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The Sights and Voices of Dispossession: The Fight for the Land and the Emerging Culture of the MST (The Movement of the Landless Rural Workers of Brazil)

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Essays

Author:

Ademar Bogo

Title:

The culture of the Sem Terra

Sem Terra is no longer a social category; it has become a proper name to identify a group that has made the decision to change their social condition through political organization and forging their own identity, ideology, and values. There is a profound mixture of people, land, and ideology, insofar as this journey has stimulated the encounter of man-being with land-being. These are the two physical, material bodies that possess the characteristics and identity that will mutually redeem the history of the two existences.

Although they are physical bodies, it must be understood that they are not only material. Both man and land have aspects that go beyond appearances, because we cannot consider only visible and tangible things as the totality of the material. In them and within them, there are things we can touch and things we cannot touch but which nevertheless exist.

Each one knows, in effect, that in reality things we can see, touch, measure, are called material. On the other hand, there are things we cannot see or touch or measure, but not for this reason do they cease to exist, like our ideas, our feelings, our desires, our memories, etc. To say that they are not material, it is said that they are ideals. We divide therefore everything that exists into two domains: the material and the ideal. It can be also said, in a dialectic way, that the real displays a material aspect and an ideal aspect.

It remains to understand which is the visible part, which we can touch, and which is the invisible part of the land that we cannot touch but that we can feel, and, for that very reason, exists. We should also proceed like this with human beings.

In its origins the land has the energy that is transformed into a potential for being a mother and generating the life of all species, without being concerned for their mutual sociability, but with its breath offering food for all without distinction. If the species do not understand the cycles of their own existence and destroy each other, the land is not to blame, but the disturbances of the species themselves, because they do not know how to cohabit the same space. Those that manage to move around may seek food, take flight, move across the earth in search of a different space. For the species that are displaced, there may be variations in climate, soil, and temperature; for the land, there is not. It extends like an immense carpet laid in the house of the universe, which is composed of different rooms. It is the living being who moves about, goes from living-room to bedroom or to the veranda of this universe, but all the rooms are part of the same house.

The plants and every type of life have their existential course. They would have their history written if this possibility were in the vocabulary of the species that cohabit with human life. As we do not learn to speak the language of the plants and the worms, and they do not use our writing, we think they have nothing important to say about their existence. For this reason, we tear up the plants, kill the worms, and dessicate the land. The human being, for his part, seems to dispute with every type of life for a place to live and move over the land. For this reason, wherever he goes, he destroys what he needs and does not need to live at that moment.

Our culture is yet to assimilate the language of the plants, the animals, and the waters in order to converse with them on an equal footing. Perhaps we have been badly taught by idealist philosophy, which for many years defended that the earth was the center of the universe and therefore "man" gave himself the duty of taking charge of it. "Go forth and multiply," and he set himself above all the other species, regarding himself as the lord of nature. This mistaken vision caused human beings to multiply, mutilating the other species, which should also multiply. In this fratricidal competition, while human beings were progressively multiplied, many species were indiscriminately subtracted. Perhaps the two species that evolve most on the planet are the human and the bacterium, which from time to time causes uncontrollable epidemics in the human species.

When the Sem Terra recover within themselves the desire to go back to being people, they seek out the land and, in an emotional dialogue, sometimes with tears and blood spilled over bullets, come to the conclusion that the bones of man look like the bones of the landed-estate, the flesh of both devoured by capital. This is why hunger and the latifundium have the same face, the same origin, and the same identity. They are not bloody the whole time. They prefer to dry the body out slowly until the bones give up and nothing more can be produced. And the bones then lie in some place for the land to receive them and, through its saliva, dissolve them.

Land and man have the same history of destruction of their own existence. Capital brought in the era of the throw-away. Trash is thrown away on the land, prejudice and idleness on human beings; the planet, and the citizen, are destroyed. In this way, part of the land and part of human beings are thrown away on the crib of exclusion to cry at the pain of lack of care and respect.

This story began 500 years ago in our country. While powerful national and international groups tortured and diminished human beings, leaving them without work, study, health, and dignified conditions of life, the land was denuded of its forests, poisoned through its pores, intoxicatating the species of microorganisms that contended in its belly or in the dry beds of the rivers, like the tears of the mother that dry up, tired of crying at pain and suffering with no solution.

