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Moving out (of academy-in-a-strict-sense)

(I am spending less and less of my energy in technical things like Logic, Analytic Geometry and Emacs/eev, and more and more on things that are less technical and that can affect the lives of many people much more, like Linkdasruas, Ydb, indexed audios, and other tools for activists. I felt that I had to explain why, so here is the story, told very sketchily.)

Eduardo Ochs
2014aug06


In 2009 I started to work at PURO, a small countryside campus in Brazil.

In 2010 we had a (first) series of scandals there, and I started to use the term "zombies" to refer to our undead colleagues who eat brains, turn other people into undeads by biting them, and who behave as parasites who feed on their host, weaken it, and destroy it.

In 2011 I made T-shirts about one of these scandals (Anvisa), and that made me a public figure for the first time in my life. Then we were going to have internal elections at PURO, and we - the "humans", who wanted transparency - formed a punk party to compete with the "zombies", who believed only in opacity and realpolitik. I volunteered to participate, and I became the candidate to vice-something. We had two public debates. The second one was filmed by a student, who was supposedly going to make his recording public on the web. He erased his recording. In the end we, the humans, got 49% of the votes of the professors, 52% of the votes of the students, and only 2% of the votes of the "technicians" (non-teaching staff).

In 2012 the harassment on the most productive professor of my department (Physics and Maths) became so unbearable that he left, and we learned that in the Institute of Science and Technology, ruled by zombies, we couldn't even make some topics, discussed in the meetings of the Institute, be mentioned in the minutes of the meetings.

From may to september of 2012 97% of all federal universities in Brazil held a strike in which the main demands were better conditions for teaching, studying, and doing research. The government pretended that the role of education is just to prepare people for the job market as efficiently as possible, and ignored all of our demands.

It is easy to fight a distant enemy - like "the government" - but some of our colleagues believe that we have to work hard to adapt to the new goals for education, ranking systems, etc, even if that means letting all people ranked as "unproductive" be crushed -

Before that strike most people around me felt that "everything is pointless", "individual actions are useless", "people can only do something when in huge numbers", but the strike made us understand that we were in a war of ideas - and that, for example,

  • A strike of university teachers demanding better pay, when all workers are being asked to to tighten their belts, is doomed to fail. A strike of all sectors of public education, demanding better working conditions and sound governmental policies, can succeed - if we can change the people's expectations on what education should be!
  • Some people said that university teachers aren't entitled to complain because they already earn far more that school teachers - but in a unified strike, the university teachers have the obligation to use that they have more free time, more stability in their jobs, more practice with long texts, and more social respectability to help voice the schoolteachers' demands. Privilege, in a situation of responsabilty and solidarity, becomes a tool that can be well used.
  • the answer to the (many!) people who say that we can't complain because our situation in the universities is far better than the one in the schools, is that we - univs, schools, etc - are fighting for a better education in all levels, and that if we, who are in the universities, have more free time, more stability on the job, and more practice with writing long texts that the people working in schools, we have to use that... our privileges and specificities become tools that we have to use responsibly to help the others...
  • War of ideas - changing people's views on education, government, and solidarity

During the strike I learned a lot about how to organize events and to publish things, both online and on paper. In a trip to Amsterdam I spent two evenings at Het Fort van Sjakoo, and that blew my mind. I created this (PDF).

I started to record the meetings of the Institute of Science and Technology ("ICT") and to put them on the web, despite the threats.

In jun/2013 things in Rio de Janeiro got to this point.

One of the main slogans of the zombies in Rio das Ostras is "be very careful with what you post on Facebook". We, humans, were trying to create spaces where constructive discussions could happen; the zombies were spreading a culture of silence and fear. When even talking about this clash of cultures became too hard in Rio das Ostras I started spending much more time in Rio de Janeiro, with activists - who were facing problems similar to mine, but in a bigger scale, and without giving up.


We are now in the process of transferring the Department of Physics and Maths from the Institute of Science and Technology to the Institute of Humanities. The new department will be called "Department of Natural Sciences", and we will be joined in it by some biologists who are fleeing another department that has become a(nother) political hell.