17.12.12

CXXI -- Central African and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora, by Linda M. Heywood (coord.), Jan Vansina, Joseph C. Miller, John K. Thornton, Mary C. Karasch, Elizabeth W. Kiddy & Robert W. Slenes - comments by André Bandeira

Very interesting, and enlightening, collection of essays on the African diaspora in the Americas and, particularly, in Brazil. What strikes me most is that the data available, clearly points out to a majority of  central african stock. I would count about 50% among those who made it to brazilian shores, after the great crossing. There are many cultures mixed up in this demographic tragedy. Bob Marley sings of «redemption songs» to emerge alive from under the decks. How did they manage, though, rooted out of their own homeland as they were, through tribal wars and the the slave industry, to tune together the same «redemption melody»? The authors tell us that, despite the diversity and the estrangement of many central african languages which gathered in the heart of Africa, freshly or for far long, by demography and geopolitics, they also had glued together thanks to a non-african culture. That culture was portuguese. But no «portuguese culture» comes to matter, here, as one could get  to argue, in the chase for any portuguese specificity within an imperial Europe. This portuguese culture, which was no way «iberian», was forged since the maritime expansion by means of the alliance of the portuguese King with the King of Congo and, then, with the Queen Dzinga, northwards of the Kwanza river. The conversion of the congolese aristocracy to Christianity was not superficial, although it was the result of an open native theology, where the magic value of Christianity added up to the animist and islamic blend. One author gives us a very good testimony: at a certain point, a warlord was sentenced to death by the portuguese. Apparently, he decided to convert to Christianity before being executed, because it considered it a good safe-conduct to the other world. But one has more: the portuguese culture was already pregnant of african spirits when it got to Brazil. Maybe -- this is purely my guess -- that is why the portuguese language finally came over the guarany, which was the language already spoken, both by the people and the rulers in Brazil. Portuguese was the river where the different african dialects could transfer their own meanings and make them flow, even if it was to resist, for decades, the slave-traders in the woods of Brazil, as Zumbi did in Palmares. As a matter of fact, the dream of an Empire of their own, in a tiny kingdom such as Portugal, had to be, specially after the defeats in North Africa, black african. And the congolese empire found there a very good opportunity to strengthen its position in central Africa. When the african traditions got to Brazil and managed to recognize, through the slave chains and bars, they also rebuilt, in a way, the portuguese-congolese kingdom. Sooner than expected, the white people were already under the spell of that powerful underground kingdom. They could call it superstition but it was already a mutually interesting fusion of peoples which met by seeway. And one cannot understimate the hidden survival code  and strength of any superstition.



10.11.12

CXX - The Life of George Sand, by Joseph Barry, comments by André Bandeira

Joseph Barry arrived in Paris, in 1945, with the american troops and never left. He fell in love with a woman, who was a man, who was credited to be an «homosexual», and who was dead for a long time, when he arrived, despite Victor Hugo phrasing at her burial that « she died, and she became immortal». What strikes me most in this biography, that is its honesty. The author gets carried away by the impetus of George Sand, but he doesn't pretend to make a romantic biography in the style of George Sand, Aurore Dupin. He just admires the character -- probably he shoulders the crush that Georg Sand has imprinted in his foreign invader's heart -- and then, he describes the case the best he can. The result is a very good one, which, I would say, seems to be enough for having an updated knowledge of her, beyond the snapshots of the modern totalitarian media. Who was George Sand, after all, in this biographer's perspective?  George Sand appears to be an unpleasant typhoon of selfishness till the very end, when the time comes for her to disclose her soul. She dies, probably with stomach cancer, in terrible pain, counting one by one, her grand-children, after spending her final days, playing and tutoring each of them as a very classical grandmother would do, and rushing away from the time she lost being other things. But it is not only George Sand who died with cancer. The whole France, which shooted down 25.000 Paris communards, against the «Wall of the Federated», in Père Lachaise's cemetery, died with cancer, too. How could George Sand not sympathize with the miserable being killed by the different revolution crushers, in the streets of Paris? She was a descendent of Maurice of Saxe, a privileged woman in education and wealth, despite all the miseries in her personal conduct. She had no paradise on earth, but she could see outcasts who didn't even have the right to be in hell. How could she see otherwise? She saved four republican soldiers of being shot, after intervening by the side of Louis Napoléon. She saved other people, everyone who asked for her help, in face of imminent death. As an aristocrat she could indulge in the luxury of choosing the position of libertarian socialism, to be extracted gradually from democracy, as a picknick party among young lords, in Spring. She could imagine whatever, and figure it out as a political position. She even could write about it and stop the show, distracting, for moments, the real Destiny brokers, and even rescue fron their claws, a few miserable ones. But she couldn't be one of them. So, what to do, when one cannot fill a never plenishable hole? Maybe compensate on the opposite side, the brute forces which loom on one side. Jesus didn't come for the virtuous. He came for the sinners. And this sinner, George Sand, was saved since the beginning of Times.

14.10.12

CXIX - Maya Jyzn', by Lev Trotsky, comments by André Bandeira

This autobiography, by Lev Davidovitch Bronstein (Trotsky), written in 1930, is so continuous as his theory of «Permanent Revolution», but it is not so vertiginous as it could sound. The blame for the 1917, October Revolution and its atrocities, comes a long way from within tsarism. As a matter of fact, the side of democracy was so vast, and the form of the Tsar's regime, since Peter the Great, was so european in an asian country, that everything one could count as opposition, never really managed to come over its own diversity. No wonder that bolchevism was a kind of moving train where many jumped in,  and many more were kicked out, more due to the laws of Physics than to Politics. The defense that Trotsky makes of himself is plausible, but there is something blind, assertive and demagogical in it. There is even something malignant in his truculence. Taking into account the circumstances -- a bolshevik government which was nothing more than a bunch of putschists in a defeated ally of France and England -- Trotsky was a good diplomat, a good Minister of War and a «cosmopolitan» without diletantism. But he is very much indulgent with the questions posed by History which reverberate as a deafening silence, through the full-steam train of his rhetoric. In his role as a warlord in the Russian civil war I take his realism. All sides involved were just furthering the slaughter they arranged during the Great war and which would only end up in 1945. But what Trotsky catered for the «holy Revolution» in Russia is too ellusive of the chaos within the chaos that the Russian Empire had incepted during the flaming of the Great War, and where all the republican oppositionists just poured oil. Many more than we could account for, died abjectly, just as a result of a «gush of thinking» of the «revolutionarites». No wonder that after the train of violence and abjection is rolling on the rails, that a sudden glimpse of rationality rushes to the head of some, and implacably reduces the steep, to ashes. Lev Trostky states, at a certain point -- with a coarseness, he's not very much aware of -- that, once in his youth, he switched from rationalism, to dialectics. The Trinity of Hegel's Spirit always reminded me that Satan is a spirit too. And it was in this cynicism, where Reason takes a hike, that Trotsky, nevertheless, showed much more rationality than his contemporaries, including the Great Wizard, Lenin. Then, the rival Stalin emerged as Secretary-general, by the hand of Lenin, and Trotsky, as many others, got killed. But  Stalin was not wise, he was as much smart, as bolchevism was just a war smoke-screen. One thing I retain from Trostky's portrait of Kerensky: this latter described the bolshevik revolution as « a slaves' insurrection». As Trotsky rightly points out, Kerensky overlooked the fact that slaves don't want to stay so. Moreover, Kerensky didn't know that historical times had deposited a looming phenomena that came to be called «masses» and -- narcisistic as a democrat can be-- he didn't even know how to pet this new beast. That is why Kerensky got a lowsy role in History and Trotsky got a role, which is still rolling today. It is  a vertiginous role but it has much more followers than Trotsky could have imagined and even more than those followers could figure out. The permanent revolution is very much on its way. Finally why was Trostky so lucid and analytical about the decadence where he was being carried away, and he never analysed the end of tsarism and the self-indulgence of his youth? Did he also want to stay young forever? Or he simplily had a killer instinct, he always hid from the mirror?

