Some decades ago, Brazil was at the same level in space research as China and India. Despite the existence of international accords that give us the idea of movement, Brazil is going backwards today, its space program practically paralyzed. China, on the other hand, has already sent two missions into space, and India, besides sending astronauts into space, has just sent an unmanned ship to the moon.
Someone betrayed Brazil during that time. No natural catastrophe forced us to regress. On the contrary, India and China, with their earthquakes, floods and windstorms, have natural tragedies greater than the Brazilian droughts. Politically speaking, both those countries are internally divided and more troubled when compared to Brazil. Their poverty is even more shocking.
By making decisions that caused us to stagnate in matters of science and technology, someone betrayed Brazil.
It is difficult, and perhaps inconvenient, to single out the names of those responsible among the many government leaders we have had. It is, however, both possible and convenient to point out the betrayal. It originates in a mentality and in a style of practicing politics shared by both the voters and those they elected.
We were betrayed by our preference for consuming in the present, instead of saving and investing, practices geared towards the future. The entire Brazilian economy is concentrated upon immediate results without long-term strategy. We want to consume the maximum and do this as rapidly as possible, unconcerned with the limits this voracious consumption imposes.
We dodge these limits with international and domestic debts and with inflation. We reject putting infrastructure growth ahead of increased consumption. We do not accept growth without indebtedness or without putting currency into circulation.
We were betrayed by our taste for taking the easiest paths, those that lead to adopting the foreign techniques that we need, instead of developing them domestically. While other countries, like South Korea, China, and India, invented their own products, although with a basis in foreign knowledge, we purely and simply preferred to buy the techniques without even learning to copy them.
We were betrayed by the priority of university investment in the areas of social sciences and the humanities, instead of the exact sciences. For decades, while the other countries sent huge numbers of students abroad to learn science and technology, we sent a few to study in the humanities area. This sometimes meant spending millions for the study of Brazilian literature in foreign universities with instructors who did not even read Portuguese.
We were betrayed by the adoption of industrial development based upon protectionism, thus avoiding the competition that would have made Brazil develop its own capacity in science and technology. The best example of this betrayal was the creation of market reserve for the producers of machines, instead of investing in training the system creators. We protected the hardware copies but we have not learned to develop our software.
But, above all, our greatest betrayal was not making the same educational revolution as countries with conditions less favorable than ours – countries such as Ireland, South Korea, India, China, not to mention Finland and others.
This revolution would have created the basis from which our scientists would have come. Those countries invested in the creation of intelligence and are now beginning to reap the results. We went into debt to produce material goods, mostly simple primary goods, “commodities.”
There was betrayal upon the part of the political leaders but there was also collaboration with the mentality characterizing us. Now, therefore, we cannot pardon the leaders who did not understand the reality. We cannot permit the government to destroy the school in order to save the banks, cutting already anticipated, already negotiated resources.
If this happens, we will lose the tiny chance that we have. President Lula must not go down in history as the savior of banks and the destroyer of schools.
The only advantage, in this case, is that the traitors will no longer be anonymous.
Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. You can visit his website – www.cristovam.org.br – and write to him at email@example.com
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome LinJerome@cs.com.