quinta-feira, janeiro 31, 2008

304) A Sharia, por uma especialista

O fundamentalismo está na própria Sharī'ah

Precisamos tratar o movimento fundamentalista, não como um movimento religiosamente cismático em relação à ortodoxia (isto é, à Sharī'ah), mas qual é realmente, isto é, como movimento que se coloca no coração da Sharī'ah, da forma como esta foi fixada e dogmatizada até o quinto século da Hégira, e que vive, desde então, estagnada na repetição vazia e sem alma de seu próprio passado. [...]
A diferença entre o Islã ortodoxo, oficial, legal, aparentemente "religioso" e piedoso, e o Islã agressivo, violento, materialista e completamente politizado dos fundamentalistas, de fato não vai além do comportamento político de um e do outro. As duas formas se baseiam nas mesmas referencias teológicas, partilham a mesma percepção (e indiferença) cultural, propõem ou defendem o mesmo projeto de sociedade. A diferença é que um está no poder, e tenta manter o status quo, o outro o reivindica, e brada por mudanças. [...]
O fundamentalismo não irá desaparecer da cena do mundo, enquanto o Islã ortodoxo (sunita ou xiita, não importa) não passar por uma revisão crítica, que ponha em evidência seus mecanismos caducos, ultrapassados, parados no tempo, e amarrados às estruturas de poder atuais. Em seu último livro, A doença do Islã, A. Meddeb analiza o fundamentalismo como "um Islã magro e pobre, que opera contra o próprio Islã enquanto civilização e cultura". Esta mesma análise poderia ser dilatada até afirmar que o mesmo papel negativo coube historicamente à ortodoxia esclerosante dos 'ulamā' e dos fuqahā' que moldou a Sharī'ah desde o quinto século da Hégira, aquela mesma que assumiu uma atitude de inquisição e prendeu ou exilou mentes iluminadas como Ibn Rūshd (Averroés) ou Ibn Tufayl. Para dar nome aos bois, podemos citar o ideólogo hanbalita Ibn Taymia, o grande inquisidor Ibn al-Jawzi (século 12) ou, mais perto de nós, Hassan al-Banna, fundador dos Irmãos Muçulmanos, e al-Mawdudi, que difundiu o fundamentalismo no continente indiano. [...] Este fundamentalismo latente na Sharī'ah e por conseqüência em boa parte da Ummah conseguiu até agora abortar qualquer tentativa de elaboração de uma "mediação" entre a fé e as exigências da modernidade (como aquela operada no Cristianismo), unicamente pela força da pressão objetiva que exerce na área social e cultural, sem nem entrar no mérito religioso. [...]
A ortodoxia e a própria Sharī'ah, da forma como ela é teorizada e aplicada atualmente, são o terreno de cultivo do fundamentalismo; isto se traduz numa aliança objetiva, política e cultural, entre uma e o outro, aliança tácita, não declarada, ou até negada.
Para concluir, o fundamentalismo é a expressão atual, política e ideologicamente ofensiva, contestadora, retrograda e anti-moderna, da ortodoxia que controla a Sharī'ah.

Latifa Lakhdar
Professora de Ciências Humanas e sociais na universidade de Tunis.

terça-feira, janeiro 29, 2008

303) Velha Europa, velhas ideias...

Não só na Europa..., conheço um pais onde o mesmo se passa:

By Stefan Theil
Foreign Policy, January/February 2008

In France and Germany, students are being forced to undergo a dangerous indoctrination. Taught that economic principles such as capitalism, free markets, and entrepreneurship are savage, unhealthy, and immoral, these children are raised on a diet of prejudice and bias. Rooting it out may determine whether Europe’s economies prosper or continue to be left behind.

Millions of children are being raised on prejudice and disinformation. Educated in schools that teach a skewed ideology, they are exposed to a dogma that runs counter to core beliefs shared by many other Western countries. They study from textbooks filled with a doctrine of dissent, which they learn to recite as they prepare to attend many of the better universities in the world. Extracting these children from the jaws of bias could mean the difference between world prosperity and menacing global rifts. And doing so will not be easy. But not because these children are found in the madrasas of Pakistan or the state-controlled schools of Saudi Arabia. They are not. Rather, they live in two of the world’s great democracies—France and Germany.

What a country teaches its young people reflects its bedrock national beliefs. Schools hand down a society’s historical narrative to the next generation. There has been a great deal of debate over the ways in which this historical ideology is passed on—over Japanese textbooks that downplay the Nanjing Massacre, Palestinian textbooks that feature maps without Israel, and new Russian guidelines that require teachers to portray Stalinism more favorably. Yet there has been almost no analysis of how countries teach economics, even though the subject is equally crucial in shaping the collective identity that drives foreign and domestic policies.

Just as schools teach a historical narrative, they also pass on “truths” about capitalism, the welfare state, and other economic principles that a society considers self-evident. In both France and Germany, for instance, schools have helped ingrain a serious aversion to capitalism. In one 2005 poll, just 36 percent of French citizens said they supported the free-enterprise system, the only one of 22 countries polled that showed minority support for this cornerstone of global commerce. In Germany, meanwhile, support for socialist ideals is running at all-time highs—47 percent in 2007 versus 36 percent in 1991.

It’s tempting to dismiss these attitudes as being little more than punch lines to cocktail party jokes. But their impact is sadly and seriously self-destructive. In Germany, unemployment is finally falling after years at Depression-era levels, thanks in no small part to welfare reforms that in 2005 pressured Germans on the public dole to take up jobs. Yet there is near consensus among Germans that, despite this happy outcome, tinkering with the welfare state went far beyond what is permissible. Chancellor Angela Merkel, once heralded as Germany’s own Margaret Thatcher, has all but abandoned her plans to continue free-market reforms. She has instead imposed a new “rich people tax,” has tightened labor-market rules, and has promised renewed efforts to “regulate” globalization. Meanwhile, two in three Germans say they support at least some of the voodoo-economic, roll-back-the-reforms platform of a noisy new antiglobalization political party called Die Linke (The Left), founded by former East German communists and Western left-wing populists.

Many of these popular attitudes can be traced to state-mandated curricula in schools. It is there that economic lessons are taught that diverge substantially from the market-based principles on which the Western model is based. The phenomenon may hardly be unique to Europe, but in few places is it more obvious than in France and Germany. A biased view of economics feeds into many of the world’s most vexing problems, from the growth of populism to the global rise of anti-American, anti-capitalist attitudes.

“Economic growth imposes a hectic form of life, producing overwork, stress, nervous depression, cardiovascular disease and, according to some, even the development of cancer,” asserts the three-volume Histoire du XXe siècle, a set of texts memorized by countless French high school students as they prepare for entrance exams to Sciences Po and other prestigious French universities. The past 20 years have “doubled wealth, doubled unemployment, poverty, and exclusion, whose ill effects constitute the background for a profound social malaise,” the text continues. Because the 21st century begins with “an awareness of the limits to growth and the risks posed to humanity [by economic growth],” any future prosperity “depends on the regulation of capitalism on a planetary scale.” Capitalism itself is described at various points in the text as “brutal,” “savage,” “neoliberal,” and “American.” This agitprop was published in 2005, not in 1972.

When French students are not getting this kind of wildly biased commentary on the destruction wreaked by capitalism, they are learning that economic progress is also the root cause of social ills. For example, a one-year high school course on the inner workings of an economy developed by the French Education Ministry called Sciences Economiques et Sociales, spends two thirds of its time discussing the sociopolitical fallout of economic activity. Chapter and section headings include “Social Cleavages and Inequality,” “Social Mobilization and Conflict,” “Poverty and Exclusion,” and “Globalization and Regulation.” The ministry mandates that students learn “worldwide regulation as a response” to globalization. Only one third of the course is about companies and markets, and even those bits include extensive sections on unions, government economic policy, the limits of markets, and the dangers of growth. The overall message is that economic activity has countless undesirable effects from which citizens must be protected.

No wonder, then, that the French default attitude is to be suspicious of market forces and private entrepreneurship, not to mention any policies that would strengthen them. Start-ups, Histoire du XXe siècle tells its students, are “audacious enterprises” with “ill-defined prospects.” Then it links entrepreneurs with the tech bubble, the Nasdaq crash, and mass layoffs across the economy. (Think “creative destruction” without the “creative.”) In one widely used text, a section on technology and innovation does not mention a single entrepreneur or company. Instead, students read a lengthy treatise on whether technological progress destroys jobs. In another textbook, students actually meet a French entrepreneur who invented a new tool to open oysters. But the quirky anecdote is followed by a long-winded debate over the degree to which the modern workplace is organized along the lines imagined by Frederick Taylor, the father of modern scientific management theory. And just in case they missed it in history class, students are reminded that “cultural globalization” leads to violence and armed resistance, ultimately necessitating a new system of global governance.

This is a world apart from what American high school students learn. In the United States, where fewer than half of high school students take an economics course, most classes are based on straightforward, classical economics. In Texas, the state-prescribed curriculum requires that the positive contribution of entrepreneurs to the local economy be taught. The state of New York, meanwhile, has coordinated its curriculum with entrepreneurship-promoting youth groups such as Junior Achievement, as well as with economists at the Federal Reserve. Do American schools encourage students to follow in the footsteps of Bill Gates or become ardent fans of globalization? Not really. But they certainly aren’t filling students with negative preconceptions and suspicions about businesses and the people who run them. Nor do they obsess about the negative side effects and dangers of economic activity the way French textbooks do.

French students, on the other hand, do not learn economics so much as a very specific, highly biased discourse about economics. When they graduate, they may not know much about supply and demand, or about the workings of a corporation. Instead, they will likely know inside-out the evils of “la McDonaldisation du monde” and the benefits of a “Tobin tax” on the movement of global capital. This kind of anticapitalist, antiglobalization discourse isn’t just the product of a few aging 1968ers writing for Le Monde Diplomatique; it is required learning in today’s French schools.

Germans teach their young people a similar economic narrative, with a slightly different emphasis. The focus is on instilling the corporatist and collectivist traditions of the German system. Although each of Germany’s 16 states sets its own education requirements, nearly all teach through the lens of workplace conflict between employer and employee, the central battle being over wages and work rules. If there’s one unifying characteristic of German textbooks, it’s the tremendous emphasis on group interests, the traditional social-democratic division of the universe into capital and labor, employer and employee, boss and worker. Textbooks teach the minutiae of employer-employee relations, workplace conflict, collective bargaining, unions, strikes, and worker protection. Even a cursory look at the country’s textbooks shows that many are written from the perspective of a future employee with a union contract. Bosses and company owners show up in caricatures and illustrations as idle, cigar-smoking plutocrats, sometimes linked to child labor, Internet fraud, cell-phone addiction, alcoholism, and, of course, undeserved layoffs. The successful, modern entrepreneur is virtually nowhere to be found.

German students will be well-versed in many subjects upon graduation; one topic they will know particularly well is their rights as welfare recipients. One 10th-grade social studies text titled FAKT has a chapter on “What to do against unemployment.” Instead of describing how companies might create jobs, the section explains how those without jobs can organize into self-help groups and join weekly anti-reform protests “in the tradition of the East German Monday demonstrations” (which in 1989 helped topple the communist dictatorship). The not-so-subtle subtext? Jobs are a right to be demanded from the government. The same chapter also details various welfare programs, explains how employers use the threat of layoffs as a tactic to cut pay, and concludes with a long excerpt from the platform of the German Union Federation, including the 30-hour work week, retirement at age 60, and redistribution of the work pie by splitting full-time into part-time jobs. No market alternative is taught. When fakt presents the reasons for unemployment, it blames computers and robots. In fact, this is a recurring theme in German textbooks—the Internet will turn workers into “anonymous code” and kill off interpersonal communication.

