Arquivo da tag: Cultura

Notas sobre a violência – De antropólogos e outras tribos ferozes (Folha de S.Paulo)

DOMINGO, 17 DE MARÇO DE 2013

MARCELO LEITE

RESUMO Antropólogo Napoleon Chagnon retoma em novo livro teoria sobre agressividade ianomâmi e ataca adversários da sociobiologia. Jared Diamond escreve obra de bases semelhantes, mas mais generosa com ‘primitivos’, aproximando-se de adversários de Chagnon, como Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, que lança coletânea.

É preciso ter estômago forte para digerir a narrativa de um antropólogo que escolhe iniciar o relato de seu primeiro dia de campo entre os ianomâmis -meio século depois- com a frase: “Nunca antes tinha visto tanto ranho verde”. Não é a antropologia, porém, a disciplina que ensina a combinar o máximo de disciplina com o mínimo de conforto em benefício do entendimento do homem?

Leia-se então com dose generosa de bonomia antropológica a obra mais recente do americano Napoleon Chagnon, “Noble Savages – My Life among two Dangerous Tribes – The Yanomamö and the Anthropologists” [Simon & Schuster, 531 págs., R$ 87,50]. Em desagravo, que seja, porque Chagnon pagou um preço alto demais por sua crença nas explicações ultradarwinistas do comportamento, cuja matriz -a natureza humana- acredita ter desvendado nas selvas do Orinoco.

O estudioso americano dedicou pelo menos duas décadas de sua vida a longas permanências em terras ianomâmis, quase sempre na Venezuela (com desastradas incursões também do lado brasileiro). As três seguintes ele ocupou em defesa da carreira e da reputação quase arruinadas por dois outros livros: “O Povo Feroz” (1968), trabalho acadêmico de sua própria lavra, e “Trevas no Eldorado”, um panfleto do jornalista Patrick Tierney (2000).

Os que desconhecem a crônica dessa guerra entre os clãs cultural e biológico da antropologia encontrarão um resumo devastador das acusações mútuas no documentário “Os Segredos da Tribo”, de José Padilha. Não se recomenda o consumo de pipoca na sessão de barbaridades que a fita apresenta.

O povo feroz do título de Chagnon são os ianomâmis. Sua caracterização pelo antropólogo como uma etnia violenta, de homens “maliciosos, agressivos e intimidadores”, que acumulam homicídios para obter mais mulheres e maior sucesso reprodutivo, despertou a ira dos antropólogos culturalistas.

Primeiro, Chagnon foi acusado de distorcer a imagem do grupo e, assim, facilitar sua dizimação por brancos dos dois lados da fronteira. Depois, foi denunciado por Tierney como genocida, pois teria -intencional ou negligentemente, sob a tutela do médico americano James V. Neel- contribuído para uma epidemia de sarampo que matou centenas de índios.

BOM SELVAGEM “Noble Savages” (“bons selvagens”) é um acerto de contas com as duas tribos que infernizaram sua vida. A partir da descrição para o público não especializado de seu convívio de cinco anos com os ianomâmis, Chagnon retoma sua conclusão de que o “bom selvagem” concebido por Rousseau é um mito politicamente correto e que só há uma resposta biológica (evolucionista) -e simploriamente hobbesiana- para a questão de por que seres humanos são sociais: a luta de todos contra todos para aumentar a própria prole (ou pôr mais cópias dos próprios genes no mundo, na vulgata sociobiológica).

Não faltam páginas desairosas para os ianomâmis no livro. “Olhei para cima e arfei, em choque, quando vi uma dúzia de homens corpulentos, nus, suados e pavorosos nos encarando por trás dos caniços de suas setas apontadas!” -conta sobre a primeira visita a uma casa coletiva dos índios.

“Imensos rolos de tabaco verde estavam enfiados entre os dentes e os lábios inferiores, tornando sua aparência ainda mais pavorosa. Veios de ranho verde escuro pingavam ou pendiam de suas narinas -tão longos que se desprendiam de seus queixos, caíam sobre os músculos peitorais e escorriam preguiçosamente sobre seus ventres, mesclando-se com a pintura vermelha e o suor.”

Chagnon também não economiza relatos sobre tentativas mal sucedidas de engodo dos ianomâmis contra ele. Sempre eficazes, por outro lado, eram seus próprios ardis para levá-los a ceder amostras de sangue (para Neel) e a revelar nomes de ancestrais mortos -um tabu- para rechear suas genealogias e estatísticas. As mesmas informações, pagas com machados, facas e panelas de metal, que lhe permitiriam afirmar, depois, serem os homens com mais homicídios nas costas também os de prole mais numerosa.

Muito antes das acusações de Tierney, as conclusões sociobiológicas e os métodos traficantes de Chagnon já vinham sendo questionados por seus pares na comunidade antropológica. Até a correlação estatística entre ferocidade e fertilidade masculina, formulada num famigerado artigo de 1988 para a revista acadêmica “Science”, teve seus dados postos em dúvida (o autor foi acusado de excluir da amostra aqueles pais que já haviam sido mortos por vingança, portanto sem meios de multiplicar descendência).

Os antropólogos culturais, refratários à moldura biológica em que Chagnon queria enquadrar o painel exuberante das culturas, já estavam no seu encalço. Nada se compara, porém, com a virulência do ataque de Tierney. Assim que um capítulo do livro foi publicado na revista “New Yorker”, em outubro de 2000, a Associação Antropológica Americana entrou na briga -do lado dos culturalistas. Foi montado um comitê de investigação, que acabou por inocentar o médico Neel e descartar a epidemia intencional, mas recriminou Chagnon por desvios éticos.

O caso teve enorme repercussão na imprensa mundial, brasileira inclusive. Contudo, quando a obra do “jornalista investigativo” Tierney e os próprios investigadores da AAA passaram a ser investigados, a começar pela historiadora da ciência Susan Lindee, o vento virou.

Forçada por um referendo entre seus membros, a associação renegaria o relatório. As acusações de Tierney não paravam de pé, como reconstitui com farta documentação um ensaio demolidor da também historiadora Alice Dreger publicado em 2011 no periódico acadêmico “Human Nature”, sob o título “Darkness’s descent on the American Anthropological Association. A cautionary tale” (trevas sobre a Associação Antropológica Americana – uma fábula moral; leia em bit.ly/adreger).

Dreger puxa vários fios da teia de perseguição a Chagnon. Levanta a suspeita, intrigante, de que a cruzada de Tierney pode ter ocorrido sob o patrocínio da Igreja Católica, mais especificamente da ordem de padres salesianos, que já mantinha missões junto aos ianomâmis da Venezuela quando o antropólogo por lá baixou.

Após alguns meses de convívio e cooperação, cientista e religiosos se estranharam. Na versão fantástica narrada em “Noble Savages”, isso ocorreu depois de um hierarca pedir a Chagnon ajuda para matar um padre amasiado com índia. Na passagem do livro que mais se avizinha do estilo de Tierney, o antropólogo também acusa os salesianos de distribuir espingardas cartucheiras entre os índios para conquistar seu favor.

A inconsistência mais relevante da obra, porém, não decorre do ânimo retaliatório, e sim da pretensão de ter localizado entre os ianomâmis as nascentes da agressividade que supõe inerente à natureza humana. A antropóloga Elizabeth Povinelli assinalou, numa resenha escaldante de “Noble Savages” para o “New York Times”, que a tese se assenta sobre a premissa falaciosa de que os ianomâmis sejam relíquias de uma infância neolítica da humanidade.

FÓSSEIS Desde esse ponto de vista, compreende-se melhor o esforço retórico de Chagnon em degradar os ianomâmis, acentuando nas suas descrições uma animalidade que serve para relocar sua cultura na vizinhança da biologia. Ora, não há básica empírica nenhuma para afirmar que sociedades “primitivas” como a dos ianomâmis se mantiveram à margem da história, fósseis de um passado inaugural da espécie humana.

Como lembra Manuela Carneiro da Cunha -que presidia a Associação Brasileira de Antropologia quando esta cerrou fileiras contra Chagnon- na coletânea de ensaios “Índios no Brasil – História, Direitos e Cidadania” [Claro Enigma, 160 págs., R$ 29,50], essa é uma visão originária do século 19, que atribui “à natureza e à fatalidade de suas leis o que é produto de política e práticas humanas, […] consoladoras para todos à exceção de suas vítimas”.

Os ianomâmis, por exemplo, só permaneceram mais ou menos isolados (na realidade, longas redes de contatos já lhes garantiam acesso a artefatos de metal) porque suas terras montanhosas não interessavam a colonizador algum.

A perspectiva adotada por Chagnon -um engenheiro convertido para a antropologia- faz tábula rasa de tudo que há de peculiar no modo de vida ianomâmi. Por que cargas d’água esses índios cremam seus mortos, moem os ossos calcinados e ingerem as cinzas com um mingau de banana? É esse tipo de manifestação simbólica que a antropologia cultural se esforça por sistematizar e elucidar, mas que a obra de Chagnon relega à penumbra dos detalhes irrelevantes para a “natureza humana”.

Ótica semelhante anima o último best-seller de outro adepto declarado da sociobiologia (rebatizada psicologia evolucionista), Jared Diamond, mas com resultados muito diversos, se não opostos. Em “The World until Yesterday – What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?” [Viking, 512 págs., R$ 96,90], Diamond acredita piamente ter aberto uma janela para o passado nas suas décadas de visitas à Nova Guiné para estudar pássaros.

A ilha, fervilhante com centenas de tribos e línguas em contato e conflito, constitui um continente cultural descoberto como tal por ocidentais só nas primeiras décadas do século 20. Fornece a Diamond, portanto, o equivalente dos ianomâmis para Chagnon, em matéria de isolamento e primitivismo.

As diferenças entre esses dois generalizadores prodigiosos, contudo, salta já do título de Diamond. Ao contrário de Chagnon, ele está aberto -mais que isso, interessado- a aprender algo com os nativos, e não só sobre eles. São muitas as lições úteis que o observador de pássaros e homens extrai para o aperfeiçoamento marginal do indubitavelmente superior modo de vida ocidental: ingerir menos sal, aleitar bebês à vontade até os três anos, dar educação bilíngue às crianças, fazer refeições lentamente com amigos…

Até das ameaças constantes da natureza e do estado de guerra crônica entre os primitivos Diamond retira um ensinamento, centro de gravidade do livro, que chama de “paranoia construtiva”: o estado de vigilância permanente para os muitos perigos que a vida oferece aos homens. Depois de embasbacar multidões com as generalizações audazes de “Armas, Germes e Aço” (livro pelo qual ganhou o Pulitzer em 1998), Diamond corteja com leveza o gênero da autoajuda e compila um volume de leitura bem mais amena que

“Noble Savages”. Os ilhéus são feios e sujos como os ianomâmis, mas simpáticos e sábios.

Já a paranoia de Chagnon, se cabe falar assim, é corrosiva. Nos termos da controvérsia que animou o Brasil escravizador de índios nos séculos 18 e 19, relatada por Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, eles podem ser encarados como cães, canibais e ferozes, ou como homens, diferentes e por isso exemplares de capacidade adaptativa e perfectibilidade. É uma questão de escolha, ou de ponto de vista.

Como diz a antropóloga, repetindo o que ouviu em conferência de Claude Lévi-Strauss, a sociodiversidade pode ser tão preciosa quanto a biodiversidade: “Creio, com efeito, que ela constitui essa reserva de achados na qual as futuras gerações poderão encontrar exemplos -e quem sabe novos pontos de partida- de processos e sínteses sociais já postos à prova”.

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Em 2012, Napoleon Chagnon foi eleito para a prestigiada Academia Nacional de Ciências (NAS) dos Estados Unidos. Ato contínuo, em protesto, o antropólogo Marshall Sahlins -que em 2000 se engajara na campanha contra ele- renunciou à sua cadeira na NAS.

Manifesto de 17 antropólogos que trabalham com ianomâmis deblaterou mais uma vez contra a noção de “povo feroz” reiterada no novo livro, que poderia ser usada por governos para prejudicar a etnia. Uma nota do líder ianomâmi David Kopenawa sobre a obra aponta as guerras dos brancos como muito mais ferozes que as de seu povo -uma observação antropologicamente perspicaz, ao menos no que respeita às tribos dos culturalistas e dos sociobiólogos.

Flap Over Study Linking Poverty to Biology Exposes Gulfs Among Disciplines (Chronicle of Higher Education)

February 1, 2013

Flap Over Study Linking Poverty to Biology Exposes Gulfs Among Disciplines 1

 Photo: iStock.

A study by two economists that used genetic diversity as a proxy for ethnic and cultural diversity has drawn fierce rebuttals from anthropologists and geneticists.

By Paul Voosen

Oded Galor and Quamrul Ashraf once thought their research into the causes of societal wealth would be seen as a celebration of diversity. However it has been described, though, it has certainly not been celebrated. Instead, it has sparked a dispute among scholars in several disciplines, many of whom are dubious of any work linking societal behavior to genetics. In the latest installment of the debate, 18 Harvard University scientists have called their work “seriously flawed on both factual and methodological grounds.”

Mr. Galor and Mr. Ashraf, economists at Brown University and Williams College, respectively, have long been fascinated by the historical roots of poverty. Six years ago, they began to wonder if a society’s diversity, in any way, could explain its wealth. They probed tracts of interdisciplinary data and decided they could use records of genetic diversity as a proxy for ethnic and cultural diversity. And after doing so, they found that, yes, a bit of genetic diversity did seem to help a society’s economic growth.

Since last fall, when the pair’s work began to filter out into the broader scientific world, their study has exposed deep rifts in how economists, anthropologists, and geneticists talk—and think. It has provoked calls for caution in how economists use genetic data, and calls of persecution in response. And all of this happened before the study was finally published, in the American Economic Review this month.

“Through this analysis, we’re getting a better understanding of how the world operates in order to alleviate poverty,” Mr. Ashraf said. Any other characterization, he added, is a “gross misunderstanding.”

‘Ethical Quagmires’

A barrage of criticism has been aimed at the study since last fall by a team of anthropologists and geneticists at Harvard. The critique began with a short, stern letter, followed by a rejoinder from the economists; now an expanded version of the Harvard critique will appear in February inCurrent Anthropology.

Fundamentally, the dispute comes down to issues of data selection and statistical power. The paper is a case of “garbage in, garbage out,” the Harvard group says. The indicators of genetic diversity that the economists use stem from only four or five independent points. All the regression analysis in the world can’t change that, said Nick Patterson, a computational biologist at Harvard and MIT’s Broad Institute.

“The data just won’t stand for what you’re claiming,” Mr. Patterson said. “Technical statistical analysis can only do so much for you. … I will bet you that they can’t find a single geneticist in the world who will tell them what they did was right.”

In some respects, the study has become an exemplar for how the nascent field of “genoeconomics,” a discipline that seeks to twin the power of gene sequencing and economics, can go awry. Connections between behavior and genetics rightly need to clear high bars of evidence, said Daniel Benjamin, an economist at Cornell University and a leader in the field who has frequently called for improved rigor.

“It’s an area that’s fraught with an unfortunate history and ethical quagmires,” he said. Mr. Galor and Mr. Ashraf had a creative idea, he added, even if all their analysis doesn’t pass muster.

“I’d like to see more data before I’m convinced that their [theory] is true,” said Mr. Benjamin, who was not affiliated with the study or the critique. The Harvard critics make all sorts of complaints, many of which are valid, he said. “But fundamentally the issue is that there’s just not that much independent data.”

Claims of ‘Outsiders’

The dispute also exposes issues inside anthropology, added Carl Lipo, an anthropologist at California State University at Long Beach who is known for his study of Easter Island. “Anthropologists have long tried to walk the line whereby we argue that there are biological origins to much of what makes us human, without putting much weight that any particular attribute has its origins in genetics [or] biology,” he said.

The debate often erupts in lower-profile ways and ends with a flurry of anthropologists’ putting down claims by “outsiders,” Mr. Lipo said. (Mr. Ashraf and Mr. Galor are “out on a limb” with their conclusions, he added.) The angry reaction speaks to the limits of anthropology, which has been unable to delineate how genetics reaches up through the idiosyncratic circumstances of culture and history to influence human behavior, he said.

Certainly, that reaction has been painful for the newest pair of outsiders.

Mr. Galor is well known for studying the connections between history and economic development. And like much scientific work, his recent research began in reaction to claims made by Jared Diamond, the famed geographer at the University of California at Los Angeles, that the development of agriculture gave some societies a head start. What other factors could help explain that distribution of wealth? Mr. Galor wondered.

Since records of ethnic or cultural diversity do not exist for the distant past, they chose to use genetic diversity as a proxy. (There is little evidence that it can, or can’t, serve as such a proxy, however.) Teasing out the connection to economics was difficult—diversity could follow growth, or vice versa—but they gave it a shot, Mr. Galor said.

“We had to find some root causes of the [economic] diversity we see across the globe,” he said.

They were acquainted with the “Out of Africa” hypothesis, which explains how modern human beings migrated from Africa in several waves to Asia and, eventually, the Americas. Due to simple genetic laws, those serial waves meant that people in Africa have a higher genetic diversity than those in the Americas. It’s an idea that found support in genetic sequencing of native populations, if only at the continental scale.

Combining the genetics with population-density estimates—data the Harvard group says are outdated—along with deep statistical analysis, the economists found that the low and high diversity found among Native Americans and Africans, respectively, was detrimental to development. Meanwhile, they found a sweet spot of diversity in Europe and Asia. And they stated the link in sometimes strong, causal language, prompting another bitter discussion with the Harvard group over correlation and causation.

An ‘Artifact’ of the Data?

The list of flaws found by the Harvard group is long, but it boils down to the fact that no one has ever made a solid connection between genes and poverty before, even if genetics are used only as a proxy, said Jade d’Alpoim Guedes, a graduate student in anthropology at Harvard and the critique’s lead author.

“If my research comes up with findings that change everything we know,” Ms. d’Alpoim Guedes said, “I’d really check all of my input sources. … Can I honestly say that this pattern that I see is true and not an artifact of the input data?”

Mr. Ashraf and Mr. Galor found the response to their study, which they had previewed many times over the years to other economists, to be puzzling and emotionally charged. Their critics refused to engage, they said. They would have loved to present their work to a lecture hall full of anthropologists at Harvard. (Mr. Ashraf, who’s married to an anthropologist, is a visiting scholar this year at Harvard’s Kennedy School.) Their gestures were spurned, they said.

“We really felt like it was an inquisition,” Mr. Galor said. “The tone and level of these arguments were really so unscientific.”

Mr. Patterson, the computational biologist, doesn’t quite agree. The conflict has many roots but derives in large part from differing standards for publication. Submit the same paper to a leading genetics journal, he said, and it would not have even reached review.

“They’d laugh at you,” Mr. Patterson said. “This doesn’t even remotely meet the cut.”

In the end, it’s unfortunate the economists chose genetic diversity as their proxy for ethnic diversity, added Mr. Benjamin, the Cornell economist. They’re trying to get at an interesting point. “The genetics is really secondary, and not really that important,” he said. “It’s just something that they’re using as a measure of the amount of ethnic diversity.”

Mr. Benjamin also wishes they had used more care in their language and presentation.

“It’s not enough to be careful in the way we use genetic data,” he said. “We need to bend over backwards being careful in the way we talk about what the data means; how we interpret findings that relate to genetic data; and how we communicate those findings to readers and the public.”

Mr. Ashraf and Mr. Galor have not decided whether to respond to the Harvard critique. They say they can, point by point, but that ultimately, the American Economic Review’s decision to publish the paper as its lead study validates their work. They want to push forward on their research. They’ve just released a draft study that probes deeper into the connections between genetic diversity and cultural fragmentation, Mr. Ashraf said.

“There is much more to learn from this data,” he said. “It is certainly not the final word.”

Cultural Evolution Changes Bird Song (Science Daily)

Jan. 29, 2013 — Thanks to cultural evolution, male Savannah sparrows are changing their tune, partly to attract “the ladies.”

Savannah sparrow. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Guelph)

According to a study of more than 30 years of Savannah sparrows recordings, the birds are singing distinctly different songs today than their ancestors did 30 years ago — changes passed along generation to generation, according to a new study by University of Guelph researchers.

Integrative biology professors Ryan Norris and Amy Newman, in collaboration with researchers at Bowdoin College and Williams College in the U.S., analyzed the songs of male Savannah sparrows (Passerculus sandwichiensis) recorded over three decades, and found that the songs had changed distinctly from 1980 to 2011.

“The change is the result of cultural transmission of different song elements through many generations,” said Norris.

Norris added that the change in tune resembles changes in word choice and language among humans.

“If you listen to how people used to talk in the 1890s and how we talk today, you would notice major differences, and this is the result of shifts in culture or the popularity of certain forms,” he said. “The change in sparrow songs over time has occurred much the same way”

The sparrows, which live on Kent Island, N.B., in the Bay of Fundy, can generally sing only one song type that consists of several parts. Male sparrows learn that song early in their first year and continue to sing the same tune for the rest of their lives.

“Young male sparrows learn their songs from the birds around them,” said Norris. “It may be their fathers, or it could be other older male birds that live nearby.”

Each male sparrow has his own unique sound, added Newman.

“While the island’s sparrows all sing a characteristic ‘savannah sparrow song,’ with the same verses and sound similar, there are distinct differences between each bird,” she said. “Essentially, it is like karaoke versions of popular songs. It is the rise and fall in popular cover versions that has changed over time.”

The research team found that, in general, each song has three primary elements. The first identifies the bird as a Savannah sparrow, the second identifies which individual is singing, and the third component is used by females to assess males.

Using sonograms recorded from singing males each breeding season, the researchers determined that, while the introductory notes had stayed generally consistent for the last 30 years, the sparrows had added a series of clicks to the middle of their songs. The birds had also changed the ending trill: once long and high-frequency, it is now shorter and low-frequency.

“We found that the ending trill of the song has become shorter, likely because female sparrows preferred this, because males with shorter trills had higher reproductive success,” Norris said.

Kent Island has been home to the Bowdoin Scientific Station since it was donated by J. Sterling Rockefeller in 1932, and the birds have been recorded since the 1980s. Individual birds are also monitored throughout their lifetime.

“We know the identity and history of every single sparrow in the study population” said Norris, who has led the project with Newman since 2009. “To have 30 years of recordings is very rare, and it was definitely surprising to see such drastic changes.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Heather Williams, Iris I. Levin, D. Ryan Norris, Amy E.M. Newman, Nathaniel T. Wheelwright. Three decades of cultural evolution in Savannah sparrow songsAnimal Behaviour, 2013; 85 (1): 213 DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.10.028

Which Way Did the Taliban Go? (New York Times)

Joël van Houdt for The New York Times. Colonel Daowood, left, considered his next move on the Chak Valley road.

By LUKE MOGELSON

Published: January 17, 2013 96 Comments

The village was abandoned. Streets deserted. Houses empty. Behind the central mosque rose a steep escarpment. Behind the escarpment mountains upon mountains. Up there — above the timberline, among the peaks — a white Taliban flag whipped in the wind. Several Afghan soldiers were admiring it when a stunted and contorted person emerged from an alley. Dressed in rags, he waved a hennaed fist at them and wailed. Tears streamed down his face. Most of the soldiers ignored him. Some laughed uncomfortably. A few jabbed their rifles at his chest and simulated shooting. The man carried on undeterred — reproaching them in strange tongues.

A truck pulled up, and Lt. Col. Mohammad Daowood, the battalion commander, stepped out. Everyone waited to see what he would do. Daowood is a man alive to his environment and adept at adjusting his behavior by severe or subtle degrees. He can transform, instantaneously, from empathetic ally to vicious disciplinarian. To be with him is to be in constant suspense over the direction of his mood. At the same time, there is a calculation to his temper. You feel it is always deliberately, never capriciously, employed. This only adds to his authority and makes it impossible to imagine him in a situation of which he is not the master. A flicker of recognition in the deranged man’s eyes suggested that he intuited this. He approached Daowood almost bashfully; only as he closed within striking range did he seem to regain his lunatic energy, emitting a low, threatening moan. We waited for Daowood to hit him. Instead, Daowood began to clap and sing. Instantly, the man’s face reorganized itself. Tearful indignation became pure, childish joy. He started to dance.

This continued for a surprisingly long time. The commander clapping and singing. The deranged man lost in a kind of ecstatic, whirling performance, waving his prayer cap in the air, stamping his feet. When at last Daowood stopped, the man was his. He stood there — breathless and obsequious — waiting for what came next. Daowood mimed the motion of wrapping a turban on his head. Where are the Taliban? Eager to please, the man beamed and pointed across the valley.

