A passion that puts everyone at risk

Image_Marcio Costa


Prejudice is a tendency that can become action when prompted by favorable political conditions.

In the former Jewish ghetto of Rome, on some of the tiles, there are plaques with the inscription of the names of Jews who in 1943 were taken away from their homes; these plaques indicate the place of their dwellings. Those who had their names inscribed in the book of life were killed on an industrial scale, but their names, their homeland, remained, indicating their uniqueness, coming from a community; individual and collective consciousness coexisting and feeding each other. The eternal city, in its grandeur, does not forget those who succumbed to horror.

In present times, various swastikas are drawn in many places, for different reasons; sometimes to accuse someone of being a fascist, when he offers support to one of the political candidates, sometimes for someone else to be threatened. In both trends, there is an association with terror evoked in the past, regardless of other meanings that this symbol may have.

In the Nazi period, anti-Semitism was prominent, and in this movement of indifference by some and fury by others, the compulsion for mistreatment and murder was encouraged by a government that became a state. Anti-Semitism was not just aimed at Jews; Sartre illustrated this flawlessly: it is a passion that affected and put everyone at risk. Thus, it was not only the Jew who was targeted in this destruction, but the possibility of humanity. When members of any social minority or any individual, because of their fragility or because they differ from the norm, are attacked, humanity is also attacked.

Horkheimer and Adorno, knowing that prejudice is a tendency that can become action, when provoked by favorable political conditions, indicated that even in a formal democracy, it should be fought, because the formality of the rules allows political parties contrary to the democracy can take power. At present, in this and other countries, various social minorities are persecuted and cry out for help. In Brazil, social discrimination is a crime; Of course, this does not eliminate discrimination that is common in everyday life, as well as the law against murder, it does not prevent it, but it shows what society allows and what it prevents: whoever is attacked can ask for protection and justice; it is not indifferent for a country to take a stand, through the State, against violence or to encourage it; in certain not so old social regimes, as indicated earlier, a State impelled the persecution of elected groups to be exterminated.

Formal democracy is not dictatorship, but it is not democracy yet; in an effective democracy, there would be no mechanisms that allow groups that are not used to coexistence with others to take power, as is happening in several countries. The reduction of the legitimacy of a speech to approval by formal rules indicates the impoverishment and regression of thought: the names of the parties show for each of the voters only their qualities or only their defects, and, for others, what is less bad ; in both cases, there is not exactly thought, but judgments based on stereotypes, which serve to express a hatred that is not very well delimited, but capable of being expressed by the party or by candidates who, for them, become objects of fury.

Adorno insisted that a basic principle of education (not just school education) against Auschwitz should be incorporated, defended and put into practice by educators to prevent new genocides. If destructive attitudes start to become actions triggered by speeches that call into question the right to life and demonstration of people and groups, Auschwitz has not disappeared, it manifests itself in several of the acts present in the current electoral dispute. Thus, the distant present approaches quickly, showing that reconciliation, if it is ever possible, is to be found in the memory of names inscribed on the tiles on the tiles, which indicate the definitive residence of those who have a name.

*Laboratory of Studies on Prejudice at the Institute of Psychology at USP is composed by José Leon Crochick; Pedro Fernando da Silva; Cintia Copit Freller; Fabiana Duarte; Gabriel Saito; Marcia Pessoa; Marian Dias; Patricia Andrade; Ricardo Casco; Rodrigo Correia; Sandra Cirillo.

Originally published in http://www.ip.usp.br/site/noticia/26957/


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