Narratives of war – Europeans and Latin Americans

Image: Alexander Zvir

By LORENZO Stained Glass*

The opinion of the so-called global South tends to oppose the dominant European opinion

The western narrative about the war in Ukraine has naturally imposed itself in view of the control of public opinion through the large press corporations. We commented, in an article of March 16, 2022 (look here), the approach of some of the French vehicles about this great event.

We are now in a position to appreciate, in the first texts that appear, in what terms certain European intellectuals have positioned themselves in relation to the war and also to confront this position with the vision of the same phenomenon of Latin American thinkers. We will see that, in this confrontation, a rare opportunity opens up for us to finally be able to review our reflection of valuing, often uncritically, the contribution of our great European masters.

We therefore want to compare, on the one hand, the positions taken by European philosophers Edgar Morin and Slavoj Žižek, and, on the other, those of the Argentine Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and the Brazilian political scientist José Luis Fiori, from UFRJ.

It is interesting to closely follow the subtlety of the aforementioned European comments that reveal, despite an apparent frame of neutrality, a choice for one of the sides which, as it should be, is the side of the European worldview.

Let's start with Edgar Morin (see here). For him, one of the simple aspects of the event in question is “the fact that the aggressor is a great power and the aggressor is a peaceful nation” which, moreover, suffered a “democratic revolution” in 2014. It is not appropriate to consider that the 2014 coup in Ukraine, prepared by American intelligence, is exactly a democratic thing, nor that the neo-Nazi influence in that country and the war with the breakaway regions to the east makes Ukraine a particularly peaceful nation.

But let's continue. Vladimir Putin is described as a ruler with “growing ambition” to expand his area of ​​influence, as, the author also admits, is the case of the American wars in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. Granted, in both cases it is a question of geopolitical disputes of the same nature, but it is worth noting the description of Putin as someone “ambitious”. Wouldn't the current American president be? While admitting that the United States set up military bases in the former southern Soviet republics, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan e Quirguistão, effectively closing the circle on the Siberia, Vladimir Putin is portrayed as someone of “obsessive psychology”, which would explain the “hardening of his authoritarian regime”, that is, Russian internal politics is due to the subjective traits of Putin's personality.

Now, the characteristics of the Russian government or the Putin government could be attributed to a number of reasons, ranging from a Eurasian tradition not identified with the canons of Western European democracy to internal security needs that can, of course, be criticized and refuted, but not necessarily due to Putin's subjectivity. If the direction proposed by Edgar Morin was good, which it is not, we could, for example, consider that George Bush Jr waged the second war in Iraq to overcome, Oedipally, George Bush Senior who was unable or gave up on reaching Baghdad and assassinate Saddam Hussein….

Edgar Morin's psychologizing insistence is shown in all its splendor in the following excerpt: "at first prudent and cunning, Putin became audacious in 2014 and henceforth is driven by a terrible rage”. At this point, we enter the serial level with Vladimir Putin assuming all the characteristics of the great villains of American cinema. The certainty of this point of view is also shown when Morin assesses President Volodymyr Zelensky's resistance as heroic. As you can see, the villain-hero antagonism emerges in full force.

If we move a little to the rational level, we can ask ourselves whether it is worth appealing to the hero myth about a president who sacrifices his people and his country, throwing them into a war he knows cannot be won. As we know, Volodymyr Zelensky plays the American game of a war as long as possible in order to weaken Vladimir Putin, Russia and, by extension, China. Now, the constant shipment of weapons to Ukraine clearly has this objective.

Those killed in American wars, with European support, in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. are finally remembered, by Edgar Morin, in an attempt to equalize the facts. However, we know that there was no boycott of American products or culture when, in the worst case scenario, 650 people were killed in Iraq; there was also no boycott of Israel, for example, when, in the bombings of Palestinians, according to UNICEF, 2021 Palestinian children were injured in the first half of 1241 alone, with 76 deaths.