Several hours later, as I shared the bed of a pickup truck with an Afghan soldier who manned a machine gun mounted on the roof of the cab, it became evident that we were lost. The rest of the company was nowhere to be seen, though we could hear them, not far off, exchanging rocket and automatic-weapons fire with insurgents who had fled into the mountains and were hiding behind protective crags, shooting down. The driver sped up one narrow rutted path after another. The paths were hemmed in by rock walls — a labyrinth of cul-de-sacs — and the driver grew more panicked and reckless with each dead end. Aside from the occasional night raid, no Afghan or American forces had been to this place in more than a decade. Men stood on top of the walls, watching.

“Where are we going?” I asked the machine-gunner.

He offered the words I had heard time and again — so often, and so predictably, they could be the battalion motto. The words were invoked in response to such questions as: What is the plan? Who is shooting? Where will we sleep tonight? How many dead?

The words are “Mulam nes” — “It isn’t clear.”

Finally the driver stopped and asked a bearded man in a black turban for directions. The man — a Talib? — kindly pointed the way.

Soon we arrived on a bare ridge and found Colonel Daowood almost alone. Two young soldiers stood nearby with rifles. Daowood sat on a rock. A teenage boy knelt before him, kowtowing, wrists cuffed behind his back. Daowood was doing something to his head. As we got closer, we saw that he held scissors and was roughly shearing the boy’s hair. A neat pile of long black locks lay on the ground between Daowood’s feet.

When Daowood noticed us, he smiled and winked. Then he went back to work, screaming in the boy’s ear, “Now do you like being a Talib?”

“No,” the boy whimpered.

“What?”

“No, no, no.”

Daowood lifted him to his feet and examined with satisfaction the ugly patchwork of uneven tufts and bald scalp. He removed the boy’s handcuffs and said, “Go.”

The boy ran away, forgetting his shoes.

While Daowood was giving the haircut, our driver, who it turned out was a company commander, yelled at a pair of intrepid young soldiers who had taken it upon themselves to scale the mountain and capture the Taliban’s flag. We were leaving soon, and the commander wanted them to come back down. The young soldiers, however, were too high. They couldn’t hear him. The commander yelled and yelled. If only they had radios. If only he had a radio. In lieu of one, the commander drew his sidearm, aimed in the general vicinity of the soldiers, then shot two bullets.

The soldiers ducked, peered down. The commander waved.

It was the third day of a four-day operation being conducted by the Afghan National Army (A.N.A.) in Chak District, Wardak Province. There were no U.S. forces in sight. Every so often, a pair of American attack helicopters circled overhead; otherwise, the Afghans — roughly 400 of them — were on their own. For the A.N.A. — which every day assumes a greater share of responsibility for the security of Afghanistan — the operation was an ambitious undertaking and a test of its ability to function independently. For years now, the U.S. military’s priority in Afghanistan has been shifting from effectively prosecuting the present war to preparing Afghans for a future one in which our role is minimal. But even as American troops return home and American bases across the country close, such a future continues to feel difficult to envision. How will the A.N.A. fare when it is truly on its own? Predictions vary, tending toward the pessimistic. To the extent that assessments of the competency and preparedness of the A.N.A. take into consideration on-the-ground observations, however, they are usually limited to the perspective of American forces working in concert with Afghan units.

After a week with Daowood’s battalion, what I found is that the A.N.A. looks very different when there are no Americans around.

So does the war.

The operation to Chak District was nearly over before it began. Just hours before departure, during a briefing at Combat Outpost Dash-e Towp, the battalion headquarters, Daowood told his subordinate officers: “The only thing we’re waiting on is the fuel. If we don’t receive the fuel, we will not be able to do the operation.” A cohort of American advisers stood in the back of the room, silently listening. In the past, they probably would have offered to provide the fuel themselves. But that paradigm has changed. Increasingly, A.N.A. units must rely on their own supply lines, however inefficient they may be. Nevertheless, as the officers rose from their chairs, an Afghan captain pulled aside one of the advisers and told him the battalion lacked batteries for the metal detectors used to find improvised explosive devices. The adviser sighed. “Come over to our side,” he said, “and we’ll see what we can do.”

The American side of Dash-e Towp is separated from the Afghan side by a tall wall and a door that can be opened only with a code to which the Afghans do not have access. Whereas a close partnership between coalition and Afghan forces was for years considered a cornerstone of the overall military strategy (shohna ba shohna — shoulder to shoulder — went the ubiquitous NATO slogan), recently the Americans have distanced and even sequestered themselves from their erstwhile comrades. The about-face is a response to a rash of insider or “green on blue” attacks that killed more than 60 foreign troops in 2012 (and wounded 94), accounting for 22 percent of all coalition combat deaths. The Americans claim that many of the killings result from cultural differences; the Taliban claim to have infiltrated the security forces; the Afghan government claims “foreign spy agencies” are to blame. Whatever their provenance, the attacks have eroded trust to such a degree that NATO has begun designating some personnel as “guardian angels.” It is the guardian angel’s job to protect the NATO soldier from the Afghan soldier whom it is the NATO soldier’s job to train.

Other concerns abound. When the time comes, for instance, will Afghanistan’s army be able to maintain its own equipment and facilities? Evacuate and treat its own casualties? Overcome ethnic divisions within its ranks? Furnish its units with essential rations like food and fuel? Retain sufficient numbers despite alarmingly high attrition rates? Implement a uniform training doctrine despite alarmingly low literacy rates? Today, according to the Pentagon, exactly one Afghan brigade is capable of operating without any help from the coalition. For better or worse, come Dec. 31, 2014, the other 22 will likely have to do the same.

In anticipation of this reality, the A.N.A. has begun a countrywide realignment of troops that is transforming the battlefield. “Look at the situation,” Gen. Sher Mohamad Karimi, the chief of army staff, told me recently in Kabul. “One hundred and forty thousand international troops, with all the power that they have — the aircraft, the artillery, the tanks, the support — all of that now is going. You cannot expect the Afghan Army to do exactly what the international troops were doing.” As coalition forces diminish, that is, the A.N.A. must decide not only how to fill the gaps but also which gaps to forgo filling. For years, to secure roads and rural areas, Afghan soldiers have manned hundreds of check posts throughout the provinces. Now the A.N.A. plans to relinquish almost all of these in favor of consolidating its forces in significantly fewer locations. General Karimi claims there are two reasons for doing this. First: the Afghans simply lack the wherewithal to keep the more remote posts adequately provisioned. Second: the A.N.A. must move away from defending static positions, toward executing offensive operations. Theoretically, the police will take over check posts as the army quits them. But this will not always be the case; it may seldom be the case. And when vacated posts are not assumed by the police — as has happened in Wardak — it will be hard not to see the ongoing “realignment of troops” as anything other than an old-fashioned retreat.

Chak was one of the first districts in Afghanistan to undergo this change. When Daowood’s battalion woke around 3 a.m. and headed out from Dash-e Towp, the convoy included several large flatbed trailers hauling backhoes and bulldozers that would be used to destroy five of the six A.N.A. check posts in the area. (The last time abandoned posts were left standing in Wardak Province, the Taliban moved into them.) The sun was just starting to rise when the battalion arrived at the first one: a compact fortress of gravel-filled Hesco barriers perched on a squat hill that overlooked the entrance to the district. It was easy to see, from here, why the Taliban liked Chak. Parallel ranges form a wide valley with a river snaking down its middle. Apple orchards and trees with white trunks and bright yellow leaves crowd the basin. Dark canyons branch into the mountains. A single road follows the river deeper into the valley, connecting the lawless foothills of the Hindu Kush to Highway 1, a critical transit route that bridges Kabul and Kandahar, northern and southern Afghanistan.

After being reconstructed by an American firm at an estimated cost of $300 million, Highway 1 was extolled by the U.S. ambassador, in 2005, as “a symbol of Afghan renewal and progress.” Since then it has become one of the most dangerous roads on earth, scarred by bomb blasts, the site of frequent ambushes and executions by insurgent marauders, strewed with the charred carcasses of fuel tankers set alight on their way to NATO bases. As Daowood looked out from the top of the hill, he explained that Chak was an ideal staging ground for attacks on the highway and that the check posts were the only way to protect it. “When we had these check posts, there was good security,” Daowood said. “The people were happy. Of course, when we leave them, the Taliban will come back. As soon as we’re gone, they will own this whole area.”

Already, Daowood said, the road following the river was known to accommodate large quantities of remotely detonated bombs. As the colonel ordered the convoy to start forward, I watched two minesweepers testing out their metal detectors. The devices looked antique: Vietnam-era green with thick black wires connected to bulky plastic headphones. It was the sort of technology that made you remember ham radios, and I confess I was skeptical of their ability to clear the way. But after only a half-mile or so, one of the minesweepers stopped. A skinny, bearded soldier jumped out of a Humvee wielding a pickax. The minesweeper pointed at a spot. The soldier with the pickax attacked it. Soon he called to Daowood: “Found it!”

When C-4 explosive was packed around the bomb and exploded from what was deemed a safe remove, the blast proved much larger than anyone expected. Dirt rained down on those of us who were crouched behind a tree 100 meters away. The crater rendered the road impassable, obliging the Afghans to spend the next half-hour filling it with stones. By the time we started moving again, the minesweepers had begun working on another bomb just around the bend. I found the skinny, bearded soldier standing to the side with his pickax lightly balanced on his shoulder, smoking an immense joint.

His name was Shafiullah. He wore a pair of blue latex medical gloves and a metal helmet several sizes too big that sat low and loose over wide, wild eyes: preternaturally alert eyes bugging from their sockets as if to get a little closer to whatever they were looking at. “Did you see that last one?” Shafiullah wanted to know.

“It was big.”

He nodded rapidly, the helmet bucking forward and backward on his head, now threatening to fly off, now jerked into place by its leather chinstrap.

“Very big! Very nice!” He took another toke, held the doobie upright and became suddenly, deeply engrossed in its glowing tip.

“What are the gloves for?” I asked.

“The human body carries an electrical charge. When you work on the bombs, if you’re not careful, you can ignite them with the electricity in your fingers.”

“Do you always smoke hash before you work on the bombs?”

More vigorous nodding. “It takes away the fear.”

Shafiullah told me he joined the army about five years ago, when he turned 18. He served for three years as a regular infantry soldier in the violent Pakistani border regions before volunteering to become an explosive-ordnance-disposal technician. “I always wanted to be one,” he said. “I love when someone calls me an engineer.” About a year ago, after graduating from a six-month training program taught by French and American soldiers, Shafiullah was deployed to Wardak. Since then, he estimated, he had disposed of roughly 50 bombs. “Thanks to God I’ve never been hurt,” he said.

I asked if any of the other engineers were less fortunate. Shafiullah said that he belonged to a team of 20 technicians and that during the past three months two were killed and eight badly injured. He also said that nine of his friends from the training course were now dead or maimed. Back on the road, one of the minesweepers called for the pickax. Shafiullah took a last drag before joining them. A few minutes later, the valley echoed with a tremendous boom.

The shooting started soon after: rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades. It was too far ahead to see exactly what was happening. Later I learned that a group of insurgents ambushed the lead element in the convoy, strafing a narrow stretch in the road from within a dense stand of trees. The soldiers responded forcefully — with more and bigger weapons — killing six people in the village where the attack originated. A little while later, not far from the first shootout, there was another. This time an Afghan soldier fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a group of gunmen, killing seven. According to the soldiers, all the dead were Taliban.

By the time I reached the site with Colonel Daowood, the convoy had already moved on, resuming its lurching penetration of the valley. Perhaps not coincidentally, the ambushes occurred near a small gas station that was the target of an American airstrike the night before. The owner of the gas station — a Taliban leader named Gulam Ali, who Daowood said commanded several hundred insurgents in Chak — was killed by a missile. Two old fuel pumps still stood out front, but the row of shops behind them was ruined: windows shattered, charred metal bars curled back like the melted tines of a plastic fork. Each shop offered its own little diorama of destruction. Hundreds of pill bottles scattered on a pharmacy floor; emptied shelves hanging vertically in a general store; an iron and a sewing machine standing improbably upright on a tailor’s wooden table, among burned and tattered rolls of cloth.

Next to the gas station was Gulam Ali’s home and headquarters: an immaculate compound centered on a courtyard with rosebushes and a deep freshwater well. An exterior staircase ascended to the bedroom. Inside I was surprised to find the walls pasted with posters illustrating idyllic scenes from some future civilization, in which sleek modern buildings were harmoniously incorporated into rugged natural landscapes. Or maybe it was Switzerland — hard to say. Either way, it was odd to imagine Gulam Ali privately meditating on them. Nor did the inspirational quotes at the top of each poster lessen the oddness. “We love life,” one italicized blurb instructed, “not because we are used to living, but because we are used to loving.” And, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

When I returned to the courtyard, Daowood announced that he was going to the village where the 13 insurgents had just been killed. “It’s Gulam Ali’s village,” he explained. “I want to pay my respects.” He headed into the trees with no protection other than the two teenage bodyguards who accompanied him everywhere. He wore no helmet or body armor (“I don’t like them; they give me a headache”), and he carried no weapon. Instead he walked with his hands clasped behind his back, casually flipping a string of turquoise prayer beads. When we reached the compound that belonged to Gulam Ali’s parents, where his relatives had gathered to mourn, Daowood told me to wait outside — the presence of a foreigner would offend the family. When he emerged several minutes later, I was happy to be leaving the place. But as we made our way back to the main road, we encountered dozens of men congregated on a low knoll among the plain stone markers and colored flags of the village graveyard. It was a funeral for the Taliban, and the men regarded us with something less than brotherly affection. Daowood said, “Keep walking.” Then he addressed the funeral. “The aircraft are coming back tonight!” he shouted. “The American Special Forces are coming! Leave this area! Don’t stay here! If you stay, you might get killed!”

Immediately, the ceremony began to scatter, the men fleeing down the slope as swiftly as they could without betraying panic. “The helicopters are coming!” Daowood went on. “The Special Forces will be here soon!”

At the time, the colonel’s prompt dissolution of what appeared to be a potentially dangerous situation seemed to me as deft and inspired as his handling of the deranged man would a couple of days later. But something else was going on as well. Expressing his condolences to Gulam Ali’s family, warning the people about a possible airstrike and night raid — it was all part of Daowood’s game. The more time I spent with him, the clearer it became that Daowood was practicing his own version of counterinsurgency, one that involved endearing himself to locals by characterizing as common enemies not only the Taliban but also the Americans and the Afghan government. In almost every village we visited, I watched Daowood rail against Kabul’s political elite to rapt audiences of disgruntled farmers. Once, in a place known to abet insurgents, the colonel told a crowd: “All the high-ranking officials in the government are thieves. They don’t care about the country, the people. They take money from the foreigners and put it in their pockets. They make themselves fat. They go abroad, sleep in big houses, buy expensive cars and never think about the people. They have done nothing for this country.”

As with Daowood’s occasional flights of rage, it was tough to tell just how much of this was theater and how much true belief. My sense was that Daowood was genuinely conflicted: a committed soldier who spent 10 years of his life in the service of a government he was profoundly disenchanted with. And he wasn’t alone. Most soldiers I spoke to conspicuously avoided expressing any fondness for — much less allegiance to — their government. Of course, this is the same with other soldiers in other armies (imagine a U.S. Marine explaining his compulsion to enlist by citing a feeling of fidelity to the Bush or Obama administrations), but the nascency of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan makes its political leadership and national character uniquely synonymous. Put another way, in a government that has had only one president, you can’t distinguish between corrupt individuals and a broken system. All of which raises the question: In such a country, how can you be both a detractor and a patriot, as Daowood and some of his men seemed clearly to be? The Marine ostensibly fights on behalf of American principles and institutions that transcend elected officials; on behalf of what did the colonel and these soldiers fight? Most of them, when I asked, answered with the word “watan,” or “homeland.” But what does the notion of a homeland mean for someone who has seen his ruled by monarchists, dictators, communists, mujahedeen, Islamic fundamentalists and Karzai?

When it grew dark, we occupied a half-built mud house on the outskirts of a small mountain village, and Colonel Daowood told us his story. The owner of the property had killed a chicken and prepared for us a large pot of soup. Daowood and his entourage huddled around the iridescent mantles of a kerosene lamp, passing the ladle around, hugging their wool field blankets against a near-freezing night.

Daowood’s military career began three decades ago, when he fought the Russians in the tall mountains and narrow valleys of his native Paghman District. After the Soviet-backed government collapsed in 1992, rival mujahedeen groups turned viciously upon one another. While Kabul became the epicenter of a ferocious civil war, Paghman, just 20 minutes west of the city, remained relatively peaceful. Daowood stayed home, preferring not to enter a fray that was decimating the capital and its residents, with no end in sight. But in 1996, when the Taliban entered Kabul and ejected with unexpected ease each of its warring factions, Daowood took his wife and children to Panjshir Valley, an anti-Taliban stronghold where the warlord Ahmed Shah Massoud had retreated in preparation for a longer, harder fight. Although Massoud and his men were Tajiks and Daowood was a Pashtun (the ethnicity of the Taliban) — and although the recent civil war inflamed ethnic animosities — Daowood was received with open arms. Massoud gave his family a house and put Daowood in charge of 100 men.

More war followed for Daowood. Years of land mines and rockets, ambushes and close calls. Years of night operations in the orchards of the vast Shomali Plain — a verdant land between Panjshir and Kabul. Years, finally, of much spilled blood but little ground lost or gained. And then came the year everything changed. When Daowood talks about that time — after he and his comrades routed the Taliban with the help of American air power and special operators — he grins the way you might at a memory of your naïver self. It’s the optimism of those days that both embarrasses and saddens him, the feeling that Afghanistan had been born anew.

Daowood was among the tens of thousands of fighters in the so-called Northern Alliance — a loose confederation of anti-Taliban militias loyal to Massoud and other commanders. Although Massoud himself was assassinated two days before 9/11, his successor, Mohammed Qasim Fahim, supposedly a drug trafficker, was installed as the defense minister for Hamid Karzai’s interim government. Under Fahim, a majority of the Northern Alliance, including Daowood and his 100 men, became the first incarnation of the new Afghan military. While the United States remained committed to the “light footprint” approach championed by Bush and Rumsfeld — eschewing any commitment of resources that might be construed as “nation-building” — Fahim presided over the creation of a force that soon came to resemble the factionalism of the past far more than the nationalism of a future so eagerly anticipated by people like Daowood. As the International Crisis Group put it: “Units became organs of patronage, rewarding allies and supporters with officer commissions. The result was a weak chain of command over a mix of militias plagued by high desertion rates and low operational capacity.”

Whatever power-jockeying and cronyism afflicted the fledgling military, the civilian government under President Karzai was looking even worse. After two years, weary and bitter, Daowood resigned. “It was the corruption,” he explained. “It ruined everything. Everything was destroyed.” While Daowood embraced a new life back in Paghman — managing his family’s land and enjoying the company of his wife and sons — a resurgent Taliban began to exploit a growing disillusionment with the government and a meager deployment of security forces outside the capital. By 2006, there was no denying it: The insurgency had evolved from a lingering nuisance to a legitimate threat.

One day, an old friend from Panjshir, who was serving as a corps commander in the A.N.A., visited Daowood at his farm in Paghman. “We argued a lot,” Daowood recalled. “I didn’t want to be in the army anymore. I didn’t want to fight for this government. When I explained this to him, my friend told me: ‘If good men don’t participate, the criminals will take over. We have to reclaim this country from them.’ ” In the end, Daowood was convinced. Once more he left Paghman. Once more he took up arms.

When Daowood finished his story, I asked whether he really believed that the system was reformable. He thought for a while. Finally, he offered another reason for fighting — one that rang somewhat truer. “The government only steals money,” he told me. “At least they aren’t against education or women or human rights or rule of law.”

The next morning, some soldiers found a Taliban flag and brought it to Daowood. It wasn’t much: Arabic script scrawled in blue ballpoint pen on a square of white bedsheet tied with twine to a stick. Daowood slashed it with his knife and tried setting it on fire. The cloth was slow to catch. While the soldiers fussed with cardboard and kindling, Daowood received a call from the American advisers at Dash-e Towp. They wanted to remind him to begin tearing down the check posts. Daowood was incredulous; he still couldn’t believe it. “What nonsense is this?” he said when he hung up. “Do they want to hand Afghanistan to the Taliban?” The other soldiers looked just as galled. They sullenly watched the flag absorb a green lick of flame, shrivel and burn. “After these check posts are destroyed, we won’t be able to enter this valley,” Daowood said.

All the Afghans in Wardak, it seemed, shared Daowood’s contempt for the decision to close the check posts. When I met with Wardak’s provincial governor, Abdul Majid Khogyani, in Kabul, he told me: “I was a strong opponent of this idea. The police commander of Wardak and the National Directorate of Security chief were also against it. We know this will not work. The result of this strategy is that the Taliban have become stronger. Without the check posts, the Taliban will easily penetrate these areas. And once that happens, it is very difficult to clear them out again.” Majid was convinced that the realignment of troops had been forced on the A.N.A. command by NATO — a suspicion held by many Afghan officers I spoke to. “The local population are asking why NATO would deliberately provide the Taliban with such an opportunity,” the governor said. NATO has declined to comment on its involvement.

In Chak Valley, only one A.N.A. position would remain — the most distant outpost from the highway, manned by a contingent of roughly 100. That afternoon, when the convoy reached this last outpost, a fresh company relieved the bedraggled-looking men who had been stationed there for the past 12 months, collaborating with a U.S. Special Forces team, struggling to gain a foothold. Every one of them painted a similarly bleak picture of near-daily fighting against a more numerous guerrilla army. Mile after mile of mountains and forest was owned wholly by the insurgents. Out in that big wilderness, there was even a Taliban weapons bazaar, where insurgent fighters bought and sold Kalashnikovs and rockets and machine guns and grenades.

The question hovered like a bad smell: How would the Afghan soldiers who remained deep in Chak survive (or perhaps more accurately: What would they be able to accomplish beyond merely surviving?) once every check post between them and Highway 1 was razed? Severing entirely their already embattled position from the foot of the valley would be simple enough. After all, there was only one way in and out. As if to highlight this uncomfortable fact, a local informant called Daowood as soon as the convoy started to make its way back in the direction from which it had come. A number of bombs, the informant warned, were buried somewhere up ahead.

Shafiullah and his team headed to the front, and the procession of Humvees and trucks slowed to a crawl. Right away, the engineers found a copper wire attached to a massive I.E.D. buried two feet underground. A few minutes later, they found another. And then another. As soon as Shafiullah blew up the third bomb, Colonel Daowood’s informant called back to say that there were probably “many more,” though he was uncertain where. By now it was dark, and we still had miles to travel before reaching the relative security of an open area nearer the highway, where the battalion was supposed to bed down. Fifty feet or so ahead of the lead vehicle Shafiullah knelt in the dim beams of the headlights scratching at the dirt with his pickax. After a while there was some hollering and a disorderly hustle toward the rear. The explosion that followed was so powerful that bits of earth lashed our backs in a warm wave.

No one was hurt, and the convoy started forward again. Then it stopped again. While Shafiullah went back to work, I joined a group of soldiers sitting on the remains of an old Soviet tank. Someone produced a joint. The mood was jolly. It turned out the soldiers belonged to the company stationed since last winter at the remotest outpost in Chak. They were glad to be rotating out — even if it meant swapping one deadly place for another. Most of them were Pashtuns from eastern Afghanistan who served for many years and had wives and children to whom they sent their salaries and saw once every several months. The soldiers hoped to get some leave when they returned to Dash-e Towp — but visiting home, they said, was a mission in itself. Stretches of the highway between Dash-e Towp and Kabul were treacherous; many soldiers had been abducted and murdered by insurgents on their way to see their families. In the past you could dress in the traditionalshalwar kameez, hire a taxi and pose as a civilian. But now the Taliban had spies who alerted them when soldiers headed out. The only option was to catch a ride on a convoy, and those could be rare. Recently, the soldiers said, one of their lieutenants lost his infant son to an illness: though he was from Kapisa Province — a short drive north by car — it took him 20 days to get back.

Eventually Shafiullah found and detonated the fourth bomb, and the soldiers on the tank — high as kites by then — returned to the road and continued on. It was 1 in the morning by the time they reached their destination. On the way, they had to stop again and again for Shafiullah’s team to excavate and blow up I.E.D.’s — 11 in total. At some point after midnight the engineers got sloppy, igniting the C-4 on one bomb before Shafiullah could escape the blast radius. The pressure wave collapsed a mud-brick wall he was walking by, crushing his ankle. When I saw Shafiullah the next morning, his pant leg was in tatters and he was limping. His leg looked badly swollen. He hadn’t seen a medic yet and didn’t plan to.

