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Quinta-feira, 11/1/2018
Os Doze Trabalhos de Mónika. 8.Heroes of the World
Heloisa Pait

Leia a primeira aventura de Mónika, À Beira do Abismo.

Sometimes Mónika preferred to think in English, which was a language all Brazilians spoke and none of them spoke at all. She felt comfortable expressing her ideas in the same broken language of the T-shirts, company names and translated pop songs, as if she were part of a large conspiracy no one knew they were part of.

She was thinking about the risks she faced, that her USAID grant, which she announced in various research reports she published in her college web page, became public. That was a big risk. If they connected her whistleblowing to that grant, she was doomed, given all the USAID meant for the Brazilian academia. What was so evil in that particular American agency? No one knew today, as it had been effectively proscribed from all academic discourse.

In the dictatorial period, USAID had signed cooperation agreements with the Brazilian Ministry of Education of Culture to promote educational reforms in Brazil. In higher education, they introduced the credit system, ended the European cathedra system, and massively expanded undergraduate programs which would bring a more flexible, accessible and democratic education. But it was all top-down, which was inadmissible. Academic leaders had it very clear that they should not get distracted with undercover policemen inside classrooms, professors disappearing in the middle of the year, and the general climate of fear that took hold of the campuses in those years. They were not stupid. The danger lay on the MEC-USAID agreements. Faculty, students, knowledge itself, that was all renewable. The agreements however put at risk the university as they knew it, which was not to happen. With decisiveness and no public declaration, they submerged the whole thing in an ocean of inscrutable decrees that kept the foundation of Brazilian university – the privilege of knowledge – intact.

USAID’s support was Mónika’s only concern, because she hadn’t actually written anything secret in his whistleblowing report, no negotiation to mess up with hiring processes, no parallel meeting to pump up evaluations, nothing. Nothing that was not already in official documents. No moral, sexual, physical, spiritual or cosmic harassment. No one could challenge her. Mónika had refrained herself from hyperboles. Yes, she was Brazilian. Yes, she grew up going to bars and street parties. But she kept from her native land the cool attitude that covered her bursting mind.

She merely entered all university public documents in open data format, in which evasion numbers, courses syllabi, job search requirements, alumni anonymized data, and various evaluations could be easily analyzed. Academic calendars. Conferences. Publications. Promotions. Wages. Administrative bonuses. Meetings. Anyone could build neat graphs and tables with the data. And it was all made possible by the American program. Or, better, by the United Statester program. She had the hope someone in Brasília was about the connect the dots and realize that:

The Ambaíba Geology and Metaphysics School was not a school. There were hired faculty, admitted students, and built classrooms, which is fundamentally what a school needs. There was even a quite reasonable library, with important books in reachable shelves, something that couldn’t hurt much, as well as a decent internet connection. But if you look closely at the documents, and that’s the only thing one could do below the Equator, it was not a school at all. Meeting minutes indicated something entirely different. Production and transmission of knowledge, that undying plague, happened mostly in marginal institutional spaces, the long line to get the ticket for the cafeteria meal that formed in the middle of the morning classes, or that strange radioactive dome at the border of the campus, visited earlier by our heroine. The investigation would certainly take a long time: how would officials even start it? What precisely they could look for? Were they trained to look for nothing? And how would they tell a real, functioning college from this one? Mónika dry-swallowed: would she be asked to give a testimony? What could they possibly ask? If they questioned her about Jacques Derrida’s concept of trace, would she be prepared?

These were the thoughts that occupied Mónika, whom we know well by now. A foreigner. A woman. A successful professor of paleo-sociology, which can be described as the examination of archaic human efforts to comprehend their own human relations. Mónika studied how men understood, historically, their own group lives. She knew all about the subject. She mastered archeology and sacred texts, and from this she grasped how men saw themselves as social group members in ancient times and pre historic eras. She knew how they produced such knowledge and how they transmitted it. She was simply a great scholar: she knew where to find stuff and she had the imagination of grand interpreters. Her only handicap was that she couldn’t use this knowledge to just make sense of the world around her, here and know. She felt, deep inside, that this was beneath her, trying to understand what was right in front of her eyes. She looked at the window, watched the sugar cane fields going by, followed by the pastures, and at each farm the car left behind, she knew a little less.

The cab driver took her from her daydreaming.

– Você não está me reconhecendo, está?

– O pastor! – Mónika said when she saw his black eyes in the car rearview mirror.

– Não sou pastor.

– Claro. Mas pensou em ser, falamos sobre religião na última corrida. Como vai?

– Como você vai?

Mónika cried. The pastor was very skillful.

– Não é um dia bom para me perguntar isso.

– Você é casada?

– Não.

– Tem filhos?

– Não. – Mónika sobbed.

The pastor told a biblical story. Mónika found it beautiful. His voice, his intonation. The cab driver was really something. He went on:

– Às vezes, na vida, é preciso pôr de lado as pequenas ambições e dedicar-se a algo maior que tudo...

Mónika was making a confession to a pastor who drove a cab in a country road, but that didn’t make her a stupid woman.

– Já tenho minhas lutas – she cut off his preaching.

– Claro que tem! – The pastor retracted. He knew how to guide his sheep, and that one was not going to be the easiest. – Claro que tem.

He told another biblical story. He spoke of David and Goliath, of the little Hebrew who fought the giant. With his own weapons, he insisted.

– Não use armas que não sejam suas, se você me permite o conselho.

Mónika allowed him the advice. Each one in life had a role, and the cab driver had performed well his own today. She would use only her own weapons. Not the others’ ones. That would make her strong. She wouldn’t hurt Goliath, she was pretty sure. But she would tickle him. She thought of the heroes of the world, thought of David and Ulysses. Hercules and Asterix. She thought of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, and then of Donald Duck, embarking in adventures in mysterious lands with his three brave nephews.

She had no reason to be afraid. She was in good company. The company of the heroes of the world.

Está no ar a nona aventura de Mónika, Um Cacho de Banana.

Esta é uma obra de ficção; qualquer semelhança com nomes, pessoas, fatos ou situações da vida real terá sido mera coincidência

Heloisa Pait
São Paulo, 11/1/2018


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