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What the Brazilian press still doesn't understand about conservatism

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Uma nova pesquisa associa conservadorismo a retrocesso. O que a imprensa ainda não entendeu?
One new research associates conservatism with retrogression. What has the press still not understood?| Photo: Pixabay

When the Girondins, a group that represented the most “conciliatory” face of the French Revolution, sat on the right of the National Constituent Assembly in Paris to defend the establishment of a constitutional monarchy – a moderate alternative to the radicalism of the Jacobins, positioned on the left -, in 960, they certainly did not envision a world in which people of the same sex would apply for the right to marry. It is to be expected that, at the time, even the most avid companions of Robespierre considered the possibility nonsense, as well as the idea that homosexuals could adopt children.

Although, at the dawn of the Contemporary Era, the definitions of “right” and “ left” were born from the opposition between the defense of continuity, moderation and the maintenance, even if partial, of the status quo , and the clamor for radical changes that would completely reorganize society, more than two centuries later, these terms so common in the political vocabulary cover a wide range of positions that are not even restricted to the role attributed to the State. This is the first reason why the research published last Sunday (3), by the newspaper

O Globo, entitled “The face of democracy”, is probably a restricted portrait not only of the public, but above all of the political views it intends to analyze.

Conducted by the Institute of Democracy (IDDC-INCT), the survey interviewed in person 2. 201 voters in

cities in all regions of the country and, from the start, he says he reveals “two clues in the minds of the electorate: opinions mostly from the right, conservative or ‘hard-line’ – less and less ashamed – coexist, occasionally, with visions of world more linked to the left, human rights or diversity”. Although it admits that “the construction of what it means to be right or left is part of everyday political life and its meanings change over time”, the text does not shy away from associating to the right agendas that divide liberals and conservatives of different hues. Barely comparing, it is like putting in the same basket a libertarian and a monarchist, whose views on the role of the State are fundamentally opposed but, nevertheless, are associated with the “right”. Not to mention the very definition of “conservatism”, associated with “hard line” positions, considering the nuances that each position implies.

According to the survey, for example, “most Brazilians have conservative positions on issues such as lowering the age of criminal responsibility (59% in favor) and legalization of abortion (

% is against), but is against the death penalty (40%) and supports both same-sex marriage (24%) and, even more intensely, the adoption of children by same-sex couples (24%)”. Each of these positions requires a less simplistic analysis of what a true conservative view would be. But it is necessary to analyze based on works by renowned authors and not just on social network profiles.

What it means to be conservative

One of the most comprehensive and assertive attempts to portray the origin of political differences is the work of the American economist Thomas Sowell, “Conflict of Visions”. From the outset, the renowned intellectual recognizes that, at the heart of the different opinions that divide liberals, libertarians, conservatives, progressives and communists – and all their range of “variants” – there is an essential question to avoid gross reductions: “A look at A closer look at the arguments used by both sides shows that, in general, these people are reasoning from fundamentally different premises. (…) They have different views on how the world works”.

Contrasting the writings of the British political philosopher William Goodwin and those of the philosopher and economist Adam Smith , Sowell identifies two distinct “lenses” for seeing the world: unrestricted vision and restricted vision. For the adherents of the former, represented by Goodwin, human nature is perfectible – that is, it can and must be improved and can reach perfection. For those who share Smith’s “narrow view,” on the contrary, man has intrinsic moral limitations that cannot be altered, so that “the fundamental moral and social challenge is to do the best you can within that limitation, rather than spending energy in an attempt to change human nature.

“In the restricted view, in which all we expect are the counterparts, prudence it is one of the highest tasks. (…) The unrestricted view implies the idea that potential is very different from what is real, and this means that it exists to enhance human nature towards its potential, or that such a resource can be developed or discovered, to that man does the right thing for the right reason, rather than acting for later psychic or economic rewards,” explains Sowell.