The ground froze solid during the night and Shafiullah — who like most of the men in the battalion was never issued a sleeping bag — got no more than a cold hour’s rest. Nevertheless, while he waited in line to collect his breakfast (a plastic bag containing a hard piece of bread and a boiled egg and a mini-carton of coffee creamer), he seemed in high spirits. “I told you I’d never been hurt before, and now I’m hurt,” Shafiullah said with a laugh. “I was close! But God saved me.”

This was the day that Daowood brought his men up the mountain to a village called Ali Shah and found it deserted except for the deranged man who danced for him. Among the Afghan soldiers, Ali Shah was infamous — an insurgent sanctuary where no government forces had dared to venture in more than a decade. (“Even the women are Taliban!” one sergeant told me.) Daowood had received intelligence that there would be a wedding in the village that day with several insurgent commanders in attendance. He said he wanted to pace the operation to crash the wedding in time for lunch.

When Daowood asked where the Taliban went, the deranged man pointed to a distant hillside where a large group of villagers had gathered outside a mosque. Daowood and his men jumped in their trucks and headed that way. I rode in the back of a Toyota pickup with a middle-aged machine-gunner named Fazil. It turned out that Fazil was the lieutenant the soldiers on the tank had mentioned the night before — the one who had been unable to get home in time for his son’s burial. As we talked, there was something deeply familiar about the way Fazil described his village in Kapisa Province. He might have been a U.S. Marine reminiscing about the family ranch in Texas. The river was wide and clear, bountiful with fish. The people were kind; the air was fresh; the fruit was sweet.

Fazil’s education in the peculiarities of war began when he was 12, during the jihad. One day, while he was with his father and uncle at the local bazaar, a foot patrol of Russian commandos — or Russian soldiers who Fazil assumed were commandos because of the ski masks they were wearing — opened fire on the villagers. Fazil’s uncle bled out and died on the ground in front of him; Fazil’s father also took a bullet but survived. Several years later, a jet from the Soviet-backed government launched a missile at Fazil’s home that killed both of his parents; shortly thereafter, Fazil joined the mujahedeen in Panjshir led by Massoud. During a battle with Soviet fighters, Fazil was shot in the leg and had to be taken to a hospital in Kabul. There the government asked him to switch sides. Fazil agreed and for a year fought for the national army against his former comrades. When I asked how he could volunteer for the same force that killed his parents, Fazil said: “The mujahedeen knew I was with the government the whole time. I was giving them information.” After the government collapsed, Fazil went back to Panjshir and rejoined with Massoud.

This capacity for switching sides, betraying sides, playing sides, often simultaneously, always baffled the foreign forces in Afghanistan. The complex logic of Afghanistan’s ever-shifting allegiances is simply inscrutable to most outsiders; we have never really understood whom we’re fighting or why they’re fighting us. I once went on a mission in a volatile eastern province with a platoon of American soldiers and a member of the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System — a historian with a doctorate and an assault rifle whose job it was to map which anti-Soviet mujahedeen groups the elders in the area identified with. Some Afghan troops were there as well, and I remember the mystified looks on their faces as this soldier-professor grilled (through an interpreter) one graybeard after another about the commanders they fought under 20 years ago.

Daowood’s method was different. When a fighting-age male struck him as suspicious, the colonel would use his thumbs and index fingers to pull open both of the man’s eyelids. Then he would lean close and stare searchingly. Usually, after several seconds, as though he had suddenly found precisely what he was looking for, Daowood would declare, in mock surprise, “He’s Taliban!”

It was a joke, of course — one that mostly made fun of the Americans. A few years ago, the coalition embarked on an ambitious enterprise to record in an electronic database the biometric information of hundreds of thousands of Afghan citizens, and a hallmark of American patrols has subsequently been the lining up of villagers to digitally register their eyes and fingerprints. Daowood’s faux iris scan was in part an acknowledgment of the A.N.A.’s inferior technology. But it was also a dig at the coalition’s somewhat desperate reliance on technology. Where Daowood’s interactions with villagers were always intimate, it is hard to imagine a more clinical and alienating dynamic between two people than that of the NATO service member aiming his Hand-held Interagency Identity Detection Equipment at the face of a rural Afghan farmer. In such moments, the difference in the field between the U.S. and Afghan soldier is far starker than that of the foreigner and the native. It is more akin to the difference in the ocean between a scuba diver and a fish.

For example: it never occurred to me that Daowood was being entirely serious when he said he wanted to arrive at the wedding in time for lunch. But as soon as we reached the gathering on the hillside in Ali Shah, we were invited into a house and served generous plates of stewed lamb and rice. Daowood dutifully commenced his anti-establishment diatribe, telling me, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear: “These are good people, all of them. If the government worked for them, if the government helped them, they wouldn’t fight us. The government officials should come to places like this. They know nothing of the people’s lives outside of Kabul.” When one villager added that “the ministers put all the money in their own accounts, they build themselves nice houses and buy nice cars,” Daowood nodded in sympathetic agreement.

Just outside, meanwhile, some soldiers standing guard discovered a canvas sack full of rocket-propelled grenades stashed behind a boulder. A group of men were spotted fleeing into the mountains, and the day’s fighting began.

Late that night, after the rest of the battalion went to sleep, Daowood set off into a Taliban-controlled village on foot, accompanied by four guards. He wanted to meet with a local Talib, who was also a paid informant. He never said so explicitly — “he’s an old friend” and “he gives me information” was all he allowed — but I had the sense this was the man who warned Daowood about the bombs in the road. There was not much of a moon and just enough starlight to see the ground beneath our feet. As we made our way over a steep hill, along a creek, through a field and into winding streets, a chorus of dogs began to howl, and the four soldiers Daowood dragged along grew nervous. “Don’t worry,” Daowood kept telling them. “We’re close.”

When we reached the Talib’s house, a young boy ushered us into a long narrow room dimly lighted by a gas lantern. Pink lace curtains hung over the windows; plush cushions lined the walls; gaudily decorative carpets covered the floor. The informant was a middle-aged man affecting the usual beard and turban. He embraced Daowood and gestured for us to sit. The boy brought tea and then platters of rice and meat and bread. After a while, Daowood said: “We’re closing the check posts tomorrow. We’re pulling out of here.”

“That will be fine,” the man said. “The aircraft were searching here last night.”

“Just stay inside,” Daowood told him.

His phone rang. When he hung up, Daowood announced, “There’s going to be an ambush tomorrow.” And to the informant: “Tomorrow we’re going to search this area.”

The informant nodded. “There won’t be any problem.”

The next day, there was in fact an ambush — even while the bulldozers and backhoes were leveling the check posts. We were heading up a tight canyon, along the banks of a shallow stream, when rockets and machine guns echoed up ahead. By now, most of the soldiers were ragged with fatigue. Over the past four days, they had walked some 30 miles, stayed up shivering through frigid nights, eaten little more than bread and rice. And they had fought and killed people, too. As Daowood rushed ahead at a brisk pace toward the gunfire, we passed one soldier after another sitting on the side of the trail, leaning against a rock, flushed and spent. “Don’t stop!” Daowood urged them. “You’re in the enemy’s country now! Move like a lion!”

And for the most part — even if not exactly lionlike — the soldiers got up and pushed on.

It’s too early to tell what the Afghan National Army will look like on Dec. 31, 2014. No doubt its level of readiness for the uncertain future will vary hugely from region to region, unit to unit. But it is a mistake to dismiss or disparage the Afghan soldier, as is often done by foreigners in Afghanistan. After the ambush (three insurgents were injured; no soldiers), I walked toward the highway, which we could see through the bare trees at the foot of the valley, alongside a young medic from Daykundi Province named Abdul Karim. Like most of the people from Daykundi, Karim was Hazara, one of Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities. Because they follow the Shia branch of Islam, and because their distinct facial features make them easily recognizable, Hazaras are uniquely vulnerable to militant Sunni fundamentalists. In Afghanistan, this has certainly been true with the Taliban, who, during their rise to power, massacred Hazaras by the thousands. “For my people,” Karim told me, “it is important to serve in this army.” Almost all of the men in his family, he said, enlisted as soon as they were old enough. Twenty-eight of Karim’s brothers and cousins wore the uniform.

There might have been a time early in the war when most American soldiers and Marines genuinely believed that they were fighting to protect their homeland, their watan. But those days are over now; they have been for a while. You can feel it just as surely as you can feel that for soldiers like Karim they will never end.

Almost as soon as we got back to Dash-e Towp, I overheard some U.S. officers loudly complaining about the inability of Afghan soldiers to make appointments on time. Afghan soldiers do have difficulty making appointments on time, it’s true. They also don’t like to stand in straight lines or dress according to regulation or march in step or do so many of the things intrinsic to a Western notion of professional soldiering. When a lieutenant calls a formation of Afghan privates to attention, they will inevitably resemble, as my drill sergeant used to say, “a soup sandwich.” But they will also accept a much higher level of risk than any coalition force ever has. Their ranks are filled with tough and brave men who run toward the fight without body armor or helmets or armored vehicles and sleep on the frozen ground without sleeping bags and dig up I.E.D.’s with a pickax and often go hungry and seldom complain.

It was dark by the time Daowood returned to the base; he wanted to be the last man in. When I visited him in his room, he was sitting on the floor, drinking tea. A small TV played quietly in the corner, and as we talked I heard a broadcaster mention the news: yesterday, Barack Obama was re-elected president. I pointed this out to Daowood, who wasn’t much interested. “They’re all the same to us,” he said. Then, seeing I was taking notes, he added, “We just want someone who will help Afghanistan.” But the colonel seemed to know that in the end that job would be his.

Luke Mogelson is a contributing writer for the magazine and a co-editor of Razistan.org. He last wrote about a lawless Afghanistan border town.

Editor: Joel Lovell

A version of this article appeared in print on January 20, 2013, on page MM28 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: Which Way Did the Taliban Go?.

UCSB anthropologist studies reciprocity among chimpanzees and bonobos (UC Santa Barbara)

20-Nov-2012
By Andrea Estrada

Primate behavior may reveal clues to evolution of favor exchange in humans

Adrian Jaeggi, a postdoctoral researcher in anthropology at UC Santa Barbara, and a junior research fellow at the campus’s SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, is studying this question of reciprocity, using chimpanzees and bonobos as his test subjects. His findings appear in the current online issue of the journal Evolution & Human Behavior.(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– When your neighbor asks to borrow a cup of sugar and you readily comply, is your positive response a function of the give and take that characterize your longstanding relationship? Or does it represent payment –– or prepayment –– for the cup of sugar you borrowed last week, or may need to borrow a month from now?

“The article focuses on the question of whether individuals do favors because they expect them to be reciprocated at some other time, and, more specifically, whether such exchanges have to happen immediately, or can take place over longer time spans,” Jaeggi explained. “We studied the question in chimpanzees and bonobos –– our two closest living relatives –– and looked at the exchanges of grooming and food sharing, which are two common types of favors among these apes.”

Two female chimpanzees take food from a male (center).

According to Jaeggi, while results of his research provide some evidence for immediate exchanges, they more strongly support the notion that favors are exchanged over long periods of time. Calculated exchanges, in which individuals keep a detailed score of past interactions, are much less common than the more loosely balanced exchanges that take place in stable relationships.

“In the chimp group we studied, we knew there was a lot of this long-term exchange,” said Jaeggi. “We didn’t find any evidence for a short-term effect.” Chimpanzees live in stable social groups, he continued, and have a relatively long life span. They recognize others in the group, form long-term relationships, and associate with individuals who have helped them in the past.

“In the wild, for example, chimps hunt for smaller monkeys, and they commonly share the meat. It’s similar to what hunters and gatherers do,” Jaeggi said. “Our experiment is meant to mimic the situation in which you have a large monopolized food item.” Using grooming as the favor, the researchers studied whether or not a chimp that had just been groomed was more likely to share food with the pal who had groomed him. “That would provide evidence for keeping track of who has done a favor,” Jaeggi said. However, grooming releases endorphins, he added, and that general sense of wellbeing on the part of the food owner might lead to more indiscriminate food sharing.

One female bonobo rests her hand on another’s shoulder.

Bonobos, on the other hand, presented a different result. While chimpanzees have a formalized dominance hierarchy, food is available to most individuals, no matter what their group status. That is not the case with bonobos. Bonobos don’t establish formal hierarchies, so they don’t know on an individual basis where they fit within the group. Also, they don’t form coalitions as much as chimpanzees do. “The food sharing situation sort of freaked them out,” said Jaeggi. “All of a sudden there’s all this food that’s owned by one individual, and they don’t really know what to do about it. They want to get it, but they don’t dare, because they don’t know what the consequence will be.””We found that sharing was predicted by who the chimps’ long-term friends and partners were,” he said. “Grooming just before didn’t play a role. Food owners didn’t share specifically with their groomers. Nor did the groomers act in return. They didn’t pay for the food, and they didn’t reward the food owner’s generosity afterward.”

Jaeggi added that bonobos did a lot more grooming, most likely because they sought the calming effects of the endorphins. “And there we did see an effect of grooming on sharing,” he said. “Chimps would go and take food pretty confidently, but Bonobos were more reticent. They’d reach out and then groom. It seemed to be that they’d groom to release tension, and then there would be these short-term reciprocal exchanges.”

But even those exchanges seem to be more a byproduct of the need to reduce tension, he noted, rather than short-term contingencies used to establish reciprocity.

So, what do these findings tell us about ourselves? Jaeggi suggests we should take seriously this evidence of long-term reciprocity in animals. “It’s really not qualitatively different from what people do,” he said. “They establish these lasting relationships, and within them, services are exchanged without the participants keeping close track of who’s doing what for whom.”

However, humans also have the capacity for more contingent reciprocity, which raises questions about its purpose, and how it developed. “Maybe that’s something that’s more culturally learned,” said Jaeggi.

Em busca de um novo lugar para o homem e a natureza. Entrevista com Philippe Descola (Instituto Humanitas Unisinos)

Terça, 20 de novembro de 2012

O francês Philippe Descola, de 64 anos, é parte de um grupo de antropólogos contemporâneos – ao lado do também francês Bruno Latour e do brasileiro Eduardo Viveiros de Castro – que propõe embaçar a distinção natureza/cultura, durante muito tempo orientadora do pensamento sobre o humano.

O ponto de partida de sua obra foi uma longa convivência, nos anos 1970, com a tribo achuar, indígenas da Amazônia equatoriana, sobre os quais publicou no Brasil “As Lanças do Crepúsculo” (Cosac Naify). Antes de se formar em antropologia sob a orientação de Claude Lévi-Strauss, estudou filosofia com Michel Foucault e Gilles Deleuze, pensadores que também o influenciaram.

Descola, que esteve no Brasil no mês passado para série de conferências no Rio, em Brasília e no Recife, hoje se interessa pelo que chama de “ontologia das imagens”, mais uma estratégia de questionar o naturalismo e a ideia de que os humanos possuem uma interioridade distinta que os separa dos outros existentes.

A entrevista é de Carla Rodrigues e publicada pelo jornal Valor, 20-11-2012.

Nesta entrevista, ele fala dos desdobramentos desse tipo de pensamento, acusado muitas vezes de relativista, para o ambiente, a defesa dos animais e a forma de fazer antropologia, dentro do que chama de “uma teoria geral sobre a continuidade e a descontinuidade entre humanos e não humanos”.

Eis a entrevista.

Sua obra começa com uma etnologia na Amazônia, nos anos 1970. O senhor acompanha o debate sobre a questão indígena na Amazônia hoje?

É um debate relativamente simples. De um lado, a espoliação territorial das terras indígenas – que é muito grave e diferente nos diversos países que compõem a Amazônia -, a destruição da floresta e do modo de vida de populações que vivem dela, como seringueiros. São problemas muito graves e cada país o encara de maneira diversa. Mesmo assim, a situação do extermínio da população ameríndia já foi pior. Quando comecei a fazer etnologia na Amazônia, os ameríndios não eram representados na cena pública. Os etnólogos ocupavam um papel importante como porta-vozes, para fazer eco a situações que eram dramáticas. A grande mudança atual é que os ameríndios ocupam uma posição de interlocução, o que no Brasil é particularmente notável. Sem intermediários, são capazes de se fazer entender por eles mesmos, o que é muito positivo.

A partir desse trabalho, o senhor começou a pensar as relações entre humanos e não humanos. Quais são as consequências desse tipo de pensamento?

Toda a tradição do pensamento humanista consiste, de forma um tanto paradoxal, em pôr os humanos no centro e, ao mesmo tempo, de tirá-los do centro do mundo. É uma espécie de contradição permanente do pensamento. O que tento fazer – inspirado por Lévi-Strauss – é “desantropocentralizar” a antropologia, uma disciplina que nasceu, no âmbito das ciências sociais, como resultado da vontade de ter uma atitude reflexiva sobre as nossas experiências coletivas, na Europa e no mundo ocidental. Sociedade, natureza, cultura, história e razão são conceitos que nos permitiram nos objetivar a nós mesmos, mas são extremamente inadaptados para a análise e a descrição de realidades diferentes. O que tento fazer é compreender como em outros sistemas culturais, aqui, por exemplo, na Amazônia, existem espécies animais, vegetais, espíritos que formam certa espécie de sociedade. São sociedades coextensivas aos cosmos que nos impedem de distinguir a cultura de um lado, a natureza de outro.

Trata-se de repensar os objetivos da antropologia?

A antropologia nasce na segunda metade do século XIX na Europa para questionar sobre como viviam as sociedades que não estabeleciam a distinção natureza/cultura, justamente no momento em que o pensamento europeu estava se estabelecendo a partir dessa distinção. Era a partir dessa distinção que os departamentos das universidades começaram a se organizar, separando as ciências da natureza das ciências humanas. Nesse mesmo momento havia a descoberta de que havia sociedades que não consideravam essa distinção. De certa forma, a antropologia surge como uma ciência que busca entender esse “escândalo lógico”. Essa distinção que hoje nos parece superada tem uma história, que eu retracei no livro “Par-delà Nature et Culture” (Gallimard), que começa com os gregos, passa pelo cristianismo, mas começou a emergir entre o século XV e o XVII.

Qual é a importância desse tipo de pensamento para a defesa do ambiente?

O fato de distinguir de um lado a vida social, de outro a natureza, favoreceu a percepção de que a natureza é alguma coisa exterior ao homem e pode ser transformada em um recurso passível de ser destruído em nome da vida social. Chamar a atenção sobre outras formas de concepção da relação entre humano e não humano – que se dá não apenas nos ameríndios, mas no budismo e em outras formas de organização -, é mostrar que os humanos são uma prolongação do ambiente e as perturbações que produzem nele não apenas são dramáticas para todos os seres, mas também para nós. Há cada vez mais pessoas convencidas de que a distinção natureza/cultura não tem nenhum sentido, porque fenômenos como aquecimento global e efeito estufa são naturais, mas também culturais. O que se vê é a irrupção do social dentro do natural e do natural dentro do social, o que terá efeitos políticos importantes que, esperamos, não seja tarde demais.

O crescente movimento de defesa dos animais também pode ser considerado um desdobramento desse tipo de pensamento?

Faço distinção entre duas formas de defender os direitos dos não humanos. Há uma versão, individualista, que inclui nomes muito conhecidos, como Peter Singer, que tem por objetivo estender aos não humanos certos direitos que são dos humanos. O que pode ser muito positivo, mas é um tipo de discurso a partir de uma visão muito ocidental da questão. Há outro tipo de defesa dos animais, que chamo de ecocentrada, defensora da biodiversidade. Em tudo, nas espécies, na cultura, vale mais a diversidade do que a monotonia.

O senhor e o brasileiro Viveiros de Castro compartilham muitas ideias a respeito da necessidade de superação da distinção natureza/cultura. O que há de proximidade e de distância no pensamento dos senhores?

Ao longo do tempo desenvolvemos nosso pensamento por meio de um diálogo permanente, que começou há 30 anos e perseverou na França e no Brasil. Somos muito influenciados por Lévi-Strauss, o que já é um ponto de partida importante. Também somos ambos especializados nas sociedades amazônicas e contribuímos para transformar a visão sobre esses grupos ao aportar a percepção de que parte importante da vida dessas sociedades se passa não com os humanos, mas com os não humanos. Para compreender essas sociedades, pensar a relação com a natureza foi muito importante. Nós dois sublinhamos que essa relação com a natureza se traduz numa forma de existência e organização social muito particular, ao incluir os não humanos na vida social. Não podemos compreender essas sociedades se não compreendermos isso.

No entanto, a diferença que se estabelece entre nós ao longo do tempo é que eu desenvolvi um pensamento que visa tomar as sociedades amazônicas e particularmente sua concepção de relação entre humanos e não humanos como um tipo entre outros, dentro de uma teoria geral sobre a continuidade e a descontinuidade entre humanos e não humanos. Já Viveiros de Castro se engajou em um trabalho filosófico sobre o pensamento ameríndio como um tipo de pensamento alternativo ao pensamento ocidental.

Nossas divergências hoje vêm do fato de que eu sempre estive engajado em um projeto geral de antropologia, do qual as sociedades amazônicas fazem parte, entre outras, enquanto Viveiros de Castro, principalmente no seu último livro, publicado na França (“Métaphysiques Cannibales. Lignes d’Anthropologie post-Structurale“, PUF, 2009, sem edição brasileira), expõe um projeto inspirado pela filosofia de Gilles Deleuze, de desenvolver o que poderia ser chamado de uma filosofia indígena, que se propõe a ser um contraponto à filosofia ocidental.

Cultural Dimensions of Climate Change Are Underestimated, Overlooked and Misunderstood (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Nov. 11, 2012) — The impact of climate change on many aspects of cultural life for people all over the world is not being sufficiently accounted for by scientists and policy-makers. University of Exeter-led research by an international team, published on 11th November in Nature Climate Change, shows that cultural factors are key to making climate change real to people and to motivating their responses.

From enjoying beaches or winter sports and visiting iconic natural spaces to using traditional methods of agriculture and construction in our daily lives, the research highlights the cultural experiences that bind our communities and are under threat as a result of climate change. The paper argues that governments’ programmes for dealing with the consequences of climate change do not give enough consideration to what really matters to individuals and communities.

Culture binds people together and helps them overcome threats to their environments and livelihoods. Some are already experiencing such threats and profound changes to their lives. For example, the Polynesian Island of Niue, which experiences cyclones, has a population of 1,500 with four times as many Niueans now living in New Zealand. The research shows that most people remaining on the island resist migrating because of a strong attachment to the island. There is strong evidence to suggest that it is important for people’s emotional well-being to have control over whether and where they move. The researchers argue that these psychological factors have not been addressed.

Lead researcher Professor Neil Adger of the University of Exeter said: “Governments have not yet addressed the cultural losses we are all facing as a result of global climate change and this could have catastrophic consequences. If the cultural dimensions of climate change continue to be ignored, it is likely that responses will fail to be effective because they simply do not connect with what matters to individuals and communities. It is vital that the cultural impact of climate change is considered, alongside plans to adapt our physical spaces to the changing environment.”

Professor Katrina Brown from the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute adds: “The evidence is clear; when people experience the impacts of climate change in places that matter to them, the problems become real and they are motivated to make their futures more sustainable. This is as true in coastal Cornwall as in Pacific Islands.”

Journal Reference:

  1. W. Neil Adger, Jon Barnett, Katrina Brown, Nadine Marshall, Karen O’Brien. Cultural dimensions of climate change impacts and adaptationNature Climate Change, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1666

“Terrorismo” informativo foi usado contra Guarani Kaiowá em MS, diz antropólogo (Viomundo)

Publicado em 6 de novembro de 2012 às 10:47

por Luiz Carlos Azenha

O antropólogo Márcio Meira diz que “terrorismo” informativo foi usado contra os Guarani Kaiowá durante os levantamentos determinados pela Funai para identificar territórios indígenas em Mato Grosso do Sul.

As informações, falsas, davam conta que todo o estado seria identificado como pertencente aos indígenas.

Foi apenas mais um lance na longa disputa por terras entre fazendeiros e os Guarani.

Segundo o ex-presidente da Funai, é uma história antiga, que se agravou quando o então presidente da República, Getúlio Vargas, incentivou a “marcha para o Oeste”. Ao então Serviço de Proteção ao Índio, SPI, antecessor da Funai, coube a tarefa de confinar os indígenas em pequenas áreas.

Era a origem do problema que se estende até os dias de hoje: cerca de 45 mil Guarani Kaiowá ocupam pequenas porções de terra. No total, em áreas já reconhecidas pela União como pertencentes a eles — nem todas ainda ocupadas — são 50 mil hectares.

