The Condition of Brazilian Higher Education

I am aware that the presence of educators and speakers of various nationalities at this conference would suggest to me the convenience of speaking about universal and borderless themes. However, the situation of education in Brazil has become so dire that it barely can be understood by foreign observers. A sense of urgency, then, impels me to breach etiquette and address Brazilians more directly than others here present.

Since we are all gathered in this place to meditate on the ends and means of education in a serious manner, I would like to start my speech by making a vow: may God forbid and keep my speech from going beyond what I can personally do. The easiest and cheapest thing in the world for an educator to do is to propose grandiose and even universally comprehensive goals and purposes, which he will never bring about and whose results he will never be held accountable for. Ninety percent of those who are praised as pioneers, reformers, and revolutionaries of politics, education, or thought are prophets of the imponderable, that scum of mankind who have always had the prudence to withdraw from this low world before their beautiful proposals have been transformed into the depressing and often bloody realities that they foretell.

The first thing that should be required of any educator is that he knows precisely whom he intends to educate, for how long he needs to educate his students, and what are the evaluation criteria with which he will gauge the success or failure of his venture. Virtually none of those who are today lauded as great educators pass this test. Neither Paulo Freire, nor Jean Piaget, nor Vygostky, nor Emilia Ferreiro. The disastrous results of socio-constructivism are already so old and so widely known as the very idea that generated them, and yet the prestige of this school does not seem to have been shaken in the least, precisely because the public has become used to the contemporary idea that what one should expect from an educator is not that he educates people, but rather that he helps them “change the world.”

People’s mindset has been so imbued with the cult of universal change that nowadays there is virtually no person who does not follow, unconsciously at least, the maxim of that greatest prince of elegant stupidity who was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “A new untruth is better than an old truth.”

The greatest of all educators, Socrates, never made plans for global education nor ever thought about pre-formatting the minds of future generations, but he merely confined himself to educating those who were within his reach, that is, a single generation, a small circle of students, out of which emerged two other great philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, whose teaching still continues to educate us today.

So, God forbid that I should create any educational project which I cannot personally carry out and whose results I cannot myself evaluate during the course of my life.

Accordingly, any education project that I might dare to subscribe should be a provisional response to a given situation and not a model to be imitated per omnia seculae saeculorum. The immediate problem that my personal educational project attempted to tackle is the complete debacle of university education in Brazil. Of course, there is not a single country in the world in which people do not talk about a similar debacle, but we must be careful not to be misled by the use of the same word to qualify different situations. For the word “debacle” just describes a generic quality and does not convey an idea of the extent of the problem, and it is in the quantitative aspect of the collapse of its higher education that Brazil goes beyond the imagination of those who complain of the poor state of university education in their own countries. Maybe you can have a better idea of Brazil’s state of things in education when you know the fact that my native country, having more university professors per capita than any other nation, and now having virtually no children out of school, produces students who usually rank last in international education tests. Not coincidentally, Brazil is also a country in which all public discussion about education always revolves around funding and investments, without educational contents and techniques ever becoming a discussion point—consequently, one must infer that, to the Brazilian national imagination, money must have some educational power in itself, transcending human agency. Even more characteristic of the Brazilian mind of today is the fact that our former president, Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has become an object of general admiration not because he has risen from a poor background thanks to a cultural improvement he achieved through his own effort, but precisely because he managed to climb up the social ladder with no cultural improvement at all. People even compared him to Abraham Lincoln, but the contrast could not be greater between the poor axeman who developed intellectually to become one of the best writers of the English language and the man who distinguished himself rather by his physical transfiguration of a bearded and tattered poor man into an elegant figure with polished nails and dressed in sumptuous Armani suits than for any remarkable progress he made to overcome his original illiteracy. Brazil’s history is laden with poor people who acquired an education through their own effort and rose, by their own intellectual merits, far above their original station in life. I would even say that they preponderate numerically over the notable men of the upper class. The public prestige of Mr. Luiz Inácio is, in this sense, a most significant sociological phenomenon because it indicates a radical change in the judging criterion employed to evaluate the social rise of the humble. Previously, the value of an education acquired by one’s own merits prevailed over the hierarchy of social positions, but the success of Mr. Lula shows that this judgment has been reversed: being in high places is valued in itself, much more than any effort of self-education.

I mention this phenomenon because, more than any other, it denotes the mental state of affairs in contemporary Brazil. The worship of high places, coupled with the most arrogant contempt for knowledge, has become the general rule. In Brazil, a person is no longer required to have made discoveries, created works, and generated great ideas to be acknowledged as an intellectual and an educator of the masses. Rather, what is required of him is that he has occupied civil service positions, held the offices in the public administration, been a member of government commissions; in short, what counts is not who he is in terms of the substance of his creative and thinking person, but in terms of his place in the state bureaucracy.

I began documenting this state of things in my 1995 book The Collective Imbecile: Brazilian Uncultural News. But since then the situation has worsened so formidably that it can no longer be described in a comic and satiric key as it was in that book. Public stupidity has grown to the point where it has become fearful. It has established itself as a form of power which can impose upon a whole generation of students the most complete ineptitude as an essential regulatory obligation.

Because of this state of things, in 2005 I created an online Philosophy Seminar, which today has about three thousand students from all over Brazil and also some other countries. Based on the final projects I have received so far I am sure that these students, whom I asked to refrain from any public activity until they are properly prepared for it, are already an intellectual elite incomparably superior to that which has come out of Brazilian universities and occupied the most important positions in the media, education, and the publishing industry.

Never have I thought about educating other people than those who fell within my reach through the Philosophy Seminar . Nor do I have suggestions about the teaching of subjects which are outside my field of expertise. My students are being educated in the fields of literature, philosophy, and social sciences, precisely those which have been most affected after four decades of absolute rule of the semi-illiterate mandarinate.

However, from this limited experience I can draw some conclusions which may be useful to other people who have the intention of becoming educators.

