November 30, 1977
PART III “Aggiornate” Missionary Voices
Section II Tribal Life in Nonsavage Conditions
As shall be seen, statements of “updated” missionaries about the tribal life of Indians in the Brazilian jungle show striking similarity with what non-missionary “aggiornati” leftist Catholics write about hypothetical tribal life outside the jungles.
7. Longings for the Tribal Primitivism of the jungles Our Indians
The knowledge of the sexual behavior of pre-historic man is lost forever. We know it only through the study of the family and sexual life of the tribes still living in a savage state today. Through these studies we know that the primitive man was a sexually and intellectually uninhibited man, according to McLuban’s expression…
After the discovery of agriculture, sexual life changes its aspects completely. Man tied to the land had to work to survive (unlike the primitive who was a nomad and only worked sporadically, bunting or fishing in order to eat). The hard struggle to survive gave rise to disputes over arable lands. These had to be divided, whence came the several systems of property and principally private property, where the land belonged to the strongest and most able to protect it. Thus is born, in the traditional world, a competitive way of life (the primitive was not competitive, be did not struggle with other tribes for food)…
On the individual level, a new type of moral was produced that the primitive did not know: The moral of master and slave, where some, the proprietors, enjoy the fruit of the labor of others, the slaves or servants …
For the individual, the time to be dedicated to labor was obviously taken from other activities, among which was the sexual. Thus, repression of sexual life (free in the primitive) was gradually imposed with the progress of civilization. Little by little, this repression acquired ever more rigid rules and moral codes. With the passage of time, these codes were assumed by religious thinking, which made them more bearable with the promise of a happy life after death. This allowed man to endure domination as well as repression without revolting. (Doc. 7, pp. 25-27).
The text takes archaicism to a frightening extreme, manifesting longings for a hypothetical golden age preceding agriculture, the age of nomadism.
Many consequences supposedly resulted from the establishment of agriculture, one of the first being private property.
As one reads on, one sees that these consequences become a veritable cascade of misfortunes … and contemporary society is born.
This train of thought should logically lead to enthusiasm for the communist aspects of the tribal primitivism of our Indians applauded also by the neomissionaries.
8. Utopia, Yes; But the Ideal Towards Which One Should Ever Tend
Excerpts from an essay published in the series entitled “Studies of the CNBB:”
It is also interesting to point out a very illustrative example … in Scandinavia, although rare and as yet not well studied: Family communes, Several families, sufficiently ‘conscientized,’ decided to approximate the ideal of a community … they usually began in a house large enough to accommodate a number of families (5 to 10), generally comprised of young married couples from intellectual circles.
At first, they made only some objects common to all: house, table, car, etc. In a more advanced stage, they also used their salaries in common so if someone earned more, it did not give him the right to spend more. Then they tried to raise their children in common. In the most advanced stage, attempted only a few times and which quickly and invariably failed, everything was common to all, including personal intimacy, such that the very distinction between the couples themselves would disappear. The basic idea normally introduced is that the children born from free unions would have the whole group as mothers and fathers, assigning to the whole group the full responsibility of upbringing. The children would not be told the identity of their real mother.
This causes a series of problems. First of all, we are of the opinion that such an experiment is more easily ridiculed that imitated. It is levity to see this merely as a sexual aberration, although it could very well be … Be what it may, the first question is whether or not the child of the group could already be characterized as a “new man,” born from old men … It is impossible to answer this question precisely because experimentation has not yet shown approximate results, especially since it hasn’t lasted long enough (it still has not gone beyond a period of 2 or 3 years). The second question is: is it possible to preserve the “newness” of this man from the adverse outside environment …
In addition, the parents themselves succumbed to their old problems: egoisms, jealousy, [mutual] rejection … since the capacity to indiscriminately give, one’s intimacy to any person in the group supposes such a spirit of renunciation that it approaches personal mutilation …
In any case, the constant failure of this experiment does not destroy its critical vigor and its good intention. Its value lies above all in the fact that it attempted community life not only as a form of cohesion among its members but as a concrete form of human association.
Here we abstract from any ethical point of view which according to the various [sic] conceptions might beforehand reject the Scandinavian experiment because it offends against what are considered to be the most fundamental values of the human personality. Nevertheless, the example retains its value since one of the most radical forms of communitarianization [sic] was sought . . . However, it is not within the competence of a sociologist to discuss the ethical characteristics of such studies.
… The community is a genuine utopia. It does not cease to attract men and it is capable of injecting them with unprecedented enthusiasm, It is a leaven that history renews rather than loses. Under the harshness of daily life, full of problems and miseries, a movement of strange profundity throbs continuously and loses itself in unattainable absolute hopes: the longing for a better world, for more human men, for more egalitarian societies; the anxiety for a lost paradise, but one perhaps recoverable at a certain point in history …(Doc. 8, pp. 104-107).
The formation of small “communist republics” inside a highly socialized state, as in the Scandinavian peninsula, can be theoretically carried out by stages. This text is very illustrative about such stages, their achievements and frustrations, and the hopes they still harbor. The attempt carried out by those “groups” amounts to a real experiment of tribal life under non-savage conditions.
The Commentary published by the CNBB is marked by an amorality that reveals sympathy.
Most notable, however, is the manner in which the author of this study responds to a question that is already doubtlessly formed in the minds of some readers: Isn’t all this tribalization nothing more than utopia?
Yes, answers the text, but utopianism is health for the soul. It is most laudable to tend towards it continuously, indefatigably, without ever entirely attaining it but at the same time managing to come ever closer to it.
A man of good sense will see that there is nothing more dangerous than guiding the state, not towards its natural and true end, but towards a finality that is admittedly utopian and therefore unreal and unattainable.
In collectivities, as in individuals, good order can only result from the tendency of all the parts toward the true end. The tendency towards utopia is a ferment of disorder. Whenever this tendency is victorious only disaster can result.