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The Present’s Refugees

Senator Cristovam Buarque, Ph.D. former professor and Rector of the Universidade de Brasilia. Former governor of Brasilia - Federal District - from 1995 to 1998. Former Minister of Education between 2003 and 2004. Was elected senator by the Federal District in 2002 to this date. He is a member of the Brazil Monitor Editorial Council


By Cristovam Buarque

While teachers demonstrated to justify a strike against pension and labor reforms, students of “Colegio Santa Cruz”, in São Paulo, wrote a statement that defended said reforms. This manifestation has its logic in the latent and growing, albeit unconscious, dispute between the interests of present generations and the interests of future generations. Young people begin to perceive that they are like refugees trying to emigrate into the future, prevented by an “invisible Mediterranean” formed by laws and options that protect adults.

Just think about the environment. By concentrating the concept of progress on the growth of production to cater to the increase of income and consumption, we compromise the welfare of those who are going to inherit to world with the consequences of the ecological crisis. But the adults of today do not exercise the necessary gestures of restraint in the practice of consumerism.

In the field of economics, the lack of austerity in public spending has led to deficient budgets and will leave young people condemned to poor state services, as already seen in Rio de Janeiro. The current pension system, which benefits today’s adults, will require a growing effort in the contribution of young people, because the number of young people will be decreasing to sustain the retirement of an increasing number. Without the reform they will probably not have a sustainable system to protect them in retirement, or they will have to receive their pensions in devalued currency.

In the same way, labor reform is part of that struggle between generations. When the current legislation was made, the work was manual and the professions were permanent. More and more young people will face the world in which jobs will be replaced by machines or by new professions that demand education. And it will not help to keep job stability by legal determination; The old companies will break and the new ones will go to other countries, as they are doing in the direction of Paraguay and China.

This reason why the students demonstrated against the teachers’ strike, acknowledging that every day without classes will hinder their future in the competitive civilization of knowledge that they will have to face. But they need to understand that they will not have a good education without educators happy with their salaries, working conditions, and prospect of retirement. Therefore, they should support the struggles of their teachers for good causes, preferably without interruptions in classes. Social Security reform is necessary, but special care should be taken with the teachers, so they are not harmed.

Consciously or not, the children of Santa Cruz School were trying not to lose the rights they expect to have, when their turn comes. For this reason, all students should be awakened and mobilized in the defense of their interests, correcting the vices of the current socio-economic system that protects the present men and women with an “invisible Mediterranean”, barring the young on the march towards A promising future.

Translated by Ana Freire from Minnesota