The first is that the contempt for knowledge in Brazil has always been coupled with the worship of outward signs which stand for knowledge and which, seemingly with some advantage, replace it: degrees, diplomas, titles, honors, media space, good connections in high circles, and so on and so forth. The phenomenon has been so widely documented and satirized in our best fiction literature (Lima Barreto and Graciliano, for example) that I see no need to insist on it.

But the worst is that a circle of mutual reinforcement between those two complementary vices was formed a long time ago, and this circle seems impossible to break .

It works like this: since our business and political elite is not exactly well educated, the well-meaning souls who emerge from it having the laudable purpose of remedying the national evils are by themselves unable to distinguish—through a direct examination of works and ideas—between who is competent and who is an eminent airhead among the available intellectuals. As a result, they will have to judge them by outward signs—those darn titles and positions—and they will end up giving heed to those who have nothing important to tell them nor useful to suggest. Unculture generates unculture with the fertility of a couple of rabbits.

This becomes even worse when a deceiving prestige comes from abroad, landing in Brazil with all the pomp and ceremony suited to “the most modern thing of all.” In the Vargas administration, a beautiful project of popular education ended up taking as model the ideas of John Dewey, then very celebrated by the American media as a great innovator. Today it is known that Dewey was, in fact, the destroyer of the American education, which until then was the best in the world. From 1960s onwards—during the military dictatorship in Brazil—, social constructivism became fashionable, being adorned with names such as Jean Piaget, Emilia Ferrero, Vygotsky, and many others. For half a century the application of this nonsensical theory has brutalized the minds of our children with admirable constancy, at the same time that the triumphal expansion of the number of schools and the increasingly centralized control of national education has spread the democratization of ineptitude to the farthest corners and the poorest people of the country.

And why do these things happen? Because Brazil’s uneducated elite goes along with the media and the volatile prestige of the cultural celebrities of the day instead of examining and testing their ideas. And by doing so our elite only heaps up errors and disasters with an obscene persistence.

Whoever notices this phenomenon cannot but conclude that Brazil’s chief educational problem is precisely the opposite of what people usually say it is. That is to say, our problem is not that we have educated the elite and left the people behind, but rather that we have tried to provide education to all the people before we have a qualified elite to educate them, or even to seriously examine the problem of popular education.

Anyone who has been a teacher at least for a day immediately realizes that the educational process has a radiating structure: first you educate ten people, who in turn will go on and educate a hundred people, who in turn will educate a thousand people, who in turn will educate one million, and so on and so forth. To reverse this order is like wanting children to generate their parents. The rulers of this country have promised education to millions of people before they have been able to gather together ten serious educators to discuss how they are going to do this. Why not educate the first ten people? And to those who may object that this is right-wing elitism, I recommend they read Lenin and ask themselves why he organized the Communist party’s elite first and then the mass. Lenin knew that the tail does not wag the dog.

How to break the vicious circle of an uneducated elite guided by amateurs as inept as itself ?

In my view, there is only one way: we have to raise, outside the official educational system, far from the mainstream media, far from long-established prestige, a new, sincere, and well-prepared class of intellectuals, who, moreover, must be aggressive enough to, in due course, behead airheads, expel sacred cows, and start dealing with problems in a serious manner.

A second conclusion is that a government can only define “programs,” “methods,” budgets, that is, the more external and insubstantial aspects of education. None of these abstract universals has the ability to go into the classroom and guide the souls and minds of students towards their better development. The teacher’s personality is all. You can ask any student of any grade about it. Some teachers make deep impressions on students and have an almost hormonal influence on their intellectual and human growth, others are justly forgotten after a few years, and still others become traumatic obstacles to any conceivable progress.

The problem here is somewhat the same as everywhere else: the problem of human quality. Governments are so helpless about it that sometimes the worst regimes in the world raise, by the power of suffering, the best personalities; and as soon as conditions improve, the souls settle down and deteriorate.

The raising of better individuals can only come from society itself, from spontaneous cultural initiative. Religious organizations, neighborhood associations and clubs, labor unions, community centers can do a lot about it, provided that they are not committed to any political agenda aimed at standardizing minds to use them as pawns. In Brazil, to find a civic association which is free of this commitment has become increasingly difficult.

Finally, there remains the problem of home education. In Brazil, the permanent state of social and economic insecurity leads parents, in their desire to seek an immediate guarantee of livelihood for their children, to deliberately turn their kids into mediocre human beings, inducing them to get an education only to be able to pass civil service exams, instead of promoting the development of their intelligence to reach more ambitious goals in the long term. A good intention deformed by fear is no longer a good intention and becomes a deforming prosthesis. I have observed this phenomenon in virtually all Brazilian families I have met.

A little bit of educational experience shows that the desire for premature social adaptation can cripple a mind and severely limit the very prospects for social ascension. People do not come with their vocations stamped on their foreheads, nor with a manual where they can find out in advance their most promising talents. But what is absolutely certain is that one can only be successful in those things which reflect one’s deepest innate talents. A teenager who dreams of trying his hand at sports, fine arts, or any profession which seems exotic to his family—like a career in the merchant marine, in polar expeditions, or animal caretaking—can easily be induced to failure if his parents impose upon him choices which seem more “realistic” in a limited and mediocre mental atmosphere. I dare say that this is one of the most widespread causes of human failure in Brazil.

If you think your child is a moron who cannot survive in a field of free choice and without the crutches of a depressing government job, it would have been better if you had not generated him, or if you had given him to be raised by a more optimistic family.

Besides, what help can the Brazilian government offer in such matters if it is itself predominantly staffed with inept people for whom the epithet “mediocre” would even be a compliment?

