Apparently this is a letter. Actually it is an excuse for some reflections on my present position regarding life as I reach my 63rd birthday.
I thank you for your complimentary remarks about the possibility of rendering some contribution – still important, in your opinion – to our community, for example, by transmitting the knowledge acquired along my professional life. Hearty words said in your characteristic loud voice, in the heat of a party, that sounded kind and sincere.
Your exhorted me, arousing my nerve, to quit my passive position where I am now by own will and return to activity.
You should remember that after serving as a professional at the then Planning Ministry, Petrobrás, the Ministry of Mine and Energy, I came to Espirito Santo after retiring, full of enthusiasm in order to work at the State Development Agency. It would be the swan song of a professional life, the possibility of carrying out palpable projects that you know very well and in my homeland. Nothing could be more exciting!
After three years in the latter condition and another year trying to be an independent consultant I gave up, may be a little too fast, restricting myself to domestic activities.
All my activities as an economist have been carried out in the planning area. How frustrating this activity is! It is so, first of all, because in the large structures you are just a tiny part of the process. Even reaching some supposedly important positions you are nothing more than that very small part of a complex gear.
Considering my professional life, I highlight for the present purpose three areas in which I was involved:
- Participation in the initial Petrobrás negotiations in Iraq for petroleum exploration in that country, where one of the largest present world petroleum fields were discovered (Majnoon) that providentially were returned to the Iraqis due to the imminent Iran-Iraq war that lasted 10 years; the restitution had as a counterpart large volumes of crude oil at favorable prices;
- Coordination of the initial works regarding the energy integration in Mercosul, that are presently paralyzed due to the crisis in the involved countries or to the American proposal for the creation of Alca;
- Coordination of the Cabiúnas-Vitória Gas Pipeline (that included the Large Vitória Thermoelectric Plant) and the Norte Capixaba Thermoelectric Plant Agreements, presently paralyzed; participation in the creation of the State Regulatory Agency (approved but not yet in operation) and in the interrupted negotiations for the creation of the State Gas Company. Recently the Legislative Assembly is willing to revoke the concession granted to BR-Distribuidora for gas distribution that from my point of view is to be lamented and that will give origin to legal suits and the immediate decrease of Petrobrás investments in the State;
Putting everything on the scale, from the point of view of results the only positive point is my trip to Iraq. However, with me or without me this would have happened anyway, as will be shown in what follows.
There was a time, in the described context, when I have learned to prepare “moqueca capixaba” (regional poached fish with various spices) and I used to invite colleagues and friends to taste our typical dish in Rio or Brasilia. Then I was satisfied. The project had palpable results. I bought the fish, I cleaned it, I seasoned it, I cooked it and we ate it. Doing is much more satisfying than planning.
Coming back to Iraq, I will tell you an interesting talk I had at the time before flying to Baghdad (1972, therefore before the first petroleum shock) with an experienced Petrobrás colleague. It should be remembered that I was then a debutant in the petroleum issues.
My colleague said: “You can make really beautiful economical viability studies about the project. One thing is certain, no matter what the results are, our trip for petroleum exploration is already decided. Higher political values will make the project viable”.
From my point of view, we were a spearhead of the American interests in those regions. It should be observed that we had then the military dictatorship in Brazil and Sadam Husseim was not yet the powerful lord of that country. Authoritarian Brazil with full American support was embarking in petroleum exploration through the recently created Braspetro, almost exclusively in communist countries or countries hostile to the United States: Iraq, South Yemen, Angola, Libya and even Cuba was included.
One feels as part of a pantomime whose plot is written beforehand. Forces much larger than the ones you can manipulate are at stake and you are being manipulated in a naïve way. Political and entrepreneurial interests of every kind are those that prevail.
Here in Espírito Santo, a more mature person, I was fully aware of it. But I thought that by defending the interests of CVRD, Petrobrás, Escelsa one could carry out undertakings that would better serve the community. For example, increasing the availability of electric energy and natural gas, even though the privileged would be these actors, because without them the projects would not be made possible.