27.9.12

CXVIII - Manifesto for the New Intellectual, by Ayn Rand, comments by André Bandeira

Reading this manifesto makes our «statist» prejudices surface. Is it the beginning of a therapy or is it a new addiction? My conspiracy theory (strategy is the conspiracy of life within the mind): Ayn Rand, albeit all her merits in fighting a tiranny which was being sold as the quintessence of freedom, she was fighting a windmill. That has its merits too, but they are D. Quijote's. Rand defended a pure capitalism, which never grew up to be an angel, and, which got blended with many other things, because mankind is plural and historical. But her gesturing, which resorted to brilliant rhetorical blows, never amounted to build a philosophy, as she claimed. It was a new style of being intellectual. The fight within the fight, Rose Luxemburg alluded to, on the theme of «Class struggle», was no major finding, it was only the verification of an european genetic code, where many tribes and cultures, had to accomodate a territory side by side, before the wild, wild Atlantic. The libertarian merits of early capitalism, where given a very bad reputation by a much more pragmatic and ruthless state capitalism, desguised in new clothes and labeled «communism», as a romantic evocation of a pristine past and of a mystical future. But Moscow inspired national-socialism: the once deputy of the italian communist party, Niccolò Bombacci, was gunned down, shoulder to shoulder, with the super-fascists, lake Como behind, his fist in the air, shouting «Long live Socialism! Long live Mussolini!». National-socialists and Bolsheviks partioned the geno and ethnocide of 22.000 officers and foot-soldiers of the Polish Army, in Katyn. These are facts, not episodes. No, Ayn Rand didn't amount to be a philosopher. She was a very good publicist, a master in counter-propaganda, a superb caricaturist of western philosophy. This said, she has no consistency to give a nicer view of the ruins perpetrated by the neo-conservatives, who, at least, didn't have the hipocrisy of hiding behind a novelist. In conclusion: it is true that we live between the Witch Doctor and Attila, in their different blendings, I concede to Ayn Rand. But then, we do not live, we've just been caught. Is the return to pure capitalism, the guarantee to live again, instead of just muddling through? There, we have to resort to the historical analysis and Ayn Rand is too indulgent with the genocides perpetrated by «free-enterprise» (I omit «capitalism») and I'm stupified by her ignorance of the boxer wars and how they did begin (among other wars on «savages»). We have to avoid to be in a «statist state of mind», I agree, but the State's state of fact is much more complex than Ayn Rand depicts it, and surviving is not a choice between oppression and relief, as the dentist-torturer in «The Marathon Man», starring Dustin Hoffman, would have put it.

25.9.12

CXVII- Triste Fim de Policarpo Quaresma, by Lima Barreto, comments by André Bandeira

This novel, possibly translated as «The sad end of Mr. Policarpo Quaresma», is generally described as a novel written by a libertarian writer. Yes, it is from that epoch, whem libertarians didn't have to be rubber-stamped by Ayn Rand to become respectable, but who, nonetheless, stretched from a pacifist Lev Tolstoin, to a genocidal Henri Michel. The writer was a «mulato», with the african and european traits, quite conspicuous in his physiognomy. It is amazing how these characteristics were important, that time. A writer, with such traits, wouldn't be taken seriously, or, alternatively, he had to fight an up-will battle just to be published, not to mention to be respected or live decently. Not everybody had the witchy crafts of Machado de Assis, in the creative streets of old Rio. Lima Barreto died young, as  an alcoholic. In this book, he demonstrates, by means of a model civil servant named Policarpo Quaresma, who devoted all his life to Brazil, how a generous ideal may turn into the hallmark of human tragedy. Policarpo didn't marry, he was a diligent civil servant, who even managed to learn tupi-guarani and who dared to propose it as the official language of Brazil. But he had no relevant studies, he was mostly an auto-didact and the boss who received the proposal, felt himself humilliated, by a subordinate, who knew better than him. Then it comes the consulate of Floriano Peixoto, the military who had congeminated the fall of the monarchy, who became the first vice-president of the new brazilian republic, and the second President, reputed as an authoritarian. Marshall Peixoto belonged to that middle-class in Rio, which flirted jacobinism, which abhorred the portuguese still remnant in the Empire's system,  and who was able to shoot around to get a centralized Brazil rather than a regional, fragmentable federation. That is why Policarpo, who saluted the advent of the Republic as the realm of merit, and who even managed to get close to the Marshall and pass him a memorandum he spent years on, for the rehabilitation of Brazil's agriculture, misunderstands eveything. When former rivals take arms against Floriano Peixoto -- and they end up defeated  (this, at the beginning of a long series of putsches in Brazil) -- the diligent Quaresma dares to ask mercy for some of them, before the death squad lines up. The novel ends with the reader never really knowing whether Mr. Policarpo Quaresma, finishes himself before the death squad, too. Is this the anguished chronicle of a libertarian on the Republic, or a nostalgic evocation of the Empire? Lima Barreto didn't live to tell us. One thing was certain: he longed for a Justice which could never come at gun point. If the scent of the Republic was the one of powder, he, a «mulato», would always be one of the sand bags, or a genetic target, moving in the crossfire.

16.9.12


CXVI – Contos Novos,  Mário de Andrade, comments by André Bandeira

These «New Tales», by Mário de Andrade, who died at 52, in 1945, were projected to be titled «Worse Tales» if they ever had to be accomplished, before death came on the way. Generally, they protest what the week of 1922, strived for: that one could interject modernity in Brasil, without changing deeply social conditions. From the point of view of a bipolar mind, what Mário de Andrade was contending for, was that technological and mental progress would only pierce through, if there were a kind of socialism, to be implemented in Brazil. However, while reading these tales, one gets the notion that Mário de Andrade was very much critic of what socialists and communists were looking for. In the tale «First of May», he describes the generosity of a warlike young worker, ready to punch a policeman, anytime that day, as naif, narcisistic and brute energy, mostly arising from a burgeoning nature than any reasonable consistency. It is the same burgeoning nature which gives a place for homossexuality in « Frederico Paciência», this said, in the early forties, of the XXth Century. But that doesn’t work for the other tales.  Social inequality becomes human disgrace, only when the people responsible for the others (not only the boss, but also the collection of «others») make no effort, or simplily are nescient about an individual drama. That is why, in the last tale «A camisolinha» («The little night-gown»), a child of somebody, we would say today was rising from Class D, to middle-Class C, offers a starfish, to a portuguese worker, «skinny and barbaric» he was, finally unloading to the sympathetic child, why he is standing there, infinitely sad about his moribund wife and seven children («bad luck!», he sighs). The child ends up injuncting the disgraced immigrant to accept that sign of good luck, which is everything that he has, a child who doesn’t even have underwear, besides his ridiculous «little night-gown» he’s been dressed in. No wonder Mário de Andrade died young, with a heartattack. How  to reconcile collective compulsions with individual drama? «Nelson» stands for his most mysterious tale: a former rich landlord, happily married to a parguayan, abbandoned by the wife in the sequence of the brazilian-paraguayan war, and who, after surviving the wounds of some civil war in Brazil,  lives the rest of his life, gossiped around and misantropic. It is time to say that the enormous heart of brazilian middle-class, descends from a latin-american ancestry, whose very heavy luggage, was the final thing, the worker of «First of May», found to exert his burgeoning muscles. An old man had tried to put his heavy suitcases on the tram, but he stopped, scratching his head, till the young worker came along.

13.9.12

CXV - Michael Collins, by Neil Jordan and The IRA, by Tim Pat Coogan - comments by André Bandeira

When one sees the movie «Michael Collins», from 1996, and when one reads this 800 pages long History of the Irish Republican Army, of which edition has been revised on 1986, one tries to sum up a turbulent sequence of events: first, there is the Easter rising, in Dublin, on 1916, and the declaration of independence of the Irish Republic; then there is the establishment of the Dail Eireánn ( a parliament freely elected by the Irish, scorning the British rule), on 1919, and the proclamation of the Republic of Ireland, followed by the anglo-irish war; then there is the negotiation of a Treaty, by Michael Collins, with the British, which leads to the Irish Free State, in 1922; then there is the Irish civil war, between 1922 and 1923; then there is the proclamation of the Republic of Eire, led by de Valera, on 1937, and the exit from the British Commonwealth, as well as the neutrality during the Second World War; and finally there is the proclamation of the Republic of Ireland, on 1948, which leads Ireland to the United Nations, on 1955, and keeps it out of NATO, on the same year. I see here, nothing less than four proclamations of the Republic. In the meantime, there is an Irish Republican Army which fights against the British, then there is an IRA which fights against Irish of the Free State, then there is a contemporary IRA which fights against the protestant majority of Northern provinces which stood only one month under ther Free State, and which accepted the Good Friday agrement, for catholic-protestant power share, only on 1998. The IRA is historically an army of volunteers who fought for the independence and unity of Ireland. But it acts much more as an huge guerrilla network, than as a regular army. Nevertheless, and according with the book, it is not an irregular army. It also seems to be hand in glove with vast segments of the southern irish population, as well as with the irish diaspora, and very much in accordance to rites of initiation as well as some code of honour in the irish catholic tradition, which has very much of mediterranean, and terror. It is nevertheless disturbing, how easily the last consequences of violence, are drawn from the turbulent institution of the contemporary Ireland. According to the communists of the Comintern, Irish were «too mexican» so that Stalin decided to arm and equip them. According to Herman Goercz, the nazi spy living in Dublin during WWII, they were individually very brave but they were nothing, militarly speaking, as a body. Sean Russell, who commanded a bomb campaign in England, on the eve of WWII, died from stomach ulcer in a Nazi german submarine, in the arms of Francis Ryan, a international brigade volunteer, who had been imprisoned by Franco and, committed to the Nazis, after narrowingly escaping the death squad. Both of them were IRA officers, and they were trying to reach Ireland, supported by the nazis and on their free will, to sabotage the British. After this readings, one has the impression, that, when a Nation wants to get rid of an Empire, it is better to let it happen, the way it is, and not postpone the collapsing of an ideal umbrella, which has no longer any weather to protect us against. The irish nobility had already been uprooted from Ireland, during the «flight of the earls», three centuries before. The Irish had no king and their choice wouldn't certainly be between a scotish catholic Tudor and a german Orange. Any good monarchy is based on a solid Republic, which is unthinkable without a nation, although it may found it. A national monarchy adds a lot to any Republic as both this book and the movie «Michael Collins» enlighten us. Collins was heroical and ruthless. Notwithstanding, he was intelectually prudent and altruistic. He knew he should play the moderation card, when everybody around him was drunk with blood. But, as a leader, he had not the notion of a degree of sovereignty above him, to suspend the political and belligerent speculation he was deeply drown in, way above his neck. It was Eamonn De Valera who managed to do that, despite his squalid personality. Shall I say that a conservative is better than a revolutionary when the commonwealth has been beheaded, and the radar of our life, lies on a mat, seeing and lessoning in the void? No. What I say is that the squalor of conservantism, which is so often tempted by greed and cruelty, is just a sign that the commonwealth has been beheaded. Furthermore, looking for recovering a head with eyes, ears, and a all-weather of expressions we call sensibility, should be the first priority of any revolution. Else, those who have the fortune, of prolonguing the existence of a headless body, thanks to a strict conservantism, the only thing they are condemned to do for the rest of their lives, it is to refrain from cruelty and comfort in desolation. That is not enough for any commonwealth and, at a certain point, it is even oppressive, unbearably oppressive.

