In the past, we ran risks and we had objectives. Now, there are no more
objectives and the risks appear inexistent. We ran the risk of death, torture,
prison, exile, but ahead was the palpable dream to be realized: the construction
of a just and democratic society with equality and complete liberty.
The end of exploitation and poverty. The primacy of culture over material consumption. And we held the certainty, the absolute certainty, that our dreams would see fruition. It was worth it to run the risk.
This was how we practiced politics in my youth. There was a reason for life and for death and a future heaven: history with democracy and justice.
We believed that, by nationalizing property, we would distribute revenue; that organizing the workers would bring about the revolution; that planning would put an end to inefficiency. We discovered that this would be impossible, and that the results would not be those for which we had hoped.
Today, politics does not demand the courage of confronting death, but, rather, the cynicism of confronting the dishonor of omission; powerlessness; the defense of privilege and corporative interests, one’s own or those of the campaign financiers. Sometimes, it involves the risk of contract with the environment of corrupters. And it does not appear to have a purpose.
Politics has lost its utopia, its historical objective, and become a prisoner to the day-to-day. And one becomes stuck in this empty routine. Because of this, we are attracting neither the applause of the adults nor the militancy of the young people.
Politics has become a profession and not a duty. The sphere of accords and machinations and not of transformative action. The political parties that not long ago appeared to be resisting became lost when they arrived in power; they are without a utopia, without transformative vigor.
Many find the leaden years of the dictatorship a horror. Others have the same opinion of the empty years of democracy.
In spite of this, there are still objectives ahead, and the risks must be confronted. With the same care with which we protected ourselves from the police when we broke the laws of the dictatorship by doing what was needed to subvert the dictatorial order that had been imposed, we now need to cultivate personal rigor in the day-to-day, in the use of public resources, in the fulfillment of the laws, in the permanent vigilance against deviations and despair. And, above all, to maintain the focus upon utopian projects, upon commitment to the social transformation of the country.
The objective is no longer political democracy, which has now been won. It is no longer socialist equality, which has become demoralized, technically impossible and ethically unnecessary. We should now be moved by the idea of extracting Brazil from backwardness and offering each Brazilian the same chance.
The backwardness will only be overcome when our country turns into a knowledge-capital center of production. And that will only be possible through the dynamic created by a revolution in quality education for all.
This is both necessary and possible. Brazil possesses all the resources needed. Our challenge, greater than that of overturning the dictatorship, is to convince the poor that it is possible and the rich that it is necessary. To propose the courageous and revolutionary measures and reserve the necessary resources.
It is worthwhile to practice politics to construct that utopia, even if it is merely to convince the Brazilians that it is necessary, essential and possible. It is worthwhile to run risks, even if they are greater than in the past. Before, the worst that could happen was dying with honor, fighting. Now, it is to live with one’s honor threatened by omission and mire.
Politics in its daily action is one of human beings’ most boring games. But when it is conducted like the work of laborers – with dedication and geared toward the construction of the future – it becomes one of humanity’s most exciting activities.
Politics with a utopian proposal for the nation and with the will to change the reality, education to convince the voters and to unite the leaderships. Fleeing from the day-to-day routine and from the temptations of power.
In spite of everything, it is necessary to continue fighting. And also to continue dreaming.
Cristovam Buarque has a Ph.D. in economics. He is a PDT senator for the Federal District and was Governor of the Federal District (1995-98) and Minister of Education (2003-04). He is the current president of the Senate Education Commission. Last year he was a presidential candidate. You can visit his homepage – www.cristovam.com.br – and write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome – LinJerome@cs.com.