita a regiões dos Andes de 500 a 3.200 metros de altitude, pode ter se expandido geograficamente e se adaptado a regiões mais baixas na esteira da crescente migração e das alterações climáticas. A seu ver, essa doença, detectada pela primeira vez em 2004 na região de Madre de Dios, sudeste do Peru, pode passar facilmente pela fronteira com o Acre, no Brasil, e com Pando, na Bolívia. As cidades dessa região estão cada vez mais interligadas pelo prolongamento da rodovia BR-317: a Rodovia Interoceânica, também chamada de Estrada do Pacífico, já em operação e quase toda asfaltada.

A leishmaniose também avança. “As duas formas de leishmaniose, a visceral e a cutânea, no Brasil, eram doenças associadas ao desmatamento, transmitidas por vetores tipicamente de florestas, mas hoje estão ligadas à urbanização e ao desmatamento”, disse. A bartonelose e a leishmaniose são transmitidas por insetos do gênero Lutzomyia, abundantes na região. Em 2008 Cesario e sua equipe percorreram o município de Assis Brasil e, para capturar insetos, instalavam armadilhas das seis da noite às seis da manhã. Em uma semana coletaram mais de 3 mil insetos de 56 espécies de Lutzomyia. “As casas com frestas, próximas à floresta e com animais de criação por perto”, disse ele, “formam o ambiente ideal para os insetos que saem de seus espaços naturais e usam restos de material orgânico para se reproduzir e animais para sugar o sangue, aproximando-se das pessoas e transmitindo as doenças”.

Ou o sal não salga ou… (O Globo)

O GLOBO | OPINIÃO

07/06/2011

SÉRGIO CARRARA

Frente a pânicos morais todo cuidado é pouco. Qualquer movimento para sair deles pode nos empurrar mais ao fundo. Para escapar, é crucial agarrar-se aos fatos e à razão, colocando questões diferentes das que são formuladas pelos interessados em produzi-lo ou pelos que, nele, permanecem presos.

Frente ao pânico moral que cercou o KIT ANTI-HOMOFOBIA do Ministério da Educação, a ação do governo foi errática e confusa. Intempestivamente, Dilma mandou “suspendê-lo”, em vez de dizer simplesmente que confiava no discernimento da equipe do ministério quanto ao seu teor e à sua utilização. Baseada no que viu na tevê, afirmou que o material “fazia propaganda de opções sexuais” e que isso seria inaceitável. Parece que se referia a uma frase em que um adolescente chegava à conclusão de que teria maiores chances de envolver-se com alguém, pois se sentia atraído igualmente por rapazes e moças. Colocando bissexuais em posição privilegiada em relação a homossexuais e a heterossexuais, mais limitados em suas “opções” (para usar a expressão da presidente), a ideia pode até ser considerada infeliz. Mas o que haveria de tão escandaloso nessa quase risível fabulação de um adolescente?

Se “ou o sal não salga ou a terra não se deixa salgar…”, podemos dizer que ou todo esse imbróglio esconde “tenebrosas transações” (como muitos acreditam), ou revela certa concepção sobre os considerados sexualmente diferentes que urge submeter à crítica. O kit que o ministério desenvolveu aborda a homofobia sem vitimizar pessoas LGBT, apresentando sua diferença como algo positivo. Quando afirma que o governo “combate a homofobia, mas não propagandeia opções sexuais”, a presidente parece dizer que, ao não tratar a homossexualidade como um “problema”, o material a incentiva. Não estaríamos frente à tradução laica do mantra esquizofrenizante repetido ad nauseam por pastores e padres, segundo o qual se deve “amar o pecador, mas não o pecado”? Ou “acolher homossexuais, mas não a homossexualidade”?

Caso não seja isso, seria aconselhável Dilma vir a público dizer que os que afirmam ser a homossexualidade pecado e negam os direitos de cidadania a homens e mulheres homossexuais estão “propagandeando” a heterossexualidade e que isso é também inaceitável. Deve esclarecer que seu governo não combate apenas a barbárie homofóbica, mas defende a completa igualdade de direitos, fazendo suas as palavras dos juízes do STF sobre o estatuto das uniões homoafetivas. Sob pena de se misturar aos que consideram a homossexualidade inferior e deram início a toda essa confusão, deve deixar claro que os motivos que a fazem condenar o material produzido pelo ministério não são iguais aos de bolsonaros e garotinhos.

SÉRGIO CARRARA é antropólogo.

Justiça processa estudante que ofendeu nordestinos no Twitter (FSP)

Folha de S.Paulo – 02/06/2011 – 18h09

DE SÃO PAULO

A denúncia do Ministério Público Federal contra Mayara Penteado Petruso foi aceita pela Justiça Federal de São Paulo, que abriu no dia 4 de maio um processo contra a estudante de Direito. Ela vai responder pelo crime de racismo por causa de uma mensagem que publicou em seu perfil no Twitter, em 31 de outubro de 2010.