To the present Brazilian government, as to most of its Latin American counterparts, the new generations are but instruments for the implementation of nominally saving policies which despise the present generation in the name of an elusive and unattainable future. I say “unattainable” not only because they are unrealizable in practice, but because their conception is already infected with the promise of endless deferral. Every revolutionary politics, which aims to reshape the world in its image and likeness, begins by denying all higher values in order to be able to establish its own values, which implies that a revolutionary politics cannot accept any judge superior to itself. This is why only the “permanent revolution” exists, that is, the pursuit of goals which have neither a definition nor a deadline to be achieved, so that the revolutionary work might never be judged but might always keep pushing itself further into the future so that it might perpetuate its condition of sole judge of all things.

The third and final conclusion relates to the difference between education and instruction. To instruct a student is simply to pass on to him a set of procedures, habits, techniques, and even mental tics that the teacher has received ready-made. The Department of Education should be called the Department of Instruction, because every educational activity whose model comes from above and is uniformly imposed to an entire population is only instruction. Education, as the etymology of the word implies, has something to do with opening the eyes of the student so that he might see the larger world around him, and he might see it with his own individual and intransferable eyes, without anybody imprisoning him in a preexisting framework. Clearly, if instruction can be a social activity performed by a collectivity of technicians, education, in the sense that I understand it, must be a deep connection between the soul of the teacher and the soul of the student, a relationship that imitates on a smaller and limited scale the relationship between father and son. Thus, it is clear that the teacher has to convey to the student, rather than this or that particular piece of knowledge, a certain inspiration, a power, an enthusiasm, and a love for the search for the truth. And it is also clear that no one can give what he himself does not have. True education is a laborious and late result of the effort of self-education, which takes place in the soul of the educator and precedes education.

These considerations, however, are so far above the current state of affairs in Brazilian education that I do not see any way to put them into action except in small groups, without any illusion of interfering in the present state of things, but preparing, perhaps, a better future.

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This lecture was delivered at the Leadership Institute, in Arlington, VA, on July 23, 2013. The original text for the lecture was translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

Olavo de Carvalho Interviewed on Latin America and Socialism

On April 8, 2013, Olavo de Carvalho, President of the Inter-American Institute was interviewed by The Intelligencer Journal, from Patrick Henry College (VA), on Latin America and Socialism.

I. The Causes of Socialism

The Intelligencer: What do you believe are the underlying causes for Latin America’s shift toward socialism/communism after the region had implemented at least forms of capitalism?

Olavo: The history of Latin America in the last half century can be divided into three stages. The first, that of military dictatorships and defeat of the armed left. The second, the return of democracy and a phase of fleeting and skin-deep enthusiasm for free-market capitalism, coinciding with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Finally, the general rise of the left. Clearly, the third stage was prepared during the second, when the public opinion thought that communism was dead and buried forever, when in fact it was only playing dead to catch its enemies by surprise. What happened was that, at the time, the right did not understand at all the process of internal transformation of the communist movement. First, the military had focused on combating the armed left without doing virtually anything against communism at the ideological and cultural levels, which, precisely at the time of the greatest repression, were quietly taken over by leftists. In almost all Latin American countries, leftists dominated the cultural and journalistic apparatus precisely at the moment when the fall of the USSR created among them a state of ideological confusion which is very conducive to a thorough strategic review, which occurred with remarkable speed, without the right—so drunk it was with triumphalistic delusion—even noticing it. This review consisted of the following items: (1) an organizational reform of the communist parties, which abandoned the old vertical chain of command and adopted a more flexible form of organization based on network structures in order to provide a strategic coordination among all factions of the left, bypassing old ideological divisions, (2) a radical shift in the left’s ideological discourse, which, instead of focusing on a structural transformation of the economy, began to emphasize all sorts of group interests that were antagonistic to the system—against which the left no longer waged open war, but rather launched attacks from a thousand quarters, creating a total confusion in society. These changes reflect what Augusto del Noce called, somewhat ironically, “the suicide of the Revolution:” once any clear vision of a socialist future was dissolved, the revolutionary struggle crumbled into a seemingly unconnected thousand combat fronts which, according to the same del Noce, did not advance the socialist cause ostensibly, but eroded moral and cultural values of capitalist society, which thus assumed increasingly malignant and odious features.The new generations of supporters of capitalism, already educated without the moral and cultural values that held up the regime, contributed to this process, surrendering themselves to an amoral pragmatism that made capitalism precisely the monster that leftists would wish it to be. Meanwhile, leftists took advantage of this in order to promote and denounce corruption at the same time, laying all the blame on capitalism. The situation as a whole became so confusing that no one on the right understood what was going on. Stunned and paralyzed, conservatives and free-market liberals gradually yielded to an ideological advance whose communist profile they completely failed to notice. That is how a faction that seemed almost extinct in the early 1990’s became the almost absolute dominating political force on the continent.

The Intelligencer: Do you think President Chavez was largely responsible for this movement?

Olavo: No, not at all. Chávez was only a decoy used by the left to distract American observers, who focused their attention on him while far larger enterprises orchestrated from Brazil—that is, from the São Paulo Forum—gradually consolidated the position of the left on the continent. The American government and the American media were so out of touch with reality that they came to believe that there were two lefts in Latin America, a totalitarian and threatening one, represented by Hugo Chávez, and a democratic and even pro-American one, personified by former Brazilian President Lula. Well, the truth is that Lula founded the São Paulo Forum and ran it for twelve years as its supreme leader. And also the truth is that the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, viewed that organization in a more realistic manner than the Americans, since they did not take long to realize that the foundation of the São Paulo Forum was the salvation and the future of the communist movement. Chávez only became a member of the Forum in 1995, after  that organization had been operating for 5 years, and when its strategic plans for the continental takeover were already fully underway. There was never the slightest disagreement between Chávez and the Forum, or between Chávez and Lula. Lula himself, in two official speeches as president—which came to be published on the official website of the Brazilian presidency— acknowledged that the Forum had placed and kept Hugo Chávez in power. Chávez was always a docile instrument of the Forum: he was charged with drawing into himself all the international fears so as to provide a cover up for the Forum’s large-scale operations in the rest of the continent.