Equally popular in Germany today are student workbooks on globalization. One such workbook includes sections headed “The Revival of Manchester Capitalism,” “The Brazilianization of Europe,” and “The Return of the Dark Ages.” India and China are successful, the book explains, because they have large, state-owned sectors and practice protectionism, while the societies with the freest markets lie in impoverished sub-Saharan Africa. Like many French and German books, this text suggests students learn more by contacting the antiglobalization group Attac, best known for organizing messy protests at the annual G-8 summits.

One might expect Europeans to view the world through a slightly left-of-center, social-democratic lens. The surprise is the intensity and depth of the anti-market bias being taught in Europe’s schools. Students learn that private companies destroy jobs while government policy creates them. Employers exploit while the state protects. Free markets offer chaos while government regulation brings order. Globalization is destructive, if not catastrophic. Business is a zero-sum game, the source of a litany of modern social problems. Some enterprising teachers and parents may try to teach an alternative view, and some books are less ideological than others. But given the biases inherent in the curricula, this background is unavoidable. It is the context within which most students develop intellectually. And it’s a belief system that must eventually appear to be the truth.

can old europe do new tricks?

This bias has tremendous implications that reach far beyond the domestic political debate in these two countries. These beliefs inform students’ choices in life. Taught that the free market is a dangerous wilderness, twice as many Germans as Americans tell pollsters that you should not start a business if you think it might fail. According to the European Union’s internal polling, just two in five Germans and French would like to be their own boss, compared to three in five Americans. Whereas 8 percent of Americans say they are currently involved in starting a business, that’s true of only 2 percent of Germans and 1 percent of the French. Another 28 percent of Americans are considering starting a business, compared to just 11 percent of the French and 18 percent of Germans. The loss to Europe’s two largest economies in terms of jobs, innovation, and economic dynamism is severe.

Attitudes and mind-sets, it is increasingly being shown, are closely related to a country’s economic performance. Edmund Phelps, a Columbia University economist and Nobel laureate, contends that attitudes toward markets, work, and risk-taking are significantly more powerful in explaining the variation in countries’ actual economic performance than the traditional factors upon which economists focus, including social spending, tax rates, and labor-market regulation. The connection between capitalism and culture, once famously described by Max Weber, also helps explain continental Europe’s poor record in entrepreneurship and innovation. A study by the Massachusetts-based Monitor Group, the Entrepreneurship Benchmarking Index, looks at nine countries and finds a powerful correlation between attitudes about economics and actual corporate performance. The researchers find that attitudes explain 40 percent of the variation in start-up and company growth rates—by far the strongest correlation of any of the 31 indicators they tested. If countries such as France and Germany hope to boost entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic dynamism—as their leaders claim they do—the most effective way to make that happen may be to use education to boost the cultural legitimacy of going into business.

The deep anti-market bias that French and Germans continue to teach challenges the conventional wisdom that it’s just a matter of time, thanks to the pressures of globalization, before much of the world agrees upon a supposedly “Western” model of free-market capitalism. Politicians in democracies cannot long fight the preferences of the majority of their constituents. So this bias will likely continue to circumscribe both European elections and policy outcomes. A likely alternative scenario may be that the changes wrought by globalization will awaken deeply held resentment against capitalism and, in many countries from Europe to Latin America, provide a fertile ground for populists and demagogues, a trend that is already manifesting itself in the sudden rise of many leftist movements today.

Minimal reforms to the welfare state cost former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder his job in 2005. They have also paralyzed modern German politics. Former communists and disaffected Social Democrats, together with left-wing Greens, have flocked to Germany’s new leftist party, whose politics is a distasteful mix of anticapitalist demagoguery and right-wing xenophobia. Its platform, polls show, is finding support even among mainstream Germans. A left-leaning majority, within both the parliament and the public at large, makes the world’s third-largest economy vulnerable to destructive policies driven by anticapitalist resentment and fear of globalization. Similar situations are easily conceivable elsewhere and have already helped bring populists to power in Latin America. Then there is France, where President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to “rupture” with the failed economic policies of the past. He has taken on the country’s public servants and their famously lavish benefits, but many of his policies appear to be driven by what he calls “economic patriotism,” which smacks of old-fashioned industrial protectionism. That’s exactly what French schoolchildren have long learned is the way the world should work.

Both the French and German cases show the limits of trying to run against the grain of deeply held economic ideology. Yet, training the next generation of citizens to be prejudiced against being enterprising and productive is equally foolhardy. Fortunately, such widespread attitudes and the political outcomes they foster aren’t only determined by tradition and history. They are, to a great extent, the product of education. If countries like France and Germany hope to get their nations on a new economic track, they might start paying more attention to what their kids are learning in the classroom.

Stefan Theil is Newsweek’s European economics editor. He completed his research of American, French, and German textbooks and curricula while a trans-Atlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

segunda-feira, janeiro 28, 2008

302) O problema do mal na Europa, uma leitura Arendtiana

The 'Problem of Evil' in Postwar Europe
By Tony Judt
The New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 2 · February 14, 2008
Link: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21031

The first work by Hannah Arendt that I read, at the age of sixteen, was Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.[1] It remains, for me, the emblematic Arendt text. It is not her most philosophical book. It is not always right; and it is decidedly not her most popular piece of writing. I did not even like the book myself when I first read it—I was an ardent young Socialist-Zionist and Arendt's conclusions profoundly disturbed me. But in the years since then I have come to understand that Eichmann in Jerusalem represents Hannah Arendt at her best: attacking head-on a painful topic; dissenting from official wisdom; provoking argument not just among her critics but also and especially among her friends; and above all, disturbing the easy peace of received opinion. It is in memory of Arendt the "disturber of the peace" that I want to offer a few thoughts on a subject which, more than any other, preoccupied her political writings.

In 1945, in one of her first essays following the end of the war in Europe, Hannah Arendt wrote that "the problem of evil will be the fundamental question of postwar intellectual life in Europe—as death became the fundamental problem after the last war."[2] In one sense she was, of course, absolutely correct. After World War I Europeans were traumatized by the memory of death: above all, death on the battlefield, on a scale hitherto unimaginable. The poetry, fiction, cinema, and art of interwar Europe were suffused with images of violence and death, usually critical but sometimes nostalgic (as in the writings of Ernst Jünger or Pierre Drieu La Rochelle). And of course the armed violence of World War I leached into civilian life in interwar Europe in many forms: paramilitary squads, political murders, coups d'état, civil wars, and revolutions.

After World War II, however, the worship of violence largely disappeared from European life. During this war violence was directed not just against soldiers but above all against civilians (a large share of the deaths during World War II occurred not in battle but under the aegis of occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide). And the utter exhaustion of all European nations—winners and losers alike—left few illusions about the glory of fighting or the honor of death. What did remain, of course, was a widespread familiarity with brutality and crime on an unprecedented scale. The question of how human beings could do this to each other—and above all the question of how and why one European people (Germans) could set out to exterminate another (Jews) —were, for an alert observer like Arendt, self-evidently going to be the obsessive questions facing the continent. That is what she meant by "the problem of evil."
New York Review Books Children

In one sense, then, Arendt was of course correct. But as so often, it took other people longer to grasp her point. It is true that in the aftermath of Hitler's defeat and the Nuremberg trials lawyers and legislators devoted much attention to the issue of "crimes against humanity" and the definition of a new crime—"genocide"—that until then had not even had a name. But while the courts were defining the monstrous crimes that had just been committed in Europe, Europeans themselves were doing their best to forget them. And in that sense at least, Arendt was wrong, at least for a while.

Far from reflecting upon the problem of evil in the years that followed the end of World War II, most Europeans turned their heads resolutely away from it. Today we find this difficult to understand, but the fact is that the Shoah—the attempted genocide of the Jews of Europe—was for many years by no means the fundamental question of postwar intellectual life in Europe (or the United States). Indeed, most people—intellectuals and others—ignored it as much as they could. Why?

In Eastern Europe there were four reasons. In the first place, the worst wartime crimes against the Jews were committed there; and although those crimes were sponsored by Germans, there was no shortage of willing collaborators among the local occupied nations: Poles, Ukrainians, Latvians, Croats, and others. There was a powerful incentive in many places to forget what had happened, to draw a veil over the worst horrors.[3] Secondly, many non-Jewish East Europeans were themselves victims of atrocities (at the hands of Germans, Russians, and others) and when they remembered the war they did not typically think of the agony of their Jewish neighbors but of their own suffering and losses.

Thirdly, most of Central and Eastern Europe came under Soviet control by 1948. The official Soviet account of World War II was of an anti-fascist war —or, within the Soviet Union, a "Great Patriotic War." For Moscow, Hitler was above all a fascist and a nationalist. His racism was much less important. The millions of dead Jews from the Soviet territories were counted in Soviet losses, of course, but their Jewishness was played down or even ignored, in history books and public commemorations. And finally, after a few years of Communist rule, the memory of German occupation was replaced by that of Soviet oppression. The extermination of the Jews was pushed even deeper into the background.

In Western Europe, even though circumstances were quite different, there was a parallel forgetting. The wartime occupation—in France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, and, after 1943, Italy—was a humiliating experience and postwar governments preferred to forget collaboration and other indignities and emphasize instead the heroic resistance movements, national uprisings, liberations, and martyrs. For many years after 1945 even those who knew better— like Charles de Gaulle—deliberately contributed to a national mythology of heroic suffering and courageous mass resistance. In postwar West Germany too, the initial national mood was one of self-pity at Germans' own suffering. And with the onset of the cold war and a change of enemies, it became inopportune to emphasize the past crimes of present allies. So no one—not Germans, not Austrians, not French or Dutch or Belgians or Italians—wanted to recall the suffering of the Jews or the distinctive evil that had brought it about.

That is why, to take a famous example, when Primo Levi took his Auschwitz memoir Se questo è un uomo to the major Italian publisher Einaudi in 1946 it was rejected out of hand. At that time, and for some years to come, it was Bergen-Belsen and Dachau, not Auschwitz, which stood for the horror of Nazism; the emphasis on political deportees rather than racial ones conformed better to reassuring postwar accounts of wartime national resistance. Levi's book was eventually published, but in just 2,500 copies by a small local press. Hardly anyone bought it; many copies of the book were remaindered in a warehouse in Florence and destroyed in the great flood there in 1966.

I can confirm the lack of interest in the Shoah in those years from my own experience, growing up in England—a victorious country that had never been occupied and thus had no complex about wartime crimes. But even in England the subject was never much discussed—in school or in the media. As late as 1966, when I began to study modern history at Cambridge University, I was taught French history—including the history of Vichy France—with almost no reference to Jews or anti-Semitism. No one was writing about the subject. Yes, we studied the Nazi occupation of France, the collaborators at Vichy, and French fascism. But nothing we read, in English or French, engaged the problem of France's role in the Final Solution.

And even though I am Jewish and members of my own family had been killed in the death camps, I did not think it strange back then that the subject passed unmentioned. The silence seemed quite normal. How does one explain, in retrospect, this willingness to accept the unacceptable? Why does the abnormal come to seem so normal that we don't even notice it? Probably for the depressingly simple reason that Tolstoy provides in Anna Karenina: "There are no conditions of life to which a man cannot get accustomed, especially if he sees them accepted by everyone around him."

Everything started to change after the Sixties, for many reasons: the passage of time, the curiosity of a new generation, and perhaps, too, a slackening of international tension.[4] West Germany above all, the nation primarily responsible for the horrors of Hitler's war, was transformed in the course of a generation into a people uniquely conscious of the enormity of its crimes and the scale of its accountability. By the 1980s the story of the destruction of the Jews of Europe was becoming increasingly familiar in books, in cinema, and on television. Since the 1990s and the end of the division of Europe, official apologies, national commemoration sites, memorials, and museums have become commonplace; even in post-Communist Eastern Europe the suffering of the Jews has begun to take its place in official memory.

