The fronts of attack on the university and science

Image: Lachlan Ross


The social, political, economic, technological and civilizational return that universities give to Brazilian society is incalculable

In recent years, in the midst of the daily schedule of absurdities with which we have become accustomed to living in contemporary Brazil, education, unfortunately, has had a great emphasis, always making us confront seasonal discussions on two central themes: from the end to the beginning of the year, the record cut in funding compared to the previous year and, a few months later, complaints about the risk of universities stopping due to – precisely – lack of funding.

But there are always, obviously, “extraordinary” events that reflect the aforementioned lack of funding and reveal how much the project of destruction, the “cattle of barbarism”, advances at full speed. The last of them came to light last week with the “outage” in the CNPq servers that took the Lattes platform offline and whose data we still don't know if it can be recovered. These events, however serious they are, represent only the tip of the visible iceberg. The phenomenon itself is not new in Brazil, but the level of acceleration of degradation seems to be.

The project to destroy the public university in our country – and, consequently, the conditions for doing science – comes from a long time ago and has always operated, in general, from two major fronts of attack: the neoliberal one, which accompanies us more strongly since the end of the last century, but which had cooled down during the PT governments to return strongly with Temer; and the ideological, which, also with its historical “comes and goes”, gains a strength never seen before with the election of Jair Bolsonaro. In both cases, as in almost all other topics, Temer only represents a bridge for Bolsonaro, more or less like a move rehearsed in a volleyball match, in which one raises the measure for the partner to cut.

However, precisely because these two fronts of attack normally go together and complement each other, this definition ends up being somewhat inaccurate, since, in addition to not dealing with separate things, the neoliberal pretext is no less ideological than the “ideological” level. proper. If we want to be more exact, therefore, we need to reorganize and rename these categories, also including another question, which apparently contradicts the two mentioned, but is who ultimately creates a connection between both fronts and transforms them into one thing, by provide the leap that goes from resentment to absolute denial. In this case, rephrasing the problem, we would have:

(1) The neoliberal ideology, which has always seen investment in education as an unnecessary expense and has never resigned itself to the fact that Brazil is one of the few countries where completely free higher education still resists; 2) the patrimonialist ideology of racist and classist bases, anchored above all in the culture of privilege that does not accept opening spaces for other layers of society; 3) the apex of neo-fascist ideology, which uses the resentment generated by the aforementioned confrontations with patrimonialism to take to the last consequences naked and raw barbarism as a State policy, with the university as its main scapegoat.

The three layers are intimately connected and are inseparable facets of the same problem, which is the attempt at maximum control of society and its resources by the elite, which necessarily involves the destruction of critical thinking and materializes, at a level perhaps never seen before , under the current government.

In the case of the first front of attack, it has always been present in our history, but it takes a big breath in the third quarter of the XNUMXth century, with the ultraneoliberal experiments particularly in Latin America. Discussing the role of the military dictatorship in this regard, which is often sold as having been based on a developmental project for the nation, but which, in addition to the political and social outgrowths that we know very well, was what started to open up the country as a laboratory for “chicago boys”, would take the focus away from the text.

However, going straight to the essential contradictions here and already making a comparison between educational policies in the dictatorship and in the post-dictatorship, we can say: on the one hand, the military sought to destroy everything that came close to a minimum critical thinking while at the same time building some universities; and, on the other hand, the post-dictatorship period brought us the (idea of) democracy back while enshrining neoliberal ideology as the unquestionable economic model in the country – which gives us the impression that maybe we always have a price to pay for things good things happen to us. After all, who doesn't remember the great “donations” of public assets (under the nomenclature of “modernizing privatizations”) of the FHC era, including the project of handing universities over to money sniffers?

Moving on to the second front of attack, anchored in the usual patrimonialism and in the exclusivist ideology of the elite and the middle class that aspires to be elite, the university begins to be a real “problem” for these classes when, especially at the end of the decade In the 1990s, the federal government, still with FHC, began to discuss public policies to democratize, to a certain extent, access to universities that they themselves sought to destroy, which culminated, later, fortunately, in well-defined programs of racial and socioeconomic quotas taken carried out effectively in the PT governments. Here, the elite's grudge against universities begins to enter a worrying phase, especially since it is a left-wing government opening universities to those who, supposedly, should never have the right to set foot in one.

Until then, the arguments of demoralization of the university, although they already existed in the mountains, were not so widespread, with the exception of certain caricatures that were made of human sciences courses in general and of left-wing militants in specific. But the situation even reaches the level of lack of control in the post-2014 period and with all the movement around the 2016 coup, based on the more than cynical pretext of the “school without a party”. This was the final phase of the “transition”, so to speak, which paved the way for the scenario that led Jair Bolsonaro to the Presidency of the Republic, with the task, among others, of destroying “communism”, which, according to him and his followers, is machined within the public university to be disseminated to the rest of the population – the term “communism” being here, evidently, the umbrella used to characterize anything that stands against absolute barbarism.

In a way, the “concern” that keeps an elite with neo-fascist tendencies and consumed by hatred from sleeping makes sense in the following point: the university works, in fact, as a kind of containment wall for the petty and authoritarian ideas that it defends, just as the school itself should, from childhood, form individuals capable of “dodging”, or even “decontaminating” themselves, these ideas that never ceased to circulate in society, especially in the primary socialization environment that is the family.

And if, in this sense, for the elite, the university is a den of “leftists”, it is because, in a simple and direct explanation, but sufficiently precise, the more individuals study, the more they understand the functioning of the society in which they live and the more they begin to produce knowledge about these discoveries, the more they tend to move away from that reactionary conception of the world that a good part of the elite defends: that is, the more these individuals like democracy and everything that it provides, as the proposal of a greater equality between people; in short, the more they identify with leftist ideas.

