Far beyond the neighbors' green grass

Image: JMW Turner
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By DANIEL AFONSO DA SILVA*

The federal teachers' strike results in much deeper, more fundamental and almost existential discomfort.

1.

It is impossible to ignore Maria Cristina Fernandes' propositions. Without favor or concession, she has represented the most sophisticated political analysis of political situations among us for many years. With approaches that are always subtle and consequential, she often illuminates situations that almost no one can notice or see. His recomposition of the meanings of the current strike by the teaching category at federal universities – published in the Friday, 26/04, edition of Valor Econômico, in “The Greenest Grass on the Neighbor” – it was yet another opportunity for her to demonstrate all of this with immense perfection.

The core of his argument recognizes the variability of weights and measures of the Lula da Silva presidency in reviewing salary gaps across federal careers and also realizes that teachers remain absent from the center of priorities. In an impeccable and synthetic way, she thus reminds us that “salary policies are not driven by loyalties, but by a correlation of forces”.

And it goes on to say that compared to the professors at federal universities, there are employees from sectors that are specifically much more financially valued, valued and happy. From their accounts in this file, members of the Federal Policy receive net salaries four times higher than those of federal professors; the staff of the Federal Public Defender's Office, three times more; and Federal Revenue employees, double or almost double.

Therefore, parity and equivalence of relevance – at least in terms of salary – in federal careers are not far from successful.

But, even more than that, Maria Cristina Fernandes places all this disparity in an environment of growing imbalance in the proportionality between supply versus demand in the basin of educational souls. Many more doctors are trained for teaching careers than the capacity of educational establishments – of all public, private or public-private varieties – can accommodate.

On this point – as well as on all others –, being extremely precise, our noble columnist for the Valor Econômico unearths the numbers to show that there are currently approximately 300 thousand doctors formally allocated in Brazilian universities, around 22 thousand are trained annually, of which 10 thousand get placement and the other 12 thousand experience the embarrassing loneliness of educated people, forging what the experts went through called “syndrome of overeducated".

Added to all this, it moves the cursor from the starting point of this unquestionable agony, discord, resentment and bitterness to the economic, social and political multidimensionality of the economic, social and political crisis. impeachment 2016. Then, he recalls the relentlessness of Blitzkrieg of President Jair Messias Bolsonaro (2019-2022) against the federal public service in general and against federal teaching careers in particular. Still further, it alludes to the current proliferation of strikes in federal universities as an expression of a reckoning with these decomposed pasts. And, finally, he allocates the scope of all this in a once again irreparable and disconcertingly lively phrase that adds that “under the Bolsonaro government, the grass has dried up for everyone. It is at the beginning of irrigation that problems appear.”

Yes: there is no way. Let's face it: Maria Cristina Fernandes, this – much more than a journalist – social scientist, is still brilliant and her analysis of the strike situation at the federal government is simply luminous, precise and complete. It examines the essential points, the fundamental problems and the nuances that sincerely require a solution. Bravo, again, Maria Cristina Fernandes.

But, in any case and with infinite respect, it will be necessary to go further.

Or rather, perhaps, falling short.

Further inside. Deeper. More for us: federal university professors.

2.

The general problem of the current strike may not be the perception of greener dimensions in the neighbors' grass, nor the supposed atrophy of the relative weight of the category in the force rapport politician and national politician. It doesn't seem to be just about the pennies, much less the detail of the relevance of teachers on the electoral platforms.

The disenchantment of federal teachers leads to a much deeper, more fundamental and almost existential discomfort. Any good and faithful servant of this priesthood can witness the unprecedented social and moral declassification of the individual and representative group of the category and, with this, demonstrate an inclement entropy of the very nature, meaning and significance of being a university professor – federal or not – in Brazil in recent years.

Of the many sincere, intelligent and without bias to my simple article “The strike of professors at federal universities” on the subject, posted on the website the earth is round, on Monday, 15/04, one intrigued me and, I confess, made me quite bitter. It came from one of the greatest specialists in higher education in Brazil – which I will not explain out of courtesy – who basically told me the following: “I agree with the entirety of your arguments, but I need to remind you that the discredit of federal universities and their teaching category comes from further away. Certainly since 1964-1968.”

