Published: Saturday 22 February 2020 | 09:03:07 pm.
By Graziella Pogolotti
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Grounded in the Industrial Revolution, with the invention of the steam engine, mass production and the resulting competitive drive to ensure the dominance of the world market had its effects, at an accelerating pace, on the life of society. The soot was invading everything. Cities began to grow rapidly. The proletariat was constituted as a social class. The dizzying change had repercussions on the rise of the social sciences. History changed its perspective, the economy became an indispensable reference point, psychology, anthropology and sociology acquired autonomy. The latter permeated other disciplines with its influence.
With the cost of paper now down, the press has a new reading public. It introduced the soap opera into its pages. It was the antecedent of the current soap opera [telenovela]. With the emergence of creative literary giants, narrative reached an unprecedented peak. First, social romanticism and later the proliferation of “costumbrismo” (local color), the latter spread through the novel, sharpened the sociological outlook. The characters moved in a specific context.
The historical perspective left the past behind to shape the approach of the present. The contradictions in everyday life and the exacerbation of individualism in the struggle to survive, to accumulate power and fortune and to move up the social ladder came to the fore. Little read today, Dickens became a bestseller of that time by showing the drama of helpless childhood in the city environment, captured by crime and victim of the debtors’ prison that punished them along with their parents. Balzac warned about the domination of the financial world, enriched by usury and the consequent disappearance of the small merchant. Emile Zola, A French writer preferred by the cigar factory lectors [workers who read live to cigar workers] wanted to systematize the analysis. He articulated the sequence of his novels to a family genealogy that allowed him to focus each of them on a specific sector of reality.
In one of his novels, Zola examines the seduction exerted on women by the emergence of the first department stores. In accordance with the traditional division of labor, women are responsible for taking care of domestic chores, but they also take on the responsibility of buying what is necessary for the home. Pressed by a concrete need, they turn to the dazzling display case that offers all sorts of temptations. To the purchase of the indispensable, they add the dispensable, with the apparent advantage of having a credit card. Not having to take money out of their purse, they lose track of what they have spent. They fall into debt that, in the end, will be unpayable. It was the original cell of the policy of encouraging consumerism, unleashed more than half a century later, a way of avoiding the overproduction crises characteristic of capitalism through the constant increase in demand, with its depredatory effects on the planet’s goods.
Like history and psychology, sociology became a science. It opened up perspectives that went beyond the field of specialists,. It influenced so-called investigative journalism and can help shape the outlook of better-informed citizens. This approach to reality rethought the complex nature of the link between the individual and society. Considered as a subject of history, human beings build their life expectations from a set of determining factors, among which are class roots, family environment and the education system.
Other factors act on the consciousness of each one, among which the media, entertainment, the use of free time and the formation of paradigms stand out. Some time ago, in the miserable favelas, where the essential was lacking, the television antennas were pointed out. Now, in a similar context, cell phones are everywhere. They offer escape routes, projected towards an illusory world that is not their own. The proposal of models of careers towards individual success replaces the image of a virtuous life in the struggle to transform reality for the benefit of all.
It is often forgotten that among the founders of historical science were Marx and Engels, who put knowledge at the service of the emancipatory revolution. The hegemonic power understood the scope of this way of exploring reality and finding the formulas to intervene in it by operating on human subjectivity. Politics has to strengthen the essential revolutionary condition of the sciences devoted to the study of society, a living and therefore changing phenomenon. It is an urgent demand to calibrate in its right measure the concreteness of the facts, without diluting them in vague generalizations. In the demands of the “wretched of the earth” lies the preservation of the future of humanity. Because once the reserves of the tiny Earth are exhausted, it will have no other planet to inhabit.
