- Capitalism and Alternatives -

A difference between teaching and issuing communiqués

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on December 07, 1999 at 16:32:08:

After a few moments of good discussion with a group of peasants, silence fell on us and enveloped us all. What one of them had said then, in Portuguese, was the same thing as I had heard tonight in Spanish -- a literal translation of what the Chilean peasant had said this evening.
"Fine," I had told them. "I know. You don't. But why do I know and you don't?"
Accepting his statement, I prepared the ground for my intervention. A vivacious sparkle in them all. Suddenly curiosity was kindled. The answer was not long in coming.
"You know because you're a doctor, sir, and we're not."
"Right. I'm a doctor and you're not. But why am I a doctor and you're not?"
"Because you've gone to school, you've read things, studied things, and we haven't."
"And why have I been to school?"
"Because your dad could send you to school. Ours couldn't."
"And why couldn't your parents send you to school?"
"Because they were peasants like us."
"And what is being a peasant?"
"It's not having an education... not owning anything... working from sun to sun... having no rights... having no hope"
"And why doesn't a peasant have any of this?"
"The will of God."
"And who is God?"
"The Father of us all."
"And who is a father here this evening?"
Almost all raised their hands, and said they were.
I looked around the group without saying anything. Then I picked out one of them and asked him, "How many children do you have?"
"Would you be willing to sacrifice two of them, and make them suffer so that the other one could go to school, and have a good life, in Recife? Could you love your children that way?"
"Well, if you," I said, "a person of flesh and bones, could not commit an injustice like that -- how could God commit it? Could God really be the cause of these things?
A different kind of silence. Completely different from the first. A silence in which something began to be shared. Then:
"No. God isn't the cause of all this. It's the boss!"
Perhaps for the first time, those peasants were making an effort to get beyond the relationship that I called, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, that of the "adherence" of the oppressed to the oppressor; in order to "step back" from the oppressor, and localize the oppressor "outside" themselves, as Fanon would say.
From that point of departure, we could have gotten to an understanding of the role of the "boss," in the context of a certain socioeconomic, political system -- gotten to an understanding of class interests, and so on and so on.
What would have been completely senseless would have been if, after the silence that had so brusquely interrupted our dialogue, I had given a traditional speech, crammed with empty, intolerant slogans.

-Paulo Freire, from Pedagogy of Hope, pp. 47-49.

Follow Ups:

The Debating Room Post a Followup