Wanderlino Arruda
Djalma Souto


Back in the Middle Ages

Wanderlino Arruda

On returning from Salvador, my daughter Wladenia, anxiously delivers me, as a gift from my dear friend, Ângelo Soares Neto, a large, bulky bundle of newspapers from old Bahia state, with which I hopefully could catch up on a varied number of interests that were currently spinning within the orbit of my attention. Knowing me well enough, Angelo knew how to locate in the northeastern and “Baiano” press, much news of topics that fall under our common interests and which, of course, pleased me immensely. A treasure of rich reading that would fill in the few tight moments of leisure left to me during my endless days of study. I reminisced about those fascinating days during the decade of the fifties, when the short story writer Haroldo Livio and I would meet every afternoon at the public county library, to read…in the fleeting moments of our modest coffee breaks. But, however few and quick they were, we learned much during those short magical intervals, especially about literature.

Well then, dear reader, I won´t allow myself to stray too far from the main theme. Now, Angelo and Haroldo had a fascinating common interest; their great passion for the Middle Ages, a subject that I chose for today´s topic. I really only brought it up to start conversation going but it was just great, because when you stop to think about it, both of them, Angelo and Harold, have a lot of the medieval in their different ways of being and acting…And why the middle ages? Well, are we, or are we not citizens of the twenty-first century? Do we not live in the breathtaking new age, when modernity invades our everyday lives, when the young want at any price, to shake off the heavy dust, manacles of the past? It is the “to be or not to be”. That is the question that we found in the newspapers that Angelo sent me: The world is really receding back to the middle ages!

Who affirms that the world is once again approaching the middle ages, crawling back sideways, like a crab, is the professor Cid Teixeira, in an interview to the “Jornal da Bahia”. He says that the state in its cabinet can no longer protect the citizen on the street, and basically for this reason alone, we are living in an age almost feudal, when the basic, physical protection of individuals hardly exists. In truth, the individual either protects himself, by himself, or faces the consequences, modernly putting up bars and walls around himself as substitutes for castle, armor, shield and moat…Myriad laws, unending legal red tape, too many statistics, an enormous universe of initials, with all essential planning planned backwards and a gigantic non-functional security system network which provokes an insecurity even greater. The individual then commences building sturdy, high walls with shards of glass cemented in on top, electric fences and closed condominiums, hiding themselves behind electronic shields, hiring private, security guards, putting up closed circuit cameras everywhere, always putting more and more locks on doors and windows, rarely going out in the evening and nevermore strolling about casually, in the relaxed and unworried fashion as in yesteryear. Rich or plebian, miserable or middle class, the individual no longer trusts government protection, coming to the point of it appearing to be that the government has just simply disencumbered itself from this sticky and difficult obligation.

To the contrary of what we have always visualized about the modernizing of the world, with real protection for the rights of every person, with liberty of thought and speech, the institution of good, respect and security, the opposite is seen. The state impersonally creates a caste of insensitive technocrats, living robots whose greatest desire, it seems to me, is to become powerful, sort of like latter-day Egyptian pharaohs. At the very bottom of this, says Sid Teixeira is the secret wish of every technocrat to be a high-priest of the Egyptian god Amom, a keeper of hermetic sciences and retainer of divine right and the power that it accompanies. Having the necessary commands, programs and pawns of potent computers at their disposal, speaking the steely coded language of the economist, accessible only to themselves, they permanently enclose themselves in carpeted air conditioned cabinets, in plush first class seats on gleaming streamlined jets and in lush hotel suites. In truth, what the technocrats have actually been able to do is to dissolve the individual identity of each and every person, creating a faceless crowd of formless and impotent vassals!

If we continue regressing in this manner toward the darkness of past medieval times, patiently losing our God-given power of decision day by day, we will soon become slaves and not full partners of the having and doing of our existence. Besides all this, private companies lose sixty percent of their earnings in the form of taxes demanded by our government. Technology has transformed itself into the walls of stone that isolate us, as if we were on a deserted island of castles in centuries of darkness.

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