The Intelligencer: What role do organizations like Foro de São Paulo, CELAC, and the Bolivarian Alliance play in Latin America’s socialist movement?

Olavo: The São Paulo Forum was Lula and his mentor Frei Betto’s original idea, which was presented to Fidel Castro in 1990, who enthusiastically approved it. The central idea was to unify the continental left under a more flexible and diverse strategy, neutralizing or postponing ideological definitions that could give rise to internal conflicts. The Forum is, without a shadow of a doubt, the command center of the communist revolution on the continent. None of the socialist governments that currently dominate Latin America do anything which has not been previously approved at the general meetings of the Forum. By ineptitude or conscious complicity, the American media and most of the political class in the United States have helped keep the invisibility of the São Paulo Forum’s power, precisely during the years in which it desperately needed secrecy in order to develop in peace without attracting any attention, as indeed Lula himself said it. The largest think tank in America, the Council on Foreign Relations—through their “experts” in Latin America, Kenneth Maxwell and Luis Felipe de Alencastro—even came to deny the very existence of the Forum at a time when I myself had already widely disseminated the complete minutes of the general meetings of that organization. Whoever read these minutes, ten years ago, would know in advance the blueprint of everything that came to pass in Latin American politics. The Bolivarian Alliance and the CELAC are simple branches of the São Paulo FOorum and nothing else.

The Intelligencer: What about the role of outside allies such as Russia, Iran, or China?

Olavo: The entire strategy of the São Paulo Forum clearly fits into the plans of Russia and China to create a “Brand New New World Order” to be built upon the devaluation of the dollar and the collapse of the American economy. Needless to say that the acronym BRICS could be reduced to RC, so great is the disparity in military power—and in strategic vision—between Russia and China and all the other members of the block. Trade agreements that abandon the dollar in favor of local currencies, of a pool of several currencies, or even in favor of a new international currency will intensify in the months ahead and break the backbone of the American economy—except on the hypothesis that the American economy pulls off a spectacular recovery through massive exploitation of the country’s oil shale reserves).The greatest of all the Russian strategists, Professor Aleksandr Dugin, describes today’s global politics as a contest between emerging nations and the banking elite that dominates the West. But, in my view, this is pure disinformation. Vice President Joe Biden’s appeal in favor of a “New New World Order” clearly shows that the banking elite, the Obama administration’s support base, has nothing against the collapse of the dollar and the fall of the United States. Note that, at the very moment that the United States are under threat of war, the Obama administration is all about weakening the American military and strengthening domestic law enforcement agencies (arming them even with military-style equipment) at the same time it promotes the destruction of the American economy through pharaonic borrowing and spending. To me it seems that the BRICS’ “Brand New New World Order” is already in power in Washington and sees as inevitable—if not desirable—the social crisis that will allow it to severely limit democratic freedoms.

The Intelligencer: Do you believe that the majority of citizens in socialized Latin American nations really believe in socialist policies, or are demagoguery and/or corruption driving the movement?

Olavo: You have no idea of the state of mental confusion and disconnection from reality in which public opinion finds itself in Latin America, especially in Brazil. None of the problems I have mentioned here is ever discussed in the mainstream media or in the Parliament. Most people believe they still live in a capitalist democracy and do not see the slightest danger of a communist dictatorship. It is as though the last newspaper that came into their hands were from about August 1990. Public debates do not reflect absolutely anything that is really going on. Moreover, it is necessary to understand that many of the profound changes that have been introduced into the social, economic, cultural, and educational life in Latin America have been established through administrative decrees, ministerial directives, and judicial rulings—that is, they have never gone through legislative debate, and they have rarely received any media coverage. Everywhere people understand democracy only as an electoral process, failing to notice that without access to essential information, this process is only a façade, with no reality inside. The state of political ignorance in which the population live today in Latin America, and especially in Brazil, shows that the difference between democracy and dictatorship has become relevant. In the United States, things have not yet reached that point, but they are very quickly approaching it.

II. The Future of Socialism

The Intelligencer: What political ideologies do you believe will dominate Latin America in the future?

Olavo: Everywhere on the continent, the political “right” is disjointed and disoriented. In Brazil, the only thing that exists under the name of  “right” is the most moderate wing of the left. In the coming decades, it is possible that some right resurfaces, not so much inspired by the traditional conservative discourse as by moral and religious grounds, since the the dominant left’s insistence on quickly modifying the country’s framework of moral values comes into direct conflict with the religious beliefs of the majority of the population. What seems that is going to happen is not a struggle between socialism and capitalism, but rather between the revolutionary spirit and Christianity.

The Intelligencer: Do you expect 21st Century Socialism to continue without President Chavez’s leadership?

Olavo: Hugo Chávez never—I repeat never—was the leader of the continental left. The São Paulo Forum’s general assemblies make all the important decisions and completely run the show, and there has never been the slightest sign of any serious disagreement among the Forum members. Chávez was never more than a decoy. It was created and used by the São Paulo Forum, which  in due course, will know how to create many others like him.

The Intelligencer: If so, who do you see as taking the mantle of leadership for 21st Century Socialism in the post-Chavez era?

Olavo: I think the disappearance of Chávez from the political scene is very beneficial to the São Paulo Forum, which now can continue its operations while keeping a low profile till it finds it suitable to create a new poster boy.

The Intelligencer: Do you believe Chavismo politics will continue in Venezuela without major changes?

Olavo: Any antichavista government that rises to power in Venezuela will be surrounded, isolated, and ruthlessly attacked by its neighbors until it becomes completely inoperable.

