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Brazzil - Culture - August 2003

Brazil: We've Got Our Geniuses Too

There have been many a "genius" from other continents and
countries other than from Northern Europe or Northern America,
however, they seem to disappear or not fit into the
carefully constructed paradigms that serve the self-interests
and self-fulfilling prophecies of the Anglo-Germanic paradigm.

Alan P. Marcus


Brazil does not belong to the Anglo-Germanic world, and therefore Brazilian "geniuses" have been excluded from an exclusive and self-important team of genius-making-nations from Northern Europe and North America. It is interesting that one may ascertain thereby proxy, that those populations that assert values of a superior nature with their "geniuses", will most likely also possess, incorporate, and enjoy those same values; and; superimpose those values on the rest of the world ascribed with inferior values.

Take for example, the word genius. I invite the readers to think of the very first names that come to mind when they think of a genius. Brazilians might have thought of different examples than those readers from North America, Europe, or the British Commonwealth countries (i.e.; Australia, New Zealand). The overall list might look something like this, for example for classical musicians: Beethoven, Brahms, Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn; for scientists: Einstein, Freud, Marx, Darwin; and finally, for writers and poets: Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Goethe, Byron, Shelly, Dickens.

If the reader will also take one moment to think about what happened to thinkers, scientists, musicians, inventors, writers, poets and sportsmen from Brazil (or from Portugal). Are they not deemed to be a part of the so-called Western world? Naturally, the Anglo-Germanic world does not seem to think so. (Today the term Western essentially means: white, Anglo-Germanic, or Northern European and North American models of thought).

But, what ever happened to inventor Alberto Santos-Dumont; indianist brothers Villas-Boas; anthropologist Gilberto Freyre; writers Luis de Camões, Guimarães Rosa, Machado de Assis, Jorge Amado, Euclides da Cunha and Monteiro Lobato; architect Oscar Niemeyer; painter Cândido Portinari; composers Villa-Lobos, Martinho da Vila, Luiz Gonzaga, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Morais, Paulinho da Viola; actor Grande Othelo; historian Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda, and soccer players Pelé, Tostão and Garrincha? They too deserve the genius aphorism.

In the so-called Western world, the term genius, almost always, conveys the notion of a scientist, a writer, a philosopher, or a classical musician. Therefore, geniuses in other fields do not seem to belong to the model of measuring intelligence (i.e.; exclusively mathematical or musical). When psychologists and social scientists emerge with new theories of intelligence or genius, a North American and Northern European model is used for testing this intelligence. These models were also used in the pseudo-scientific and racist treatise written by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, 1994 called: The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, on the innate intellectual "inferiority" of US Blacks.

A Legacy from Germany and Britain

One may notice that, traditionally, figures of note who are deemed "genius", are almost always overwhelmingly either German or British nationals (see the list of scientists, musicians and poets from above). Note that even if Marx, Freud, Einstein, and Mendelssohn were Jews, they were, first and foremost, ascribed as Germans, and henceforth, conveniently appropriated as Northern Europeans.

The "genius" examples are the centerpiece of the dominating culture of self-importance, inherited from the long-lost era of Victorian-British pomposity and from German nationalistic Volkgeist narcissism. The pageantry and arrogance of those dominating cultures are today perpetuated by the semantics used in popular and pseudo-scientific cultures, thus also influencing national consciousness in countries such as Brazil.

This influence may be illustrated in Brazilian popular culture by observing the insulting articles written by Brazilian columnist Diogo Mainardi, in the weekly Brazilian magazine Veja, as he constantly belittles and ridicules Brazilian national figures, and praising foreign ones, particularly Anglo-Germanic.

There have been many a "genius" from other continents and countries other than from Northern Europe or Northern America, however, they seem to disappear or not fit into the carefully constructed paradigms that serve the self-interests and self-fulfilling prophecies of the Anglo-Germanic paradigm. A long process of semantic deconstruction is in order.

What is a genius? Is it an individual achievement in mathematics, physics or classical music? What is classical music? What one calls classical music is interesting and revealing, because classical denotes established, orthodox, or traditional, and furthermore dominating, albeit it is regarded as a time-period in music terms. But there is such a thing as contemporary classical music, and it has become a musical genre.

Other countries in the world have culturally absorbed classical music, not through smooth osmosis, but through cultural domination and acculturation. These countries find the need to resonate with the mainstream semantics, the orthodoxy of classical, and also assimilate what is noted in North America and Northern Europe as superior, good-taste and quality, genius or intelligence, of course, through the gospels of intellectual prophets belonging to these dominating cultures.

