Scammers in the classroom

Image: Marcelo Guimarães Lima
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By JEAN PIERRE CHAUVIN*

Fractures in the discourse that is intended to be democratic and compatible with the reality of the university

The news that at least one student linked to USP, and two professors working at UNESP, took part in the coup act carried out in Brasília on January 8th, refutes the outdated common sense that Brazilian public universities are “schools” that form communists, socialists and the like. If that were the case, the university would not be a place of dissent. The posture of these three people accumulates paradoxes, among them, (i) the fact that they behaved in a dogmatic way in the name of freedom; (ii) attacking the symbols of the three powers in the name of patriotism.

The headlines about the involvement of the student and the teachers provoked a relative surprise. I say relative because, since I joined the University of São Paulo in 2014, I have witnessed reactionary statements by students who see no contradiction in occupying public places in higher education and defending the “privatization of everything”; being dazzled by political actors, without realizing the danger inherent in the idolatrous (by definition, uncritical) view of them. Here is the “advantage” of sharing the bus stop and public transport with these students: we begin to detect fractures in the discourse that is intended to be democratic and compatible with the reality around us.

It would not be in vain to recall that the coup speech, financed by businessmen from Brazil and abroad, has been involving a significant number of students and colleagues since June 2013. It is symbolic that last Sunday's terrorist acts took place a week after the beautiful ceremony of inauguration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Geraldo Alckmin and the thirty-seven ministers – which must have led me to resume reading The Nazi Cultural Revolution, by Johann Chapoutot (Ed. Da Vinci), translated from French by Clóvis Marques.

Here, the expectation of encountering Nazi reports and episodes republished by Bolsonarists was confirmed, considering that “The Nazis and their fanatical followers of the pedagogical and university world equip themselves with a manly pen to vigorously reject the pale and unhealthy figure of the anemic, reasoning theorist who practices philosophy as religion is practiced” (CHAPOUTOT, 2022, p. 28).

In several passages, the researcher transcribes the pseudo-arguments of third-party ideologues Rich, including erudite professors who articulated the curriculum reform in German schools in 1938. Nazi topics resound in all of them, coated with the caricatured use of Plato, portrayed as a superior (and racist) man in the conduct of State affairs: “The philosopher is a warrior, and indeed, observes the author [Kurt Hildebrandt], much of Plato's discourse is structured by military semantics” (p. 32).

What was most disturbing was that Plato had not been chosen arbitrarily, but because he would become a supposed reference point to be compared with Adolf Hitler himself: “Propped up in the reading of Mein Kampf, [Joachim] Bannes exposes the fundamental principles of Nazi ideology, and then speaks of Plato's politeia, proposing a comparative study of the biographies of the Führer and the philosopher” (p. 34).

We agree that our situation is serious. Eighty years later, we are dealing with obtuse, hypocritical and nefarious subjects (“patriots”), reproducing here and there the false Nordic ancestry (“social distinction”), defending the haughtiness of the supposed superior race (“elite”) and propagate fake news inherent to totalitarianism (“freedom of expression”), as signs of an alleged modernizing cultural revolution (“bridge to the future”).

As I was saying, I was reading Johann Chapoutot's book, which deserves a brief digression. I decided to take it to the bakery where I usually have breakfast, to enjoy it better. However, before leaving the house, I hesitated for three or four seconds whether I might be misunderstood (or greeted with a Heil, Hitler) in the street. Luckily, or unluckily, I remembered that the overwhelming majority of my countrymen do not read and, even if they do sporadically (in general, out of pragmatism), they would possibly not be able to see the other, much less would they waste time decoding the title of the work, let alone interpret it.

The fact is that, while making notes on the margins of Chapoutot's essay, it was inevitable to consider that the Brazilian totalitarian, although he hates thinking beings (especially those capable of criticism), recognizes that even the most conservative ideological currents resort to "philosophers" to validate its assumptions, methods and objectives. That is to say, the practical aspect (“hands-on”, as announced by a candidate for state government), embedded in authoritarian cowardice, is usually supported by some theoretical framework – even if its supporters swell the statistics of non-readers.

Here is another unfortunate analogy. As I said, the study reveals that during the 1930s and 1940s, the ideologues of Nazism resorted to Plato to support, in schools and colleges, racism, eugenics, the unification of the Republic and the elimination of beings considered sick, weak and degenerated, as a way of purifying, strengthening and unifying the German empire, in allusion to the “Great Greece” (p. 33), intended by Plato. In Jair Bolsonaro's Brazil, the lack of repertoire and the disregard for culture, combined with the hypocrisy and bad faith of his followers, collaborated in raising Olavo de Carvalho to the position of guru of the extreme right.

The adhesion of the “patriots” to all prejudices, materialized in hate speeches and terrorist acts, shows that their behavior is analogous to that of the pseudo-religious of the occasion, affiliated to a sect led by authoritarian, pirracent and megalomaniac figures, who both rave and lie ; they both retreat and attack; both hate and neglect.

Aware of the profession I have been practicing for over twenty years, these events remind us that the university also harbors supporters of anti-democratic and exclusionary agendas - which leads to the thought that it would be important to discuss these and other issues with colleagues from the department and the competent bodies and collegiate bodies . It seems to me that it is the teacher's prerogative to ask educational institutions to support the exercise of their craft, supporting it when defending democracy and, especially, when contesting the presence of coup plotters, whether they are inside or outside the classroom.

*Jean Pierre Chauvin He is a professor at the School of Communication and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of A thousand, one dystopia (Publisher Glove).

 

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