How not to stop and go back to meditating?

But you don't need to stop or meditate much to notice that this noble expert on university enigmas and also a longtime professor at several Brazilian and foreign universities is completely right. Everything is, unfortunately, much more serious, profound, grounded in time and with no solution in the short or medium term.

If not, let's see.

3.

There has been a lot of talk – and still continues to talk – these days about the 1964 anniversary. However, little or almost nothing has been directly mentioned about the impact of all that on education in general and higher education in particular.

Without further digressions, perhaps it is at least reasonable, responsible and healthy to consider that close to two or three generations of Brazilian university professors and aspiring professors were mentally, morally and physically cornered, amputated, curtailed, distorted, persecuted, perverted, traumatized and raped during the validity of the narrow-minded regime. Consequently, despite the extraordinary expansion of the network of federal universities in those years of folly, their attendees and their environment were structurally distorted, malpracticed and corrupt.

With the beginning of the return to normality, following the “broad, general and unrestricted” amnesty of the late 1970s, unfinished teaching projects and shattered university careers managed to rehabilitate their flow. But everything had changed. Especially emotions, illusions and contemplations.

Brazil was another. The University had already become a very different experiment. And the university environment was, little by little, revealing itself to be riddled with distortions that were not infrequently indecent, unbearable and insurmountable.

If none of this were enough, the fair, honest, necessary and restorative reincorporation of former dismissed and exiled teachers produced a complex and permanent gap generational period full of disagreements and bitterness within the teaching staff of universities in general and notably federal universities. In this process, one or two generations of young potential university teachers were sincerely passed over from teaching careers in favor of the return of the wronged. It is not known whether this was thought – and the memory of the eternal Minister Eduardo Portella does not allow this statement to be ignored –, but that is what was done.

But when those once frankly wronged people began to disconnect from everyday university life for some reason such as death, neglect, disillusionment, retirement or age, at the turn of the first to the second decade of the 21st century, the tenor of the idea of ​​university lost its weight. Consequently, the new teaching generations – often much more technically competent and prepared than the previous ones –, for varied and complex reasons, have not internalized the values ​​or foundations that guarantee the nature, meaning and mission of the university – especially the public university - Brazilian.

Anyone who has doubts about this should patiently review, among others, the testimony of Paulo Eduardo Arantes, in his long and complex interview given to the website the earth is round, in September 2023. There he discusses – with other categories, words and subtleties – extensively about the seriousness of this gap generational and its implications for what is conventionally called a Brazilian public university of the 21st century. There is, therefore, no reason to imagine that it was anything less than that.

In any case, whether or not we turn to the testimony of Professor Paulo Arantes, it is appropriate to reflect that, certainly, the externalization – read: transfer – of the nature of the “silence of intellectuals” of 2005-2010 for the “university silence” from the nights of June 2013 to January 8, 2023. These silences, perhaps even justifiable and justified, caused monstrously irreparable damage to the pathos, ethos e Logos from the Brazilian university.

Of course, none of this was simple or uniform. There was the shock of redemocratization, the shock of university expansion and the shock of the reduction in funding for notably federal universities – and, above all, it is worth repeatedly mentioning the formidable article “Lula and Higher Education” by professors André Moreira Cunha & Alessandro Donadio Miebach, recently also published in the earth is round that counted and still counts a lot. Everything was and continues to be extraordinarily complex. But these “silences” will at some point need to be put into perspective so that they can finally receive better political, intellectual, moral and reparative clarifications.

4.

Another layer of this immense onion perhaps refers to an episode mostly from São Paulo and USP that, over time, became nationalized and inherent to all universities. This episode occurred at the end of 1990 and, therefore, under the presidency of professor Fernando Henrique Cardoso, when daily life Folha de S. Paul began to “identify”, “evaluate”, “measure” and “classify”, using its own criteria, the “quality”, “diversity” and “depth” of what was produced within the University of São Paulo.

