Brazilians Take it to the Streets and Say: “Go Away, Left. This is not Cuba.”

See video footage, for the first time translated into English, of the Brazilian popular demonstrations against the Workers’ Party and its power structure.

What you are going to watch below is a raw video footage of one of the many demonstrations that have happened in Brazil in the last two years. The 2015 March 15 demonstration, for example, according to the Brazilian Federal Police, gathered 3 million Brazilians in the streets, protesting against the Workers’ Party and its power structure. The amazing thing about the demonstrations is that they are truly popular. There are no political parties, pressure groups, or professional activists coordinating them; and they are not funded by big corporations. It is truly a legitimate popular movement. The Brazilian people, seeing that their political leaders were unable to give voice to their ailments and fight for what’s right, decided to take the lead and demonstrate against the Workers’ Party.

In this particular video, you will see a confrontation between two groups of demonstrators: ordinary Brazilian citizens and card carrying union members from CUT (Unified Workers’ Central Union), the main national union center in the country, an organization that gives its full support to the government party. The anti-government protesters chant against the Workers’ Party, express their disgust and indignation at the Brazilian Left, and burn red flags, showing in deeds what they mean in their words: “This is Brazil, we don’t want any red flags here.”

Viewer discretion is advised, since Brazilians mince no words when they can finally say (and be heard) what they really want.

Note: This video has gone viral on Facebook among Brazilian users. I have tried to find the exact date and place where this protest took place but I have not been able to do it so far. It looks like this video footage was taken in 2013, in São Paulo, at the beginning of the wave of anti-Workers’ Party protests.

 

This post was written by Alessandro Cota, researcher at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

Philosophical Notes and Remarks (1)

Notes and remarks from Olavo de Carvalho’s philosophical journal, addressing a number of timeless and contemporary issues.

 

The Difference Between Christianity and Philosophy

All comparison between philosophies and Christianity—an incurable vice of historians of philosophy—is complete nonsense because a philosophy is nothing but a doctrine, a man’s thoughts, and Christianity is the acting presence of God Himself in the world. They are as different from each other as the idea of a thing is different from the thing itself. If you spend the rest of your life thinking about cats, that will not make flesh-and-blood cats spring from your thoughts. A philosopher may create the most reasonable arguments to support his philosophy, but he cannot produce a miracle to bear it out, multiplying loaves of bread or calming a storm. Aristotle said that the truth is a property of judgments, that is, of thoughts; however, when Jesus Christ said that He Himself is the Truth, that truth is not present in thought, but in the reality of the world. When Christianity confronts itself with the many philosophies, it competes with them, so to speak, on unequal terms, given the utter disproportion of ontological substance between being and thinking.

Mutatis mutandis, if a philosopher wants to refute Christianity, he can only do that in thought. In fact, to suppress the Christian miracles by means of an act of thought would be the most astonishing miracle.

 

Logic and Philosophy

Logical contradictions are mere formal errors which can usually be corrected through the rephrasing of a sentence. Material contradictions, on the other hand, are objective impossibilities, which become even more scandalous when one attempts to rephrase them. On the level of discourse, both kinds of contradictions may be confused, but there is nothing more frustrating to me than noticing that my readers perceived only a logical contradiction where I actually pointed out a material contradiction.

That distinction is the litmus test for anyone aspiring to become a philosophy student.

To pick and hunt simple logical contradictions in a person’s argument is not philosophy. It is just grumpiness. I NEVER devote any of my time to doing that.

In general, and save for a few exceptions that can be counted in the fingers of a one-handed man, philosophy professors of Brazilian universities are incapable of not only grasping that difference, but also of making a distinction, in practice, between equality and analogy—an ability that should be almost instinctive.

ALL gender ideology derives from that incapacity, which some are born with and others acquire as a hysterical symptom, inoculated into their minds by psychopathic professors.

 

On Walking Before God

In my whole 68 years of life, I have met only one human being whose actions were constantly inspired by his love of God. But I have never met a single person whose actions were eminently guided by his love of neighbor.

 

The Cultural War Against the West

Stalin launched the Soviet cultural war in the 1920s, and it has not stopped growing to this day. The American show business industry is not only the largest anti-American but also anti-Western civilization propaganda machine there is, in the broad sense of a designed civilizational destruction. No a single movie is produced, even if apparently “conservative,” where Western man is not depicted as the embodiment of evil materialism at odds with the superior spirituality of tribal societies and even animals (see for example The Bear, 1988, Never Cry Wolf, 1983, and way before those, Elephant Walk, 1954, among thousands of others).

 

Economy and Society

Ludwig von Mises taught that there was no difference between a state-run economy and a completely out-of-control economy. Today we know that the Soviet government simply made up its statistics because it had no idea of what was going on in the economy. It’s Murphy’s law: the more order there is, the more chaos there is as well.

 

Global Elites and the Catholic Church

We should have no doubts about what’s going on today. The powers of this world are implementing by force a comprehensive and complete program to bring about a new civilization, where the state, associated with a handful of big economic groups, will have total control over society. The largest number of families will be dissolved (in the USA alone, 50% of families have already been broken), reducing the masses to an agglomerate of isolated individuals, with no organic relations, only associated with one another through a mechanical and regulated juxtaposition, that is, by the mediation of the state, living in a state of permanent sexual and hallucinogenic excitement without a break, while only 10% of the population work to support them. That is the plan. Gay rights, abortion, environmentalism, and all other topics of the leftist agenda are nothing but instruments to realize that plan. Malachi Martin’s book, The Windswept House, describes the effort by the globalist elite to integrate and use the Catholic Church as an instrument for their plan; an effort that, during the papacy of John Paul II, was already almost victorious. The adaptation of the Church to the values of the new civilization is an integral part of that plan, and it is IMPOSSIBLE that Pope Francis does not know that.


Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.  Translation from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

Introduction to the Philosophy Seminar – Part 2

In the second part of his lecture, Mr. De Carvalho discusses the concept of progress and lack of progress when applied to societies and history and begins to outline the true nature of philosophy as education for understanding real life problems.

 

Student: In an interview you gave to the Atlântico magazine, you said that instead of dividing the political spectrum into right-wing and left-wing, we should try to classify political movements as revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, because this latter pair of concepts enables us to see, for example, that some political positions and movements usually regarded as right-wing are actually revolutionary and thus belong together with left-wing movements—something which escapes our view when we use the usual definitions of left and right. Regarding this problem you have been addressing so far, have you developed another key to understanding the problem of progress, something like your concepts of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary?

Olavo: No, I have not. What I am doing is merely splitting apart a pair of concepts and saying that they do not form a pair of opposites in reality. More accurately, only at the level of vocabulary—only semantically speaking―, is backwardness the opposite of progress. In historical reality, there is no such thing as a phenomenon of backwardness which is the contrary of progress. Even if in our minds we conceive of progress as a forward movement and backwardness as backward movement, the fact is we know that in reality time never moves backwards and that it is impossible for it to do so. Now, let us examine the expressions “advanced societies” and “backward societies” in light of this. It is obvious that the current conditions of any society can get worse, but they cannot literally go back to a prior state because the present conditions of a society include all their prior states. Some people say: “Oh no, we’re going back to the Stone Age!” But being born in the Stone Age is one thing, and having to live with Stone Age instruments after having known all the technology we have today is quite another. This is not going back to the Stone Age. This is something totally different; this is deterioration, not backwardness.

From this it is evident that this simple pair of concepts, progress and backwardness, are among the most frequently-used, most imaginatively powerful, and most entrenched ideas in our culture; and they can keep people from understanding a significant number of historical processes. That is to say, if people judge historical processes in terms of progress or backwardness, they will never be able to grasp the reality of what they are considering.

Wanting to become intellectuals, historians, philosophers, and so on, the poor and naive students will naturally apply to and eventually enter universities. The problem is that as they gain entry into the world of high culture, they will receive a severe impact of a huge network of intellectual blinders. Of course, they will also get a lot of positive knowledge, but when we compare the sum total of material knowledge they learned, the whole of the content they acquired at university, with the system of concepts that organize this knowledge, we see that the latter is always more powerful. Why? Because the contents and their organizing concepts relate to each other as form relates to matter, in the Aristotelian sense of these words, and because it is the form of a body of knowledge that determines what this knowledge means.

Now, the study of philosophy has precisely the purpose of enabling you to create your own network of concepts according to the actual needs of the quest for knowledge and not according to pre-established social ends, which are rather focused on the creation, expansion, and conservation of cultural fashions. Philosophy is an instrument for the creation of conceptual structures capable of comprehending and transcending the structures of the cultural fashions that prevail at the moment. In this sense, philosophy is a powerful instrument of deculturation. So, since your task is to try to see beyond the horizon of the culture in which you live, the first thing you need in order to be able to do this is to learn how to retrieve the lost cognitive and intellective possibilities from times past.

How do you restore these possibilities? In the first place, you must have the necessary materials at your disposal, that is, the texts and documents that tell you exactly what happened in the periods of the past you are studying. Next, you must use your imagination to try to understand—note well—not the authors of the past as they understood themselves but rather your own situation as those authors would understand it if they were alive.

You cannot study Plato, for example, from the viewpoint of the contemporary culture because you will never understand him. Why? Because, in addition to that series of important cultural mutations that took place in the twentieth century, we are now going through a gigantic transformation in our society, a transformation determined by a factor called “technology.”

The impact of technology on modern society and culture has been only gradually perceived and integrated into human consciousness, and, strictly speaking, we are not yet living in a technological civilization, because technology does not decide and determine all social processes, although it determines a great and significant number of them. But there are still a lot of things that are based on processes which have nothing to do with technology. For example, consider the fact that in our society there is a large number of religious people and that these people live, partially at least, within a cultural environment upon which technology has little or no influence at all because it simply has nothing to do with religion.

However, it is one thing to live in an environment where people believe in the existence of a God who has created the world and who is going to drive the process of history until it reaches a certain goal—the end of the world and the passage of all things into eternity. Now, it is quite another to live in a culture where everything is a matter of technology. And the fact is that as the impact of technology on society gets stronger, our culture tends to consider all matters in the light of technology.

The first and most immediate consequence of this is that everything that lies beyond the reach of technological action ends up falling beyond the reach of people’s imagination as well. (When I say “immediate,” however, I do not mean that this effect occurs without any delay, since several decades, at least, may be necessary for it to take place.) Because if technology becomes the main lens through which we view reality, then, sooner or later we will end up only thinking about those things which fall within the grasp of technology or which will supposedly fall within the grasp of technology in the future. This means that, in a sense, the realm of human action (in its material sense) becomes the ultimate horizon of reality and that nothing exists beyond it.

It is evident that the territory which falls within the grasp of man’s technological agency is vast. For instance, we may expect that someday all currently existing diseases will be cured by technological means. This has not happened yet, but we may fairly expect it will, and it is a fact that people have hopes that it will indeed happen. When people contract a disease for which there is no cure yet, what do they usually do? They sit tight and hope that, within two, three, four, five, ten, or twenty years, a cure for their disease will be found. For example, I think that all the HIV-positive people in the world entertain this kind of hope. So, as I was saying, there is indeed a realm of existence which can be affected by man’s technological action and this realm is very large. However, when technology is understood as the key to existence, then, quite naturally, all that lies beyond the theoretical possibility of technological action ceases to attract people’s interest. The world, seen from this viewpoint, becomes a sort of laboratory for us to conduct our experiments (which, of course, may go right or wrong), and everything that cannot be tested through experimentation ceases to be of any interest for us.