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. The original answers for the interview were translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

Firearms and Madmen

With one hundred million more inhabitants than Brazil, the United States has four times fewer death crimes. Not even taking that into account, Brazilian journalists, those most educated and honest people, will stop taking advantage of the impact of the Sandy Hook massacre to pontificate about “the American culture of violence.” Some even can swear that the Connecticut massacre calls for greater state control of firearms, pretending not to know that this measure is already in full force in Brazil and has only served to encourage mass murder.

There remains, as an excuse for these outpourings of justice-seeking anti-Americanism, the horror inspired by the very nature of the crime, its insane and almost demonic absurdity. Even though being far below Brazil in murder rates, the United States seems to have specialized in massacres of innocents, crimes which at first glance have no other explanation than the ease of access to firearms.

Let’s see if this pretext is intellectually sane and morally respectable.

Since 1985 there have been 62 mass shootings in the United States. Two per year. Even assuming that all of them happened at the same time, it is obvious that taking away guns from 120 million people in order to prevent 62 of them from committing mass murder is like dynamiting a whole neighborhood to kill 62 cockroaches. Whoever, impressed by the Connecticut killings, shouts out “Gun Control! Gun Control!” only proves that either he cannot do math, or he has an interest in the growth of state power at the expense of the people’s rights.

If the mere right to bear arms were by itself the cause of mass murders, there would be no way to explain that out of 120 million arm-bearing citizens only 62 people have committed these crimes over a period of 27 years. If guns were the cause, mass murders in the American territory should be as epidemic as the slaughtering of Christians in Nigeria and Sudan, producing thousands of murder victims each year. Quite clearly then, some other factor must be at play.

Do the math: How many of the 120 million gun owners in America became mass murderers? Approximately 0.000005. How many of the perpetrators of mass murders in recent decades were mentally ill people who, benefitting from the ideology of “deinstitutionalization,” lived in their homes, freed from all medical supervision, and enjoyed all the rights of ordinary citizens, including the right to buy guns? All of them, with no exception.

Oh! Do you get it? Or is the difference between almost everything and almost nothing too hard to grasp?

If the matter is not clear enough, this piece of information may be helpful: there are 500 thousand madmen on the loose in the United States. Of course, not all of them are violent. But the probability that none of them is violent is zero. And to cherish hopes that among them there will not be every year at least two people predisposed to committing heinous crimes is to be more than unreasonable: it is to be as crazy as they are.

Quite clearly, the problem is not that 120 million citizens have the right to bear arms. It is that a few thousand madmen are on the loose, and that there is nothing in the documents they present when purchasing a firearm to distinguish them from ordinary citizens (that would be “Discrimination!”). This explains both the occurrence of mass murders and the fact that these murders are so few when compared to the total number of firearms held by private citizens in America.

Ergo, what causes mass murders is not the fact that there are millions of guns in the hands of people who do not commit mass murders. It is the demagogic and absurd insistence on “not discriminating” the mentally ill, the insistence on treating them as if they were normal and responsible citizens, entitled to all democratic rights, including the right to bear arms.

Until the 1960s, mass murders of innocent people in the United States were unheard-of. The phenomenon of mass shootings accompanied pari passu the growth of “deinstitutionalization,” which gradually shut down lunatic asylums and released to the streets a growing number of mentally ill people, especially from the 1990s on. No, this is not a post hoc, ergo propter hoc sophism (that is, the fallacy of attributing the status of cause to mere chronology): the fact that all the perpetrators of mass shootings were mentally ill people who proves beyond any doubt the causal connection between the two series of events.

Is it necessary to clarify that “deinstitutionalization” was an offshoot of a Marxist theory, and that it was first proposed by the Italian psychiatrist Franco Basaglia, according to whom psychiatric hospitals are instruments of capitalist oppression against the poor? Basaglia died in 1980 and is not here to see the dire consequences of his theory. But if he were here, he would have no reason to be frustrated. Invariably, the masterminds of the revolutionary movement propose solutions which only aggravate problems, and, a few decades later, when no one remembers how problems got started, a new generation of revolutionaries throws the guilt of the intensified evils upon the darned society, proposing new aggravating solutions. Today’s advocates of gun control are Franco Basaglia’s strategic heirs.

In fact, not only regarding this issue has the left used its traditional expedient of creating trouble in order to sell solutions: the Obama administration, which promises so many wonders with gun control bills, has dawdled for four years over the enforcement of the existing laws, thus favoring irregular sales and facilitating events like Sandy Hook (

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

Who Rules The World?

From the readings of my youth, more than four decades ago, few questions struck me so much as that which is the title of the second part of José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses: “Who rules the world?”

The philosopher did not formulate the question in a metaphysical sense, where it could be answered with something like “God,” “chance,” “fate,” but in the geopolitical sense, and he arrived at the conclusion that it was a pity that Europe had lost its position of leadership in the world, yielding it to Russia and the United States.

However, the answer did not seem to match the question. In fact, states, nations, continents, and governments cannot rule anything. The actual rulers are individuals and groups that control states and nations. Prior to geo-politics is politics tout court. And here is where things get formidably complicated. It is easy to see what states or countries prevail over others. But finding out who really rules a state or country—and thereby may rule other states and countries as well—is a more daunting intellectual challenge than an ordinary political analyst can imagine.

The English verb “to command” ultimately derives from the Latin expression manus dare, that is, “to give one’s hands”: he who commands lends his means of action (his “hands”) to others so that they may perform something he has planned. It is true that rulers give orders to their subordinates, but when you look into the practice of ruling closely, you will see that only very few leaders in history—a Napoleon, a Stalin, a Reagan—were themselves the creators of the ideas they put into practice. Early theorists of the modern state hit the nail on the head when they coined the term “executive power”: in general, a statesman is an executor of ideas which he did not conceive nor would have the ability—or the time—to conceive. And those who conceived these ideas were the same ones who gave him the means to get into office to put them into practice. But who are they?

