Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Blind Leading the Blind
Transltaded from “Folha de S. Paulo”, 6th January 1986
The Blind leading the Blind (by Pieter Brueghel the Old, 1525-1569)
JANUARY and December 1985 were marked by two surprising failures of the perspicacity of our media regarding the deep tendencies of the overall thoughts and desires of today's Brazil.
In January, the stage had been set for the "Rock in Rio" festival to be a milestone success, not only on the national level but on the international level as well. To this purpose, it would have been impossible to have more completely mobilized the publicity resources of our country. With one voice did the tubas of our media predict a glorified mass participation in the thundering spectacle—with regard to both the numbers that would attend and the delirious enthusiasm that they would surely exhibit. However, the result was a failure as great as the expected triumph. The attendance was scanty, and the enthusiasm was even more so.
The media was sure that Brazilians from all parts of the country would flock to Rio to be present for the moments of supreme frenzy that the spectacle would provide, and that, a fortiori, the people of Rio, who are by nature jovial and fun-loving, would leave their apartments and homes to pack the "Rock in Rio" bandstands. But what actually happened was quite different. Brazilians from all parts of the country preferred to remain in the comfort of their cities and homes. And the people of Rio preferred the languid, tranquil pleasures of their armchairs to the distorted, agitated frenzy of the so-heralded spectacle. The reason, or reasons, for such an unexpected abstention?
If I were an optimist, I would venture to imagine that among the causes of what I do not hesitate to call the event's happy failure was the indignation of a great majority of Brazilians over the immoralities and extravagances staged for "Rock in Rio." But, in this case, my judgment would fall far short of reality!
The truth is that the multitudes are exhausted from their work and sufferings. They are worn out from being constantly over-stimulated by the media into paroxysmal emotions in all their leisure hours. They are tired of treading the fearful maze of chaotic events that have no relationship with the day-to-day religious, cultural, political, social and economic life of our modern existence. They want to flee from all that the media continuously bombards into their minds through the eye as well as the ear. They want a calm, normal existence free from worry. And this the media continually refuse them. And because of this, at least to a significant degree, the rock festival failed.
And the media? They seem not to have learned any lesson, at least not in Brazil. They go on as if they were living in a mythical world completely devoid of reality.
"Rock in Rio" was devised for a multitude hungry for induced pleasures, a multitude effervescent with sexual appetites tending toward what we might call a Las Vegas style orgy. It was planned for multitudes fed up ad nauseam with the "insipid" pleasures of the evenings of yesteryear, where everyone sat around a table drinking mint or chamomile tea and ate home-made cookies amid the lazy talk of familiar family news. Yet the saturated masses tended toward the extreme opposite of this.
On the contrary, what we saw was the triumph of domestic pleasure over "Rock in Rio."
The media, retreating aghast, did not foresee this immense saturation.
The year of 1985 has passed, yet no one seems to have reflected upon this lesson. The media, again imagining the myth—more Marxist than secular—of class struggle to be completely true, seems to have expected the effect of Roberto D'Avila's interview with Fidel Castro to have acted as a match being struck to an immense powder keg. The powder keg was supposedly the masses of manual laborers boiling with fury at the fact that wealthy people still exist on the face of the earth. It was expected, therefore, that these masses would be avid to hear the messianic preaching of the leader of Sierra Maestra.
But, in reality, our masses are calm, orderly and peace-loving. They bear no ill-will for the rich or for the police. And their soul-felt indignation at the public authorities rises not because the authorities safeguard the medium and large size properties, but rather because they do not protect the small properties and the personal safety of the common man, and because the authorities allow the streets to be overrun by unpunished thievery and sexual furor.
Consequently, Fidel Castro's appearance on TV Manchete was announced as a program that would begin a new phase in the political life of contemporary Brazil. And what actually happened? Let the reader consider the table below recounting how many viewers in São Paulo and Rio chose to watch the bearded, verbose dictator. This table was drawn from figures supplied with laudable impartiality by the Brazilian Public Opinion Institute and presented with no less laudable an impartiality by two leading newspapers of Brazil, the Folha (12/28/85) and the Jornal do Brasil (12/27/85) respectively.
Rio de Janeiro São Paulo
9:30 p.m. 9:30 p.m.
- Globo: 45 %
- SBT: 31 %
- Manchete: 2 %
10 p.m. 10 p.m.
Globo: 25 % Globo: 34 %
TVS: (Not available) SBT: 19 %
Manchete: 6 % Manchete: 4 %
10:30 p.m. 10:30 p.m.
Globo: 21 % Globo: 26 %
TVS: 21 % SBT: 19 %
Manchete: 6 % Manchete: 4 %
11 p.m. 11 p.m.
TVS: 20 % Globo: 23 %
Globo: 16 % SBT: 18 %
Manchete: 6 % Manchete: 3 %
In other words, the people of São Paulo and Rio opted for a low-key Sunday night even though TV Manchete offered them the revolutionary "treat" of two hours of bluster with the Cuban "boss." The immense majority in the two large cities preferred the regular schedule of routine television programs.
Of course, they followed their regular routine above all because communism does not stimulate a churning, avid appetite such as the media imagines. But to a great extent, they opted for the routine programming because the people—the colloquial "common man"—want things to remain calm rather than be consumed in a tragic blaze.
How can the media's error be explained?
As I see it, it is because for the most part their gazes are fixed on a fictitious Brazil, that is, a Brazil composed of a large little clique (pardon the contradiction in terms, but I mean a large number of people who nonetheless constitute a proportionally small minority in all Brazil). This clique includes: 1) progressivist or Boffist [after Frei Boff] Catholic clergy and laymen; 2) a few thousand communists; 3) various socialites who idolize extravagance, sophisticated pornography and the latest scandals; 4) intellectuals who imagine that the latest trends always blow in the direction of the left; and 5) journalists on the left or en route there.
This is, in short, an inauthentic Brazil, for Brazil is neither a clique nor is it leftist. But Brazil is so often described as being leftist that this description is believed even by those who, in their ideological flights of imagination, fabricated the myth.
In truth, this myth is dangerous. Not many Brazilians will see the relationship between the failure of "Rock in Rio" and the similar failure of Fidel Castro. They give their more or less resigned consent that Brazil slip toward the left because they, deceived by the myth, imagine that at the heart of our country is a leftist predominance... that in fact does not exist!
A people that allows itself to be guided by a myth, especially by such a false one, runs the risk of sharing the fate of the one blind man being lead by another, a course against which Our Divine Savior warned us (Matt. 15:14).