As a consequence, all those dimensions of existence upon which technology cannot act in any way are viewed as nonexistent or irrelevant—an example of this is the phenomenon of death. Nowadays people cannot seriously think about death, only about how to postpone it, which is actually thinking about how to extend human life, or how to prolong human existence. Prolonging human existence is indeed a technological possibility, and more than that, it is a possibility that technology has been able to realize so far. But what about death itself? The fact is that sooner or later, we are all going to die, that death is part of the structure of reality, and that no life-prolonging technology can possibly change this structure. And because the phenomenon of death cannot be affected by technology, because the reality of death lies beyond the reach of technological action, the concept of death is not integrated into our society and we live in a culture where death has no place. For centuries death was one of the most predominant themes in culture, but now, suddenly, the topic of death is gone. People do not talk about it anymore; they only talk about health, about extending life, about eliminating pain, and so on.

When you set out on a quest for high culture in a cultural situation like that, you start your intellectual journey with a huge blind spot in your field of vision, because an entire dimension of reality is invisible for you, as if it has never existed.

Now, the study of high culture and philosophy can help you recover the vision of those lost dimensions of reality, that is, it can help you become capable of imagining that which is not usually imaginable in your own culture. The problem is that acquiring high culture is often identified with acquiring the credentials necessary to obtain government authorization to enter the teaching or the researching profession. This poses a problem for all those who seek to acquire high culture. For it is one thing to want to acquire high culture in order to be able to understand reality, and specially the reality of history, of civilization, of human existence throughout the ages. It is quite another thing to want to acquire high culture in order to be able to practice this or that profession. In fact, these two uses of high culture are not just different, but opposed to each other, because you will have to adapt yourself to the present culture to the utmost, if you want to be able to represent high culture professionally.

This is why I consider the academic institution to be the worst enemy of higher studies nowadays and why I have remained on the fringes of academia all my life. I have always feared it because I knew it did not strengthen people’s consciousness to enable them to understand reality, but rather molded their minds to enable them to perform certain social roles. Besides, I have also noticed that the social role of the academic and the scientific profession can be so hostile to a true understanding of reality that even the best minds, to the extent they strive to adapt and be successful in those professions, have to maim themselves intellectually so as not to say things that would be incomprehensible or shocking in their professional environments. Of course, there are exceptions to this. There are people who are able to have an academic career and still remain in touch with reality, but they are very scarce.

While I was watching “Voegelin in Toronto” — the DVD of a 1978 conference at York University in which Eric Voegelin participated as a lecturer and panelist—, I came to the realization that if you compared what Voegelin had to say to what the other participants had to say, you would find that while Voegelin was talking about realities, they were discussing typical academic topics of philosophy. And they were no ordinary professors, but first-rate philosophers like Bernard Lonergan and Hans-George Gadamer, among others. Voegelin, however, sounded so strikingly different from them that I think they could not really understand what he was saying, because it was too grave and too serious.

We can never forget that universities are schools, and that school education does not pose real-life challenges to students, but it is merely designed to afford theoretical teaching and practical training to students. In this sense, a school is like, for instance, a military academy, where students do battle exercises, go through shooting training, and so on and so forth, but they do not go to real wars or shoot their classmates. In this sense, a school, or a military academy “non é una cosa seria,” as Pirandello says. That is to say, it is not a serious thing. For things only get serious when you see some actual combat. There, in the battlefield, the enemy is not trying to teach you anything, he just wants to kill you. So a soldier who has a good military training and a soldier who has combat experience are worlds apart.

This means that everything that is adapted to suit a school education mindset is merely an imitation of real situations and processes. In short, academic and school education simulate reality. And they always do it from a safe distance, since students and teachers are confined behind walls that protect them from reality. Because of academic freedom, for example, a student or teacher cannot be held accountable for what he says. Now, if you are a politician, a minister, or the head of a company, everything that you say has consequences. But if you are a teacher or a student, little of what you say has consequences, since most of what is said during a class is said for the sake of learning. In the classroom, for example, a teacher can teach the exact opposite of what he truly believes. If he wants to do it, there is really nothing to keep him from doing so. Because ultimately what a teacher says to his pupils has always a didactic purpose and therefore is tentative, experimental, provisional. Nothing that he says is definitive, so to speak.

Now, if you want to understand the reality of what is happening now in politics, society, and culture, you have to remember, first of all, that reality does not fit curricular and disciplinary requirements. In other words, it is just not possible to reduce reality to a scheme of standardized approaches that correspond to the names of the various disciplines and to the curricular gradations of education. Let me give you an illustration of the irreducibility of reality to the exigencies of academic study. Think of any war. Nowhere can you find a war perfectly adequate to the exigencies of, say, a War 101 college course, another war that fits the purposes of a War 102 course, and a third one that is perfectly suited to War 103. No, actual wars do not come already adapted to fit different course levels. Likewise, there are no wars suited for the methods of the science of economy, nor wars tailor-made for the purposes of sociology, nor wars adapted for the study of political science. The reality of war is one and the same for every science. However, let us say I am a political scientist and I have to teach a course on war for freshmen in a university. In that case, I will have to select from the concrete reality of war only those elements that match my discipline. That is to say, I will have to shape the phenomenon of war according to the requirements of political science rather than according to the requirements of the objective reality of war. This means that the more the academic institution grows and expands, the more it becomes an essential instrument of subdivided professional departments serving societies immediate practical needs, and the less it serves the purposes of the quest for knowledge.

