Threats to education

Image: Alexander Isreb


“University of black, fag and slum dwellers”: what does the hatred of thought make us think?

Thought faces hate, it does not run away from it. Among the lines of aggression and violence that fragmentarily fall from the WhatsApp messages received by students of the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro on April 03, 2023,[I] a phrase stands out that reveals a certain kind of hatred of the thought that makes us think. The phrase is: "I'm going to set fire to that college of black, gay and favelados".[ii]

Not all hatred of thought leads to thought. Most of this type of hatred hinders thought, confuses it, puts up obstacles over which it stumbles, loses support, ceases to exist to soon give way to reaction, to an unthinking reaction, although certainly necessary at first sight: call the police, reinforce policing, arrest immediately, etc.[iii] Hatred of thought that does not lead to thought always provokes a reaction and prevents thought from thinking and organizing an action against what is imposed on it. Anyone who threatens peace wants to take away peace, and nothing takes away peace from a place more than the presence of one of the police forces that kills the most and dies the most.[iv]

Thought, affected by the hatred that oppresses it, gives its tormentor much more than the tormentor wants: not just the presence of a firearm about to go off, but the presence of countless of them. As we used to sing for decades, a peace guaranteed by the most violent guns in the world, “it's not peace, it's fear”.[v] And fear is everything that prevents thought from creating itself.

As this form of hatred of thought (commonly seen) is expressed through virtual social networks, the first reaction is to claim regulation, control or monitoring of networks, even though we know that they are produced, financed and maintained by corporations that use hate, the more hate engages, sells and makes big profits. Networks, structured in this way, are made to bring together those who think alike and to distance those who think differently; is a fascist logic of contempt for the other based on “like”,[vi] and not as a mere accidental consequence of the configuration of the algorithms, but as a matter of principle. And this, thought knows well as long as it is not downcast.

Thought, abandoned to itself, gives way to reaction, and the reaction is to create in social networks (which by principle engender hatred) means of resisting hatred. Emergency reaction pages are then created, which do nothing more than expose the names of the people most willing to fight against hate, allowing haters to adjust their sights. It is the very scenario described by Etienne de La Boétie: we give the tyrant the eye with which he watches us; we give the foot with which he crushes us, and so on.[vii] Thought does it differently. He understands that he is always in the crosshairs of some hate, but he avoids as much as possible exposing himself openly to his opponents.

But what, after all, is thought experience?[viii] teaches us what to do in the face of hate? In the first place, avoid falling back into what immediate reality wants to impose on us: fear and thoughtless reaction. Secondly, understanding the causes that lead to hatred and, finally, acting against this incessant production of cowards and resentful people, so that we never have to react against them again.

Let's go back to the phrase. The University in general is seen as the place where socially produced knowledge circulates at the highest level. According to the common feeling, it is in the university space that the people who have the most knowledge can be found. However, if this happens, it is only as a result of university activity. The university is the place of thought, not of knowledge that is already ready and established as truth; it does not simply work with instituted and formatted knowledge, but with activities that institute new forms of existence moved by the continuous impulse to always produce other knowledge.[ix] To want to “set the university on fire” is to want to transform not knowledge, but thought, into ashes.

In the case of the messages on April 03rd, the proposal to set fire to or blow up a university does not refer to just any university. If it were a “white, heterosexual and rich” university, it would be safe, after all, it produces thoughts and knowledge that serve white, heterosexual and rich people. In the precise terms of the phrase, the target is race, homosexuality and social class. Whoever pronounces the phrase means that thinking black, gay or living in the favela should not exist in the university space; and this is precisely the public that the public university, as it is public and free, should truly shelter. Whoever utters the phrase is allied with all the forces that have long been engaged in destroying the public university.

Understanding this disgusting complicity requires taking a decisive step: reaching a more specific understanding of the “hatred of thought”. In order not to dwell on a long reflection on this expression, I take advantage of a statement made recently by Professor Marilena Chaui: “Hatred of thought is the fear of calling into question common sense, pre-established ideas. Why do hate and fear come together here? Because thinking, when questioning common sense, has a transforming power: when thinking, thinking makes you think, gives food for thought and shakes the foundations of common sense. The hatred of thought appears in the hatred of the public university”.[X]

The hatred of thought is the fear of running the risk of the truth, a fear that manifests itself, among other forms, in the constant cynicism noted among sectors of the extreme right and in the incessant enjoyment of living in prejudice. Side by side with fear, he always incites thought to place all attention on threats (and even on violent actions carried out in schools and universities), highlighting in them what is the immediate reality: the victims (who come to be seen as martyrs) and executioners (who are, in fact, managed by networks much larger than themselves). It is undoubtedly up to reaction to the practical task of containing the violators and repairing, as far as possible, the violated people, but the work of thought applies to preventing new victims from being made and new tormentors from becoming heroes in their gangs. .

Thought will only eliminate hatred if it fights the source of all the forces that, by forging law projects and education reforms, want to prevent blacks and favelados from entering a democratic, public and free university[xi]. Specifically: the activity of thinking will only contain the hatred currently seen against educational institutions if (1) it fights the instances that insist on transforming the university, through privatization, into an exclusive place for new white aspirants, and (2) it fights the foundations, organizations and institutes that – in the form of think tanks – aim to convert young people from the working class into providers of technical services in a world of progressively precarious working conditions.