9.9.12

CIV(Releituras)- Capitalism: the unknown ideal, by Ayn Rand, comments by André Bandeira

This is a selection of texts, signed by the escaped-from-USSR Ayn Rand, with names such as Alan Greenspan, Nathaniel Branden, and othet objectivists. It dates back to the mid-sixties, during the demonstrations against the Vietnam War, during Lyndon Johnson's term. When someone navigates in the world of books, one steps in a special universe, which anticipates, in a reversible spacetime, new techniques of communication. But the verbal language has its own devices, because -- at least in its contemporay layout -- it is both sufficiently old and hopelessly young, as not to surface depurated of survivalism. Rand is schocking when she says that altruism is morally wrong, and she is not kidding. She says that it would be better live in a desert island, than in the USSR or nazi Germany -- she had never lived in a desert island, of course, and, in this archipel of desert islands she is still string-attached to the utopias and abstractions such as Daniel Defoe's. That's why she stops in the first generation «Rights of Man» and, at a certain point -- in her very political/ideological way -- she is one of the best templates for the minimal state enthusiasts. Her experience as a soviet citizen, justifies the mood she has chosen for life. But it doesn't justify her attacks in evreything which stands for western History. She attacks the «Popolorum Progression», of Paul the VI, considering it a kind of fascist encyclic, or at least, a statist one, where communism, fascism and statism are blended. She argues superbly, using contrasting pieces of the political discourse and reaching to very obvious maxims, which have their wake-up value in the general stream of words. But her capitalism, the perfect one, probably worked once in a while in perfect conditions, which rapidly tend to vanish. It is a libertarian utopia, probably better to figure out, even to keep us alive and dignified, than other baroque, nightmarish, neurotic utopias. But, in what boils down to reality, it is a vast, mixed, consensus society, where consensus, often gets duped by intrinsic and never-ending power games. Besides, her evidence (where, episodically, Alan Greenspan and Nathaniel Branden officiate), especially about the Middle-Age in Europe, is dubious and very partial -- as a matter of fact it focus on some History philosophers and not on Historians. In this universe of superb language, Ayn Rand -- so prone and keen, as she is,  in keeping us awake against totalitarian hypnotizers, who make tricks look like magic -- she has a sudden crush for a type of non-verbal language: it is what she calls, the light-bulb look that sometimes rushes even to a child's face. That is the sign of Reason. I think Ayn Rand was too naif, to count on accolytes such as Alan Greenspan, she was overstretched in her insistence in Morality, instead of Morals, and she cannot hide a strange hint of Pride, which makes out of its apparently lucid Objectivism, a very wide room for satanism. This said, all her criticism of the blend fascism/comunism/statism is very valid, as well as her caricature of Analytic Philosophy, Pragmatism, and Marxism. Notwithstanding, it seems that she manages to wipe away that dust, only to uncover some old stubborness, where «freedom» leaves us with the bitter question of «freedom for what?».

31.8.12

CXIII - A Formação Econômica do Brasil, by Celso Furtado, comments by André Bandeira

The economic formation of Brasil, written in the mid-fifties by the Minister of Planning in João Goulart's cabinet, before the military coup. It is a book on Economy History, with less Economics language than expected, but never turning into an eruditical study in History. Celso Furtado has been named the real founder of Social Science in Brazil. This is an exageration, maybe. The book is permeated by many political considerations, which are never apparent, and probably follow a political calendar, already difficult to understand, at this point in time. We never know, till what extent, the author proceeds to some kind of self-censorship. He hardly pricks the marxist membrane, which wraped so many discourses that time, in Latin America. Probably he was not a marxist, but a third-worldist, still trying to figure out what was the heritage and the Destiny of the developping countries, during those times, in the Cold War. Probably he suspected that there were no flying manuals for situations he was dealing with. Some emotions could underpin his work, and even getting him carried away into the sudden bubbles of Geopolitics. Unfortunately, what the white society in brazilian mid-fifties knew about itself, was very scant, and still, Celso Furtado was trying to articulate the pieces of his own identity. Yes, how to govern, without knowing what was being governed and who was governing? But the military knew best and Celso Furtado had to go into exile. Still, this book is amazingly well written, with short and concise chapters, able to cover in a steady pace, the most important periods of brazilian History. One interesting detail is the fact that Portugal sent between 300.000 and half million immigrants to Brazil, whereas Spain stood well below that number, in regard to the whole Latin America. For Celso Furtado, inflation doesn't come from a constellation of factors, but from an aspiration, by some social segment, in improving its own income. If it were so, monetarism -- which prescribes a steady and gradual increase of the monetary supply -- would be based on an abstract concept of administrative prudence, instead of a social objective fact. This makes out of Celso Furtado, a sociologist, before becoming an Economy Historian. But, as an Historian, the development of social structures in Brazil, are much more important than timeless concepts in Economics. He explains that the increase of income in the import sector, leads to the transfer of external agents to Brazil, who end up controlling the Export sector, and subsequently, throwing Brazil into dependence. Once, the agriculture sector is the one which is able to accumulate more futures and options, thus increasing its income, and making hard to build a native industrial capacity, able to challenge the frailty of the export sector. That means an inevitable series of inflationary strains, since the basic economic sector of Brazil hardly goes though a «creative destruction». Thus, any crisis in brazilian Agriculture, sooner or later, contaminates the other sectors. This was true in the fifties and Celso Furtado wanted that the benefits of a country where «anything one sows, always grows», wouldn't turn into a curse, while the waves of workforce, after beginning in a situation of half-slavery, would  end up in a situation of lazy self-sufficiency.

30.8.12

CXII (Re)leituras -- Perikleios Epitaphios, By Pericles, son of Xanthippus, comments by André Bandeira

This is considered as a monument to the concept we call «Democracy», and rightly so. It is a funereal oration pronounced by Pericles, in the context of a return from an expedition to Megara, which he led to victory. All the elements of modern «Democracy» should be found there: the concept of «isonomia» among the athenian citizens, which -- more than equality -- reveals the concept of an essential mingling within the collective of citizens; the concept of social and fortune inequality, as a lenitive for merit and not for hate; the concept of participatory democracy as an intertwinement between Politics and daily life; one may even find the rudiments of a democratic geostrategy, when Pericles vindicates that Athenians used to defend their territory only by themselves, whereas the other hellenic city-states would have had to resort to mercurial alliances. There is nothing in this oral register, reported by Thucydidis, to remind us of the list of degenerate constitutions Aristotle alluded to. But the context, which surfaces in two-thirds of the text, has nothing to do with «isonomia». As a matter of fact, the real motive underpinning the speech, it is the unsurmountable difference which Fate has cleaved between the survivors and the dead, in battle. Pericles begins by serving the speech with the rethorical humility of a person who cannot decide between those who lived to tell, and those who lived up to the deed, but didn't come out alive, to tell the story. And what is the real story? Of course, he concludes, telling that it is the merit of a democratic society, the striving of a lower class army, which covers all discrepancies with an uniform, golden isonomia, enshrined in Athens'Constitution. Of course, the speech would be different if this funereal oration would have been cast on the debris of a defeat. It is victory which pushes «Democracy» ahead. And the «isonomia» is a superb thing for absorbing casualities, when the poorer, and the weaker, are the ones mobilized to overcome the social gap, in the fog of war. There is a warlike genetical code, both in modern and in ancient «Democracy». Pericles had been consistently accused, both by his contemporaries and our contemporairies, of being a consumate demagogue, notwithstanding all his qualities. Is there a thin red line between «Democracy», and Demagogy, when we know for sure that -- if that line ever existed -- it had been hopped over, immediately after Pericles'death? We have a few elements, in this time resistant oration, to answer yes. The motive for this passionate and meticulous speech was not the one of celebrating a constitution, different among their peers. The motive was to overcome the embarrassment that Fate casted on the collective of athenian citizens, especially when the survivors preferred not to speak why some just men died, and some other just men didn't, in a battle, among many battles, they happened to fight. They left the act of speaking to someone else, someone who would be able, by means of rethoric and focus on victory (a banner soldiers know it always comes spotted with defeat), of relieving them from the embarrasment of choice. Choice among memories, among reasons, among words and thoughts. That's why this monument to the «eternal Democracy» ends up with the sentence: «Nin dè 'apolophiramenoi ón prosixei exasxtoi 'apite». And now, when you have made due lament, each for his own dead, depart...

