symptoms of popular language

Image: Oto Vale


A people, who have many temples and whose cities are built around a mother church, is not a trustworthy people.

In temples, the faithful learn to consider absurdities as normal truths. They do not contest because they adhere to what is preached. Nothing strange. They do not interrupt a priest or pastor to question what he is saying. The greater the absurdities, the more they believe them to be absolute truths. It is a dogmatic conception, which does not admit doubt as a principle of knowledge.

The landowning oligarchy also did not accept being contested. At the owner's screams, the slaves had to lower their eyes, accept the punishments. The pillory was in front of the churches. This attitude of demanding submission was introduced in universities with the power of professors and, later, with the power of the groups that dominate departments.

A people, which has many temples and whose cities are built around a matrix church, is not a trustworthy people. He learned to be dominated and manipulated, to believe in dogmatic absurdities, to accept the authoritative word. This is so internalized and commonplace that it goes unnoticed. Suspect those who distrust. You don't want to think, you don't want to think. It is easier and more comfortable to believe. The “atheist” is considered a poor guy, who is stripped of divine protection, not someone who had the courage to overcome compensatory fantasies. The “he deceives me that I like it” is the rule of a people.

When the buyer thinks that he got something for a price lower than what the merchandise is worth to him, and when the seller knows that he managed to resell it for a higher price than the object cost him, then he thinks that there has been a good deal. Each is happy to have outwitted the other. This is the basis of social relationships. In temples, the hypocrisy of everyday life is enshrined.

Each one learns to lie and to use the lie as a bargaining chip. Compliments are exchanged not to say truths. Invitations and promises are made that we know in advance will not be fulfilled. The electoral system institutes the lie in images, words and groupings.

For almost ten years I lived on the edge of the Baltic. There it was not said that one would do something if one did not have the intention of fulfilling it. There was no need to promise. You could trust what people said. They preferred to say right away that they would not do it than to deceive others with empty promises. When you received a rare invitation to show up at someone's house at such and such a time on such a day – even if it was three months later – that was true for the place and time.

It wasn't like an invitation from a carioca to whom you've just been introduced and who immediately says “stop by my house”: it's a form of courtesy, a hypocrisy that has no literal meaning. The last half dozen governors of Rio de Janeiro are in prison or under suspicion. It seems that there is a condition to be a candidate. The problem is not with the elected representatives, but, above all, with the voters, who accept the game of “you fool me that I like it”. When someone presents himself with a moralistic speech, the wisest thing is to be suspicious of his speech.

There are popular expressions – like being Jewish, that's not quite Catholic, the situation has turned black – that are symptomatic of the people who use them. Under the term “Jewish” is acting like a Jew, for the guilt that Jews supposedly carry for condemning, torturing and killing the Savior, as if the effective power there is not the Roman one: it is anti-Semitism. “That is not quite Catholic” means that it is not quite correct, as if the only criterion of correctness were being Catholic: it is religious intolerance. A situation becoming “black” means becoming bad, the color of black slaves: it is racism.

Indeed, as Nietzsche showed in genealogy of morals, the word bad comes from malus, the dark color of the skin, eyes and hair of slaves in the Roman Empire, while the light color of the patricians was bonus. Being lord was good; to be a slave, bad. In English, fair means light-colored and good. The Greek and Roman gods were more like the aristocracy than the slaves they owned. Sculpture, architecture and religious painting served to consecrate domination. This art was racist and slavery. Who does not see this, endorse.

There was no room on Olympus for a god of poor, working-class origin, defending the poor and helpless. At Iliad, when the soldier Thersites dares to speak in the assembly against the fact that they have all been away from home for ten years and the noble commanders keep all the spoils, he is beaten by Ulysses and everyone laughs. The belief that Apollo would carry the sun in a chariot across the sky is a symptom of Greek backwardness, but this is not questioned by Hellenists.

For the Greek it was great that a god was serving him by carrying the sun across the sky, just as it is for the Christian to have a god who died to give him eternal life. For a frail elderly woman, it is consoling to say “go with God”, as if there were a Divine Providence taking care of everything, obeying her wishes. When Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche proposed the Will to determine what was understood by truth, they were deconstructing this intention of seeing as true what is a projection of desire, of the desire to dominate.

Another popular expression, “the hole is further down”, with a strong sexual connotation, suggests that we should try to delve deeper into questions to find relevant answers. Exactly that, however, is what is not done. It is more comfortable to believe in catechetical dogmas than to let doubt do its dance. If the Sermon on the Mount is an antithesis to patrician ethics, it would need to be questioned as such, but one doesn't want to know. If they are setting fire to the forests to plant soybeans and make pastures, there is no question whether the interest of agribusiness is better for the country and nature than doing its “China business”.

We don't want people to think, but just to think that they are thinking, pretending that pretending is all the math to do. The greater the absurdity in which one believes, the more one believes, finding it absurd that one does not believe. The unconscious of politics is theology. Everyone wants to secure paradise for themselves, but before they die. God is no longer frightening as the supreme judge: he is obliged to love sinners and has already become a pretext to justify all crimes. It seems that, if there is another time, the Capeta, as the last of the righteous, will have to impose the due penalties.

* Flavio R. Kothe is professor of aesthetics at the University of Brasilia. Author, among other books, of Culture semiotics essays (UnB).


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