Today, the Shoah is a universal reference. The history of the Final Solution, or Nazism, or World War II is a required course in high school curriculums everywhere. Indeed, there are schools in the US and even Britain where such a course may be the only topic in modern European history that a child ever studies. There are now countless records and retellings and studies of the wartime extermination of the Jews of Europe: local monographs, philosophical essays, sociological and psychological investigations, memoirs, fictions, feature films, archives of interviews, and much else. Hannah Arendt's prophecy would seem to have come true: the history of the problem of evil has become a fundamental theme of European intellectual life.

So now everything is all right? Now that we have looked into the dark past, called it by its name, and sworn that it must never again be repeated? I am not so sure. Let me suggest five difficulties that arise from our contemporary preoccupation with the Shoah, with what every schoolchild now calls "the Holocaust." The first difficulty concerns the dilemma of incompatible memories. Western European attention to the memory of the Final Solution is now universal (though for understandable reasons less developed in Spain and Portugal). But the "eastern" nations that have joined "Europe" since 1989 retain a very different memory of World War II and its lessons, for the reasons I have suggested.

Indeed, with the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the resulting freedom to study and discuss the crimes and failures of communism, greater attention has been paid to the ordeal of Europe's eastern half, at the hands of Germans and Soviets alike. In this context, the Western European and American emphasis upon Ausch-witz and Jewish victims sometimes provokes an irritated reaction. In Poland and Romania, for example, I have been asked—by educated and cosmopolitan listeners—why Western intellectuals are so particularly sensitive to the mass murder of Jews. What of the millions of non-Jewish victims of Nazism and Stalinism? Why is the Shoah so very distinctive? There is an answer to that question; but it is not self-evident to everyone east of the Oder-Neisse line. We in the US or Western Europe may not like that but we should remember it. On such matters Europe is very far from united.

A second difficulty concerns historical accuracy and the risks of overcompensation. For many years, Western Europeans preferred not to think about the wartime sufferings of the Jews. Now we are encouraged to think about those sufferings all the time. For the first decades after 1945 the gas chambers were confined to the margin of our understanding of Hitler's war. Today they sit at the very center: for today's students, World War II is about the Holocaust. In moral terms that is as it should be: the central ethical issue of World War II is "Auschwitz." But for historians this is misleading. For the sad truth is that during World War II itself, many people did not know about the fate of the Jews and if they did know they did not much care. There were only two groups for whom World War II was above all a project to destroy the Jews: the Nazis and the Jews themselves. For practically everyone else the war had quite different meanings: they had troubles of their own.

And so, if we teach the history of World War II above all—and sometimes uniquely—through the prism of the Holocaust, we may not always be teaching good history. It is hard for us to accept that the Holocaust occupies a more important role in our own lives than it did in the wartime experience of occupied lands. But if we wish to grasp the true significance of evil—what Hannah Arendt intended by calling it "banal"—then we must remember that what is truly awful about the destruction of the Jews is not that it mattered so much but that it mattered so little.

My third problem concerns the concept of "evil" itself. Modern secular society has long been uncomfortable with the idea of "evil." We prefer more rationalistic and legal definitions of good and bad, right and wrong, crime and punishment. But in recent years the word has crept slowly back into moral and even political discourse.[5] However, now that the concept of "evil" has reentered our public language we don't know what to do with it. We have become confused.

On the one hand the Nazi extermination of the Jews is presented as a singular crime, an evil never matched before or since, an example and a warning: "Nie Wieder! Never again!" But on the other hand we invoke that same ("unique") evil today for many different and far from unique purposes. In recent years politicians, historians, and journalists have used the term "evil" to describe mass murder and genocidal outcomes everywhere: from Cambodia to Rwanda, from Turkey to Serbia, from Bosnia to Chechnya, from the Congo to Sudan. Hitler himself is frequently conjured up to denote the "evil" nature and intentions of modern dictators: we are told there are "Hitlers" everywhere, from North Korea to Iraq, from Syria to Iran. And we are all familiar with President George W. Bush's "axis of evil," a self-serving abuse of the term which has contributed greatly to the cynicism it now elicits.

Moreover, if Hitler, Auschwitz, and the genocide of the Jews incarnated a unique evil, why are we constantly warned that they and their like could happen anywhere, or are about to happen again? Every time someone smears anti-Semitic graffiti on a synagogue wall in France we are warned that "the unique evil" is with us once more, that it is 1938 all over again. We are losing the capacity to distinguish between the normal sins and follies of mankind—stupidity, prejudice, opportunism, demagogy, and fanaticism —and genuine evil. We have lost sight of what it was about twentieth-century political religions of the extreme left and extreme right that was so seductive, so commonplace, so modern, and thus so truly diabolical. After all, if we see evil everywhere, how can we be expected to recognize the real thing? Sixty years ago Hannah Arendt feared that we would not know how to speak of evil and that we would therefore never grasp its significance. Today we speak of "evil" all the time—but with the same result, that we have diluted its meaning.

My fourth concern bears on the risk we run when we invest all our emotional and moral energies into just one problem, however serious. The costs of this sort of tunnel vision are on tragic display today in Washington's obsession with the evils of terrorism, its "Global War on Terror." The question is not whether terrorism exists: of course it exists. Nor is it a question of whether terrorism and terrorists should be fought: of course they should be fought. The question is what other evils we shall neglect—or create—by focusing exclusively upon a single enemy and using it to justify a hundred lesser crimes of our own.

The same point applies to our contemporary fascination with the problem of anti-Semitism and our insistence upon its unique importance. Anti-Semitism, like terrorism, is an old problem. And as with terrorism, so with anti-Semitism: even a minor outbreak reminds us of the consequences in the past of not taking it seriously enough. But anti-Semitism, like terrorism, is not the only evil in the world and must not be an excuse to ignore other crimes and other suffering. The danger of abstracting "terrorism" or anti-Semitism from their contexts—of setting them upon a pedestal as the greatest threat to Western civilization, or democracy, or "our way of life," and targeting their exponents for an indefinite war—is that we shall overlook the many other challenges of the age.

On this, too, Hannah Arendt had something to say. Having written the most influential book on totalitarianism she was well aware of the threat that it posed to open societies. But in the era of the cold war, "totalitarianism," like terrorism or anti-Semitism today, was in danger of becoming an obsessive preoccupation for thinkers and politicians in the West, to the exclusion of everything else. And against this, Arendt issued a warning which is still relevant today:

The greatest danger of recognizing totalitarianism as the curse of the century would be an obsession with it to the extent of becoming blind to the numerous small and not so small evils with which the road to hell is paved.[6]

My final worry concerns the relationship between the memory of the European Holocaust and the state of Israel. Ever since its birth in 1948, the state of Israel has negotiated a complex relationship to the Shoah. On the one hand the near extermination of Europe's Jews summarized the case for Zionism. Jews could not survive and flourish in non-Jewish lands, their integration and assimilation into European nations and cultures was a tragic delusion, and they must have a state of their own. On the other hand, the widespread Israeli view that the Jews of Europe conspired in their own downfall, that they went, as it was said, "like lambs to the slaughter," meant that Israel's initial identity was built upon rejecting the Jewish past and treating the Jewish catastrophe as evidence of weakness: a weakness that it was Israel's destiny to overcome by breeding a new sort of Jew.[7]

But in recent years the relationship between Israel and the Holocaust has changed. Today, when Israel is exposed to international criticism for its mistreatment of Palestinians and its occupation of territory conquered in 1967, its defenders prefer to emphasize the memory of the Holocaust. If you criticize Israel too forcefully, they warn, you will awaken the demons of anti-Semitism; indeed, they suggest, robust criticism of Israel doesn't just arouse anti-Semitism. It is anti-Semitism. And with anti-Semitism the route forward —or back—is open: to 1938, to Kristallnacht, and from there to Treblinka and Auschwitz. If you want to know where it leads, they say, you have only to visit Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, or any number of memorials and museums across Europe.

I understand the emotions behind such claims. But the claims themselves are extraordinarily dangerous. When people chide me and others for criticizing Israel too forcefully, lest we rouse the ghosts of prejudice, I tell them that they have the problem exactly the wrong way around. It is just such a taboo that may itself stimulate anti-Semitism. For some years now I have visited colleges and high schools in the US and elsewhere, lecturing on postwar European history and the memory of the Shoah. I also teach these topics in my university. And I can report on my findings.

Students today do not need to be reminded of the genocide of the Jews, the historical consequences of anti-Semitism, or the problem of evil. They know all about these—in ways their parents never did. And that is as it should be. But I have been struck lately by the frequency with which new questions are surfacing: "Why do we focus so on the Holocaust?" "Why is it illegal [in certain countries] to deny the Holocaust but not other genocides?" "Is the threat of anti-Semitism not exaggerated?" And, increasingly, "Doesn't Israel use the Holocaust as an excuse?" I do not recall hearing those questions in the past.

My fear is that two things have happened. By emphasizing the historical uniqueness of the Holocaust while at the same time invoking it constantly with reference to contemporary affairs, we have confused young people. And by shouting "anti-Semitism" every time someone attacks Israel or defends the Palestinians, we are breeding cynics. For the truth is that Israel today is not in existential danger. And Jews today here in the West face no threats or prejudices remotely comparable to those of the past—or comparable to contemporary prejudices against other minorities.

Imagine the following exercise: Would you feel safe, accepted, welcome today as a Muslim or an "illegal immigrant" in the US? As a "Paki" in parts of England? A Moroccan in Holland? A beur in France? A black in Switzerland? An "alien" in Denmark? A Romanian in Italy? A Gypsy anywhere in Europe? Or would you not feel safer, more integrated, more accepted as a Jew? I think we all know the answer. In many of these countries—Holland, France, the US, not to mention Germany—the local Jewish minority is prominently represented in business, the media, and the arts. In none of them are Jews stigmatized, threatened, or excluded.

If there is a threat that should concern Jews—and everyone else—it comes from a different direction. We have attached the memory of the Holocaust so firmly to the defense of a single country—Israel—that we are in danger of provincializing its moral significance. Yes, the problem of evil in the last century, to invoke Arendt once again, took the form of a German attempt to exterminate Jews. But it is not just about Germans and it is not just about Jews. It is not even just about Europe, though it happened there. The problem of evil —of totalitarian evil, or genocidal evil —is a universal problem. But if it is manipulated to local advantage, what will then happen (what is, I believe, already happening) is that those who stand at some distance from the memory of the European crime—because they are not Europeans, or because they are too young to remember why it matters—will not understand how that memory relates to them and they will stop listening when we try to explain.

In short, the Holocaust may lose its universal resonance. We must hope that this will not be the case and we need to find a way to preserve the core lesson that the Shoah really can teach: the ease with which people—a whole people—can be defamed, dehumanized, and destroyed. But we shall get nowhere unless we recognize that this lesson could indeed be questioned, or forgotten: the trouble with lessons, as the Gryphon observed, is that they really do lessen from day to day. If you do not believe me, go beyond the developed West and ask what lessons Auschwitz teaches. The responses are not very reassuring.

There is no easy answer to this problem. What seems obvious to West Europeans today is still opaque to many East Europeans, just as it was to West Europeans themselves forty years ago. Moral admonitions from Auschwitz that loom huge on the memory screen of Europeans are quite invisible to Asians or Africans. And, perhaps above all, what seems self-evident to people of my generation is going to make diminishing sense to our children and grandchildren. Can we preserve a European past that is now fading from memory into history? Are we not doomed to lose it, if only in part?

Maybe all our museums and memorials and obligatory school trips today are not a sign that we are ready to remember but an indication that we feel we have done our penance and can now begin to let go and forget, leaving the stones to remember for us. I don't know: the last time I visited Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, bored schoolchildren on an obligatory outing were playing hide-and-seek among the stones. What I do know is that if history is to do its proper job, preserving forever the evidence of past crimes and everything else, it is best left alone. When we ransack the past for political profit—selecting the bits that can serve our purposes and recruiting history to teach opportunistic moral lessons— we get bad morality and bad history.