Em 2007, num termo de Ajustamento de Conduta firmado com o Ministério Público Federal e representantes dos indígenas, a Funai formou 6 grupos de trabalho encarregados de fazer relatórios de identificação de terras indígenas. Mas apenas um relatório foi concluído. As equipes foram impedidas de trabalhar por fazendeiros, ameaçadas por pistoleiros ou foram congeladas por ações judiciais.

Como muitos dos fazendeiros em áreas em litígio receberam títulos do estado de Mato Grosso ou da União, Márcio defende que recebam indenização por benfeitorias e também por danos morais ou lucros cessantes. Os que simplesmente invadiram territórios indígenas, segundo ele, não teriam o mesmo direito.

O ex-presidente da Funai acredita ser necessário um pacto entre os indígenas, proprietários titulados, o governo federal, o de Mato Grosso do Sul e a Justiça para por fim às situações de conflito.

Ele também acha necessário que o Supremo Tribunal Federal esclareça sua posição sobre as condicionantes impostas durante o julgamento do caso da reserva Raposa-Serra do Sol, em Roraima, que redundaram em uma portaria da Advocacia Geral da União, a 303, que estenderia as condicionantes a todas as terras indígenas. A portaria foi suspensa pela própria AGU, sob pressão dos indígenas e de entidades da sociedade civil. Ela deu margem, no entanto, a ações judiciais que tornaram ainda mais confusa a disputa em Mato Grosso do Sul.

Para Márcio Meira, o Brasil pode enfrentar “um vexame do Direito internacional” se não atender à Convenção 169 sobre Povos Indígenas e Tribais em Países Independentes, da Organização Internacional do Trabalho (OIT), um tratado internacional do qual o país é signatário e que garante uma série de direitos aos indígenas, hoje violados especialmente no caso dos Guarani Kaiowá.

Clique para ouvir a entrevista.

Nós e os índios (Amálgama)

http://www.amalgama.blog.br/11/2012/nos-e-os-indios/

Brasileiro gosta de mistura, desde que ninguém ameace a nossa cosmovisão e epistemologia ocidentais.

por Alfredo Cesar (05/11/2012)

1.

Em nenhum lugar do Brasil, a invisibilidade do índio talvez seja tão visível quanto na Avenida Paulista, em São Paulo. É ali, em frente ao Parque Trianon, dando de cara com o MASP, no meio de pessoas apressadas falando ao celular, buzinas de carros, barulho de motor e poluições de vários tipos, que fica localizada a estátua de Bartolomeu Bueno Dias, também conhecido como Diabo Velho (Anhanguera). Bartolomeu foi um bandeirante, conhecido matador de índio e saqueador de tribo. No entanto, se formos ao Houaiss e procurarmos o verbete “bandeirante”, nenhum desses significados estará lá – o que diz muito também de nosso silêncio e indiferença em relações aos índios. No dicionário, você descobrirá que “bandeirante” é sinônimo de “paulista”, além de significar “aquele que abre caminho; desbravador; precursor; pioneiro”. Os bandeirantes seriam uma espécie de “vanguarda” da colonização, o que casa bem com um lugar como São Paulo, cujos políticos ainda hoje se utilizam da infeliz metáfora da “locomotiva do Brasil” para definir o estado.

Vanguarda, desbravamento, locomotiva, non ducor duco (que está na bandeira da cidade de São Paulo e quer dizer “não sou conduzido, conduzo”) são signos que fazem parte de um mesmo campo discursivo: o do progresso arrojado. Se houve algum progresso no Brasil, esse foi o progresso da colonização, ou melhor, a progressão bandeirante lenta e contínua para o oeste, escravizando indígenas, apropriando-se dos recursos de sua terra, aniquilando sua cultura. Avançamos na terra e na cultura dos outros. Progresso, progressão, invasão. E continuamos fazendo isso: seja com os Guarani-Kaiowá no Mato Grosso do Sul; seja com os desalojados das construções da Copa do Mundo; seja com os índios da bacia Xingu que serão desterrados pela Usina de Belo Monte. As elites brasileiras continuam progredindo em cima de terras, pessoas e direitos.

Não nos enganemos. Nosso imaginário desenvolvimentista – essa necessidade e desejo de crescer e expandir em moto-contínuo – está calcado no espírito do bandeirantismo, que nada mais é a lógica do colonizador. Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva nos representa mais do que gostaríamos.

2.

Como aprendemos na escola secundária, os romances Iracema (1865) e O Guarani (1857) de José de Alencar são considerados ficções fundacionais da nação. Embora sejam textos fortemente ideológicos – uma vez que deliberadamente escamoteiam a violência genocida do encontro colonial para narrar tal encontro numa moldura conciliatória –, carregam em si um núcleo de verdade: o desejo do letrado brasileiro – o narrador dessa história dos vencedores – de moer qualquer traço de alteridade cultural no moinho da ocidentalização. Nas palavras certeiras de Alfredo Bosi, o indianismo alencarino não passava de um mito sacrificial dos índios, no qual estes só atingiriam a nobreza quando fossem capazes de se auto-imolar. Os índios Peri, de O Guarani, e Iracema, personagem central do romance homônimo, se tornam heróis na medida em que se anulam e se sacrificam em gesto de servidão aos colonizadores portugueses. Peri se converte ao cristianismo para se unir à portuguesa Cecília e, com ela, formar o povo brasileiro. Iracema trai o seu povo tabajara para ficar com o lusitano Martim. Do fruto desse encontro, nasce Moacir, o primeiro brasileiro. Depois de cumprida sua missão no processo civilizatório brasileiro, Iracema morre. O indianismo alencarino foi assim um elogio à submissão do indígena à sabedoria europeia. Bom índio é aquele que se ocidentaliza. Que muda de lado. Que nega seu povo. Que está disposto a aniquilar a sua cultura, e até a vida, para contribuir com anação.

Um pouco mais de cem anos depois, João Guimarães Rosa, no conto “Meu tio o iauaretê”, se propõe a questionar essa relação colonial, evocando uma outra lógica. Se os mestiços “alencarinos” são cristianizados e ocidentalizados, o que aconteceria se o mestiço escolhesse o outro lado da mistura que o compõe?

“Meu tio o iauaretê” conta a história de Tonho Tigreiro, caçador de onças, contratado por um fazendeiro, Nhô Nhuão Guede, para desonçar um certo território. Em outras palavras, o caçador é chamado para livrar o terreno das onças, permitindo que aquele pedaço de terra possa ganhar uma utilidade econômica. Desonçar a terra faz parte de uma operação bandeirante (sem trocadilhos). No entanto, de tanto viver isolado dos homens, o caçador começa a ter mais simpatia pelas onças do que por gente, e passa a defendê-las. O caçador escolhe claramente um lado: o das onças, da natureza, dos animais, enfim, o lado da terra onde vive. É o mesmo “lado” que os índios defendem no seu esforço de resistência aos (neo)bandeirantes que invadem sua terra. Daí a conclusão da leitura que antropólogo Eduardo Viveiros de Castro faz do conto rosiano:

Não é um texto sobre o devir-animal, é um texto sobre o devir-índio. Ele descreve como é que um mestiço revira índio, e como é que todo mestiço, quando vira índio – isto é, quando se desmestiça– o branco mata. Essa é que é a moral da história. Muito cuidado quando você inverter a marcha inexorável do progresso que vai do índio ao branco passando pelo mestiço. Quando você procura voltar de mestiço para índio como faz o onceiro do conto, você termina morto por uma bala disparada por um revólver de branco.

Tudo que foge da lógica da anexação, da incorporação, da integração, é eliminado. Brasileiro gosta de mistura, desde que ninguém ameace a nossa cosmovisão e epistemologia ocidentais.

3.

Em Tristes trópicos, Claude Levi-Strauss lembra de uma conversa que teve com o embaixador do Brasil na França, Luís de Sousa Dantas, ocorrida em 1934, na qual o diplomata brasileiro havia comunicado a Levi-Strauss que não existia mais índios no Brasil. Haviam sido todos eles dizimados pelos portugueses, lamentava Sousa Dantas. E assim concluía: o Brasil seria interessante para um sociólogo, mas não para um antropólogo, pois Levi-Strauss não encontraria em nosso país um índio sequer. Nós não sabemos se Sousa Dantas nega a existência dos índios por ignorância, ou simplesmente para ocultar um aspecto do país que o diplomata brasileiro certamente considerava “arcaico”, uma vez que a existência de “primitivos” não bendizia os padrões civilizatórios da nação diante de um estudioso europeu.

Mas quem de nós nunca agiu como Sousa Dantas? Qual foi o brasileiro que, no exterior, nunca se indignou com uma pergunta de um gringo mal-informado que sugeria que nós tivéssemos hábitos próximos ao dos índios? Eis o motivo de nossa indignação: como podem nos confundir com tupiniquins (palavra usada pejorativamente por nós brasileiros para nos definirmos como povo atrasado), se nós somos industrializados, urbanizados, temos carros, trânsito infernal, sofremos com poluição e tomamos Prozac para resolver nossos problemas emocionais? Em outras palavras, como podem nos acusar de “primitivos” se desfrutamos de todas estas maravilhas da civilização moderna?

Se por um lado, hoje, os brasileiros sabemos da existência empírica dos índios, por outro lado, negamos sua existência como nossos contemporâneos, e essa é a raíz da indignação diante de uma possível confusão entre nós, brasileiros, e um povo que, na cabeça de tantos, ainda não evoluiu. Ora, de todos os esforços pedagógicos para descolonizar o imaginário brasileiro, talvez esse seja o mais importante: de mostrar como nós precisamos urgentemente do diálogo com os índios. Devemos abandonar a ótica paternalista (do Estado brasileiro) que infantiliza o índio, enxergando-o como artefato do antiquário nacional, que para alguns deve ser incorporado à nação, enquanto para outros deve ser preservado tal como está. Esse é um falso dilema, pois reifica o índio. Devemos, sim, estabelecer com os índios uma relação de interlocução, com a qual temos muito que aprender.

Nossa civilização criou formas de vida que beiram a inviabilidade. Emporcalhamos nossas cidades; poluímos nosso mar, nossos rios, nosso ar; destruímos nossa natureza; criamos necessidades que nunca serão preenchidas a contento, gerando inúmeras frustrações, tamanha é a roda-viva do consumismo que determina nosso estilo de vida. Segundo Celso Furtado (que hoje, graças a Dilma Rousseff, dá nome a um petroleiro), no seu O mito do desenvolvimento econômico, “[o] custo, em termos de depredação do mundo físico, desse estilo de vida é de tal forma elevado que toda tentativa de generalizá-lo levaria inexoravelmente ao colapso de toda uma civilização, pondo em risco as possibilidades de sobrevivência da espécie humana.” Quanto mais universalizamos nosso consumismo predador, mais rápido destruímos nosso ambiente e planeta. O que teríamos a aprender, afinal, com os índios?

O que dizer de um povo que vive há milênios em co-adaptação com o ecossistema amazônico, tirando da floresta o sustento da vida, em vez de tirar a floresta de sua vida (uso aqui o jogo de palavras do próprio texto de Viveiros de Castro)? Os índios são radicalmente cosmopolitas. A palavra “cosmopolita” quer dizer “cidadão do mundo”. Cosmos, na filosofia grega significa “universo organizado de maneira regular e integrada”. Se permanecermos fiéis à etimologia da palavra, cosmopolita seria então o cidadão de um universo harmonioso (cosmo é o antônimo de caos). Por anos, filósofos antigos e modernos têm pensado o termo “cosmopolitismo” como uma técnica de convivência entre povos. O cosmopolitismo radical dos índios nada mais é que uma técnica de convivência e co-adaptação com o cosmo – o universo, o ambiente, o planeta. A destruição do planeta hoje parece mais plausível em decorrência da falta do cosmopolitismo radical dos índios do que do cosmopolitismo dos filósofos. O que teríamos a aprender com os índios? Algo muito simples e complexo: aprender a habitar o planeta.

4.

Pensar o índio no Brasil é particularmente difícil, pois as representações que temos do índio o colocam além da alteridade. O “outro” da cultura brasileira – narrada, claro, da posição do letrado urbano euro-brasileiro – é, com o perdão da redundância, outro. Ou melhor, são outros: o sertanejo, o retirante, o negro, o favelado.

Investigando sobre os motivos que levaram a esquerda brasileira a negligenciar o índio, Pádua Fernandes lembra que a esquerda revolucionária dos anos 70 – de onde saiu boa parte do Partido dos Trabalhadores – discutia a relação entre cidade e campo, mas era incapaz de pensar a floresta. Em parte, isso se deve à importação direta das categorias euromarxistas (e, claro, graças ao abismo das Tordesilhas, que separa o Brasil da América Hispânica; a esquerda brasileira nunca deu muita bola para o indo-socialismo do peruano José Carlos Mariátegui). No entanto, mais do que ser um problema de cegueira por parte de segmentos da esquerda, a invisibilidade do índio talvez se remeta à maneira como pensamos o “povo” brasileiro, dentro do paradigma nacional-popular.

De acordo com esse paradigma, que estruturou a imaginação brasileira durante o século 20, o povo é o sertanejo de Os sertões, “rocha da nacionalidade”; o negro de Casa-grande & senzala e da vasta bibliografia sociológica e historiográfica que veio a seguir; os retirantes desesperados Manuel e Rosa de Deus e o diabo na terra do sol; o ingênuo Fabiano de Vidas Secas; a comovente Macabéa de A hora da estrela, além de tantos outros personagens e temas das nossas produções culturais. A consciência social do letrado urbano brasileiro foi construída a partir da ideia de que o povo brasileiro – na sua imensa maioria pobre, desassistido, negromestiço – necessita ser integrado à modernidade, à cidadania plena, a um sistema educacional justo e ao conforto material.

A eleição do presidente Lula em 2002 talvez tenha sido o evento mais importante de nossa democracia exatamente porque mexeu profundamente com nossa imaginação nacional-popular: pela primeira vez, o povo assumia o poder. Fabiano, Macabéa, Manuel e Rosa estavam todos representados na figura carismática de Lula. E não se pode negar que o governo Lula muito melhorou a vida do “povo brasileiro”, garantindo acesso a bens e direitos antes impensáveis. O progresso finalmente havia chegado ao andar de baixo, que agora podia comprar televisão, andar de avião e até passear de cruzeiro. Nunca antes na história desse país, o povo esteve mais integrado aos padrões de consumo do mundo civilizado.

O mesmo governo que tanto fez para tanta gente (e atuou como uma força descolonizadora no tocante às ações afirmativas e na introdução de história africana no ensino médio), é aquele que age como um poder colonizador na Amazônia, e aliado objetivo dos fazendeiros do agronegócio no Mato Grosso do Sul. Desse modo, o Estado e seus sócios ocupam a terra com prerrogativa desenvolvimentista, como se fosse um território vazio, pronto para o usufruto dos agentes econômicos. Nada muito diferente dos bandeirantes. O que antes vinha coberto com retórica de missão civilizatória cristã, agora é celebrado como a chegada do progresso. Nos dois tipos de bandeirantismo, a destruição vem justificada por um discurso de salvação. O índio que habita nessas terras é tratado simplesmente como obstáculo que deve ser removido em nome do progresso da nação (progresso no caso representa: carne de gado no Mato Grosso e energia elétrica para indústrias do alumínio na Amazônia).

O índio apresenta um desafio para o pensamento da esquerda no Brasil. Um desafio que ainda não foi pensado como desafio, pois a esquerda ainda enxerga a “questão indígena” como umproblema que deve ser resolvido. O desafio, ao contrário do problema, não exige uma resolução, mas uma autorreflexão. Os índios nos fazem repensar nosso modo de vida, e até mesmo o conceito de nação. Como salientei, o índio não se insere na matriz nacional-popular que mobiliza tanto a nossa imaginação. E não se insere nela pois, ao contrário do retirante, do favelado, do pobre, do negro, o índio não está buscando integração à modernidade (a grande promessa do lulismo às massas). Os índios parecem querer reconhecimento do seu modo de vida (como se pode ver nessa entrevista de Davi Kopenawa). E, para viver do jeito que sabem viver, é necessário garantir as condições mínimas de possibilidade para sua vida: terra e rios que não sejam dizimados pela usina de Belo Monte, nem pelo garimpo; segurança e tranquilidade para não serem acossados pelos capangas do agronegócio, como no Mato Grosso do Sul. Essas são as grandes lutas hoje.

A luta pelos direitos indígenas vai muito além de uma quitação da nossa dívida histórica. Mais do que um acerto de contas com nosso passado, a garantia dos direitos constitucionais dos índios é imprescindível para o nosso futuro. Precisamos cada dia mais da sabedoria desses cosmopolitas radicais, se quisermos repensar e refundar os pressupostos de nossa existência planetária.

Antropofagia em cena (Fapesp)

Com mais de 50 anos de atuação, Teatro Oficina agora faz pesquisa voltada para a intervenção urbana

GUSTAVO FIORATTI | Edição 199 – Setembro de 2012

Zé Celso em cena de “A terra”, de 2001, trilogia de “Os sertões”: fundador do Oficina continua sempre presente. © MARILIA HALLA

A fachada do Teatro Oficina na rua Jaceguai – uma estreita via de acesso 
à 9 de Julho no bairro do Bixiga, em São Paulo – tem a simplicidade de uma garagem. Quando a pesada porta da entrada se abre, revela-se então uma estrutura que em nada lembra a de um teatro convencional: lá dentro, uma espécie de passarela, comprida, corre por entre duas arquibancadas de aço e madeira.

Nada de cortinas, nada de palco, nada de poltronas. Quem percorre esse corredor nota um leve declive em direção aos fundos. À esquerda, ao lado de uma das arquibancadas e já no meio do percurso, uma imensa janela 
de vidro tem vista para os edifícios do bairro.

A arquiteta italiana Lina Bo Bardi projetou o espaço nos anos 1980 para que o diretor José Celso Martinez Corrêa, hoje com 75 anos, pudesse desenvolver uma linha de trabalho que tem um pé na arena grega e outro no Carnaval. Os espetáculos apresentados ali ocupam não só a passarela; costumam espalhar-se por todos os cantos. Não raro, o lugar da plateia é também o lugar da cena, e o público entra na dança.

José Celso está sempre presente, muitas vezes em cena, com cabelos brancos 
e roupas claras. “O ‘Teato’ é uma feitiçaria que engole o enfeitiçamento geral 
com que a sociedade de espetáculos, com o fetiche da mercadoria, escraviza a humanidade. Nós queremos nos ‘desvoduzar’. Trazer sopros que invertam as equações abstratas dominantes”, diz ele.

O rei da vela, de 1967: pesquisa voltada para o teatro épico. © DIVULGAÇÃO / ARQUIVO TEATRO OFICINA

O diretor grafa a palavra teatro sempre sem o “r” – ou com o “r” entre parênteses – para conjugar a sílaba “te” à palavra “ato”. Diz que ato 
e representação não são coisas iguais, ampliando o sentido da mimese, do texto decorado, para um trabalho performático com ares de celebração dionisíaca. 
A última peça do Teatro  Oficina, Macumba antropófaga, tem esse perfil: o espetáculo começava dentro do teatro e partia para a rua. Descia a rua Jaceguai e, por entre becos, casas, ruelas da vizinhança, prosseguia com atores conduzindo performancesao som de bumbos, pandeiros e declamações.

É um momento atual do grupo, que José Celso considera fazer parte “da descoberta do teatro como intervenção urbana”. 
O que não muda é a diretriz estabelecida por uma referência fundamental: 
a obra do escritor Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954), especialmente seu Manifesto antropófago.

A redescoberta de Oswald “foi a revolução cultural mais importante da segunda metade do século XX”, diz o diretor, em referência ao movimento Tropicalista. “Ninguém o conhecida, nem Glauber [Rocha, cineasta], nem Caetano [Veloso], nem Gil [Gilberto Gil] nem o Hélio Oiticica [artista plástico]; a antena de Oswald nos ligou neste movimento definitivo de descolonização da língua, do corpo, da arte”, prossegue.

O Oficina foi fundado em 1958 por José Celso, Renato Borghi e Etti Fraser, entre outros atores. Teve uma primeira fase realista, com pesquisa fundamentada na metodologia do russo Constantin Stanislavski. Após um incêndio que destruiu o teatro por completo, o grupo encenou em 1967 O rei da vela, de Oswald. A peça marca a nova pesquisa, voltada para o teatro épico do alemão Bertolt Brecht.

“As bacantes”, de 1996, em reapresentação de 2010. © ARTHUR MAX

O grupo se desfez em parte por conta da situação política – a ditadura militar leva José Celso para o exílio, após 20 dias de prisão por conta de manifestos contra o regime – e em parte por desacordos entre os integrantes. O diretor retornou ao Brasil em 1978 e se seguiu o período da retomada de seu trabalho. Retomada lenta e gradual, agora sim articulada à parceria com a arquiteta Lina Bo Bardi.

A reabertura do repertório do Oficina ocorreu em 1991, com o espetáculo As boas, com texto de Jean Genet e com Raul Cortez no elenco. Ham-let (1993), baseado na obra de Shakespeare, e As bacantes (1996), de Eurípedes, aprofundam a inspiração na mitologia grega de Dionísio, deus dos prazeres, da loucura, do vinho, do sexo. O Oficina firma seu terreno na celebração da nudez, do corpo e da carne como ponte para um gozo espiritual.

É uma linha de pesquisa que resulta em espetáculos longos, muitas vezes com até quatro horas de duração. Assim era Cacilda!, de 1998, baseada na vida e no trabalho da atriz Cacilda Becker, e a trilogia de Os sertões, adaptação da obra de Euclides da Cunha, de modo que o original era dividido em três partes: A terra, 
O homem e A luta. Houve sessões que reuniam esses três espetáculos, com mais 
de 10 horas de duração. Uma delas foi apresentada no mesmo município da Bahia onde houve o massacre de Canudos, narrado no livro de Euclides da Cunha.

Reciprocity an Important Component of Prosocial Behavior: Scorekeeping of Past Favors Isn’t, However, a Factor (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Sep. 3, 2012) — While exchanging favors with others, humans tend to think in terms of tit-for-tat, an assumption easily extended to other animals. As a result, reciprocity is often viewed as a cognitive feat requiring memory, perhaps even calculation. But what if the process is simpler, not only in other animals but in humans as well?

Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have determined monkeys may gain the advantages of reciprocal exchange of favors without necessarily keeping precise track of past favors. Malini Suchak, a graduate student at Emory University, and Frans de Waal, PhD, director of the Living Links Center at Yerkes and C.H. Candler Professor of Psychology at Emory, led the study. Their findings will appear in an Early Online Edition of theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

“Prosocial is defined as a motivation to assist others regardless of benefits for self, explained Suchak. “We used a prosocial choice test to study whether direct reciprocity could promote generosity among brown capuchin monkeys. We found one monkey willing to do another favors if the first monkey was the only one to choose, and we found the monkeys became even more prosocial if they could alternate and help each other. We did not find any evidence that the monkeys paid close attention to each other’s past choices, so they were prosocial regardless of what their partner had just done,” she continued.

Suchak and de Waal suggest the synchronization of the same actions in alternation creates a more positive attitude the same way humans who row a boat together or work toward a shared goal develop a more positive attitude about each other.

Another interesting finding according to the researchers is the capuchin monkeys were prosocial whether they were paired with a familiar partner from their own group {in-group} or a partner from a different social group {out-group}.

According to de Waal, “This research has several implications for better understanding human behavior. First, we observed an increase in prosocial behavior as a result of reciprocity, but the monkeys did not develop a contingency between their own and their partners’ behaviors. Like humans, the capuchins may have understood the benefits of reciprocity and used this understanding to maximize their own benefits. Second, that the capuchins responded similarly to in-group and out-group partners has implications for the commonly held view that humans are unique in their ability to cooperate with strangers,” de Waal explained.

According to the researchers, capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) are ideal subjects for this type of study given the numerous observations of cooperative and prosocial behavior in the field, their sensitivity to other monkeys’ efforts in coordination experiments, and their robust, spontaneous prosocial behavior in the prosocial choice test compared with, for example, chimpanzees, which seem more sensitive to methodological variables.

In this study, the researchers tested 12 brown capuchin monkeys in pairs on a prosocial choice task. The monkeys had the choice between a selfish token that benefited only them and a prosocial token that benefited themselves and a partner. By comparing each monkey’s behavior with a familiar partner from the monkey’s own group and a partner from a different social group, the researchers examined the influence of each monkey’s relationship outside the experimental context on prosocial behavior. There was no difference between in-group and out-group pairs in any of the test conditions. To test the role of reciprocity, the researchers allowed the monkeys to take turns making choices and found this greatly increased prosocial behavior, but the researchers did not observe any tit-for-tat behavior. The researchers also tested whether the monkeys could overcome their aversion for inequity by creating a situation in which both individuals could provide each other with superior rewards, making reciprocity an even more attractive strategy. The monkeys did, but again without keeping track of each other’s choices. Finally, through a series of control conditions, the researchers established the monkeys were responding to their partners’ behaviors, rather than the rewards delivered by their partners, and that the monkeys understood the values of the tokens and were flexibly responding to changing conditions throughout the test sessions.

