I entered the Psychology course at USP in 1985, coming from an elite school in São Paulo that was recently the scene of debate due to the founding of a Nazi collective, which led to the expulsion of eight students.
At the time, the contrast between my training (quite homogeneous, results-oriented and with persistent zones of discrimination) and the new space of USP redemocratization (full of people coming from the interior of the state, with other cultural references and more racial diversity) was , probably the most decisive cultural experience of my formation.
But that only happened due to two factors, which I think are important to discuss, in this moment of Brazilian re-democratization.
In 1985, despite my chronic financial difficulties, the university offered a series of small jobs and small economic exchanges that allowed students to spend extensive time together at the university itself.
If you didn’t have classes, you would play chess, participate in some theater or poetry collective, go to a meeting at the Academic Center or Atlética da Psico, and even get dragged to some conference.
That’s how I came into contact with Paulo Freire, Fernando Henrique Cardoso or Jurgen Habermas, without having the stupidest idea of what those names represented in the course of events.
I say this thinking about the condition of my students today who face all kinds of difficulties to stay in the university environment.
I am not referring to precarious food, housing, day care centers and other basic services in the name of the “core activity” limited to teaching and learning.
Thinking together is a matter of living together. It involves some idleness, but mainly a common life, where good encounters can happen.
The task-oriented and occupational mentality in which everything that is produced in the academic universe has to be accounted for in the form of credit, Lattes points or certificates made for accumulation and comparison directly attacks this way of life where I learned to do science and to think.
It is true that if you do not publish anything, do not get involved in academic debates and are never at that congress, you are simply remiss. You’re thinking that a career in science is similar to a career in corporations.
This curricularist idea was largely abandoned in the selection processes of the best and most qualified universities in the world.
More and more young people who are capable of social involvement, group work, empathy and ethical reasoning are coveted.
Furthermore, the more you grow in a company or a business, the more important your “political” skill becomes.
But where would you learn this all-important skill?
Make no mistake: relational, socio-emotional or generally political skills do not replace some quantitative achievements and merits in the open race for the accumulation of results.
What I’m trying to say is that you don’t produce a researcher if he doesn’t learn to feel at home in his laboratory.
If the university is a place, it is a place of passage, which means, in the long run, that you are only passing through.
Permanence has become even more difficult to produce in the framework of affirmative actions, which have been able, until now, to place many students who would previously be excluded, but which still falters when we ask whether these students really feel that the university is their place, your home, your community.
This happens both because of a lack of investment in university permanence, for those who need it, and because those who don’t need it have unlearned to “live on campus”.
In September 1985 we organized a scientific exchange trip to Buenos Aires. It was the first time I left Brazil and we found Buenos Aires in flames.
But to do science it’s not enough to have an epistemic home, you have to travel, leave home a second time. In this second twist they create common experiences with other “foreigners”. When we returned, we learned to see our country again. Its problems and solutions emerge from another perspective.
In 1985, I walked alongside Hebe de Bonafini, leader of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, with her scarves on her head, with the names of her sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, tortured, forcibly adopted by other families, thrown from planes, raped , humiliated, threatened and persecuted in every way during the years of military dictatorship.
Hebe died after more than fifty years looking for her two missing children.
I remember her look, somewhat astonished and proud, before a bunch of psychology students who wanted to meet her and sympathize with her struggle.
Thirty years after that day I returned to Buenos Aires with my wife and children and again we walked with Hebe around the Plaza de Mayo, with the Casa Rosada in the background, where the Argentine presidency is located.
In 1985, and then again in 1987, meetings like this did not replace the crowded classrooms at the University of Buenos Aires, the discovery that in that country access to universities was free and each course had thousands of students. The discovery of bookstores with titles and translations that we would never have dreamed of in Brazil.
The new antipsychiatric experiences at Hospital la Borda, Pichon-Rivière’s innovations in Social Psychology, the Argentinian readings of Piaget, Freud and Lacan, as well as the discovery that during the dictatorship the Grupo Plataforma had risen against the elitist pyramid of psychoanalysis , denouncing its abuses and recreating the transmission problem of communities of psychoanalysts.
This journey fully came back to my memory when I recently watched an obligatory film for our Brazilian moment: “Argentina, 1985”, with the immortal Ricardo Darín and a candidate for an Oscar seat.
The film depicts the trial of former presidents and military leaders —from the navy, army and air force— who were accused of complicity in torture and disappearances between 1973 and 1983. It is estimated that 30,000 people died during this period of state terror. , in the name of the fight against leftist communism.
The film portrays the drama of Strassera and Ocampo, two prosecutors in charge of the prosecution. Amid threats and dissensions with their families and lack of human resources, they gathered a small group of young lawyers to collect more than 700 testimonies of cases, which thus became representative of the thousands that could not be reached.
The film is a lesson in how the characters who fulfill their role in the story are always somewhat divided, uncertain of their purposes. With them, courage is not blind conviction, but a humble, groping, and yet incapable of being really cowed.
The idea that good people, who go to church, as would have been the case with General Videla and Ocampo’s mother (who, by the way, came from a secular family of Argentine soldiers) can do no harm, is slowly taking root. collapse as real victims’ testimonies come to light.
The fact that leaders neither know nor control their subordinates perfectly falls apart when one realizes that a speech can sanction violence simply by keeping silent, through indirect messages, through the use of “dirty service” and inconsequential words, indifferent or exempt.
The film is a piece of political education, an example of how we can learn from mistakes and how we can expect historical judgments to come here in Brazil as well.
Our recent experience —in universities, science, culture and the arts— invites us to ask: in the name of what and why can we say “never again”.