Meanwhile, we should all of us perhaps take care when we speak of the problem of evil. For there is more than one sort of banality. There is the notorious banality of which Arendt spoke —the unsettling, normal, neighborly, everyday evil in humans. But there is another banality: the banality of overuse—the flattening, desensitizing effect of seeing or saying or thinking the same thing too many times until we have numbed our audience and rendered them immune to the evil we are describing. And that is the banality— or "banalization"—that we face today.

After 1945 our parents' generation set aside the problem of evil because —for them—it contained too much meaning. The generation that will follow us is in danger of setting the problem aside because it now contains too little meaning. How can we prevent this? How, in other words, can we ensure that the problem of evil remains the fundamental question for intellectual life, and not just in Europe? I don't know the answer but I am pretty sure that it is the right question. It is the question Hannah Arendt asked sixty years ago and I believe she would still ask it today.

[1] This article is adapted from a lecture delivered in Bremen, Germany, on November 30, 2007, on the occasion of the award to Tony Judt of the 2007 Hannah Arendt Prize.

[2] "Nightmare and Flight," Partisan Review, Vol. 12, No. 2 (1945), reprinted in Essays in Understanding, 1930–1954, edited by Jerome Kohn (Harcourt Brace, 1994), pp. 133–135.

[3] For a harrowing instance, see Jan Gross, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (Princeton University Press, 2001).

[4] For a fuller discussion of this shift in mood, see the epilogue ("From the House of the Dead") in my Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (Penguin, 2005).

[5] To be sure, Catholic thinkers have not shared this reluctance to engage with the dilemma of evil: see, for example, Leszek Kolakowski's essays "The Devil in History" and "Leibniz and Job: The Metaphysics of Evil and the Experience of Evil," both recently republished with other essays by Kolakowski in My Correct Views on Everything (St. Augustine's, 2005; discussed in The New York Review, September 21, 2006). But in the metaphysical confrontation memorably portrayed by Thomas Mann, we moderns have typically opted for Settembrini over Naphta.

[6] Essays in Understanding, pp. 271–272.

[7] See Idith Zertal, Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood, translated by Chaya Galai (Cambridge University Press, 2005), especially Chapter 1, "The Sacrificed and the Sanctified."

domingo, janeiro 27, 2008

301) As universidades federais sob Lula

As universidades federais sob Lula
Paulo Renato Souza
O Estado de Sao Paulo, domingo, 27 janeiro 2008, p. A-2

Em reiteradas oportunidades o presidente Lula reivindica ser o que mais investiu em universidades federais em nosso país. Até o momento, essa postulação se resume a planos e projetos, mas não encontra guarida nos dados de suas realizações. Na semana do último Natal, o Ministério da Educação (MEC) divulgou os dados do Censo do Ensino Superior correspondente ao ano de 2006. Eles revelam sérias ineficiências nas federais nos anos recentes e nos permitem interessantes comparações entre o primeiro mandato do presidente Lula e os de seu antecessor.

Comecemos pelas matrículas. Durante todo o período do governo FHC, elas cresceram 46%, sendo 12% no primeiro mandato e 30% no segundo, cumulativamente. No primeiro governo Lula a expansão foi de 11% nos quatro anos, mas dois terços desse aumento (7%) ocorreram no ano de 2003, ainda como conseqüência das políticas adotadas até 2002. Nos três anos seguintes, a matrícula cresceu apenas 4% no total, muito abaixo até mesmo do crescimento populacional do País. É interessante destacar que o mesmo fenômeno se observa nos cursos noturnos. As matrículas cresceram 20% e 60% nos dois governos FHC - alcançando 93% no período total - e apenas 14% no primeiro governo Lula. Novamente, 11% desta expansão se verificara apenas no ano de 2003. Não deixa de ser irônico que um governo que se quer popular e de esquerda tenha aumentado as matrículas noturnas nas universidades federais em menos de 3%, no total, nos últimos três anos!

A enorme expansão nas matrículas durante o período FHC se deu mantendo o mesmo número de instituições e aumentando levemente o número de professores. Nos anos do governo Lula o crescimento do número de professores foi muito maior do que o de alunos, o que levou a um aumento de sua ineficiência medida pela relação aluno/professor, que em si já é baixa se comparada com as melhores universidades do mundo.

No item das conclusões, as tendências gerais são as mesmas: crescimento de 35% e 24% em cada um dos períodos FHC e 17% no primeiro governo Lula, sendo 18% apenas em 2003. Ou seja, o número de conclusões nas federais foi menor em 2006 do que havia sido em 2003!

Autoridades do MEC, seguindo o cacoete do presidente, acusaram o governo FHC, alegando que supostas “falta de custeio e a carência de recursos humanos” na época teriam provocado esses resultados recentes. Como se vê, não se deram ao trabalho de olhar os números em detalhe para enxergar a sua própria responsabilidade. Na verdade, essa é uma nova versão da balela sobre um inventado “sucateamento” das federais durante o governo FHC, que, à época, foi difundido à exaustão, numa reprodução das velhas táticas totalitárias de repetir a mentira até que ganhe foros de verdade. Refutei esses argumentos em trabalho repleto de dados postado nessa semana no site da Associação dos Reitores das Federais (ver também em meu site, abaixo indicado). O artigo mostra que não ocorreu essa alegada falta de custeio. Demonstra que no segundo mandato de FHC a média anual dos recursos destinados às federais para custeio e investimento foi superior à do primeiro mandato de Lula. Fica também evidente que não houve carência de recursos humanos e que melhorou muito a qualificação do corpo docente das federais, com maior proporção de mestres e doutores.

No meu entender, resultados tão díspares de um governo para o outro são explicados basicamente por duas políticas hoje abandonadas. Em primeiro lugar, em 1998 foi introduzida a Gratificação de Estímulo à Docência, a GED, que vinculava uma parte significativa da remuneração dos docentes ao seu desempenho, avaliado segundo critérios objetivos fixados por cada universidade. Quesitos como o número de aulas por semana, as aulas nos cursos noturnos, as publicações dos professores eram itens incluídos na maioria das instituições. A partir de 2003 a gratificação passou a ser igual para todos, independentemente do seu desempenho.

Em segundo lugar, a distribuição de recursos de custeio para as universidades desde 1999 estava baseada numa matriz de desempenho. Tinha peso relevante o número de alunos matriculados, o de alunos nos cursos noturnos, os programas de pós-graduação, além de indicadores de eficiência. Essa matriz também foi abandonada a partir de 2003. A importância dessas políticas fica ainda mais evidente ao constatar que os indicadores antes mencionados foram melhores no segundo mandato do presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso em relação ao primeiro, justamente quando elas estavam plenamente vigentes.

Por que essas políticas foram abandonadas? Por uma visão populista a respeito da gestão das instituições de ensino superior públicas, incompatível com o desempenho acadêmico e com o bom uso dos recursos públicos. Agora, um pouco tarde, o MEC parece ter acordado para os méritos de algumas das medidas adotadas no governo FHC. Batizado de Reuni, o governo lança como grande novidade um programa de incentivos ao desempenho das universidades federais pelo qual serão aquinhoadas com mais verbas as instituições que melhorarem seu desempenho em função de indicadores como a relação aluno por professor e os cursos noturnos. Em princípio, qual a diferença em relação à nossa velha matriz de distribuição de recursos de custeio? Mais um programa copiado e rebatizado! Este governo não terá, entretanto, a coragem de retomar a política de remuneração de professores em função de indicadores de desempenho. Nesse caso, o corporativismo das bases falará mais alto, pois o compromisso deste governo é maior com as suas corporações do que com os benefícios da ação pública para o conjunto da sociedade.

Paulo Renato Souza, deputado federal por São Paulo, foi ministro da Educação no governo FHC, reitor da Unicamp e secretário de Educação no governo Montoro. E-mail: dep.paulorenatosouza@camara.gov.br. Site: www.paulorenatosouza.com.br

sábado, janeiro 26, 2008

300) Portal da Capes: acesso livre a revistas

O presidente da ABC Jacob Palis, o presidente da SBPC Marco Antonio Raupp e o presidente da Federação de Sociedades de Biologia Experimental (FeSBE) Luiz Eugênio Araújo de Moraes Mello publicaram o seguinte artigo, em 21/1, na Folha de São Paulo:

Portal da Capes é modelo de acesso à ciência

”O acesso livre e gratuito a revistas e publicações científicas tem sido objeto de artigos publicados neste e em outros jornais, sobretudo comparando os modelos de outros países (EUA e Reino Unido) e minimizando os esforços e avanços já alcançados pelo Brasil nessa área. A defesa dessa lógica parece razoável.

Se a ciência é primariamente paga pelo dinheiro público, então seu resultado deve ser igualmente desse mesmo público e, portanto, de livre acesso. Mas publicar tem um custo, mesmo na internet. Quando há trabalhos de editoria, avaliação e revisão de texto, esses custos aumentam.

A inserção brasileira no cenário científico internacional cresceu exponencialmente nos últimos anos. O Brasil ocupa hoje a 15ª posição no ranking de produção científica mundial, fruto do esforço da comunidade científica e da avaliação continuada dos programas de pós-graduação.

O sistema de pós-graduação, que cresce ao redor de 15% ao ano, associado ao sistema de avaliação, foi responsável em grande parte pelo incremento qualitativo e quantitativo da nossa produção científica.

Lançado em novembro do ano 2000, o Portal de Periódicos da Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (Capes) constitui o instrumento mais importante na disseminação da informação científica no Brasil e um recurso indispensável à produção científica e tecnológica nacional.

A um custo de US$ 35 milhões, o portal dá acesso a 188 instituições, das quais 156 o fazem inteiramente de graça. Estas incluem as instituições de ensino superior federais, os Cefets, as estaduais e municipais com pelo menos um curso de pós-graduação nota quatro e as privadas com pelo menos um curso de pós-graduação nota cinco.

Nessas instituições, o acesso individual a essa gigantesca biblioteca é permitido a todos estudantes, servidores e professores. Nas bibliotecas dessas instituições, o acesso é permitido ao público em geral.

O portal disponibiliza o conteúdo atualizado sobre as descobertas científico-tecnológicas mundiais de todas as áreas do conhecimento, sendo uma das maiores bases de dados eletrônicas do mundo.

Sua filosofia é ímpar na comunidade científica. Seu custo, quando analisado em função da sua distribuição geográfica igualitária e democrática, pelo impacto na graduação, na pós-graduação e na extensão e pela importância no desenvolvimento científico e tecnológico do país, é irrisório.

Os 51 milhões de artigos baixados em 2007 resultaram num custo de US$ 0,72 por artigo, o que está muitas vezes abaixo do valor que seria cobrado por acessos individuais ou mesmo fotocópias.

Em grandes universidades norte-americanas, como a UCLA, o custo da assinatura eletrônica de cerca de 11 mil periódicos e bases de dados atinge US$ 11 milhões anuais - restrita exclusivamente aos profissionais dessa universidade. Para Harvard, esse valor atinge US$ 27 milhões.

O custo médio para as instituições brasileiras, levando em consideração somente aquelas de acesso gratuito, atingiu em 2007 o valor de US$ 237 mil/instituição. Os dados mostram que o portal da Capes oferece um acesso semelhante ao de Harvard ou UCLA a um custo 114 ou 46 vezes menor do que aquelas duas instituições.

O acesso livre, na verdade, envolve pagamento pela publicação. Supondo que toda a produção científica brasileira indexada em 2007 houvesse sido realizada em periódicos de acesso livre imediato, os cofres públicos teriam arcado com uma despesa de cerca de US$ 24 milhões, assumindo um custo médio de cerca de US$ 1.000/ trabalho, quase o custo do portal.

Esses artigos estariam abertos ao domínio público, mas as nossas instituições, se todo o investimento fosse direcionado para somente open access, estariam sem acesso à maior parte da produção científico-tecnológica mundial.