By Graziella Pogolotti
Published: Saturday 15 February 2020 | 08:54:32 pm.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
While still a child, that Indian, moved by the desire to improve himself, left the countryside and went to the city. There he learned Spanish, took possession of Latin and modern languages and entered the complex world of law, animated by the search for principles of justice. From his legendary carriage, Benito Juárez faced the anachronistic French invasion promoted by Napoleon III -Napoleon the Lessar, according to Victor Hugo-, destined to impose on the Mexican Government Maximilian of Austria, who was shot in Querétaro.
For Mexico and Latin America as a whole, Juarez proposed, as a fundamental notion for the coexistence between nations, the indispensable need for mutual respect, that is, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, a concept that, except for brief blinks of an eye, has presided over his country’s foreign policy, a safe haven for exiles from all over, of exemplary conduct with the victims of the war in Spain and with those condemned for McCarthyism in the United States.
Because of his civic stature, Benito Juarez has been named Benemérito de las Américas. [Benemerito is Latin, roughly “Meritorious” wl]The evocation of the Mexican hero is timely these days, when, at a dizzying pace, human principles and aspirations are subverted and the most unabashed interventionism in the field of international politics is naturally assumed.
In the 20th century, two world wars produced real holocausts. Picasso, who had condemned with his Guernica the bombing of an unarmed civilian population, then designed his dove of peace, the symbol of universal hope. At the end of the first great conflagration, the failed League of Nations attempted to interpose negotiations on the use of arms. Throughout the ages, regulations had been established with a view to formulating rules of the game regarding international relations.
Nothing was done, however, to contain the arrogant expansion of Nazi Germany into its neighboring territories. In the name of Aryan supremacy, racism was institutionalized. National sentiment became aggressive chauvinism. Devastated territories accompanied the sadism of the gas chambers and concentration camps. The diary of Anne Frank, a little girl who had taken refuge with her family in the basement of the house until she fell into the hands of her victimizers, shocked millions of readers. On the eve of the surrender of the axis formed by Germany, Italy and Japan, Hiroshima and Nagasaki announced a terrible threat to the future of the planet.
The complex architecture of the UN was supposed to provide a space for negotiations, shared by the great powers and the emerging countries. It was intended to sponsor science, education, and culture and to provide platforms for the development of the most disadvantaged. Another global conflagration has not [yet] been triggered, although localized clashes at strategic points have not ceased. Big industry continues to manufacture increasingly sophisticated weaponry.
Under the pretext of the Cold War, the empire multiplied military bases on all continents. So much is the load of dynamite in the world’s precarious balance that one spark can produce an atrocious explosion. Yesterday, colonies inhabited by mixed cultures, the lands of underdeveloped countries hold strategically important minerals and water reserves. Plundering is once again looming over them. Hegemonic discourse legitimizes interventionism with the aim of securing a new world order.
In recent years, the human cost has been enormous. In addition to those who have died in war, there are the migrants who have disappeared in the ocean cemeteries. The survivors of these waves become outcasts. Rejected, their presence encourages xenophobia in rich countries, where adjustment policies reduce the benefits previously promoted by the welfare state.
Having lived a long time, always aware of what is happening inside and outside the island, gives one a perspective on the future of the opposing forces that are making history. After the horrors suffered in the Second World War, everything indicated that the generalized demand for a never again [to war] had been reached. In conjunction with the process of decolonization, specialists recognized the intrinsic value of each culture. They threw into the attic of the useless the old opposition between civilization and barbarism, which justified the adventures of conquest and the oppression of the bearers of a memory and a different color of skin.
However, under the cover of financial power, right-wing thinking was gradually recomposed. The crudest and most ominous expression is found in the speech of the President of the United States. He is appealing to the darkest atavistic feelings that remain in his nation. Manifest Destiny is projected with planetary reach. It justifies interventionism and the imposition of a model of domination.
We, Latin Americans, have a tradition of thought that deserves to be rescued. In the current circumstances, it is the source of an emancipatory proposal based on peace and mutual respect. It constitutes a space of convergence for the whole of humanity in its struggle for its well-being and for resistance in the face of the accelerated depredation of the Earth’s resources.