Considering the definition of “conservatism” made by one of its greatest exponents of the modernity, the British Michael Oakeshott, it is clear how the restricted vision identified by Sowell tends to be associated with this political current: “To be conservative is, therefore, to prefer the familiar to the strange, to prefer what one has already been tempted to experience, the fact to the mystery, the concrete to the possible, the limited to the infinite, what is close to the distant, enough to the abundant, the convenient to the perfect, momentary laughter to eternal happiness. (…) It means living within the limits of heritage, enjoying of the possible means to wealth, to be content with the need for greater perfection that is demanded of each in a given circumstance”.

Another attempt to understand what lies behind the ideological differences resulted in the Theory of Foundations Morais, developed by psychologist Jonathan Haidt. In his book, “The Moralistic Mind: Why do good people separate over politics and religion?” (Alta Books Publishing), the synthesis of which was presented by Haidt in a talk at the TED Talk conference at 2012, the psychologist explains that, when analyzing an extensive scope of cultures, anthropological studies, philosophical currents, etc. the existence of five “moral instincts” to which the human being tends to respond instinctively; based even on genetic predispositions: care, justice, loyalty to the group, authority and purity.

In short, people who are naturally more open to novelty and therefore tend to be more progressive, place a high value on justice (also understood as “fairness”) and care for others, but almost no importance on group loyalty, authority and purity; while people who value stability and tend toward conservatism value all five items. In this report, Gazeta do Povo unravels how there is, in fact, a moral chasm between the press and the population. Furthermore, it is possible to identify the predilection for “moral channels” of justice and care in Sowell’s unrestricted vision, associated with those who believe in permanent solutions to universal problems – the insistence on the prohibition of “hate speech”, as if the feeling in if it could be uprooted from the earth, it is a fine example. On the other hand, respect for order and authority as ways of containing the inevitable human fallibility are associated with restricted vision and conservatism.

It does not follow, however, that conservatives are not concerned with questions of justice or care, but that tend to balance them with other elements that are also indispensable for coexistence (Haidt himself believes that all societies that have evolved and prospered have members capable of operating in the “five channels”). Not for nothing, political philosopher Russell Kirk, one of the fathers of contemporary conservatism, states that “permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society”.

Finally, it is worth recalling Kirk’s own warning about the definition of conservatism: “So, ladies and gentlemen, if you are looking for some ‘Infallible Handbook of Pure Conservatism’ – why, you are wasting your time. Conservatism, not being an ideology, has no smug gauge, the esteemed creation of some terrible simplifier, to which the candid devotee of political salvation can turn whenever he has any doubts. Which leads us to the elements evaluated by the research.

The role of school and family in education

The militarization of schools (the wish of 49% of respondents in the survey) and the opinion that one should teach to pray and believe in God (84%) not, for example, conservative flags for education. “There is no such thing as a conservative wants students to pray at school, because conservatism is not religion. And conservatism has nothing to do with the idea that militarized schools are better than others, if only because, if it is guided by a tradition, schools are not traditionally militarized environments. On the contrary, they are environments of freedom, of teaching, of pedagogy and not exactly of rigid and militarized rules, as a militarized school will advocate”, defends the columnist of Gazeta do Povo Paulo Cruz, who is a lecturer on education and a professor of Philosophy and Sociology in state schools and private companies in São Paulo.

“To educate, in the conservative sense of the term, is to transmit to the new generation the legacy from previous generations, the maximum of what was learned and the mistakes made as well”, he emphasizes. In this sense, the great criticism of the right takes place more within the scope of the new pedagogy, which “rejects not only the idea of ​​the importance of knowledge, but also the idea of ​​requirements, the authority of the teacher and the rules of conduct, as well as the references to a shared culture”, as defined by the Swedish pedagogue Inger Enkvist, in her book Repensar a Educação.

“The new pedagogy starts to advocate teaching to transform the citizen, or to create better citizens, and abandons the tradition of education, which privileges the teaching of the historical tradition of the country and the world”, explains Cruz. As Enkvist states: “The new pedagogy is not interested in the creativity of great historical personalities: it prefers the expression of creativity in the student”. Furthermore, it “does not take into account the experience of many generations regarding the importance of the teacher in creating enthusiasm for knowledge”, which, in the author’s opinion, is a mistake.