It is in this meeting of the diminished at the end of the second millenium, after 500 years of torture, which leads human skeletons, stripped of all resources, to decide to embrace the land, to extract from its body the dignity of a people on the march, in defense of life and the planet. This meeting involves conflict. There are those used to cutting down and killing, with no respect for the pain of the land, who see the fire burn, one by one, its tree-legs, to later cover its face with grass or simply plant nothing, leaving this immense wound, deep cuts made by erosion, while the forests disappear, broken up by the sharp teeth of the machines; and at this the saddened clouds drift away, leaving the hot sun to harden the crust of the dried wound, preventing any vegetation from appearing.

These sad habits also comprise culture. These old teachings still remain in many consciences of now settled skeltons. It takes a long time to be recognized by the land, for, in the haste to make it yield food, they still mistreat it. They seek to produce existence in the same way the predators did in the past. This is why the land closes its eyes so as not to see the seeds weakened or the stalks stunted, which neither feed nor satisfy the anxieties of those who have planted them, as they still develop the culture of mutilation.

As soon as the emissaries of capital see the wind ripple a red flag, they perceive that there is another conquered territory. They rush about, salivating in the anxiety of selling powerful machines, products, poisons and seeds to move the industry that destroys the soil and the hope of our seeing emerge from the soil the birth of new countrymen free of all degeneracy and vice. In these cases, temptation still superimposes itself on conscience and the law of least effort leads them to consume technologies that do not favor the recuperation of the land.

There are technologies that come for the good of the land and the human being, which must be welcomed and used to accompany development. And those that come to destroy and harm must be rejected and hindered from going forward. Not everything that is discovered and invented favors life and development. Strictly speaking, technological modernization in rural Brazil has not become synonomous with development, because, as

the backyard of the North-American colonizer, we have learned to consume packages and not use our own knowledge. It has been proven that, instead of development, dependence means the warping of existence.

But there are also people who rebel against those who lack respect for the goodness of life and this resistance always marks off new stages, since they understand that in order to recover the dignity of the human being and the land they need a few basic aspects (which we next discuss): to recover the virtues inscribed in the cultural memory of the species and to develop aesthetic consciousness.

Historical Memory

As a point of departure, we can say that memory is existence that has already been produced in all its dimensions. In another way, we might say that memory is the experience of a certain social group that has organized itself to produce its existence collectively. Perhaps more than this, memory represents the bridge from the past that leads us to the building of the future. Memory is to know how to belong in order to be able to give back.

There is wisdom in memory and it is wisdom that feeds the existential roots of a people. Wisdom is often buried in forgetfulness by the interested hands of groups that do not want to see people recognize themselves between the lines of the written pages, recounting history from the point of view of the victors and not from the nearly vanquished.

We say then that there is memory in the remains of races that still survive, that struggle in every generation to keep themselves alive, that the history books do not allow us to see, so that the names and speech of the tireless fighters for equality among human beings do not appear in the scars of time. There is memory for the country people in the phases of the moon, when they seek to plant seeds in the darkest time, to germinate and avoid rot in the harvest. But the polluting companies prefer to make our young people believe that for every type of insect or harmful plant there is a type of poison that they affectionately call defensive.

There is also memory in the craft-work of the old peasants of past generations, who were obliged to develop their own instruments of work before industry appropriated them, transformed them, returned them and modernized them, but at high cost and with expensive maintenance.

There is memory in the cooking of the ethnic groups, where knowledge was passed on affectionately to the young women who were proud of being ready to marry because they knew how to cook. At present, the canning and seasoning industries have stolen the taste of the family plate, and people poison themselves by carelessly eating every type of artificial food, amidst a high proportion of deaths by food-poisoning. We live the greatest contradiction ever seen in history: to die of hunger or die of obesity. Some die bloodless or because the blood that we use has "little paint "; others die of high cholesterol, due to the excess of fat in the blood.

There is memory in the black and white photographs, where there are gardens, orchards of the old houses of wood or clay, where enormous families, reunited to the fourth generation, gathered together. Time has yellowed the photographs, taking away the knowledge, leaving in its place the emptiness and lack of imagination of how it was in that time.

There is also memory in books, told by the skillful hands of truly human writers, who took care to note the details of what thought can not store, a lost identity which illiteracy prevented from being written down. There are memories in the recollections, in the stories, fables, and legends. There is memory in the life of the fighters for the people given wholly over to the building of a dream. But this is hidden by the ruling class which often avoids leaving vestiges even of where the bones are laid after they murder them, because they fear that the voice of feeling may speak louder and that the people may recognize themselves in their heroes and want to recover their ideals at once.

