Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.

Paulo Freire

Paulo Freire was a Brazilian educator and theorist of critical pedagogy. One of his most famous works is Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Throughout Paulo's works, he criticised the social culture of silence, advocating for empowerment of change through critical consciousness. While his works were published half a century ago, they are reflections on the universal and timeless nature of mankind's troubled relationship with issues of power, silence and disinformation.

In the UNESCO Prospects quarterly edition of 1977 Luiz Navarro de Britto (Professor of Political Science and Director of the Human Resources Centre of the Federal University of Bahia) published a remarkable review on the subject of education and alienation. It sheds light on how our minds are moulded into being unfree and bias, and how neutrality by definition is a phoney concept. A thorough read is recommended.

alienation is ... the process of fragmentation of knowledge and the consequent distortion of human reality. This process subordinates all ... mankind ... to the different forms of alienation which affect norms, values, roles and means. ... forms of alienation arise from three basic frames of reference: (a) capacity for knowledge; (b) power relations ...; (c) State interference. - Luiz Navarro de Britto for UNESCO in *"education and alienation"*

Like Elie Wiesel advocated neutrality is a troubled concept “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Neutrality has fuelled the need for many activists to speak up. Like Desmond Tutu's “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

More sharply, Julieanne O'Connor allegedly said “The appearance of neutrality is merely an interpretation from the lens of one's own understanding. It’s neither truth nor fact. Merely the meaning someone has given to what they perceive.”

In other words, invoking neutrality is invoking personal perception. It is one of my favourite quotes on neutrality.

João Reis points to outright danger: “Neutral people are the most dangerous, they sell themselves to the highest bidder, betray us for a plate of lentils”

I share a passage of Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence:

“Why should we cherish “objectivity,” as if ideas were innocent, as if they don't serve one interest or another? Surely, we want to be objective if that means telling the truth as we see it, not concealing information that may be embarrassing to our point of view. But we don't want to be objective if it means pretending that ideas don't play a part in the social struggles of our time, that we don't take sides in those struggles. Indeed, it is impossible to be neutral. In a world already moving in certain directions, where wealth and power are already distributed in certain ways, neutrality means accepting the way things are now. It is a world of clashing interests—war against peace, nationalism against internationalism, equality against greed, and democracy against elitism—and it seems to me both impossible and undesirable to be neutral in those conflicts.”

Between the claim of “neutrality” of Belgium's de facto dependence on England during its history past, and Switzerland's supremacy in today's corrupt world, there is little difference.

I'll let you tinker on that for a moment, closing of with Dante Alighieri's “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

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