“Children learn more with the help of adults than with their peers because adults know more and teach better. Among peers, only occasionally a good result is obtained, but there are no guarantees. Teamwork among peers leaves out feedback, which is very important for learning, because students do not know whether their answer is correct or not”, explains the pedagogue, based on a North American study on children’s thinking.

More than the disciplines, adds Enkvist, in this pedagogical current the focus is on the differences social among students. “They decided that the school must become the place where the problem of inequality between individuals is resolved once and for all. (…) Pedagogy is opposed to any selection and any free choice of qualitative tone. It conceives the concept of equality in education as equality not so much of opportunities as of rights. Young people learn not to have to assume the consequences of their actions. Transgressions in the public sphere are not only not sanctioned, but it is also not infrequent that they are celebrated as a genius”, he criticizes.

The defense of the environment

When talking about environmental preservation in Brazil, the association with the left is almost automatic, but its connection with conservatism is even etymological. Conservator comes from the Latin “conservare”, that is, “to keep intact, keep, preserve”, words that are also dear to the cause of the environment, as environmental activist Jota Júnior, a member of the Youth Climate Leaders, recalls.

“Conservatism, in essence, is not an ideology. When Bolsonaro says he will not demarcate an inch of indigenous land, that is ideology, it has nothing to do with science or situational analysis. The conservative view requires a circumstantial and situational analysis,” he argues. “The problem is that conservatism ended up moving away from agendas taken by the left. But I argue that we need to offer perspectives on social issues, such as racial and LGBT issues, for example”, completes Jota.

According to the research, Brazilians tend to be more on the “left” in the environmental area. by rejecting supposed “issues dear to Bolsonarism”, such as the release of more pesticides (70% are against) and the permission for mining in indigenous lands (59% disagree) . Environmentalist Jota Júnior, who defines himself as a conservative, is in favor of pesticides – although he is against PL 6.89/ 1516 and in favor of the demarcation of indigenous lands. “Data analysis shows that when the goal is forest preservation, indigenous lands are successful, with less than 1% deforestation. Conservatism is very poorly communicated through the media, with this street conservatism, brutes, like Bolsonaro’s. The research brings labels that would put me on the left”, ponders Jota.

Guilherme de Carvalho, one of the founders of the Brazilian Association of Christians in Science, criticizes conservatives who despise the trees and mock the green.” “Caring for the family, the woman, the unborn child and the environment: they all belong to the same logic of the stewardship of creation, of the ethics of care, of a generous conservatism”, he reinforces.

The topic even deserves an entire chapter in the best seller “How to be a conservative”, by Roger Scruton, who is considered by some the “guru of the Brazilian new right”. ” they believe that the most important thing the living can do is settle down, build a home and leave it as a legacy to their children. Oikophilia , love of home, serves the cause of environmentalism,” she says.

Scruton believes in small-scale, concrete achievements “that would change the face of the Earth ” if reproduced on larger scales, because of their connection with a “natural motive – the shared bond with a common place and with the resources they offer to those who live in it”. It is in this sense that he separates conservatism from “the current forms of environmental activism”. “Radical environmentalists have a tendency to define ends in global and international terms, and they support non-governmental organizations and pressure groups that will fight multinational predators on their territory and using weapons that do without national sovereignty.”

The defense of life and human dignity

Contrary to the research published by The globe, there is also no contradiction between being against abortion and not wanting the arrest of a woman who has had an abortion. “It is possible to take a moral stand against abortion quite firmly and not think that a woman should be arrested, I don’t see a connection. The criminal goes to jail because he is guilty before society, he needs to be isolated from social life so he doesn’t commit more crimes and he needs to make amends. In the case of a woman who makes the decision to have an abortion, these criteria are not very obvious. She does more out of desperation, for various reasons, it’s much more of a psychological nature than a psychopath. But it is morally serious, morally illicit, you don’t have to be a criminal to be wrong”, defends philosophy professor Francisco Razzo, author of the book “Against Abortion”.