There is memory in the belief translated from generation to generation, manipulated by opportunists who use the good will and faith of people to make it easier for the oppressors to dig the spade of domination deeper into the consciousness of the working and unemployed class.

There is memory in the biological and pharmacological knowledge developed in a natural way by our past generations, whose discoveries the multinational companies patent today as if they had come from nowhere.

Finally, in the smallest details, there is memory that is part of the construction of the existence of our ancestors and that sleeps in some corner of history. Even our hands have wisdom and memory, but it is up to us to be conscious of the importance of this past, to know how to look correctly toward the future.

When we go to the land, this memory goes with us and it is with it that we set in motion the organization of a new historical moment, attempting to produce a new existence.

The Extraordinary Virtues

Virtue for us is the ability we have to make extraordinary things permanent. Only s/he develops virtue who has the ability to return to the good. The powerful fear virtues because they encourage resistance and infect those who must destroy the structures of domination.

If virtues are extraordinary abilities, the collective victories are always extraordinary ones. That is why the fighters have a heart bearing virtues, on which the people on the march lean to find the energy they lack. The people feel the desire to embrace their leaders because of the virtues they possess, and which they feel also belong to them.

Often, virtues, which we never imagined existed, are displayed in weakness and they have the spreading power that can bring about great changes in short periods of time. To illustrate, we may point to the history of the Roman slaves. We find in the historical records that in the year 71 BC, a slave revolt took place in ancient Rome, which lasted nearly two years. This revolt was commanded by Spartacus, a slave aroused by the dream of liberty, who managed to gather around him about 20 thousand slaves, a not very significant number before the power of the Roman Empire in the period ruled by Gaius Crassus. The successive battles gradually earned respect and served as a reference for the other slaves, attracting them to the struggle, until the day on which they were captured and crucified, since the instrument of the death penalty was the cross. While the revolt lasted, the powerful tried by every means to say that they had dominated the slaves, and by day they spread the news, trying to convince the population of this lie. But during the night the glow of the bonfires showed that the slaves were still there, resisting, and this clear sign invited the other slaves to leave the mansions and palaces and join them. Therefore, it was not the strength of the slaves that the powerful feared, but the virtues they displayed, and the bonfires were fundamental to make this display.

Where did this strength come from? It came from the virtue of trust. "There is no clear definition for a man who leads other men. Leadership is a rare and intangible thing, above all when it rests on neither force nor glory. Any man can give orders, but to give them in a way that others obey is a quality," and this quality Spartacus had.

As the Sem Terra workers abandon the life of "indigence", they rouse in themselves the dream of freedom, and begin to develop and display virtues that intimidate the powerful who tell lies, now using television and newspapers, saying that they have defeated the fighters for agrarian reform. But at night, when they least expect it, there go the legions of families piled on trucks to occupy abandoned farms and discover the possibility of being reborn. Little by little, the red of the flags, as if it were the glow of a great bonfire, announces that there the slaves seek freedom and invite others like them to forge together their own destiny.

In this way, a new culture is created around virtue. Organizational plans are developed and tried out. Mothers and fathers of families, who a little while ago were only called by their children, are now announced over the microphone to take part in meetings that will decide the future of their lives. They begin to take on responsibilities, lead small groups, and perform tasks that benefit the collectivity. The machismo and domination of one over the other are temporarily extinguished, because, even though in stability we can be different, in danger we are all equal. Insecurity is transformed into a challenge. The mother who was once shy and submissive, hugging her children faces the bloody platoons that come to maintain the rotten order.

Staying for a few days, one can already see a city being born there, enveloped by solidarity. Huts are built that serve as houses, schools made of plastic sheets and benches of stout staffs, but the children learn as well as could be imagined in the sphere of pedagogy. In a few days, they are using phrases from Paulo Freire and other important educators such as Anton S. Makarenco, like the one that reads:

I am convinced that the object of our education consists not only in forming a creative individual, an individual citizen able to participate with greater effectiveness in the building of the state. We must form a person who is not lacking in happiness.