Num mundo ideal, o acesso seria livre e gratuito a todos. No entanto, a realidade é outra. E, se não fosse o Portal de Periódicos da Capes, nosso país como um todo estaria à margem do acesso ao conhecimento, e nossa ciência, certamente, não teria tido o avanço claramente constatado dos últimos anos.”

quinta-feira, janeiro 24, 2008

299) Um debate sobre a natureza da inteligencia e dos testes de QI

Do site Gene Expression
Wednesday, December 05, 2007

10 Questions for James Flynn
posted by Herrick: 12/05/2007
Link: http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2007/12/10-questions-for-james-flynn.php

James R. Flynn is a philosopher and psychologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, as well as Distinguished Associate of the Psychometrics Centre at Cambridge University. His best-known paper, "Massive IQ Gains in 14 Nations," (Psych. Bulletin, 1987), documented what Herrnstein and Murray later called the "Flynn Effect": A long term increase in average IQ's across the developed world. This widely-reaffirmed result contradicted the folk wisdom that a coarsened culture and dysgenic fertility were making the rich nations less intelligent. In his new book, "What is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect," (Cambridge University Press), he argues that changing social and economic forces can explain both the Flynn Effect and group differences in IQ. To fully understand the Flynn Effect, he contends, we need to understand the "cognitive history" of the 20th century. Perhaps most importantly, he proposes a variety of practical empirical tests so that one can see whether his explanations are correct.

The author of four books and dozens of articles in the fields of moral philosophy and psychology, Professor Flynn has repeatedly spurred psychologists to rethink exactly what it is that intelligence tests measure.

Entrevista neste link.

quarta-feira, janeiro 23, 2008

298) Biocombustiveis sob ataque de grupos ambientalistas

Matéria da revista alemã Der Spiegel sobre os efeitos nefastos, num balanço global, dos biocombustíveis. Nenhuma menção é feita ao etanol proveniente da cana-de-açúcar.

Critique Mounts against Biofuels
By Charles Hawley in Berlin
Der Spiegel, January 23, 2008

The European Union has announced plans to increase the use of gas and diesel produced from plants. But the critique against biofuels is mounting. Many say they are even more harmful than conventional fossil fuels.

The images are enough to soothe one's soul. Golden fields of grain stretching as far as the eye can see; bright yellow rapeseed flower blooming in the European countryside; drivers happily cruising down the autobahn, smiling in the knowledge that the biodiesel their car is burning does no harm to the environment.

This used to be a dense forest in Indonesia. But the trees have made way for a palm oil plantation to produce biofuels.

But such a bucolic view of biofuels -- gas and diesel made from plants -- may soon become a thing of the past. The European Union on Wednesday unveiled a far-reaching plan (more...) aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent relative to 1990 and dramatically upping the share of renewable energies in the 27-member bloc's energy mix. The scheme also calls for 10 percent of fuel used in transportation to be made up of biofuels. That last element, though, is becoming increasingly controversial -- and environmental groups, this week, are leading an aggressive charge to put a stop to biofuels.

'No Way to Make Them Viable'
"The biofuels route is a dead end," Dr. Andrew Boswell, a Green Party councillor in England and author of a recent study on the harmful effects of biofuels, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "They are going to create great damage to the environment and will also produce dramatic social problems in (tropical countries where many crops for biofuels are grown). There basically isn't any way to make them viable."

Find out how you can reprint this SPIEGEL ONLINE article in your publication.
The evidence against biofuels marshalled by Boswell and other environmentalists appears quite damning. Advertised as a fuel that only emits the amount of carbon dioxide that the plants absorb while growing -- making it carbon neutral -- it actually has resulted in a profitable industrial sector attractive to countries around the world. Vast swaths of forest have been felled and burned in Argentina and elsewhere for soya plantations. Carbon-rich peat bogs are being drained and rain forests destroyed in Indonesia to make way for extensive palm oil farming.
Because the forests are often torched and the peat rapidly oxidizes, the result is huge amounts of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Furthermore, healthy peat bogs and forests absorb CO2 -- scientists refer to them as "carbon sinks" -- making their disappearance doubly harmful.

Indeed, the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, released in October 2006, estimates that deforestation and other comparable land-use changes account for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions around the world. Biofuels, say activists, accelerate that process.

A Gold Rush
"We are causing a climate catastrophe by promoting agro-fuels," Greenpeace agricultural specialist Alexander Hissting told SPIEGEL ONLINE, using his group's preferred term for biofuels. "We are creating a huge industry in many parts of the world. In Indonesia, something akin to a gold rush has broken out."

The European Union seems to have taken note of the gathering biofuels storm. The plan has noted that the 10-percent goal is dependent on whether "production is sustainable," as an EU PowerPoint presentation delivered to reporters on Tuesday noted. The EU also wants to make it illegal to use biofuels made from crops grown in nature reserves or in recently clear-cut forest lands. Crops grown in places valuable as carbon sinks are also to be avoided.

The real face of biofuels? A forest makes way for a palm plantation in Malaysia.

But critics doubt whether such clauses, which call for acceptable fields to be certified, is enforceable. "At the moment, such certification systems are very incomplete and it is very unlikely that they will ever work," says Boswell. "The biofuel supply chain is incredibly complicated."
Even EU scientists doubt whether the supposed benefits of biofuels will ever outweigh the costs. A recent report in the Financial Times cited an unpublished study by the Joint Research Center, a stable of European Commission scientists, as saying that the "uncertainty is too great to say whether the EU 10 percent biofuel target will save greenhouse gas or not." It noted that subsidies in place to promote biofuels would cost European taxpayers between €33 billion and €65 billion by 2020.

Environmentalists say that emissions aren't the only serious problem created by the biofuel boom. Even crops grown in northern countries, like corn in the United States or rapeseed in Germany and the rest of Europe, harbor major dangers to the climate. Both maize and rapeseed are voracious consumers of nitrogen, leading farmers to use large quantities of nitrous oxide fertilizers. But when nitrous oxide is released into the atmosphere, it reflects 300 times as much heat as carbon dioxide does. Paul J. Crutzen, who won the 1995 Nobel prize for chemistry, estimates that biodiesel produced from rapeseed can result in up to 70 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels. Corn, the preferred biofuels crop in the US, results in 50 percent more emissions, Crutzen estimates.

'A Total Disaster'
Another issue receiving increasing attention recently is that of rising food prices as foodstuffs are turned into fuel. Price increases for soybeans and corn hit developing countries particularly hard. Indeed, there have already been food price riots in Mexico, Morocco, Senegal and other developing countries. While the price increases cannot be pinned entirely on biofuels, it has certainly played a role. In October, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Jean Ziegler called for a five-year moratorium on biofuels to combat rising prices. Using arable land for biofuels, he said, "is a total disaster for those who are starving."

Slowly, it appears that some governments are beginning to listen to the chorus of criticisms. Last autumn, the Canadian province of Quebec announced that it would cease building plants to produce the biofuel ethanol. And on Monday, the UK's House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee called for a stop in the increase of biofuel use. "Biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road transport. But at present, most biofuels have a detrimental impact on the environment overall," committee chairman Tim Yeo said, according to Reuters.
The European Union has reacted with anger to the UK report. Andris Piebalgs, European commissioner for energy, told the Guardian that "the Commission strongly disagrees with the conclusion of the British House of Commons report."

The report, though, is music to the ears of environmentalists like Boswell. "We have been highlighting these problems for a number of years," he says. "Now it is time for the UK government to act on the committee report.

domingo, janeiro 20, 2008

297) A França é reformável?

Le rapport Attali veut accélérer la mutation de la France
LE MONDE, 19.01.08

Moins de cinq mois après son installation, le 30 août 2007, la commission pour la "libération de la croissance française", présidée par Jacques Attali, doit remettre, mercredi 23 janvier, à Nicolas Sarkozy le résultat de ses travaux : plus de 300 propositions de réforme constituant "un plan global" d'inspiration libérale, que ses concepteurs veulent "non partisan", pour assurer le retour en France d'une croissance forte et mettre en place dans le pays "une véritable économie de la connaissance".

Le rapport, révélé par le site Internet des Echos, se décline en huit "ambitions", vingt "décisions fondamentales" et 314 "décisions". Six des vingt propositions "fondamentales" portent sur la nécessité de préparer, très tôt, la jeunesse à l'économie du savoir et de transformer la France en un "champion de la nouvelle croissance". "De notre capacité à innover dépendront notre croissance et notre place dans la compétition mondiale. Formation, transmission des savoirs et qualification permanente sont donc les conditions premières de notre réussite", insistent les experts, que la stratégie européenne adoptée à Lisbonne en 2000 et le modèle finlandais de recherche et d'innovation semblent avoir inspirés.

Aussi préconisent-ils, entre autres, de créer dix grands pôles d'enseignement supérieur de taille mondiale – "la part du financement privé pouvant atteindre 80%" – et de redonner à la France tous les moyens, dont ceux de la recherche, pour "prendre une place de premier plan dans les secteurs d'avenir" : numérique, santé, écologie, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, neurosciences, etc.

M. Attali pose le diagnostic en ces termes : "Le monde avance, la France doit croître" et "changer de vitesse", car dans un monde évoluant "à très grande vitesse", un pays trop lent "s'appauvrit", "se désole et recule". Il n'y a nul déclinisme dans ce constat, mais plutôt la conviction partagée et étayée que, malgré ses nombreux atouts, la France a pris du retard et "reste très largement une société de connivence et de privilèges". "Les conséquences de ce conservatisme général sont catastrophiques, en particulier pour les jeunes", écrit M. Attali, dont le constat rejoint sur ce point celui dressé par le socialiste Jacques Delors.

Faire revenir "pour tous" une croissance économique forte suppose des réformes rapides et massives, estime l'ancien conseiller du président Mitterrand. Donnant implicitement acte à Nicolas Sarkozy de sa volonté de faire bouger la France, M. Attali appelle clairement à l'abandon d'"un modèle hérité de l'après-guerre, alors efficace mais devenu inadapté".

Dans un domaine très exploré depuis trente ans, depuis le classique ouvrage de Malinvaud-Carré-Dubois sur La Croissance française (1972) jusqu'au rapport Camdessus de 2004, la commission Attali n'innove pas toujours, loin s'en faut. Réduire le coût du travail, ouvrir les professions réglementées, fiscaliser une partie du financement de la protection sociale, diminuer la dépense publique en faisant maigrir l'Etat et les collectivités publiques sont autant de recommandations de facture classique, qui sonnent, souvent, comme des redites. Mais ce faisant elles n'en apparaissent que plus "incontournables".

Pour réaliser ce travail sur la croissance, auquel le chef de l'Etat avait assigné le même objectif fondateur que celui fixé par le général de Gaulle au rapport Rueff-Armand (1960), l'ancien sherpa de François Mitterrand s'était entouré de quarante-deux personnes : des présidents de grandes entreprises comme Anne Lauvergeon (Areva), des Européens de premier plan comme l'Espagnole Ana Palacio, vice-présidente de la Banque mondiale, ou l'Italien Mario Monti, aujourd'hui président de l'université Bocconi de Milan, des acteurs de la lutte contre les discriminations, des patrons de PME, des économistes comme Philippe Aghion, professeur à Harvard, mais aussi le Britannique Theodore Zeldin, auteur d'une célèbre Histoire des passions françaises, et le neuropsychiatre Boris Cyrulnik, des journalistes dont Eric Le Boucher, du Monde.

Ces personnalités d'horizons et de sensibilités politiques divers se sont progressivement forgé un jugement consensuel sur l'état de la France, avant d'élaborer ces propositions qui les engagent toutes.


Globalement libérales, les propositions de la commission ne le sont pas toutes. Plusieurs sont empruntées aux social-démocraties scandinaves, comme la mise en place des agences pour les principaux services au public à la manière de la Suède ou celle de rémunérer les périodes de recherche d'emploi dans le cadre d'un "contrat d'évolution" des demandeurs d'emploi sur le modèle danois.