The new (present) state government, the entrepreneurial interest of those companies and the political conjuncture frustrated my desires. Up to now everything is just on paper. I hope they will turn real but it will take a while. The new government had a bet on the discovery of huge petroleum fields as the official propaganda says instead of following the already established agenda.
When I felt that I could escape this labyrinth I hurried up. With my retirement revenue that allows me to maintain the modest living standard I always had, I resigned.
This is not escape, cowardice, egoism or the like. Because to continue being submitted to the gears of the system is not altruism at all.
Here in Espirito Santo my mission had already been accomplished in the previous administration. It was pointless to play a cynical role by continuing to earn a large additional salary and become a maker of brilliant reports and lectures at the age of sixty.
Now I enjoy my life reading and writing. Mainly literature and preferably reputed and classical works. I read more than I write. The more I read the more my self-criticism increases. The pleasure of reading combined with some laziness makes me postpone for a while my writing projects. Which, incidentally, are numerous.
I would not like to repeat the superficial and technical articles that I used to write in A Gazeta. I want to sight other horizons. Each short story that I write (now I perform this type of literature) gives me unusual pleasure. I also have a project for a novel. But I don’t know if I will have the breath, ingeniousness and art.
One grows old and refines the sense of life. In principle I think that life is for living. I know how to live without the therapeutic support of a professional occupation. Besides, I got to the conclusion that my two children are really the best production of my life. With a “small contribution” from my wife, of course!
Incidentally, Richard Dawkings, an English naturalist says in “The Egoist Gene” that the big aim of genes is their continuation, is procreation. The rest is what we do to kill time. It is framework, it is unimportant.
Extending further the issue I would really like to participate in raising my grandchildren, since the raising of my children was practically delegated to their mother while I wallowing in papers, calculations, plans, meeting and much talk most of them fruitless as shown.
Remembering Carlos Drummond de Andrade in Slave in Paperland, I quote (free translation):
How I hate you and if it was only hate...
It is also the sense of life
I lost being one of your kind”
You can well substitute bureaucrats by technocrats. In fact, beside my working desk in the Petrobrás office, hanging on the wall, there was for some time a cartoon showing a man holding a briefcase, wearing a suit and tie, full of his own importance like a successful executive … with a clown’s red nose. Grand!
To conclude, a poetic message in order to clarify what I want to transmit. I will quote a text from the book “Black Box” by the Israeli writer Amós Oz (free translation):
“... it is not egoism, or vileness or cruelty of our nature that transform us into a species that destroys itself. We annihilate ourselves (and soon we will exterminate our entire species) precisely because of our superior cravings…Because of our ardent need of being redeemed. Due to our obsession for redemption… just a mask that hides the absolute absence of basic talent for life. It is the talent that every cat possesses. In what concern us, like the whales that throw themselves to the beach in a collective impulse, we suffer from an advanced degeneration of talent for life.”
I want to live the rest of what is left of my life. Don’t look for anything morbid in that because there isn’t. Even though disappointed with many things in Brazil and in the world I feel a great urge to simply go on living.
Professor, your pleasant figure, the affection you demonstrated towards me in the party where we met made me write these lines so that, as I philosophize about life, I would answer to my most admired friend.
Best wishes from Genserico.
P.S. – You “hit” me when you said that I would be like those aged men who watch the TV news. Actually, the news show of these TV programs (an aesthetic festival) fascinates domestic men, like soap operas fascinate women of the same kind. I apologize for the changes I made in the original letter to make it more attractive to the readers of JORNALEGO
Genserico Encarnação Júnior
July 20th, 2002, Itapoã, Vila Velha (ES)
OS: Genserico is precursor and founder of e&e and edits in his writer phase the JORNALEGO that can be found in address http://ecen.com/jornalego.
Graphic Edition/Edição Gráfica:
Tuesday, 11 November 2008.