27.8.12

CXI (Re)leituras -- A Mão e a Luva, by Machado de Assis, comments by André Bandeira

Hand in Glove, could well be the translation. But the title of Machado de Assis' second novel, doesn't sneak the hand in the glove straight away, because he began publishing it in serials, on a newspaper, and he wanted -- as he did several times afterwards -- to suggest  a thesis instead of putting it forward. The title is a thesis -- «rigid as a syllogism» -- and, as soon as it begins, it only has to be demonstrated, with the variations leading the reader to think he is about to pre-empt the conclusion, which inevitably comes out, conclusively. As a matter of fact, the final chapter is titled «Conclusion». And the conclusion reads as follows: the victory goes to the stronger, as later, in a more comic, probably desperate formulation, Machado de Assis said that «the potatoes belong to the victor». Who are the stronger? The self-restrained, deprived of romantic and childish illusions, not at all deprived of love, but deprived of that romantic love which gets too obsessed with love itself. In a sentence: those who look for love, never find it, because they tend to forget all the circumstances which foster love. And Love hasn't been sown, out of the limits of Paradise, just for weed around. Love serves other purposes such as survival, if not ambition, stubborness and even some caprice, which are characters secretly fighting to survive in the flood of Love, because they are not love-friendly. Guiomar -- who ends up confessing all these flaws, to her final fiancé -- is put at the beginning of the novel as the theme of a syllogism. She is chased by three suitors, Estêvão, Jorge and Luís. The first is the typical, clownish lover, of Romaticism, who goes on being rejected since the beginning, despite being the one, too, who finds the fox in the hole and who makes her run. The second, is the cousin of the pretended Guiomar, favored by her mother-in-law, a baroness who had put Guiomar in the place of her deceased daughter. But Jorge, if he has the advantage of being cold, as the thesis postulates about the cruelty of Love, still he is too much uninterested about everything. He is hand in glove with adversity, but, being born rich, he is distracted of all that really makes people run. Finally, Luís, who as the easier monossyllabic name, he is cold enough, for not expressing his love in public, nor even to himself, and has the mind busier with what makes a politician out of a lawyer. The thesis is so conspicuous now, that nobody dares to mention it. But, this very unromantic novel, full of wise and harsh assertions, discusses a syllogism which comes out of a hard settled Grand Premisse. Besides the three suitors, there are three women, the old baroness, who lost her child, the british chambermaid, Mrs. Oswald, and Guiomar, the young, stubborn (more than determined) beloved, who, being herself an orphan, and combining an attractive look with a cold mind, planned to be a teacher, just in case.But the marriage comes, decided among them, and Guiomar finds herself having an inclination in a boat which was set for sail by the older women. As the suitors follow the path of the obvious, the path turns curbed and pendular, and not all the monkeys hold their lianes. In a word: love is not what you feel, but what the object of love decides. Love is very, very much objective. Love belongs to the world of Object and all its chronicle. So, because the world of Object is so much beyond the world of the Subject, their intermitent contact makes the Subject spin away, thinking he is entering a new dimension where the dualism Subject/Object doesn't exist anymore. Better to keep itself as Subject, since Subjects don't exist but for the Object. Better existing than being loved, which is the real, uncertain bonus of that thing called «love». Better make a new syllogism, where the conclusion looms before it is deducted from the so much agressive premisses: all people love/you are «people»/you are «people» before you love.

22.8.12

CX (Re)leituras -- A Crash Course in the Future of Finance, by Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm, comments by André Bandeira

This crash course, by «Doctor Death», in Economics, is very much educational. One has some difficulty in handling all the different financial products, toxic and non-toxic, which flourished since 2006 or even long before, but which only recently began making part of our daily intake. Roubini is very much for History, not because it repeats itself but because the  ignorance of History tends to make us fall into the same holes, time and again. He is an ecletic: neither socialism, nor libertarianism. One has to compose with contributions of different theories in order to find the optimal mix, to save us from long and excruciating crises. But after so many financial products (which makes wonder about Schumpeter's maxim about capitalism superiority, that means, the stronger flux of technological innovations) one wonders if they wouldn't be better categorized as psychofinancial innovations. Anyway, the History of government -- I don't mean governance, most of all good governance -- is so vey much casted into the History of Economics, that libertarianism, whenever coming from specialists in Economics, graduated from the most prestigious Universities, even if they once had a crush for the artist Ayn Rand, seems to be a rightist infant disease of capitalism. Now I understand, why one of the «randists», Alan Greenspan, in his times as chairman of the Federal Reserve, was appearing once with his wallet in the right hand, and others in the left, for the speculations of the battery of journalists, which was waiting for him: he was acting as the jugglar of his own life. He was distracting us all from his three pieces suit, which represented, along with his painful looking, the depressive fall of all his youth's libertarian sprees. He was not exuberant, of course, and this was his last comment, as a fallen angel, about what was going bad in a heighty sky where everything was stumbling down. Like the old Buddenbrook, in Thomas Mann's novel, who only managed to say, in his later days: «It's funny...», Greenspan couldn't say much more than Pithya, the oracle. Of course one learns more than one thing in this superb lecture: first, there is a new product, different from all previous ones which kept Marx, Pareto, Say, Smith and Mill busy: that is the debt, in all its forms. And I ask: is it a kind of curse, deepely rooted in Mankind's mind, still able to make us all react as the guinea-pigs in the first Pavlov's experiments? The question leads us to the second lesson learned: if History cannot be ignored, besides the freshness of some raw libertarianism (which is neither coarse, nor candid, but it is certainly nude), other perspectives are also required. What made the West, as a civilization, plant and breed this new formidable tree of paradise we call debt?

21.8.12

CIX (Re)leituras - Memórias de um Sargento de Milícias, by Manuel Antônio de Almeida, comments by André Bandeira

The title could be translated as « A milita sargent's memoir» and it is the sole book published by Manuel Antônio de Almeida, a brazilian writer who lived fast, died young and left a beautiful image of all he could have written during the Empire, somewhere in the transition from romanticism to realism. The narrative tells the story of the lowsly educated child of a bailiff and a peasant, both portuguese, who emigrated to Brazil when King John the Sixth, escaped there, too, from Napoleon, and tried to build in Rio de Janeiro the United Kingdom of Portugal and Brazil. Away from the european horrors, life was easy, funny and awkard. And it is precisely from this departing point, that the author transforms the awkwardness in a kind of tragicomic sense of life. The poor educated offspring of a relationship which begun on te boat (by means of the man deliberatly stepping on a woman's foot and this latter answering him back with a pinch on his hand)begins by ending up with the woman sailing back to Portugal in the arms of some boat captain, she had been entartaining while the bailiff was extorting money to the defendants. The boy is comitted to the godfather, a celibate barber, and, while the father is stumbling on many more loves, notably one with a gipsy, who shares him with a priest, he grows up to be a spoil, a trickster and -- just like his father -- a lovey-dovey, always prone to awkward and disadvantageous situations. First he falls for Luisinha, who happens to marry, without love, her cousin, a man who used to tell that, once he was the sole survivor of a shipwreck, after two boats collided and sank, and, as one of them left hundreds of pots afloat,  he hopped over them till he reached the beach. The other was Vidinha, a mulata, evident in her beauty, who jumped from admirer to admirer and who finally got jealous when the bailiff's son happened to stumble on someone else's woman. Finally, after many hilarious episodes, where the bailiff's son tries to reconcile his cunning and his clumsyness, Vidigal, the omnipotent militia's commander, who arrested his father, once (and him, later on) makes out of the boy, a grenadier and, after some fatal mishap which comes eventually eased by the women's implorations, a real milita sargent. Dressed up in his brand new uniform, and since Luisinha has widowed in the meantime, the offfsrping of a trample and a pinch, ends up marrying her, encercled by the women who always supported him during so many unfortunate and hillarious events. Of course, the final paragraph alludes to the next episodes (the novel began with being published in chapters, on a newspaper) where the unfortunate bailiff's son dies. The author who wrote this superb novel, lying on a bed, during a row of bohemian nights, while his friends where playing guitar and boozing around, happened himself to die, young, in a shipwreck. His sense of funny doesn't hide a bitter and looming hangover, which seems to be confirmed in a never-ending series of finals where the protagonist always ends-up in awkward situations. Nevertheless, it seems that it is not the unfortunate birth which engraves this genetic code of fate, but a bad education where the autism of a celibate barber, postured as an educator, transforms the natural rudeness of a young boy, tainted with as much desire as greed, in a series of trippings. Still, this cynicism towards the miseries of a migrant society, seem to be more pleased by the narrative of misfortunes and laughs than for the root causes, which makes out of the novel a superb romantic rot, instead of a realistic surgery. Here, the fun sight is stronger than the sun light.