"La réforme peut faire peur, notamment aux plus démunis, alors que ce sont ceux qui ont le plus besoin de croissance", reconnaît M. Attali. Il avoue "une obsession" –"que tous soient gagnants, et en priorité les exclus d'aujourd'hui" – et propose, dans son "mode d'emploi" du changement, de respecter trois principes d'équité "cardinaux" : que la réforme concerne "toutes les catégories sociales et professionnelles", que les acteurs "les plus fragilisés" par la mobilité soient "les mieux accompagnés" et que les effets des réformes soient évalués dans la durée "et d'abord du point de vue des victimes du conservatisme actuel : en premier lieu les jeunes, les chômeurs, les plus pauvres et les exclus du marché du travail, et plus généralement les classes moyennes qui ne vivent que du revenu de leur travail".

Reste à l'exécutif à décider la suite qu'il entend donner à ces travaux. Ils ne constituent ni "un inventaire dans lequel un gouvernement pourrait picorer à sa guise ni un concours d'idées originales condamnées à rester marginales", mais, avertit M. Attali, "un ensemble cohérent, dont chaque pièce est articulée avec les autres, dont chaque élément constitue la clé de la réussite du tout".

Claire Guélaud

quarta-feira, janeiro 16, 2008

296) Uma aula simples, e completa, sobre o liberalismo

A Falta que o Liberalismo Faz
Carlos Pio
Política Democrática – Revista de Política e Cultura
Ano VI, n° 19, novembro de 2007

A palavra liberalismo foi convertida em ofensa no contexto político brasileiro. Liberal é sinônimo de "desumano", "intransigente", "arcaico", "aristocrata", "entreguista", "ingênuo", "desatualizado", a lista é enorme. Mas ouso dizer três coisas sobre o (mau) uso desta palavra no Brasil: (i) está errado; (ii) nos prejudica; e (iii) nos faz falta. Vejamos.

O liberalismo é um conceito usado para a definir uma doutrina tanto política como econômica. Na política, liberal é todo aquele que acredita no imperativo da liberdade individual como espinha dorsal das relações estado-sociedade. Neste sentido, no cerne do liberalismo encontram-se a democracia representativa e o governo republicano (aquele que presta contas à sociedade, está submetido à disputa eleitoral e trata todos os cidadãos sem distinção perante a lei).

Neste sentido estrito, anti-liberais são anti-democratas e/ou anti-republicanos, ou seja, aqueles que acreditam em alguma forma de organização da política que despreza os direitos civis e políticos fundamentais – à vida, independentemente de suas concepções políticas; a votar e ser votado, em eleições justas e competitivas; a ser tratado sem distinção pelas leis do país; à pluralidade de fontes de informação. Após o surgimento ou a adoção do liberalismo político, aristocratas/monarquistas, socialistas/comunistas, fascistas, caudilhos, e os defensores de todos os modelos autoritários de organização política foram desafiados a ajustar suas crenças ao novo padrão de relação estado-sociedade surgido na Inglaterra do século 17. Não há dúvidas de que, desde esses tempos, a história da humanidade atesta a superioridade ética, moral, social, cultural e econômica do liberalismo político.

No terreno da economia, liberalismo também significa a prevalência dos direitos individuais sobre qualquer forma de usurpação pelo Estado ou por outros indivíduos. A essência do argumento liberal é libertária: todo indivíduo é proprietário de sua vida – seu corpo, sua energia, sua força, sua inteligência e criatividade. Pode fazer dela o que bem entender. Mas o direito de cada um termina onde começam os direitos dos demais. Tudo é possível, desde que tudo seja possível para todos. A igualdade perante a lei – que vem da doutrina política liberal – encontra, na economia, uma aplicação fundamental: a defesa intransigente da propriedade privada, quer sobre bens materiais (terra, dinheiro) quer sobre bens imateriais (vida, trabalho, criatividade). Ninguém pode se apropriar do trabalho de outro sem o seu consentimento. Daí as relações contratuais (salários) substituírem relações de lealdade (servidão) e a escravidão.

Aliada à defesa da liberdade individual na forma de propriedade (material e imaterial), o liberalismo econômico traz, em sua essência, o princípio da igualdade de oportunidades, promovido no plano individual e coletivo. Neste último, o estado teria o papel essencial de prover uma redistribuição das riquezas dos indivíduos mais afortunados para prover melhores condições aos menos pobres, na forma de bens coletivos capazes de alavancar suas chances de gerar mais riqueza no futuro – educação e saúde sendo os mais importantes. No entanto, a fim de desrespeitar o nínimo possível o princípio da liberdade/propriedade individual, as funções do estado para promover a igualdade de oportunidades deveria ser realmente limitada, afinal seu financiamento depende de impostos, uma usurpação da propriedade privada.

A história da humanidade também demonstra a superioridade deste sistema sobre todos os demais que foram pensados para suplantá-lo, razão pela qual marxistas/comunistas, nacionalistas, mercantilistas e os defensores de concepções alternativas de ordem econômica tiveram que se curvar ao capitalismo.

Assim, em sua essência, liberalismo político e econômico são complementares – a despeito da existência de tensões inerentes ao pleno exercício das liberdades econômicas e políticas, como ja salientado. Além disso, são responsáveis pela consistente melhoria das condições (materiais e imateriais) de vida em todo o globo.

Por que o uso inapropriado no Brasil do termo "liberalismo" – como sinônimo de "arcaico", "desumano" – haveria de nos prejudicar e fazer falta? Primeiro, porque obscurece o terreno da disputa política entre os que são favoráveis à adoção e/ou consolidação dos direitos individuais contra as usurpações feitas pelo estado e/ou grupos sociais. Afinal, se não assumirmos nossa essência liberal, quem vai defender as rendas dos cidadãos contra a volição gastadora dos políticos? A contenção da fúria arrecadatória dos governantes (impostos altos), da tendência ao endividamento crescente do estado (que implica em mais impostos no futuro e juros altos no presente), do recurso ao financiamento inflacionário dos gastos públicos (que impõe a perda de valor da poupança privada) e mesmo da corrupção requer a existência de uma sólida armadura liberal na sociedade e nos partidos. Da mesma forma, sem os liberais, quem vai se interpor à ação de grupos de invasores de terras públicas e privadas? Quem vai defender políticas econômicas, sociais e de desenvolvimento que focalizem prioritariamente a oferta de bens coletivos que aumentem, diretamente, as chances de progresso próprio dos mais pobres? ou seja, quem vai privilegiar políticas em prol da igualdade de oportunidade (educacção básica saúde pública de qualidade, programas de transferência de renda para os pobres em troca de qualificação) em detrimento de políticas que transferem rendas para os mais ricos (industriais, tecnológicas, comerciais)?

O debate público brasileiro é marcado pela prevalência de um moderado consenso liberal no plano político, em que são poucos os que expressam claramente suas tendências autoritárias (hoje quase esclusivamente concentradas nos partidos de esquerda) e pelo confronto entre diferentes tendências anti-liberais (de esquerda, de centro-esquerda e de direita) no terreno econômico. No primeiro caso, falta uma corrente política intransigentemente democrática e republicana que só o liberalismo oferece de forma consistente. No segundo, falta um projeto de desenvolvimento capitalista moderno que leve em conta as necessidades de viabilizar investimentos públicos para a ampliação e a melhoria da qualidade dos programas de igualdade de oportunida. Sem eles, seremos sempre atrasados, arcaicos, desumanos... mas nunca liberais!

domingo, janeiro 13, 2008

295) Estamos ficando mais inteligentes...

What Is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect
James Flynn
Cambridge University Press

Estamos ficando mais inteligentes
Por Martha San Juan França
Valor Econômico, 11/01/2008

Há 20 anos, um filósofo americano chamado James Flynn fez uma descoberta genial: o desempenho médio nos testes que medem o quociente de inteligência, o famigerado QI, tem aumentado até 20 pontos por geração no mundo inteiro, o equivalente a uma elevação de 1/5 na inteligência geral de uma pessoa mediana, com QI na casa dos 100 pontos. O fenômeno, batizado de efeito Flynn, revela que as mesmas habilidades intelectuais que possuem hoje um homem ou uma mulher comuns seriam suficientes para garantir altas pontuações em um teste de inteligência realizado no início do século XX no Brasil. Ou seja, se nossos avós e bisavós fossem utilizar as normas atuais de desempenho nesses testes, seriam classificados, no mínimo, como pessoas com recursos de intelecto mais restritos.

Uma pessoa nascida na década de 1920, por exemplo, que possuía um QI de 100, teria um filho com QI em torno de 108 e um neto com QI de cerca de 120, de acordo com a teoria de Flynn. Numa abordagem no sentido oposto, uma criança que hoje tem QI de 100 teria avós com QI de aproximadamente 82.

Os mais pessimistas podem enxergar aí um paradoxo: apesar do declínio da cultura, da decadência do ensino, da má qualidade dos meios de comunicação de massa e do menor número de leitores, o mundo está ficando mais inteligente.

No recém-lançado livro "What Is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect", ainda sem tradução no Brasil, James Flynn, de 73 anos, procura explicar esses paradoxos ao fazer uma análise da evolução da inteligência para tentar defini-la e discutir uma nova maneira de abordar o papel representado pelo "cérebro, as diferenças individuais e tendências sociais" no seu desenvolvimento.

Fatores como a diminuição do número de filhos e o aumento do lazer - sobretudo o eletrônico, inexistente para as gerações anteriores - teriam favorecido a exposição das crianças a experiências de expansão do QI. Essa mudança no padrão da inteligência seria, segundo o cientista, um efeito colateral da revolução cognitiva do século XX.

Mas a questão não é trivial e a pesquisa de Flynn sofreu uma série de ataques por parte de seus colegas cientistas. Muitos argumentavam que o ganho nos resultados nos testes de QI se devia à melhoria de nutrição. Outros sugeriam que era conseqüência da expansão do ensino e não havia relação com a inteligência inata. Havia também aqueles críticos que simplesmente negavam a eficiência dos testes de QI, usando como argumento a teoria sobre inteligências múltiplas de Howard Gardner - psicólogo cognitivo americano, ligado à Universidade de Harvard e conhecido por sua teoria das inteligências múltiplas - ou a controvérsia despertada por trabalhos do tipo "The Bell Curve" (A curva do sino), escrito por Richard Herrnstein e Charles Murray, que sugeriam existir diferenças intelectuais entre as raças.

Em resposta, Flynn, professor da Universidade de Otago, na Nova Zelândia, obteve mais dados para comprovar seus resultados. O efeito Flynn foi constatado em quase 30 países, incluindo o Brasil, em cada geração de 30 anos. E ocorreu mesmo em períodos de má nutrição durante as guerras no Japão e na Europa. Além disso, Flynn demonstrou que os testes relacionados que demandam processos mentais ou conteúdos ensinados na escola - como retenção de informação e vocabulário - tiveram os menores ganhos no período. Se o aumento do QI se devesse ao maior número de informações e à melhoria da escolaridade na sociedade industrial e pós-moderna, a hipótese mais provável seria que os conhecimentos apreendidos na sala de aula fossem os mais afetados nos testes de QI, que avaliam uma série de habilidades. O que se percebeu, entretanto, foi que o impacto maior no desempenho parece estar ligado a testes de raciocínio lógico e com pouco peso para o conteúdo cultural.

As implicações de seus resultados levaram o pesquisador a repensar o "fator G", ou seja, a medida de inteligência geral que não depende do grau de treinamento ou da escolaridade da pessoa testada. Em 1994, durante a polêmica que se seguiu ao lançamento do livro "The Bell Curve", que apresentava as estatísticas mostrando o atraso dos negros nos testes de QI, Flynn se uniu ao economista americano William Dickens, do Brookings Institution, para criar um modelo que explicasse essas diferenças.