Applying the question to the specific case of the United States, the sociologist Charles Wright Mills, one of the mentors of the New Left, published a book in 1956 that would become a classic: The Power Elite. The answer he found took the form of a very complicated network of groups, families, corporations, official and unofficial intelligence services, cults, clubs, churches, and circles of overt and discreet personal relationships, including mistresses and call girls. In that picture, the American political class, which culminated in the person of a nominal ruler, appeared as foam on the surface of dark waters. Mills was obviously on the right track. But he died in 1962 and did not have the opportunity to witness a phenomenon that he himself helped bring about: the New Left itself has become the power elite and lost all interest in “transparency.” In fact, the New Left has taken great pains in becoming opaque, to the point of placing a complete unknown in the presidency of the most powerful country in the world and surrounding him with a protection wall that blocks any attempt to discover who he is, what he has done, with whom he walks, and what interests he represents. If you want to have an idea of what the power elite in the United States has been up to, you will have to look for information on the other end of the ideological spectrum, for it is conservatives who are the current inheritors of the tradition of studies inaugurated by Wright Mills.

 It is thanks to conservatives that the Fabian globalist elite, the living nucleus of power behind practically all governments of the West, has become visible in its composition and the details of its modus operandi to the point of almost obscenity, making some people’s insistence in calling that elite “a secret power” unintentionally comical. Google the words “Council on Foreign Relations,” “Bilderberg,” “Trilateral Comission” and the like, and you will get more information than your neurons will be able to process for the next ten years—information whose level of credibility ranges from scientific evidence to downright fabrication.

 In contrast, little or nothing is known of the deep sources of power in Russia, China, and Islamic countries. Even the descriptions we have of the visible ruling class in those regions of the globe are schematic and superficial, bearing no possible comparison with the meticulous Who’s Who of the Western elite. This is easily explained by differences in access to information sources. For it is one thing to research in Western archives and libraries, under the protection of the law and democratic institutions—and in the Unites States it is even possible for someone to pierce the barrier of official unwillingness through the Freedom of Information Act. It is a totally different thing to try to guess what goes behind the impenetrable walls of the Russian-Chinese establishment.

 Neither the KGB nor China’s secret services have ever allowed independent researchers to gain access to their files. Even the files of the Communist Party of the USSR were closed again after a brief period of tolerance, motivated not by some sudden love of freedom, but by the illusory conviction, soon to be dispelled, that Western researchers were mostly sympathetic to the Soviet regime.

 In the Islamic world, underneath the ruling class and the hurly-burly of terrorist groups there extends an unfathomable network of esoteric organizations, some of which being a thousand years old, whose power of influence varies greatly from one country to another and from time to time. These organizations, which are the spiritual core of Islam, the deep guarantee of its civilizational unity, and in the long term, the condition of possibility of Islamic worldwide expansion, are still perfectly unknown to Western, journalistic or even academic, political analysts.

The difference in visibility among the great globalist schemes in competition is the source of catastrophic errors in the description of the conflict of power in the world. I will explain some of these errors in upcoming articles.

200px-Olavo_de_Carvalho1Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

Socrates, a Sewer Rat, and Worms

The most essential, most vital part of Socrates’ philosophy is something he  cannot explain in concepts, something to which he is only able to allude through symbols, metaphors, and myths, which are, nonetheless, of so vibrant an eloquence that it becomes impossible for the reader not to realize that the distant and evanescent message Socrates alludes to is for him what is closest, most real, most immediately true.

We know that this message relates to three things. First, it points to the “unwritten laws,” the divine code that eternally hovers over social norms and the entire cosmos. But the divine order is not only a static set of rules. It also manifests itself as agency in the world, directing everything toward ultimate justice, and even penetrating into the intimacy of the human heart, inspiring it, through the whispers of a daimon, to do good, and warning it against the temptation of evil.

Does everyone have within himself a daimon? Does everyone have, deep inside at least, a distant echo of the eternal law?

Maybe so, but no one can hear it because everyone is distracted by the impact of sensorial stimuli and by the bewildering confusion of doxa—a body of foolish and mutually contradictory beliefs that, through repetition, custom, and endorsement by public authority, instill in their bearers a false sense of certainty.

Socrates is not a daimon, he is not the voice of divinity. He cannot breathe the truth into the hearts of his listeners. All he can do is try to remove the mental obstacles that keep them from seeing beyond impressions and doxa. These obstacles have been placed in their souls by education, habit, peer pressure, everyday conversations—in short, by culture. What Socrates does is take full possession of the means of influence created by culture and, perfecting them, turn these means against themselves. His art could be called “deconstruction,” had this term not, when it entered circulation in the twentieth century, become the name of one of the most vicious techniques designed by the representatives of doxa to block access to the “unwritten laws” and make social rules the ultimate limit of knowledge and existence.

Whatever the case, the direction that Socrates impressed upon philosophy will be unfailingly followed by Plato and Aristotle, and with slight modifications, will continue to inspire and guide philosophers until at least the eighteenth century. Platonic dialectic raises the participant up to where he can grasp something of the “unwritten laws,” but when dialectic gets to this point, it then gives way to mythical narrative or closes itself in the discreet circle of oral teaching, inaccessible to outsiders. Aristotle does not even try to express the divine laws: he only refers to God as “first unmoved mover,” but, by describing him as pure spirit constituted of noesis noeseos (“knowledge of knowledge” or, as we say today, “consciousness of consciousness”), he vetoes in advance any attempt to reify Him as external cause of material events (Dr. Richard Dawkins has not been notified of this yet) and thus paves the way for Dante to describe Him better as  l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle, “the love that moves the sun and the other stars,” the force that acts from the inmost of all beings and keeps them tied to a Center through the irresistible attraction of eternal love. This is a symbol that summarizes the three dimensions of divinity glimpsed by Socrates: the transcendent immutable law, the divine agency in the world, and the voice of God in the human heart.

The mission of philosophy is to lead souls up to the portal of the “unwritten laws” and then to become silent so that God Himself might begin to speak. Wittgenstein foresaw this somehow, but he then looked away. Long before him, Clement of Alexandria had realized this when he characterized philosophy as “a pedagogue who leads to Christ.”