Alberto Santos-Dumont

The debate over who was the "father of aviation" is controversial, and a perfect example of this contemporary disregard and abandonment of non-Anglo-Germanic scientists, inventors, writers, and poets.

In Brazil every schoolboy and girl is taught that the Brazilian inventor, Alberto Santos-Dumont, is pai da aviação ("father of aviation"). In the rest of the so-called Western world, it is widely held that the North Americans, the Wright brothers, carry that title. There is much documentation and information available about Dumont's self-propelled flight around the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1906, with photographs and official awards.

The Wright brothers had already made a flight in 1903, but with dubious testimonials, nevertheless the title of "the first" to fly, was unanimously given to them, and unfortunately, Santos-Dumont was forgotten, and merely known in the Western world annals as an "eccentric Hispanic" inventor.

The debate over technicalities about who was the very first person to fly might be unproductive because of all the impossible and detailed particulars in doing so, however, it is significant to note that Santos-Dumont unquestionably deserves the same stature, status and recognition in the history of aviation as the Wright brothers. However, Santos-Dumont has yet to be respected, recognized and acknowledged worldwide, as a Brazilian inventor, not Hispanic, and if he was not the first to fly, then at least, he was indeed one of the "great pioneers of modern aviation".

Mané Garrincha: A Brazilian Genius

"Intelligence" per se, is non-existent, as recently proposed by several psychologists and social scientists (Gardner, 1983; Montagu, 1994) it has an amorphous form, it tests "what the tester wants to test" (i.e.; whatever a dominating culture "wants to prove").

Intelligence may be a manifestation of a human capability that exists in several forms, but not only visible through achievement in mathematics and music, but also in other visual arts, sports, or visual and spatial thinking. In this manner, one may immediately recognize such valuable "geniuses" from Brazil, such as writer Machado de Assis, or the unrivaled soccer player Mané Garrincha, but who are virtually unheard of and non-existent in the annals of mainstream Western world.

Only an unenlightened and retrograde elite with highly racist and "half-baked-scientific" politics would assert that "intelligence" is measured by the individual or cultural achievement in mathematics and music alone, or worst still, by the "IQ" test.

This concept of genius is linked to an interesting and forbidden discourse in the so-called Western world, that is, the dangerously prejudiced association between heredity and physical appearance with cultural achievement and intelligence, even if easily refuted.

Giselle Bündchen in the Land of Non-blondes

In a nation of non-blondes, blonde fashion models like the blue-eyed Giselle Bündchen seem to receive more national adoration than Santos-Dumont, Machado de Assis or Villa-Lobos ever received. This seems to be indicative of Brazil's ethnic self-doubt and of the Anglo-Germanic cultural influence and dominance over Brazilian national consciousness. Giselle is from the south of Brazil, a region which has received significant German immigration. And as such, she also bears physical characteristics that seem to resemble traditional Germanic standards of beauty.

However, it is remarkable and regrettable, that in a nation of non-blondes, she receives more admiration than the rest of a nation of equally beautiful non-blue-eyed-non-blondes, so traditionally Brazilian. Henceforth, the notion of blondeness, particularly in Brazil, is disturbingly linked to the notion of feminine beauty, thus, attesting to the overwhelming outside influence of the Anglo-Germanic model of beauty and of thinking.

Nevertheless, Brazilian "geniuses" are yet to receive their long overdue respect, recognition and appreciation in the so-called Western world, and also in their own nation of non-blue-eyed-non-blondes.


Gardner, H.. 1983. Frames of Mind. Basic Books Inc., New York, NY.

Herrnstein Richard J. and Charles Murray. 1994. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. The Free Press, New York, NY.

Montagu, Ashley. 1997. Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, CA.

Other articles written by this author on Brazilian ethnicity in Brazzil Magazine:

"Brazil: Northeasterners Get No Respect": http://www.brazzil.com/p105jun03.htm

"Out of Africa: Race in Brazil and in the USA": http://www.brazzil.com/2003/html/news/articles/june03/p123jun03.htm

"Brazil? Which Brazil?": http://www.brazzil.com/2003/html/news/articles/jul03/p151jul03.htm


Alan P. Marcus (Master's of Science in Geography, in progress) is a Brazilian living in the USA. He has also written other articles on Brazilian identity, "race" and ethnicity for Brazzil magazine. E-mail contact: amarcus@geo.umass.edu




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