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Waging Peace – The View from Brazil

 Waging 
        Peace - The View from Brazil

Just as the "ordinary citizen" of Iraq cannot be generalized
as
a clone of Saddam, the Yankee "ordinary citizen" cannot be seen

as violent as Bush. We must be reminded that, in 1942, when the Nazis

sank Brazilian ships, mobs aroused by newspapers grabbed German citizens

living peacefully and legally in our country and lynched them to death.

by:
Alberto Dines

 

Every
Saturday for the past three weeks, people have been taking the streets
of the world to rally against the war in Iraq. The war, however, started
almost a week ago and it’s getting bloodier and bloodier. Moreover,
internal support for the belligerent governments increases every day.

Something
is wrong with the preaching for peace. A theoretically unquestionable
humanitarian cause is not reaching the expected results, in spite of
intense mobilization.

**
Hypothesis 1: Pacifists forgot to prioritize the pre-requisite of non-violence.
Some rallies are extremely aggressive and confront basic principles
of the anti-bellicose doctrine.

**
Hypothesis 2: Pacifists have forgotten that pacifism requires absolute
neutrality.

**
Hypothesis 3: Marches have become narcissistic happenings. Once the
march is over, participants go to the TV monitor to check the latest
combat news.

No
use blaming the press or looking for conspiracies. Part of the American
media may be sporting combat uniforms but another part, maybe the most
prestigious one, is not. Irrefutable proof are the large pacifist rallies
in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

The
big British press, specially BBC, is providing competent and balanced
coverage. Nonetheless, public opinion is steady in supporting the coalition
with the U.S..

The
case of Brazil is exemplary: the Brazilian press behaves in correct
fashion, in spite of the habitual failings of a technical nature (fragmentation
of the newscasts, for example). Coverage has been generous with all
pacifist marches, but the ones taking place in Brazil are far from impressing
in terms of numbers. The result is that the reaction from the Brazilian
government to the Anglo-American attack was, at most, discreet.

The
terrible truth is that the logic of war prevailed over the spirit of
peace. The new information technologies (above all videophones and digital
cameras) are bringing the fighting inside every home, live, in color,
with every sound, scream and voice of command.

This
logic of war makes the more sensitive pacifists, the ones concerned
with the humanitarian issue, wish for a brief war. What they don’t realize
is that, by doing so, they are betting on the capitulation of Iraq and/or
its devastation. The more politically engaged pacifists, on the other
hand, hope that the Iraqi resistance (following the exhibition of imprisoned
or dead soldiers) is able to demoralize the American commanding officers.
They don’t realize that they are betting on the exacerbation of the
rage.

We
need to constantly be reminded: pacifism is anti-triumphalist by nature.
This is a commitment and a burden that not all pacifists realize.

The
political schemes confronting each other in this war may have different
institutional bases, but they are precisely the same in their conviction:
both are totalitarian and fanaticized. The utter misfortune is that
this perception escapes a great number of opinionists, most of all our
domestic ones. And this is where one of the failures of pacifist preaching
may be hiding: they appeal to violence. Verbal violence, for the time
being; but it may soon feed the other violence, this one effective.

If
the famous columnist from Folha de S. Paulo proclaims she will
never drink Coca-Cola again, in retaliation to Bush’s unilateralism,
let’s applaud her: our own guaraná, no doubt about it,
tastes much better (Sunday, 3/23, Front Page headline). Cause for concern,
though, is when a political analyst who has had a permanent seat for
years in the opinion pages of the same newspaper writes the following:

"…The
ordinary citizen of the United States has the specific culture of fighting,
of violence. It is not by chance that the only film genre Americans
have created is the western, the struggle between the good guy and the
bad guy…" etc., etc. (Saturday, 3/22, page 2).

Taking
aside his lack of motion picture history knowledge, what the writer,
a member of the Academy of Letters, is saying is that the ordinary citizen
of the U.S. is as violent as Bush. Just as the "ordinary citizen"
of Iraq cannot be generalized and stigmatized as a clone of Saddam,
the Yankee "ordinary citizen" eating a sandwich at the fast-food
joint while watching on CNN the images of the bombing in Baghdad cannot
be seen in such a totalitarian and unfair way.

Just
like at every moment of great commotion, what is in force here is the
marketing of indignation—through which all those with little to
say, or too lazy to engage in reflection, appeal to simplistic and reductionist
vociferation. The "Letters from Readers" section of the newspapers
show that the Brazilian "ordinary citizen" is often more sophisticated
than some of those who are paid to enlighten him or her.

As
detestable as Bush’s troupe may be, anti-Americanism is as reprehensible
as anti-Frenchism, anti-Germanism, anti-Arabism or anti-Judaism. They
are all manifestations of prejudice and racism (in its broad sense)
which, in instances of paroxysm such as now, can produce extremely dangerous
results. We must be reminded that, in spite of the much celebrated Brazilian
cordiality, in 1942, when the Nazis sank Brazilian ships, mobs aroused
by newspapers grabbed German citizens living peacefully and legally
in our country and lynched them to death.

If
the U.S. is no good and the American press is junk, then everything
goes. This type of worn-out reasoning, quite frequent today in certain
pockets of our domestic journalism, does nothing to stimulate the ability
to reflect. A pacifism built with this type of ingredients is prone
to be confused with bellicosity.

In
these same pockets of the press we notice a visible complacency with
the regime of Saddam Hussein. To the extent that the Iraqi dictator
manages to embody anti-Americanism, his crimes are gradually emptied
out and thrown under the carpet.

Elio
Gaspari, last Sunday (3/23, Globo, Folha and Zero Hora)
denounced a worrisome episode of the "whitening" of the dictator
in the Brazilian Congress last week. When the Iraqi ambassador in Brasília
came to the joint session of the Foreign Relations committees of both
House and Senate, the representatives of the Brazilian people made clear
that the Baghdad regime is legitimate, generous and decent. The gentleman
was not asked a single question about human rights in his country. Besides
their monumental ignorance in international affairs, our legislators
unveiled something even more serious: this ignorance results from the
publications they make in their own heads.

The
notion of imminent catastrophe is built into the culture of peace. Pacifists
may paint their faces, show their rear end, carry posters, chant songs
and prayers. But they can’t dispense with the major part of their spiritual
equipment: their sense of tragedy. [Text completed on 3/25 at 10:00
a.m.]

 

Alberto
Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR—Laboratório
de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced
Studies in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor
of the Observatório da Imprensa. He also writes a
column on cultural issues for the Rio daily Jornal do Brasil.
You can reach him by email at obsimp@ig.com.br

Translated
by Tereza Braga, email:
tbragaling@cs.com 

This
article was originally published  in Observatrio da Imprensa
www.observatoriodaimprensa.com.br

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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