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Cristovam Buarque: Under one’s nose

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

Recently, the Municipal Secretary of Education of a major Brazilian city said that he felt like a school security officer, devoting part of his time to ensure the operation of his schools, threatened by violence. By the time he said that, he was about to decide to close one of his best daycare facilities because of the threat of stray bullets, drug trafficking, and theft. This city is not the only one. Eighty-three percent of high school students believe that safety is their school’s biggest problem.

A country that can’t ensure the functioning of its schools is a country in decline: it will not be able to form the intelligence the world needs to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Decay is also displayed within the schools that still operate despite the violence outside. In today’s knowledge-based civilization, it will not be possible for a country to evolve if about 13 million people (8% of the adult population) are illiterate, unable to read even the slogan “order and progress” written on the national flag; if more than about twenty-six million (18%) of adults are functional illiterates; thus keeping access to quality education as a privilege for those few whose families can afford a good school. The contempt for the brains of our population is a clear indicator that we are marching towards decadence.

The decay is also under the nose of the observer who perceives the lack of collective feeling of nation, transforming the country into a sum of corporate groups that fight each other in the most selfish way possible, as they attempt to appropriate national resources and products.

Even more visible is degradation by corruption, both in the theft of public money by politicians for personal gain and in the diversion of money from corruption in priorities that benefit only small plots of the population. Political irrationality is another manifestation and cause of decadence: politicians, artists, students, philosophers, and professionals act and react based on passionate political positions without commitments to logic, similarly to what happened in countries whose decline derives from sectarian disputes, such as Syria. They close their eyes to logic in the same way that they close their eyes to avoid seeing the decay of their actions. And they do not perceive that the decay arises with the lack of social cohesion in the present and historical course for the future.

It doesn’t take much perceptiveness or sociological analysis to realize that we are in a process of historical decay, which can lead to social disintegration and delay in comparison to the rest of the world, perhaps for decades in the future.

Translated by Ana Freire from Minnesota