Nesse modelo, eles sugerem que o aumento da escolaridade nas nações industrializadas até a década de 1950 afetou o resultado dos testes. No entanto, o efeito desse processo deve ter cessado depois disso, pois os testes que medem o conteúdo aprendido na escola tiveram um aumento desprezível, enquanto o desempenho em testes que demandam processos mentais com pouca influência cultural aumentou consideravelmente.

O material mais rico da pesquisa se refere justamente à influência do ambiente sobre a herança genética. Estudos de gêmeos idênticos separados depois do nascimento e criados por famílias diferentes mostram que eles desenvolvem trajetórias semelhantes. Flynn partiu do pressuposto de que essa coincidência não se deve apenas aos genes, mas tem relação com o ambiente.

O argumento pode ser explicado fazendo uma analogia com o basquete. Se dois meninos gêmeos são altos, ágeis e atléticos, vivem em ambientes em que o basquete é valorizado e praticam o esporte com regularidade, provavelmente vão se tornar profissionais, mesmo se forem criados em lugares diferentes. Em contraste, gêmeos baixinhos, desajeitados, pouco entusiasmados com o esporte, vão se tornar meros espectadores.

Em outras palavras, as vantagens genéticas que podem ter sido bastante modestas no momento do nascimento são reforçadas posteriormente ao se associarem ao ambiente. "Não é difícil aplicar a analogia com os testes de QI", afirma Flynn ao Valor. "Crianças com uma vantagem nos testes tenderão a gostar mais da escola, ser mais estimuladas, ler mais e entrar nas melhores universidades. Se tiverem um gêmeo idêntico, separado após o nascimento, com mais ou menos a mesma história, este certamente terá o mesmo desempenho. A capacidade desses genes atraírem ambientes de qualidade semelhante é a chave que faltava no quebra-cabeça."

Flynn começou a estudar a questão da inteligência na Universidade de Chicago - templo do pensamento liberal por onde passaram nomes como o de Milton Friedman -, onde se interessou sobremaneira por questões ligadas à igualdade racial. Sua pesquisa inicial buscava derrubar o mito de que haveria diferenças fundamentais nos QIs de negros e brancos.

Anos depois, escreveu um livro no qual critica as teses - reavivadas há pouco por James Watson, o co-descobridor do DNA - de que os negros teriam uma genética inferior para o item inteligência. A partir daí, Flynn levantou a hipótese de que fatores ambientais persistentes constituem um instrumento poderoso de estímulo para o desenvolvimento de uma sociedade. Quando a escola fundamental se tornou a norma, todas as pessoas com aspirações à classe média queriam um diploma de ensino médio. Quando seus esforços tornaram esse diploma comum, todos começaram a querer um diploma universitário.

"O progresso cria novas expectativas sobre pais estimulando os filhos, empregos de alto nível muito bem pagos nos quais se espera que pensemos por nós mesmos, atividades de lazer cognitivamente mais exigentes", diz o cientista. "Todos querem se manter atualizados, empurrando a média para cima, de forma que se atualizam mais rápido, empurrando a média ainda mais para cima", prossegue.

De acordo com Flynn, o contrário também ocorre: a queda no desempenho dos testes de QI em resposta ao ambiente desfavorável. O cientista exemplifica com o caso da segunda geração de chineses que migraram para os Estados Unidos. Segundo o pesquisador, a primeira geração que entrou na Universidade de Berkeley em 1966 tinha em média sete pontos a menos nos testes de QI se comparada com seus colegas nativos. Apesar disso, em 1980, 55% da turma de chineses americanos de 1966 ocupava postos de comando, técnicos e profissionais, ao ser comparados com 34% dos americanos comuns.

O pesquisador atribui esse resultado inesperado ao estímulo representado pela família. Para Flynn, "os chino-americanos constituíam um grupo étnico no qual as realizações eram mais importantes do que a capacidade intelectual". Esse grupo ofereceu a seus filhos um ambiente cognitivo mais estimulante do que seus pais haviam providenciado. Como resultado, aos 6 anos, essas crianças possuíam um QI nove pontos acima dos estudantes americanos comuns.

Surpreendentemente, a tendência se reverteu com o passar do tempo. Aos 10 anos, essa diferença de QI caiu quatro pontos. Aos 18, caiu para três pontos. Segundo Flynn, "a vantagem se perdeu quando a escola diminuiu a influência familiar e as crianças passaram a valorizar outras coisas".

Atualmente, trabalhos como os de James Flynn e outros levam os especialistas a considerarem normal a influência do ambiente nos resultados dos testes de QI. "Os testes continuam a ser bastante utilizados, mas a interpretação é mais ampla, sendo muitas vezes necessária uma complementação para avaliar determinadas funções cerebrais", explica a neurologista Lúcia Zanotto de Mendonça, presidente da Sociedade Brasileira de Neuropsicologia. "O que chamamos de avaliação neuropsicológica ecológica leva em conta aspectos como alfabetização, escolaridade, fatores culturais e sociais, sexo, idade, a inter-relação da cognição com as emoções e a capacidade adaptativa."

A inteligência, como outras características físicas e psicológicas, tem grande variação entre os indivíduos. É natural, portanto, que existam pessoas mais, e menos, inteligentes. Conhecer essa diferença e tentar melhorar o desempenho escolar das crianças foi o que motivou o psicólogo francês Alfred Binet (1857-1911) a idealizar os primeiros testes de QI.

Hoje, eles constituem um conjunto de subtestes diferentes que avaliam as habilidades cognitivas relacionadas comumemente com a inteligência, como habilidade verbal, lógica/matemática, espacial e memória - todas fortemente inter-relacionadas. Verificou-se, por exemplo, que indivíduos com melhores resultados em testes de habilidades verbais tendem a apresentar melhores resultados nos demais testes, independentemente da forma como são ministrados.

Surpreendentemente, com o passar do tempo, o aumento de ganho dos testes cognitivos não se manifestou de forma uniforme. Em seu livro, Flynn explica que isso ocorreu porque, nos últimos anos, a maioria das sociedades tornou-se mais exigente no que se refere à chamada inteligência fluida, que é a responsável pelo raciocínio abstrato e a solução de problemas novos. Estaríamos mais competentes para executar tarefas específicas e não mais inteligentes no sentido global da palavra.

"Cada época exige um tipo de raciocínio que se reflete no ganho cognitivo correspondente ao teste utilizado", explica a psicóloga Carmen Flores-Mendoza, do Laboratório de Avaliação das Diferenças Individuais, na Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG). "Os ganhos cognitivos, portanto, podem ser de variada intensidade e diferente qualidade, dependendo da exigência presente em cada sociedade, cultura ou nação."

A psicóloga desenvolve um trabalho com outros pesquisadores da América Latina destinado a investigar a relação entre inteligência, rendimento escolar e riqueza das nações a partir dos resultados do Programa Internacional de Avaliação de Alunos (Pisa), que mede o desempenho de alunos de 15 anos em 57 países com o objetivo de oferecer indicadores sobre a qualidade dos sistemas educacionais. O teste, no qual o Brasil se saiu muito mal, mede basicamente o conhecimento de ciências, mas também a capacidade de leitura e inclui noções de matemática.

"É o tipo de prova que solicita não apenas conhecimento escolar, mas a aplicação desses conhecimentos na resolução de problemas cotidianos ou na interpretação de fatos atuais, ou seja, raciocínio abstrato", explica a psicóloga. "Portanto, qualifica o que o mundo e o mercado de trabalho contemporâneo solicitam da pessoa: entender e trabalhar com símbolos. É por essa demanda cognitiva que a prova Pisa apresenta uma correlação em torno de 0,80 com testes de inteligência."

É de supor que os países com melhor desempenho no Pisa, segundo a psicóloga, apresentem também um alto desempenho em testes de inteligência. Uma suposição que advém dos trabalhos e discussões que rodeiam as investigações do psicólogo Richard Lynn e do economista Tatu Vanhanen, que publicaram em 2002 um livro polêmico sobre os testes de inteligência e sua relação com a riqueza das nações ("IQ and the Wealth of Nations"). Segundo a obra, o QI médio de um país estaria associado em 0,70 à sua riqueza, isto é: quanto maior é o capital intelectual de um país, maior é a sua capacidade de produzir riqueza (esta última medida em PIB per capita).

Para comprovar sua tese, eles deviam provar que as estimativas dos QIs dos países eram medidas válidas de inteligência. Para tanto, correlacionaram esses dados com os resultados do Terceiro Estudo Internacional de Matemática e Ciências (Timss), outra prova escolar internacional. Verificaram que, de maneira semelhante ao que ocorre em investigações de pessoas, havia alta associação entre o QI do país e o resultado geral na prova.

"Novos estudos demonstraram essa associação, não só entre o QI dos países, os exames de rendimento escolar e o nível de riqueza, mas também com outros indicadores sociais", observou a psicóloga. "Desse modo, pode-se dizer que o Pisa, embora não tenha sido desenhado para isso, aponta, a cada avaliação, em que medida os governos conseguiram aumentar a capacidade cognitiva de suas populações mediante o aumento da qualidade educacional, uma vez que a inteligência acompanha o rendimento escolar", afirma Carmen.

Para a psicóloga, o QI médio estimado para a América Latina (considerando-se que a média geral é 100), está entre 80 e 93 pontos. A maioria dos países latino-americanos está abaixo de 90, portanto, abaixo da média e insuficiente para acompanhar o desenvolvimento tecnológico e industrial que gera riqueza econômica. O projeto em que Carmen está empenhada quer levantar com mais precisão a situação cognitiva da região, uma vez que os números acima têm como base estudos antigos. Os dados de QI datam de 1940 até 1995, dependendo do país. Os dados das provas Timss e Pisa são de 1995 a 2003. "Nossa pretensão é analisar o desempenho das populações com as duas medidas simultaneamente", afirma.

Além disso, o projeto quer entender as causas do baixo rendimento nas provas. "Mesmo estudantes de uma parte da elite econômica do país tiraram notas abaixo do esperado no Pisa", observa a psicóloga. "Em 2003, somente 20% conseguiram se posicionar nos níveis 4 e 5 em matemática. A elite americana e européia concentrou-se em torno de 55% nesses mesmos níveis. Por quê? Será que nosso contexto educacional privilegia outro tipo de processamento, justo aquele que não responde aos desafios cognitivos atuais?" São questões que o projeto pretende responder.

"What Is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect" - De James Flynn.
Cambridge University Press, 200 páginas, R$ 55, importado na Livraria Cultura, em São Paulo ( www.livcultura.com.br )

quarta-feira, janeiro 09, 2008

294) Os judeus da nova Alemanha

Germany's Jews: Latkes and vodka
Immigrants from the former Soviet Union are transforming Jewish life in Germany
The Economist, Jan 3rd 2008

IN 1938 Julius Schoeps's parents did what many German Jews who were prescient or lucky did at the time: they left. They went to Sweden, where Julius's father worked as an archivist. Julius was born there in 1942.

Then in 1947 Mr Schoeps did something few German Jews did at the time. He went back, followed by his wife seven years later, to join what for decades was a tiny, insular community. “These were years of silence. Everyone suffered because nobody would talk about the Nazi years. My father, who taught at university, often questioned his decision to return to Germany,” says Mr Schoeps. His father grieved for his own parents, Käthe and Julius Schoeps, who had stayed behind in Germany: his mother to die in Auschwitz, his father in Theresienstadt.

German Jews who survived in Germany, or in exile, had a deeply ambivalent relationship with their homeland. Apart from guilt—that they had survived, and even stayed in the killers' country—many felt an almost physical revulsion when they came into close contact with Germans. So they retreated to live in yet another form of ghetto.

By the time the Berlin Wall fell, Germany's Jewish community had only 30,000 ageing members and was dwindling rapidly. Today it is the third-largest, and the fastest-growing, Jewish population in western Europe, after France and Britain. Between 1991, when the country was unified and immigration rules relaxed, and 2005, more than 200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union emigrated to Germany. (At the same time, more than a million emigrated from the former Soviet Union to Israel and about 350,000 to America, leaving only about 800,000 behind.) In some parts of Germany, immigrants—usually referred to as “the Russians”—make up 90% of the local Jewish population.

