Segurança é o princípio básico das políticas estatais desde o nascimento do estado moderno. Hobbes já a mencionava como o oposto do medo, que compele seres humanos a se juntarem na formação de uma sociedade. Mas o pensamento da segurança (1) não se desenvolve completamente até o século XVIII. Em uma conferência ainda não publicada, proferida no Collège de France em 1978, Michel Foucault mostrou como as práticas políticas e econômicas dos fisiocratas opõe a segurança à disciplina e à lei como instrumentos de governo.
Turgot e Quesnay, assim como os oficiais fisiocratas, não estavam primariamente preocupados com a prevenção da fome ou a regulação da produção, mas queriam permitir seu desenvolvimento para então governar e “assegurar” suas consequências. Enquanto o poder disciplinar isola e encerra territórios, medidas de segurança conduzem a uma abertura e à globalização; enquanto a lei tem por objetivo prevenir e ordenar, segurança quer intervir nos processos em curso para dirigi-los. Em suma, disciplina visa produzir ordem, segurança almeja governar a desordem. Como medidas de segurança só podem funcionar inseridas em um contexto de liberdade de tráfego, comércio e iniciativa individual, Foucault demonstrou que desenvolvimento da segurança e desenvolvimento do liberalismo coincidem.
Setembro de 2001, Manhattan
Hoje estamos enfrentando desenvolvimentos extremos e muito perigosos no pensamento da segurança. No curso de uma gradual neutralização de políticas e do progressivo abandono das tarefas tradicionais do estado, a segurança se torna o princípio básico de atividade estatal. O que costumava ser um amontoado de várias medidas decisivas de administração pública até a primeira metade do século XX, agora se torna o único critério de legitimação política. O pensamento da segurança acarreta um risco essencial. Um estado que tem a segurança por sua única tarefa e fonte de legitimidade é um organismo frágil; pode sempre ser levado pelo terrorismo a tornar-se, ele próprio, terrorista.
Não deveríamos esquecer que a maior organização terrorista pós-guerra, a Organisation de l’Armèe Secréte (OAS), foi estabelecida por um general francês, que se considerava um patriota e estava convencido de que o terrorismo era a única resposta ao fenômeno de guerrilha na Algéria e na Indochina. Quando política, à maneira como era entendida pelos teóricos da “ciência policial” (Polizeiwissenschaft) no século XVIII, reduz-se à polícia, a diferença entre estado e terrorismo tende a desaparecer. No final, segurança e terrorismo podem formar um único sistema mortífero, no qual eles justificam e legitimam as ações um do outro.
O risco não é meramente o do desenvolvimento de uma cumplicidade clandestina de opositores, mas o de que a obsessão por segurança conduza a uma guerra civil mundial que tornaria impossível qualquer coexistência civil. Na nova situação criada pelo fim da forma clássica de guerra entre estados soberanos, percebe-se claramente que segurança encontra seu desfecho na globalização: isso implica a ideia de uma nova ordem planetária, que é, na verdade, a pior de todas as desordens. Mas há outra ameaça. Uma vez que requerem constante referência a um estado de exceção, medidas de segurança realizam uma crescente despolitização da sociedade. A longo prazo, elas são inconciliáveis com a democracia.
Nada é mais importante que uma revisão do conceito de segurança como princípio básico das políticas estatais. Políticos europeus e americanos finalmente têm levado em consideração as consequências catastróficas de um uso generalizado e acrítico dessa imagem de pensamento. Não que as democracias devam deixar de se defender: mas talvez tenha chegado o tempo de trabalhar no sentido de prevenção de desordens e catástrofes, não simplesmente no sentido de contê-las. Hoje em dia existem planos para todos os tipos de emergências (ecológicas, médicas, militares), mas não há políticas para preveni-las. Ao contrário, podemos dizer que as políticas secretamente são responsáveis pela produção de emergências. É dever das políticas democráticas impedir o desenvolvimento de condições que resultem em ódio, terror e destruição, e não se limitarem a controlá-los, quando se fazem presentes.
Tradução: Arlandson Matheus Oliveira
(Leia em inglês)
Manifestante na Espanha e as forças de “segurança”
V Ato Contra a Copa em São Paulo, 14 de Abril de 2014
POST SCRIPTUM FOUCAULTIANO
“O atestado de que a prisão fracassa em reduzir os crimes deve talvez ser substituído pela hipótese de que a prisão conseguiu muito bem produzir a delinqüência, tipo especificado, forma política ou economicamente menos perigosa — talvez até utilizável — de ilegalidade; produzir os delinqüentes, meio aparentemente marginalizado mas centralmente controlado; produzir o delinqüente como sujeito patologizado. O sucesso da prisão: nas lutas em torno da lei e das ilegalidades, especificar uma “delinqüência”. Vimos como o sistema carcerário substituiu o infrator pelo “delinqüente”. E afixou também sobre a prática jurídica todo um horizonte de conhecimento possível. Ora, esse processo de constituição da delinqüência-objeto se une à operação política que dissocia as ilegalidades e delas isola a delinqüência. A prisão é o elo desses dois mecanismos; permite-lhes se reforçarem perpetuamente um ao outro, objetivar a delinqüência por trás da infração, consolidar a delinqüência no movimento das ilegalidades. O sucesso é tal que, depois de um século e meio de “fracasso”, a prisão continua a existir, produzindo os mesmos efeitos e que se têm os maiores escrúpulos em derrubá-la.” – MICHEL FOUCAULT. Vigiar e punir – nascimento da prisão. Trad.: Raquel Ramalhete. 20a. ed. Petrópolis: Vozes, 1987. IV Parte: Prisão, II Capítulo: Ilegalidade e delinquência, pp. 230-231.
NOTA DO TRADUTOR
1) Na tradução pro alemão, do Achim Bahnen, lemos “Sicherheitsdenkens”, literalmente “thought of security”, pensamento da segurança. Acho o termo “dispositivo” mais adequado.
Um dos mestres da literatura latino-americana foi-se da carne para entrar na história, deixando um belo legado para os leitores de hoje e de amanhã: o colombiano “Gabo”, como era conhecido, ganhador do Prêmio Nobel de Literatura de 1982, era um sublime artista do verbo e um genioso contador de histórias (e também de estórias, já que se aventurou nas sendas do jornalismo e da não-ficção). Aproveitem para relembrar um dos mais célebres e clássicos livros de García Marquez, “Cem Anos De Solidão” (de 1967) – cujo ebook completo, a ser saboreado no espanhol em que foi escrito, disponibilizamos para download gratuito no link a seguir: http://bit.ly/1jaETSb (PDF, 2 MB). Descanse em paz, mestre!
“Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo. Macondo era entonces una aldea de veinte casas de barro y cañabrava construidas a la orilla de un río de aguas diáfanas que se precipitaban por un lecho de piedras pulidas, blancas y enormes como huevos prehistóricos. El mundo era tan reciente, que muchas cosas carecían de nombre, y para mencionarlas había que señalarías con el dedo. Todos los años, por el mes de marzo, una familia de gitanos desarrapados plantaba su carpa cerca de la aldea, y con un grande alboroto de pitos y timbales daban a conocer los nuevos inventos. Primero llevaron el imán. Un gitano corpulento, de barba montaraz y manos de gorrión, que se presentó con el nombre de Melquiades, hizo una truculenta demostración pública de lo que él mismo llamaba la octava maravilla de los sabios alquimistas de Macedonia. Fue de casa en casa arrastrando dos lingotes metálicos, y todo el mundo se espantó al ver que los calderos, las pailas, las tenazas y los anafes se caían de su sitio, y las maderas crujían por la desesperación de los clavos y los tornillos tratando de desenclavarse, y aun los objetos perdidos desde hacía mucho tiempo aparecían por donde más se les había buscado, y se arrastraban en desbandada turbulenta detrás de los fierros mágicos de Melquíades. «Las cosas, tienen vida propia -pregonaba el gitano con áspero acento-, todo es cuestión de despertarles el ánima.» José Arcadio Buendía, cuya desaforada imaginación iba siempre más lejos que el ingenio de la naturaleza, y aun más allá del milagro y la magia, pensó que era posible servirse de aquella invención inútil para desentrañar el oro de la tierra. Melquíades, que era un hombre honrado, le previno: «Para eso no sirve.» Pero José Arcadio Buendía no creía en aquel tiempo en la honradez de los gitanos, así que cambió su mulo y una partida de chivos por los dos lingotes imantados. Úrsula Iguarán, su mujer, que contaba con aquellos animales para ensanchar el desmedrado patrimonio doméstico, no consiguió disuadirlo. «Muy pronto ha de sobrarnos oro para empedrar la casa», replicó su marido. Durante varios meses se empeñó en demostrar el acierto de sus conjeturas. Exploró palmo a palmo la región, inclusive el fondo del río, arrastrando los dos lingotes de hierro y recitando en voz alta el conjuro de Melquíades. Lo único que logró desenterrar fue una armadura del siglo xv con todas sus partes soldadas por un cascote de óxido, cuyo interior tenía la resonancia hueca de un enorme calabazo lleno de piedras. Cuando José Arcadio Buendía y los cuatro hombres de su expedición lograron desarticular la armadura, encontraron dentro un esqueleto calcificado que llevaba colgado en el cuello un relicario de cobre con un rizo de mujer…”
1968 – La novela en América Latina: Diálogo (junto aMario Vargas Llosa)
1970 – Relato de un náufrago
1972 – La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y de su abuela desalmada
1972 – Ojos de perro azul
1972 – Nabo, el negro que hizo esperar a los ángeles
1973 – Cuando era feliz e indocumentado
1974 – Chile, el golpe y los gringos
1975 – El otoño del patriarca
1975 – Todos los cuentos de Gabriel García Márquez: 1947-1972
1976 – Crónicas y reportajes
1977 – Operación Carlota
1978 – Periodismo militante
1978 – De viaje por los países socialistas
1978 – La tigra
1981 – Crónica de una muerte anunciada
1981 – Obra periodística
1981 – El verano feliz de la señora Forbes
1981 – El rastro de tu sangre en la nieve
1982 – El secuestro: Guión cinematográfico
1982 – Viva Sandino
1985 – El amor en los tiempos del cólera
1986 – La aventura de Miguel Littín, clandestino en Chile
1987 – Diatriba de amor contra un hombre sentado: monólogo en un acto
1989 – El general en su laberinto
1990 – Notas de prensa, 1961-1984
1992 – Doce cuentos peregrinos
1994 – Del amor y otros demonios
1995 – Cómo se cuenta un cuento
1995 – Me alquilo para soñar
1996 – Noticia de un secuestro
1996 – Por un país al alcance de los niños
1998 – La bendita manía de contar
1999 – Por la libre: obra periodística (1974-1995)
2002 – Vivir para contarla
2004 – Memoria de mis putas tristes
2010 – Yo no vengo a decir un discurso
The Nobel Prize of Literature lecture (1982) [excerpt]:
“Latin America neither wants, nor has any reason, to be a pawn without a will of its own; nor is it merely wishful thinking that its quest for independence and originality should become a Western aspiration. However, the navigational advances that have narrowed such distances between our Americas and Europe seem, conversely, to have accentuated our cultural remoteness. Why is the originality so readily granted us in literature so mistrustfully denied us in our difficult attempts at social change? Why think that the social justice sought by progressive Europeans for their own countries cannot also be a goal for Latin America, with different methods for dissimilar conditions? No: the immeasurable violence and pain of our history are the result of age-old inequities and untold bitterness, and not a conspiracy plotted three thousand leagues from our home. But many European leaders and thinkers have thought so, with the childishness of old-timers who have forgotten the fruitful excess of their youth as if it were impossible to find another destiny than to live at the mercy of the two great masters of the world. This, my friends, is the very scale of our solitude.
In spite of this, to oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death. An advantage that grows and quickens: every year, there are seventy-four million more births than deaths, a sufficient number of new lives to multiply, each year, the population of New York sevenfold. Most of these births occur in the countries of least resources – including, of course, those of Latin America. Conversely, the most prosperous countries have succeeded in accumulating powers of destruction such as to annihilate, a hundred times over, not only all the human beings that have existed to this day, but also the totality of all living beings that have ever drawn breath on this planet of misfortune.
On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said, “I decline to accept the end of man”. I would fall unworthy of standing in this place that was his, if I were not fully aware that the colossal tragedy he refused to recognize thirty-two years ago is now, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, nothing more than a simple scientific possibility. Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.”
Todos os anos você precisa pagar o IPVA do seu carro. Como o nome diz, trata-se de um Imposto de Propriedade sobre Veículos Automotores. Bem, um veículo automotor é, pasmem vocês, “aquele dotado de motor próprio”.
Por exemplo, um carro de boi não pagará IPVA por não ter motor próprio: o motor é o boi, a saber, uma entidade ontologicamente a parte do aparato técnico de motricidade desenvolvido pelo saber humano. A bicicleta não pagará o imposto pela mesma razão, assim como o helicóptero do banqueiro, o jato particular do escroque e o iate do Naji Nahas.
“Assim como o helicóptero, o jato particular e o iate”? Sim. Você poderá procurar todos os meandros do saber jurídico, encontrar explicações surreais, como aquela que afirma que o atual IPVA substituiu a antiga TRU (Taxa Rodoviária Única), logo os veículos automotores que pagarão impostos são apenas aqueles colados no chão.
No entanto, a verdade é uma só: helicópteros, jatos particulares e iates não pagam IPVA porque, no Brasil, os ricos definem as leis que protegerão seus rendimentos e desejos de ostentação. Bem-vindo àquilo que economistas como o francês Thomas Piketty chamam de “capitalismo patrimonial”: um capitalismo construído para quem ganha mais continuar a ganhar mais, a não precisar devolver nada para a sociedade, enquanto quem ganha menos é continuamente espoliado e recebe cada vez menos serviços do Estado.
