Klaus Hart Brasilientexte

Aktuelle Berichte aus Brasilien – Politik, Kultur und Naturschutz

“The Elections market” – Frei Betto. “Oracles of the truth.”

Gambling is a dangerous vice. Differently from alcohol and drugs, the compulsion for betting does not alter a person’s state of consciousness but risks the gambler’s financial resources. Dostoyevsky can confirm this.
The illusion of easy winnings destroys reason and emotion. The gambler doubles the bets and bluffs, convinced that luck, like a woman in love, will never leave him.



Such as it is today, is the election process not gambling? Are most candidates motivated by the ideal of serving the common good or by the ambition to occupy a position of power and, thus, assure a better future for themselves and for their loved ones?

In the 4th century AD Aristotle who defended rotation in power as preached by democracy, observed in Politica (book III) that things changed because “due to the material advantages one gets from the goods of the State or which one reaches by the exercise of power, men desire to remain continuously in employment. It is as though power keeps those who have it in permanent good health…”

This is accentuated today. The candidates, with a few exceptions, do not have programmes (except on paper) but performance, no objectives but commitments to allies, no ideological principles but the pragmatism which ignores the most elementary ethics. Politics has become the art of simulation and pretence.


Marketing campaign managers have more power over the candidates than the party has. It is no longer a matter of preparing a political project but a product capable of seducing the electoral market. The danger, warns Umberto Eco, is that the politician can turn into a semiotic theatrical product.

Many politicians believe in 17th century Cardinal Mazarin’s Breviary where advice of this quality is reproduced: “Adjust yourself so that your look will never reveal any particular sentiment, but only a kind of perpetual propriety”. Or: “What is important is to learn to manage ambiguity, to speak in a way which can be interpreted one way or the other so that no one can make up their mind”.

Marketing managers are today true candidacy craftsmen.  The voters are the marketing targets. The difference with supermarket products is that these are acquired for the consumer’s use. In the case of politics, the voter is “consumed” by the candidate. Months later the voter does not even remember the names of those for whom he voted, in spite of his complaining about politicians and politics.

The election roulette has not yet been able to eliminate a disturbing factor from the process: the interview. The media has great power of mediation between candidate and voter, hence the concessions made by parties so as to increase their alliances and guarantee more quality media coverage for their candidates.

The interview is disturbing because it does not allow the candidate to stay within the narrow limits of rhetoric recommended by marketing managers. Undesirable questions and ethical discussions come up as well as the contradictions that the candidate would so much like to hide.

Without interviews, political programmes and love for the common good, democracy is merely a farce.

*Frei Betto is a writer, author of the mystery novel “Hotel Brasil – o mistério das cabeças degoladas” (Hotel Brasil – The Mystery of the decapitated heads” (Rocco) http://www.freibetto.org>  Twitter: @freibetto.


 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.

Frei Betto has always been active in Brazilian social movements, and has been an adviser to the Church’s ministry to workers in São Paulo’s industrial belt, to the Church base communities, and to the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST).

In 2003-2004, he was Special Adviser to President Lula and Coordinator of Social Mobilisation for the Brazilian Government’s Zero Hunger programme.


Frei Betto*   

German philosopher Emmanuel Kant isn’t very much in vogue these days. Especially for having adopted a hermetic language in his works. However in one of his brilliant texts – “What is Illuminism?” – he underlines a phenomenon which, in the televisual culture which rules today, becomes more and more generalised: people give up thinking for themselves. They prefer to place themselves under the protection of the “oracles of the truth” which are the daily magazine, the TV news, the authority, the boss, the parish priest or the pastor.

These guardians of truth generously watch so as not to allow us to make mistakes. Thanks to their warnings we know that the deaths of terrorists in North American prisons in Baghdad and Guantanamo are only routine accidents compared to the death after a prolonged hunger strike in a Cuban hospital of a common prisoner posing as a politician.

It is they who make palatable to us the USA’s bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan, decimating villages with children and women, making us see with horror Iran’s pretensions to make peaceful use of nuclear energy while its neighbour Israel shows off the atomic bomb.

It is they who induce us to reject the MST (Landless Peasant Movement) in its struggle for land reform while the latifundium, in the name of agro business, invades the Amazon, cuts down the forest and uses slave labour.

It is all this, in Kant’s opinion, which makes the public become Hausvieh “domestic cattle”, herding them in such a way that everyone resignedly accepts to remain confined in the corral, aware of the risk of walking alone.

Kant points to a list of oracles of the truth: the bad governor, the military person, the professor, the priest etc. They all shout “Don’t think!” “Obey!” “Pay!” “Believe!”. French philosopher Dany-Robert Dufour suggests including the advertiser who today tells the herd of consumers: “Don’t think!” “Spend!”

Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America (1840) in his famous book is of the opinion that the type of despotism which democratic nations should fear is exactly their reduction to a “timid and industrious herd of animals” “free of the worry of having to think”.

Old man Marx, who is in fashion for having foreseen the cyclical crises of capitalism, said that they occur due to super production, which in fact was true in 1929. But it was not what we saw in 2008, the effects of which are still with us. The present crisis did not come from the maximisation of the exploitation of the worker but from the maximisation of the exploitation of consumers. “I consume, therefore I exist” is the principle of post modern logic.

In order to transform the world into a huge market, marketing techniques had the valuable contribution of Edward Bernays who was the American double nephew of Freud. Bernays’ mother Anna, the sister of the creator of psychoanalysis, was married to the brother of Martha, Freud’s wife. Freud’s books were published by the nephew in the USA. In 1923, in Crystallizing Public Opinion, Bernays argues that governments and advertisers are capable of “regimenting the mind (of the public) like the military do with the body”.

Like cattle, consumers seek their security in the identity with the herd, which is capable of homogenising their behaviour, creating universal patterns of consumer habits through libidinous advertising which gives him the sensation of having his desire satisfied by the acquired product. The earlier this training in consumerism is initiated, the greater the profit. The ideal is that there be a TV set in every child’s bedroom.

In order to reach this objective it is necessary to augment a culture of selfishness as a rule of life. It is not coincidence that almost all advertising is based on the exacerbation of one of the seven deadly sins. Every one of them, without exception, is held as a virtue in this neo liberal society corroded by consumer zeal.

Envy is stimulated when a family announces that they own a car which is better than their neighbour’s. Avarice is the theme of savings accounts. Covetousness inspires advertising campaigns, from the latest model of mobile phone to brand name tennis shoes. Pride is the sign of success of executives who are insured by eternal health schemes. Sloth comes from the comfortable sandals which help us relax in the sun.

Lust is the registered trade mark of slim young men and willowy young women who enjoy a healthy lifestyle and are happy as they consume drinks, cigarrettes, clothing and cosmetics. Finally gluttony poisons children in the form of chocolates, soft drinks and biscuits, making them believe that flavours are the forerunners of love.

In the neo liberal society, freedom is restricted to a variety of consumer choices, democracy to voting for those who have millionare resources to pay for their election campaigns and virtue to thinking first of oneself and seeing the other as competition. This is the truth proclaimed by the oracles of the system.


Dieser Beitrag wurde am Samstag, 11. September 2010 um 04:07 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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