Without this perspective, what goes by the name of philosophy can only be doxa struggling with itself to break free, with no way out, endlessly, like a rat trapped in a sewer pipe. One day the rat dies and begins to rot. Worms, then, take the initiative, decomposing the rat with a furiously analytical lust. At least some of them are driven by the blind hope of finding the “God particle” that will abolish the unwritten laws. Others know they will not find anything and move on precisely because of that: since there are no answers, the extinction of the questioners amounts to an answer. Nietzsche diving into the frenzy of syphilis, Michel Foucault self-destructing in rituals of sadomasochism, Louis Althusser confined to a mental hospital after killing his wife, were not merely adventitious events, just as the transmutation of philosophy into ideologies of genocide in the USSR, Germany, and China was not an accidental event either: all were inescapable conclusions of a wrong turn taken in a long argument that has crossed the centuries.

If philosophy has reached this point, why should one not expect the entire civilization to follow its example? Without a constant philosophical effort to rediscover the meaning of symbols in concrete experience, religious preaching itself, which believers take to be the voice of God, congeals into an oppressive verbal formalism, which is “fundamentalist” in the technical, and not the popular sense of the term. Insight into the unwritten laws is brought down to the level of pure “faith,” in the vulgar meaning of belief, and is expelled from the “secular” and “neutral” “high” culture.  The divine image of man splinters into millions of unconnected fragments, and each person, as long as he has money, power and a mass of activists, can impose upon others whatever morality suits him.

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota and revised by Graham Foster.

Hypnotic Contraption

The three main agents of the globalization process, as we saw in a previous article, are not species of the same genus: one is a group of governments, the other an international community of billionaires, the third a religious culture without borders, scattered even throughout enemy territory.

Only the first can be described in the usual terms of geopolitics, but insofar as the project of the Russian Empire expands into a “Eurasian empire,” any attempt to define it geopolitically encounters insurmountable obstacles. Since the Eurasian dominion also encompasses Islam, it borders on the comic that the great Russian strategist Aleksandr Dugin presents the contest for power in the world as a struggle between “land empires” and “maritime empires,” classifying “Eurasia” among the first, and the United States in the second group.

On the one hand, Islam, after having occupied its surrounding territories with great ease, achieved world-wide projection as a maritime power above all. In the second half of the ninth century—Paolo Taufer writes in his magnificent study “Islamic Expansionism Yesterday and Today—“all the major shipping routes were in fact controlled by the Muslims: from the Strait of Gibraltar to the South China Sea, from the ports of Egypt which communicate with the Red Sea to Syria.” As to Russia (then USSR), its power in the twentieth century was based less on the strength of their armies than on the active presence of the Communist Party and the Soviet secret service in all nations and continents. There was nothing “terrestrial” in the sprawling expansion of the Kremlin in Africa or Latin America. I cannot believe that Nikita Khrushchev’s soldiers brought on foot the missiles they installed in Cuba in 1962. The fight between the Land and Sea is not valid not even as a symbol, since a symbol only works when it bears within itself, synthetically, a multitude of actual facts, not fiction. The Eurasian empire is not a symbol, is a Sorelian myth—which is the same as saying: a huge carrot dangled on a stick to entice a donkey, a hypnotic contraption designed to put millions of idiots in pursuit of a future that will never be what it promises.

If the mission of an intellectual in dark times is to name names, to exorcise empty words, and change stupefying slogans for an accurate representation of the state of affairs, pro-Eurasian intellectuals fail miserably in fulfilling their duty. All they can claim as a mitigating factor is that the strategists of the two other globalizing blocks have also become notable less for their realism than for their prodigious ability to cloak the world under the projective image of their respective interests.

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was originally published in the Brazilian newspaper Diário do Comércio on March 7, 2011, and translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

The Duping of America: How the KGB-FSB Has Turned America Against Herself

If there is one obvious thing, it is that the predominant narrative in the media, show business, and intellectual circles, when it is not already determining the course of political events, will eventually determine it, sooner or later.

In the United States, the prevailing narrative has been echoing, point by point, for at least three decades without mentioning the source or, of course, copying its style the speech of the anti-American propaganda that has been circulated by the government of the USSR since the end of World War II.

There is no charge, no disparaging myth, no defamatory stereotype that has not been both absorbed by the major opinion-forming agencies in America and passed on to the population as a genuine made-in-USA product, as a common sense datum, or as a spontaneous belief of good people. From the cases of McCarthy, Alger Hiss, and Rosenberg on, there has been no Soviet lie that was not joyfully endorsed by the establishment and that has not ended up being contradicted by irrefutable documentary evidence thirty or forty years later, too late for its political effects to be reversed (see Ronald Radosh, The Rosenberg File, 1997; E. Stanton Evans Blacklisted by History, 2007; Christina Shelton, Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason, 2012).

As the raw material of these shams always appear refashioned in a local language adapted to the usual feelings of the American public, nobody, or almost nobody, remembers to track down its origin. However, anybody who did it would have to end up agreeing with what Malachi Martin once said: that over the last century there has been only one acting force on the international scene, the USSR. All the other characters have had no initiative of their own: they confined themselves to adapting, hastily and clumsily, to situations created by the Soviet scene directors, whose calculations both anticipated and took advantage of the other characters’ reactions.

Everything that has been sold, praised, and criticized as “anti-Communism” in the West has never gone beyond a belated and weak response from stunned victims to a comprehensive, long-term strategy, whose scope they barely came to catch a glimpse of.

Few things illustrate the notion of “passive response” so clearly as the American policy of “containment,” which sought to set boundaries to the expansion of the Soviet empire, a policy which, at the time, Western narrow-mindedness praised as a masterpiece of strategic genius and Communist hypocrisy, barely suppressing its laughter, condemned as the epitome of Yankee imperial intrusion. All this policy managed to do was tie the hands of the West itself, while the USSR freely spread its tentacles throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, and, of course, the highest spheres of the American intellectuality and media.