This research opens several avenues for future research, including further examining the emergence of reciprocity among humans without the cognition required for tit-for-tat and the tendency to cooperate with out-group partners.

Journal Reference:

  1. Malini Suchak and Frans B. M. de Waal. Monkeys benefit from reciprocity without the cognitive burden.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1213173109

People Merge Supernatural and Scientific Beliefs When Reasoning With the Unknown, Study Shows (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 30, 2012) — Reliance on supernatural explanations for major life events, such as death and illness, often increases rather than declines with age, according to a new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin.

Reliance on supernatural explanations for major life events, such as death and illness, often increases rather than declines with age, according to a new psychology study. (Credit: © Nikki Zalewski / Fotolia)

The study, published in the June issue of Child Development, offers new insight into developmental learning.

“As children assimilate cultural concepts into their intuitive belief systems — from God to atoms to evolution — they engage in coexistence thinking,” said Cristine Legare, assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “When they merge supernatural and scientific explanations, they integrate them in a variety of predictable and universal ways.”

Legare and her colleagues reviewed more than 30 studies on how people (ages 5-75) from various countries reason with three major existential questions: the origin of life, illness and death. They also conducted a study with 366 respondents in South Africa, where biomedical and traditional healing practices are both widely available.

As part of the study, Legare presented the respondents with a variety of stories about people who had AIDS. They were then asked to endorse or reject several biological and supernatural explanations for why the characters in the stories contracted the virus.

According to the findings, participants of all age groups agreed with biological explanations for at least one event. Yet supernatural explanations such as witchcraft were also frequently supported among children (ages 5 and up) and universally among adults.

Among the adult participants, only 26 percent believed the illness could be caused by either biology or witchcraft. And 38 percent split biological and scientific explanations into one theory. For example: “Witchcraft, which is mixed with evil spirits, and unprotected sex caused AIDS.” However, 57 percent combined both witchcraft and biological explanations. For example: “A witch can put an HIV-infected person in your path.”

Legare said the findings contradict the common assumption that supernatural beliefs dissipate with age and knowledge.

“The findings show supernatural explanations for topics of core concern to humans are pervasive across cultures,” Legare said. “If anything, in both industrialized and developing countries, supernatural explanations are frequently endorsed more often among adults than younger children.”

The results provide evidence that reasoning about supernatural phenomena is a fundamental and enduring aspect of human thinking, Legare said.

“The standard assumption that scientific and religious explanations compete should be re-evaluated in light of substantial psychological evidence,” Legare said. “The data, which spans diverse cultural contexts across the lifespan, shows supernatural reasoning is not necessarily replaced with scientific explanations following gains in knowledge, education or technology.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Cristine H. Legare, E. Margaret Evans, Karl S. Rosengren, Paul L. Harris. The Coexistence of Natural and Supernatural Explanations Across Cultures and DevelopmentChild Development, 2012; 83 (3): 779 DOI:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01743.x

Chimpanzees Create ‘Social Traditions’: Unique Handclasp Grooming Behavior Reveals Local Difference (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 28, 2012) — Researchers have revealed that chimpanzees are not only capable of learning from one another, but also use this social information to form and maintain local traditions.

Wrist-to-wrist grooming handclasp. (Credit: Mark Bodamer)

A research collaboration between the Gonzaga University and the Max Planck Institute shows that the way in which chimpanzees groom each other depends on the community to which they belong. Specifically, it is the unique handclasp grooming behaviour that reveals this local difference.

The specific behaviour that the researchers focused on was the ‘grooming handclasp’, a behaviour where two chimpanzees clasp onto each other’s arms, raise those arms up in the air, and groom each other with their free arm. This behaviour has only been observed in some chimpanzee populations. The question remained whether chimpanzees are instinctively inclined to engage in grooming handclasp behaviour, or whether they learn this behaviour from each other and pass it on to subsequent generations.

Edwin van Leeuwen and Katherine Cronin of the Comparative Cognitive Anthropology research group of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics led by Daniel Haun conducted their observations between 2007 and 2012 at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust in Zambia. At Chimfunshi, a mix of wild- and captive-born chimpanzees live in woodlands in some of the largest enclosures in the world. The Max Planck team collaborated with students from Gonzaga University led by Mark Bodamer, a team of local chimpanzee caretakers, and Roger Mundry of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in order to collect and comprehend the detailed chimpanzee data.

Previous research suggested that the grooming handclasp might be a cultural phenomenon, just like humans across cultures engage in different ways of greeting each other. However, these suggestions were primarily based on observations that some chimpanzee communities handclasp and others don’t — not whether there are differences between communities that engage in handclasping. Moreover, the early observations could have been explained by differences in genetic and/or ecological factors between the chimpanzee communities, which precluded the interpretation that the chimpanzees were exhibiting ‘cultural’ differences.

The present research shows that even between chimpanzee communities that engage in the grooming handclasp, subtle yet stable differences exist in the styles that they prefer: one chimpanzee group highly preferred the style where they would grasp each other’s hands during the grooming, while another group engaged much more in a style where they would fold their wrists around each other’s wrists.

“We don’t know what mechanisms account for these differences,” van Leeuwen says. “But our study at least reveals that these chimpanzee communities formed and maintained their own local grooming traditions over the last 5 years. Our observations may also indicate that chimpanzees can overcome their innate predispositions, potentially allowing them to manipulate their environment based on social constructs rather than on mere instincts.”

Apart from the different style preferences of the chimpanzee communities, the research team also observed that the grooming handclasp behaviour was a long-lasting part of the chimpanzees’ behavioural repertoire: the behaviour was even transmitted to the next generation of potential handclaspers.

“By following the chimpanzees over time, we were able to show that 20 young chimpanzees gradually developed the handclasp behaviour over the course of the five-year study. The first handclasps by young individuals were mostly in partnership with their mothers. These observations support the conclusion that these chimpanzees socially learn their local tradition, and that this might be evidence of social culture,” Bodamer explains.

“Continued monitoring of these groups of chimpanzees will shed light on the question of how these group-traditions are maintained over time and potentially even why the chimpanzees like to raise their arms up in the air during social grooming in the first place,” van Leeuwen adds.

Journal Reference:

  1. Edwin J. C. van Leeuwen, Katherine A. Cronin, Daniel B. M. Haun, Roger Mundry and Mark D. Bodamer. Neighbouring chimpanzee communities show different preferences in social grooming behaviourProceedings of the Royal Society B, August 29, 2012

Climate Science as Culture War (Stanford Social Innovation Review)

ENVIRONMENT

The public debate around climate change is no longer about science—it’s about values, culture, and ideology.

By Andrew J. Hoffman | 18 | Fall 2012

earth_first_members_environmentSouth Florida Earth First members protest outside the Platts Coal Properties and Investment Conference in West Palm Beach. (Photo by Bruce R. Bennett/Zum Press/Newscom)

In May 2009, a development officer at the University of Michigan asked me to meet with a potential donor—a former football player and now successful businessman who had an interest in environmental issues and business, my interdisciplinary area of expertise. The meeting began at 7 a.m., and while I was still nursing my first cup of coffee, the potential donor began the conversation with “I think the scientific review process is corrupt.” I asked what he thought of a university based on that system, and he said that he thought that the university was then corrupt, too. He went on to describe the science of climate change as a hoax, using all the familiar lines of attack—sunspots and solar flares, the unscientific and politically flawed consensus model, and the environmental benefits of carbon dioxide.

As we debated each point, he turned his attack on me, asking why I hated capitalism and why I wanted to destroy the economy by teaching environmental issues in a business school. Eventually, he asked if I knew why Earth Day was on April 22. I sighed as he explained, “Because it is Karl Marx’s birthday.” (I suspect he meant to say Vladimir Lenin, whose birthday is April 22, also Earth Day. This linkage has been made by some on the far right who believe that Earth Day is a communist plot, even though Lenin never promoted environmentalism and communism does not have a strong environmental legacy.)

I turned to the development officer and asked, “What’s our agenda here this morning?” The donor interrupted to say that he wanted to buy me a ticket to the Heartland Institute’s Fourth Annual Conference on Climate Change, the leading climate skeptics conference. I checked my calendar and, citing prior commitments, politely declined. The meeting soon ended.

I spent the morning trying to make sense of the encounter. At first, all I could see was a bait and switch; the donor had no interest in funding research in business and the environment, but instead wanted to criticize the effort. I dismissed him as an irrational zealot, but the meeting lingered in my mind. The more I thought about it, the more I began to see that he was speaking from a coherent and consistent worldview—one I did not agree with, but which was a coherent viewpoint nonetheless. Plus, he had come to evangelize me. The more I thought about it, the more I became eager to learn about where he was coming from, where I was coming from, and why our two worldviews clashed so strongly in the present social debate over climate science. Ironically, in his desire to challenge my research, he stimulated a new research stream, one that fit perfectly with my broader research agenda on social, institutional, and cultural change.

Scientific vs. Social Consensus

Today, there is no doubt that a scientific consensus exists on the issue of climate change. Scientists have documented that anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases are leading to a buildup in the atmosphere, which leads to a general warming of the global climate and an alteration in the statistical distribution of localized weather patterns over long periods of time. This assessment is endorsed by a large body of scientific agencies—including every one of the national scientific agencies of the G8 + 5 countries—and by the vast majority of climatologists. The majority of research articles published in refereed scientific journals also support this scientific assessment. Both the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science use the word “consensus” when describing the state of climate science.

And yet a social consensus on climate change does not exist. Surveys show that the American public’s belief in the science of climate change has mostly declined over the past five years, with large percentages of the population remaining skeptical of the science. Belief declined from 71 percent to 57 percent between April 2008 and October 2009, according to an October 2009 Pew Research Center poll; more recently, belief rose to 62 percent, according to a February 2012 report by the National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change. Such a significant number of dissenters tells us that we do not have a set of socially accepted beliefs on climate change—beliefs that emerge, not from individual preferences, but from societal norms; beliefs that represent those on the political left, right, and center as well as those whose cultural identifications are urban, rural, religious, agnostic, young, old, ethnic, or racial.

Why is this so? Why do such large numbers of Americans reject the consensus of the scientific community? With upwards of two-thirds of Americans not clearly understanding science or the scientific process and fewer able to pass even a basic scientific literacy test, according to a 2009 California Academy of Sciences survey, we are left to wonder: How do people interpret and validate the opinions of the scientific community? The answers to this question can be found, not from the physical sciences, but from the social science disciplines of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and others.

To understand the processes by which a social consensus can emerge on climate change, we must understand that people’s opinions on this and other complex scientific issues are based on their prior ideological preferences, personal experience, and values—all of which are heavily influenced by their referent groups and their individual psychology. Physical scientists may set the parameters for understanding the technical aspects of the climate debate, but they do not have the final word on whether society accepts or even understands their conclusions. The constituency that is relevant in the social debate goes beyond scientific experts. And the processes by which this constituency understands and assesses the science of climate change go far beyond its technical merits. We must acknowledge that the debate over climate change, like almost all environmental issues, is a debate over culture, worldviews, and ideology.

This fact can be seen most vividly in the growing partisan divide over the issue. Political affiliation is one of the strongest correlates with individual uncertainty about climate change, not scientific knowledge.1 The percentage of conservatives and Republicans who believe that the effects of global warming have already begun declined from roughly 50 percent in 2001 to about 30 percent in 2010, while the corresponding percentage for liberals and Democrats increased from roughly 60 percent in 2001 to about 70 percent in 2010.2 (See “The Growing Partisan Divide over Climate Change,” below.)

 

Climate change has become enmeshed in the so-called culture wars. Acceptance of the scientific consensus is now seen as an alignment with liberal views consistent with other “cultural” issues that divide the country (abortion, gun control, health care, and evolution). This partisan divide on climate change was not the case in the 1990s. It is a recent phenomenon, following in the wake of the 1997 Kyoto Treaty that threatened the material interests of powerful economic and political interests, particularly members of the fossil fuel industry.3 The great danger of a protracted partisan divide is that the debate will take the form of what I call a “logic schism,” a breakdown in debate in which opposing sides are talking about completely different cultural issues.4

This article seeks to delve into the climate change debate through the lens of the social sciences. I take this approach not because the physical sciences have become less relevant, but because we need to understand the social and psychological processes by which people receive and understand the science of global warming. I explain the cultural dimensions of the climate debate as it is currently configured, outline three possible paths by which the debate can progress, and describe specific techniques that can drive that debate toward broader consensus. This goal is imperative, for without a broader consensus on climate change in the United States, Americans and people around the globe will be unable to formulate effective social, political, and economic solutions to the changing circumstances of our planet.

Cultural Processing of Climate Science

When analyzing complex scientific information, people are “boundedly rational,” to use Nobel Memorial Prize economist Herbert Simon’s phrase; we are “cognitive misers,” according to UCLA psychologist Susan Fiske and Princeton University psychologist Shelley Taylor, with limited cognitive ability to fully investigate every issue we face. People everywhere employ ideological filters that reflect their identity, worldview, and belief systems. These filters are strongly influenced by group values, and we generally endorse the position that most directly reinforces the connection we have with others in our referent group—what Yale Law School professor Dan Kahan refers to as “cultural cognition.” In so doing, we cement our connection with our cultural groups and strengthen our definition of self. This tendency is driven by an innate desire to maintain a consistency in beliefs by giving greater weight to evidence and arguments that support preexisting beliefs, and by expending disproportionate energy trying to refute views or arguments that are contrary to those beliefs. Instead of investigating a complex issue, we often simply learn what our referent group believes and seek to integrate those beliefs with our own views.

Over time, these ideological filters become increasingly stable and resistant to change through multiple reinforcing mechanisms. First, we’ll consider evidence when it is accepted or, ideally, presented by a knowledgeable source from our cultural community; and we’ll dismiss information that is advocated by sources that represent groups whose values we reject. Second, we will selectively choose information sources that support our ideological position. For example, frequent viewers of Fox News are more likely to say that the Earth’s temperature has not been rising, that any temperature increase is not due to human activities, and that addressing climate change would have deleterious effects on the economy.5 One might expect the converse to be true of National Public Radio listeners. The result of this cultural processing and group cohesion dynamics leads to two overriding conclusions about the climate change debate.

First, climate change is not a “pollution” issue. Although the US Supreme Court decided in 2007 that greenhouse gases were legally an air pollutant, in a cultural sense, they are something far different. The reduction of greenhouse gases is not the same as the reduction of sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, or particulates. These forms of pollution are man-made, they are harmful, and they are the unintended waste products of industrial production. Ideally, we would like to eliminate their production through the mobilization of economic and technical resources. But the chief greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is both man-made and natural. It is not inherently harmful; it is a natural part of the natural systems; and we do not desire to eliminate its production. It is not a toxic waste or a strictly technical problem to be solved. Rather, it is an endemic part of our society and who we are. To a large degree, it is a highly desirable output, as it correlates with our standard of living. Greenhouse gas emissions rise with a rise in a nation’s wealth, something all people want. To reduce carbon dioxide requires an alteration in nearly every facet of the economy, and therefore nearly every facet of our culture. To recognize greenhouse gases as a problem requires us to change a great deal about how we view the world and ourselves within it. And that leads to the second distinction.

Climate change is an existential challenge to our contemporary worldviews. The cultural challenge of climate change is enormous and threefold, each facet leading to the next. The first facet is that we have to think of a formerly benign, even beneficial, material in a new way—as a relative, not absolute, hazard. Only in an imbalanced concentration does it become problematic. But to understand and accept this, we need to conceive of the global ecosystem in a new way.

This challenge leads us to the second facet: Not only do we have to change our view of the ecosystem, but we also have to change our view of our place within it. Have we as a species grown to such numbers, and has our technology grown to such power, that we can alter and manage the ecosystem on a planetary scale? This is an enormous cultural question that alters our worldviews. As a result, some see the question and subsequent answer as intellectual and spiritual hubris, but others see it as self-evident.

If we answer this question in the affirmative, the third facet challenges us to consider new and perhaps unprecedented forms of global ethics and governance to address it. Climate change is the ultimate “commons problem,” as ecologist Garrett Hardin defined it, where every individual has an incentive to emit greenhouse gases to improve her standard of living, but the costs of this activity are borne by all. Unfortunately, the distribution of costs in this global issue is asymmetrical, with vulnerable populations in poor countries bearing the larger burden. So we need to rethink our ethics to keep pace with our technological abilities. Does mowing the lawn or driving a fuel-inefficient car in Ann Arbor, Mich., have ethical implications for the people living in low-lying areas of Bangladesh? If you accept anthropogenic climate change, then the answer to this question is yes, and we must develop global institutions to reflect that recognition. This is an issue of global ethics and governance on a scale that we have never seen, affecting virtually every economic activity on the globe and requiring the most complicated and intrusive global agreement ever negotiated.

Taken together, these three facets of our existential challenge illustrate the magnitude of the cultural debate that climate change provokes. Climate change challenges us to examine previously unexamined beliefs and worldviews. It acts as a flash point (albeit a massive one) for deeper cultural and ideological conflicts that lie at the root of many of our environmental problems, and it includes differing conceptions of science, economics, religion, psychology, media, development, and governance. It is a proxy for “deeper conflicts over alternative visions of the future and competing centers of authority in society,” as University of East Anglia climatologist Mike Hulme underscores in Why We Disagree About Climate Change. And, as such, it provokes a violent debate among cultural communities on one side who perceive their values to be threatened by change, and cultural communities on the other side who perceive their values to be threatened by the status quo.

Three Ways Forward

If the public debate over climate change is no longer about greenhouse gases and climate models, but about values, worldviews, and ideology, what form will this clash of ideologies take? I see three possible forms.

The Optimistic Form is where people do not have to change their values at all. In other words, the easiest way to eliminate the common problems of climate change is to develop technological solutions that do not require major alterations to our values, worldviews, or behavior: carbon-free renewable energy, carbon capture and sequestration technologies, geo-engineering, and others. Some see this as an unrealistic future. Others see it as the only way forward, because people become attached to their level of prosperity, feel entitled to keep it, and will not accept restraints or support government efforts to impose restraints.6Government-led investment in alternative energy sources, therefore, becomes more acceptable than the enactment of regulations and taxes to reduce fossil fuel use.

The Pessimistic Form is where people fight to protect their values. This most dire outcome results in a logic schism, where opposing sides debate different issues, seek only information that supports their position and disconfirms the others’, and even go so far as to demonize the other. University of Colorado, Boulder, environmental scientist Roger Pielke in The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics describes the extreme of such schisms as “abortion politics,” where the two sides are debating completely different issues and “no amount of scientific information … can reconcile the different values.” Consider, for example, the recent decision by the Heartland Institute to post a billboard in Chicago comparing those who believe in climate change with the Unabomber. In reply, climate activist groups posted billboards attacking Heartland and its financial supporters. This attack-counterattack strategy is symptomatic of a broken public discourse over climate change.

The Consensus-Based Form involves a reasoned societal debate, focused on the full scope of technical and social dimensions of the problem and the feasibility and desirability of multiple solutions. It is this form to which scientists have the most to offer, playing the role of what Pielke calls the “honest broker”—a person who can “integrate scientific knowledge with stakeholder concerns to explore alternative possible courses of action.” Here, resolution is found through a focus on its underlying elements, moving away from positions (for example, climate change is or is not happening), and toward the underlying interests and values at play. How do we get there? Research in negotiation and dispute resolution can offer techniques for moving forward.

Techniques for a Consensus-Based Discussion

In seeking a social consensus on climate change, discussion must move beyond a strict focus on the technical aspects of the science to include its cultural underpinnings. Below are eight techniques for overcoming the ideological filters that underpin the social debate about climate change.

Know your audience | Any message on climate change must be framed in a way that fits with the cultural norms of the target audience. The 2011 study Climate Change in the American Mind segments the American public into six groups based on their views on climate change science. (See “Six Americas,” below.) On the two extremes are the climate change “alarmed” and “dismissive.” Consensus-based discussion is not likely open to these groups, as they are already employing logic schism tactics that are closed to debate or engagement. The polarity of these groups is well known: On the one side, climate change is a hoax, humans have no impact on the climate, and nothing is happening; on the other side, climate change is an imminent crisis that will devastate the Earth, and human activity explains all climate changes.

climate_change_chart_six_americas 

The challenge is to move the debate away from the loud minorities at the extremes and to engage the majority in the middle—the “concerned,” the “cautious,” the “disengaged,” and the “doubtful.” People in these groups are more open to consensus-based debate, and through direct engagement can be separated from the ideological extremes of their cultural community.

Ask the right scientific questions | For a consensus-based discussion, climate change science should be presented not as a binary yes or no question,7 but as a series of six questions. Some are scientific in nature, with associated levels of uncertainty and probability; others are matters of scientific judgment.

  • Are greenhouse gas concentrations increasing in the atmosphere? Yes. This is a scientific question, based on rigorous data and measurements of atmospheric chemistry and science.
  • Does this increase lead to a general warming of the planet? Yes. This is also a scientific question; the chemical mechanics of the greenhouse effect and “negative radiative forcing” are well established.
  • Has climate changed over the past century? Yes. Global temperature increases have been rigorously measured through multiple techniques and strongly supported by multiple scientific analyses.In fact, as Yale University economist William Nordhaus wrote in the March 12, 2012, New York Times, “The finding that global temperatures are rising over the last century-plus is one of the most robust findings in climate science and statistics.”
  • Are humans partially responsible for this increase? The answer to this question is a matter of scientific judgment. Increases in global mean temperatures have a very strong correlation with increases in man-made greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution. Although science cannot confirm causation, fingerprint analysis of multiple possible causes has been examined, and the only plausible explanation is that of human-induced temperature changes. Until a plausible alternative hypothesis is presented, this explanation prevails for the scientific community.
  • Will the climate continue to change over the next century? Again, this question is a matter of scientific judgment. But given the answers to the previous four questions, it is reasonable to believe that continued increases in greenhouse gases will lead to continued changes in the climate.
  • What will be the environmental and social impact of such change? This is the scientific question with the greatest uncertainty. The answer comprises a bell curve of possible outcomes and varying associated probabilities, from low to extreme impact. Uncertainty in this variation is due to limited current data on the Earth’s climate system, imperfect modeling of these physical processes, and the unpredictability of human actions that can both exasperate or moderate the climate shifts. These uncertainties make predictions difficult and are an area in which much debate can take place. And yet the physical impacts of climate change are already becoming visible in ways that are consistent with scientific modeling, particularly in Greenland, the Arctic, the Antarctic, and low-lying islands.

In asking these questions, a central consideration is whether people recognize the level of scientific consensus associated with each one. In fact, studies have shown that people’s support for climate policies and action are linked to their perceptions about scientific agreement. Still, the belief that “most scientists think global warming is happening” declined from 47 percent to 39 percent among Americans between 2008 and 2011.8

Move beyond data and models | Climate skepticism is not a knowledge deficit issue. Michigan State University sociologist Aaron McCright and Oklahoma State University sociologist Riley Dunlap have observed that increased education and self-reported understanding of climate science have been shown to correlate with lower concern among conservatives and Republicans and greater concern among liberals and Democrats. Research also has found that once people have made up their minds on the science of the climate issue, providing continued scientific evidence actually makes them more resolute in resisting conclusions that are at variance with their cultural beliefs.9 One needs to recognize that reasoning is suffused with emotion and people often use reasoning to reach a predetermined end that fits their cultural worldviews. When people hear about climate change, they may, for example, hear an implicit criticism that their lifestyle is the cause of the issue or that they are morally deficient for not recognizing it. But emotion can be a useful ally; it can create the abiding commitments needed to sustain action on the difficult issue of climate change. To do this, people must be convinced that something can be done to address it; that the challenge is not too great nor are its impacts preordained. The key to engaging people in a consensus-driven debate about climate change is to confront the emotionality of the issue and then address the deeper ideological values that may be threatened to create this emotionality.

Focus on broker frames | People interpret information by fitting it to preexisting narratives or issue categories that mesh with their worldview. Therefore information must be presented in a form that fits those templates, using carefully researched metaphors, allusions, and examples that trigger a new way of thinking about the personal relevance of climate change. To be effective, climate communicators must use the language of the cultural community they are engaging. For a business audience, for example, one must use business terminology, such as net present value, return on investment, increased consumer demand, and rising raw material costs.