That is a real tragedy—the great tragedy of the twentieth century. In the last few decades, not only in Brazil, but everywhere, the universities, rather than being centers for the education of first rate intellectuals, have become hubs of political recruiting, of training of political activists to defend the most stupid ideas in the universe. Nowadays, virtually no first rate intellectuals are well integrated into the academic milieu. In every field, the best are always at least slightly out of place in that environment or have a conflicting relationship with it. Besides, we should never forget that the university is an educational institution for the masses, not for the elite, and also that anyone in the amorphous mass of university students can earn a bachelor’s degree, become a Ph.D., a professor, etc. What is worse, nowadays most people think they have a right to earn a college degree, as if this were one of the fundamental rights of man, which, of course, makes the coordination between academic education and the quest for knowledge even more difficult. Now, please note that so far I have been only talking about a problem that pertains to the structure of academic education, a flaw that is inherent in the very nature of academia, and I have not brought into the picture the possibility of deliberate academic censure and boycott (which are things that indeed happen in colleges, universities and research institutes). Worse than that, this academic wickedness is actually a reflection of that structural problem, which means that even if academics were as honest as they could be, the very structure of academic education would still be problematic. However, the fact is that, academics, for multiple reasons—internal power struggles, maintenance of the prestige of the academic class, and the like—do not always behave honestly. So, when we put together the obstacles to the pursuit of knowledge that derive from the structure of academia and the malice and wickedness that exist in there, the result we get is the end of the knowledge of reality.

This means that, in an academic environment, the possibility of carrying out a serious investigation into the true reality of things is virtually nil, except for those who are geniuses, who have such impressive personalities that nobody dares to mess with them. These people are allowed to do what they want, for both their students and colleagues think them crazy and find it best not to mess with them. This was, for example, the case of Eric Voegelin. Because people were afraid of him, they did not try to stop him from doing what he wanted, but they kept a distance away from him. In fact, they did not understand much of what Voegelin was talking about. For example, there is a famous anecdote about Voegelin’s first lecture at the University of Munich. Among the attendees were some of the greatest German intellectuals, including Ralf Dahrendorf, the most eminent political scientist at that time. But Dahrendorf, after he had heard Voegelin’s lecture, confessed he was perplexed by it and said he could not understand a word of what Voegelin had said: “He did not talk at all about the Constitution, about human rights, and things like that. I do not understand, what sort of political science is that? He was talking about something else altogether, and I do not know what that something is.” The fact that Voegelin was never understood in the German academy did not result in any form of boycott against him, but had he been any less rigorous a person, he would have been crushed by the German academic environment. Voegelin eventually got fed up with German academics and decided to go back to the United States, leaving all his German students at a complete loss, because for them, Voegelin was a light in the darkness. But the truth is that Voegelin could not take—who would imagine this?—the mediocrity of the German university.

Another amazing thing about the universities is that they usually maintain their prestige long after they have lost their intellectual vigor, just like mummies. An illustration of this is that almost anywhere in the world people still think that the German universities are great universities, as if we were still living in the 1920s. A similar phenomenon takes place here in the United States when somebody mentions Harvard in a conversation, in spite of the fact that nowadays Harvard is nothing more than a training school for leftist activism. People praise Obama, for instance, because he once was the president of the Harvard Law Review—which is nowadays nothing but a periodical of the extreme left, a magazine for semi-illiterate people, but which still retains the prestige conferred upon it in the old days. A quite curious thing is the fact that those who contributed the most toward the destruction of the academic institution—the leftist activists of the 1960s—are the ones who benefit today from the prestige of those universities they themselves have helped to destroy. This is plainly a usurpation. It is like murdering a person to take over his position and title, just like in Alexandre Dumas’ “The Man in the Iron Mask.”

This course—in fact, not only this course, but all that I do in education—has been designed to give an answer to the following problem: What exactly should you do if you want to study history, culture, philosophy, religion, and so on, “in order to know things as they really are,” as Leopold Von Ranke put it, regardless of whether you were ever able to use that knowledge in an academic profession or not, and regardless of the risk that you might become incomprehensible if you succeeded in gaining such knowledge? If you have the courage to take on this challenge, you can attain knowledge of things as they really are, you can attain objective knowledge of reality. But, take note: the more you know, the more you know things that others do not. So, right from the start, knowing more is knowing things that others do not know, and thus the more you know, the less understood you will be by those who do not know. If you want to pay that price, if you think knowledge is worth it, those are the first things you have to bear in mind. Personally, I think knowledge is worth it. I have devoted my life to the pursuit of knowledge and I do not regret it in the least. Quite to the contrary, I think it is great. However, over the years, I had to learn not to expect to be comprehended by the ignorant, for they simply cannot understand me. Also, bear in mind that if you really want to be a serious scholar and not only viewed as such by the ignoramuses who pretend to be scholars, you will have to engage in a series of practices and follow a number of protocols of learning which will allow you to get where you want. This is what I have been doing all my life and is what I would like to teach others to do.

