When looking at great human achievements such as the Pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall in China, Petra in Jordan, the Temple of Bacchus in Lebanon, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and a dozen other immense – and often wonderful – works, it is possible to ask whether it was worth the lives that were lost to build them, the terror of thousands of human beings enslaved, tortured, subjected to hunger, cold, excessive heat and certainly a lot of violence.
Many lives were sacrificed in great works that we see today as artistic, and for better or worse they represent the legacy of our civilization, as we think of them as creative processes, involved in a two-way relationship between the idea and the material realization of millions of manual workers. , craftsmen, sculptors, early architects, painters and a lot, a lot of blood, which makes looking at the creation process from another point of view.
There certainly was also the pleasure of doing things well, however adverse the circumstances, and not without reason Hannah Arendt described that those who produce material things most of the time have no rational and ethical domain to control this product.
The result of a collective effort, most of the time carried out with great sacrifices imposed on many, will have meaning from the intention, the purpose of those who determined it, people or societies.
This author distinguished the animal laborenswho is absorbed in the work as an end in itself, whose only intention is to “make the thing work”, and the homo faberwhich analyzes and discusses what it does.
The historical records of our civilization constitute a catalog of experiences in the production of things, the human being is trained in a prolonged process loaded with meanings in setbacks, beginnings, successes, tears and glories, giving meaning to the concrete experience, because producing art is a intimate emotional impression, which we call sensitivity, followed by an outward action, the skill.
We can think that the result of a collective effort, most of the times carried out with great sacrifices imposed on many, will have meaning from the intention, the purpose of those who determined it, people or societies. The construction of the great Gothic cathedrals sometimes demanded centuries of effort and costs, efforts of populations that perhaps should have been focused on their own survival, on the production of food and other more basic needs; however, religious belief and the feeling of being on the path of salvation motivated these people to accept the duty to contribute with work and material values to the achievement of the work. And, although these temples also had the “market” objective of impressing the faithful, they were and still are testimonies of the faith of those who conceived them and guided their construction.
If whipping, bad food, and precarious conditions enter the midst of this process, it is surprising that so many artistic works are currently available for our intellectual enjoyment; however, it is necessary to remember that many other human activities spent the same efforts and crimes, leaving little more than the material wealth of some, such as coffee growing and sugar cane extraction, which also used slave labor and were of indescribable brutality, virtually no cultural legacy for a people.
Of them, half a dozen landowner families are still rich today because of the rampant exploitation of the lives of other human beings, a deep-rooted prejudice against these “soulless” workers, the concept of taking advantage of everything, a legacy of ills, diseases and a deeply divided country.
Remaining groups and social classes from our coffee and sugar cycle show a different social and historical panorama for the dominant groups and those formed by blacks who constitute most of the current manual workers in agriculture and industry, Indians, immigrants, informal workers, or that is, outside the legal system of work and social security policy, often treated as simple outcasts.
Without having built great monuments, grandiose works, artistic culture and intellectual legacy have produced a non-inclusive country, a petty politics driven by populism, a lame educational system, which, apart from the dedication of some, is incapable of adequately forming a reflective and citizen mass. . Was it worth so much suffering, tears and brutality?
Wanda Camargo is an educator and advisor to the presidency of the Higher Education Complex of Brazil (UniBrasil).