They can burn books, destroy libraries, forbid languages, ban beliefs, delete past times,
draw new present times, order future actions, torture and execute people...
But they still don´t know how to kill the intangible and bright
bodies of ideas, dreams and hopes.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Texts written by my mate...

Texts written by my mate

From broad spread disillusion to an inventory of failures. But, what will be next?
A time for trials, a time for achievements

By Sara Plaza

It has always been easier for us –though never too simple– to name what than to explain how. Perhaps our blind confidence in what we see neither allows us to observe under what light each thing shines, nor the shadows cast by a reality, which stays as it stays, but can –and should– stop being as it is [1]. Today we know that things are not going very well, and we can even enumerate every single failure of an engine that imperfect, unjust and unusable as it is, still turns to be useful. It is useful for those who take advantage of how "badly" it works increasing the realms of their power. It is useful because its dreadful arrangement of gears only permits some of its pieces to be in good conditions, destroying –not out of fear, I guess– those which do not suit it at all. And it is useful where no other machinery has resulted in a better distribution of resources and wealth.

No matter how shameful and humiliating the former statements seem to the ones who believe and defend the idea that another world is possible; we, in a certain way, continue feeling sorry about them without putting a stop to such madness. We continue denouncing them in the streets and in the big squares of many cities, in classrooms and auditoriums, in silence and shouting them out, stood up and sat down, but when are we going to start moving ourselves in order to put an end to so much misery? The sort of misery that each of us keeps inside him or her, the same misery that marks ourselves and stains every corner of this planet. Many books have been written, many laws enforced, many treaties signed, many agreements sealed, many judgments passed, and many people have been declared guilty and subsequently condemned. All of this should have taught us something, however, where is our learning? Many things have changed, some of them have even improved, but what happens with the many things that day after day get worse? Those are many more and we do not seem to find the proposals that should deal with those problems. I wonder if we have even proposed to solve them some day.

A few days ago I was reading a book published by UNICEF, OMS and UNESCO several years ago, a book called "FACTS FOR LIFE. A communication challenge." A book that neither defends it nor challenges "every kind of communicators" and, for sure, it is not addressed to "all those who can help in making this information belong to the basic health care knowledge heritage of all the families." At least it made it clear that the book "is both for women and for men." I write this because the authors never went to the places where that life does not have any value, does not count for anybody, where that life is killed by leaving to die. Or, if they were there, never drew back the smoke curtains which permitted them to see what can be done but did not allow them to discover what must be accomplished first. They wrote a book for "politicians, educators, religious leaders, health professionals, company managers, trade unions, volunteers associations and mass media", the ones in charge of transmitting its contents to those who were dying because they ignored them.

Among its town criers they forgot to name librarians, for example. Perhaps they did not considered libraries as places for the sort of change that it is not only necessary but also possible for our society to make. They also forgot about the fact that in that society –the one that will have 8.000 millions of people by the year 2025– almost 2.000 million people "will suffer from severe water shortage" [2], and the same number "do not have electricity yet", and, as the same sources state: "even if we multiply by 100 the present development rate, it would be necessary at least 400 years for those people to get it."

When in that book it is written that "many mothers do not feel confident about suckling their babies and need stimulus and practical support on the part of the baby's father, the health agents, the family and friends, the groups of women, the mass media, the trade unions and the employers' associations.", did the authors think at any time that those women might not be living with the father of their baby because they were raped on many occasions? Did they think that the health agents usually are situated very far from where those women live? Did they think that their family and friends turned their backs to them? Did they think that the mass media are in the hands of economic and financial power? Did they think that the trade unions, in many places, forgot where they come from and serve only to the very same power? Did they think that the employers' associations would never offer a contract to those women, precisely because they are women? No, they never thought about it. Mothers who do not feel confident about their skills at suckling their babies? Yes, that is exactly what their mates, the health agents, their families and friends, the mass media, the trade unions and the employers' associations think of them, and what those women think does not matter, nobody has asked them their opinion, nobody want to know it.

In Spanish it is said that the real blind is the person who does not want to see, as the true deaf is the one who refuses to hear. I did also read one time that "Every poet is a heir to the fairy–tale hero who can hear the grass grow" [3]. I imagine that if we do not want to remain blind, nor deaf, some day we will have to dare to see and hear, and maybe some other day we will turn to be poets as well. Nevertheless, with imagination alone we will not manage to get anything. What about being aware of what we need to build our own path rather than following the steps of the fairy–tales heroes? What about listening to those who have historically been kept in silence in addition to reading those ten points for life that organizations such as UNICEF, OMS and UNESCO have published? They are neither dumb, nor quiet. Their poverty, their misery, their sickness, their hunger and their thirst are a shout, a cry, a scream, a yell, a call. Neither our wealth, nor our education or our health systems have made us better, since we have permitted ––and allowed it day after day– that the majority continue being much worse than us.

I want to say once more that we already know what does not work, why it is not working and, though many have been the teachings and not so much the learning, we also know how we should start to put it right. Until now we did not have tried it enough, and when we did so, we did it badly. Miracles do not exist, but miraculously men and women are still on their feet, no matter how many times they have run into troubles. Why are we so determined to break our nose when it is what allows us to smell corruption? The rotten smelling of those who have the power stinks. When will we be aware of that? If we put our hands in their dirty businesses we will end being so miserly. From being accomplices we will become the authentic guilty party. Is it what we really want?

Fernando Savater tried to explain to his son Amador that he was in charge of providing a good life for himself [4]. The Spanish philosopher was intending to make us understand that there is a sort of selfishness that suits us perfectly, does us good, and humanizes us. If we have got disillusioned enough, and we have understood the need for writing an inventory of the failures of the world that we are building together, why do not do now what is the most convenient for us. It does not have to do with anybody else but ourselves, it is our choice, our responsibility. There was a time for trying it, but now the time for achieving some of our goals has come. We should place ourselves in the reality that surrounds us, the one before our door and the one behind it, the one in the journals pages and the one in the stanzas of the poems, mine, yours, our reality. They are many, however, they are not so different and they are not placed so far away one from each other. We should occupy the position that let us protect our life and be in favor of it. We should take part in the existing organizations or create alternative ones. We should give our opinion. By doing so, sometimes we will smile and on other occasions we will cry. Do not allow anybody to tell us what we have to do when we already know –or should have known– what is good for us. We have to defend the ways and the manners which allow us to accomplish it, and we have to achieve it. For another world is possible and the possibility is in our hands.

[1] Paulo Freire. Brazilian pedagogue. Expert in popular education. Author, among others, of the books La educación como práctica de la libertad and Pedagogía del oprimido.
[2] Le Monde Diplomatique. El Atlas II. Buenos Aires: Le Monde Diplomatique, 2006.
[3] Gaston Bachelard.
[4] Fernando Savater, in "Ética para Amador".

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