11 August



The democratic cause can only exist when it is first elaborated in words and then translated into actions. Yesterday we witnessed yet another proof of this

On August 11, 1827, Dom Pedro I sanctioned and promulgated the law that created legal courses in Brazil. The following year, two schools were born, one in São Paulo, in Largo de São Francisco, and another in Olinda. Later, the first of them became part of the University of São Paulo (USP), founded in 1934. At that time, the “old academy”, as students like to call it, was already a century-old institution, proud of its role decisive in the struggle for abolition and in the struggle for the Republic.

Within USP, its traditions were never diluted and its personality never faded. So much the better. Its Academic Center, created in 1903 with the obvious name of XI de Agosto, is still today one of the most prominent student organizations in the country. No other embodied the democratic cause with such legitimacy and substance.

Now, the democratic cause can only exist when, first, it is elaborated in words and, later, it is translated into actions – necessarily in that order. On August 11th, we witnessed yet another proof of this. In Largo de São Francisco and in several other law schools in Brazil, we had public acts in defense of the Democratic State of Law, which has been harassed by the President of the Republic and his followers, armed or not. Who pulled the movement is the Letter to Brazilian men and women, which was written by former students and already has the signature of more than one million people. That is, who pulls is the word.

The text has the irreplaceable merit of being impersonal and non-partisan. Right at the beginning, it honors a previous letter, which was read by Professor Goffredo da Silva Telles Jr., in 1977, in the courtyard of the Faculty. In the 1970s, Arcadas rose up against the military dictatorship, in a speech that changed the course of events. Now, Arcades are facing scammers and late-breakers, who spread lies about electronic voting machines. The two letters are, without any recourse to rhetoric, the same voice.

Only the word can act in critical times like the one we are living. The word, and only the word, gives meaning to collective gestures. In every part of Brazil, petitions appear – much more than “little letters”, as one unfortunate person tried to disdain – to defend democratic guarantees, in a clear sign that we are still a society of our word. Even the Academia Paulista de Letras, in an unprecedented and largely surprising initiative, published its “manifesto in defense of democracy”, in which it warns: “Society, anesthetized by the crisis at all levels, has to wake up and exercise their citizenship rights”. Entities of employers and workers unite to subscribe to the same pronouncements. The word takes over. The word against violence. The letter against the bullet. The book against guns. The word against the squalor of those without words.

This also gives rise to the enormous symbolic weight of the date of August 11th. Working with laws is working with the word and its effectiveness. The legal system is made up of words only – images and theatrics solve nothing. Justice, the Aristotelian ideal of politics, is expressed in words before materializing in fact. Knowing this, the care we must take – following what Goffredo da Silva Telles Jr. said in 1977 – is “not to confuse the legal with the legitimate anymore”.

The master taught us by example: the example of the word. With him, we learned to use words in the pursuit of justice, to argue with words, to think in words, to dialogue through words (because there is no other way), to unite through words and, with words, win .

Looking around, it is possible to sense that something has improved in this country, where so much has deteriorated. The University is better. In 1964, when the April Fool's coup came, congregations of colleges gave their support to the tanks. In 1968, when political repression intensified, there were professors who volunteered to write unspeakable acts and others who claimed to put such “itches” aside. Today, in 2022, São Paulo public universities join hands to repudiate authoritarianism on August 11th. Better.

We are a country with terrible problems, just look at the political breakdown, but when we look at the civic awareness that is growing, we have the feeling that we have learned from the past. We know that the incumbent will try everything he can – and, even more, what he cannot – to not see himself thrown out of the chair he sat in, but we also know that, with the force of fair law, Brazil has everything to do enforce the popular will and guarantee free and sovereign elections.

This August 11th we had people on the streets in defense of democracy. That the demonstrations took place around law schools is encouraging, more than logical. In a way, the cause of freedom, human rights and peace is embracing the letter of the law. I hope that the example of the word bears fruit and that, from today onwards, no bachelor goes out looking for shelter, again, in the band of torturers.

* Eugene Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of The superindustry of the imaginary (authentic).

Originally published in the newspaper The State of S. Paul.


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