Se os 20 mil jatos particulares e os 2.000 helicópteros que voam livremente no Brasil pagassem IPVA, teríamos algo em torno de mais R$ 8 bilhões. Esse valor é o equivalente a, por exemplo, dois orçamentos da USP. Ou seja, se aqueles que têm mais capacidade de contribuição simplesmente pagassem para ter seu singelo helicóptero o mesmo que você paga para ter seu carro, poderíamos financiar mais duas universidades com 90 mil alunos estudando gratuitamente.
Esse é apenas um dentro vários exemplos de como o Brasil se organizou para ser um país onde ser rico é um ótimo negócio. Um país que, só em 2014, deverá ter mais 17 mil milionários e nenhum deles pagando aquilo que você paga. Porque, aqui, quanto mais você sobe (de preferência de jato ou helicóptero), mais você é protegido. Isso pode parecer uma explicação primária, mas muitas vezes o óbvio é o que há de mais difícil a enxergar.
Como disse, não um esquerdista de centro acadêmico, mas o megainvestidor norte-americano Warren Buffett: “Quem disse que não há luta de classe? Claro que há, e nós estamos vencendo”.
* * * * *
“É sintomático que a única resposta efetiva às demandas vindas das manifestações de Junho seja uma lei que visa transformar o uso de máscaras em crime contra a segurança nacional. Como nada foi feito a respeito das exigências de melhores serviços sociais, contra os gastos absurdos para a realização da Copa do Mundo, por democracia efetiva, melhor pedir para senadores do porte moral de Renan Calheiros (PMDB-AL) que aprovem uma lei antiterrorista. (…) A melhor maneira de lutar contra a violência é com a escuta. A surdez dos governos em relação às exigências de ação, visando criar as condições para uma qualidade de vida minimamente suportável nas grandes cidades, é a verdadeira causa da violência nas manifestações. Escutar significa, por exemplo, não prometer uma Assembleia Constituinte, depois uma reforma política e acabar por apresentar apenas o vazio…” [ARTIGO COMPLETO]
Domingo de Páscoa em Toronto e milhares de maconheiros se reuniram no epicentro da metrópolis canadense, na rua Yonge com a Dundas, em prol da legalização. Na foto, a nuvem de fumaça não é sinal de poluição, mas sim o efeito de uns 1.000 baseados acesos simultaneamente (às 4:20, é claro!). O Canadá já regulamentou tanto a cannabis medicinal quanto o plantio industrial de cânhamo – e a intensa pressão das ruas talvez faça com que se torne em breve o segundo país no mundo – após o Uruguai – a legalizar a marijuana completamente. Será que agora vai?
Saiba mais sobre o atual estado das coisas cannábicas no Canadá:
A edição mais recente da NOW Magazine de Toronto inclui um excelente dossiê sobre a situação atual da maconha no Canadá – que foi o primeiro país no mundo a legalizar a cannabis medicinal, em 2001, após a evidência inegável do benefício terapêutico da planta no tratamento da epilepsia.
“Although there are no federally regulated clinical trials involving medical marijuana, and Health Canada and the Canadian Medical Association don’t currently encourage doctors to prescribe the untested drug, CBD and medical marijuana have been used with success to treat epilepsy, autism, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, lupus, fibromyalgia and a host of other disorders including Tourette syndrome. Talk to the mother of an epileptic child and you’ll understand that medical marijuana is a lifesaver.” [http://bit.ly/1teHZN4]
Dia a dia, cresce o número de médicos canadenses que receitam cannabis medicinal para seus pacientes e clínicas especializadas estão nascendo em Toronto com amplas perspectivas de sucesso, como relata esta outra reportagem:
“Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the 60 active, naturally occurring ingredients in marijuana that have more medical uses than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that gets you high. CBD has demonstrated anti-seizure and pain management properties and seems to have neuro-protective qualities – meaning it reduces the rate of neuron loss over time. A 2012 Israeli study also showed promising outcomes when CBD was used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, liver inflammation, heart disease and diabetes.” [http://bit.ly/1eR3dMZ]
O Canadá também já legalizou o plantio industrial de cânhamo – o Hemp Farming – desde 1998 (consulte os detalhes no site oficial do governo federal para a Agricultura). Pesquisas revelam que 2/3 (dois terços) dos canadenses são favoráveis à legalização não só do cânhamo – que é utilizado para fabricação de roupas, alimentos, papel, bio-combustível, entre dúzias de outros usos… – mas também da maconha (apenas uma das maravilhas derivadas desta planta multi-uso e multi-benefícios que é o cânhamo).
A NOW destaca ainda a ascensão da percepção social de que as atuais políticas de Guerra às Drogas, em especial o proibicionismo anti-cannábico, é profundamente racista:
“Arrest patterns tend to follow racial lines. The 1995 Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System identified a continued pattern of racism in drug enforcement, with blacks 27 times more likely to end up in jail awaiting trial on drug charges than whites.” [http://bit.ly/1i080ev]
A legalização causaria vasta economia de gastos com a repressão e o encarceramento, além de ganhos econômicos para o Estado, em impostos, previstos em 2 bilhões de dólares anuais. “If Canada legalized it, the annual estimated revenue from taxing marijuana would be somewhere around $2 billion. And that’s not counting savings from enforcement.” [http://bit.ly/1i080ev]
Devidamente taxada por impostos, esta movimentação econômica cannábica poderia ser revertida com imenso benefício para áreas como saúde, educação e cultura. A vitória sobre o mercado negro do tráfico através da regulação deste mercado aparece cada vez mais aos canadenses não só como a medida mais sensata, mas também como ótimo do ponto de vista econômico e como um dos meios concretos para financiar um certo Welfare State.
A NOW também dissipa muitos dos temores nascidos da ignorância e reitera o que a ciência já comprovou: não existe nenhuma morte por overdose de maconha registrada na história da humanidade. “It’s nearly impossible to overdose on weed. You’d have to smoke 800 joints in, like, 15 minutes.” E sem medo da apologia, a matéria ainda afirma que a inteligência sai ganhando com o consumo sensato do THC: “Weed makes you smarter. Cannabinoids in pot increase the rate of nerve cell formation in the hippocampus, the part of brain associated with memory and learning, by a staggering 40 per cent.”
Já no que diz respeito à ECOLOGIA e à atual crise planetária causada pelo aquecimento global, uma das poucas esperanças da humanidade é o cânhamo, sugere o jornalista investigativo Doug Fine. Em entrevista brilhante à NOW, ele destaca que a biomassa gerada pelo hemp é uma alternativa viável aos combustíveis fósseis. Além disso, é uma planta que resiste bem a climas secos e possui capacidades de reabilitação do solo:
Doug Fine: – “Hemp is an annual plant whose foot-long taproot helps stabilize soil and provides a vital ecosystem for microflora and fauna. Colorado’s first commercial hemp farmer, Ryan Loflin, comes from an experienced farm family. He told me hemp uses half the water his wheat crop did. Imagine the implications for drought-ravaged parts of the world like sub-Saharan Africa.” [http://bit.ly/1i6GPdg] A mesma entrevista revela: “five times more – that’s the amount of climate-cooking CO2 hemp absorbs compared to trees, according to Agriculture Canada.”