19.8.12

CVIII - O Guarani, by José de Alencar, comments by André Bandeira

Romantic novel, written during the Empire, in Brazil. It is generally said to be the turning point towards a genuine brazilian novel, and not the repetition of any european literature. Unfortunately, after the long pages which set the scene for the final countdown, one can see that the myths, looming underneath, seem to be the same of the North Atlantic, that means, the myths generated in Eurasia, probably transfered to the New World, by sea or by land. And even if they have never been transfered that way, the common chamber, where they've been encapsulated, seems to be so resistant and wreckproof that they go on dictating to the author where to the narrative leads. There are two indians, the good and the bad. First, Peri, the tupi, and then, the collective of the Aimorés, the tapuia, who fight between themselves, as the hero against the pristine forces, in order to conquer a portuguese post, the shelter of civilization, lost in the jungle as a beacon of nobility and the safe of a virgin goddess, who happens to be  daugher of the master of the house. Of course, this Olympus in the middle of the jungle, is not deprived of its own forces of hell, notably the mercurial adventurers who are supposed to reinforce the civilization strikeforce and most of all, Loredano, the former italian friar turned into treasurehunter. The italian burns in passion for the young goddess, even at the costs of her family life, and planned to find some hidden silver mines, disclosed to him by a former moribund during the performance of his former friar's duties. These hell forces seem very similar tho the defecting gods of the ancient nordic pantheon. When the teluric forces portrayed by the warlike tribe of the Aimorés, launch their final assault on the rock, on the top of which, the remaing noblemen and servants raise their schematic cross, the ammunition house goes off with all of them, both attackers and defenders, ignited by the master of the house. One of the final images is also flaming, with the former friar, dispossed of the silver mines map and stripped out of his false identity, tied up to a pole, burning up for his treachery, in the old Inquisition way. On the other hand, the final scene is fluid and flooded with the myths of water: Peri, the good indian, who served in a pagan way the virgin goddess, without ever touching her with a finger, follows the lead of an old transatlantic myth, and while escaping from this jungle Ragnarök and facing a river flashflood, manages to rescue both, into the hole of a floating palmtree. The novel ends without ever settling whether they finally reached the next portuguese post, the place where, the good indian promised the master of the house, to deliver his precious and elusive daughter. It doesn't seem so: while escaping through the jungle, the virgin asked her devoted savage knight to come and live among the christians in her final destination, but the indian retorted that he only made himself christian to be close to her and, instead of master of the jungle and her slave, he would be there, the slave of slaves. Then, she suddenly poised to dress as an indian, and bound herself to live in the jungle, finally giving the good indian, her first kiss, after so many courtney loves, intrigues, caprices and tragedies. The whole narrative is poised to begin when the master of the house decides to go and live in the jungle, in order to keep a portuguese free soil, while the mother-country had been hopelessly invaded by the spaniards. The final love scene, derives form a common ground, where the constancy of the good indian is rooted in a paganism which precedes any physical or courtney love, and too which the blond, blue-eyed virgin, finally gives in, boarding her and her dedicated Lancelot, in a boundless sailing. And this river long, a burst of confined waters follows very well up, the first kiss, so long waited for, thus distracting the reader, of the real narrative confinement. The narrative is so full of the same clear-cut moral categories, mixing up in such a computer-game rythm and special effects, that the novel tells us a different story of the one where the stubborn daughter of a stubborn master, and the indian, survive, contrariwise to another couple: the moribund nobleman, Álvaro, first betrothed with her, and Isabel, her half-sister, beautiful bastard daughter of the master of the house -- this one, it is in fact the first, naif novel of Brasil, which goes down in flames with the rest, giving room to the superior match. The real story, which will only be dismounted in the social criticism of Machado de Assis, it is the story of a compelling and smashing Destiny, portrayed in the canine, savage, and free-willed devotion of the good indian, for his feminine master and where the courtney moral utterances of  noble portuguese are bound to be set on fire on the top of a powder keg which has not been piled up only in the unmasked friar's soul. The ending points out to a fluid errancy, both blue in the water and in the elusive virgin's eyes. The essence of the novel is cold, as the virgin's eyes, which matriarchally prevail over the black eyes of her half-sister, half indian, who always hated the good indian. The author says that the good indian never hated her back, except as a member of an enemy tribe...who's tribe ? The human race, frail, caught in the crossfire of a pagan stubborness, and still existing, despite all this romantic arsons.

17.8.12

CVII - Apologie de l'Histoire, par Marc Bloch, commentaires de André Bandeira

C'était le dernier livre, inachevé, de Bloch, celui fut, avec Ladurie et Braudel, le fondateur de l'École des Annales. C'était aussi un livre pour répondre à la question posée par son fils « À quoi sert l'Histoire?». On sait que l'école des Annales a récupéré le Moyen Âge et ferait le plaisir de Voltaire qui se plaignait d'une Histoire où on ne trouvait que des Rois et des généraux. Selon Bloch, le medium aevo ne serait plus la terre de personne entre la chute de l'Empire Romain et la Renaissance, mais, cela dit, la Renaissance aurait démarré déjà en 1060. On vient de revoir le Moyen Âge, maintenant -- par exemple au Brésil, dans le contexte du «journalisne historique» -- en disant que, ce temps-là, tous les jours de fête rassemblés, montaient à trois mois par an. Pour ceux qui traversent le désert d'une société mobilisée pour la perfomance, dont on vient de revoir le paganisme olympique ( et, donc, pour la guerre, puisque les jeux olympiques classiques n´étaient qu'un exercice de détente emportant sur des consèquences géo-stratégiques semblables à la détente des années de plomb, au XXème siècle), le n'importe quoi, ça ressemble au paradis.
Que profiter de cette ouvrage? Au-delà des considérations de Bloch, qui semble bien être un disciple de Bergson, en cherchant dans l'Histoire la même plasticité que le philosophe croyait trouver dans la Réalité, Bloch nous laisse, à la fin de chaque de ces cinq chapitres, des conclusions très sages, commme celle de qu'une Science n'est pas entièrement définie par son object, mais aussi par sa méthode. Il conclut aussi en disant que les causes, en Histoire, ne se postulent pas, mais qu'elles doivent être cherchées. Jusqu'un certain point, Bloch se tient à creuser la différence entre la concomitance des circonstances et l'extrait de la cause. Il semble que l'idée de causalité était sa grosse différence avec ses prédécésseurs positivistes, comme Renouvier, qui avaient -- selon lui --. écartée l'idée de Temps et d'une causalité qui consacrerait cette idée du Temps comme singularisation, innovation e propriété intellectuelle. Il demeure aussi dans des paradoxes comme celui de qu'il n'y a pas une science du Passé (réalité inachevée et continue) et que l'exigence autour des sources et des documents, n'exclut pas, ni le plaisir, ni la poésie dans le métier de l'Historien. En effet, le désir de raconter, notamment dans l'Histoire des faits singuliers, est une des richesses de l'univers de l'Historien. Ce que Bloch nous dit, c'est que ce que les positivistes croyaient comme étant «des faits» c'est déjà le produit d'une construction culturelle qui n'est pas, malheureusement, consciente, et que la conscience est indispensable comme outil du Scientifique de l'Histoire. Mais Bloch nous raconte aussi beaucoup d'anédoctes, autour de la fraude en Histoire, autour du péchè de «mensonge» en Science et sourtout, sur un impulse de suivre un récit et de le mêler avec la Science de l'Histoire. Quand on pense au nazisme, on se demande combien de fois a l'Histoire été forgée pour asservir les besoins de suivre une ligne vitale ou accomplir un sens de Destin. Et ça était si farouche, que les nazistes on du inventer une réligion runnique et souscrire à des théories comme celle de la terre creuse, pour ne pas parler de toutes leurs théories de la conspiration. Pour Bloch ça vaudrait aussi, par example, pour l'historicisme du communisme, notamment, protagonisé para Georg Plekhanov. Cela dit, on pense comment Bergson a perdu un fameux débat avec Einstein, vers le concept de Temps et comment, pourtant, son disciple Bloch a triomphé sur Durkheim, le long des faits mentaux de l'Europe. L'École des Annales est un triomphe de la méthode sur l'epilépsie des donnés et des «faits», que le patriarche du positivisme, Wittgenstein, considèrait l' «unité de compte» du Monde. Et parmi ces noms, on ne trouve que des juifs européens. S'agit-il d'une inquiètude propre au judaísme européen? Je m'en doute. Mais il s'agit certainement d'une inquiètude europeénne, probable dans des segments culturels européens où l'exercice d'autres métiers moins intelectuels, leur eu été longtemps interdite. Alors s'agit-il d'une question culturelle et historique, précisamment, celle de Bloch ? Je crois pas. En effet -- au contraire de Bloch -- il n'y pas de poésie dans le métier de l'Historien, à moins -- une fois de plus contre Bloch -- qu'on croye que la recherche continue peut être postulée, comme cause culturelle de la Science de l'Historie, laquelle n'est pas, ni du Passé, ni du Présent, ni du Futur. Cette «recherche continue» serait vraisemblablement une «cause», derrière les circonstances, qu'on peut raconter, et parler indiféremment aux sages et aux simples dans le même langage, mais elle ne serait qu'une des circonstances des événements: précisamment la circonstance moins consciente, ça veut-dire, l'idée impressioniste -- comme chez le concept de Temps en Bergson et Proust -- de la corrélation des circonstances. Enfin, un état d'âme, malgré l'examen délicat des sources et des documents. En effet, c'est que tous ces «faits et documents» ne sont plus q'une fine crôute sur la matière de l'Histoire. Si se soumettre à la fatalité de la complexité est une erreur -- et le réveil du cauchemar des narratives barbares et des récits autoritaires de l'Histoire europeénne serait déjà un fardeau si lourd qui justifierait cette faiblesse -- croire a une causalité qui sert sourtout nos besoins culturels, et états d'âme, ne sera plus qu'une éruption émotionelle. Dans un clignotage de neo-classicisme et romantisme, je dois dire que Bloch a fait un mauvais choix en se joignant aux franc-tireurs de la Résistance française de 1944. Il aurait du, plus en honneur de l'Histoire que de la Science de l'Histoire, se cacher jusqu'à la fin de la Guerre. Et que ce fusillé du 16 Juin, 1944, sous les ordres de Klaus Barbie, près de Lyon, puisse me pardonner, mais la sagesse du Temps est bien plus vaste que les enquêtes de l'Histoire.