More generally, one can seek possible broker frames that move away from a pessimistic appeal to fear and instead focus on optimistic appeals that trigger the emotionality of a desired future. In addressing climate change, we are asking who we strive to be as a people, and what kind of world we want to leave our children. To gain buy-in, one can stress American know-how and our capacity to innovate, focusing on activities already under way by cities, citizens, and businesses.10

This approach frames climate change mitigation as a gain rather than a loss to specific cultural groups. Research has shown that climate skepticism can be caused by a motivational tendency to defend the status quo based on the prior assumption that any change will be painful. But by encouraging people to regard pro-environmental change as patriotic and consistent with protecting the status quo, it can be framed as a continuation rather than a departure from the past.

Specific broker frames can be used that engage the interests of both sides of the debate. For example, when US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu referred in November 2010 to advances in renewable energy technology in China as the United States’ “Sputnik moment,” he was framing climate change as a common threat to US scientific and economic competitiveness. When Pope Benedict XVI linked the threat of climate change with threats to life and dignity on New Year’s Day 2010, he was painting it as an issue of religious morality. When CNA’s Military Advisory Board, a group of elite retired US military officers, called climate change a “threat multiplier” in its 2006 report, it was using a national security frame. When the Lancet Commission pronounced climate change to be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century in a 2009 article, the organization was using a quality of life frame. And when the Center for American Progress, a progressive Washington, D.C., think tank, connected climate change to the conservation ideals of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, they were framing the issue as consistent with Republican values.

One broker frame that deserves particular attention is the replacement of uncertainty or probability of climate change with the risk of climate change.11 People understand low probability, high consequence events and the need to address them. For example, they buy fire insurance for their homes even though the probability of a fire is low, because they understand that the financial consequence is too great. In the same way, climate change for some may be perceived as a low risk, high consequence event, so the prudent course of action is to obtain insurance in the form of both behavioral and technological change.

Recognize the power of language and terminology | Words have multiple meanings in different communities, and terms can trigger unintended reactions in a target audience. For example, one study has shown that Republicans were less likely to think that the phenomenon is real when it is referred to as “global warming” (44 percent) rather than “climate change” (60 percent), but Democrats were unaffected by the term (87 percent vs. 86 percent). So language matters: The partisan divide dropped from 43 percent under a “global warming” frame to 26 percent under a “climate change” frame.12

Other terms with multiple meanings include “climate denier,” which some use to refer to those who are not open to discussion on the issue, and others see as a thinly veiled and highly insulting reference to “Holocaust denier”; “uncertainty,” which is a scientific concept to convey variance or deviation from a specific value, but is interpreted by a lay audience to mean that scientists do not know the answer; and “consensus,” which is the process by which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forms its position, but leads some in the public to believe that climate science is a matter of “opinion” rather than data and modeling.

Overall, the challenge becomes one of framing complex scientific issues in a language that a lay and highly politicized audience can hear. This becomes increasingly challenging when we address some inherently nonintuitive and complex aspects of climate modeling that are hard to explain, such as the importance of feedback loops, time delays, accumulations, and nonlinearities in dynamic systems.13 Unless scientists can accurately convey the nature of climate modeling, others in the social debate will alter their claims to fit their cultural or cognitive perceptions or satisfy their political interests.

Employ climate brokers | People are more likely to feel open to consider evidence when a recognized member of their cultural community presents it.14 Certainly, statements by former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. James Inhofe evoke visceral responses from individuals on either side of the partisan divide. But individuals with credibility on both sides of the debate can act as what I call climate brokers. Because a majority of Republicans do not believe the science of climate change, whereas a majority of Democrats do, the most effective broker would come from the political right. Climate brokers can include representatives from business, the religious community, the entertainment industry, the military, talk show hosts, and politicians who can frame climate change in language that will engage the audience to whom they most directly connect. When people hear about the need to address climate change from their church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, for example, they w ill connect the issue to their moral values. When they hear it from their business leaders and investment managers, they will connect it to their economic interests. And when they hear it from their military leaders, they will connect it to their interest in a safe and secure nation.

Recognize multiple referent groups | The presentation of information can be designed in a fashion that recognizes that individuals are members of multiple referent groups. The underlying frames employed in one cultural community may be at variance with the values dominant within the communities engaged in climate change debate. For example, although some may reject the science of climate change by perceiving the scientific review process to be corrupt as part of one cultural community, they also may recognize the legitimacy of the scientific process as members of other cultural communities (such as users of the modern health care system). Although someone may see the costs of fossil fuel reductions as too great and potentially damaging to the economy as members of one community, they also may see the value in reducing dependence on foreign oil as members of another community who value strong national defense. This frame incongruence emerged in the 2011 US Republican primary as candidate Jon Huntsman warned that Republicans risk becoming the “antiscience party” if they continue to reject the science on climate change. What Huntsman alluded to is that most Americans actually do trust the scientific process, even if they don’t fully understand it. (A 2004 National Science Foundation report found that two thirds of Americans do not clearly understand the scientific process.)

Employ events as leverage for change | Studies have found that most Americans believe that climate change will affect geographically and temporally distant people and places. But studies also have shown that people are more likely to believe in the science when they have an experience with extreme weather phenomena. This has led climate communicators to link climate change to major events, such as Hurricane Katrina, or to more recent floods in the American Midwest and Asia, as well as to droughts in Texas and Africa, to hurricanes along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, and to snowstorms in Western states and New England. The cumulative body of weather evidence, reported by media outlets and linked to climate change, will increase the number of people who are concerned about the issue, see it as less uncertain, and feel more confident that we must take actions to mitigate its effects. For example, in explaining the recent increase in belief in climate change among Americans, the 2012 National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change noted that “about half of Americans now point to observations of temperature changes and weather as the main reasons they believe global warming is taking place.”15

Ending Climate Science Wars

Will we see a social consensus on climate change? If beliefs about the existence of global warming are becoming more ideologically entrenched and gaps between conservatives and liberals are widening, the solution space for resolving the issue will collapse and the debate will be based on power and coercion. In such a scenario, domination by the science-based forces looks less likely than domination by the forces of skepticism, because the former has to “prove” its case while the latter merely needs to cast doubt. But such a polarized outcome is not a predetermined outcome. And if it were to form, it can be reversed.

Is there a reason to be hopeful? When looking for reasons to be hopeful about a social consensus on climate change, I look to public opinion changes around cigarette smoking and cancer. For years, the scientific community recognized that the preponderance of epidemiological and mechanistic data pointed to a link between the habit and the disease. And for years, the public rejected that conclusion. But through a process of political, economic, social, and legal debate over values and beliefs, a social consensus emerged. The general public now accepts that cigarettes cause cancer and governments have set policy to address this. Interestingly, two powerful forces that many see as obstacles to a comparable social consensus on climate change were overcome in the cigarette debate.

The first obstacle is the powerful lobby of industrial forces that can resist a social and political consensus. In the case of the cigarette debate, powerful economic interests mounted a campaign to obfuscate the scientific evidence and to block a social and political consensus. Tobacco companies created their own pro-tobacco science, but eventually the public health community overcame pro-tobacco scientists.

The second obstacle to convincing a skeptical public is the lack of a definitive statement by the scientific community about the future implications of climate change. The 2007 IPCC report states that “Human activities … are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy. … [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is very likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.” Some point to the word “likely” to argue that scientists still don’t know and action in unwarranted. But science is not designed to provide a definitive smoking gun. Remember that the 1964 surgeon general’s report about the dangers of smoking was equally conditional. And even today, we cannot state with scientific certainty that smoking causes lung cancer. Like the global climate, the human body is too complex a system for absolute certainty. We can explain epidemiologically why a person could get cancer from cigarette smoking and statistically how that person will likely get cancer, but, as the surgeon general report explains, “statistical methods cannot establish proof of a causal relationship in an association [between cigarette smoking and lung cancer]. The causal significance of an association is a matter of judgment, which goes beyond any statement of statistical probability.” Yet the general public now accepts this causal linkage.

What will get us there? Although climate brokers are needed from all areas of society—from business, religion, military, and politics—one field in particular needs to become more engaged: the academic scientist and particularly the social scientist. Too much of the debate is dominated by the physical sciences in defining the problem and by economics in defining the solutions. Both fields focus heavily on the rational and quantitative treatments of the issue and fail to capture the behavioral and cultural aspects that explain why people accept or reject scientific evidence, analysis, and conclusions. But science is never socially or politically inert, and scientists have a duty to recognize its effect on society and to communicate that effect to society. Social scientists can help in this endeavor.

But the relative absence of the social sciences in the climate debate is driven by specific structural and institutional controls that channel research work away from empirical relevance. Social scientists limit involvement in such “outside” activities, because the underlying norms of what is considered legitimate and valuable research, as well as the overt incentives and reward structures within the academy, lead away from such endeavors. Tenure and promotion are based primarily on the publication of top-tier academic journal articles. This is the signal of merit and success. Any effort on any other endeavor is decidedly discouraged.

The role of the public intellectual has become an arcane and elusive option in today’s social sciences. Moreover, it is a difficult role to play. The academic rules are not clear and the public backlash can be uncomfortable; many of my colleagues and I are regular recipients of hostile e-mail messages and web-based attacks. But the lack of academic scientists in the public debate harms society by leaving out critical voices for informing and resolving the climate debate. There are signs, however, that this model of scholarly isolation is changing. Some leaders within the field have begun to call for more engagement within the public arena as a way to invigorate the discipline and underscore its investment in the defense of civil society. As members of society, all scientists have a responsibility to bring their expertise to the decision-making process. It is time for social scientists to accept this responsibility.

Notes

1 Wouter Poortinga et al., “Uncertain Climate: An Investigation into Public Skepticism
About Anthropogenic Climate Change
,” Global Environmental Change, August 2011.
2 Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap, “The Politicization of Climate Change and Polarization
in the American Public’s Views of Global Warming, 2001-2010
,” The Sociological
Quarterly
 52, 2011.
3 Clive Hamilton, “Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change,” paper presented
to the Climate Controversies: Science and Politics conference, Brussels, Oct. 28, 2010.
4 Andrew Hoffman, “Talking Past Each Other? Cultural Framing of Skeptical and Convinced
Logics in the Climate Change Debate
,” Organization & Environment 24(1), 2011.
5 Jon Krosnick and Bo MacInnis, “Frequent Viewers of Fox News Are Less Likely to
Accept Scientists’ Views of Global Warming
,” Woods Institute for the Environment,
Stanford University, 2010.
6 Jeffrey Rachlinski, “The Psychology of Global Climate Change,” University of Illinois
Law Review
 1, 2000.
7 Max Boykoff, “The Real Swindle,” Nature Climate Change, February 2008.
8 Ding Ding et al., “Support for Climate Policy and Societal Action Are Linked to Perceptions
About Scientific Agreement
,” Nature Climate Change 1, 2011.
9 Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer, “Apocalypse Soon? Dire Messages Reduce Belief in
Global Warming by Contradicting Just-World Beliefs
,” Psychological Science 22(1), 2011.
10 Thomas Vargish, “Why the Person Sitting Next to You Hates Limits to Growth,”
Technological Forecasting and Social Change 16, 1980.
11 Nick Mabey, Jay Gulledge, Bernard Finel, and Katherine Silverthorne, Degrees of Risk:
Defining a Risk Management Framework for Climate Security
, Third Generation Environmentalism,
2011.
12 Jonathan Schuldt, Sara H. Konrath, and Norbert Schwarz, “‘Global Warming’ or
‘Climate Change’? Whether the Planet Is Warming Depends on Question Wording
,”
Public Opinion Quarterly 75(1), 2011.
13 John Sterman, “Communicating Climate Change Risks in a Skeptical World,” Climatic
Change
, 2011.
14 Dan Kahan, Hank Jenkins-Smith, and Donald Braman, “Cultural Cognition of Scientific
Consensus
,” Journal of Risk Research 14, 2010.
15 Christopher Borick and Barry Rabe, “Fall 2011 National Survey of American Public
Opinion on Climate Change
,” Brookings Institution, Issues in Governance Studies,
Report No. 45, Feb. 2012.

EBay bans sale of spells and hexes (CNN)

By Erin Kim @CNNMoneyTech August 16, 2012: 4:27 PM ET

Starting in September, eBay is blocking the sale of potions and other magical goods.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Sorry, love spell vendors: eBay is cracking down on the sale of magical wares.

Beginning in September, the site is banning the sale of “advice, spells, curses, hexing, conjuring, magic, prayers, blessing services, magic potions, [and] healing sessions,” according to a policy update.

The company is also eliminating its category listings for psychic readings and tarot card sessions.

The update is a part of a “multi-year effort…to build trust in the marketplace and support sellers,” eBay (EBAYFortune 500) wrote in its company blog.

Has anyone actually been buying magic on eBay? It seems so: The site’s “spells and potions” category currently has more than 6,000 active listings and happy feedback from quite a few satisfied buyers.

“Best spell caster on Ebay,” one customer wrote after a recent purchase.

“Wonderful post-spells communication!” another raved. “We bought 4 spells! Highly Recommend!”

Spells and hexes aside, eBay is rolling out a long list of rule tweaks, as it does several times a year. For example, buyers will now be required to contact sellers before getting eBay involved with any issues regarding a purchase. Sellers will also be subject to a fee for ending an auction earlier than planned.

EBay also banned the sale of “work from home businesses & information,” a category that is often abused by scammers.

EBay isn’t the only online marketplace culling its listings. Etsy, a platform for homemade goods, also recently prohibited the sale of various items, including drug paraphernalia and body parts. To top of page

First Published: August 16, 2012: 4:27 PM ET

*   *   *

Etsy blocks sales of drugs and human remains

By Erin Kim @CNNMoneyTech August 10, 2012: 5:55 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Etsy has become the go-to spot for homemade jewelry, knickknacks and household goods. Apparently, some have also been using the online marketplace to sell everything from drugs to human remains.

Now Etsy is cracking down.

The online marketplace recently revised its policies, excluding from its list of sellable items such products as tobacco, hazardous materials and body parts. (Hair and teeth are still OK).

“Odd as it may sound, we’ve spent long hours over the past several months extensively researching some offbeat and fascinating topics, from issues surrounding the sale of human bones to the corrosive and toxic properties of mercury,” the company wrote on its official blog on Wednesday.

Etsy says the changes are made in order to comply with legal rules and restrictions.

“But beyond that, when it comes right down to it, some things just aren’t in the spirit of Etsy,” the online company wrote. “While we understand that it is possible for certain items to be carefully and legally bought and sold, Etsy is just not the right venue for them.”

The new policy prohibits the sale of human body parts, including but not limited to “things such as skulls, bones, articulated skeletons, bodily fluids, preserved tissues or organs, and other similar products.”

Etsy banned most drug paraphernalia, though the company said it is not explicitly banning the sale of medical drugs. Instead, it’s asking that sellers remove any claims of “cure or relief of a health condition or illness.”

That set off a slew of angry posts from Etsy sellers in the company’s public forums.

“Now I need to change near[ly] a quarter of my listings or remove them,”wrote Etsy user Chrissy-jo, who operates an online store called KindredImages. “How am I going explain the use of a salve or even an aromatherapy eye pillow without making the claim that it aids in healing wounds or it helps relieve migraines?”

Another Etsy user named Irina, who runs PheonixBotanicals, wrote: “As an herbal crafter, I find the idea of being banned from listing traditional uses and folklore of plants quite disheartening.”

Sellers on Etsy operate their own shops, where they vend goods that are usually homemade. The online store plans to reach out to individual sellers to ask them to either remove a problematic listing or make changes to align with the company’s policy. To top of page

First Published: August 10, 2012: 4:10 PM ET

Multiple Husbands Serve as Child Support and Life Insurance in Some Cultures (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 2, 2012) — Marrying multiple husbands at the same time, or polyandry, creates a safety net for women in some cultures, according to a recent study by a University of Missouri researcher. Extra husbands ensure that women’s children are cared for even if their fathers die or disappear. Although polyandry is taboo and illegal in the United States, certain legal structures, such as child support payments and life insurance, fill the same role for American women that multiple husbands do in other cultures.

Marrying multiple husbands at the same time, or polyandry, creates a safety net for women in some cultures, according to a recent study by Kathrine Starkweather, anthropology doctoral student in MU’s Department of Anthropology. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Missouri-Columbia)

“In America, we don’t meet many of the criteria that tend to define polyandrous cultures,” said Kathrine Starkweather, doctoral student in MU’s Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Science. “However, some aspects of American life mirror polyandrous societies. Child support payments provide for offspring when one parent is absent. Life insurance allows Americans to provide for dependents in the event of death, just as secondary husbands support a deceased husband’s children in polyandrous societies.”

Starkweather and her co-author, Raymond Hames, professor of anthropology at the University of Nebraska, examined 52 cultures with traditions of polyandry from all continents except Europe. They found that similar conditions seemed to influence cultures toward polyandry. Males frequently outnumbered females in these cultures, as a result of high mortality prior to adulthood. Although males out-numbered females, they also were more likely to die in warfare or hunting and fishing accidents or to be absent for other economic reasons. Polyandrous cultures also tended to be small scale and egalitarian.

In approximately half of the cultures studied, the other husbands were closely related to the first husband, a practice with economic repercussions. In previously studied polyandrous cultures, especially those of Nepal, Tibet and India, inheritance traditions called for land to be divided evenly among male offspring after a parent’s passing. That practice would have resulted in land being sub-divided into useless parcels too small to provide enough crops to feed a family. However, if several brothers married the same wife, the family farm would stay intact. In the small egalitarian cultures Starkweather studied land and property ownership was unusual. In these societies, younger brothers in the marriage often protected and provided food for the family in the absence of the older brother, who was often the primary husband.

“This research shows that humans are capable of tremendous variability and adaptability in their behaviors,” said Starkweather. “Human marriage structures aren’t written in stone; throughout history, people have adapted their societal norms to ensure the survival and well-being of their children.”

Journal Reference:

Katherine E. Starkweather, Raymond Hames. A Survey of Non-Classical PolyandryHuman Nature, 2012; 23 (2): 149 DOI: 10.1007/s12110-012-9144-x

*   *   *

Multiple Fathers Prevalent in Amazonian Cultures, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Nov. 11, 2010) — In modern culture, it is not considered socially acceptable for married people to have extramarital sexual partners. However, in some Amazonian cultures, extramarital sexual affairs were common, and people believed that when a woman became pregnant, each of her sexual partners would be considered part-biological father.

Now, a new University of Missouri study published in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that up to 70 percent of Amazonian cultures may have believed in the principle of multiple paternity.

“In these cultures, if the mother had sexual relations with multiple men, people believed that each of the men was, in part, the child’s biological father,” said Robert Walker, assistant professor of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Science. “It was socially acceptable for children to have multiple fathers, and secondary fathers often contributed to their children’s upbringing.”

Walker says sexual promiscuity was normal and acceptable in many traditional South American societies. He says married couples typically lived with the wife’s family, which he says increased their sexual freedom.

“In some Amazonian cultures, it was bad manners for a husband to be jealous of his wife’s extramarital partners,” Walker said. “It was also considered strange if you did nothave multiple sexual partners. Cousins were often preferred partners, so it was especially rude to shun their advances.”

Previous research had uncovered the existence of multiple paternity in some Amazonian cultures. However, anthropologists did not realize how many societies held the belief. Walker’s team analyzed ethnographies (the branch of anthropology that deals descriptively with cultures) of 128 societies across lowland South America, which includes Brazil and many of the surrounding countries. Multiple paternity is reported to appear in 53 societies, and singular paternity is mentioned in 23 societies. Ethnographies for 52 societies do not mention conception beliefs.

Walker’s team has several hypotheses on the benefits of multiple paternity. Women believed that by having multiple sexual partners they gained the benefit of larger gene pools for their children. He says women benefited from the system because secondary fathers gave gifts and helped support the child, which has been shown to increase child survival rates. In addition, brutal warfare was common in ancient Amazonia, and should the mother become a widow, her child would still have a father figure.

Men benefitted from the multiple paternity system because they were able to formalize alliances with other men by sharing wives. Walker hypothesizes that multiple paternity also strengthened family bonds, as brothers often shared wives in some cultures.

Walker collaborated with Mark Flinn, professor in the MU Department of Anthropology, and Kim Hill, professor in Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Journal Reference:

R. S. Walker, M. V. Flinn, K. R. Hill. Evolutionary history of partible paternity in lowland South America.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; 107 (45): 19195 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1002598107

Modern culture emerged in Africa 20,000 years earlier than thought (L.A.Times)

By Thomas H. Maugh II

July 30, 2012, 1:54 p.m.

Border Cave artifactsObjects found in the archaeological site called Border Cave include a) a wooden digging stick; b) a wooden poison applicator; c) a bone arrow point decorated with a spiral incision filled with red pigment; d) a bone object with four sets of notches; e) a lump of beeswax; and f) ostrich eggshell beads and marine shell beads used as personal ornaments. (Francesco d’Errico and Lucinda Backwell/ July 30, 2012)
Modern culture emerged in southern Africa at least 44,000 years ago, more than 20,000 years earlier than anthropologists had previously believed, researchers reported Monday.

That blossoming of technology and art occurred at roughly the same time that modern humans were migrating fromAfrica to Europe, where they soon displaced Neanderthals. Many of the characteristics of the ancient culture identified by anthropologists are still present in hunter-gatherer cultures of Africa today, such as the San culture of southern Africa, the researchers said.

The new evidence was provided by an international team of researchers excavating at an archaeological site called Border Cave in the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains on the border of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and Swaziland. The cave shows evidence of occupation by human ancestors going back more than 200,000 years, but the team reported in two papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they were able to accurately date their discoveries to 42,000 to 44,000 years ago, a period known as the Later Stone Age or the Upper Paleolithic Period in Europe.

Among the organic — and thus datable — artifacts the team found in the cave were ostrich eggshell beads, thin bone arrowhead points, wooden digging sticks, a gummy substance called pitch that was used to attach bone and stone blades to wooden shafts, a lump of beeswax likely used for the same purpose, worked pig tusks that were probably use for planing wood, and notched bones used for counting.

“They adorned themselves with ostrich egg and marine shell beads, and notched bones for notational purposes,” said paleoanthropologist Lucinda Blackwell of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, a member of the team. “They fashioned fine bone points for use as awls and poisoned arrowheads. One point is decorated with a spiral groove filled with red ochre, which closely parallels similar marks that San make to identify their arrowheads when hunting.”

The very thin bone points are “very good evidence” for the use of bows and arrows, said co-author Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. Some of the bone points were apparently coated with ricinoleic acid, a poison made from the castor bean. “Such bone points could have penetrated thick hides, but the lack of ‘knock-down’ power means the use of poison probably was a requirement for successful kills,” she said.

The discovery also represents the first time pitch-making has been documented in South Africa, Villa said. The process requires burning peeled bark in the absence of air. The Stone Age residents probably dug holes in the ground, inserted the bark, lit it on fire, and covered the holes with stones, she said.

Indígenas querem cultura como pilar da sustentabilidade (IPS)

Por Clarinha Glock*

Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 22/6/2012 (TerraViva) – Uma comitiva de 25 indígenas do Brasil, Filipinas, Estados Unidos, Guatemala, Argentina e México chamou a atenção dos participantes da Rio+20. Com suas músicas e gritos, pinturas e roupas típicas, eles se reuniram perto das bandeiras símbolos do evento, no Riocentro, para entregar a Declaração da Kari-Oca 2 aos representantes do Brasil e das Nações Unidas. Outros 400 indígenas não puderam entrar – ficaram retidos na barreira de soldados, a poucos metros da entrada do principal pavilhão. A aldeia instalada em Jacarepaguá reuniu cerca de 600 indígenas de quase todo o mundo que analisaram a situação dos povos desde a Rio 92.

c211 Indígenas querem cultura como pilar da sustentabilidadeMarcos Terena e Gilberto Carvalho: reconhecimento dos direitos indígenas. Foto: Clarinha Glock

“Estamos conscientes da história de massacre dos povos indígenas no Brasil e sabemos de nossa dívida com os índios”, falou o ministro Gilberto Carvalho, da Secretaria Geral da Presidência da República, que recebeu o documento em nome da presidenta Dilma Rousseff. Carvalho acompanhou parte da caminhada. “Não há como não se comprometer. Deus e a Mãe Terra abençoe todos vocês”, falou, pouco antes de entrar no Riocentro para a cerimônia de entrega da Declaração a Nikhil Seth, diretor para Desenvolvimento Sustentável das Nações Unidas. Foi um encontro amigável, de boas intenções, em que as denúncias de violações dos direitos dos indígenas, presente durante todos os dias da Rio+20 nas discussões da Kari-Oca e da Cúpula dos Povos, foi apresentada na Declaração e através de depoimentos emocionados como o de Tom Goldtooth, em nome dos povos Navajo e Dakota, dos Estados Unidos: “Este documento representa o espírito de nossos ancestrais, dos que não estão aqui porque não puderam vir, e das gerações futuras”, anunciou Goldtooth. Berenice Sanches Nahua, do México, reiterou que a economia verde não pode ser encarada como uma solução, se é a causa do problema, e o REDD (Redução de Emissões por Desmatamento e Degradação) é o coração da economia verde. “Na prática, esperamos que o governo brasileiro estabeleça uma política de participação indígena, porque mostramos essa capacidade aqui”, disse o líder brasileiro Marcos Terena a Terraviva, pouco antes de encontrar o representante da ONU.