E o proibicionismo – a julgar peloes recentes avanços no Uruguai, no Colorado, em Washington… – está rapidamente caindo aos pedaços e se desintegrando.
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O documentário “O Sindicato – O Negócio Por Trás do Barato” [http://youtu.be/0YWaCTjX94U] prossegue sendo um dos melhores, mais informativos e bem argumentados dentre os filmes já feitos sobre o tema – altamente recomendado para quem quer conhecer mais sobre a situação da maconha no cenário sócio-político canadense (e norte-americano em geral, já que 80% da mega-produção de British Columbia é exportada para os EUA):
“Lars Von Trier – genius or fraud?” – asks a May 2009 Guardian Arts Diary poll. Its subject is arguably world cinema’s most confrontational and polarizing figure, and the results: 60.3% genius, 39,7% fraud.
Trier takes risks no other filmmaker would conceive of (…) and willfully devastates audiences. Scandinavia’s foremost auteur since Ingmar Bergman, the Danish director is “the unabashed prince of the European avant-garde” (IndieWIRE). Challenging conventional limitations and imposing his own rules (changing them with each film), he restlessly reinvents the language of cinema.
Personally he is as challenging as his films. After having written some of the most compelling heroines in recent cinema and elicited stunning, career-topping performances from Emily Watson, Björk, Nicole Kidman, and Charlotte Gainsbourg (photo), he is reputed to be a misogynist who bullies actresses and abuses his female characters in cinematic reinstatements of depleted sexist clichés.
Actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg, who acted in Lars Von Trier’s films “Antichrist” and “Nymphomaniac”
He is notorious at Cannes for his provocations and insults, as in 1991, when he thanked “the midget” (Jury President Roman Polanski) for awarding his film Europa third, rather than first, prize. Some years later, at Cannes, in a scene worthy of Michael Moore, he called U.S. President George W. Bush an “idiot” and an “asshole”, lending vituperation to the already divisive Manderlay (2005), his film about an Alabama plantation practising slavery into the 1930s…
Coming from a small country infiltrated by America’s media-driven cultural imperialism, he has found it not merely his right or duty to make films about the United States but impossible to do otherwise. Despite that, Von Trier is known for his celebrated refusal or inability (he has a fear of flying) to set foot in the United States…
Dogme shows where the provocateur and auteur come together. Claiming a new democracy in which (in the manifesto’s words) “anybody can make films”, Trier and the Dogme “brothers” market out a space for independent filmmaking beyond the global mass entertainment industry. Although he rarely leaves Denmark, he has cultivated a European and uniquely global cinema. Making his first films in English, he quickly found a niche in the international festival circuit. He drew inspiration from a wide swath – from the genius of Andrei Tarkovsky to movements such as Italian neorealism and the international New Waves of the 1960s-1970s, to American auteurs Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch…
Trier’s long-term affinity with German culture – from expressionism and New German cinema to the writings of Karl Marx, Franz Kafka, and Friedrich Nietzsche – extends to equal passions for Wagnerian opera and anti-Wagnerian (Brechtian) theater… In spite of his flaunted internationalism, Trier has become the standard-bearer for Nordic cinema. Like Bergman and Carl Th. Dreyer, whose visions transcended nationality, he has exploited Scandinavian “imaginary” – bleak landscapes, Lutheran austerity and self-denial, the explosive release of repressed emotions – to project it elsewhere. He has similarly appropriated the Northern European Kammerspiel (chamber play) that Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg had condensed into a charged medium.
Reincarnating Dreyer’s martyrs (The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928; Ordet, 1955) and the anguished female performances of Bergman’s films for the present era, he has invented a form of psycho-drama that traumatizes audiences while challenging them to respond to cinema in new ways.
His interest in theater goes back to his youth, and his films are theatrical in several senses: stylized, emotionally intense, and provocative. His features have invoked 20th century theatrical initiatives clustered under the heading of the performative: especially Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, Allen Kaprow’s “happenings”, and Guy Debord’s situationism, which reformulated Marxist-Brechtian aesthetics for the age of the “spectacle” in which power, concentrated in the media image, turns individuals into passive consumers. In 1952, Debord called for an art that would “create situations rather than reproduce already existing ones” and through the performance of “lived experience” disrupt an expose the spectacle. In 1996, Trier similarly explained his view of cinema-as-provocation: “A provocation’s purpose is to get people to think. If you subject people to a provocation, you allow them the possibility of their own interpretation” (Tranceformer). (…) The films bear witness, make proclamations, issue commands, pose questions, provoke responses… Thus his films have had an impact on their surrounding contexts, affecting audiences, producing controversies, and changing the aesthetic, cultural, and political climate of the late 1990s an the 2000s.”
Thomas Vinterberg is the co-creator, together with Lars Von Trier, of Dogme 95. Linda Badley remembers that Dogme 95 “required abstinence from Hollywood-style high tech cosmetics, calling for an oppositional movement with its own doctrine and ten-rule “Vow of Chastity”. Coming up with the infamous rules was “easy”, claims Vinterberg: “We asked ourselves what we most hated about film today, and then we drew up a list banning it all. The idea was to put a mirror in front of the movie industry and say we can do it another way as well.”
Encobre o teu céu, ó Zeus,
Com vapores de nuvens,
E, qual menino que decepa
A flor dos cardos,
Exercita-te em robles e cristas de montes;
Mas a minha Terra
E a minha cabana, que não construíste,
E o meu lar,
Nada mais pobre conheço
Sob o sol do que vós, ó Deuses!
De tributos de sacrifícios
E hálitos de preces
A vossa majestade;
E morreríeis de fome, se não fossem
Crianças e mendigos
Loucos cheios de esperança.
Quando era menino e não sabia
Pra onde havia de virar-me,
Voltava os olhos desgarrados
Para o sol, como se lá houvesse
Ouvido pra o meu queixume,
Coração como o meu
Que se compadecesse da minha angústia.
Quem me ajudou
Contra a insolência dos Titãs?
Quem me livrou da morte,
Pois não foste tu que tudo acabaste,
Meu coração em fogo sagrado?
E jovem e bom — enganado —
Ardias ao Deus que lá no céu dormia
Tuas graças de salvação?!
Eu venerar-te? E por quê?
Suavizaste tu jamais as dores
Enxugaste jamais as lágrimas
Pois não me forjaram Homem
O Tempo todo-poderoso
E o Destino eterno,
Meus senhores e teus?
Pensavas tu talvez
Que eu havia de odiar a Vida
E fugir para os desertos,
Lá porque nem todos
Os sonhos em flor frutificaram?
