Paulo Freire: On The Politics of Neutrality


“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and powerless means to side with the powerful, not to remain neutral.

Alongside the neutral attitude, there are more subtle and more attractive means of serving the interests of the powerful while appearing to favor the oppressed. Here again we find the naive and the shrewd walking hand in hand… [via] the illusion that the hearts of men and women can be transformed while the social structures that make those hearts ‘sick’ are left intact and unchanged.

The illusion that suggests it is possible, by means of sermons, humanitarian works, and the encouragement of otherworldly values, to change men’s consciousness and thereby transform the world exists only in those we term naive (or moralistic as Niebuhr would have said. The shrewd are well aware that such action can slow down the basic process of radical change in social structures. This radical change is a precondition for the awakening of consciousness, and the process is neither automatic nor mechanical.”
—Paulo Regulus Neves Freire (1921-1997), Brazilian philosopher and educator. From The Politics of Education: Culture, Power, and Liberation (1985)

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