Why isn't the year 1968 over yet?



Notes for another opposition, now referred to the civilizing time: the opposition of ideology to ethics

This title is an explicit reference to the one that Zuenir Ventura gave us a long time ago. How many tracks have been opened, threads that have already been pulled and others still waiting for those who venture out.

Here I venture into one of those threads that, like a wide-open window, remains open, waiting for the future. In my view, one of the most profound aspects of that interminable historical moment of 1968: its “civilizational” character; a slower, more structural and undoubtedly deeper historical time, even if it can only be noticed on the surface, that is, in a given socio-historical conjuncture. Even if he was not directly at the table of the 1968 debates, which rightly preferred to discuss more burning issues, there is no doubt that at the very bottom of the debates, sometimes and hotly, there was the civilizational advance shaping the debates and slogans, breaking taboos.

Here and there, in France for example, there was no lack of exemplary gestures of extreme resources to act as powerful brakes to stop the progress that was underway. De Gaulle asking Germany for support (who knew?); Here, nothing less than Institutional Act nº 5, which, paradoxically, helped to consecrate, as an anthem, Geraldo Vandré's “Not to say that I didn't speak of flowers”. Today, retroactively, and perhaps just like that, it is worth remembering the much booed, but premonitory “It is forbidden to prohibit” by Caetano Velloso.

Not so many, but not less qualified for that reason, have already put their finger on this civilizational wound opened by the current Brazilian government, as if it were the bastard child of Institutional Act No. extolling torture, the most vile of sub-human relationships. Humans yes, because until today it was not known that animals of other species practiced such acts. And, (surprisingly!) a bastardy that results from the fact that this government was chosen by the majority of Brazilian voters. Terrible choice, to turn the wheel of history backwards. A path as sad as it is cowardly for its fear of confronting the future. I don't think that we have the right to bar our children and grandchildren from going into the future. Unless we want to leave them a cursed (there's no other word) inheritance.

The Brazilian bourgeoisie, with very few exceptions, once again insisted (and still insists) on revealing its character, which Gunder Frank, with rare precision, once called lumpem, lumpem-bourgeoisie, to show that money and profit, like so many other times, or rather, always, it took precedence over any ethical sense. Ethical, yes, because the advance of civilization depends on an ethical dimension. Sometimes, left and right, capital is assumed as a subject – capital this, capital that, that is, a subjectivation that incriminates capital without commitment to precision. Here, on the contrary, it is the bourgeoisie itself that proposes capital as a subject, as a civilizing subject: the civilization of capital.

There is no doubt, the historicity of capital has a key place in the formation of modern society; commodity fetishism, is an eloquent attestation of that historicity, at the same time that it points to a crucial dimension of its ideological character, that of being the foundation of … ideology. In theory, ideology has already been opposed to science (Althusser); here I point to another opposition, now referred to civilizing time: the opposition of ideology to ethics.

But in this civilizational reverse march, the Brazilian bourgeoisie was also accompanied by other authors: military, military police, evangelicals, broad sectors of the middle class. No one like the latter has feet that seem to be planted on the ground and for which the future has already happened in the past. Luiz Marques, on the website the earth is round, in an elegant tirade, draws attention to the “resentful ones” whose place would be especially marked by the distance that separates formal equality from real inequality.

Étienne Balibar, a few years ago, proposed the suggestive notion of “égaliberté”, which I freely interpret here. Immediately, echoes of the Revolution of 1789 and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. This affiliation ofégaliberté” implies the idea of ​​a new revolution or at least the direction to follow to achieve it. The order of your keywords is reversed, freedom and equality swap places. Equality becomes the main objective; freedom as the necessary means to achieve this goal.

Freedom for equality; equality with freedom. The path of this freedom is strictly linked to democracy: democracy as its ground. Balibar relates it to a historical process: the democratization of democracy. Revolution is imagined, then, as this process – as a process that is always unfinished, always to come.

To tread this path requires at least an unyielding commitment to democracy.

In Brazil, since 1985, successive presidents, despite so many differences, have maintained this commitment, including the Collor government. However, today, Brazilian society is paying dearly, very dearly, for having chosen the former captain to govern it. Surrounded by starred generals, evangelicals of a dubious nature and the vampiric character of the so-called Centrão that they have enjoyed, especially the first ones, in letting the specter of dictatorship hang in the air. Thus, the deepest ideals of that year, that of 1968, are permanently hit, but like a phoenix they insist in so many ways on asking for passage. Egaliberté maybe it's now your motto. Whoever wants to go on board.

* Paulo Silveira is a psychoanalyst and retired professor at the Department of Sociology at USP. Author, among other books, of On the side of history: a critical reading of Althusser's work (Police).


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