A few of the so-called established Jews—those who lived in Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall—are enthusiastic about the new arrivals. Hermann Simon, director of the Centrum Judaicum, a museum and research centre in Berlin, was born in 1949 of German parents, and grew up in East Berlin. He says that without the immigration of Russian Jews, the future for Germany's Jews would be dark.

Yet most established Jews disagree. The dapper Mr Schoeps, now director of the Moses-Mendelssohn Centre for European-Jewish Studies in Potsdam, near Berlin, argues that Germany's old Jewish heritage is gone. Its so-called “memory landscape”—memorial sites, commemorative plaques, cultural centres and museums—is now being guarded by gentiles who are merely interested in things Jewish; the sort of people who crowd to the Chanukkah market at Berlin's Jewish Museum to sample latkes and sufganiot (doughnuts) and to sip kosher mulled wine.

As for the immigrants from the former Soviet Union, most neither know nor care about Jewish rituals and traditions. Few of the newcomers keep a kosher home. Many men are not circumcised. When they arrive in Germany, they focus on the practicalities of life—jobs, flats, social security and health insurance. They play chess rather than Skat, a popular card game in Germany. Their cultural icons are Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky, not Goethe and Beethoven, let alone Mendelssohn or Heine, who were German Jews.

Established Jews find the newcomers anders (different from us), suspect that they are not “real” Jews and think they are mainly coming in search of prosperity and material help from the state and the community. “They take whatever they can get,” sniffs one.

There is also an argument over identity. For decades, Jews in the former Soviet Union did their utmost to hide from Soviet authorities and even to destroy proof of their origins. So when Germany started to admit Jews in 1991 under the “quota refugee law” (which granted them special refugee status), many could not assemble the papers required to prove their Jewishness. Thousands are reckoned to have got into Germany with false documents.

The strictly orthodox faction in the German community, which is by far the strongest, does not accept even the majority of those who came with proper identification. According to halakha, or religious law, only a convert or a child born to a Jewish mother is Jewish. Jeffrey Peck, a professor at Georgetown University and author of “Being Jewish in the New Germany”, a book exploring the diversity of contemporary Jewish life in Germany, says that about 80% of the newcomers are not halakhically Jewish. Yet they are the future of Judaism in Germany.
Judenrein no more

It is an irony of history that the country that Hitler wanted to make judenrein (clean of Jews) now has the fastest-growing Jewish community in western Europe. Before the Nazis came to power, about 600,000 Jews lived in Germany. At the end of the war some 1,500 survived in hiding; 9,000 were in concentration camps; and 15,000 survived by marrying non-Jews. A few hundred emigrants returned from exile in Shanghai and other cities.

Between 1945 and 1952 some 200,000 Jewish displaced persons lived in camps (often disused concentration camps) and urban centres in Germany. Most were zealous Zionists. Keen to leave the camps and build a new life, they became an influential force in the political debate about the creation of a Jewish state. Most of them emigrated to Israel as soon as they could after the state's creation in 1948.

By 1950 only some 20,000 Jews remained in Germany. About 8,000 of these were native German Jews; 12,000 came from eastern Europe, mostly from Poland. They were ostracised by international Jewish organisations because they had decided to stay in the land of the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Most of them considered their sojourn in Germany to be only temporary; they were “sitting on packed suitcases”, as they put it, and travelled to Israel at regular intervals.
EPA Remembrance of things past

Defensiveness made German Jews try hard—sometimes too hard—to be better friends of Israel than any other diaspora Jews. Anthony Kauders, an historian, says that they engaged in “shaming rituals” in the 1950s and 1960s to bully fellow Jews into donating money to Israel. They had donation rankings, and sent out letters that named and shamed anyone who proved stingy. A representative of Keren Hayesod, the central fund-raising organisation for Israel, once returned DM2,500 (then $600) to a wealthy donor because it seemed too small a contribution.

Germany's growing prosperity and its readiness to come to terms with its Nazi past encouraged Jews to unpack their suitcases in the 1970s and 1980s. Cultural centres and new synagogues were built; Germany now has 89 synagogues. Jews made themselves seen and heard in public life. In 1985 Jewish protesters stopped the première of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's “Garbage, the City and Death”, a play portraying a ruthless property developer referred to as “the rich Jew”.

This new Jewish assertiveness became even more evident in the 1990s when Ignatz Bubis, a Holocaust survivor and chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, started a public spat with Martin Walser, a well-known writer. In his speech of acceptance of the German Booksellers' Peace Prize, Mr Walser denounced the “moral battering-ram of Auschwitz” and pleaded for normality in German-Jewish relations. Mr Bubis accused him of “spiritual arson”. A heated debate among historians, politicians and journalists followed. Indeed, it became so venomous that the then president of Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker, asked the participants to “cool it”.

More recent arguments have taken place over the “memory landscape”. Hundreds of memorials now dot Germany, from concentration-camp museums to brass bricks sunk in the pavement outside ordinary houses, naming the Jews who once lived there. As is often the case with Jewish issues, Berlin saw the most heated controversies. Eberhard Diepgen, former mayor of Berlin, was unhappy about the plan to build a Holocaust memorial, the chief national symbol of atonement, in the heart of the city. In a much-criticised speech in parliament, he argued that Berlin already had many memorial sites, including the Topography of Terror, an entire block in the city centre, which once housed the headquarters of the Reich security services. On the remaining foundations, uncovered in the mid-1980s, an open-air exhibition describes what went on there in grim detail.

Even so, the city and the federal government went ahead, and in May 2005, after many delays, the new Holocaust memorial was inaugurated. It is an undulating labyrinth of 2,711 concrete blocks on a site the size of a football field near the Brandenburg Gate. It is a place where visitors are meant to feel unsettled, lost and frightened, as the murdered Jews did. And the development of the memory landscape continues: at the end of September 2007 a new glass-covered courtyard opened at the Jewish Museum Berlin, a building inspired by the sharpness and angles of barbed wire. Last March a Jewish museum opened in Munich.
The Red Army faction

Germany's new Jews are not especially interested in any of this. Most of them suffered not under Hitler but under Stalin, who murdered millions of Soviet citizens or sent them to brutal labour camps. For them, Hitler was the enemy only in a military sense. Each year in early May, when everybody else in Germany solemnly commemorates the country's unconditional surrender, the Russian war veterans among Germany's Jews march around with their military decorations to celebrate the victory over Nazi Germany. “This was their proudest hour,” says Mr Simon from the Centrum Judaicum, who campaigns to give the newcomers a voice and an honoured place. Last year he organised “From Soviet Star to the Star of David”, an exhibition of wartime memories of 13 Red Army veterans, which included their personal stories.

German Jews complain that the newcomers have only the faintest notion of Judaism and Jewish traditions. In April Mr Schoeps threatened to establish a new group of Jews in Berlin, made up of those who feel alienated by “the Russians”. The immigrant community, he complained, “resembles a Russian-speaking cultural club rather than a religious association.” Albert Meyer, a former head of Berlin's Jews who supported Mr Schoeps, accused the Russians of using “Stalinist methods” to influence other Jews and said they had no interest in faith.

Berlin's Jewish community is now troubled, not just by its cultural divide but also by mismanagement and corruption, involving both Russians and Germans, which have tainted its reputation. It has a whopping yearly budget of €25m ($37m), more than 80% of which is paid by the city of Berlin. Most of the running costs of Jewish synagogues, schools, cemeteries, libraries, hospitals and nursing homes are met by the German state as an atonement for the past. “The community has too much money,” comments Mr Schoeps. He believes this encourages misuse of the funds by Jews, both old and new.
“People of the second sort”

Although many German Jews concede that strengthened numbers—of both real and purported Jews—will reinvigorate their previously tiny community, many complain that they no longer feel at home in their community centres and synagogues, where Russian has become the language of choice. The Berlin Jews' monthly magazine is now published in both Russian and German. In spite of the government's offer of free language lessons, many older incomers—and most of them were already over 45 when they arrived—have not bothered to learn more than rudimentary German. “Of course Jews from the former Soviet Union, though highly educated, are people of the ‘second sort’ for the German Jewish establishment,” says Anna Sokhrina, a Russian writer who now lives in Berlin.

What do those “second sorts” think? Nora Gaydukova, a sociologist who left St Petersburg in 1997 with her husband, a doctor, came in the hope of a better life and a western education for her second daughter, who is 14. (Her older daughter, who is 35, stayed in Russia.) During her first years in Germany she felt terribly unhappy; she missed her friends and her job. Her Soviet diplomas were worthless. The German authorities, who offered her lessons in German, English and computer skills on condition that she found a job, discouraged her from retaking the sociology exams.
Reuters He survived

“Today I am happy in Berlin, which has the only Jewish community that feels somehow real,” says Ms Gaydukova on a rainy winter afternoon at the recently opened centre of the Chabad Lubavitch, a branch of Hasidic Judaism, in the western part of Berlin. She is employed as a social worker by a Russian cultural association, her daughter is at a bilingual (German and Spanish) high school and she has found new friends, though she admits that most of them are foreigners as well. “There is little contact between Russians and Germans,” she notes.

The Lubavitcher community centre attracts many Jews from the former Soviet Union who, like Ms Gaydukova, are keen to learn more about Judaism. On the day before the mid-November election of the head of the Jewish community in Berlin, Gideon Joffe, fighting for re-election after two controversial years in the job, came to address members of the congregation while they shared a meal with their rabbis, who come from Israel and America. He was gently teased for coming only when he is campaigning for votes. He retorted that Berlin has nine synagogues and countless community meetings.

“Real” German Jews, rather than recent immigrants, still monopolise the leadership of Jewish communities everywhere in the country, although they now represent only about 10-15% of the total Jewish population. In the event Lala Süsskind, a 61-year-old woman who came to Berlin from Lower Silesia as a baby, beat Mr Joffe in the contest for the top job by a large margin. She had campaigned for unity of the Jewish community and pleaded with Mr Schoeps, Mr Meyer and other alienated Germans to avoid a split. “Her big challenge now is to integrate the Russians at last,” commented a German Jew who voted for her.

Yet as Sergey Lagodinsky, a former programme director at the Berlin Office of the American Jewish Committee, who migrated with his family to Germany from southern Russia in 1993, says, one cannot integrate 85% of a community. In his view, the definition of Jewishness according to religious criteria is a chief cause of division; because the newcomers tend to be secular, it only alienates them further. In November 2006, when a front-page editorial in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a conservative and highly respected newspaper, said that the biggest challenge for the Jewish community in Germany was to make Russian Jews into authentic Jews, Mr Lagodinsky fired back with a polemic in Tachles, a Jewish magazine, entitled “False Jews, real problems”.

The newcomers pose a difficulty for gentiles, too. Although the immigration authorities admit Jews under ethnic guidelines (ie, the father or mother have to be Jewish), most non-Jewish Germans insist on defining Jewishness in purely religious terms. “This is the result of German guilt about the Nazi obsession with race and racial stereotypes,” says Mr Kauders. Most Germans believe that it is wrong to think of a Jew in terms other than adherence to the Jewish religion.

Yet the fact is that times have changed. Germans will have to adapt to having a big, largely secular Jewish community. Established Jews will have to accept that the glory days of sophisticated German Jewry—from Albert Einstein to Kurt Weill—are gone forever. The titles of the two most recent books about Jews in Germany since 1945 (both of which were published last September) suggest that Germany cannot be the long-term home of a forward-looking Jewish community. “L'impossible Retour” (The Impossible Return) was written by Olivier Guez, a Frenchman. “Unmögliche Heimat” (Impossible Homeland) was penned by Mr Kauders, an American. But the authors' conclusions are less stark and more hopeful than their titles. “Something new and different is being created with the Jews from the Soviet Union,” concludes Mr Kauders.