Pois aqui estou! Formo Homens
À minha imagem,
Uma estirpe que a mim se assemelhe:
Para sofrer, para chorar,
Para gozar e se alegrar,
E pra não te respeitar,
* * * * *
Hide your heavens, Zeus, in cloudy vapours and practise your stroke, like a boy beheading thistles, on oaktrees and mountain summits; still you must leave me my steady earth, and my hut, not built by you, and my hearth, whose warm glow you envy me.
I know nothing more pitiful under the sun than you Gods! You feed your splendour pathetically on expensive sacrifices and the breath of prayers and would starve, were not children and beggars fools full of hope.
When I was a child, not knowing out from in, I turned my bewildered gaze to the sun, as if there might be above it an ear to hear my sorrow, a heart like mine to have mercy on the afflicted.
Who helped me against the overweening Titans? Who rescued me from death, from slavery? Was it not you, my holy glowing heart, who did it all? and young and good, deceived, glowed thanks for rescue to the slumberer in the heavens?
I, worship you? What for? Did you ever relieve the ache of the heavy-laden? Did you ever wipe away the tears of the terror-stricken? Was I not hammered into the shape of Man by almighty Time and eternal Destiny, my masters, and yours?
No doubt you supposed I should hate life, flee to the desert, because not every blossom of dream became fruit?
Here I sit, make men on my own pattern, a breed to resemble me, to suffer pain, to weep, to feel pleasure and joy, and, like me, to pay you no attention!
It seems to me quite ironic and ambiguous that a band named Nirvana was actually the living and struggling embodiment of what Buddhists call Samsara. As if he was bound to the wheel of craving and suffering, Kurt Cobain screamed his guts out just like I imagine Prometheus (so beautifully depicted in Rubens’ painting) screamed day after day as the eagle devoured his liver. Nirvana is perhaps the most tragic rock and roll band there was, seen from the perspective of Cobain’s death, but it ‘s also one of the most exciting pages of rock history in the 1990s. It inspired us, with its punkish courage, to take mainstream culture by assault. Off with commercial shitty kitsch! He wanted art to be undiluted expression of raw and true emotion, communicated through the means of songs bursting with juvenile energy, suicidal tendencies, drug experiences, Beatlemania, and an up-bringing in what he called “a punk rock world”.
He violently departed from us, 20 years ago, in April 1994, by blowing his brains out with a shotgun on his 1-million-dollar mansion, chez lui on Trigger-Happy America. When he chose suicide as a way-out-of-the-Samsarian-mess, his daughter Frances was 20 months old and couldn’t possibly understand anything about the struggles of a heroin addict with his condition as an international pop-superstar. Singing as if he was a tree rooted in dark angry soil, his voice seemed to arise from an abyss of suffering, especially located in an intense point of pain inside his belly. That invisible wound made tremendously audible by his music rang so true and filled with authenticity, in an era of poseurs and fakers and hair-metal yuppie cowshit. Lester Bangs once wrote that “expression of passion was why music was invented in the first place”, and Cobain also seemed to believe in this – and he wasn’t ashamed to put his “dark” emotional side, from depression and paranoia to sociophobia and alienation, to craft the punk-rock hymns that turned him unwillingly into The Spokesman Of A Generation. Extraordinarily capable of expressing his feelings, Cobain’s heart poured out of himself like lava from a volcano, letting us peek through a sonic keyhole into the labyrinths of an anguished life seeking release and craving for pain to end.
Cobain’s musicianship was spectacularly exciting and innovative – even though he borrowed a lot from a similar heavy, distorted and fast guitar-sound, similar to the one invented and mastered in previous decades by Johnny Ramones and Mick Joneses – he created out of that something that was distinguishable his own. Cherishing intensity rather than complexity, and emotional catharsis more than rational self-controlness, Nirvana’s music carried within it some much power that the whole thing mushroomed into one of those rares episode in music history when a band becomes History, defines an Era, before burning-out instead of fading-away. I call them “The Exploding Stars”. I would argue, If you permit me to trip a little bit on some stoned hypotheses, that Cobain’s voice spoke to millions, and his music stirred up such an intense commotion, because of the authentic and desperate artistical expression that he was able to create out of his Samsarian suffering. In 1991, the kitsch of American pop culture – from Michael Jackson to Guns’N’Roses – was suddenly kicked in the butt by the 1990s equivalent to MC5’s Kick Out The Jams to the 1960s and Nevermind The Bollocks, Here’ The Sex Pistols to the 1970s.
And here we are, 20 years after he took a shortcut into that land which no voyager ever comes back from (like Shakespeare’s Hamlet said), discussing his legacy and trying to understand his life and his death. Violent deaths occur every day and all the time, of course, and why should the death of a rock star be made so much fuzz about? The thing is: American Culture is deeply influenced by the realm of Pop, which is a money-making-machine mainly, of course, but sometimes explodes out of control and becomes a cultural force that manages to transcend the markets. It becomes something to be dealt with by Art History, by Sociology, by Philosophy, by Anthropology, by Existential Psychology etc. Or do you perhaps think that the more than 60 people who committed copycat suicides after Cobain’s demise in 1994 related to Cobain only as consumers do with manufacturers of products? Could we possibly say that the more than 5.000 people who went to his funeral, and joined in a candlelight vigil, were merely mourning because they had lost one of their hired entertainers? What about more than 50 million records sold (how many billions of downloads, I wonder?): did all these listeners heard Cobain just as a manufactured commodity? No! Cobain had an authenticity arising from the trueness of feeling underlying his music, and this set him apart from everything that was going on in “Mainstream American Culture” in that era.
Nirvana kicked the door to the ground for Underground America to step into the spotlight in 1991, “The Year that Punk Broke” (when Sonic Youth signed to a major; when Pearl Jam and Soundgarden skyrocketed to the top of charts; when Seattle’s scene became “The Big Thing” in a process juicily conveyed by Hype! , the documentary). Violent and untimely deaths happened all around Cobain while he experienced and interacted with people from the music scenes of Aberdeen, Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle. Prior to Cobain’s suicide, there had been other tragedies in Seattle Rock City: for example, Mia Zapata‘s cold-blooded murder in July 1993, when the singer-songwriter of The Gits (one of the awesomest “grunge” bands that never made it to the Mass Media…) was raped and killed after leaving a bar in Seattle. Or the fatal-OD that took to an early grave Andrew Wood, singer in Mother Love Bone (whose remaining members went on to build Temple of The Dog and then Pearl Jam).
* * * * *
TWO GRUNGY TRAGEDIES BEFORE COBAIN: MIA ZAPATA’s murder (watch below the full The Gits doc) and ANDREW WOOD’s fatal OD (listen below to the tribute album by Temple Of The Dog, wich contains the grungy-hymn in which Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell share vocal duties, “Hunger Strike”).