7.8.12

CVI - Colossus - the Rise and Fall of the american Empire, by Niall Ferguson, comments by André Bandeira

This book, written in 2003 and published in 2004, seems already outdated. But, coming from and oxfordian and Harvard historian, not only it shows the continuities of north-american policy, but also the continuities between the British and the US Empire. The book is well sized, very well sourced and it only scratches the journalistic membrane. The author is very much seduced for what it calls the «liberal Empire», although refraining from considering the British heritage as something that the USA should shoulder. As a matter of fact, he quotes several times the tradition, both republican and democrat, in the USA, of departing from a new ground where the American Revolution stepped in, that means: a new world without colonies. But what he elaborates better on, that is the historical need for an Empire, as the best alternative, not to multipolarity (which takes time to build) but to an anarchic and opressive apolarity. The sub-title seems to be a very good publicity spot. People run to read the book, in order to find knowledge on how a generally detested thing -- imperialism -- is going to fade away and they end-up in the middle of an overt advocacy of Empire. The author recognizes that, albeit the need and some intuition of it, among the american forerunners, that the most liberal nation in the world shouldn't shy away from taking its new responsibilities, still there are some inherent contradictions which may prevent a real Empire to emerge. One is the american public debt and how the rest of the world ( for instance China) have purchased it, that meaning that foreign rivals, may steer american foreign policy. The second that is what he calls «a lack of attention», or, in other words, the lack of political will and determination in the US, in taking the reins of an imperial destiny. The first point is something that the author doesn't master very well, maybe because it is History in the making and he doesn't cover all the aspects of an economic system underpinning any historical landscape. The second is more interesting because it is a genuinely cultural matter and the author is very well equipped to measure the resiling constants of the anglo-saxon culture on both sides of the north Atlantic. Does the book end with setting a bid for someone to take the stance of a «liberal imperialist»? I do not think so. The conclusion certainly entails that not so unintended premisse but the author also recognizes, all the book long, how the genetic code of the United States is averse to imperialism. That also may mean that the new doctrines of interventionism, responsibility to protect, human rights imposed by force, etc., don't have the means for attaining those heights. Something which inevitably leads to very volatile, day-dreaming actions, so seductive as high-risk speculative bonds and potentially so toxic as the current financial crisis.    

3.7.12

CV- Getúlio - 1882-1930, Dos anos de formação à conquista do poder, by Lira Neto, comments by André Bandeira

This is the biography (first of three volums) of Getúlio Vargas, the brazilian dictator, between 1930 and 1945. The author cultivates the detail. And many details remain undeciphered because the character was ambivalent. The trend is one of Boris Fausto, probably the most prestigious contemporary historian of Brazil and, with such degree of detail, it tends to leave Brazil in a kind of self-generated limbo, the teophany of specialists and experts. But it is interesting how the book characterizes a typical Rio Grande man, by the way, descendant of azorean Portuguese, both by mother and father. I doesn't matter that his parents reunited the rival monarchist and republican parties of Rio Grande do Sul where the specifity of a «self-generated Brazil» is completely punctuated by south-american culture (and there it goes away the specifity of Brazil). The book, besides its journalistic/forensic erudition, is very informative: GetúlioVargas demonstrates in the periphery of a world system (as the marxist Immanuel Wallerstein put it), how communist and fascist ideas were proxy. But this was long ago and Wallerstein, for the sake of an always updated rationalism, would shout «foul!». If in fact the doctrines were so similar, it is because they were smoke-screening something else. But all these details, which make out of the book, almost a Ernest Ludwig's interview, don't cast away the smog. Once the buzz has been subdued, communism and fascism were just an industrial superb device for a revengeful mentallity such as the one of «Buddha Getúlio». His self-control was much better than his napoleonic energy, or his mediterranean prudence. In a post-modern purgatory, where Althusser commanded us to analyse the production of ideas, we see that Vargas follows an authoritarian brutality lineage which dismounted monarchy and gave room for a never-ending chase for nobility and recognition, they called Republic. This is the sudden illumination of Chaim, which saw he could slain a brother and still survive under the skies, someone called later «positivism», no matter it became followed up by communist or fascist doctrine. Getúlio's arts in keeping afloat with his silences, his enygmas, his little-people charm, his smile, and an enormous network of devices, as a matter of fact, reminds me more of a puffy guru than one of a genuine Buddha. Getúlio Vargas was a very fashionable man and his charm holds on. No, not because of his labor policies -- he didn't have the experience of Mussolini. But because, in such pristine violence he muddled through, Vargas had something of a buddistic lightness, if not divine cynicism. And if his background was brutal, no wonder the way he died. The same buddistic excuses are very much in fashion in modern West. As a matter of fact, as if it were a kind of sign, the author reminds us that Vargas, only recently was brought back to the national Pantheon.
v

24.6.12

CIV - Interview with Francis Bacon - The brutality of fact, by David Sylvester, comments by André Bandeira

This book, containing several interviews with the irish/british painter Francis Bacon, sheds some light on his career. Francis Bacon has something of a Picasso sketch on a Manet's scenario. I mean that he makes experiments with figures on a monochromatic scenario, but quite otherwise than Picasso, his figurations do not become an extrovert political demonstration. Nevertheless,  he dwells in a kind of distortion and simultaneity, printed on his figures, as moulding a sculpture of colours and reversing our concept of flesh and portrait integrity. That is why Bacon masters the organic tonalities, especially the ones of human entrails, which are ripped apart in an almost obsessive slaughterhouse, working round the clock under the cracking light. So, there is no «brutality of fact», as the subtitle argues. Francis Bacon is brutal, yes, but in his visions. He doesn't speak to faces, he tears them apart as an alien with little or no patience. Of course he tries to push all of us to the ground where judgement would sound awkward, taking into account the cosmological darkness of his scene-setting. At a certain point, he issues a doctrine: the only thing which will be remembered from a people far gone, that will be this people's main cultural achievements, no matter what they did cost in terms of inequality and human suffering. That is what he calls «Grand Art», which, as a matter of fact, he says would be unfeasible, without social inequality. Having said this, time is high to range Bacon as an icon of a certain distorted «culture», very much in fashion today. It is true that Margaret Thatcher talked about «Bacon's horrible pictures» but she didn't have a word for the horrid side-effects of her own designs and casts. It is sure that, albeit Bacon's erratic life and financial roller-coaster, he was also a consumate priviliged, full of inherited devices and with a plentiful ring of keys, pending from his waist. That is why he silver lined so many social showdowns where he occasionally found himself. Bacon's seemingly fragility, the track of his early relationships which put him often on the brink of self-anihilation, they amounted to be the best camouflage for his immensely monolithic discipline. When he distracts us by means of shocking narrations, Bacon pushes trough his agenda, the one that contends on the centrality of «fact». But there is another fact looming: the fact that he chooses facts such as two men having a monstruous intercourse on a bed, a young and disgraced partner reclining dead, on drugs and booze, cartridged in a water closet, as well as faces bluring under the night-life caleidoscope, that is a social canvassing that he coarsely whisks away. In the times of Marinetti, Bacon could well be a fascist, not the improbable revolutionary who began with wearing a black shirt, but the revengeful one, who just used fascism to further his agenda of social estrangement. All Bacon's falls, his frailty and scandalous behaviour are nothing more than a strategy for him to come out unscathed of the sewage where he took shelter. As a mater of fact, his canvasses are no bidimensional sculpture of reality where the organic interiors would unfold brutally, in daylight, as the «fact of life» he argued for. They indeed are accurate snapshots of a living hell, where the stronger, and the most rused, survive the ongoing slaughter of human perception, and Bacon is one of the officiants.   He is indeed, a good prototype of the anthropofagist who hides under a romantic uniform. If one thinks that his «Soho culture» is no political matter, but a social one, that is because one is ignoring how often extremism mingled together in the same political themes, preferebly in the brink, just to compulse the victim, before stabbing it at a close range, in the radical guise. Oscar Wilde did it, out of social revolt. Bacon did it, out of social contempt. This book is a kind of modern narration, as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: it should be caricatured as «Lord Bacon of Oxford and the unfortunate Dyer».