But perhaps the masterpiece of pathetic helplessness was the Western governments’ insistence on the false cleverness which sought to play “left-wing anti-Communists ”against the URSS. They did this in the hope of dividing the Communist hosts, when in fact all those things that democratic leftists proposed had been already integrated into the Soviet plans for the grand farce of the “fall of the USSR,” which in less than a decade would transfigure the seemingly death of the Communist movement into a triumphant resurrection and a succession of spectacular victories (see Jean-Francois Revel, Last Exit to Utopia: the Survival of Socialism in a Post-Soviet Era, 2009), included among them, not long afterwards, the election of one of its most faithful servants for the presidency of the United States.

Even the most legitimate conservatives insist on seeing the left-oriented transformations of American society and politics as a result of indigenous processes, a consequence of the agency of their execrated liberals, and they will not admit that the latter have never, ever taken the intellectual initiative in any of these processes, but have merely echoed and passed on to others, in the traditional language of democracy, the slogans and clichés of the international Communist propaganda. Mesmerized by a kind of cognitive patriotism, the cream of American conservatism imagines that in its homeland resides the creative source of everything good and bad that happens in the world, and in so doing, it ends up casting upon the genuine authors of those transformations a protective cloak of invisibility. Obsessively committed to escaping the accusation of  being “conspiracy theorists,” those devoted guardians of Americanism cling to those explanations that seem more credible to the general public, that is, credible precisely to those people who are the least qualified to give an opinion on matters so complex and labyrinthine. For fear of becoming an object of laughter to the ignorant, conservatives purposely lower themselves to the level of average stupidity, sacrificing their intelligence in a ritual of self-castration at the altar of respectable appearances.

Do you want another example of this? Testimony after testimony, document after document prove that Muslim radicalism has not sprung spontaneously from the Islamic society, Islamic culture, but was created by the Soviet intelligence services and is still fed and monitored by Russian agents (read Ion Mihai Pacepa at and Claire Berlinski at -arab-spring). Nevertheless, the U.S. government continues to treat Vladimir Putin as a most trustworthy partner, while conservative intellectuals produce tons of piously Christian rhetoric to cast the blame for terrorism on thirteen-centuries-old Koranic traditions, helping the action of the KGB-FSB get under Islamic camouflage, which, precisely, was in that agency’s plans from the outset.

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota and originally published on USA Survival News on June 27, 2012.

Discreet Influences

When the Swiss painter and poet Frithjof Schuon (1907–1998) returned from the East in the forties, transfigured into the supreme master of one of the most influential Muslim esoteric organizations and announcing that he would Islamize Europe, he gave the clear impression of being completely mad. Today it behooves us to examine with humility his words and the course of his actions, whose overwhelming efficiency contrasts with the total discretion with which they were undertaken.

To begin with, the creation of Schuon’s tariqah (Islamic initiation lodge) in Lausanne was hailed by the esoteric writer René Guénon (1886–1951) as the only promising result of his own efforts of four decades. This clearly shows the meaning of those efforts and, the later rupture between Guénon and Schuon notwithstanding, evinces the perfect continuity of the work of these two esoterists, whose respective disciples nowadays prefer hating one another to celebrating the common victory over a spiritually weakened Europe.

Guénon, the author of masterly analyses of the decay of the European West, had concluded in the 1920s that only three roads offered themselves to this civilization: the fall into barbarism, the restoration of the Catholic Church, or Islamization. On uttering those words about Frithjof Schuon, he had already given up the second alternative. The fiasco of the Second Vatican Council, whose appearances the popes have in vain been trying to save, proved in the end that his diagnosis was, in outline, correct.

The radically de-Christianized Europe is today the stage of an open strife between barbarism and Islamism. There is no third way, apparently (“secular civilization” is a joke). The possibility of rescuing the Christian option depends entirely on the American influence or on the admirable dedication of Eastern and African priests and pastors, who, in a paradoxical turn of history, have come to try to recatechize the people by whom they were Christianized.

The action of such characters as Guénon and Schuon goes unnoticed by the media, political analysts, and “intellectuals” in general, whose eyes are hypnotically fixed upon the garish surface of events. But without it the “occupation from within” by means of immigration would have remained innocuous for lack of the cultural conditions that disarmed the European intellectual and political elite. Guénon and Schuon contributed much to create them, subjugating the uppermost and most circumspect strata of this elite to the intellectual superiority of the East in every decisive area except the natural sciences and technology.

Guénon wrote his first articles under the pseudonym Sphynx, denoting that his readers had no choice but to profit from his lessons intelligently or to let themselves be dominated without ever understanding them. In a single European country those lessons have been meditated with serious intent by independent thinkers: Romania. When I lived in Bucharest, I found there not a single eminent intellectual who did not have a profound and critical understanding of Guénon’s work.

What has been seen in the rest of Europe is the oscillation between obtuse rejection and devout submission, including a significant number of secret conversions to Islam and the regimentation of many intellectuals and leaders—among them the prospective king of England—into the scheme of state protection of Islamic expansionism. It is no coincidence that Romania is one of the rare European countries where the Muslim penetration is negligible.

To give an idea of how powerful the subtle influence of Guénon and Schuon has been, it suffices to inform that the latter interfered directly in producing the crisis between Monsignor Lefèvre and the Vatican in 1976, and until now the Catholic historians—whether progressive or conservative—have not taken the slightest notice of that.

I know that this article of mine is addressed to few readers and that, among these, some of those who can more or less understand it will definitely hate it. But there are things that one must say just in order not to be accused, in the future, of bearing witness only too late.

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was originally published in the newspaper Jornal do Brasil on May 8, 2008, and translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota and Bruno Mori.