No texto, ela disse: “Nordestisto (sic) não é gente. Faça um favor a Sp: mate um nordestino afogado!”

A informação sobre o processo foi divulgada na tarde desta quinta-feira pela assessoria de imprensa da procuradoria.

A declaração de Mayara teria sido motivada pela eleição de Dilma à Presidência, já que o Nordeste concentrou grande parte dos votos à petista. Uma série de perfis nas redes sociais lançaram ofensas contra nordestinos na época, mas a publicação da estudante foi a que repercutiu com mais intensidade.

Em nota, o MPF de São Paulo afirmou que, entre novembro de 2010 e abril deste ano, a investigação seguiu sob sigilo para que se pudesse constatar que a atualização do perfil havia sido feita por ela mesma.

A denúncia foi então apresentada à Justiça em 3 de maio e aceita no dia seguinte.

PRECONCEITO

Uma segunda denúncia da mesma investigação, referente a mensagem parecida à de Mayara, mas publicada por uma usuária do Twitter de Recife, teve o pedido de abertura de processo indeferido. No entanto, o Juiz pediu a abertura de uma investigação em Pernambuco para apurar a autoria do texto.

No perfil da internauta Natália Campello, uma mensagem parecida à da estudante de Direito paulista foi publicada. “o sudeste é um lixo, façam um favor ao Nordeste, mate um paulista de bala 🙂 VÃO SE FODER PAULISTAS FILHOS DA PUTA”, diz a publicação.

De acordo com a nota, a procuradoria avaliou que ambas as mensagens “possuem conteúdo semelhante e são nitidamente racistas”.

O crime de racismo está tipificado em uma lei de 1989 e prevê penas mais severas quando ele é cometido através de meios de comunicação social ou publicação de qualquer natureza. Nesse caso, que se aplica a Mayara, a pena pode variar de 2 a 5 anos de prisão, além de multa.

Academic Adaptation and “The New Communications Climate” (Open the Echo Chamber blog)

Posted by Edward R. Carr (31 May 2011)

[Original post here].

Andrew Revkin has a post up on Dot Earth that suggests some ways of rethinking scientific engagement with the press and the public.  The post is something of a distillation of a more detailed piece in the WMO Bulletin.  Revkin was kind enough to solicit my comments on the piece, as I have appeared in Dot Earth before in an effort to deal with this issue as it applies to the IPCC, and this post is something of a distillation of my initial rapid response.

First, I liked the message of these two pieces a lot, especially the push for a more holistic engagement with the public through different forms of media, including the press.  As Revkin rightly states, we need to “recognize that the old model of drafting a press release and waiting for the phone to ring is not the path to efficacy and impact.” Someone please tell my university communications office.

A lot of the problem stems from our lack of engagement with professionals in the messaging and marketing world.  As I said to the very gracious Rajendra Pachauri in an email exchange back when we had the whole “don’t talk to the media” controversy:

I am in no way denigrating your [PR] efforts. I am merely suggesting that there are people out there who spend their lives thinking about how to get messages out there, and control that message once it is out there. Just as we employ experts in our research and in these assessment reports precisely because they bring skills and training to the table that we lack, so too we must consider bringing in those with expertise in marketing and outreach.

I assume that a decent PR team would be thinking about multiple platforms of engagement, much as Revkin is suggesting.  However, despite the release of a new IPCC communications strategy, I’m not convinced that the IPCC (or much of the global change community more broadly) yet understands how desperately we need to engage with professionals on this front.  In some ways, there are probably good reasons for the lack of engagement with pros, or with the “new media.” For example, I’m not sure Twitter will help with managing climate change rumors/misinformation as it is released, if only because we are now too far behind the curve – things are so politicized that it is too late for “rapid response” to misinformation. I wish we’d been on this twenty years ago, though . . .

But this “behind the curve” mentality does not explain our lack of engagement.  Instead, I think there are a few other things lurking here.  For example, there is the issue of institutional politics. I love the idea of using new media/information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) to gather and communicate information, but perhaps not in the ways Revkin suggests.  I have a section later inDelivering Development that outlines how, using existing mobile tech in the developing world, we could both get better information about what is happening to the global poor (the point of my book is that, as I think I demonstrate in great detail, we actually have a very weak handle on what is going on in most parts of the developing world) and could empower the poor to take charge of efforts to address the various challenges, environmental, economic, political and social, that they face every day.  It seems to me, though, that the latter outcome is a terrifying prospect for some in development organizations, as this would create a much more even playing field of information that might force these organizations to negotiate with and take seriously the demands of the people with whom they are working.  Thus, I think we get a sort of ambiguity about ICT4D in development practice, where we seem thrilled by its potential, yet continue to ignore it in our actual programming.  This is not a technical problem – after all, we have the tech, and if we want to do this, we can – it is a problem of institutional politics.  I did not wade into a detailed description of the network I envision in the book because I meant to present it as a political challenge to a continued reticence on the part of many development organizations and practitioners to really engage the global poor (as opposed to tell them what they need and dump it on them).  But my colleagues and I have a detailed proposal for just such a network . . . and I think we will make it real one day.

