For those who believe that it is human nature for some groups to dominate and control others, the goal of liberation is to make both the despot and despotic regime more benign. For Freire, such a solution is tantamount to cutting off our legs in the hope that one day we shall grow wings. If we make the road to emancipation by walking then we need to know at some point if we are on the right path in freeing ourselves from the many antagonisms that beset us.
For Freire, being on the right path is to have a coherent and consistent vision toward which progress is directed and which can serve as a template for living fearlessly, knowing that moving forward implies overcoming many obstacles. This is to be guided by a vision that ultimately and irrevocably can bring justice to a world in perilous imbalance. Grave changes are warranted in our political civilization—not only the abolition of the commercial helotry of the factories and sweatshops but unclenching the fists we call our hearts, freeing us to reclaim our stolen humanity. Freire’s struggle was to be humble enough to wonder yet courageous enough to defy, to be sufficiently self-assured to rebel yet possesses enough self-doubt to keep from backsliding, to have the audacity to be creative yet remain unburdened by socio-cultural dogma, to be vigilant against the new faces of tyranny yet ever conscious of the flaws and insufficiencies of our own struggles. Freire worked with the generic potential to posit a world that does not make capitulation and defeat the inevitable. Those liberals and conservatives alike who preach the virtues of democracy without recognizing that their vision remains beyond the recuperative powers of the prevailing capitalist system are laying the foundation for plutocracy, and in so doing sawing from the tree the branch upon which they are perched: wizened old vultures masquerading as feathery companions of Minerva.
For Freire, understanding the alienation of human labor is the skeleton key that unlocks the bone yard of capitalism and makes it vulnerable for transformation into its opposite—a world of economic, social, cultural, racial, sexual and gender equality. Freire’s pedagogy is connected to the utopian impulse, freed from utopia’s instrumental and petrified systematizing and idealist, totalizing form. It is a pedagogy committed to the historical, material, and situationally specific needs of humanity. It is a pedagogy of and for our times.
Los Angeles, 2011
Augusto Boal invented and developed the theory and practice of the Theatre of the Oppressed, one of the most revolutionary cultural and artistic practices of the last millennia. He was a giant in many ways: theatre director, scholar, teacher; pedagogy colleague of Paulo Freire; political representative and statesman in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil; international speaker and teacher; Nobel Peace Prize nominee; and consummate friend and colleague.
As the featured guest for the first PTO Conference in Omaha in 1995, Augusto attended, led workshops, and spoke at all but three of the PTO Conferences through his last appearance in 2008 in Omaha. His passing in 2009 left many of us with much to do in the way of practice, theory, debate, and ongoing realization of one of Boal's fundamental principles: "TO belongs to the Oppressed and has to be controlled by the Oppressed. . . .”
TO is the theatre OF the oppressed, BY the oppressed and FOR the oppressed. That is total TO at work." It is to this, and the wide range of TO principles, that this Journal and its TO focus is dedicated.