So, when I start thinking about a problem, I want an actual answer for it. Ranke’s sentence, “I want to know things as they really are,” is always on my mind, and I truly believe human intelligence is capable of attaining this kind of knowledge. However, the “things as they really are” are not necessarily the same as people like to imagine they are. Besides, when you find out the truth about the past, for example, your new knowledge changes your view about people who live in the present, that is, you start looking at them from a different perspective. Also, you become able to make comparisons between the past and the present according to a significantly larger scale of reference, and as a result things that may be novelties to other people may be not so new to you, because you may have points of comparison which other people do not have. As a consequence of your accumulated historical knowledge, you will know beforehand that many of those high hopes people usually entertain are not going to lead anywhere. Also, a terrible thing may happen to you: once you have understood a series of processes, once you have acquired a large measure of philosophical and historical culture, it may happen that people do not really want to hear your opinion, because they would rather cling to their prejudices and silly ideas. Let me tell you that this is not at all uncommon: it does happen all the time, putting you in a rather awkward position.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate my point. There was this one time when I was walking down a street and came across an old lady who had fallen down to the ground and was laying there, wiggling and squealing in a fit of hysteria—I even thought she was having an epileptic seizure. As I reached out to help her get back up on her feet, she started punching me and screamed: “I hate men, I hate men!” So what could I do? I simply told her: “You know what? Screw that. I’m not trying to help you anymore; if you don’t want my help, then you won’t get it.” That is precisely the situation you will sometimes find yourself in when dealing with politicians, public men, opinion leaders, business leaders, military officers, and so on and so forth. Because they refuse to listen, the only thing you can tell them is something like this: “Look, I have a solution to your problem, but if you don’t want to listen, that’s your loss. I was just trying to help.” That is to say, you will be regarded as an unheeded and unwanted adviser who actually knows how to a fix a problem. Even so, even if this happens to you, and it may very well happen, I still think that the quest for knowledge is the best of purposes in life because when you understand how things are, at least you do not suffer like a helpless animal, but with all the dignity of a human being, for you know what the problem is.

The purpose of this course is to convey to you a part of my experience of searching for knowledge, and in this sense, in this course we are not going to study “philosophy,” our subject matter is not “the philosophical tradition,” but rather something that is known as reality. But you might ask: what is reality? Roughly speaking, everyone knows reality and what reality is. Reality is where we live, where we move, where we have joy, where we cry, where we have hope, where we have our struggles, our victories, our defeats, and so on and so forth. In short, reality is the realm where we have all of our internal and external experiences—that is reality. And when philosophy first appeared in the world, it came up precisely as an inquiry into reality, not as an academic discipline where you had to perform certain rituals in order to be accepted into a professional community. When compared to philosophy, that is, to the study of reality, this professional or academic “philosophy” is merely a child’s play. It is something we cannot take seriously for even a minute and, in fact, we should always keep our distance from it.

End of the second part.

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This lecture was delivered online in December 2008. Translation from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota and proofreading by Benjamin Mann.

Introduction to the Philosophy Seminar – Part 1

How Do Cultural Shifts Happen? A lecture originally delivered online in Portuguese as an introduction for Mr. Olavo de Carvalho’s Brazilian Philosophy Seminar. 

 

I am going to provide you with an outline of the general program of the Philosophy Seminar, a course which will last for approximately five years. Keep in mind that this program, which I will delineate here in a rather vague manner, may be changed later, should that be necessary because of the performance of the students or should any other circumstance so require.

The general objective of this course is to prepare students to react philosophically to the cultural and historical changes taking place today. For this reason, I would like to start off by remarking that, as a rule, major cultural changes happen in a very peculiar manner, since rarely, if ever, is a body of ideas, values, and symbols abandoned because it has been directly confronted, refuted, or overcome. Rather, major changes in culture are usually a consequence of the substitution of a dominant intellectual class by a newly emerging one, having a distinct social origin and different concerns—that is, with its  attention focused on other themes and questions. Thus, along with the new intellectual class comes a new culture, which takes over society in such a way that the old one becomes incomprehensible and inaccessible in a very short period of time. So one should never mistake the historical supplantation of one cultural trend by another for an intellectually valid confrontation between a new culture and an older one. From the fact that a body of ideas has been abandoned historically, it does not necessarily follow that it has been refuted or impugned in any intellectually valid way whatsoever.

Actually, no such impugnation ever occurs. There are no examples in history of shifts in cultural trends that happened because an earlier prevailing body of ideas was actually examined and refuted by the advocates of a new intellectual order. Besides, rather than entailing a major cultural change, the scrutiny of a body of ideas presupposes the preservation of the cultural framework to which the ideas under discussion belong. That is to say, those people involved in examining and debating them are still discussing the same set of issues that spring from that framework.

Nietzsche once remarked that only that which is replaced is completely destroyed, and I think his observation serves well to summarize how a major cultural change really takes place. Because a shift in culture does not result from intellectual debate, but rather from the replacement of certain prevailing ideas with others in such a way that the previous ones are simply forgotten, left behind.  While certain ideas are still dominant, it is a fact that they have not been refuted in the public eye, and after they have been forgotten, what is the use of refuting them? As a result, the so-called “progress” of culture or “progress” of knowledge is in truth a series of instances of forgetting, of absolutely remarkable losses.

Besides, as the new ideas take the place of and no longer need to be confronted with the old ones, the number of intellectual perspectives available for judging the new preponderant ideas naturally decreases—a process which is somewhat uniform in the history of the West. Put another way, it is possible to observe in our civilization a general tendency towards uniformity resulting from the way cultural changes occur. For whenever certain prevailing intellectual perspectives are abandoned and new ones completely take their place, what follows is that the old conceptions gradually become unimaginable or unthinkable (except for a very small number of people who can still understand them). It is precisely because of this that new ideas are able to dominate the cultural scene with great freedom of action, for not only do they not need to be upheld against the previous culture, but also they only admit to be contradicted or discussed within their own intellectual framework. This, naturally, tends to reduce culture into a closed system.