Through committees, solutions are sought for the problems that social interaction itself produces, like the case of trash. In the cities, it is common to give the job of garbage-collection to the public administration, due to the simple fact that people pay taxes, and if the mayor does not take the necessary steps, the city becomes unbearable. Now, taxes cannot eliminate solidarity among people and care with the conservation of water! Here arises a fundamental virtue, which is care and concern for what is ours. The concepts of public and private are transmitted and the educational process reconstructs the human being in another direction, demanding his participation, and this becomes culture.

There are sayings and thoughts that are transformed into ideological trenches, seeking not only the improvement of behavior, but the cleaning up of the vices that have accumulated in each conscience, like the garbage of perversities that harden relations, which for this reason we need to combat with both gentleness and energy. We see in a school this ideological creation: "A clean school is not that which is cleaned up more, but that which is made less dirty." It is a true calling to the need to be responsible for what is public.

In a few days, the collective water-holes are opened and water treatment is begun. Collective bathrooms for men and for women are set up. Norms of behavior are established and thus in a few days the new form of human existence is organized, awakening virtues that have been asleep in the bed of time, that begin to inhabit the feelings and control the wills that lead the unbalanced to social harmony.

The powerful are amazed when they observe an enormous gathering of people where no police force is required to intimidate and maintain order. The Sem Terra organize themselves and everything works without arrests or repression. On the marches, long lines are organized that cause envy in whoever sees them pass. Moved, people await the moment to throw themselves on the marchers, to embrace them and shed warm tears on their shoulders, like refreshing balsam to alleviate the pain of the march. No police is required to direct traffic.

And the strength of the land awakens virtues, where the command does not give orders, but asks for and recommends care knowing that there go human beings, who are not numbers and even less individuals in a line, but people who have feelings and in their hearts miss the children who have stayed behind in the encampments, taken care of by other parents who were unable to accompany the march. If this feeling is strong at a distance, the will to arrive is greater. With eyes fixed on the emptiness of the horizon in front of them, each one wants to know what is hidden behind the top of the hill. In this way utopias live. At each hilltop that is reached, yet another top must then be attained, but it is worthwhile to have gone that far. Without this persistence, history has no meaning.

This is the path that leads to reconstruction and puts the revolution in gear. It is not easy to reconstruct ourselves when they have taken from us the most precious material, which is human dignity. A human being reconstructs himself insofar as he believes that within himself there is important matter to fill the holes that domination has dug. It is not easy to be free when we still have not learned how to pronounce the word freedom.

We go on taking over spaces that at other times we feared to take over. Marching is more than traveling, it is walking in search of surprises. At each step, there is an emotion, a gesture of affection, a hand extended that seems to want to sculpt in us the new man or woman we intend to be, and, as unfinished statues, we embrace our sculptors, as if to ask for help to fill the empty spaces we discover inside us, since one day the oppressors had made us believe that we were nothing more and could be nothing more.

It is in marching that we discover the empty space of illiteracy that travels with us when we ask the one who walks along beside what the letters say on the road signs. Or when someone hands us a pamphlet of solidarity and, ashamed, we fold it and put it respectfully in the pocket of the wet pack on our shoulders.

It is in marching that we see the emptiness of the latifundium protected by fences and the hunger surrounding the cities.

It is in marching that we see the fear in the eyes of the windows of the houses, hidden behind bars, fearing that the poor want to make justice after the long years of violence perpetrated to accumulate wealth.

It is by marching that we gradually discover and sculpt in ourselves a new consciousness, because the eyes seem to see not what is already occupied but the spaces that should be occupied. There are many empty spaces that we will discover by sculpting. The latifundium, in 500 years of history in Brazil, has not only destroyed the land, but also the consciousness of the poor and the workers, which is why millions of them walk about as if they were blind. In each mind, there is a latifundium that does not allow virtues and values to be produced, that brutalizes human social relations, that opens deep rents in memory, making us believe that history has begun with our individual birth, that before this "nothing" important existed. It is the culture of the void and of forgetfulness.

We discover also in marching the importance of a friendly hand that pulls us toward the future and in this space we entwine experiences, knowledge, behavior, ideas, virtues; in short, we build true interactive space.

The existence of interactive space is fundamental for the building of knowledge, in the formation of individuals, and for the advance of the organization of the social movement. For it is also in this space where relations, articulations, and alliances are made.

These discoveries and mutual experiences mix with anxieties and invite us to produce a new existence.

