Javier Tolcachier: Alternative communication from Pressenza’s experience

06.02.2021 - Javier Tolcachier

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Javier Tolcachier: Alternative communication from Pressenza’s experience

Within the framework of the Cycle of Debates on Alternative Communication, Pressenza editor, Javier Tolcachier, spoke this Thursday about the agency’s communication experience.

These seminars on critical education and against neoliberalism in education are organised by the International Research Centre – Other Voices in Education (CII-OVE) in alliance with the organisations CEIP-H, MAEEC, Masa Critica, Savia, Kavilando, Mujer Pueblo-Magisterio, vice-rectorate of the University of Panama, Emancipación, CIPCAL, Kaichuk Mat Dha collective, Red Global/Glocal por la calidad educativa and the collective MARTIN LUTHER KING CENTRE, Uruguay.

Tolcachier stressed the need to include communication as a fundamental topic in education in order to strengthen educational potential in the face of the permanent onslaught of corporate media content.

As well as commenting on the underlying principles of Pressenza’s communicational action, based on the teachings of Silo, he mentioned the need to broaden the dissemination of nonviolence by preparing the world to come, a world “that is expected to be intensely multicultural and intercultural, with equality, diversity, horizontality between people, genders, peoples and cultures”.

In his presentation, he elaborated on the collaborative strategies adopted by the agency, as well as its commitment to training processes in communication for nonviolence.

The columnist emphasised the need to prepare ourselves and this horizon by noticing the structural relationship between human interiority and social situations and working to transform them simultaneously from a perspective of humanisation.

The full text of the paper is reproduced below.

Alternative communication and educational process

The only possible evolutionary meaning of education is an emancipatory meaning, a meaning that aims at the transformation of given conditions and the overcoming of those factors that produce personal and social pain and suffering. A meaning that allows us to grow by learning without limits.

To quote Paulo Freire, true education is “praxis, reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it”.

Alternative communication processes pursue a similar goal, accompanying just social struggles, opening the consciousness to new possibilities, rebelling against monopolistic discourse whose purpose is the acceptance of unworthy and outdated situations.

Both processes, educational-emancipation and alternative communication, share some tools such as signifiers and meanings that not only transmit and transfer contents but also critically deconstruct and reconstruct them in order to help forge new possibilities of reality.

Just as learning is not reduced to formal educational spaces, neither are the codes transmitted in these spaces immune to the communicational space. Today, this space encompasses everything, from the moment we get up to the moment we go to bed, wherever we are.

Therefore, in order to be successful in education, we believe that education should incorporate communication as a subject to be studied, as it can be an ally or a deadly competitor.

Of course, communication is not reduced to the mediated or intermediated type we are referring to so far. Although it is obvious, it is also important to allude to the fundamental importance of direct communication, dialogue and its smooth handling by all parties in any group process, be it educational or political, which is why the relevance of the topic always suggests special attention.

Returning to the central theme of this presentation, we can say that education can be a great ally of communication in a transformative way, by strengthening, from the first years of learning, a critical and revealing sense of the intention that underlies all production, be it an object or something eminently subjective, such as information and communication in a broad sense.

This unveiling of intentions, which constitutes the true raw material of human history, leads us to comment on the perspective of communication that permeates the work of our agency, Pressenza.

Communication from a nonviolent perspective

Pressenza is an international news agency with a humanist spirit that gives priority to events, initiatives, proposals and scenarios linked to Peace, Nonviolence, Disarmament, Human Rights and the fight against all forms of Discrimination. It places the human being as a central value and concern and celebrates diversity. Thus, it proposes an active and lucid journalism that respects these essential premises, aiming at the resolution of crises and social conflicts everywhere.

In this context, it disseminates studies, analyses and actions that contribute to world peace and the overcoming of violence, prioritising nuclear and conventional disarmament, peaceful conflict resolution, conflict prevention and withdrawing from occupied territories.

At the same time, it denounces every event and situation that causes pain and suffering in populations, trying to decipher and transform the causes of these events, going beyond being mere spectators.

The agency was created in 2008 to provide information support for the 1st World March for Peace and Nonviolence. Both the agency and the March, which involved the participation of millions of people worldwide, were promoted by the Humanist Movement.

This movement places the human being as a central value and concern among its main postulates and has its roots in the teachings of the Argentinian Mario Luis Rodríguez Cobos – better known by his pseudonym Silo – who for 50 years developed a doctrine and praxis aimed at the simultaneous transformation of the individual and society.