Em seu discurso, Terena ressaltou que a Declaração tem recomendações simples. “Convidamos toda a sociedade civil a proteger e a promover os nossos direitos… em harmonia com a Natureza, solidariedade, coletividade, e valores, como cuidar e compartilhar. Se a ONU quer criar um mundo justo, precisa ouvir a voz indígena sobre equilíbrio e sustentabilidade. Nesse sentido, nossa recomendação para a Rio 20 é a inclusão da cultura como quarto pilar do desenvolvimento sustentável”, afirmou Terena. E finalizou com um pedido: três minutos para falar na Conferência. “Acreditamos que em três minutos podemos ajudar a fazer uma nova Nações Unidas”.

Em nome do Secretário Geral das Nações Unidas, Nikhil Seth disse que a ONU vai fazer todo o possível para encorajar os governos a respeitarem e honrarem a cultura e as tradições, a terra e a espiritualidade dos povos indígenas. Segundo Seth, o documento final reconhece explicitamente os direitos dos indígenas e a ONU vai fazer “todo o possível para respeitar e honrar os resultados da Rio+20”. Seth prometeu repassar ao secretariado o pedido de Terena para falar na plenária. Ao final, o líder espiritual que abriu a Kari-Oca há uma semana fez uma reza simbólica e Terena convidou para o encerramento do fogo sagrado marcado para as 13h do dia 22, data de encerramento da Conferência. (TerraViva)

* Publicado originalmente no site TerraViva.

 

Declaração final da Cúpula dos Povos na Rio+20

Sexta-feira, 22 junho, 2012

http://cupuladospovos.org.br

O documento final da Cúpula dos povos sintetiza os principais eixos discutidos durante as plenárias e assembléias, assim como expressam as intensas mobilizações ocorridas durante esse período – de 15 a 22 de junho – que apontam as convergências em torno das causas estruturais e das falsas soluções, das soluções dos povos frente às crises, assim como os principais eixos de luta para o próximo período.

As sínteses aprovadas nas plenárias integram e complementam este documento político para que os povos, movimentos e organizações possam continuar a convergir e aprofundar suas lutas e construção de alternativas em seus territórios, regiões e países em todos os cantos do mundo.
Você também pode ler a carta aqui (em pdf).

Declaração final
Cúpula dos Povos na Rio+20 por Justiça Social e Ambiental
Em defesa dos bens comuns, contra a mercantilização da vida

Movimentos sociais e populares, sindicatos, povos, organizações da sociedade civil e ambientalistas de todo o mundo presentes na Cúpula dos Povos na Rio+20 por Justiça Social e Ambiental, vivenciaram nos acampamentos, nas mobilizações massivas, nos debates, a construção das convergências e alternativas, conscientes de que somos sujeitos de uma outra relação entre humanos e humanas e entre a humanidade e a natureza, assumindo o desafio urgente de frear a nova fase de recomposição do capitalismo e de construir, através de nossas lutas, novos paradigmas de sociedade.

A Cúpula dos Povos é o momento simbólico de um novo ciclo na trajetória de lutas globais que produz novas convergências entre movimentos de mulheres, indígenas, negros, juventudes, agricultores/as familiares e camponeses, trabalhadore/as, povos e comunidades tradicionais, quilombolas, lutadores pelo direito a cidade, e religiões de todo o mundo. As assembléias, mobilizações e a grande Marcha dos Povos foram os momentos de expressão máxima destas convergências.

As instituições financeiras multilaterais, as coalizações a serviço do sistema financeiro, como o G8/G20, a captura corporativa da ONU e a maioria dos governos demonstraram irresponsabilidade com o futuro da humanidade e do planeta e promoveram os interesses das corporações na conferencia oficial. Em constraste a isso, a vitalidade e a força das mobilizações e dos debates na Cúpula dos Povos fortaleceram a nossa convicção de que só o povo organizado e mobilizado pode libertar o mundo do controle das corporações e do capital financeiro.

Há vinte anos o Fórum Global, também realizado no Aterro do Flamengo, denunciou os riscos que a humanidade e a natureza corriam com a privatização e o neoliberalismo. Hoje afirmamos que, além de confirmar nossa análise, ocorreram retrocessos significativos em relação aos direitos humanos já reconhecidos. A Rio+20 repete o falido roteiro de falsas soluções defendidas pelos mesmos atores que provocaram a crise global. À medida que essa crise se aprofunda, mais as corporações avançam contra os direitos dos povos, a democracia e a natureza, sequestrando os bens comuns da humanidade para salvar o sistema economico-financeiro.

As múltiplas vozes e forças que convergem em torno da Cúpula dos Povos denunciam a verdadeira causa estrutural da crise global: o sistema capitalista patriarcal, racista e homofobico.

As corporações transnacionais continuam cometendo seus crimes com a sistematica violação dos direitos dos povos e da natureza com total impunidade. Da mesma forma, avançam seus interesses através da militarização, da criminalização dos modos de vida dos povos e dos movimentos sociais promovendo a desterritorialização no campo e na cidade.
Da mesma forma denunciamos a divida ambiental histórica que afeta majoritariamente os povos oprimidos do mundo, e que deve ser assumida pelos países altamente industrializados, que ao fim e ao cabo, foram os que provocaram as múltiplas crises que vivemos hoje.

O capitalismo também leva à perda do controle social, democrático e comunitario sobre los recursos naturais e serviços estratégicos, que continuam sendo privatizados, convertendo direitos em mercadorias e limitando o acesso dos povos aos bens e serviços necessarios à sobrevivencia.
A dita “economia verde” é uma das expressões da atual fase financeira do capitalismo que também se utiliza de velhos e novos mecanismos, tais como o aprofundamento do endividamento publico-privado, o super-estímulo ao consumo, a apropriação e concentração das novas tecnologias, os mercados de carbono e biodiversidade, a grilagem e estrangeirização de terras e as parcerias público-privadas, entre outros.

As alternativas estão em nossos povos, nossa historia, nossos costumes, conhecimentos, práticas e sistemas produtivos, que devemos manter, revalorizar e ganhar escala como projeto contra-hegemonico e transformador.
A defesa dos espaços públicos nas cidades, com gestão democrática e participação popular, a economia cooperativa e solidaria, a soberania alimentar, um novo paradigma de produção, distribuição e consumo, a mudança da matriz energética, são exemplos de alternativas reais frente ao atual sistema agro-urbano-industrial.

A defesa dos bens comuns passa pela garantia de uma série de direitos humanos e da natureza, pela solidariedade e respeito às cosmovisões e crenças dos diferentes povos, como, por exemplo, a defesa do “Bem Viver” como forma de existir em harmonia com a natureza, o que pressupõe uma transição justa a ser construída com os trabalhadores/as e povos.

Exigimos uma transição justa que supõe a ampliação do conceito de trabalho, o reconhecimento do trabalho das mulheres e um equilíbrio entre a produção e reprodução, para que esta não seja uma atribuição exclusiva das mulheres. Passa ainda pela liberdade de organização e o direito a contratação coletiva, assim como pelo estabelecimento de uma ampla rede de seguridade e proteção social, entendida como um direito humano, bem como de políticas públicas que garantam formas de trabalho decentes.

Afirmamos o feminismo como instrumento da construção da igualdade, a autonomia das mulheres sobre seus corpos e sexualidade e o direito a uma vida livre de violência. Da mesma forma reafirmamos a urgência da distribuição de riqueza e da renda, do combate ao racismo e ao etnocídio, da garantia do direito a terra e território, do direito à cidade, ao meio ambiente e à água, à educação, a cultura, a liberdade de expressão e democratização dos meios de comunicação.

O fortalecimento de diversas economias locais e dos direitos territoriais garantem a construção comunitária de economias mais vibrantes. Estas economias locais proporcionam meios de vida sustentáveis locais, a solidariedade comunitária, componentes vitais da resiliência dos ecossistemas. A diversidade da natureza e sua diversidade cultural associada é fundamento para um novo paradigma de sociedade.

Os povos querem determinar para que e para quem se destinam os bens comuns e energéticos, além de assumir o controle popular e democrático de sua produção. Um novo modelo enérgico está baseado em energias renováveis descentralizadas e que garanta energia para a população e não para as corporações.

A transformação social exige convergências de ações, articulações e agendas a partir das resistências e alternativas contra hegemônicas ao sistema capitalista que estão em curso em todos os cantos do planeta. Os processos sociais acumulados pelas organizações e movimentos sociais que convergiram na Cúpula dos Povos apontaram para os seguintes eixos de luta:

  • Contra a militarização dos Estados e territórios;
  • Contra a criminalização das organizações e movimentos sociais;
  • Contra a violência contra as mulheres;
  • Contra a violência as lesbicas, gays, bissexuais, transexuais e transgeneros;
  • Contra as grandes corporações;
  • Contra a imposição do pagamento de dívidas econômicas injustas e por auditorias populares das mesmas;
  • Pela garantia do direito dos povos à terra e território urbano e rural;
  • Pela consulta e consentimento livre, prévio e informado, baseado nos princípios da boa fé e do efeito vinculante, conforme a Convenção 169 da OIT;
  • Pela soberania alimentar e alimentos sadios, contra agrotóxicos e transgênicos;
  • Pela garantia e conquista de direitos;
  • Pela solidariedade aos povos e países, principalmente os ameaçados por golpes militares ou institucionais, como está ocorrendo agora no Paraguai;
  • Pela soberania dos povos no controle dos bens comuns, contra as tentativas de mercantilização;
  • Pela mudança da matriz e modelo energético vigente;
  • Pela democratização dos meios de comunicação;
  • Pelo reconhecimento da dívida histórica social e ecológica;
  • Pela construção do DIA MUNDIAL DE GREVE GERAL.

Voltemos aos nossos territórios, regiões e países animados para construirmos as convergências necessárias para seguirmos em luta, resistindo e avançando contra os sistema capitalista e suas velhas e renovadas formas de reprodução.

Em pé continuamos em luta!

Rio de Janeiro, 15 a 22 de junho de 2012.
Cúpula dos Povos por Justiça Social e ambiental em defesa dos bens comuns, contra a mercantilização da vida.

With Casino Revenues, Tribes Push to Preserve Languages, and Cultures (N.Y.Times)

By NORIMITSU ONISHI

Published: June 16, 2012

COARSEGOLD, Calif. — Inside a classroom of some 20 adults and children studying the language of their tribe, a university linguist pointed out that Chukchansi has no “r” sound and that two consonants never follow each other. The comments seemed to stir forgotten childhood memories in Holly Wyatt, 69, the only fluent speaker present, who was serving as a living reference book.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times. Holly Wyatt, a member of the Chukchansi tribe, listens to a conversation and translates it for researchers at California State University, Fresno, who are working to preserve the language.

“My mother used to call Richard ‘Lichad,’ ” Ms. Wyatt blurted out, referring to a relative. “It just popped into my head.”

Using revenues from their casino here in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Chukchansi Indians recently pledged $1 million over five years to California State University, Fresno, to help preserve their unwritten language. Linguists from the university will create a dictionary, assemble texts and help teach the language at weekly courses like the one on a recent evening.

The donation caps efforts in recent years by American Indian tribes across the nation to bring back their tongues before the death of their sole surviving speakers. With coffers flush from casino gambling, dozens of tribes have donated to universities or have directly hired linguists, buttressing the work of researchers dependent on government grants, experts say.The money has given the tribes greater authority over the study of their language, an often culturally fraught discipline. Some tribes wishing to keep their language from outsiders for cultural or religious reasons have retained researchers on the condition that their findings remain unpublished. The control has also persuaded aging speakers — who grew up in an age when they were often punished at school for speaking their language — to collaborate with outside experts.

“There are more people out there who can talk, but they don’t come forward,” said Ms. Wyatt, who with her sister, Jane Wyatt, 67, meets with linguists twice a week. “I was like that, too. My daughter convinced me I should do it.”

Jim Wilson/The New York TimesA worksheet from a class on the language of the Chukchansi tribe, which researchers at California State University, Fresno, are working to preserve.

Nearly all the 300 Native American languages once spoken in North America have died or are considered critically endangered. For many tribes, especially the dozens of tiny tribes in California that spoke distinct dialects and experienced dislocation and intermarriage like their counterparts in other states, language is considered central to their identity.

“The whole reason that outsiders even knew we were a people is because we have our own language,” said Kim Lawhon, 30, who organizes the weekly classes and started running an immersion class for prekindergarten and kindergarten students at Coarsegold Elementary School last year. “Really, our sovereignty, the core of it, is language.”

There was also a more practical matter. Tribes have asserted their right to build casinos in areas where their language is spoken, and have used language to try to fend off potential rivals.

The Chukchansi are opposing plans by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, whose traditional land lies east of here, to build an off-reservation casino about 30 miles southwest of here. In an interview at the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino here, where he was introducing a new game, Big Buck Hunter Pro, Reggie Lewis, chairman of the Tribal Council, said Chukchansi and other tribes belonging to the Yokut Indian group in this area shared common words.

“But the Mono language, it’s totally unintelligible to us,” Mr. Lewis said. “You have to establish the cultural or ancestral ties to a place to open a casino there, and language is a way to do it.”

The 2,000-slot-machine casino, which opened in 2003, yields $50 million in annual revenues, according to the Tribal Council. Each of the tribe’s 1,200 members receives a $300 monthly stipend, with those 55 and older also getting free health insurance and other benefits.

The gambling revenues have also intensified political infighting here as they have in many other places. Violence erupted early this year after a disputed election for the Tribal Council.

According to the National Indian Gaming Association, 184 tribes with gambling operations took in $29.2 billion in 2010 and made more than $100 million in charitable donations.

Jessica R. Cattelino, an expert on Indian gambling at the University of California, Los Angeles, said it was not “until the late 1990s that with electronic games we begin to see revenues sufficient to allow tribes to explore options for major philanthropy.”

Tribes have become increasingly sophisticated in their gift giving, focusing on their culture and language while often setting the research terms.

“Tribes can control their own intellectual property rights,” said Erin Debenport, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico who has worked with Pueblo tribes in the state, including those who do not allow researchers to publish written examples of their language.

The Chukchansi, who had been donating about $200,000 a year to Fresno State’s football program, will reallocate the money to the linguistics department.

“How do we justify supporting athletics when our language is dying?” said Ms. Lawhon, the kindergarten teacher.

Ms. Lawhon had tried to restore the language with the Wyatt sisters and some other community members here, but decided to reach out to Fresno State’s linguistics department for help three years ago.

Chris Golston, who was the department chairman at the time and had been on the faculty for 15 years, had long dreamed of working with one of the local tribes. But given the sensitivity surrounding the research of Indian languages, an older colleague had advised him that the only strategy was to wait to be approached.

“After 15 years, I thought this was possibly the worst advice in the world, but one day three years ago they just called up,” Mr. Golston said.

Four of Fresno’s experts, who had been working with the Chukchansi in their spare time for the past three years, will be able to devote half of their work schedule to the language thanks to the grant, the largest in the department’s history.

On a recent afternoon at Fresno State, Holly Wyatt met with two linguists to try to decipher a five-minute recording that they had found here a month earlier. Two women were heard playing a local game in the 1957 recording, which excited Mr. Golston because it was the “closest to conversation” of the various examples in their possession.

As the linguists played snippets of the tape over and over, Ms. Wyatt slowly made out their meaning. The game revolved around a man climbing up a tree and taking care not to fall.

“What do you get out of that, Holly?” Mr. Golston asked about a difficult word.

“That one word has me confused,” Ms. Wyatt said. “I don’t know what it is.”

She cradled her head in her right hand and shut her eyes.

Maybe some words were already lost. The women on the tape spoke fast, Ms. Wyatt said later. Her hearing was not getting any better, she said, and a hearing aid did not help. The words the linguists kept introducing sounded familiar, but some just refused to be extricated from her mind’s recesses.

“It’s pressure,” she said, “because they’ve come up with a lot of words that I haven’t heard in years.”

TATU OR NOT TATU Manifesto Uninômade +10

TATU OR NOT TATU
Manifesto Uninômade +10
15 de Junho de 2012
 
A palavra revolução voltou a circular. Nas ruas, nas praças, na internet, e até mesmo nas páginas de jornal, que a olha com olhos temerosos. Mas, principalmente, em nossos espíritos e corpos. Da mesma maneira, a palavra capitalismo saiu de sua invisibilidade: já não nos domina como dominava. Assistimos ao final de um ciclo – o ciclo neoliberal implementado a partir dos anos 80, mas cujo ápice se deu com a queda do muro de Berlim e o consenso global em torno da expansão planetária do mercado. Muitos dentre nós (principalmente os jovens) experimentam seu primeiro deslocamento massivo das placas tectônicas da história. 

Mas nossa era não é apenas crepuscular. Ao fim de um ciclo abrem-se amplas oportunidades, e cabe a nós transformar a crise da representação e do capitalismo cognitivo em novas formas de democracia absoluta. Para além das esferas formais, dos Estados e nacionalidades. Para além do capitalismo financeiro e flexível. Lá onde brilha nossa singularidade comum: a mulher, o negro, o índio, o amarelo, o pobre, o explorado, o precário, o haitiano, o boliviano, o imigrante, o favelado, o trabalhador intelectual e manual. Não se trata de um recitar de excluídos, mas de uma nova inclusão híbrida. A terra, enfim, nossa. Nós que somos produzidos por esta chuva, esta precipitação de encontros de singularidades em que nos fazemos divinos nesta terra.

É pelo que clama a multidão na Grécia, na Espanha e os occupy espalhados pelos Estados Unidos; é pelo que clamam as radicalidades presentes na primavera árabe, esta multidão situada para além da racionalidade ocidental. É o mesmo arco que une a primavera árabe, as lutas dos estudantes no Chile e as lutas pela radicalização da democracia no Brasil. Nossas diferenças é o que nos torna fortes.

A luta pela mestiçagem racial, simbólica, cultural e financeira passa pela materialidade do cotidiano, pela afirmação de uma longa marcha que junte nossa potência de êxodo e nossa potência constituinte. Acontecimento é o nome que nos anima para o êxodo perpétuo das formas de exploração. Êxodo para dentro da terra. Fidelidade à terra. Tatu or not tatu.

É preciso ouvir em nós aquele desejo que vai para além da vida e da sua conservação: para além do grande terror de uma vida de merda que nos impõe o estado de precariedade e desfiliação extrema. É preciso re-insuflar o grito que nos foi roubado à noite, resistir aos clichês que somos, e que querem fazer de nós: para além de nossas linhas de subjetivação suspensas entre o luxo excedente do 1% ou do lixo supérfluo dos 99%. 

É preciso não precisar de mais nada, a não ser nossa coragem, nosso intelecto e nossos corpos, que hoje se espraiam nas redes de conhecimentos comuns apontando para nossa autonomia. Somos maiores do que pensamos e desejamos tudo.  Não estamos sozinhos! É preciso resistir na alegria, algo que o poder dominador da melancolia é incapaz de roubar. Quando o sujeito deixa de ser um mero consumidor-passivo para produzir ecologias. Um corpo de vozes fala através de nós porque a crise não é apenas do capital, mas sim do viver. Uma profunda crise antropológica. Manifesta-se no esvaziamento de corpos constrangidos, envergonhados, refletidos na tela da TV, sem se expandir para ganhar as ruas. Nossos corpos paralisam, sentem medo, paranóia: o outro vira o grande inimigo. Não criam novos modos de vida. Permanecem em um estado de vidaMenosvida: trabalho, casa, trem, ônibus, trabalho, casa. A vida individual é uma abstração. Uma vida sem compartilhamento afetivo, onde a geração do comum se torna impossível. É preciso criar desvios para uma vidaMaisvida: sobrevida, supervida, overvida. Pausa para sentir parte do acontecimento, que é a vida.  Somos singularidades cooperativas. Pertencemos a uma esfera que nos atravessa e nos constrói a todo o momento.

O capitalismo cognitivo e financeiro instaura um perpétuo estado de exceção que busca continuamente reintegrar e modular a normalidade e a diferença: lei e desordem coincidem dentro de uma mesma conservação das desigualdades que produz e reproduz as identidades do poder: o “Precário” sem direitos, o Imigrante “ilegal”, o “Velho” abandonado, o “Operário” obediente, a “Mulher” subjugada, a “Esposa” dócil, o “Negro” criminalizado e, enfim, o “Depressivo” a ser medicalizado. As vidas dos pobres e dos excluídos passam a ser mobilizadas enquanto tais. Ao mesmo tempo em que precisam gerar valor econômico, mantêm-se politicamente impotentes.

O pobre e o louco. O pobre – figura agora híbrida e modulada de inclusão e exclusão da cadeia do capital –  persiste no cru da vida, até usando seu  próprio corpo como moeda. E o louco, essa figura que vive fora da história, “escolhe” a exclusão. Esse sujeito que se recusa a produzir, vive sem lugar. Onde a questão de exclusão e inclusão é diluída no delírio. Ninguém delira sozinho, delira-se o mundo. Esses dois personagens vivem e sobrevivem à margem, mas a margem transbordou e virou centro. O capital passa a procurar valor na subjetividade e nas formas de vida das margens e a potência dos sem-dar-lucro passa a compor o sintoma do capital: a crise da lei do valor, o capitalismo cognitivo como crise do capitalismo.

A crise dos contratos subprimes em 2007, alastrando-se para a crise da dívida soberana europeia, já não deixa dúvidas: a forma atual de governabilidade é a crise perpétua, repassada como sacrifício para os elos fragilizados do arco social. Austeridade, cortes, desmonte do welfare, xenofobia, racismo. Por detrás dos ternos cinza dos tecnocratas pós-ideológicos ressurgem as velhas bandeiras do biopoder: o dinheiro volta a ter rosto, cor, e não lhe faltam ideias sobre como governar: “que o Mercado seja louvado”, “In God we trust”. O discurso neutro da racionalidade econômica é obrigado a mostrar-se em praça pública, convocando o mundo a dobrar-se ao novo consenso, sem mais respeitar sequer a formalidade da democracia parlamentar. Eis o homo œconomicus: sacrifício, nação, trabalho, capital! É contra este estado de sítio que as redes e a ruas se insurgem. Nas mobilizações auto-convocadas em redes, nas praças das acampadas, a exceção aparece como criatividade do comum, o comum das singularidades que cooperam entre si.

No Brasil são muitos os que ainda se sentem protegidos diante da crise global. O consenso (neo) desenvolvimentista produzido em torno do crescimento econômico e da construção de uma nova classe média consumidora cria barreiras artificiais que distorcem nossa visão da topologia da crise: a crise do capitalismo mundial é, imediatamente, crise do capitalismo brasileiro. Não nos interessa que o Brasil ensine ao mundo, junto à China, uma nova velha forma de capitalismo autoritário baseado no acordo entre Estados e grandes corporações! 

O governo Lula, a partir das cotas, do Prouni, da política cultural (cultura viva, pontos de cultura) e da distribuição de renda (programas sociais, bolsa família, valorização do salário mínimo) pôde apontar, em sua polivalência característica, para algo que muitos no mundo, hoje, reivindicam: uma nova esquerda, para além dos partidos e Estados (sem excluí-los). Uma esquerda que se inflame dos movimentos constituintes que nascem do solo das lutas, e reverta o Estado e o mercado em nomes  do comum. Uma esquerda que só pode acontecer “nessa de todos nós latino-amarga américa”. Mais do que simples medidas governamentais, nestas políticas intersticiais, algo de um acontecimento histórico teve um mínimo de vazão: aqueles que viveram e morreram por transformações, os espectros das revoluções passadas e futuras, convergiram na construção incipiente de nossa emancipação educacional, racial, cultural e econômica. Uma nova memória e um novo futuro constituíram-se num presente que resistira ao assassinato simbólico da história perpetrado pelo neoliberalismo. A popularidade dos governos Lula tinha como lastro esses interstícios onde a política se tornava uma poética. Já hoje, nas taxas de aprovação do governo Dilma, podemos facilmente reconhecer também as cores deslavadas de um consenso prosaico. O “país rico” agora pacifica-se no mantra desenvolvimentista, retrocedendo em muitas das políticas que tinham vazado. Voltam as velhas injunções progressistas: crescimento econômico para redistribuir! Estado forte! As nuvens ideológicas trazem as águas carregadas do gerencialismo e do funcionalismo tecnocrático: menos política, mais eficiência! Desta maneira, removem-se e expropriam-se os pobres: seja em nome de um Brasil Maior e se seu interesse “público” (Belo Monte, Jirau, Vila Autódromo), seja em nome de um Mercado cada vez Maior e de seu interesse “privado” (Pinheirinho, TKCSA, Porto do Açu). Juntando-se entusiasticamente às equações do mercado, os tratores do progresso varrem a sujeira na construção de um novo “País Rico (e) sem pobreza”. Os pobres e as florestas, as formas de vida que resistem e persistem, se tornam sujeira. A catástrofe ambiental (das florestas e das metrópoles) e cultural (dos índios e dos pobres) é assim pacificada sob o nome do progresso. Dominação do homem e da natureza conjugam-se num pacto fáustico presidido por nenhum Mefistófeles, por nenhuma crise de consciência: já somos o país do futuro!
 