* * * * *
Suicide is common currency in rock’n’roll mythology. The Who had screamed in the 1960s, for a whole generation to hear: “I hope I die before I get old”. Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My” stated that “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” – a phrase later to become one of the most quoted from Cobain’ suicide letter. The Dead-at-27 Club had already a plentiful of members – Hendrix, Morrison, Janis… – when Nirvana’s lead singer joined them on this fraternity of bones. His originality was in his means-of-death: he was the first of them to have commited suicide. But did he really choose to leave life in order to become myth? Or such ambitions were not the case for someone craving to escape a labyrinth of angst, rage, stomach-aches, annoying fame, never-ending tours and chronical dissatisfaction? To get back to my point in the beggining of this trip: isn’t suicide, in Cobain’s case, an succesfull attempt simply to blow to smithereens the whole damned Samsara? After all, this man was an extremist not only in art but also in life, and it’s quite possible he entertained extreme notions about what Nirvana was all about.
Nirvana’s music was not Zen at all – it was the sound of fury delivered in packages of Beatlesque melody and punkish attitude. When, 20 years ago today, he chose utter self-destruction, this was hardly a surprising ending for someone who had talked openly about suicide for years and years, and who had previously attempted it some times before, and who almost named the follow-up to Nevermind with the phrase I Hate Mysef And I Want To Die… Not surprising, but still mysterious and fascinating and hard to fully understand. Some writers and interpreters see Cobain’s suicide as something despicable, and criticize him for being a sell-out who couldn’t enjoy his success, or a kid who couldn’t stand his “tummy-ache” and chose some dumb radical medicine. In his article “An Icon of Alienation”, Jonathan Freedland writes, for example, about Cobain’s Last Days (also portrayed in cinema by Gus Van Sant):
“Generation X-ers are meant to be the slacker generation, yet here was the slacker-in-chief living the yuppie dream: married, padding around a $1.1 million luxury mansion with a garden for his baby daughter to play in, and Microsoft and Boeing executives for neighbours. It proved to be no refuge for Kurt Cobain, the boy who had come from blue-collar nowhere and made himself an international star and millionaire. Holed up inside the house overlooking the perfume-scented lake, he pumped his veins full of heroin, wrote his rambling suicide note, and did so much damage to his head that police could only identify his body through fingerprints. Dental records were no use, because nothing was left of his mouth.” – JONATHAN FREEDLAND, An Icon Of Alienation.
Some say some sort of suicide gene or tragic curse ran in the Cobain family: three of Kurt’s uncles had killed themselves. But the picture, of course, is much more complex than the “family tree” explanations wants to admit. It’s well known that Kurt Cobain was deeply pained both by stomach-aches and by childhood traumas (he was, every journalist repeated to exhaustion, the “son of a broken home”). His heroin-addiction, which he justified as a means of self-medication, it seems to relate also to some frantic need to numb his existential discomfort and disgust, to reach periodically some “artificial paradises” similar to the ones experienced by Baudelaire, De Quincey, Burroughs, Ken Kesey and tons of other artists and mystics. But no explanation of his bloody choice of escape from life can be convincing without a discussion about Celebrity, Fame, Success. As Will Hermes wrote in Rolling Stone magazine: “The singer-songwriter, who wrestled with medical problems and the drugs he took to keep them at bay, was also deeply conflicted about his fame, craving and rejecting it.”
That’s what makes Nirvana so interesting: a punk band kicking out the jams in Sub Pop records turns into the highest-selling band in the world and becomes rich on the payroll of a major record company – Geffen. I would like to attempt to reflect briefly upon some of the reasons that explain Cobain’s suicide, but without venturing to give a comprehensive biography of the man or his band – a job already done brilliantly by Charles Cross’s Louder Than Heaven, by the Nirvana bio written by Everett True, or by the documentary About a Son by A. J. Schnack.
Let’s head back to 1991, when Nevermind exploded into the mainstream pop arena and became a cultural phenomenon of huge proportions. This landmark album wasn’t only a big commercial hit, destined to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide. It wasn’t only one of the greatest rock’n’roll albums ever made, with songs so powerful that Simon Williams describes them as “savage indictments of the rock ethos, eye-bulging, larynx-blistering screamalongs”. It wasn’t only a passing fancy of youngsters who would completely forget about the band when the next wave of pop novelties came along. Nevermind was an era-defining masterpiece of epic proportions, the most important album of the whole grunge era, the record that stands out in the 1990s as something unique and unsurpassed. It kicked out the jams with its raw power and heartfelt catharsis, and finally punk rock aesthetics and ethics became common currency and were delivered to the astonished masses. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, a song named jokingly after a deodorant, and in which Cobain said he was merely ripping off The Pixies, took MTV by storm in 1991 and buried for awhile the Disco-Yuppie-Crap and the Hair-Metal-Bullshit. It kick-started the Grunge Era and opened the gates wide open for the Seattle scene to become immensely influential through Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, The Screaming Trees, and many others. For the first time ever in the U.S., it seemed like Punk Rock was gonna win its battle and inject rebelliousness and dissent into the veins of American suffering from a hangover after the Reagan-years in Shopping Centerish Yuppie America.
“Nirvana have also been seen in sociological terms: as defining a new generation, the twentysomething ‘slackers’ who have retreated from life; as telling unattractive home truths about a country losing its empire and hit by recession; as representing the final, delayed impact of British punk on America. They have also shocked people by trashing male gender codes: kissing each other on the national network show Saturday Night Live, appearing in dresses in the video for their single ‘In Bloom’, doing pro-gay benefits. We may be more used to this in Britain, but America is a country with much more machismo in its popular culture. A sensational appearance on last year’s globally broadcast MTV Awards, where they smashed their equipment and mocked rock competitors Guns N’Roses, sealed their status as America’s bad boys…” JON SAVAGE, Sounds Dirty – The Truth About Nirvana
Nirvana wasn’t political like The Clash, but yet they certainly did a political statement with their career. Kurt Cobain shoots himself in the head and his brains get splattered all over the American Dream – that thing that, George Carlin said, “you have to be asleep to believe in”. Nirvana was much more about a provocation, à la William Burroughs (Cobain’s favorite writer), on the despised Square Society of White America. It’s punkish agression against Yuppie bullshit. It states that music shouldn’t be seen only as product or merchandise, and that it can convey emotions that can “infect” large portions of society with its groove, its stamina, its mind-expansion and energy-raising powers.
Kurt Cobain could be described by psychopathologists as clinically depressed or bi-polar – it’s known he had familiarity with Ritalins and Lithiums and other creations of the Pharmacological Industries in Capitalist America. But Nirvana’s music is not only a downer – on the contrary, Nevermind cointained so much power that it seemed like it was capable of awakening a whole generation out of its lethargy and inaction. But Cobain couldn’t and wouldn’t be the “leader of a generation”, the preacher telling in the microfone for the converted masses which way to follow. He wouldn’t become a parody of himself (“I hope I die before I turn into Pete Townsend”, he said), he wouldn’t be a happy millionaire smiling for the papparazzis, he simply wouldn’t conform to letting Nirvana become a sell-out act of merely market-wise relevance. With his death, he turned Nirvana into a symbol for decades to come, a band never to be forgotten.