13.5.12

´CIII - "Quincas Borba", by Machado de Assis, comments by André Bandeira

This novel, published in 1891, narrates the rise and fall of Rubião, the personal  male nurse of the philosopher Quincas Borba, who accompanies the terminally ill Borba and who becomes his sole heir, on condition of taking care of the philosopher's dog, named exactly as him: Quincas Borba. And this is the first joke. As it often happens in Machado de Assis's plots, the novel is full of mishaps and tricks which never manage to make all characters fall in flames, because his novels are the description of a whole world which is accomodated, while marching to the abyss or perhaps, being flooded by the abyss. The characters always manage to escape, either by their own wit, or by Destiny's generosity, but once the trick becomes effective, the story will never be the same again. Rubião, who had given the dog for adoption, before the will had been unsealed, runs desperate after the pet, in order to recover it and avoiding a tentative revoke of the will. This is the second joke. Once in possession of his newly acquired fortune, Rubião moves from Minas Gerais to the capital, involves himself in Politics, buys a fine house, sponsors lavish parties and, at a certain point, he meets a couple, Palha and his young beautiful wife, Sofia. He falls in love with her, he takes her condescence by acquiescence and goes on financing Palhas misadventures in Politics and Trade. Gradually, his fortune goes from unbalanced to bankruptcy and then to misery. He ends up mad, pretending to be Emperor, granting titles to the former friends who still acquiesce in exchanging some words with him, he drills his hallucinatory armies in the streets, followed by a pack of children, in a sort of Circus parade. And then he dies, to assuage all his fatal destiny, after being sheltered from the rain with the dog Quincas Borba. He thought he was king, he wore the crown or what he thought to be a crown on his head, and committed it to the carers, almost pronouncing the last fatal words of his mentor, the philosopher Quincas Borba:  «to the winner, the potatoes!». There was a kind of parabol, by which the late philosopher used to describe the human condition: there were two tribes at the foot of two opposite slopes in a mountain. One tribe had enough potatoes to feed itself. The other one didn't. So, then, one day, the less fortunate tribe would climb up the mountain, get down to the other side, and massacre the more fortunate tribe, in order to get nourrishment. Therefore, «to the winner, the potatoes!». And that was fine and strong, according to the philosopher. I think, that Machado de Assis, who was a top official during the Empire, and went on so, during the Republic, without withdrawing the portrait of the Emperor Pedro II over his desk, chose «Quincas Borba» to describe how a wealthy, lonesome, philosophy, managed to put at its service a generous, incautious Emperor and exploit him till the end, under false seductions and unmoral shut-ups. The dog howled for three days, after Rubião death and then it died as well. And this is the third joke: no matter one could laugh or cry, it was the same. The cross above, which Rubião evoked as witness during one of his passionate tirades to Sofia and that she didn't want to stare at, went on over a hill in Rio de Janeiro, untouched by the laughs and tears of men.  And that is how the novel ends. But not Machado de Assis...

21.4.12

CII – Das Deutsche Kaiserreich 1871-1914 – Ein historisches Lesebuch, von Gerhard A. Ritter (Herausgegeber) - André Bndeira

Das ist ein Lesebuch, das durch den ausgewahlten , aus der Quellen entgenommen, Texten, die politischen Strukturen der wilhelminischen Kaisertum und der Deutsche Politik, in dem Period der Vorkriegeszeit, beschreibt. Trotz demonstrativer zu sein, sie zeigen auch einen besonderen Leitfaden. Die Zeitstrecke 1871/1914 lasst uns sehen das die Bau des Kaiserreichs (das Zweite Reiche) durch eine autoritäre Gestaltung, die Forderung eine Nation (die von der Junkers, die preussischen Aristokratie, geleitet wurde), ohne eine innere Einigung zu erreichen, erzielt hat. Das Zweite Reich hat drei Widerspruche behandelt. Die dritter – der Krieg -- war die letzte. Die erste war der Kulturkampf (die schwierige Entscheidung der deutschen Katholiken, zwischen den Kaiser und den Papst), und die zweite war die Vergrösserung des sozialdemokratisches Partei der bis zur erster Stelle des politischen Spektrums aufgestiegen hat. Trotzdem, die Regierung hat die erste Sozialgesetze durchgesetzt, aber hauptsächlich um die sozialdemokratische Bewegung zu widerstehen. Die deutschen Widerspruche sind mit der unebenen Entwicklung der Gesellschaft verwirrt worden.

Im Mai 1895, sagte Max Weber: «Ich bin ein Mitglied der bürgerlichen Klassen» und «…wenn ich frage, ob das Bürgertum Deutschlands heute reif ist, die politisch leitende Klasse der Nation zu sein, so vermag ich heute nicht diese Frage zu bejahen». Es ist keine Wunder das dieser «Mitglied der Bürgertum» , durch ein «polar Finsternis» von dem Leben sich verabschiedet hat. Wieso? Ich erkläre: in Deutschland, war Weber der berühmteste Sozialanalytiker seiner Zeit. Er nahm als gefährlich an wenn ein ökonomisch sinkendende Klasse die politische Herrschaft in der Hand hälte, aber es war noch gefährlicher wenn eine andere Klasse, die nicht reif war, an der Leitung zu ergreifen strebte. Weber war scheu und weise. Erstens war er weise aber seine Weisheit war mit Fluchen voll, namentlich die «Klassen», die soziologischerweise, zum Wettbewerb verdämmnt waren, aber logischerweise, mit einer Berufung -- der man nicht diskutieren konnte – vorher programmiert wurden. Am wenigstens, Karl Marx, hat das Endziel der Geschichte diskutiert. Vielleicht es gibt kein Ziel, trotz der marxistischer Doktrin, aber es gibt auch keine Programmierung man «Klassen» nennen kann. Man kann nicht, genau falls er Max Weber ist, einen Begriff in der Baustelle legen und ihr weiterhin benutzen als ob eine reine Tatsache wäre. Die Klassen sind keine Schachteln die je mehr vergrössen desto mehr Leute zu einpacken können. Ausserdem sie waren keine Vorprogrammierung der Anfang der Zeiten.

Was in dem wilhelminischen Kaisertum, die Meinungen Webers dementiert, das ist das fast allen Mietgliedern allen Klassen in Deutschland, am Beginn, Mitte,und auch am Ende des Krieges, gegen Frankreich, England und die Vereinigten Staaten kampfertig waren. Das meint nicht, das der Krieg allen Begriffen verschmolzt, sondern es meint das es gibt kulturellen Tatsachen die jenseits der soziologische Analyse bleiben. Kann Deutschland ohne eine autoritäre kulturelle Abstammung existieren? Und kann Deutschland mit seinen inneren Widerspruchen sich durchsetzen? Die erste, ja. Die zweite, ja und nein, in diese Ordnung, falls es um die Gegenteilen angesichts den Nachbarn gehe.
CII – Das Deutsche Kaiserrreich 1871-1914 – Ein historisches Lesebuch, von Gerhard A. Ritter (Herausgegeber)

Das ist ein Lesebuch, das durch den ausgewahlten Texten, aus der entgenommen Quellen, die politischen Strukturen der wilhelminischen Kaisertum und der Deutsche Politik, in dem Period der Vorkriegeszeit, beschreibt. Trotz demonstrativer zu sein, sie zeigen auch einen besonderen Leitfaden. Die Zeitstrecke 1871/1914 lasst uns sehen das die Bau des Kaiserreichs (das Zweite Reiche) durch eine autoritäre Gestaltung, die Forderung eine Nation (die von der Junkers, die preussischen Aristokratie, geleitet wurde), ohne seine innere Einigung zu erreichen, erzielt hat. Das Zweite Reich hat drei Gegenteile behandelt. Der dritter Gegenteil – der Krieg -- war den letzter. Der erster war der Kulturkampf (die schwierige Entscheidung der deutschen Katholiken, zwischen den Kaiser und den Papst), und der zweiter war die Vergrösserung des sozialdemokratisches Partei der bis zur erster Stelle des politischen Spektrums aufgestiegen hat. Trotzdem, die Regierung hat die erste Sozialgesetze durchgesetzt, aber hauptsachlich um die sozialdemokratische Bewegung zu widerstehen. Die deutschen Gegenteile waren mit der unebenen Entwicklung der Gesellschaft verwirrt.