Another, perhaps more significant barrier to major institutional shifts with regard to outreach is the a chicken-and-egg situation of limited budgets and a dominant academic culture that does not understand media/public engagement or politics very well and sees no incentive for engagement.  Revkin nicely hits on the funding problem as he moves past simply beating up on old-school models of public engagement:

As the IPCC prepares its Fifth Assessment Report, it does so with what, to my eye, appears to be an utterly inadequate budget for communicating its findings and responding in an agile way to nonstop public scrutiny facilitated by the Internet.

However, as much as I agree with this point (and I really, really agree), the problem here is not funding unto itself – it is the way in which a lack of funding erases an opportunity for cultural change that could have a positive feedback effect on the IPCC, global assessments, and academia more generally that radically alters all three. The bulk of climate science, as well as social impact studies, come from academia – which has a very particular culture of rewards.  Virtually nobody in academia is trained to understand that they can get rewarded for being a public intellectual, for making one’s work accessible to a wide community – and if I am really honest, there are many places that actively discourage this engagement.  But there is a culture change afoot in academia, at least among some of us, that could be leveraged right now – and this is where funding could trigger a positive feedback loop.

Funding matters because once you get a real outreach program going, productive public engagement would result in significant personal, intellectual and financial benefits for the participants that I believe could result in very rapid culture change.  My twitter account has done more for the readership of my blog, and for my awareness of the concerns and conversations of the non-academic development world, than anything I have ever done before – this has been a remarkable personal and intellectual benefit of public engagement for me.  As universities continue to retrench, faculty find themselves ever-more vulnerable to downsizing, temporary appointments, and a staggering increase in administrative workload (lots of tasks distributed among fewer and fewer full-time faculty).  I fully expect that without some sort of serious reversal soon, I will retire thirty-odd years hence as an interesting and very rare historical artifact – a professor with tenure.  Given these pressures, I have been arguing to my colleagues that we must engage with the public and with the media to build constituencies for what we do beyond our academic communities.  My book and my blog are efforts to do just this – to become known beyond the academy such that I, as a public intellectual, have leverage over my university, and not the other way around.  And I say this as someone who has been very successful in the traditional academic model.  I recognize that my life will need to be lived on two tracks now – public and academic – if I really want to help create some of the changes in the world that I see as necessary.

But this is a path I started down on my own, for my own idiosyncratic reasons – to trigger a wider change, we cannot assume that my academic colleagues will easily shed the value systems in which they were intellectually raised, and to which they have been held for many, many years.  Without funding to get outreach going, and demonstrate to this community that changing our model is not only worthwhile, but enormously valuable, I fear that such change will come far more slowly than the financial bulldozers knocking on the doors of universities and colleges across the country.  If the IPCC could get such an effort going, demonstrate how public outreach improved the reach of its results, enhanced the visibility and engagement of its participants, and created a path toward the progressive politics necessary to address the challenge of climate change, it would be a powerful example for other assessments.  Further, the participants in these assessments would return to their campuses with evidence for the efficacy and importance of such engagement . . . and many of these participants are senior members of their faculties, in a position to midwife major cultural changes in their institutions.

All this said, this culture change will not be birthed without significant pains.  Some faculty and members of these assessments will want nothing to do with the murky world of politics, and prefer to continue operating under the illusion that they just produce data and have no responsibility for how it is used.  And certainly the assessments will fear “politicization” . . . to which I respond “too late.”  The question is not if the findings of an assessment will be politicized, but whether or not those who best understand those findings will engage in these very consequential debates and argue for what they feel is the most rigorous interpretation of the data at hand.  Failure to do so strikes me as dereliction of duty.  On the other hand, just as faculty might come to see why public engagement is important for their careers and the work they do, universities will be gripped with contradictory impulses – a publicly-engaged faculty will serve as a great justification for faculty salaries, increased state appropriations, new facilities, etc.  Then again, nobody likes to empower the labor, as it were . . .

In short, in thinking about public engagement and the IPCC, Revkin is dredging up a major issue related to all global assessments, and indeed the practices of academia.  I think there is opportunity here – and I feel like we must seize this opportunity.  We can either guide a process of change to a productive end, or ride change driven by others wherever it might take us.  I prefer the former.