Re: children, elephants and intellectuals

Mon, 24 Jul 1995 08:31:48 -0400

Hi there,

In case 'some fellow anthropologists' refers to my posting: perhaps
you misunderstood what I wrote. I did not mean that intellectuals
cannot do anything about the situation, but tried to give an
explanation for *why* intellectuals give far more attention to the
atom bomb test. The latter case is imbedded far more firmly in
the European body politic than the former, thereby
enhancing the potential impact of public opinion. In the
bosnian case public opinion has to pass through several
'filters' before impacting on the situation. I agree with you that
'intellectuals' can have an effect, but one also has to be realistic
about how much they can do.


> 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