Among his main contributions is the theme of intentionality as a defining element of human beings, an issue that is derived from Husserl’s phenomenology. Going further, Silo proposes as a definition of the human being, that of “a historical being whose mode of social action transforms their own nature”.

Beyond the multiple implications of this definition, this premise is of fundamental importance for any process of information transmission, be it educational or communicational.

The denial of a human being’s intentionality objectifies them, turns them into objects and constitutes the background to violence, in any of its multiple forms: physical, economic, psychological, ethnic, religious or moral violence.

Hence, humanism promotes – consistent with its own ideological logic – nonviolence as the only possible methodology for the relationships between human beings and their inherent motives for transforming any given situation.

It is necessary here to dislodge another prejudice that is often associated with nonviolence, relating it to passive, contemplative, naïve attitudes or reducing it to a pacifism disconnected from the social contradictions that are at the root of militarism.

Nonviolence is eminently active, transformative and by its very nature has the unquestionable moral stature to attract the support of large groups. And in social practice we see that today this has already been consolidated as a consensus of the peoples.

This nonviolent attitude must be communicated, its influence must be broadened, it must strengthen understanding and faith in its transformative potential. In order to establish a culture of nonviolence that will sustain the next stages of the species, it is necessary to show that millions of nonviolent events take place every day and to generate information matrices that counterbalance the manipulation of the media apparatus of violent power, which is interested in justifying its illegitimate actions and permanence.

Pressenza’s intention is not limited to denouncing established violence in its multiple forms, but also, in a propositional sense, aims to inform about embryonic or already ongoing alternatives, in order to strengthen horizons of effective transformation.

At the same time, the purpose of communicating explicitly from a perspective of nonviolence is to encourage a conscious adherence to this attitude of life, multiplying the possibilities for groups to be able to join in with attempts to change their environment. In the same way, communication from a perspective of nonviolence has the mission of persuading people of the need for coherence and self-reflection; a reflection on the personal experiences they carry with them, which, if not sufficiently integrated, can slow down or prevent the desired social and historical change.

Formative Processes of Communication for Nonviolence

A key aspect of Pressenza’s work is to promote educational processes related to nonviolence and its translation into the field of communication. This training is essential to fulfil its informative purposes in an appropriate manner, but also to disseminate and develop learning methodologies that help to shape and consolidate a humanist attitude as a way of interpersonal and social relations.

The starting point of these formative processes is to dislodge the prejudice that violence is part of human nature, because if this fixed preconception is affirmed, any effort to overcome it is meaningless. If this harmful axiom holds, it is difficult to accept that people can also be kind or compassionate, or that they can cooperate with each other, since a supposedly violent “nature” would prevent such an attitude. And if it were accepted that human beings can be one way or the other, then it would be in their “nature” to choose to not resort to violence.

The assertion that violence is intrinsic to human behaviour and the very idea of human nature has been used to justify atrocities and outrages, based on supposedly different natures, ranked by a supposedly pre-ordained order, whose moralistic interpreters and immoral rulers were usually placed at the top of the scale.

On the subject of “human nature”, it is useful to illustrate this with a brief quotation from Silo:[i]

“The broadening of the temporal horizon of human consciousness allows it to delay responses to stimuli, locating such phenomena in a complex mental space configured for the placement of deliberations, comparisons, and conclusions that lie outside the field of immediate perception.

“In other words, in the human being there is no human “nature” unless this “nature” is considered a capacity, distinct from that of other animals, to move through various times that are outside the horizon of perception. Putting this in yet another way, if there is something “natural” in the human being, it is not in the mineral, vegetable, or animal sense, but rather in the sense that what is natural in the human being is change, history, transformation.

“It is difficult to adequately reconcile the idea of change with the idea of nature, and therefore we prefer not to use the word nature as it has been used in the past—this term that has been so often used to justify all sorts of treachery toward the human being.”

And in a later passage:

“We stand, then, at a great distance from the idea of human nature—in fact, at its polar opposite. What I mean is that if an imposed, supposedly permanent order, a “nature,” has ended up suffocating that which is human, now we are saying the contrary: What is natural must be humanized, and this humanization of the world makes humankind a creator of meaning, direction, and transformation.”

From this structural relationship between human consciousness and the world, from an evident need in human beings to modify the conditions of life, a conception is constructed that allows us to think dynamically about a personal and social evolution towards nonviolent societies and social subjects.

From this point of view, just as the human being is conceived in an intimate and reciprocal influence with the environment that surrounds them, in the same way the field of human interiority is appreciated in a permanent link with the surrounding exteriority.