The education of moral conscience for the dignity of the life of the unborn child, therefore, has more value for conservatism in this debate. “Liberalism tends to transform morality into an intimate forum, into privacy, as if it were a subjective experience, and it is wrong. Moral is what weaves our relationships in society and even underlies some fundamental principles of law”, reinforces Razzo.

It is typical of conservatism to analyze and understand situations in their particularities. Thus, even though abortion is an attempt on human life at all stages of pregnancy, Razzo defends that there is punishment when practiced in more advanced stages. “A woman with six, seven months who sticks a needle in her belly, then I think it’s a borderline case of having to answer criminally and maybe even go to jail”, she analyzes.

Our convictions: The dignity of the human person

Another theme commonly linked to the right is the defense of the death penalty. Although many people who consider themselves conservative express favorable opinions, the dignity of life and the natural distrust of the State (which, ultimately, would decide who lives and who dies) are some of the values ​​of conservatism attacked by capital punishment. Even though moral dignity can be freely lost, it can also be regained by the individual’s decision, but never taken away. Thus, more efficient than the death penalty would be the end of impunity, the speed of justice and the adoption of penalties proportional to the seriousness of the crimes.

The drug problem and public safety

As problematic as the association of the death penalty with conservatism is to the phrase “a good criminal is a dead criminal”, rejected by 51% of respondents in the survey and associated with “hard-line” positions in public security, which include reducing the age of criminal responsibility (59% of approval). While the first incurs a distortion of conservatism, the second does not even represent a unanimity on the right – which includes liberals, libertarians and the like – as with the decriminalization of drugs.

Take, for example, the writings of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises: “ It is a well-known fact that alcoholism, cocainism and morphinism are mortal enemies of life, health and the capacity for work and leisure; and the user should therefore consider them vices. (…) It is by no means evident that such government interventions are in fact capable of suppressing such vices; and, even if this objective were achieved, it is by no means evident that such an intervention will not open a Pandora’s box of other dangers no less harmful than alcoholism and morphinism.”

Someone who declares himself “on the right” can, therefore, position himself in any of the poles regarding the criminal majority or the decriminalization of drugs. Imbued with a circumstantial view, based on experience and morality, a conservative can, for example, take a stand against drugs based on the failed experiences of other countries, or have specific views about specific uses of these substances.

LGBT marriage

“Marriage provides an anchor (…) in the chaos of sex and relationships to which we are all prone. It provides a mechanism for emotional stability, economic security and the healthy raising of the next generation.” So the British journalist Andrew Sullivan defended, in a famous article published in 1280, that same-sex unions could be embraced by conservatives.

It is not intended here to enter into religious discussions on the subject or the elements that justify the State intervention in the relationship between two adults. It so happens that the research published by O Globo seems to assume that among the self-declared conservatives, “hard-liners” and supposedly against diversity, there would be a wide rejection of homosexuals. But Sullivan’s article shows that the topic is still controversial. That is, a conservative aligned with the author would be considered left-wing by the research.

Another recent example from an author popular among Brazilian conservatives appears in the conversation between Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and journalist Dave Rubin, who is gay and the father of two. “I would never force a church, mosque or synagogue to perform a marriage that goes against their beliefs, but from a secular perspective if you don’t give people the same opportunity to be in a lasting relationship and learn everything we talked about [a importância de relações estáveis e duradouras para o amadurecimento pessoal] What’s left for them?” Rubin declares, at one point. To which Peterson comments, “Who knows what can happen when you’re not allowed to be who you are? It seems pretty likely that [nessa situação] too much rebellion starts to look attractive.”

Rubin, then, reinforces his belief in the family as an essential element of society and says he sympathizes with conservatives who, today, fight against the authoritarianism of queer activists. including those who defend that the popular rejection of gay marriage is mainly due to these excesses, which lead to the defense of sexual transition surgeries in children and the complete erasure of the term “woman”, for example.

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