Thought overcomes the hatred turned against it, when it finds among the marks of the threats discussed here the traits that reveal its fusion with the political projects in vogue, and manages to make us act against these political projects, fight for radical democratization (urgent) from the public university and see, finally, the obvious behind the crime scenes, that is, that the executioners are thirteen, eighteen, twenty-five years old.

 Thought, it is very important to note, does not fight for everyone's freedom because it is kind and, out of kindness, does not enter the connections of hate. Thought knows how to act harshly and aggressively when someone (individual) stands against collective peace. The “virtuous” philosopher Bento de Espinosa was right about this, because even though he founded his philosophy on joy, love and mutual aid, he did not hesitate to state in the eighth chapter of his Political Treaty, that “if anyone in the supreme council calls into question any fundamental right (…), he will be guilty of lese majesty, and not only will he be condemned to death and his property confiscated, but in addition a sign of torture will be erected in public, to the eternal memory of it.”[xii]

The activity of thought also transits through the connections of hate, but it knows who it is against. In a society where everyone has common rights, and where the law belongs to everyone (since everyone equally creates it and everyone equally obeys it), punishments like the one described by Spinoza may even be appropriate. It is not, however, worthy of a society that intends to achieve a radical democratization to give in to the cheap desire to punish threatening young people, knowing that there is always a gang that enlists and protects them, and that they themselves, because they are young, are also in some way patients of previous violence.[xiii]

Thought does not react to hate, it acts against it.[xiv]

*Fernando Bonadia de Oliveira Professor of philosophy of education at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ.


CHAUI, Marilena. The thought experience. In: From reality without mysteries to the mystery of the world. Rio de Janeiro: Brasiliense, 1981.

CHAUI, Marilena. Knowledge X power: in search of space for reflection. In: conformism and resistance. Belo Horizonte: Autêntica, 2014, p. 155-174.

CHAUI, Marilena. The exercise and dignity of thought: the place of the Brazilian university. Lecture (Federal University of Bahia), 22/02/2021. Available in:

SPINOSA, Baruch. Political Treaty. Translation: Diogo Pires Aurélio. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2009.

HAN, Byung-Chul. palliative society: the pain today. Translation: Lucas Machado. Petrópolis: Editora Vozes, 2021.

LA BOETIE, Etienne de. Voluntary servitude speech. Translation: Laymert Garcia dos Santos. São Paulo, Brasiliense, 1999.

SANCHEZ, Mariana. Why billionaire investment in security in schools did not prevent an increase in attacks in the USA. BBCNews, Brazil. Available:,aumento%20de%20ataques%20nos%20EUA&text=Os%20Estados%20Unidos%20vivem%20um,universidades%20como%20nos%20%C3%BAltimos%20anos

SANTOS, Elaine. Study in seven states indicates the policy of RJ as the one that kills the most and dies the most. 06/10/2023. Available in


[I] Communiqué from the Central Administration on reports of threats (Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro). Available in:

[ii] The messages circulated a lot on the networks in files of screenshots obtained by the people threatened. The image within which the sentence quoted here appears contains eight sentences in all. In the first, the threatening person presents himself with a sexist/misogynist insult. In the second, it involves the Rural University of Rio de Janeiro as the place where he would commit a first type of crime (sexual abuse). In the third message, he threatens to commit another type of crime (injury with a bullet). In the fourth, he makes a sexist reference to a collective of university veterans and threatens another crime (collective murder). On the fifth, the phrase cited here occurs: “I'm going to burn down that college of black, gay and favelados”. On Friday, he commits another type of (racial) crime. In the seventh, another sexist/misogynistic insult. In the eighth. threatens a crime (homicide) that would be collectively carried out: “We will…”.

[iii] On the arms exit, see the recently published BBC Brasil report, which objectively indicates the paradox experienced by the US educational system: “The United States is experiencing a paradox: the country has never invested so much in measures to increase school safety. And yet, it has never seen so many massacres in schools and universities as in recent years” (SANCHEZ, 2023).

[iv] See recent study released by Santos (2023).

[v] The Rappa. My soul (The peace I don't want), 1999.

[vi] What Byung-Chul-Han (2022) called the “palliative society” or “enjoyment society”.

[vii] VIEW Voluntary servitude speech by Etienne de la Boétie (1999, p. 78-79).

[viii] I maintain here the concept of “thought experience” deepened by Marilena Chaui (1981, p. 277-278) based on Merleau-Ponty's idea of ​​“speech experience”.

[ix] On knowledge as a domain of instituted and thought as a domain of instituting, see Chaui (2014).

[X] Transcription of a lecture at the Federal University of Bahia (Chaui, 2021).

[xi] Or that, entering it, they cannot accompany it due to the lack of a common authentic curricular base.

[xii] See the chapter dedicated to the aristocratic empire (ESPINOSA, 2009, p. 102).

[xiii] Even those over twenty, such as the murderer who invaded the day care center in Blumenau (April 05, 2023), carry so many “deviations” in their history that it is impossible to guarantee that they were only given after the age of eighteen.

[xiv] Text read during one of the activities of the Integration Week of the Pedagogy course at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ) on April 11, 2023.

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