In short, major cultural changes comprise two distinct processes: the forgetting of old ideas, through which the new generations educated within a new intellectual culture become unable even to imagine the previous one; and the complete elimination of old ideas, carried out to the point that the previous culture itself becomes inconceivable except in the form of simplified stereotypes created  by the new culture for the sole purpose of its own glorification.

This means that all cultural, intellectual “progress” actually consists in a series of impoverishments, of losses, in a series of memory losses, so to speak. But not only that, because when a loss of memory lasts long enough, it becomes a loss of capability; and specifically in the case of cultural changes, it becomes a complete loss of those intellectual and imaginative capabilities required to comprehend a previous culture.

In periods of cultural change the new ideas emerge as overwhelmingly powerful, like a large mass of water that takes over an empty space. For this reason they easily become  instruments of social action and produce social changes at a rather fast pace—a phenomenon that can be observed throughout the last four or five centuries. A case in point is the rise of the so-called “humanist” class around the 1500s. The humanists, as opposed to the previous class of intellectuals, no longer had a scholastic philosophical education. They received an education in rhetoric based on the rhetoricians of antiquity—especially Quintilian and Cicero—and devoted themselves to the literary and the language arts. Their particular field of expertise was, therefore, the art of persuasion, and they soon began to apply the rules of ancient rhetoric to their own national literatures and write in their own national languages, which enabled them to gain a large readership among the European nobility, a class which had been completely alien to the world of higher culture during the Middle Ages.

The medieval nobility was characterized by its utter lack of education. Consider, for example, Charlemagne, during whose government, by the way, the first universal literacy project was launched. He remained illiterate until he was thirty-two years old, and he only consented to be educated after much insistence. The learning of literacy, it was then thought, was an occupation suitable either for monks or for women; noblemen were not supposed to devote themselves to such a thing.

However, it was precisely among Europe’s dominant class, the aristocracy, that a new culture became quickly widespread soon after the appearance of the humanists. This success among the nobility, as I have pointed out before, was due to the fact that the humanists wrote in their own national languages and no longer used the highly complex logical techniques of scholasticism (which were instruments of proof), but employed instruments of persuasion (that is, of psychological action).

But if we ask ourselves whether in that period there was any intellectual confrontation between the humanists and the schoolmen, the answer is that, in fact, there was none. Humanism merely took over an empty space, and quite naturally the previous culture was left behind.

Not long after that, when the so-called modern scientific culture arises with Newton, Bacon, Galileo, and the like, once again the same phenomenon takes place. What could have remained of the scholastic culture is once again set aside in favor of a new rising culture, which in addition came with a promise of certain technological applications that could directly result in an expansion of the power of the dominant classes. Thus, to say that the modern scientific culture brought about progress in knowledge is a complete mistake. One could say that it brought about a very profound social change, but not that knowledge as such progressed. For there is progress only when a previously conquered territory is preserved, absorbed, expanded and transcended into a larger structure.

Besides, the few historical instances of an objectively verifiable progress in knowledge are quite different from those major cultural changes, from those events which Thomas Kuhn, for example, calls “scientific revolutions.” In fact, the so-called “scientific revolutions” do not bring about progress of any sort; they merely produce a change of perspective, and, as we know, a change of directions is not necessarily  progress. To progress is to go further in the same direction.  For example, if  a person changes  his activity altogether, or if  he changes  the subject completely during a discussion, then  he does not even have means for comparing what he is doing now with what he did before, for one thing has simply nothing to do with the other.

 

Student: When you examine the major cultural changes in the West taking into account those distinctions you have mentioned,  are there any historical examples of  real advance, of actual progress in cultural matters?

 

Olavo de Carvalho: Yes, there are. When you consider, for instance, the evolution of Christian doctrine, from the first fathers to scholasticism, you can see that there was a real progress in Christian theology; for nothing was lost, the former culture was not left behind. All that had been achieved in a previous stage of Christian thought was assimilated and merged with new elements into a new theoretical scheme. This is what happened, for example, with all the novel elements that had been absorbed from Aristotle. When St. Albert the Great and Saint Thomas Aquinas began reading Aristotle and then trying to formulate Christian doctrine in Aristotelian terms, they did not simply forsake the former steps taken by Christian doctrine and move on. Rather, they rearranged them into a new theoretical framework. So, nothing was lost, and this is precisely what always needs to be done. So, you can say that from the early fathers up to scholasticism actual progress happened. Finally, bear in mind that all of this  took place within the same culture—there was no cultural revolution, no breaking apart from the previous stages of Christian culture.

However, with the emergence of the humanists, there was a rupture. To me, one of the most obvious things about the humanists—when you read Erasmus, for example, or even Descartes (who had studied with representatives of scholasticism)—is that they do not quite understand what the schoolmen were doing. The humanists then created a new image of the scholastics that had nothing to do with the historical reality of scholasticism, but that had a lot to do with the self-justification and self-glorification of the newly emerging culture.

When the Enlightenment culture arose, it was also the result of this same sort of mutation I have been talking about. It was a new culture that surged into being thanks to the emergence of a new class of intellectuals and that represented a break with the previous cultural regime.

The Enlightenment intellectuals, however, were not humanists or scholars like Erasmus and they were not  schoolmen, nor natural scientists. They were a fourth type of intellectuals: they were the precursors of present-day journalists. Voltaire, for example, was not an old-style rhetorician, a scholastic philosopher, or a natural scientist. So what was he then? He was a journalist; in fact, the first modern journalist. We can say that it was during the Enlightenment period that the concept of an opinion-maker was born. These new intellectuals, these opinion-makers, constituted a distinct social class with  a distinct social origin, and they quickly created a series of new trends that reshaped culture and rendered both scholasticism, and the direct predecessors of the Enlightenment virtually incomprehensible.