The Aesthetic Consciousness

Aesthetics in the broad sense should mean the ability of the human being to mark his

existence in the world, producing useful and beautiful objects for his survival and giving them a sense of the continuity of his own existence. The beautiful is made eternal in the permanence of the objects created. In this sense, we originate the beauty that completes our acts and reasons as the identity of a people.

Feeling is at the origin of the word aesthetic. It comes from the Greek aesthesis, which means the faculty of feeling. It became important for human life because it is connected to the development of creativity and the capacity for feeling, elements that form the characteristics of aesthetic consciousness.

As the production of conscious existence requires an advanced ability to create, for even in small details we use our intellect and our hands to produce things and put them in order, we can consider every human being an artist and an architect of his or her own history. This is why the creation of an aesthetic consciousness has become fundamental. This aesthetic consciousness is shaped by the quality of liking which thus develops in this form the pedagogy of good taste. This meaning grows in us in the same way as any other, and it must be exercised every day, or it will atrophy and disappear. It is the pursuit of beauty that makes us comb our hair every day, cut it whenever it hides our facial features, as if the frame were becoming misshapen.

The work of art of a countryman or of a Sem Terra woman of the is not found in the painted landscapes, or in philosophical writings that become works, but in the real landscape that becomes poetry. What is a novelty in nature for some, for a Sem Terra is not, or can have another meaning. The sunset, which for many may represent an artistic phenomenon painted by the invisible hands of the creator of the universe, for the countryman may represent only the fatigue of a day of hard work, where both of them, "red" from weariness, will now sleep in the lap of the night to be reborn on the following day and awaken the dawn.

Our concern then is in knowing how to value what is beautiful in nature, and using our own strength to make daily life more beautiful. Aesthetics represented by art in the world of capital is transformed into merchandise, used as an element of power for the domination and alienation of people. The beauty in our settlements is not for commercialization, but for showing that we advance toward the reconstruction of life, with the flowers planted for the sole aim of perfuming the path in this picture painted by the hands of an unknown artist, who uses the hoe and his fingers as basic tools for building this great work. Thus, the color brown is in the earth itself and green is contained in the plant, which lies on the soft bed preparing to blossom. In this way it will be a part of the landscape.

Our painting is more sensitive for being real, because it breathes and emits perfume, also sensitizing our aesthetic consciousness. This painting is real, especially because the painter cannot imagine himself outside it. Without him the landscape will not have the same beauty. This social being, transformed into a painter, exists in objective and subjective reality. S/he occupies an important place, moving from one area to another to take up a post from a better angle and continue her/his work. This painting is beautiful because it is in permanent movement. If one only looks once and fixes the image, in the next minute it is already a different landscape because many elements will have changed place and the clouds will have drifted far away, the birds will have flown to other branches and man will have embraced woman so that a new relation of equality and pleasure may arise.

The contact with this natural beauty educates the other senses, such as loving, liking, wondering, smiling, and singing. It awakens collective interest in reproducing this work of art. The ruling class, when they attend art auctions, buy works for high prices that they take home, locking them up in safes, taking away the freedom of beauty that can make people feel more human. They hide the pictures because of the selfishness that binds them and because they are incapable of reproducing them. In this insecurity, they oppress the works through the darkness of steel walls, not letting them express with their brush-strokes that to be truly human it is necessary to create. The rulers are not purely human; they resemble the machines, without feelings, joy, or imagination. They create worlds where capital gives them the orders for every move they must make. They do not know how to make a beautiful, free landscape. When they need to create, they call a worker to make something they can show to their colleagues. It is the culture of coldness and domination.

Why then do we give flowers as a present? Is it wrong to do so? No, we give flowers as a present because we are not capable of explaining what we feel with words. We need the petals and perfume so that our hands may express our feelings. But even so the flowers wilt – to say that beauty is not in an isolated gesture. It is necessary to continue sensitizing our consciousness so that it does not become apathetic and continues to create new gestures of love and affection without limit.

We are more creative because we are freer, and we create our landscapes without fear of someone stealing them, for their physical and aesthetic grandeur is impossible to transport. When they succeed in stealing them, they only take pieces, and the beauty soon disappears because it only tolerates human arrogance for a few days. Perhaps this is why flowers wilt, because they do not accept living with insensitivity, for, on being taken out of the garden and put on the table, they leave behind the roots that gave them life.

