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„Neo-Liberalism and Culture“ – Brasiliens wichtigster Befreiungstheologe Frei Betto.

Neo-liberalism™s isn™t merely the destruction of communitarian patterns created by modernity such as the family, unions, social movements and the democratic State. Its project to disintegrate society reduces the person to the condition of an individual disconnected from the socio-political-economic conjuncture in which he/she is inserted and considers him/her as a mere consumer. This extends into the cultural sphere as well.

With the advent of democracy one of modernity’s achievements was the recognition of the person as a political subject who had rights as well as duties. Gifted with a critical conscience, he/she was freed from the condition of a blind slave submissive to the orders of his/her master and aware that authority is not synonymous with truth nor is power synonymous with reason.
Nowadays the aim is to deprive the person of his/her condition as subject. The prototype of a neo-liberal citizen is someone who is voluntarily deprived of all critical thought and, above all, of participating in community affairs. Television in particular contributes towards this culture of voluntary deprivation.
TV is itself a powerful instrument of development and information which can easily be turned into a mechanism of deformation and misinformation especially if it is linked to the publicity machine which rules the market. Thus TV itself becomes a consumer product centred on increasing its ratings.
Once viewers are hypnotised by the images, all manner of appeal is used. The problem is that the electronic window opens up within the family circle. It is there that is spreads its profusion of images and affects adults and children indiscriminately and has no scruples regarding family values.
If TV were to broadcast culture – that which refines our conscience and our spirit – it would be the most powerful vehicle for education. It is true that it does this but deeply cultural programmes are not the rule, they tend to be mere entertainment which distracts, amuses and above all opens the Pandora’s Box of our secret desires. It „says“ what we dare not mention.
Replacing the dialogue between parents and children and imposing itself as the hegemonic voice within the family unit, TV alters the symbolic and fundamental references of a child’s psyche. It is through speech that one generation passes on beliefs, values, names, outstanding events, genealogy, rites, social relations etc. to another. It passes on the human ability to use the word in which our subjectivity and our identity are woven. It is this interaction, made possible through oral face to face dialogue that prepares us for varied relations, makes us recognise the I in the presence of the other and the many connections which bind one with another – images produced through gestures, facial expressions laden with feelings etc.
Speech or dialogue define fundamental references in our psychic balance such as the identification of time (now) and of space (here) and of the limits of my being in relation to others. If speech is reduced to a torrent of images which aims at exacerbating the senses, the symbolic references of the child are in danger. He/she tends to have difficulty constructing his/her symbolic world and does not acquire a temporal and historic sense. All is reduced to the „here and now“ – to simultaneity. The very technology which embraces distances in real time such as the internet, mobile phones etc., favours a sense of ubiquity: „I am nowhere for I am everywhere“.
Many school teachers complain that students do not pay attention in class. Of course their dream is to switch teachers by switching channels…   Many children and youths have difficulty in expressing themselves because they don’t know how to listen. Their reasoning is confused and logic frequently slides in the flood of contradictory feelings. They believe, above all, that they invented the wheel and therefore are not too interested in the cultural patrimony of past generations (but are interested in the financial one, of course).
In this way, culture loses refinement and depth and is reduced to the representation of talk shows where each person gives an opinion according to their immediate reaction without acknowledging the competence of the Other. In the case of schools this Other is the teacher, not only seen as lacking in authority, but especially as one who abuses of his/her power and will not permit the students to treat him or her as an equal… Actually when the teacher doesn’t „listen“ there is only one way to be heard: through violence. The teachers were educated by the TV where there is no exercising of patient discussion, of elucidative construction, of the perfecting of critical sense.  It is a constant situation of win or lose and practically always on the basis of coercion.
The result is an education described by Jean-Claude Michea as the „dissolution of logic“. Priorities are no longer set apart from what is secondary, a text is not seen in its context, what is private is no longer perceived within the backdrop of the ordinary all in order to obey passively the pressures of consumerism which seek to transform ethical values into mere economic values, in other words, all is merchandise and it is only its price which gives a determined social value to those who own it even when they may be lacking in character.
People remove themselves from thinking, reflecting, critiquing and, above all, from participating in the project for the transformation of reality. Everything becomes a matter of convenience, personal taste and fancy. Biodiversity, the defense of the environment, the social responsibility of business, genome and children™s organs removed for transplants, etc. are all commercialized.

This is the peak of total capitalism, capable of even merchandising our imagination.

*Frei Betto is a writer, co-author with Veríssimo and others, of ”O desafio ético (The Ethical Challenge) (Garamond).


He is a Brazilian Dominican with an international reputation as a liberation theologian. Within Brazil he is equally famous as a writer, with over 52 books to his name.  In 1985 he won Brazil™s most important literary prize, the Jabuti, and was elected Intellectual of the Year by the members of the Brazilian Writers™ Union.


Dieser Beitrag wurde am Montag, 15. September 2008 um 14:37 Uhr veröffentlicht und wurde unter der Kategorie Kultur, Politik abgelegt. Du kannst die Kommentare zu diesen Eintrag durch den RSS-Feed verfolgen.

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