NOTHING THAT MAY RESULT IN EVERYTHING
Corrêa de Oliveira (*)
The precise evaluation of the importance of an event
can only rarely be achieved by the employing of just one criterion. Much more
than this is normally required. In fact, it behooves one to consider all of the
criteria applicable to the case, in order to be able to arrange them
immediately according to a complex and subtle hierarchy of values. Only after
having processed the task in this way is it possible to arrive at a satisfactory
Among these criteria is one which must always be
present. And not infrequently, it is decisive. That criterion is as follows: If
an event produces important consequences, it will be difficult to deny
importance to it; on the contrary, if it does not produce them, it will be
difficult — if not impossible — to consider that it amounts to something.
From this perspective, one sees that an impressive
number of events published in the newspapers in the last few months are "sui generis." Upon reading
them, one has the impression of a world in effervescence or, rather, of a world
in explosion. In reality, however, when one investigates what consequences
there are from this mountain of so many explosions in progress, one is left
disconcerted, for those consequences do not appear to exist.
Some examples leap before our eyes. The fall of the
Portuguese Empire in Africa
was certainly a tragic event and one which produced great consequences,
bringing the enslavement to Communism not only of the former colonies but also
of the Metropolis. Immediately thereafter, slaughters and even a revolution
burst forth in the ex-Lusitanian overseas provinces. A great deal of traveling
was done, many negotiations transpired, and much was written in order to
remedy this evil. What resulted from all of this? Practically
Nothing except that the contagion of
subversion began to spread through Rhodesia and South Africa. And then new
journeys, new negotiations, and a flurry of news reports. Nevertheless,
what came from all of this? The traveling continues, the negotiations are
extended, and the news report proliferate. How long
will they last? What results will they bring? One does not know.
At the moment of this writing, things appear to be
heating up between Rhodesia
Will anything come of this? Anything other than a battle
without direction and without end like the sad war in the Middle East?
This leads us to change the field of our
considerations. In Lebanon,
human blood flows in a tragic stream. But this does not prevent one from
feeling that the constant stabbing is coming closer to the heart. What can
result from all the pandemonium in that region? For the moment, one does not
know. It can suddenly result in nothing. It can turn out to be a "status
quo antebellum." Just as it can, at any moment, set the globe on fire.
Now we will cast our gaze upon another area of the
Asiatic continent. The fall of Vietnam and Cambodia was
tragic. Once it was consummated, the news about those regions, which had
previously been so voluminous, unexpectedly began to go silent. In respect to
the circumstances of the two enslaved nations, all that was released for a few
months was a tiny concert of contradictions. It was said that in Cambodia the Communists
had been ferocious and that in Vietnam they had
been enchanting. Afterwards, reports came in to show that in Vietnam also they
had been terrible ... as everywhere. Some dispatches soon alluded to
guerrillas of non-conformists in Vietnam. Finally,
everything went silent, everything resulted in nothing. In a nothing which can
result in everything.
And here is one of the most disconcerting aspects of
this situation. It is that anyone of these "nothings" can at any
moment result in everything. It can perhaps give rise to a world war.
It is not impossible, for example, that in Cambodia and Vietnam at a
given moment a popular discontent could be unleashed like the one that found
expression in Hungary
in 1956 or in Czechoslovakia
in 1968. And from this, possibly, a universal discontent could arise, which
could end by leading to war. "A fortiori," one can say the same about
the events taking place in Rhodesia, South Africa, and the Near
Results such as these, which are on all quarters of
the horizon, are nothing at present, a nothing which can result in everything
at any moment. And this is the promise — or threat — of the outcome of the
Ford-Carter electoral race in the United States. It can
be that Carter will not take into account the serious pronouncements against
"detente" made during the electoral campaign. It can also be that he
may prefer to interpret his victory as a verdict in favor of the ultra-conciliatory
tendencies attributed to him. At present, however, the American elections,
which were so agitated and noisy, appear to have resulted in nothing decisive
in the United States
and the world. Yet out of this nothing may come
everything. Because if the United States continues
to retreat in the face of Russia, into what
abysses will the West not be able to roll? And if Americans become a little
less blind and soft, how far can the Soviet reaction go?
It appears that this universal "nothing" out
of which "everything" can come, is a way of being, thinking, and
acting which has become generalized in the modern world.
If we should consult the great book of history, we
would see that it is characteristic of civilizations which imprudently move
along the edge of dangers and abysses, to allow themselves to be attracted by
them and in most cases to hurl themselves into them. "He who loves
danger, will perish in it," says the Sacred Scripture.
These considerations, however, would take us very far
indeed. Let us stop here for today.
(*) “Folha de S. Paulo”, November 5, 1976.