If we are the ones who make history, it means that our fingerprints remain on it. We will be recognized by them when our descendants recall the piece of existence that was given to us to live and produce. The works of "art" are present in everything, because everything was made with imagination, physical strength, and the skill of our hands, in the open space of nature. In this way, aesthetics is present in everything we do. It is the intermediary that exists between wanting and doing, between serving and feeling. This leads us to make use of parts of the great landscape, which is now ready, to simply add what the human imagination can invent. We plant houses with smoking chimneys among the trees. We scatter domestic animals among the trees, bring the flowers near the houses, and plant seeds for later; in the background, the river flows quietly, and, at the foot of the mountain we clear a place to bathe, letting the water carry away our weariness and sorrows. Thus are real landscapes composed. Each lot is a painting created by the ability of each family of painters.

There are disturbances. These are accidents caused by careless painters who, in the haste to create their landscape, spill more paint than is necessary, smearing part of the canvas with poisons, fires, and garbage, brought from and bought at the supermarket.

It takes years and sometimes several generations to learn how to paint the work imagined in our dreams, precisely because the dream cannot come true without the re-creation of man and nature. At the same moment we create, we re-create. To paint is also to paint oneself in this living landscape. The aesthetic consciousness is slow to develop, but without it it is impossible to reconstruct the flowery landscape where human life should multiply and thus take on existence.

When does aesthetics become culture? When human beings discover that beauty is an integral part of the environment in which they live, until the day of departure, the time to pass it on to other, younger beings. When time determines that it no longer wants to see us walking on the earth, it asks us to withdraw and lie belly up, where the earth, in a silent dialogue, will transform us and distribute us so that the other species may draw out our energy and fortify their existence, mixed with our new form of being. In this manner, the land is not only land or only tree, as the individual is not only an individual. The cells and atoms that compose matter are displaced into a living movement, and are introjected, intertwining to form a "new" matter. There is a time when we tread on the earth and eat the plants. At a later time, we enter the earth and the plants eat us with their roots and transform us into plants. This dying and living permananently is what has made it possible for our planet to establish this harmony in millions of years of existence.

This intimate relation is not in the consequences, but in the cause that originated the intimacy between land and man. This origin is in the humus. Therefore, man comes from the humus. We are a mixture of dust and water with new characteristics that make us move; we dream, think, believe, and walk towards the building of utopia. We are, in short, this good earth in movement.

We are this landless humus, a wanderer who rebels for being violently removed from the land and can can only be of use by returning to it, by death or by struggle. In both cases, there is a retaking of the land, to become land or take sustenance from it and maintain this human humus in movement. For this reason, our ecological conscience rebels when there is disrespect for nature, because, in the sap of the trees, there are signs of the blood of our forerunners who were absorbed by the roots of the plants.

To the extent that we have conquered the land, there is the great challenge of reconstructing the history of these locales: we feel called upon to reconstruct the forests by the planting of trees, to create orchards and gardens; even around the plastic tents colorful flowers grow, planted because of the simple will to make the place pretty and attractive.

In a land occupation, when the end of the encampment period comes and the land has been liberated, there remains the vestiges of war, torn plastic, upright poles that were used for the supports of the houses, abandoned clay ovens, shards of broken pots, worn out sandals and so many other forgotten objects, which aided in physical and emotional resistance. But among this dispersion of things appear trees and flowers, which were planted in the desperation of the threat of eviction, which psychologically have helped to imagine that in the roots of the trees and in the flowers were the symbols of resistance and the connection to the land; that those in charge of eviction and the violation of homes would have to use force to uproot us from that place; and that, if a significant time passed, they would uproot us no longer.

Ecological and aesthetic consciousness tells us that we must put our wreckage in order and, at the same time that we leave to build new homes, the land that served as a carpet to install our dreams and concerns should be cleaned and organized. The trodden, hardened soil is cleared to plant trees and make life anew, together with the liberation of the land and the people who believed and were victorious.

The day arrives when the struggle wins over oppression. The time arrives to build the houses amidst a clash of interests. The government bets that a house of 42 square meters is sufficient for a family to live in, and, in order to make suggestions impossible, it imposes a common house-plan for all. In the desire to own the house, all families accept the imposition, but as soon as they begin to live there they see that it does not satisfy their needs, for it has only four rooms, and sometimes the couple has eight children and life becomes uncomfortable. Necessity challenges creativity, and they all go to work to build a porch in order to enlarge the kitchen and the bedrooms, now in a rustic style. It may lose in beauty, but it gains in creativity, initiative, and comfort. It is the anxiousness to have a house, which is able to shelter the members of the family with every possible comfort, which makes us develop our creativity.

