Embriague-se

Deve-se estar sempre embriagado. Isso é tudo: é a única questão. Para não sentir o fardo horrível do Tempo que sopra em suas costas e te oprime contra a terra, deve embriagar-se sem trégua.

Mas de que? De vinho, de poesia ou de virtude, a sua escolha. Porém, embriague-se.

E se ocasionalmente, sobre as escadarias de um palácio, sobre o musgo verde de uma fossa ou na solitude morna dos seus aposentos, você despertar, a embriaguez já diminuta ou dissipada, pergunte ao vento, à onda, à estrela, ao pássaro, ao relógio, a o que quer que voe, a o que quer que gema, a o que quer que role, a o que quer que cante, a o que quer que fale, pergunte qual é a hora e o vento, a onda, a estrela, o pássaro, o relógio te responderão: “É hora de embriagar-se! Para não mais ser mártir escravo do Tempo, embriague-se; embriague-se sem cessar! De vinho, de poesia ou de virtude, a sua escolha.”

— Uma tradução minha de Enivres-vouz de Charles Baudelaire

Os corvos

Senhor, quando a pradaria é gelada,
Quando nos quietos povoados,
Os longos terços são silenciados…
Sobre a natureza deflorada
Faz descer dos céus estrondosos
Os queridos corvos charmosos.
Os queridos corvos charmosos.

Exército estranho aos gritos bizarros,
Pelos ventos gélidos desaninhados!
Vocês, ao largo dos rios amarelados,
Na estrada para velhos calvários,
Na fossa e na cova rasa
Saiam daqui, xô, passa!
Saiam daqui, xô, passa!

Aos milhares, nos campos franceses,
Onde dormem os mortos do recém-passado
Revoando sempre no inverno pesado,
Para que os passantes repensem às vezes.
É portanto do dever o pregoeiro,
Ó, nosso fúnebre pássaro negro!
Ó, nosso fúnebre pássaro negro!

Porém, santos do céu, no topo da azinheira
Mastro perdido na noite bela
Deixa os rouxinóis da primavera
Em vez daqueles que agrilhoam à base da madeira,
No gramado de onde não se pode fugir,
A derrota sem porvir.
A derrota sem porvir.

— Uma tradução minha de Les Corbeaux do Arthur Rimbaud

Contrasting Marx and Rousseau’s understanding of historical progress

Disclaimer: This essay was written as an assignment for The Modern and the Postmodern course offered by Professor Michael S. Roth from the Wesleyan University through Coursera

Can we say that both Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Marx agree on the developing path for revolution? Says the later, “[The fall of the bourgeoisie] and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable” seemingly echoing the words of the other: “The insurrection… is as juridical an act as any… Thus all things take place and succeed in their natural order”. Judging by these citations alone we could say Prussian and French stand united, but that is far from the truth.

Marx puts at the epicenter of the revolution the dissonance caused by the perversion of human life by labor. In explaining this, he argues that labor turns the productive life of man into a mere mean for subsistence, while in essence “the productive life is the life of the species. It is life-engendering life. The whole character of a species, its species-character, is contained in the character of its life activity; and free, conscious activity is man’s species-character.” This conflict would cause society’s implosion on an effort to find a synthesis of labor and a meaningful, human, life. For Marx this revolution was probable at the point in time when this conflict was at it’s apex, which imply necessarily on the inequality between capitalist and proletariat also being the greatest.

Contrary to Marx, Rousseau’s insurrection is triggered by society’s return to a primeval state of equality, remaining alienated from common men only those who previously ruled, but who now are fated to face the insurrection of it’s former servants. Rousseau postulates that the progress of history leads inevitably to a despotic authoritarian government, which once “the contract of government is so much dissolved by despotism, that the despot is no longer master than he continues the strongest”. For Rousseau this despot is only the product of society’s inequality at it’s zenith.