It was not, therefore, by chance that, effectively entering the third front of attack – the most virulent of all, the final point of this process of brutalization –, the resentment of the democratization of access turned into a much broader and deeper hatred, which led to the explicit defense of the destruction of the university. At that point, this could no longer be anything other than a place of pure turmoil and drug dealing, where classrooms served only as a stage for orgies, so that all university goers, almost without exception, became branded as great perverts whose sole purpose in life is to destroy the moral integrity of the traditional Brazilian family. All this, despite the fact that the university continues to be frequented in large part by the very angry middle class that surely never saw, in the universities where its members always studied, any trace of any of these delusions. But reality, at that moment, had also become an unimportant and even unwanted accessory.

The problem, after all, is that, as it is the public university that produces virtually all of the cutting-edge knowledge that circulates in the country, the pandemic has taken the situation to the limit of absurdity, at a time when the knights of death and ignorance felt obliged to throw once and for all in the trash can not only the universities, but all the scientific knowledge that can only be produced there, including, in this case, the very areas of research historically spared and that capitalism itself intended leave intact (the areas of exact sciences, health, technologies, etc.), as they are the ones that continue to earn a lot of money.

On the one hand, yes, the pandemic came in handy for the project to destroy universities, based on the traditional pretext of a lack of budget (attack front number 1) that sought to cover up a little the neo-fascist impetus of those currently in power (committed above all to attack front number 3). So much so that in August 2019, in the dead of night – and, not by chance, the problem was only noticed at the beginning of the following year, when the measure came into force –, the MEC launched Ordinance 1.469, which prohibited, from January 2020, illegally and unconstitutionally, the hiring of any employee by the Federal Educational Institutions.

The argument was to destroy the universities' financial autonomy only temporarily, while the budget law was not sanctioned at the beginning of the year; but the lies just piled up and the thing proved to be interminable: once the law was signed, the problem became a question of respect for certain budgetary limits; then they invented that the universities would depend on an authorization of vacancies by the MEC; finally, when the long-awaited “release” of vacancies happened, the bomb was dropped on the deans’ lap: from then on, they could even hire, but as long as they accepted to run the risk of answering for a crime of fiscal responsibility. To date, most of those approved have certainly not yet been hired. And I, who took office in March 2020, am only here to tell this story because of the courage of the rector of UFPA, Emmanuel Tourinho, to face these absurd attacks.

But, returning to the argument in relation to the pandemic, the truth is that, on the other hand, it also ended up very explicitly opening up the importance of universities and laid bare the nefarious project of society that intends to annihilate any and all production of reliable knowledge. Today, does anyone minimally committed to the data of reality still have doubts that the only possible result of this endeavor is brutal inequality, death and destruction?

The problem behind all of this is that, by seeking to destroy a part of society – “the leftist university” or any other stereotypical image that is made of those who fight for a better country –, you open the gate to the destruction of an entire society. , more or less like a cancer whose metastasis spreads rapidly, intensely and randomly. That is the risk of embarking on fascism with the seemingly “strategic” aim of eliminating those I also dislike, thinking that fascism can be controlled or maintained in the restricted environment that pleases me. This goes completely against the destructive logic of fascism, which is to start eliminating everything you find along the way, until you reach the point of eliminating yourself, when there is nothing left to be destroyed.

The poetic image of this, already very widespread, is offered to us by Brecht in a masterly way in his poem “It is necessary to act”: people began to be “taken away”, one by one, but the lyrical self did not care because it felt safe from the fact that he wasn't one of them, until his time came and there was no one left who could care for him.

 Today, with the absolute denial of any scientific knowledge on the part of those who govern us – which has been increasingly revealed to be just another pretext to earn a lot of money at the cost of our lives –, a non-negligible part of doctors, to quote one scandalous example, who thought they were totally immune to fascist destruction, are probably feeling, in the case of those who still remain linked to the scientific essence of their profession, like Brecht's lyrical self.

This is also how the occasionally repentant coup supporter elite feels – certain sectors of the media, the market, the traditional right-wing parties –, who embarked on Bolsonarism in a “strategic” way to destroy the left and appropriate public assets once and for all. , but ended up being run over halfway through and thrown into the same package as the “leftists” they hate so much. Today, if we do not defend barbarism, there is no way, we are all “communists”, in this Brazil in a trance where only two types of people fit: those who collaborate with the regime (even if from above the wall) and those who resist he and fight him.

In the midst of all this social, political, economic, civilizational and health catastrophe, it is the Brazilian public university and research institutes (also public) that, to a large extent, despite all the attacks, have managed to hold the “bar ” of this tragedy that could unfortunately be much greater, just as it could have been much smaller if universities and other institutions were functioning the way they should function.

The social, political, economic, technological and civilizational return that universities give to Brazilian society is incalculable, and that is why, today, more than ever, we need to preserve and defend it to the last consequences, but always taking all the care so we don't fall into another trap of scammers "and, too”, defenders of the number 1 attack front, who are largely responsible for finding ourselves in this seemingly endless hole.

Therefore, in order to defend this heritage that represents one of the main pillars of democracy in our country – which the fight against the pandemic proves very well – we must never lose sight of the fact that, if it is not possible to rebuild democracy without putting the university in the In its proper place, this process will never be able to be conducted by the second way of the right – under the pseudonym of “third way” or “center” –, whose only difference in relation to the fascists is the fact of using more “discreet” and to present itself in a more “smelling” outfit.

*Thiago R. Rocha is a journalist and professor at Faculty of Modern Foreign Languages ​​(Falem) at UFPA.





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