One goes forward and perceives that the power of the creator is not confined to the human. Animals are well treated and spruced up, mainly the horses, who obtain new equpiment and horseshoes. The orchards blossom. The MST flag is painted on the walls of the sheds, houses and schools. There is no clearing in a settlement where there is not a flag waving in the wind, contrasting with the green of the vegetation on the land. The domestic animals wander among the children, who run to their toys. The women gather from the clothes-lines the dry, soft clothes, now without patches, after a day’s gratifying work in communitarian cooperation. The doors of the houses slowly open one by one, as if they wished to say good evening to the young people who go out to look at the rising moon. There are no walls in front of the houses; the bars of fear and exclusion have remained in some corner of the past. And in the line of reconstruction and human development comes the aesthetic care with the human being himself.

The greatest reason for producing each work of art in each area that is won over and in each human being, seeking to reflect on each wrinkle stamped on the face of existence, is that it makes us distinct and gives us our identity. In this way, appearances improve. False-teeth are restored, clothes are made better, home furniture is exchanged, new appliances are acquired; in short, people become conscious of the importance of physical appearance as children of the land, re-created by it in the pursuit of maintaining their dignity.

From the beginning, work is the production factor of the human being. In the course of human history, work has become something punitive and not at all pleasurable, owing to slavery and the exploitation of capital in the development of productive forces. In recovering the human being, the meaning of work to reconstruct the deformed being in a voluntary way is also recovered, as is the meaning of techniques that maintain the aesthetics of the body. This will arouse interest in beauty as a pedagogical method in the correction of behavior. "The main instrument of pedagogical influence should be the demonstrative intuitive method of beauty in art, in work, and in the conduct of men."." This creation as an early point of reference makes other Sem Terra social beings feel the influence of this means and acquire complementary features by correcting their habits.

Because of the urgency to produce, many people make use of tools and products that harm, mutilate and deform the human body, which is the fruit of a demonstrative method of despoiling work. They carry water on their heads, while there are a number of ways to take water to the houses with little effort, and they use defensive, "offensive" agriculture, when there are dozens of ways to combat pests and plant diseases; this is the fruit of ignorance and alienation on the part of the poison industries, which base their profits on the despoiling and destruction of the human being and of nature.

The temptations of the past sometimes oblige us to turn our heads to see what we cannot change; it is as if a mysterious force were pushing us to some coordinator and delivering us to him and the power of his orders, while we await the moment to act. If there are no orders, there will be no action. Here is the origin of the centralization of power and the will to be superior to other human beings. This apathy is transformed into conformity; in this way, indignation dies.

The taste for the beautiful is in all aspects of life and social and political organization, which is why aesthetics is in all the senses, showing us that a simple gesture has its own beauty. The manner of speaking or smiling has its own beauty. There are people who talk a lot without tiring their listeners, and when they finish speaking it seems that one hears a noise of regret that they have finished. There is beauty in the way one organizes and directs. Many leaders have the perspicacity to show the way and without too much explanation convince their companions. Thus, we make aesthetics part of our existence, an agreeable part that gives quality to the moments we breathe, and we develop in ourselves the taste for living and developing beauty.

It is important to believe that we develop our aesthetics in a scene as if it were a canvas, where each movement means a stroke in the composition of this landscape. Joy means bright colors, sadness and gloom dark, sad colors. Revising our history, we can see clearly how the private picture of each one is painted. If it was beautiful, the picture would be perfectly accomplished with bright colors, if it was a troubled life, it would be a sad picture, where dark colors predominated. What is important is that we are not afraid to exhibit this painting in the art-gallery of history and to be conscious that it is possible to improve it, now that we are more aware of the importance of our existence. It is possible to put bright colors over sad ones and make the scene of our history change. That is why we must believe in our ability as painters, which has been asleep in our consciousness. Poets, writers, storytellers, musicians, and humorists sleep within us; only our self-esteem can awaken them.

We have our political, organizational, economic ideals. We need also to establish aesthetic ideals that make possible our intervention in the historical scene in order to transform it, so that we may live in harmony with every type of life and be socially happy, drinking from this clear fountain of beauty.

Essays : Edited by Else R P Vieira. Translation © Thomas Burns.

Date:

November 2002

Resource ID:

CULTUREO381

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