Those who lived through it will remember that the teaching outcry inside and outside USP was immense and that the misunderstanding among educated society in São Paulo and Brazil was even greater.

The ivory tower seemed to be being reduced to rubble and the precious, unusual and unfathomable dimension of its entire structure was beginning to be vandalized in a way that had never been done in normal times or during dictatorships.

In this whirlwind, without mincing words, elements foreign to their university life thus began to tarnish their honor and dignity as professors with impunity under the simulacrum of the transparency of the accountability da res publica.

The late and permanent effect of this violation followed by profanation was the imposition of the internalization of absolutely uniform standards of conduct, action and verification for an extremely diverse, plural and pluralistic collective that has always made and still makes the university anywhere in the world and in Brazil in particular.

Without going into the numerous implications of all this, perhaps it is simply worth considering the indecency of “academic” productivism as the greatest legacy of this infraction. It was after her that the “public, therefore I am” became the leitmotiv of comprehensive portions of university life in general and university teaching life in particular. And, as a consequence of this, without noticing or foreseeing it, the public and political imperative of the Brazilian public university began to implode.

In other words and with relevant mitigating factors, it became decisive to recognize that this wild jungle of productivism and productivity did present extraordinary gains in some areas. But, overall, it promoted merciless losses in several other areas and a complete distortion of the meaning, nature and general significance of the university.

It should be noted that no one who is minimally educated would dare question the legitimacy, authority or existential reason of any humanities teacher – history, literature, philosophy, arts, music and the like –, for example, in the last quarter of the last century. However, after the imposition of the uniform empire of productivism and productivity here it stopped being like that. And now, it seems that it is starting to become difficult to reverse. Two or three generations born or raised in this century believe that this is truly the case.

Other related sensitive examples could be mobilized. But this terrain has since become too undermined to be dealt with so quickly and so openly. Especially because it also has complex relationships mediated by the acceleration of the internationalization of being, doing and having a teacher in Brazil, which would require very long digressions.

In any case, through these reduced and rudimentary aspects of the problem, it is already possible to perceive that something horribly smelly started to inhabit this realm of knowledge in Brazil at the beginning of the present century and that everything became even more evil in the face of the unbelievable surrender/capitulation, without combat nor reaction, from various green fields of the Brazilian public university to the mind-boggling, disrespectful and persistent Olavista, Olavobolsonarista, Bolsonarista or simply Bolsonarista offensive of recent years.

You can't keep pretending it didn't happen.

A self-proclaimed guru from Virginia silenced the entire Brazilian teaching profession and paved the way for the rise of a truly stupid man to the presidency of the Republic.

How to reverse this trauma?

How to inflict (self) forgiveness on “silences”?

How can you (self) redeem yourself from the monstrosity of the consequences of this whole situation?

How to calm the innocent?

Surely – with all due respect – it is not promoting strikes for salary adjustments.

A curious article by professor Lorenzo Vitral, from the Federal University of Minas Gerais, clearly translated into a topic sentence the completeness of the discomfort that all this promotes by reporting that “We made the L and we are on strike”.

“We made the L and we are on strike” indicates that there is no, for the distinguished professor from Minas Gerais nor for all the members of, according to the distinguished Pernambuco-Brazilian columnist of the Valor Econômico, “the most radicalized wing of the strike (…) led by the National Union of Teachers of Higher Education Institutions (Andes)”, a contradiction in carrying out a strike like this, here and now.

Again, with all the demands for leniency from those most excited and convinced of the relevance of the strike, yes: it does exist.

Yes, it exists and will continue to exist as long as it is not realized, recognized and guided by the fact that it is not about the pennies or the perception of greener stalks in the neighbors' grass, but rather the realization that the little thin and dry grass that remains on this side is fine close to disappearing, making everything around it desert, dullness and loneliness.

*Daniel Afonso da Silva Professor of History at the Federal University of Grande Dourados. author of Far beyond Blue Eyes and other writings on contemporary international relations (APGIQ). [https://amzn.to/3ZJcVdk]


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