In turn, the text by superstar Slavoj Žižek (see here) points out, at the outset, that it is precisely now that we need a lot of collaboration due to climate problems, food and water shortages, etc. we find ourselves, once again, facing a crisis and a war with serious consequences. For him, it is about the old “clash of civilizations”, recycled due to the recalcitrant countries of acceptance of the “person” western. He points to North Korea as one of them and also to China, conjecturing about the Chinese desire for a type of “exercise” war with the taking of Taiwan, which has been, according to the author, encouraged by the Chinese “propaganda machine” . Lastly, Russia, of course, which "refuses to use the word 'war' for its 'special military operation' not only to downplay the brutality of its intervention". For him, these types of movements go against “the urgent need to civilize our civilizations”.

The Russian disqualification is very visible when he says that Vladimir Putin has an “ideologue”, that is, Aleksandr Dugin, who does not deserve the categorization of “thinker”. The lexicon used to name Russian “things” would deserve a separate text: no one thought of calling, for example, Henry Kissinger an ideologue, even when he coordinated Operation Condor that implanted the bloodthirsty military dictatorships in Latin America, which included assassinations opponents such as the Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier. For his contribution as a “diplomat”, Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize!

Apparently, for Žižek, the problem begins when countries like the ones mentioned refuse to become “civilized”, not accepting the world order dictated by Western countries and start claiming areas of geopolitical and economic influence. Everything indicates that, on the contrary, we walked in peace and civilized when only the US and the European countries imposed themselves by force. As a good Marxist, he knows, however, that national states in capitalist competition will end up waging war. The loss of universality, which permeates his text, as one of the victims of that war is, in fact, the manifestation of history itself as the engine of the struggle for recognition.

Let's see below how the Nobel Peace Prize, the Argentine Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (see here), deals with our theme. The change in discourse is obvious: the author begins by pointing out the manipulation of the media that seeks to impose a single thought on what is happening. He goes on to denounce those who speak of peace but continue to inflame spirits, as if pouring gasoline on a fire.

He recalls an experience he had on his way to Baghdad during the Iraq war, whose report deserves to be reproduced: “according to information from the major media, two smart bombs had entered through the ventilation pipe and destroyed a bunker military. The truth is that they destroyed and killed more than 500 children with their mothers, it was a refuge, according to Vamveyda, mother of Veyda. The first bomb killed many people, the second came in and raised the temperature to over 500 degrees, killing almost everyone and destroying the pipeline. Only 17 people survived. We denounced the facts at an international level, the response was silence. The US justified the fact as “collateral damage” in any war”. Finally, Esquivel urges Westerners to disarm “armed reason” and seek a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine since everyone is responsible.

Finally, José Luís Fiori (see here), which brings us very relevant data, historiography the period from the end of the cold war to the present. He recalls that the winning unipolar power, responsible for administering world peace, was continually at war, carrying out 48 interventions in the 90s and engaging in “endless” wars ever since. In the first two decades of the 24st century, the US carried out 100 military interventions, with 26.171 aerial bombings: in the Obama administration alone, 7 bombs were dropped on XNUMX countries. Realistic, it concludes by stating that what we conceive as peace, although an unattainable human desire, is just the period of rearming the losers of the previous war in search of revenge, which seems to be happening now with Russia's quest to expand its geopolitical influence.

The contrast between the two groups of authors is now quite clear. Morin and Žižek take positions that reflect their European worldview, while Esquivel and Fiori recall the geopolitical reality of recent decades, seeking, if not a neutral position, at least to point out the contribution of other actors, especially the USA.

The commented distance may indicate that the opinion of the so-called global South tends to oppose the dominant European opinion, which is welcome since it can foster a certain intellectual independence which manages to see that a multipolar world can be more beneficial for us. The fact that countries like China, India, Vietnam, Iraq and South Africa, which represent almost half of the world's population, seek neutrality - which can be expanded with Iran, Brazil, in an active government that provides, and other countries – seems to show that the global south awaits the development of events in order to position itself more consistently.

*Lorenzo stained glass Professor of Linguistics at the Faculty of Letters at UFMG.


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