This inequality and division of humanity in rulers and ruled is agreed upon by both authors, but their understanding of how it’s played throughout history are quite different. Says Marx, “The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles”, implying a constant fighting between classes, while Rousseau defends that this inequality is due to a “chain of surprising events, in consequence of which the strong submitted to serve the weak, and the people to purchase imaginary ease, at the expense of real happiness.” Marx talks of the lower classes as some poor victims of society. Rousseau does not spare the servants from their responsibility for their own servitude. For Marx mankind was oppressed along history into serfdom, for Rousseau, on the contrary, the servants put themselves in fetters by their own naiveté.

Marx, in his youth optimism, sees a bright future for mankind. His victory is inevitable, or so he believes. For Marx, the progress of history is the progress towards freedom. The Revolution is coming and “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” In contrast, Rousseau believes that as time advanced the “original man vanishing by degrees, society no longer offers to our inspection but an assemblage of artificial men and factitious passions, which are the work of all these new relations, and have no foundation in nature.” The noble and true savage disappeared, leaving in his place husks of man unfit for freedom. In sum the young Karl Marx looked for the future; the bitter Rousseau longed for the past.

As a final distinction Marx saw history as a continuum. The dialectical materialism implies in history moving always forward in constant evolution. Rousseau, yet again disagrees saying that this revolution “is the last term of inequality, the extreme point which closes the circle and meets that from which we set out”, i.e. restarting the cycle of equality begetting inequality, which leads to tyranny and then a new revolution.


Bibliography

Marx, Karl. “Estranged Labour.” Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. USSR, 1927.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. London, 1848.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. A Discourse Upon the Origin and the Foundation of the Inequality Among Mankind. France, 1754.

Rousseau as a Kantian Enlightenment figure

Disclaimer: This essay was written as an assignment for The Modern and the Postmodern course offered by Professor Michael S. Roth from the Wesleyan University through Coursera

On a first look we are tempted to put Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau as adversaries on the dispute about Enlightenment, but a careful analysis shows that in fact they both fought for a common cause, albeit with some disagreements. Kant defines Enlightenment as “man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another”, while Rousseau describes as great and beautiful to see a man dispel the shadows with the light of reason and return to study his nature. This clear agreement is rapidly torn to pieces when Rousseau attacks both arts and sciences.

Rousseau invokes Socrates to his side citing, “I examined the poets, and I look on them as people whose talent overawes both themselves and others, people who present themselves as wise men and are taken as such, when they are nothing of the sort.” To these criticism of poets, Rousseau adds that the arts are a haven of luxury and vanity, and incriminates also the sciences, accusing them of being the sustainers of such depravity. Rousseau argues that the sciences and arts and, by extension, philosophy are vicious tools in service of men’s pride. By these criticism alone we could understand Rousseau as an enemy of Enlightenment, but we are not to be deceived by the verve with which Rousseau attacks his enemy.

Says Rousseau of Rome, “This capital of the world eventually fell under the yoke which it had imposed on so many people, and the day of its fall was the day before one of its citizens was given the title of Arbiter of Good Taste.” And this explicit who is his real enemy. Rousseau fights the Arbiters of Good Taste, he fights the fashion makers, those artists to create works to serve human vanity, the scientists who enable the enslaving life of luxury of the highborn and the enslaving dreams of richness and position of the lowborn. Rousseau does not strike at knowledge nor understanding. In fact Rousseau says that “it is necessary to permit some men to devote themselves to the study of the sciences and the arts, that should be only for those who feel in themselves the power to walk alone in those men’s footsteps and to move beyond them.” His enmity is with those who would bow to external definitions of knowledge, his aim is at the heart of those who dare not think by themselves as Kant urged by saying “Sapere aude!”.

Rousseau is a true Enlightenment figure in Kant’s definition. What divides both men is the fact that where Kant avoids to disturb the peace, Rousseau sees no peace, but a carnage, and has the boldness to face it directly. Kant hopes mankind will grow out of this need for guidance step by step, while Rousseau has no such patience nor calmness. Rousseau wants to utterly destroy those who, by presenting humanity with a fake enlightenment, prevent real Enlightenment.

