If teaching weren’t propagandistic

I would love to be a teacher someday just so that on first day of class I could tell students: You think you have come here to learn the truth. And that when you leave you’re going to know a lot. But if you leave any wiser than you are now it’s because you’ve come to realise how much you still don’t know, how much you’ll never know, and how much people teach by showing you a kind of truth which isn’t much more than someone’s narrative on life.

It doesn’t mean everything I’ll teach you is wrong. It just means not everything I’ll teach turns out to be right.

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Why post-modernist absolute relativism crap bugs me

Cultural practices – be their genesis religious, political or whatever – that discriminate against and validate the physical and psychological brutalisation of people based on their gender, their sexual orientation or their age belong in the museum.

When we (in the Western cultures) read our History books, we tend to be quite relieved to live in such a civilised, plentiful and humane culture, comparatively to what it used to have been. So why is it that some Western folks, when they look at other cultures, feel the urgent need to preserve them no matter what and feel extremely guilty about any sort of influence we might have upon them?

This kind of paternalism allows for a desensitisation of our disgust response before a cultural tradition that, if practised below our own roof, would make us contort in revolt. It’s their own culture, their own truth, we say. Somehow, I think that pain receptors are oblivious to cultural nuances and that someone being thrown stones at will definitely feel it, independently of where in the globe they were lucky to be born.

And yes, there’s a difference between colonising other nations and fighting for the universal protection of human rights. Of course there are political and commercial interests at stake when a country tries to intervene on another country’s practices. There’s no need to replace a hypocrisy tinted lens with naivety glasses. We just need to realise that not all cultural diversity is good. And keep reminding ourselves that just because we happen to be more tolerant in some realms, we’re not perfect either.

PS: I was lucky to grow up in a cultural mix. I was raised by a Portuguese family in Portugal going to a Portuguese school were I was taught by Portuguese teachers, but I also got the chance to make friends with people from other cultural backgrounds. I read, watched and listened to foreign cultural products – a lot more frequently than my own country’s. I wouldn’t be writing this post in English if it had been otherwise. And I feel extremely lucky that I can incorporate the products and practices of other cultures that appeal to me. Of course that cultures closer to my own appeal more to me than cultures radically different. But the point is that I’m in no way against cultural diversity. I don’t even think that should be the focus of the debate. We don’t have to know how to bark to realise if we’ve hurt a dog or not. So why does it seem so hard to identify if a person’s being hurt the moment they speak another language? Culture preservation shouldn’t be an excuse for brutality, full stop.

We shall not be intimidated

The other day I was robbed. And even if it was a lot of money – for me, at least – it’s not the money I miss the most. And while I keep replaying the event in my head, searching for actions I could have taken to avoid it, the feeling of impotence persists. Because no matter how imaginative I may be, the ability I possess to remake my past is very close to 1 on a Likert scale (as in ‘never able to do it’). As an alternative, I could try to self-implant some false memories. Gotta check that with my psychotherapist.

Some might feel this analogy to be too farfetched, but I get the impression that this feeling that I can’t really do anything about it is far from being new to me: everyday, when I ponder on our so-called democratic system, it rings a bell. But I don’t salivate. Instead, it stings. This is a system which was imposed to me from birth. And no, I’m not saying I’d rather go for the even more imperfect alternatives. But I feel very annoyed when someone tries to oversell their product. Specially when the product is going to dictate my whole way of living.

Whether I vote or not, I don’t really have a say on what gets in or out of the political agenda. Matters are decided by people who insist on ignoring the people. They take our vote (sometimes they don’t, but does it make a difference?) and do as they please. They promise drastic measures to earn votes and they fail to keep their promises so as not to lose votes. We watch, we complain, but we still pay the price. And yes, we’re robbed: of our money, our freedom and our self-respect.

I want a system that’s more dignified. A democracy where the people have a chance to participate in the political agenda-setting and where referendums aren’t an extinct species. The excuse that people are dumb and couldn’t reach a better judgement is insufficient and unproved. If citizens didn’t feel as impotent as they do now, I believe they’d probably be willing to skip a soap opera or two in order to engage in the political debate. And a democracy that’s decided by everyone is definitely more likely a just system than one that’s supposed to be for the people but ends up being orchestrated always by a consistent minority. I mean, if a few gather most of the power, who are they going to benefit?

I would vote for him #2

I’m normally a law-abiding citizen, but:
– Law is not something that applies only to those who more easily get caught;
– Law is not universal or irrevocable (that’s moral principles you’re thinking of);
– Every citizen should have a say in the making and revising of laws.

The invisible hands of a few

One of these nights I watched the Inside Job and I found myself wishing something for the first time in a long time: market regulation. Yes, Neil, we need “Middle-Class Heroes”* more than ever. But what do those people in the government have to do with that? They’re some of the few who’re benefiting from this crisis most of us are paying for. And on top of that, I’m supposed to give them my vote (approving of the system)?

* I’m aware that the song by The Divine Comedy aka Neil Hannon says nothing related to the subject debated here. But I can’t help the feeling that the middle-class is an endangered species in a world where economic power is increasingly concentrated in a few people. And since democracy isn’t working the way it should, I guess yes, we need some heroes with special super hyper powers. So I’ll just stick to the title of the song (and to the irony implied, of course).

Abstention wins the elections in Portugal

To be a citizen is more than placing a cross on a vote ballot once in a while. I don’t feel like a puppet so I’ve cut the string and I want, not a new party, but a new system. Democracy? Possibly, if it only were. Maybe technological advances will make it possible for all citizens to take an active role in shaping the society they live in. Until then, abstention is my party.