Therefore, training in nonviolence works on overcoming personal, interpersonal and social factors that generate pain and suffering, factors that, by projecting themselves, feed back into internal and external violence.

In simpler terms, we hope that, through formative processes in nonviolence and communication practice, this way of communicating will act on both parties in a dialogue, transforming not only those who receive information, but also those who produce it.

Pressenza’s strategies and development

From the beginning, Pressenza has relied on the virtues of the accumulated process of the Humanist Movement: the training, the voluntary work of its members and the possibility of having correspondents in different countries and cultures.

As for volunteering, this is not only a characteristic of an undoubtedly practical order, but it thus allows for the collaboration of hundreds of activist communicators and for Pressenza to expand without limits. The voluntary attitude implies generosity, making one’s own a way of life that defies the values imposed by a mean system.

Beyond the need for survival, which could be perfectly achieved by the equitable distribution of what is socially produced—which today already far exceeds the needs of the entire world population—humanism rebels against the belief that underlies all forms of human alienation: that is, that every productive action must correspond to monetary remuneration and that this therefore is a central motivation for existence.

At the same time, voluntary activism gives the agency total freedom of action, and it does not have to adjust its editorial line to any permanent or occasional sponsor.

In terms of international presence, in addition to the importance of being able to provide information from different continents, currently in 9 languages and contextualising events with a global outlook, this has a fundamental additional intangible value.

Because of the interconnection and growing contact between all cultures, we are in the presence of the birth of the first planetary civilisation in human history. Given this, it is necessary to forge understanding, convergence and a sense of community between the different cultural processes, an objective that Pressenza addresses through providing information about the richness of diversity, the nonviolent resolution of conflicts, geopolitical multilateralism, the reparation of historical injustices and reconciliation between peoples.

In times of social fracture and in the same spirit of convergence towards the pillars of nonviolence and the fight against all forms of discrimination, the agency opens its doors to a considerable number of collaborators, with its national or language-based editorial offices assuming an autonomous character that gives them an important degree of freedom of action.

This characteristic of autonomy makes it possible to set editorial priorities of local, national, regional or even cultural relevance, adapting to the needs of the moment, but also to forge an internal spirit of assembling diversity, including, no doubt, the debate and deepening of issues on which there is not necessarily automatic editorial agreement.

In its development strategy, Pressenza has made collaborative relationships an axis of its actions. The creation and maintenance of communication networks together with media and agencies from all regions of the world create the necessary conditions to displace the manipulation of information by agencies that hegemonise public discourse, while at the same time proposing new common meanings of solidarity, cooperation and integration.

Projection

As we continue to exercise and perfect the craft of communication production, we face today the same challenge as all those who want a profound and lasting revolution from which results a new matrix of relationships, a new social organisation with humanist characteristics and a new human being.

This challenge consists of being able to establish dialogical contact with large groups of people, in being able to penetrate the layer of superficiality induced by the lack of literacy and communication of a cruel capitalist system, which today is trying to reinvent itself through new technologies.

The challenge to make this dialogue of new meanings a reality is facilitated not only by the evident deterioration of the objective situation in which populations live today, but also by the increasing weakening of the paradigms that supported a type of social organisation that is now obsolete.

However, in the face of the uncertainty and instability that this situation generates, conservatism and the past also emerge as provisional anchors, an illusory compensation for the present state of anxiety.

Humanity urgently needs new foundations on which to build its future horizon, a horizon that is expected to be intensely multicultural and intercultural, of equity, diversity, horizontality between people, genders, peoples and cultures.

In order to make that image a reality, the challenge is then synthesised in connecting with that profound driving force that from the beginning of history has moved human beings between doubts and certainties, between successes and errors, towards unattainable utopias that later became the fullest and most indubitable reality.

To quote Freire, “By making and remaking themselves in the process of making history, as subjects and objects, women and men, becoming beings of insertion in the world and not of pure adaptation to the world, ended up having in the dream also a motor of history. There is no change without a dream, just as there is no dream without hope”.[ii]

And to quote Silo:

“Oh useless and wicked prophecy that proclaims the end of the world. I affirm that the human being shall not only continue to live but shall grow without limit. And I say, moreover, that the deniers of life wish to steal all hope—that beating heart of human action.”[iii]

It’s therefore worth our while to try.

Many thanks

  • [i] Silo, Regarding what is Human, in Silo Speaks, Latitude Press
  • [ii] Freire, P. Pedagogy of Hope, Bloomsbury
  • [iii] Silo, Humanize the Earth, Latitude Press,
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