Im Mai 1895, sagte Max Weber: «Ich bin ein Mitglied der bürgerlichen Klassen» und «…wenn ich frage, ob das Bürgertum Deutschlands heute reif ist, die politisch leitende Klasse der Nation zu sein, so vermag ich heute nicht diese Frage zu bejahen». Es ist keine Wunder das dieser «Mitglied der Bürgertum» , durch ein «polar Finsternis» von dem Leben sich verabschiedet hat. Warum so? Ich erkläre: Weber war der berühmteste Sozialanalytiker seiner Zeit. Er nahm das es gefährlich an wenn ein ökonomisch sinkendende Klasse die politische Herrschaft in der Hand hält, aber es war noch gefährlicher wenn eine andere Klasse, die nicht reif war, an der Leitung zu ergreifen. Weber war scheu und weise. Erstens war er weise aber seine Weisheit war mit Fluchen voll, namentlich die «Klassen», die soziologischerweise, zum Betweberb verdämmnt waren, aber logischerweise, mit einer Berufung -- der man nicht diskutieren konnte – vorher programmiert wurden. Am wenigstens, Karl Marx, hat das Endziel der Geschichte diskutiert. Vielleicht es gibt kein Ziel, trotz der marxistischer Mystifizierung, aber es gibt auch keine Programmierung man «Klassen» nennen kann. Man kann nicht, genau falls er Max Weber ist, einen Begriff in der Baustelle legen und ihr weiterhin benutzen als ob eine reine Tatsache wäre. Die Klassen sind keine Schachteln die die vergrössen um mehr Leute zu einpacken, und sie waren nicht seit dem Anfang der Zeit, vorprogrammiert.

Was in dem wilhelminischen Kaisertum, die Meinungen Webers dementiert, das ist das allen Klassen in Deutschland, waren, am Beginn, Mittel, und was um fast allen seinen Mitglederen geht, auch am Ende, gegen Frankreich, England und die Vereinigten Staaten fertig zu kampfen. Das meint nicht, das der Krieg allen Begriffen verschmolzt, sondern es meint das es gibt kulturellen Tatsachen die jenseits der soziologische Analyse bleiben. Kann Deutschland ohne eine autoritäre kulturelle Abstammung existieren? Und kann Deutschland mit seinen inneren Gegenteilen sich durchsetzen? Die erste, ja. Die zweite, ja und nein, in diese Ordnung, falls es um die Gegenteilen mit den Nachbarn gehe.

15.4.12

CI – (Re)leituras – Warum Wir? Die Deutschen und die Holocaust, von Wilhelm von Sternburg - André Bandeira

Sternburg sagt über die Schuld des deutschen Volkes, den Holocaust, was wir in diesen Tagen, so schnell vergessen haben: «Demokratie nicht automatisch ersetzt einen sozialen Wertesystem, basierend auf die Toleranz der anderen, auf friedliche Lösung von Konflikten und Achtung des Rechts. Sternburg zitiert auch Habermas: «Wir sind kein irgendein Land». Und er beklagt die Historikern wie Ernst Nolte im Nebel des Ost-West Konflikts, für die Fälschung von Ursache und Wirkung des "Deutschen Kollektivschuld". Ernst Nolte hat ein anderes Bild von Konflikten in Europa, vor allem einen langwierigen Konflikt beschrieben, die zwischen 1914 und 1945 gedauert hat. Die Darstellung des «Faschismus» hat viele Weltanschauungen zusammengeführt (und auch unsere Vorsicht verwirrt) weil die unterschiedlichen Reaktionen, die in Europa, gegen die Flut der «neuen Welt» des Kommunismus, sprang, hatten gegensätzliche, in nationalistischen Weise untereinander bereits vor 1939 rivalisiert, und mit einander, am Ende des Krieges gekämpft. Das Beispiel des «Austrofaschismus», und die Ermordung des österreichischen Kanzler Dolfuss, durch die Nationalsozialisten begagangen, fungiert lediglich als ein Beispiel für die Vorkriegszeit. Und bemerken Wir die Erfahrungen von Menschen, die Seiten am Ende des Krieges gewechselt haben, nicht nur um ihre Haut zu retten, sondern auch zu Land und Familien zu ersparen - und Sie bezahlt haben, genau mit ihrem Leben, dieses Risiko - bleibt noch einer gute Forschung würdig. Die Ideen sind keine Schleier der Realität, sondern Ihre Tatsachen in einer größeren Realität, wo sie teilnehmen.
Aber was bleibt von einer fast Rituale des «deutschen Kollektivschuld», neben der Sternburg Ansichten? «Gesellschaftliche Wertesystem» ist doppelt bleifrei, wenn wir, an die Werte denken, in eine Art kommunitären Weise, und an einer wertvollen «Gesellschaft» zweifeln. Überall dort, wo Freiheit als Deutung Kriterien für andere Werte steht, sollten die Begriffe und Wörter einzig aus verschiedenen Ecken anschneiden werden. Sternburg sagt: «Hitler wurde möglich, weil über Generationen hinweg, es gaebe eine fundamentale «Erlösung» aus all den sozialen, politischen und geistigen Wirnissen der Zeit». Ist dies der Ausdruck eine kollektive Schuld? Es kann als ein Scherz, hier, wirken aber Göering, sich zu verteidigen, in der Holocaust-Ausgabe im Nürnberger Prozess, gelang es, den nord-amerikanischen Staatsanwaltschaft zu widersprechen, dass es keine "Endlösung" in jeder Nazi Urkunde zu dokumentieren war, sondern nur «Erlösung». Wir wissen alle wie dieser Prozess abgeschlossen ist. Göering beging Selbstmord, und die anderen, wurden, durch was wir heute als unmenschliche Behandlung halten, geopfert: die Todesstrafe (und die Tatsache um die «Todestrafestaat» das die Nazis gegrundet haben, bleibt keine Grundung für eine Monotonie, weil wir, auf keinen Fall, zu keiner Monotonie verdämmt sind). Die Kriegsverbrechen sind nichts, was wir an die Schuld auf Kriminellen Nachfahren anrechnen können. Und es ist die Abwesenheit von alle «Erlösung» die um die Grenzen unserer Toleranz und Recht zu übertreffen verbietet, aber auch welche das Ausmaß der Schulden, die wir aufgrund von zu viel Toleranz gegenüber uns selbst, zu bestätigen aufnötigt. Zum Beispiel: die Juden, die selbst herausgefunden wie Deutschen, und wer, als Patrioten im deutschen Kriegen, vielen Eisernen Kreuze bekommen haben, waren nur 1 % der Bevölkerung. Aber sie konnten nicht eine Karriere als Professoren oder als militär im wilhelminischen Reich zu folgen. Und dann, wandte sich diese Minderheit, zu den spekulativen Branchen der Wirtschaft, wo ihre Dinamik ausgenutzt worden war und auf die Spitze genommen wurde. Dann, sie waren für die Krise verantwortlich gemacht worden. Was neues?

23.1.12

C - Dietrich, by Malena Shepard Skaerved, comments by André Bandeira

I always admired Marlene Dietrich. I didn't love her, I didn't idolized her. She died suddenly, at least for me when I lived in Vienna, on 1992,while she was still trying to amaze the public with some contradictory news, and some flashbacks about her late shows, made up of gnashing and pain. She acted in a movie I don't remember the name, which failed at the ticket-offices, because it contained a flashback -- let's say: a clarification made by the narrator -- with a deliberate lie. Nevertheless Marlene, Maria Magdalene Dietrich, always told that she was the evidence of herself. This biography is fine, not because of the details, but because of the caches, notably an amazing one which tells the story of the whole Second World War, in a chronology of a few lines. The thing I love the most in her, was the way she mingled together with the young soldiers, about to march to the front. She embraced them, caressed them, laughed and danced with them, and all were young enough to be her children. She was a failure in finance, without ever being a waster. She always wanted to become a Theatre actress but life did her otherwise. At a certain point she considered herself a prostitute, while scrambling to get contracts in the studios and she didn't mean it as a tragedy.She was a sinner, of course, a big one, and she managed to stay afloat thanks to her cabarettist talents and an elaborate make-up. But everytime she stepped on stage, she managed to behave as Lola, her first main role: we have to dance and be gay, just because there is some dance and gaiety in the world to be taken by someone, no matter the circumstances. As she said, her Berlin humour made her survive. But I do not agree: it was her heart, her boyish heart in a woman's bosom who made her sing and act as if she had the mission, on this earth, of making the others feel that the world stays beautiful and the gray sky will be there, light blue, in Summer. Let's lesson to «Illusions», a song written by her old jewish piano-player, Fred Hollaender, which was able, more than any Treaty, to make everybody understand that Right is never, all of it, on the side of the winners.