Man is merely a cog in the vast machine of distribution
Fear of Freedom (1)
Humanity has reached a critical point in history in which the choice between a blind submission to the status quo or a turn towards a utopian future will be made. At question is the concept of self-regulation and how it could best be put to praxis. The issue is whether society can work together as one with each citizen acting as a subject rather than as an object. If self-growth continues to be subverted by the interests of the machine, then hatred will fester and love will die.
Some would like us to believe that fascism was a fluke that has run dry, that Hitler, Stalin, and the like were evil monsters who individually almost derailed the great progress of reason and civilisation. That fascism cannot be reduced to the antics of single men alludes to the fact that it is the psychology of the masses that forms the bedrock of totalitarian governments.
It is also in these masses that the solution must lie. For until there is a radical transformation in the educational process, that is according to Paulo Freire, until the potential intellectual in each of us is allowed to develop, the majority will continue to live as automatons. They will continue to accept things as they are, and since such an attitude allows others to manipulate the decision process in an easier way, feelings of insignificance and alienation will continue to breed. Consequently, those in power will tighten the ideological chains of unrestrained, economic competition until all the poets and bohemians have perished. The alternative is to create the world anew, without tension and filled with loving, working, spontaneous, and organic human beings. The choice is ours.
Pedagogy as a Means to Oppression
The point of departure for this essay will be the effect that educational pedagogy has on an individual's self-growth. One of the main tools utilised by the state to manipulate a passive mass culture is education. Students are programmed from early on to think that knowledge comes from outside sources rather than from within. Instead of emphasizing the individual's own contingent background and culture, many educators decide to focus on their own substantial accumulation of various and at times trivial information. This serves the status quo since critical awareness is replaced with a pedantic, authoritarian leaning. In reference to dialogue in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire says,
... since dialogue is the encounter in which the united reflection and action
of the dialoguers are addressed to the world which is to be transformed and
humanized, this dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one person's
"depositing" ideas in another. Nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas
to be "consumed" by the discussants. (2)
Whenever education is reduced to a transaction between what the teachers know and what the students don't know, the probability of attaining real knowledge is low. This banking concept creates a mythology of knowledge, that there are only a few who can be members of the intellectual elite. An individual teacher's greatest ability is her/his ability to inspire the children to being creative. With banking education that ability is distorted into a commodity which fuses the educational process to the status quo.
While the students learn to be passive in front of lecturers pumping information petrol into them, the world around them continues to become even more limiting and centralised. Conglomerates who buy up land and people send a clear message to the schools that their function is right and essential to the growth of the nation. While elsewhere in the corridors of the school, the pledge of allegiance can be heard. As the television rings out the last drip of creativity in the fragile eggshell mind of the child, Guinness and John Player Blue cigarettes pacify the older, presumably wiser grown-ups.
Everything around us becomes simplified, as the amount of money in your pocket each morning directly reflects your bargaining power and the quality of the day ahead. And while educators could become catalysts for the multiplication of critical thinkers, instead most contribute to the deadening of young minds. Consequently, naive thinkers who wish only to behave in so-called normal ways exist in such great numbers, that a mob mentality allowing for no one creative nor different has fully germinated. The only apparent option for those perceiving this situation - those who feel powerless to speak out against it or transform its anti-dialogical nature - is disillusionment.
The difference between humans and animals is that the former modify the world to humanise it and to become more. Animals, on the other hand, adapt to the world in order to survive. Beavers do produce dams and ants do have a complex work system. However, humans first construct their structure through cognition before putting it into practice. Animals, unlike people, do not separate themselves from their work. People do and they also reflect upon their work. Since humans have a history, they consequently have the responsibility to understand it and learn how to transform it.
Paulo Freire is not just interested in literacy, but most importantly in how to combine the understanding of words with an equal quality of awareness as to how words shape our behaviour. If words are believed to be property of only a few, then praxis will only derive from the minds of those few. If theory without praxis can be said to be meaningless, then it follows that praxis not flowing from the individual's contingent being will also be unsatisfactory.
Self-regulation means that each person working with an eye on their own self-growth and awareness contributes in their own uniqueness to the whole. Children told how to think and what to think obviously won't be able to transform the Earth into a peaceful one. As they grow older, their faith in the status quo will strengthen, since to deny this order after years of being told that 'this is how things are' - well, simply put, this would devastate that person.
In teaching literacy, Paulo Freire suggests that students not only learn words but also place them in the context of their own lives. Primers cannot aid this process because they are too simple and place words in meaningless situations. Simplistic phrases like 'the bird's wing' will not help anyone to perceive their own life system. On the other hand, when words such as slum, family, and state are critically investigated, the semantic relationship between the word and its significance is established.
If humanity is to transcend its 'culture of silence,' it must change education so that it serves students who are also knowing subjects. According to Freire, 'conscientization'
... refers to learning to perceive social, political, and economic
contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements
of reality. (3)
Primers cannot help anyone reach a higher consciousness because they emphasise too much the actual memorisation of words over how they can convey what life truly means and could become.
In part two of this introspection into the roots of fascism, we'll look into the work of Alice Miller and her concept of poisonous pedagogy.