Remember Paulo Freire as a freedom fighter


Paulo Freire and Henry Giroux in Boston in 1983. – Counter Punch

SEPTEMBER 19 was Paulo Freire’s birthday. Freire and I worked together for 15 years, which I consider to be one of the most enlightening times in my life. We have co-edited a series of books and with Donaldo Macedo many of Freire’s books have been translated and published in the English speaking world. He wrote the preface to my second book, Theory and resistance in education, and we worked together until his death. There have been and will be many celebrations. Too many of them will treat him as an icon rather than the revolutionary he really was. In doing so, they will speak of Freire with a sort of depoliticizing reverence that is often associated with empty praise reserved for deceased celebrities. Ivy League schools will be releasing statements celebrating her work posing as role models for radical change, which of course is the opposite of what they believe in. This diversion is understandable in an era of fabricated ignorance, cult celebrity culture, and an era when historical memory becomes dangerous and dissent a curse. Freire was a revolutionary whose passion for justice and resistance was matched only by his hatred of neoliberal capitalism and his aversion to authoritarians of all political stripes. Simply put, he was not only a public intellectual, but also a freedom fighter. The current attacks on him in Brazil by neo-fascist Bolsonaro clearly show just how dangerous his job is to this day.

One of Freire’s most important contributions has been his politicization of culture. He saw culture as a field of struggle that both reflected and displayed power. He rejected the vulgar Marxist notion that culture was simply a reflection of economic forces. Not only did he relate culture to social relations that ranged from the production and legitimization of class warfare, to ecological destruction and various forms of privilege, but he also understood that culture was always linked to power and was an extremely influential force. This was especially true in the age of social media with their power to define various modes of inclusion, legitimate consent, produce specific forms of agency, and reproduce unequal power relations both within and within. outside of nation states. He strongly emphasized the role of language and values ​​in struggles for identities and resources and how they functioned across different organizations and public spheres such as schools, media, corporate apparatus and other social spheres. His work on literacy has focused on how neoliberal cultural practices have established certain forms of commercial agency, defined and bypassed public space, depoliticized people through the language of commands, while commodifying and by privatizing everything. Culture and literacy for Freire provided people with the space to develop new modes of action, mass resistance and emotional attachments that embraced stimulating forms of solidarity. For Freire, the grounds of culture, literacy and education were the grounds on which individuals gain awareness of their position and the will to strive for dignity, social justice and freedom. For Freire, culture was a battlefield, a place of struggle, and he recognized in Gramsci’s way that any relationship of domination was “educational and occurs between the different forces that make it up.”

Freire believed above all that education was linked to social change and that questions of conscience and identity were integral to the central place of pedagogy in politics itself. For Freire, education and schooling were part of a larger struggle against capitalism, neoliberalism, authoritarianism, fascism and the depoliticization and instrumentalization of education. Direct action, political education and cultural policy defined for him both new strategies of resistance and new understandings of the relationship between power and culture and of how it shaped questions of identity, values ​​and understanding of the future. Pedagogy and literacy were political because they were linked to the struggle for power, permanent power relations, and the prerequisites for connecting knowledge and values ​​to the development of active and engaged critical citizens. Freire’s great contribution was to recognize that domination was not only economic and structural but also educational, ideological, cultural and intellectual and that questions of persuasion and belief were crucial weapons in creating committed agents and critical subjects. . He also refuted the easy route of escape for the cynics who assimilated and collapsed domination and power. Resistance has always been a possibility and any policy denying it has been mistaken on the side of complicity with the most heinous crimes, yet unrecognized. Freire was a transformative public intellectual and freedom fighter who believed educators had an enormous responsibility to solve important social and political problems, speak the truth, and take risks, regardless of the awkward consequences. Civic courage was essential in politics and it embodied the best of this conviction.

By placing education at the heart of politics, Freire linked ideas to power, and critical awareness and literacy to intervention around the world in the struggle for economic, social and racial justice. He never separated the massive suffering and constraints imposed by inequalities in the political sphere and in doing so tied the conditions, even specific ones, of resistance to face the constraints that weigh on people’s lives. Freire believed that everyone had the ability to be an intellectual, to think critically, to make the familiar strange, and to struggle individually and collectively against the machines of disimagination and the areas of ethical, political and social abandonment that transformed society. democracies in updated versions of the fascist state.

His work was not about methods, but about promoting individual and social change in a way that gives voice to the voiceless and empowerment to those seen as disposable. Freire was a freedom fighter, who believed deeply in a future in which radical democracy was possible. He was an intrepid utopian for whom hope was not just an idea but a way of thinking differently in order to act differently. Freire’s educational and political work was rooted in an ethical ideal and a sense of responsibility which are today under attack, which testifies to its importance and the need to defend it; it must also be avoided that it is appropriated by the ruling elites; Moreover, it is necessary to extend it to new economic, cultural and social circumstances for which it is desperately needed in the fight against the emerging fascist politics across the world. Freire believed that no society is ever fair enough and that the fight against injustice is the prerequisite for the radicalization of values, the fight against institutional oppression and the adoption of a global values ​​policy. shared democracies. Civic literacy was for him a weapon to raise awareness, embolden civic action and put an end to the attraction of fascist politics. Freire was dangerous and rightly so in a time when history is being cleaned up, those who are seen as disposable are both expanding and losing their lives, and the need for anti-capitalist consciousness and a mass social movement more crucial than ever. Freire’s spirit and politics are not to be celebrated but imitated.

CounterPunch.org, September 24. Henry Giroux is the current holder of the McMaster University Public Service Fellowship in the Department of English and Cultural Studies and Distinguished Fellow Paulo Freire in Critical Pedagogy.


Thelma J. Longworth

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