“The sleeve of Nevermind shows a baby swimming underwater towards a dollar bill on a fish hook. The intended meaning is clear: the loss of innocence, the Faustian contract that usually comes with money. Take it, but if you do, you’re hooked for life. It’s a parable of Nirvana’s current dilemma: they’ve taken the bait, but the contradictions of their success are threatening to tear them apart. How can the members of Nirvana retain their integrity, which is very important to them, in a situation which demands constant compromise? How can they sing from the point of view of an outsider now that they’re in a privileged position? How can they suffer relentless worldwide media exposure and still retain, in Grohl’s words, ‘the spontaneity and the energy of something fresh and new’ that has marked their career?” – JON SAVAGE
“Teenage angst paid off well, now I’m bored all old”: that was the statement that began In Utero’s sonic ride. In it, Cobain wants to take us with him on his downward spiral, never afraid to let the songs show his inner confusion and Samsarian suffering. He didn’t believe in a loving God acting as a Daddy up above on the clouds, looking out for their pet-children, but rather was seduced by Buddhist notions, for example that of Karma. Nirvana’s music seems like some sort of ritual of Karmic cleansing, in which Cobain attempts, through a visceral outpouring of emotions, especially the ones that are burdensome, to attain some release.
But he didn’t arrive at no Enlightnenment – not even plain and simple piece of mind. In Rome, March 1994, he attempts suicide with more than 50 pills of Roipnol. He couldn’t stand the never-ending tours, the stupid interviews, the persecution by papparazis, the fans acting like Neanderthals, the need to repeat for the thousandth time “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – even in those nights when we didn’t felt like doing it. He simply wasn’t able to “enjoy” the ride of popstardom inside the Commercial Machinery of Profit Seeking Corporate America. When Rolling Stone did a cover issue with Nirvana, Kurt Cobain wore a t-shirt that read: ‘CORPORATE MAGAZINES STILL SUCK’. Even tough he hated Corporate America, he was immersed in it, and it had the means for him to take his message to larger audiences instead of limiting himself to the narrow world of punk-rock and indie concerts where you only preach to the converted. Nirvana never did corporate rock, but instead they did dangerous music that the industry soon discovered that resounded with millions of people worldwide. To call them “sell-outs” is narrow-mindedness. They tried instead to deeply transform Mainstream culture by taking it by storm. This is one of the most influential bands in the history of rock because it inspired us to reclaim the airwaves out of the hands of those fuckers Terence McKenna talks about in “Reclaim Your Mind”:
He never felt at ease or at home under the spotlight of mass media, gossip magazines, commercial TV shows. Always a punkish outsider and underdog that never quite fitted into the mainstream’s machinery of popstardom, he identified himself with feminists, oddballs, weirdos and other non-conformist and eccentric individuals and urban tribes. He despised pop icons like M. Jackson or Axl Rose, and loved The Pixies, The Raincoats, Young Marble Giants, all sorts of lo-fi and low-budget underground “indie” stuff. Even tough proto-grungers such as Husker Du’s Bob Mould, Black Flag’s Henry Rollins or The Replacements’ Paul Weterberg done something similar to Cobain both musically and lyrically, neither exploded internationally like Nirvana to wide-spread impact on thousands of lives.
I remember him as punk rock kid from a fucked-up town filled with macho-men rednecks, and who expressed his rage against mainstream American culture with extraordinary talent. I remember him as an aesthetic extremist who loved William Burroughs stoned literature, and who entertained himself in his Aberdeen years with peculiar fun such as watching Faces of Death after eating hallucinogenic mushrooms. I remember him also as a sometimes sensitive and tender guy who had pet-turtles in his bathtub and hated in his guts all sorts of homophobia, misoginy and Neanderthal stupidity. I remember him as a music geek that loved underground music and did everything in his power to invite his audience to listen to his favorite “indie” artists (like Pixies, Breeders, Meat Puppets, Vaselines, Daniel Johnston, Beat Happening, Flipper, Bikini Kill, Half Japanese, Billy Childish, Butthole Surfers…).
David Stubbs, in his article “I Hate Myself And I Want to Die”, writes:
“Rock’n’roll mythology is fed and defined by its occasional deaths. Usually, these are due to some excess or other – driving too fast, getting too high, taking too much, going too far, the romantic pushing back of life’s envelope, testing the limits, wanting too much, wanting it now, forfeiting tomorrow in the bargain. Rock’n’roll mythology dictates that its heroes die because they wanted to live too much. Kurt Cobain, however, didn’t want to live. He wanted to die.”
It can be said that he’s the most perfect embodiment in rock music of Nihilism, that cultural phenomenon which Nietzsche predicted, in the 19th century, that would become wide-spread. Cobain radically acted upon his nihilism, towards his self-destruction, what sets him apart from other famous nihilists, like Emil Cioran or Arthur Schopenhauer, who died of old age and so-called “natural causes”.
The man died, but his deeds are still with us, haunting us like Prometheu’s scream as he’s being eaten by an eagle, inspiring us like a Punk Monument to raw power in an age of slumber, provoking us like a tragic character which awakens us to a life that ain’t no picnic. There’s reason to mourn and get the paralysing blues when we considerer Cobain’s suicide, but there’s also reason to cherish and celebrate a life that has left a legacy that millions of us feel that have enriched our lives. Cobain struggled in Samsara and that makes him a member of a brotherhood called Humanity. Nirvana always sounded to me like the music of a brother, expressing what we, his brothers in suffering, also experienced but were unable to express so powerfully and unforgettably as he did.
“I’m a spokesman for myself. It just so happens that there’s a bunch of people that are concerned with what I have to say. I find that frightening at times because I’m just as confused as most people. I don’t have the answers for anything. I don’t want to be a fucking spokesperson.”
* * * * *
“I definitely have a problem with the average macho man – the strong-oxen, working-class type – because they have always been a threat to me. I’ve had to deal with them most of my life – being taunted and beaten up by them in school, just having to be around them and be expected to be that kind of person when you grow up. I definitely feel closer to the feminine side of the human being than I do the male – or the American idea of what a male is supposed to be. Just watch a beer commercial and you’ll see what I mean.”
* * * * *
“If you’re a sexist, racist, homophobe, or basically an asshole, don’t buy this CD. I don’t care if you like me, I hate you. “
* * * * *
“I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had voted me Most Likely To Kill Everyone At A High School Dance.”
* * * * *
“I don’t want to sound egotistical, but I know our music is better than a majority of the commercial shit that’s been crammed down people’s throats for a long time.”
* * * * *
“All the albums I ever liked delivered a great song one after another: Aerosmith’s ‘Rocks’, The Sex Pistols’ ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’, Led Zeppelin’s ‘II’, AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’. (…) I really liked R.E.M., and I was into all kinds of old ’60s stuff. (…) With ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ I was trying to write the ultimate po song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it.. When I head the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band – or at least in a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard…”
* * * *
“Birds scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth, but sadly we don’t speak bird.”