For instance, when you compare the entire work of Isaac Newton and those parts of it which Voltaire selected and summarized in his book The Elements of Newton’s Philosophy, you realize that there are two different Isaac Newtons: the historical Newton and a version of Newton adapted to serve the purposes of the Enlightenment—Sir Isaac Newton as portrayed by Voltaire.

The Voltairian Newton is so radically different from the historical one that it is hard to see any similarity between them. Historically, Newton’s basic purpose was to restore a kind of prophetic science that could allow him to interpret history in light of the Bible. That was the purpose behind all of his works, including his works on physics. The intellectuals of the Enlightenment, however, misrepresented Newton: they took his physics, cut it off from the rest of his work, and threw the remainder away in order to create a pseudo-historical Newton adapted to meet the needs of their rising culture.

From the point of view of a person who seeks to acquire high culture—whether he is a university student, a seminarian, or anything else—, the self-legitimating proclivity built into every cultural paradigm means that a significant part of his education will consist in the falsification and obliteration of the past. In other words, the culture of the time in which a person lives shapes his mindset; and it does so particularly by teaching him what is to be rejected or left behind. This happens because self-glorification is an important component of every culture. The idea of historical progress, for example, is built into the self-glorifying proclivity of a culture as a permanent self-legitimating mechanism.

A most remarkable thing is what happens to people who are historical relativists, who are not supposed to believe in any kind of historical progress. In theory they indeed claim that historical progress does not exist and that nobody should think about history in terms of more and less advanced ages, but in practice they consider themselves far superior to all those who came before them. So, even historical relativists cannot escape the worldview created by the ideology of progress.

Now, progress as a fact is one thing, progress as an ideology quite another. The existence of progress is a fact that cannot be denied, since it is true that sometimes things do indeed get better (even though it is also true that some other times they get worse). And since the existence of a number of instances of actual progress is an indisputable historical reality, it is not possible for someone to reject the idea of progress (as historical relativists do).

However, if it is true that nobody can be seriously against it, it is also true that nobody can be seriously in favor of the “progressivist concept of history.”

Let us consider this conception of progress and see whether it is a scientifically viable notion. What is progress? What does it mean? “Progress” is a unit of measure generally used to assess whether a certain previous time in history reached an expected level of advancement or not. But what is the opposite of progress? Is it being behindhand, delayed? Or is it being backward? Well, since time only moves forward, and given that it is absolutely impossible for it to move backwards, the concept of backwardness does not make any sense.

Besides, since every process in time implies change, and since in any given period of history some things decay and some others flourish, then any time in history can be regarded as progressive in some respect and as decadent in some other. No historical time, however, can be logically seen as being behindhand or delayed in terms of development. There is no becoming delayed or behindhand in history because there is no such thing as a historical schedule that all civilizations, all societies, must follow. In history, there is no predetermined date and time at which a society should obligatorily reach a stage of development. Thus the idea that a society or civilization can be belated in development is simply a mindless logical byproduct of the idea of progress. Even though we can say that a society has progressed, we cannot say that a society is behindhand or belated. Progress is a historically existing phenomenon; belatedness is not. We cannot say, for example, that a society that has remained unchanged for five thousand years is “belated.” Even though this society may be seen as lagging behind when compared to some other, this really does not matter, because the comparatively underdeveloped society is not actually part of the other. Now, a society may always abandon its own criteria for evaluating its progress, begin to judge itself by the degree of development of another, and arrive at the conclusion that it is “belated;” but this would be the end of this society.

In short, the idea of a belated society is self-contradictory, because there is no way a society can fall behind a universal schedule of development that is actually nonexistent. The notion of progress, however, can be accepted as scientifically valid.

 

Student: But it is possible to measure progress within a single culture, right? According to your theory of previously achieved levels of development, for example, one can do this by verifying whether the new generations have reached the level of development set by the prior cultural stages in a society.

 

Olavo: Yes, it is possible, but only within a single culture. Yet, even when a new generation has not reached the level of development set by the previous generations, you cannot say the new generation is behindhand or delayed. But what you can say is that the culture has deteriorated.

It is not hard for anyone to understand what deterioration is. Anyone who has ever been healthy and got sick, or who has had a lot of money and lost it, knows what deterioration is. The word “deterioration” does correspond to real phenomena, and more than that, deterioration, in its various manifestations, is a permanent fact, a permanent possibility of human life. Belatedness or behindhandedness, on the other hand, only exists as a real phenomenon where there is a predetermined scale or schedule of progression. For example, when it takes longer than the time estimated by someone for him to attain a goal he set for himself, then we can say he is belated. Historically, however, I do not think that it is possible to say with any seriousness that a society or a culture is behindhand in respect of progress.

When people classify this or that society or culture as “belated,” what  they are actually doing is measuring a certain culture’s or society’s level of progress by the standards of some other, based upon the completely stupid assumption that one society should be just like the other. And this assumption becomes particularly stupid when people judge their own culture based upon it, because their measurement of their own culture’s degree of progress by the standards of another actually amounts to destroying their culture. For when a culture accepts to be measured by the standards of another, then it means this culture has already lost its autonomy and become merely a subculture of the other. This culture would have to destroy itself, to cease to be itself in order to enter on the track of progress.

Now, even if it can be proven that, historically speaking, it does not make any sense to say that behindhandedness is the opposite of progress, reasoning in terms of progress and belatedness is such an entrenched practice in our present culture that it has almost become an automatism.

