education and development

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By JOSUÉ DE CASTRO*

Preface, unpublished in Portuguese, from the book by Robert de Montvalon, translated by Zenir Campos Reis

Hunger and the atomic bomb are the great discoveries of the XNUMXth century: awareness of these two threats that weigh on humanity is in the process of changing world political thinking.

The explosion of the atomic bomb, transforming military strategy, also forces a change in the strategy of world politics. Before the atomic bomb, considered an absolute weapon, people used to solve the most serious national problems through wars. When the difficulties of a great power reached a certain point of tension, a war was simply unleashed that brought a provisional solution to the distressing concerns of statesmen.

At that time, peace was a utopia, and war was reality. After the bomb, a radical instrument of collective suicide, war has become impossible and it is necessary to find in peace the solution to the alarming problems facing man in the atomic age. Nowadays, for – at least theoretically, it is war that becomes a utopia, while peace is the only reality.

On the other hand, the discovery of hunger as a universal calamity and as a social force of unheard-of power demonstrated that peace could only be conquered by the preliminary elimination of the scourge of hunger, responsible for the worst social tension in the world today: the tension that reigns between peoples poor, hungry, living under a dependent economy regime, and rich and well-nourished people who inhabit the industrialized countries.

But can one really speak of hunger, a problem older than man himself, as a discovery, a great discovery of the XNUMXth century? We believe we can answer in the affirmative, because if hunger has existed for thousands of years, if it has existed since life exists, it remained unknown to the hungry themselves. What is new, what has just been discovered, is not the hunger instinct, nor even its suffering, but its reality as a social force, the knowledge of its causes and effects in the march of history.

It is not the phenomenon that is new, it is the perspective from which its tragic reality is now perceived. Now, thanks to the progress of science, we now know that what we call reality is nothing more than the intersection between the possibility of a phenomenon and the perspective of our observations. Until the middle of the XNUMXth century, the problem of hunger was avoided, it was hidden from the eyes of the world, therefore, in a word, its reality was denied. But one day the hunger taboo exploded with bomb-like violence. Hungry peoples have realized the social injustice that obliges them to inhabit the human condition on the periphery, without having the means to access that condition. For, in truth, these peoples were dehumanized by hunger. They do not have the possibility to live like men, but only to survive, like submen.

This awareness gushed, on the one hand, the revolt, on the other the desire to emancipate oneself from this state of economic and social marginalism. In this awareness lies the crystallization of the driving idea that is par excellence the myth of the XNUMXth century: the idea of ​​development. Indeed, underdeveloped and hungry peoples have understood that their hunger and misery are nothing more than biological and social expressions of an economic phenomenon, that of underdevelopment, and that only through development will they be able to free themselves from this hunger and misery.

The characteristic of these underdeveloped peoples is that, first of all, they are hungry. Hunger for food, hunger for knowledge, hunger for freedom. If the hunger for food is what most strongly affects the great human masses that make up the peripheral nations, it is the hunger for knowledge that spreads most strongly among the representatives of the atomic generation, those young people who see the responsibility of remake the world, more than that, to prevent the world from falling apart.

This hunger for knowledge is all the more intense as it has not been satisfied, despite the promises of international aid charged with transmitting current scientific and technical knowledge to developing peoples. The truth is that in general, far from bringing these peoples the true culture they need to nourish the flesh of their spirit, they were given false food that could not be absorbed by these masses whose interests were very different from that one. form of education conceived in rich countries and sent by them as “export utopias”. Jean-Paul Sartre rightly says that for him “culture is the conscience that man acquires of himself and of the world in which he lives, works and fights, in perpetual evolution”.

Thus, the essential task of true education is to incorporate the human masses into the great process of their history. Educating underdeveloped peoples is, above all, making them aware of their social reality and providing them with the means to escape their stage of underdevelopment. And, among the different production factors essential to development, none is more important than the human element, on which work and productivity rest. If anything needs to be changed in The capital, of Karl Marx, said Alfred Sauvy, is that, even more important than capital for development, is the spirit of man as a factor in the creation of wealth.

In fact, to promote the development of the world, there are enough natural resources and financial resources. What is not sufficiently available is the spirit of creation or, to use Barbara Ward's happy expression, it is the lack of imagination necessary to build a world tailored to the atomic age. Human imagination is the only limiting factor. It comes to the conclusion that, in the historical moment we are going through, what needs to be “produced”, first of all, is man. Produce a man capable of living in the atomic age. And it will only be produced by true education, capable of appeasing your hunger for knowledge.

But this method of education is a long way off, it is even the opposite of that used by the European elite to manufacture indigenous elites in developing countries: a certain number of young people were selected to make them “responsible”, but responsible for what? It is Sartre who replies: “We clog their mouths with gags, solemn, pasty words that stick to their teeth; after a brief stay in the metropolis, they are returned, counterfeit. These living lies had nothing to say to their brothers.” They were cut off from their own culture, therefore from the center of their own lives. They were like human satellites that revolved around the big cities, reflecting the waves and the images they sent them as indisputable truths.

The search for true education is the subject of this book by Robert de Montvalon, which I have the honor to preface. He studies the issue by showing that, to assuage the hunger for knowledge, knowledge is not enough. It is necessary to go further. The author shares the opinion of the philosopher who said that science is not wisdom. Science is nothing but knowledge. Wisdom is knowledge plus judgment. It is necessary to know how to judge objectively the value of things, the value of knowledge, in accordance with the values ​​of each culture and its representatives, before applying them.

Respect for man and the desire to democratize culture led Mr. de Montvalon to write this beautiful book. Its essential objective is to find a balance between the problems of culture and those of development, that is to say, “humanize” the economy thanks to a better understanding of man. By the way, the Pe Joseph Lebret, who is widely quoted in this work, has striven for a long time to make development a global, humane and harmonious process. And recently Mr. André Piatier demonstrated, in a very lucid article, the value of culture as an indispensable ingredient for the true development of peoples, and not as a superfluous luxury.

I am very happy to see that this book has been written from this perspective, as I fully share the opinion that the problem of development is above all a problem of education, of training responsible people: of elites who are not alienated from national interests, and masses who truly participate in the development process.

Studying the educational experiences carried out in a number of countries, Robert de Montvalon finds their results encouraging and happens to make some concessions to methods that are far from serving the true aspirations of developing peoples. The fact is that there is a predominantly regressive cultural formation, which leads to the creation of an academic statute that cannot find application that corresponds to the demands of development, with all the risks that this implies for the other fundamental aspects of culture. It is evident that this indulgence of Mr. de Montvalon does not mean, by any means, that he agrees with this line of thought. Only, as a realist, he pronounces his judgment on what he sees in our world, and tries to improve methods by correcting the most pronounced distortions. Necessary correction, as nothing is more useful to increase the wealth of poor countries than the production of real knowledge, represented by this industry mater par excellence – the true industry of progress.

The present work will certainly favor the establishment of a dialogue that until now has not been put in objective terms, the dialogue between the two worlds: that of rich and well-developed peoples with poor and underdeveloped peoples. Now, at the moment, this dialogue takes place in unrealistic terms, as the hungry poor demand the impossible, and the generous rich only donate their surplus. Modifying the terms of this dialogue, translating it into a language common to both worlds, is to serve world peace. This is precisely what Robert de Montvalon does in this work, beautiful and human.

*Joshua of Castro (1908-1973) was doctor, nutrologist, professor, geographer, social scientist, politician, writer and social activist. Author, among other books by Hunger GeographyHowever).

Translation: Zenir Campos Reis.

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