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Brazilian Dialogue

Small 'p' political discussion necessary

People often ask whether or not politics should enter into a column such as Brazilian Dialogue. Well, party politics, no, but small "p" politics, yes.

The German dramatist, Bertolt Brecht, once wrote: "The worst illiterate is the political illiterate. He hears nothing, sees nothing, takes no part in political life. He doesn't seem to know that the cost of living, the price of beans, of flour, of rent, of medicines all depend on political decisions. He even prides himself on his political ignorance, sticks out his chest and says he hates politics. He doesn't know, the imbecile, that from his political non-participation comes the prostitute, the abandoned child, the robber and, worst of all, corrupt officials, the lackeys of exploitive multinational corporations."

When the monthly Brazilian church magazine Sem Fronteiras (Without Borders) still adhered to this Brechtian view (it had its teeth pulled in the early 1990s), each issue carried a short comic strip called Arthur, Champion Wall-sitter. In the December 1993 issue Arthur is rejoicing in the Christmas night when, as Shakespeare said, the world is hushed in reverence, "so lovely and gracious is the time." Arthur is so moved that he decides to build a chapel for the baby Jesus right there on top of the wall he inhabits. And then -- swoosh -- the baby Jesus disappears.

Jesus was certainly no fence-sitter, neither in his actions or in his spoken words and consequently found himself constantly the target of opposition and persecution.

I've just reread the PM article by George Monbiot May 1, 2002, reprinted from a British publication. Monbiot describes how the U.S. government had the Brazilian head of the UN's commission enforcing its Chemical Weapons Convention, Jose Bustani, removed from office.

His offence? The U.S., just like Iraq, has refused to allow weap-ons inspectors and Bustani was insisting that his commission intended to examine facilities in the United States with the same rigour with which it examines facilities anywhere else.

The U.S. government won and Bustani was removed from office April 22.

And where's the media? With few exceptions, sitting on Arthur's wall, talking no sides, merely relating the news. Or, if some in the media do comment, they parrot the superpower's line.

Yes, we need to engage in small "p" political dialogue.

Al Gerwing