Na política de crescer exponencialmente, só se pensa em eletricidade e esqueceu-se a democracia (os Soviets : Conselhos). Assim, governa-se segundo a férrea lógica – única e autoritária – da racionalidade capitalista. Ataca-se enfim a renda vergonhosa dos “banquiplenos”, mas a baixa dos juros vai para engordar os produtores de carros, essas máquinas sagradas de produção de individualismo, em nome da moral do trabalho. Dessa maneira, progredir significa, na realidade, regredir: regressão política como acontece na gestão autoritária das revoltas dos operários das barragens; regressão econômica e biológica, como acontece com uma expansão das fronteiras agrícolas que serra a duração das relações entre cultura e natureza; regressão da vida urbana, com a remoção de milhares de pobres para abrir o caminho dos megaeventos; regressão da política da cultura viva, em favorecimento das velhas oligarquias e das novas indústrias culturais. O progresso que nos interessa não contém nenhuma hierarquia de valor, ele é concreta transformação qualitativa, “culturmorfologia”.

Este é o imaginário moderno em que a dicotomia prevalece: corpo e alma, natureza e cultura, nós e os outros; cada macaco no seu galho! Estes conceitos resultam em uma visão do mundo que distancia o homem da ecologia e de si mesmo. O que está em questão é a maneira de viver no planeta daqui em diante. É preciso encontrar caminhos para reconciliar estes mundos. Perceber outras configurações relacionais mais móveis, ativar sensibilidades. Fazer dessa revolução um grande caldeirão de desejos que crie formas de cooperação e modos de intercâmbio, recombine e componha novas práticas e perspectivas: mundos. Uma mestiçagem generalizada: nossa cultura é nossa economia e nosso ambiente é nossa cultura: três ecologias!

As lutas da primavera Árabe, do 15M Espanhol, do Occupy Wall Street e do #ocupabrasil gritam por transformação, aonde a base comum que somos nos lança para além do estado de exceção econômico: uma dívida infinita que busca manipular nossos corações e manter-nos acorrentados aos medos. Uma dívida infinita que instaura a perpétua transferência de renda dos 99% dos devedores ao 1% dos credores. Não deixemos que tomem por nós a decisão sobre o que queremos! 

A rede Universidade Nômade se formou há mais de dez anos, entre as mobilizações de Seattle e Gênova, os Fóruns Sociais Mundiais de Porto Alegre e a insurreição Argentina de 2001 contra o neoliberalismo. Foram dois momentos constituintes: o manifesto inicial que chamava pela nomadização das relações de poder/saber, com base nas lutas dos pré-vestibulares comunitários para negros e pobres (em prol da política de cotas raciais e da democratização do acesso ao ensino superior); e o manifesto de 2005 pela radicalização democrática. Hoje, a Universidade Nômade acontece novamente: seu Kairòs (o aqui e agora) é aquele do capitalismo global como crise. Na época da mobilização de toda a vida dentro da acumulação capitalista, o capitalismo se apresenta como crise e a crise como expropriação do comum, destruição do comum da terra. Governa-se a vida: a catástrofe financeira e ambiental é o fato de um controle que precisa separar a vida de si mesma e opõe a barragem aos índios e ribeirinhos de Belo Monte,  as obras aos operários, os megaeventos aos favelados e aos pobres em geral, a dívida aos direitos, a cultura à natureza. Não há nenhum determinismo, nenhuma crise terminal. O capital não tem limites, a não ser aqueles que as lutas sabem e podem construir. A rede Universidade Nômade é um espaço de pesquisa e militância, para pensar as brechas e os interstícios onde se articulam as lutas que determinam esses limites do capital e se abrem ao possível: pelo reconhecimento das dimensões produtivas da vida através da renda universal, pela radicalização democrática através da produção de novas instituições do comum, para além da dialética entre público e privado, pelo ressurgimento da natureza como produção da diferença, como luta e biopolítica de fabricação de corpos pós-econômicos. Corpos atravessados pela antropofagia dos modernistas, pelas cosmologias ameríndias, pelos êxodos quilombolas, pelas lutas dos sem teto, sem terra, precários, índios, negros, mulheres e hackers: por aqueles que esboçam outras formas de viver, mais potentes, mais vivas.

Nature or nurture? It may depend on where you live (AAAS)

12-Jun-2012

By Craig Brierley

The extent to which our development is affected by nature or nurture – our genetic make-up or our environment – may differ depending on where we live, according to research funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

In a study published today in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers from the Twins Early Development Study at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry studied data from over 6,700 families relating to 45 childhood characteristics, from IQ and hyperactivity through to height and weight. They found that genetic and environmental contributions to these characteristics vary geographically in the United Kingdom, and published their results online as a series of nature-nurture maps.

Our development, health and behaviour are determined by complex interactions between our genetic make-up and the environment in which we live. For example, we may carry genes that increase our risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but if we eat a healthy diet and get sufficient exercise, we may not develop the disease. Similarly, someone may carry genes that reduce his or her risk of developing lung cancer, but heavy smoking may still lead to the disease.

The UK-based Twins Early Development Study follows over 13,000 pairs of twins, both identical and non-identical, born between 1994 and 1996. When the twins were age 12, the researchers carried out a broad survey to assess a wide range of cognitive abilities, behavioural (and other) traits, environments and academic achievement in 6,759 twin pairs. The researchers then designed an analysis that reveals the UK’s genetic and environmental hotspots, something which had never been done before.

“These days we’re used to the idea that it’s not a question of nature or nurture; everything, including our behaviour, is a little of both,” explains Dr Oliver Davis, a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry. “But when we saw the maps, the first thing that struck us was how much the balance of genes and environments can vary from region to region.”

“Take a trait like classroom behaviour problems. From our maps we can tell that in most of the UK around 60% of the difference between people is explained by genes. However, in the South East genes aren’t as important: they explain less than half of the variation. For classroom behaviour, London is an ‘environmental hotspot’.”

The maps give the researchers a global overview of how the environment interacts with our genomes, without homing in on particular genes or environments. However, the patterns have given them important clues about which environments to explore in more detail.

“The nature-nurture maps help us to spot patterns in the complex data, and to try to work out what’s causing these patterns,” says Dr Davis. “For our classroom behaviour example, we realised that one thing that varies more in London is household income. When we compare maps of income inequality to our nature-nurture map for classroom behaviour, we find income inequality may account for some of the pattern.

“Of course, this is just one example. There are any number of environments that vary geographically in the UK, from social environments like health care or education provision to physical environments like altitude, the weather or pollution. Our approach is all about tracking down those environments that you wouldn’t necessarily think of at first.”

It may be relatively easy to explain environmental hotspots, but what about the genetic hotspots that appear on the maps: do people’s genomes vary more in those regions? The researchers believe this is not the case; rather, genetic hotspots are areas where the environment exposes the effects of genetic variation.

For example, researchers searching for gene variants that increase the risk of hay fever may study populations from two regions. In the first region people live among fields of wind-pollinated crops, whereas the second region is miles away from those fields. In this second region, where no one is exposed to pollen, no one develops hay fever; hence any genetic differences between people living in this region would be invisible.

On the other hand, in the first region, where people live among the fields of crops, they will all be exposed to pollen and differences between the people with a genetic susceptibility to hay fever and the people without will stand out. That would make the region a genetic hotspot for hay fever.

“The message that these maps really drive home is that your genes aren’t your destiny. There are plenty of things that can affect how your particular human genome expresses itself, and one of those things is where you grow up,” says Dr Davis.

No campo acadêmico, o futebol é titular (Faperj)

Elena Mandarim

Livro mostra as mudanças por que vêm passando as paixões dos torcedores brasileirosDivulgação / ufv.br

Desde que chegou ao país, o futebol passou por um processo de incorporação cultural até se constituir na chamada “paixão nacional”. Durante o Campeonato Brasileiro de Futebol, que é o principal torneio nacional entre clubes, organizado oficialmente desde 1971 pela Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (CBF), milhares de torcedores espalhados comemoram as vitórias e choram as derrotas de seus times. Basta observar a popularidade do Brasileirão, como é conhecido e que este ano começou no dia 19 de maio, para perceber que, atualmente, torcer pelos times locais se tornou mais importante do que torcer pela própria seleção. Esta é uma das reflexões trazidas no livro Futebol, Jornalismo e Ciências Sociais: interações, organizado por Ronaldo Helal, Hugo Lovisolo e Antonio Jorge Golçalves Soares, todos professores da Faculdade de Comunicação da Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (Uerj) e publicado com recursos do programa de Apoio à Editoração (APQ 3), da FAPERJ. Para aqueles que quiserem entender melhor como essa “paixão nacional” interage com questões significativas para a sociedade, o livro conta ainda como se deu o processo de construção da narrativa do “futebol arte”, o estilo único do brasileiro jogar. Outras análises também são abordadas, como a mudança do olhar da imprensa esportiva da Argentina em relação ao Brasil e a maneira de se criar alguns simbolismos e heróis do futebol brasileiro.

O termo “País do futebol” foi uma construção social realizada, a partir dos anos 1930, dentro do projeto nacionalista do Estado Novo – época em que o Brasil buscava consolidar sua identidade nacional. Contudo, Helal explica que, com o processo de globalização e comercialização do futebol, o jogador se internacionaliza e não só veste a camisa de seu país como também pode representar outras nações. “O Kaká, por exemplo, é ídolo não apenas dos brasileiros, mas também de italianos e espanhóis. Por isso, observamos que, atualmente, os torcedores brasileiros se envolvem mais com seus times locais, nos quais encontram seus heróis nacionais, aqueles que vestem a camisa do clube”, acredita o sociólogo.

É evidente que a Copa do Mundo ainda tem uma estrutura que estimula os nacionalismos. Não é por acaso que, de quatro em quatro anos, o significado “Brasil: País do futebol” ganha uma dimensão mais intensa. Mas uma análise jornalística, mostrada no livro, evidencia que o próprio noticiário já não trata o futebol como sinônimo de nação. “Observa-se, por exemplo, que, a derrota na final para o Uruguai, em 1950, e a conquista do tricampeonato, em 1970, foram sentidas como derrota e vitória, respectivamente, de projetos da nação brasileira. Já as vitórias em 1994 e 2002 e a derrota na final para a França, em 1998, foram comemoradas e sofridas como vitórias e derrotas da seleção, não transcenderam o terreno esportivo”, exemplifica Helal.

Do atraso para a peculiaridade

Outro artigo do livro explica como a miscigenação do brasileiro, antes considerada como motivo do atraso do país, passou a ser o ingrediente básico para formação de grandes jogadores de futebol. “Tudo começou com a obra clássica do sociólogo Gilberto Freyre, Casa Grande e Senzala, que pela primeira vez mostra o valor positivo da mistura de raças, que traz peculiaridades e força à população brasileira”, conta Helal.

Logo depois de Freyre, Mario Filho, um dos fundadores do jornalismo esportivo no Brasil, lançou O Negro no Futebol Brasileiro, em que a junção do futebol com a nação miscigenada se torna mais evidente, ajudando a consolidar uma identidade nacional. Gilberto Freyre, por sua vez, escreveu em sua coluna no Diário de Pernambuco, do dia 18 de junho de 1938, o artigo “Foot-ball Mulato, que se tornou fundamental para a simbologia do futebol. “Ali, ele louva a miscigenação racial e afirma que ela funda certo estilo de jogo que seria típico do Brasil – uma ‘dança vibrante e gingada’, o que tempos depois se convencionou chamar de ‘futebol arte’”, exemplifica Helal.

Outro aspecto interessante levantado pelo livro é a mudança de postura da imprensa argentina em relação ao futebol brasileiro. Helal explica que, no início do século XIX, o grande adversário do Brasil era o Uruguai, grande potência futebolística na época. “Nessa ocasião, os hermanos argentinos torciam para o Brasil. Quando a Argentina começou a despontar como nossa grande adversária, a imprensa e a publicidade brasileiras começaram a provocar os argentinos. Só recentemente eles passaram a revidar nossas provocações”, relata Helal, que analisou este ponto em seu pós-doutorado, realizado em Buenos Aires.

Os estudos acadêmicos sobre o futebol vêm crescendo e se consolidando nas últimas duas décadas. Na Faculdade de Comunicação Social da Uerj, Ronaldo Helal e Hugo Lovisolo organizaram o grupo de pesquisa “Esporte e Cultura”, cadastrado no CNPq desde 1998. Nas cerca de 200 páginas de Futebol, Jornalismo e Ciências Sociais: interações”, os leitores ainda encontrarão, entre outros assuntos, uma revisão geral da literatura sobre o tema; um estudo sobre a construção de alguns simbolismos e heróis do futebol brasileiro; uma análise jornalística sobre a reconstrução da memória da partida entre Brasil e Uruguai na final da Copa do Mundo de 1950; uma comparação sobre as figuras públicas de Pelé e Maradona; e uma investigação etnográfica em bares onde são transmitidas partidas de futebol. Por tudo isso, o livro é uma obra interessante tanto para estudiosos do assunto como para amantes do futebol.

How Bad Is It? (The New Inquiry)

By GEORGE SCIALABBA

Jasper Johns, Green Flag, 1956 (Graphite pencil, crayon and collage on paper)

Pretty bad. Here is a sample of factlets from surveys and studies conducted in the past twenty years. Seventy percent of Americans believe in the existence of angels. Fifty percent believe that the earth has been visited by UFOs; in another poll, 70 percent believed that the U.S. government is covering up the presence of space aliens on earth. Forty percent did not know whom the U.S. fought in World War II. Forty percent could not locate Japan on a world map. Fifteen percent could not locate the United States on a world map. Sixty percent of Americans have not read a book since leaving school. Only 6 percent now read even one book a year. According to a very familiar statistic that nonetheless cannot be repeated too often, the average American’s day includes six minutes playing sports, five minutes reading books, one minute making music, 30 seconds attending a play or concert, 25 seconds making or viewing art, and four hours watching television.

Among high-school seniors surveyed in the late 1990s, 50 percent had not heard of the Cold War. Sixty percent could not say how the United States came into existence. Fifty percent did not know in which century the Civil War occurred. Sixty percent could name each of the Three Stooges but not the three branches of the U.S. government. Sixty percent could not comprehend an editorial in a national or local newspaper.

Intellectual distinction isn’t everything, it’s true. But things are amiss in other areas as well: sociability and trust, for example. “During the last third of the twentieth century,” according to Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone, “all forms of social capital fell off precipitously.” Tens of thousands of community groups – church social and charitable groups, union halls, civic clubs, bridge clubs, and yes, bowling leagues — disappeared; by Putnam’s estimate, one-third of our social infrastructure vanished in these years. Frequency of having friends to dinner dropped by 45 percent; card parties declined 50 percent; Americans’ declared readiness to make new friends declined by 30 percent. Belief that most other people could be trusted dropped from 77 percent to 37 percent. Over a five-year period in the 1990s, reported incidents of aggressive driving rose by 50 percent — admittedly an odd, but probably not an insignificant, indicator of declining social capital.

Still, even if American education is spotty and the social fabric is fraying, the fact that the U.S. is the world’s richest nation must surely make a great difference to our quality of life? Alas, no. As every literate person knows, economic inequality in the United States is off the charts – at third-world levels. The results were recently summarized by James Speth in Orion magazine. Of the 20 advanced democracies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. has the highest poverty rate, for both adults and children; the lowest rate of social mobility; the lowest score on UN indexes of child welfare and gender inequality; the highest ratio of health care expenditure to GDP, combined with the lowest life expectancy and the highest rates of infant mortality, mental illness, obesity, inability to afford health care, and personal bankruptcy resulting from medical expenses; the highest homicide rate; and the highest incarceration rate. Nor are the baneful effects of America’s social and economic order confined within our borders; among OECD nations the U.S. also has the highest carbon dioxide emissions, the highest per capita water consumption, the next-to-largest ecological footprint, the next-to-lowest score on the Yale Environmental Performance Index, the highest (by a colossal margin) per capita rate of military spending and arms sales, and the next-to-lowest rate of per capita spending on international development and humanitarian assistance.

Contemplating these dreary statistics, one might well conclude that the United States is — to a distressing extent — a nation of violent, intolerant, ignorant, superstitious, passive, shallow, boorish, selfish, unhealthy, unhappy people, addicted to flickering screens, incurious about other societies and cultures, unwilling or unable to assert or even comprehend their nominal political sovereignty. Or, more simply, that America is a failure.

That is indeed what Morris Berman concludes in his three-volume survey of America’s decline: The Twilight of American Culture (2000), Dark Ages America (2006), andWhy America Failed (2011), from which much of the preceding information is taken. Berman is a cultural and intellectual historian, not a social scientist, so his portrait of American civilization, or barbarism, is anecdotal and atmospheric as well as statistical. He is eloquent about harder-to-quantify trends: the transformation of higher (even primary/secondary) education into marketing arenas for predatory corporations; the new form of educational merchandising known as “distance learning”; the colonization of civic and cultural spaces by corporate logos; the centrality of malls and shopping to our social life; the “systematic suppression of silence” and the fact that “there is barely an empty space in our culture not already carrying commercial messages.” Idiot deans, rancid rappers, endlessly chattering sports commentators, an avalanche of half-inch-deep self-help manuals; a plague of gadgets, a deluge of stimuli, an epidemic of rudeness, a desert of mutual indifference: the upshot is our daily immersion in a suffocating stream of kitsch, blather, stress, and sentimental banality. Berman colorfully and convincingly renders the relentless coarsening and dumbing down of everyday life in late (dare we hope?) American capitalism.

In Spenglerian fashion, Berman seeks the source of our civilization’s decline in its innermost principle, its animatingGeist. What he finds at the bottom of our culture’s soul is … hustling; or, to use its respectable academic sobriquet, possessive individualism. Expansion, accumulation, economic growth: this is the ground bass of American history, like the hum of a dynamo in the basement beneath the polite twitterings on the upper stories about “liberty” and “a light unto the nations.” Berman scarcely mentions Marx or historical materialism; instead he offers a nonspecialist and accessible but deeply informed and amply documented review of American history, period by period, war by war, arguing persuasively that whatever the ideological superstructure, the driving energy behind policy and popular aspiration has been a ceaseless, soulless acquisitiveness.

The colonial period, the seedbed of American democracy, certainly featured a good deal of God-talk and virtue-talk, but Mammon more than held its own. Berman sides emphatically with Louis Hartz, who famously argued in The Liberal Tradition in America that American society was essentially Lockean from the beginning: individualistic, ambitious, protocapitalist, with a weak and subordinate communitarian ethic. He finds plenty of support elsewhere as well; for example in Perry Miller, the foremost historian of Puritanism, according to whom the American mind has always “positively lusted for the chance to yield itself to the gratification of technology.” Even Tocqueville, who made many similar observations, “could not comprehend,” wrote Miller, “the passion with which [early Americans] flung themselves into the technological torrent, how they … cried to each other as they went headlong down the chute that here was their destiny, here was the tide that would sweep them toward the unending vistas of prosperity.” Even Emerson and Whitman went through a phase of infatuation with industrial progress, though Hawthorne and Thoreau apparently always looked on the juggernaut with clearer (or more jaundiced) eyes.

Berman also sides, for the most part, with Charles Beard, who drew attention to the economic conflicts underlying the American Revolution and the Civil War. Beard may have undervalued the genuine intellectual ferment that accompanied the Revolution, but he was not wrong in perceiving the motivating force of the pervasive commercial ethic of the age. Joyce Appleby, another eminent historian, poses this question to those who idealize America’s founding: “If the Revolution was fought in a frenzy over corruption, out of fear of tyranny, and with hopes for redemption through civic virtue, where and when are scholars to find the sources for the aggressive individualism, the optimistic materialism, and the pragmatic interest-group politics that became so salient so early in the life of the nation?”

By the mid-nineteenth century, the predominance of commercial interests in American politics was unmistakable. Berman’s lengthy discussion of the Civil War as the pivot of American history takes for granted the inadequacy of triumphalist views of the Civil War. It was not a “battle cry of freedom.” Slavery was central, but for economic rather than moral reasons. The North represented economic modernity and the ethos of material progress; the economy and ethos of the South, based on slavery, was premodern and static. The West — and with it the shape of America’s economic future — was up for grabs, and the North grabbed it away from an equally determined South. Except for the abolitionists, no whites, North or South, gave a damn about blacks. How the West (like the North and South before it) was grabbed, in an orgy of greed, violence, and deceit against the original inhabitants, is a familiar story.

Even more than in Beard, Berman finds his inspiration in William Appleman Williams. When McKinley’s secretary of state John Hay advocated “an open door through which America’s preponderant economic strength would enter and dominate all underdeveloped areas of the world” and his successor William Jennings Bryan (the celebrated populist and anti-imperialist!) told a gathering of businessmen in 1915 that “my Department is your department; the ambassadors, the ministers, the consuls are all yours; it is their business to look after your interests and to guard your rights,” they were enunciating the soul of American foreign policy, as was the much-lauded Wise Man George Kennan when he wrote in a post-World War II State Department policy planning document: “We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population … In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity … To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives … We should cease to talk about vague and … unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”

As a former medievalist, Berman finds contemporary parallels to the fall of Rome compelling. By the end of the empire, he points out, economic inequality was drastic and increasing, the legitimacy and efficacy of the state was waning, popular culture was debased, civic virtue among elites was practically nonexistent, and imperial military commitments were hopelessly unsustainable. As these volumes abundantly illustrate, this is 21st century America in a nutshell. The capstone of Berman’s demonstration is a sequence of three long, brilliant chapters in Dark Ages America on the Cold War, the Pax Americana, CIA and military interventions in the Third World, and in particular U.S. policy in the Middle East, where racism and rapacity have combined to produce a stunning debacle. Our hysterical national response to 9/11 — our inability even to make an effort to comprehend the long-festering consequences of our imperial predations — portended, as clearly as anything could, the demise of American global supremacy.

What will become of us? After Rome’s fall, wolves wandered through the cities and Europe largely went to sleep for six centuries. That will not happen again; too many transitions — demographic, ecological, technological, cybernetic — have intervened. The planet’s metabolism has altered. The new Dark Ages will be socially, politically, and spiritually dark, but the economic Moloch — mass production and consumption, destructive growth, instrumental rationality — will not disappear. Few Americans want it to. We are hollow, Berman concludes. It is a devastatingly plausible conclusion.

An interval — long or short, only the gods can say — of oligarchic, intensely surveilled, bread-and-circuses authoritarianism, Blade Runner- or Fahrenheit 451-style, seems the most likely outlook for the 21st and 22nd centuries. Still, if most humans are shallow and conformist, some are not. There is reason to hope that the ever fragile but somehow perennial traditions and virtues of solidarity, curiosity, self-reliance, courtesy, voluntary simplicity, and an instinct for beauty will survive, even if underground for long periods. And cultural rebirths do occur, or at any rate have occurred.

Berman offers little comfort, but he does note a possible role for those who perceive the inevitability of our civilization’s decline. He calls it the “monastic option.” Our eclipse may, after all, not be permanent; and meanwhile individuals and small groups may preserve the best of our culture by living against the grain, within the interstices, by “creating ‘zones of intelligence’ in a private, local way, and then deliberately keeping them out of the public eye.” Even if one’s ideals ultimately perish, this may be the best way to live while they are dying.

There is something immensely refreshing, even cathartic, about Berman’s refusal to hold out any hope of avoiding our civilization’s demise. And our reaction goes some way toward proving his point: We are so sick of hucksters, of authors trying — like everyone else on all sides at all times in this pervasively hustling culture — to sell us something, that it is a relief to encounter someone who isn’t, who has no designs on our money or votes or hopes, who simply has looked into the depths, into our catastrophic future, and is compelled to describe it, as Cassandra was. No doubt his efforts will meet with equal success.