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Letter from the editor | 103

Sad ideal images

The logic of the workings of contemporary society, some thinkers have been warning and demonstrating for some years, is dominated, in great measure, by the image as merchandise and, simultaneously, as a sort of absolute value. The ceaseless production of images appears to be intended to fill up and to cover all the sectors of social life, to thrust itself into all the planes of human activity, even those that are most recondite, most private and secret, which apparently ought to remain averse to this invasion of the image fabricated far from the imagination of the individual. And the human body, of course, does not escape submission to this logic – on the contrary, it is submitted to it on a large scale, in a clash, often brutal, painful, absurd, between the real body and the ideal image.

In this environment of the hyperbolic valuation of the image, some frankly pathological responses to profound dissatisfaction with the shape of one’s own body, which, rebellious to the mold of the industry, insist on showing individualized characteristics away from the standard, no longer seem to cause such astonishment – but they should. And it is precisely for issuing us an invitation in this regard is one merit, amongst several others, of the cover story of this issue, published on page 34 and after. Prepared by journalists Marili Ribeiro, a collaborator of Pesquisa FAPESP, and Ricardo Zorzetto, the magazine’s assistant editor for science, the article is centered on a study that took as its basis a sample of 700 young men and women in the age range of from 17 to 26 years, all of them students in the health area attached to 11 universities scattered over the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and Goiás. Extremely revealing of this problem of profound dissatisfaction with the physical side and some of the baleful consequences arising from this, the survey, amongst other results, shows that 80% of the youngsters interviewed would change characteristics of their bodies to improve their appearance, and, far worse, that 13% of them say they provoke vomiting, to take laxatives, or to use diuretics after eating, with the objective of not getting fat – let it be recorded that almost 90% of those making up the sample were neither fat nor obese. Well, procedures like these are indicative of the risk of bulimia nervosa on a far higher level than the researchers expected to find. And the dissemination of this disorder, a sign of a certain social pathology, may throw some harsher, very unglamorous light on the second place that Brazil today occupies in the number of esthetic surgeries a year in the world, with about 500,000 persons submitting themselves to plastic surgery. This is a silver medal for the country that is, at the least, questionable in its merit.

In a far different field, the story that begins on page 78, in the humanities section, written, by the way, by the editor for science, Carlos Fioravanti, shows that recent studies are proving that instead of the channeling of rivers, it is the recovery of green areas, capable of reducing the impermeability of the soil, that most offers a real way out for the problem of floods in the major Brazilian cities. That is, they are far simpler solutions than those on which bets have been laid in recent times, and this is a question that it would be worth the trouble for the candidates to the mayor’s office of our metropolises to meditate on at this pre-electoral moment.

Also worth highlighting in this issue is the interview carried out by Marcos Pivetta and Ricardo Zorzetto with Gilberto De Nucci (page 12). The researcher, who amongst other projects is at this moment developing a Brazilian equivalent to Viagra, besides being one of the most respected and cited Brazilian scientists, is certainly one of the most polemical personages of the national scientific community. Also meriting an attentive reading is the article by Marcelo Leite, until recently the editor for science with the Folha de S.Paulo and one of the most respected Brazilian journalists in this field, in which he narrates in great style the experience of controlled burning in Amazonia, put into effect by a team of researchers, in order to better understand the impact of fire on the fauna and the flora of the forest.