People talk about “delayed” societies. They say that Zambia, for instance, is a delayed society. But in relation to what standard of progress is it behindhand? Do they mean that Zambia should be New York City? Where did they get the idea that one society should be like another? It makes no sense. One could say that the situation in Zambia is terrible, that Zambian people are starving to death, that the country is ruined, and so on, but they cannot say that Zambia is behindhand in respect of progress. Saying that a society is belated, stuck in a time warp, delayed in its progress, and the like has become a surrogate for expressing a negative judgment about that society. For example, to avoid saying that a certain society is in a terrible situation, people will say that it is “delayed.”

The problem is that when people enter the realm of high culture the first thing they receive is the impact of the current high culture, and along with it they also receive all its limitations, all of its intellectual blinders, prohibitions, prejudices which will allow those people to develop only in certain directions. This means that the mere existence of an established culture implies the concomitant existence of, so to speak, predetermined intellectual careers. That is to say, a predetermined blueprint for each and every intellectual profession.

 

End of the first part.

 

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This lecture was delivered online in December 2008. Translation from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota and proofreading by Benjamin Mann.

Islamic Totalitarianism: an Inheritor of Communism and Nazism

Watch the video of the lecture delivered by Olavo de Carvalho on the Nazi and Communist roots of the Islamic totalitarianism. 

The lecture below was delivered on May 24, 2004, at Hebraica Association, in São Paulo.

 

An Anti-Marxist Revolution in Brazil?

In an article published on FrontpageMag.com, Vladimir Tismaneanu, fellow of the Inter-American Institute, examines the recent popular demonstration against the Brazilian Workers’ Party and the São Paulo Forum.

 

In recent weeks and months, we have been flooded with news about the Syriza “miracle,” about how the Greek leftists will manage to pull the country out of the state of decay in which it languishes. The Greek Finance Minister was placed high on all pedestals of European and universal glory, as if he were John Maynard Keynes and Hegel himself combined into one. Propagandistic nonsense has reached its utmost peak. Too little or even nothing at all is said, however, about how the house of cards built by revolutionary Dilma Rousseff – a former combatant in the urban guerrilla organizations – is coming down. Mature and responsible, the country’s civil society is not the prisoner of leftist myths. It refuses to go on a wild goose chase, as it happens in so many other places.

Millions of people are out demonstrating, asking for president Dilma Rousseff’s resignation. The endemic corruption of the leftist regime is being denounced by the masses that have taken to the streets, but largely ignored by the media elites, which are connected to those neo-Bolshevik channels financially supported by the Putin autocracy and its friends. The Sao Paulo Forum with its radical exhortations continues its maneuvers of hypnotizing the public opinion. Lies abound, but are starting to not be believed anymore. Protesters are being slandered as “American agents”, “spies”, “fascists” etc. Yet, less people than ever buy into these slanders.

The protests are being organized by a grassroots initiative with an openly liberal (non-leftist) orientation – the Free Brazil Movement (MBL). Signatures are being gathered for Dilma Rousseff’s dismissal. It turns out that philosopher Olavo de Carvalho’s anti-totalitarian ideas have taken root in Brazil. Olavo, a remarkable social thinker execrated by the Left, knows a great deal about Marxism and revolutionary utopianism in general, at any rate a far greater deal than Dilma and her followers. He is familiar with the famous 11th thesis on Feuerbach: “Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it.” The world is changing in Brazil.

The hyper-corrupt bureaucracy of the Workers’ Party, so outrageously obvious during the World Cup in 2014, is coming face to face with a resurgent civil society. What is being foreshadowed, it seems, is a peaceful, non-violent revolution. Marxist revolutions are explosions of violence. But not the anti-totalitarian ones. It is now clear that millions of Brazilians feel the need to expose twaddle, nonsense, irresponsible foolishness, cynical demagoguery masquerading as a springboard for collective bliss.

Dilma and her crowd may not be Marxists in a traditional, strictly ideological sense, they accept and even profit from some liberal economic principles, but, when all is said and done, they still share, subliminally, the Marxist anti-capitalist and “anti-imperialist” revolutionary delusions, expectations, and fever. Therefore, their enduring affinities with the continental far left, including Hugo Chavez’s heir, Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

The protests are directed against the acute institutional, social, economic, and moral crisis that has dramatically worsened over these past few months. I do not know if a revolution to the full extent of the term has begun crystallizing as of right now, but this is certainly a revolutionary situation as defined by Lenin himself: “Those at the top cannot govern by using the old methods, those at the bottom, the great masses, beyond social divisions, no longer accept them.”

A fool’s tongue is long enough to cut his own throat: in this case, a Marxist one turned upside down! The great historian Robert Conquest’s dream is gradually coming to life–a united front against radical fallacies. It is high time these chimeras were exposed for what they really are: myths, legends, delusions, fantasies of salvation, ideological fairytales with pernicious effects.

This essay was translated from Romanian into English by Monica Got, and published on FrontpageMag.com on March 26, 2015.

The Triumph of Cultural Marxism: a TV Interview with Olavo de Carvalho

The anti-communist Brazilian writer and philosopher Olavo de Carvalho describes the advance of the world communist movement and what the free world, including the USA and Israel, can do to save their countries. “The United States is becoming Marxist,” he warns. Topics include (1) the Anti-American left,the Sao Paulo Forum, and the “collapse” of communism (2), cultural Marxism, the Frankfurt School, and homosexual rights, (3) Can Israel and Colombia be saved? (4) Pope Francis and world revolution (5) Russia’s role in the New World Order, and (6) the role of Christianity in saving the West.

Dr. Gina Loudon interviews Dr. Judith Reisman on sexual education and the poisoning of the American mind

The left is poisoning the minds of America’s children. Dr. Gina Loudon interviews Dr. Judith Reisman on her debunking of Alfred Kinsey’s research, sex education in America, and the sexualizing of a culture.