Says Rousseau, “the sciences, letters, and the arts, less despotic and perhaps more powerful, spread garlands of flowers over the iron chains which weigh men down, snuffing out in them the feeling of that original liberty for which they appear to have been born, and make them love their slavery by turning them into what are called civilized people.” Rousseau is in a haste to destroy these garlands, expose the chains and free the people. But in his rush he may be seem an enemy to his own standard.


Bibliography

Kant, Immanuel. Answering the Question: What Is Enlightenment?. Germany, 1784.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Discourse on the Arts and Sciences. France, 1750.

I

Saudade daquele tempo em que um homem podia fazer mal a si mesmo sem ser recriminado. Inda lembro a época em que os rótulos nos atraiam em vez de advertir. Recordo ir comprar o maço diário de meu pai na bodega descendo a rua, não me pediam justificativa, simplesmente me permitiam comprar a morte e levar para casa. Assumia-se que fosse para algum homem mais velho, mas se fosse para mim, do alto dos meus quatorze anos, resmungariam alguma coisa, entregaria a pacoteira, quando virasse as costas algum deles daria um sorrisinho maroto, lembrando de quando havia começado também.

Nas tardes de quarta ou quinta-feira acompanhava o patriarca à sua tradicional jogatina de dominó. Caminhávamos lado a lado, mais ou menos nessa ordem: Sofia (uma vira-lata branca), o velho e sua bengala e eu. A portuguesada se juntava num boteco de esquina, numa área externa larga, numa mesa pequena. A meia dúzia de velhos se revezava na brincadeira com as peças de marfim. Alguns tomavam cerveja, outros cognac, meu avô bebia um guaraná antártica. Medicado durante muito tempo, havia perdido o hábito da bebida, trocara pelo fumo. A perna manca vinha dessa época também, trabalhador de fazenda havia sofrido o chifre dum touro. Manco, tornou-se amargo. E esse senhor amargo encontrava graça em poucas coisas, uma delas era me usar de espião, para adivinhar o jogo dos outros. O velho grupo de amigos, vindos todos da Terrinha, contavam causos e histórias e aproveitavam a velhice. Certa vez me chamaram de “Oh, portuguesinho, venha cá!”, retruquei que não era Português. Indagado por que respondi com a sabedoria única dos infantes: “Não sou português por que não sou velho”. Gargalharam.

I’m swimming

I’m swimming. The cold black water punches my back. Blow after blow after blow. The salt outside beget the salt from inside. I cry against the storm, a thunder answers back. The limp limbs now fail, failing is all there is. Soon dawn will come. Before, I’ll go down to the depths. No creature shall taste my flesh, they know better. Soon dawn will come. A fisherman’s boy may happen to find my bloated blue carcase on the sand. A stray famine dog might find it first, feast on the emaciated spoils. Maybe carrion birds (nevermore! nevermore, they say) or the night after the day, and another day after this night, and on and on forevermore.

The meat and soul will both be long gone before all the tears rain from the sky. Not for being many, but for being diluted.

Odeio cama vazia

Odeio cama vazia. Sempre odiei. Fria, enorme… acima de tudo, vazia. Essa maciez toda, reduzida de alcova a mero leito. É uma vastidão, inda que miúda no Grande Plano, sem vida.

A cama – e falo do que convencionou-se chamar “cama de casal”, como se outras camas existissem – quando sustenta um único corpo é morte. Ora, quem deitam sós são os defuntos em seus jazigos. Talvez nem eles, que em pouco arrumam tenebras por companhia. Aqui nem os vermes me fazem cafuné.

Finas flores estampam os lençóis. Mil fios egípcios ou algo do tipo. Lençóis dignos da mortalha de reis. Deito-me. Tomo meu chá (leite jamais! Leite bebem os velhos desdentados em seus asilos). Tiro os óculos, que já não me servem de muito confesso. Repouso e durmo e sonho, aguardando o jazer.

Em meus sonhos ela inda dorme ao meu lado.