“Globalization has created the McDonaldization of world food, resulting in the destruction of sustainable food systems. It attempts to create a uniform food culture of hamburgers. The mad-cow-disease epidemic tells us something of the costs hidden in this food culture and food economy. In 1994, Pepsi Food Ltd. was given permission to start 60 restaurants in India: 30 each of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut. The processed meats and chicken offered at these restaurants have been identified by the U.S. Senate as sources of the cancers that one American contracts every seven seconds. (…) Junk-food chains, including KFC and Pizza Hut, are under attack from major environmental groups in the United States and other developed countries because of their negative environmental impact. Intensive breeding of livestock and poultry for such restaurants leads to deforestation, land degradation, and contamination of water sources and other natural resources. For example: the water necessary for meat breeding comes to about 190 gallons per animal per day, or 10 times what a normal Indian family is supposed to use in one day, if it gets water at all.” (p. 71)
TRANSFORMING VEGETARIANS INTO BEEF-EATERS
“At a time when meat consumption is declining in Western countries, India’s trade-liberalization program is trying to convert a predominantly vegetarian society into a beef-eating one. This program is based on the false equation that the only source of protein is animal protein, and that higher animal consumption equals a higher quality of life. (…) The 3 most important diseases of the affluent countries – cancer, stroke, and heart disease – are linked conclusively to consumption of beef and other animal products. International studies comparing diets in different countries have shown that diets high in meat result in more death from intestinal cancer per capita. Japanese people in the USA eating a high-meat diet are 3 times as likely to contract colon cancer as those eating the Japanese low-meat diet. Modern, intensive systems of meat production have exacerbated the health hazards posed by meat consumption. Modern meats have 7 times more fat than non-industrial meats, as well as drug and antibiotic residues.” (66)
SACRED COWS AND MAD COWS
“In India, cows have been treated as sacred for centuries. Ecologically, the cow has been central to Indian civilization. Both materially and conceptually the world of Indian agriculture has built its sustainability on the integrity of the cow, considering her inviolable and sacred, seeing her as the mother of the prosperity of food systems. (…) Indian cattle provide more food than they consume, in contrast to those of the U.S. cattle industry, in which cattle consume 6 times more food than they provide. In addition, every year, Indian cattle excrete 700 million tons of recoverable manure: half of this is used as fuel, liberating the thermal equivalent of 27 million tons of kerosene, 35 million tons of coal, or 68 million tons of wood, all of which are scarce resources in India. The remaining half is used as fertilizer. Two thirds of the power requirements of Indian villages are met by cattle-dung fuel from some 80 million cattle. Yet this highly efficient food system, based on multiple uses of cattle, has been dismantled in the name of efficiency and development… Worse, trade-liberalization policies in India are leading to the slaughter of cattle for meat exports.
A cow is not merely a milk machine or a meat machine, even if industry treats it in such a way. That is why cows are hurt by the industrial treatment they are subjected to. When forced to become carnivores instead of herbivores, they become infected with BSE (Mad Cow Disease). When injected with growth hormones, they become diseased. To deny subjecthood to cows and other animals, to treat them as mere raw material, is to converge with the approach of capitalist patriarchy. Sacred cows are the symbols and constructions of a culture that sees the entire cosmos in a cow. (…) Mad cows are symbols of a worldview that perceives no difference between machines and living beings. (…) Sacred cows are a metaphor of ecological civilization. Mad cows are a metaphor for an anti-ecological, industrial civilization. Liberation strategies have to ensure that human freedom is not gained at the cost of other species, that freedom for one race or gender is not based on increased subjugation of other races and genders. In each of these strivings for freedom, the challenge is to include the Other.” (pg. 59-73)
MONOCULTURES AND MONOPOLIES
“Industrial agriculture promotes the use of monocultures because of its need for centralized control over the production and distribution of food. In this way, monocultures and corporate monopolies reinforce each other. Today, 3 processes are intensifying monopoly control over seed, the first link in the food chain: economic concentration, patents and intellectual property rights, and genetic engineering. Monsanto, which was earlier recognized primarily through its association with Agent Orange, today controls a large section of the seed industry. (…) The perverse intellectual-property-rights system that treats plants and seeds as corporate inventions is transforming farmers’ highest duties – to save seed and exchange seed with neighbors – into crimes. (81-90)
RECLAIMING THE STOLEN HARVEST
The failure of the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle in 1999 was a historic watershed. The rebellion on the streets and the rebellion within the WTO negotiations launched a new democracy movement, with citizens from across the world and the governments of the South refusing to be bullied and excluded from decisions in which they have a rightful share. In Seattle, 50.000 citizens from all walks of life and all parts of the world protested peacefully on the streets for 4 days to ensure that there would be no new round of trade negotiations for accelerating and expanding the process of globalization.
The WTO has earned itself names such as the World Tyranny Organization because it enforces tyrannical, anti-people, anti-nature decisions to enable corporations to steal the world’s harvest through secretive, undemocratic structures and processes. The WTO tyranny was apparent in Seattle both on the streets and inside the Washington State Convention Center. Intolerance of democratic dissent, a hallmark of dictatorship, was unleashed in full force. While the trees and stores were lit up for Christmas festivity, the streets were barricaded and blocked by the police, turning the city into a war zone. Non-violent protestors, including young people and old women, labor and environmental activists, and even local residents, were brutally beaten, sprayed with tear gas, and arrested by the hundreds.
But the thousands of youth, farmers, workers, and environmentalists who marched the streets of Seattle in peace and solidarity were not acting out of ignorance and fear; they were outraged because they know how undemocratic the WTO is, how destructive its social and ecological impacts are, and how the rules of the WTO are driven by the objectives of establishing corporate control over every dimension of our lives – our food, our health, our environment, our work, our future.
The post-Seattle challenge is to change the global trade rules and national food and agricultural policies so that ecological practises, which protects small farms and peasant livelihoods, and produces safe food, is not marginalized and criminalized. The times has come to reclaim the stolen harvest and celebrate the growing and giving of good food as the highest gift and the most revolutionary act.” (pg. 127)
The streets of Seattle in 1999 during the NO-WTO protests
All quotes in this post are excerpts from Stolen Harvest – The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply, by Vandana Shiva (South End Press, 1999). Comic strips by Dan Piraro at Bizarro. Some recommended documentaries you might enjoy seeing and spreading:
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Combatendo a distorção e divulgação de notícias e conceitos falsos; Ocupando as redes sociais e denunciando moralistas e interesseiros de ocasião; Dialogando e formando amigos e conhecidos seduzidos por soluções autoritárias; Colaborando com ações e propostas conscientizadoras sobre as liberdades civis; Frequentando e defendendo os espaços plurais de produção, difusão e compartilhamento de saberes, conhecimentos e artes. RESISTA!