children, elephants and intellectuals

Fac. Latino-Americana de Ciencias Sociais (flacso@CR-DF.RNP.BR)
Fri, 21 Jul 1995 16:33:13 -0300

Some fellow Anthropologists, discussing the problem brought by Candice
Bradley, have stated that there is nothing intellectuals can do about
genocide in Bosnia. Seemingly, they could do something about French nukes-
(see the chain letter in the net). Thus, they can influence the survival
of elephants but not the survival of children.

On ethical and practical grounds this is a very misleading position.
Intellectuals have a lot to do with all that, as citizens of a nation and
specially as intellectuals. Here in my country, Brazil, Anthropologists,
as such, have had a important role in the political and juridical fight
for the survival of isolated Indian populations, and for the physical and
cultural protection of different social groups. The joint action with
Anthropologist from other countries, including the US., has been one of
the importants courses of action.

Intellectuals are extremely influential anywhere in the world because,
discussing ideas, they form public opinion. This works in two ways:

1-Producing and disseminating "ideologies". General "world views" and
principles, about the roles, rights and positions of each human group and
social segment.
2- Playing the role of "intelligentsia", that is, discussing and
getting positions about the main specific problems of their community,
country and the world.
This is done by publishing in academic journals , lecturing and making
the minds of students, and even writing to internet (that is the reason I
am writing such a long message), but also by organizing public opinion,
writing to newspapers, pressuring scientific and professional associations
to take a position, writing to one's representative, and even shouting in
the streets.

What can't be accepted is genocide. The Bosnian situation is
unbelievable: the UN. declares an arms embargo, when one of the sides was
already heavily armed. It would be then, supposed to protect both sides.
Of course it is not protecting anybody, not even it own troops. Thus,
there is the mass murder.

Organizations like the UN, need some kind of moral backbone. We are
not only watching the physical extermination of a whole people, but also
the end of the UN as a viable entity. From now on, it will loose
legitimacy and its decisions won't be accepted by anybody.

FLACSO-Brasil (Faculdade Latino-Americano de Cijncias Sociais)
sociologist Ayrton Fausto, who just arrived from fieldwork in Sarajevo,
has shown, in a recent paper here in Brasilia, that what is going on, is
part of an wider conflict between Slavic and Moslem populations in
Eastern Europe. Fausto insists that the threat to world peace
is very serious. In spite of the decadence and disorganization of
post-cold war Russia, it still holds a huge atomic arsenal. At the other
side there are Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Arab countries, and
all the Islamic nations which were part of the ex-Soviet Union (like
Chechenia). The doctrines in action are: pan-slavism to one side and, of
course, Moslem religion to the other.

To play a tougher game now, may save UN and even world peace. It would
be the case to remind that the French and English conciliatory attitudes
towards Germany, after its first hostile mouvements (justified, like now,
in ethnic terms), were one of the causes of the beginning of World War II.

But more important than any other consideration is to stop genocide.
We have to, because of moral and human reasons. The persons who are being
murdered and raped are not Americans, French or Brazilians, but "our
people", as any other human beings.

George de Cerqueira Leite Zarur