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Letter from the editor | 131

Various faces of modernization

Until almost the end of the 1980’s, dengue was a disease very different from the day to day of the middle and upper classes in Brazil. In Rio, sporadic news about the contamination of some well-known personality would come as a surprise, or even cause astonishment. How did they manage to let themselves be bitten by the ridiculous Aedes? Since then, things have changed a lot, to the point of Brazil experiencing a serious epidemic of the disease in 2002, with almost 800 thousand cases notified. In the subsequent years, educational campaigns helped to topple these figures. But 2006, with almost 300 thousand cases registered up until October – and 61 deaths resulting from the disease -, brought the fear of a new epidemic and, worse, the fear of the entry into the country of a new serotype of the virus, serotype 4, considered the most lethal.

However, as reported in the cover story by the assistant technology editor Dinorah Ereno, 2006 reached its end with excellent news as well for the future control and frontal combat of dengue. To begin with, a system for monitoring the transmitting mosquito, linked to a trap aimed at attracting pregnant females, and some more mechanisms for controlling infestation in the critical areas. To complete this, the development of transgenic mosquitoes, aiming in particular at the creation of sterile Aedes. It is possible that, within a bit more time, these new technologies may help Brazil to enjoy the privileged situation that it had in relation to dengue during a good few years in the middle of the 20th century. Brazil did indeed undergo such a successful campaign to fight the mosquito that causes the disease in the 1950’s that international observers concluded that it had been eradicated. But in 1967 it was back again.

There does not remain much doubt amongst students of contemporary society that the real scientific and technological development of a country is put together on many fronts. And one of them, from all indications with a fundamental weight in this equation, is the level of formal education of society as a whole. In this regard, the bold project, in progress in Brazil, of making accessible to children at public schools – and to their families – very cheap laptops, which at a stroke puts them in the contemporaneity of the world, may produce a cultural revolution of the widest reach in this country.  And poring over this project and its political and technological bases is the article signed by our collaborator Yuri Vasconcelos and by special editor Fabrício Marques.

To encourage the entry of all that is most contemporaneous in a given territory, to break away from backwardness, to modernize, seem to be imperatives of spirits moved by the desire for transformation – revolutionaries, at the limit. Can that be true? Not always. As in the great lesson by Tomasi di Lampedusa in Il Gattopardo, translated into genial images by the communist aristocrat Luchino Visconti, with certain frequency modernization is put into effect by absolutely conservative personages. And not always bearers of the unequivocal greatness of Prince Salina evidenced in the cinema by Burt Lancaster. These recollections come to me a propos of the article signed by the humanities editor, Carlos Haag, which shows, based on the evidence and reflections from the doctoral thesis of a political scientist from the Federal University of Bahia and other studies, how Senator Antonio Carlos Magalhães may have become the perfect figure for making a reality the modernization project in which the conservative elites of Bahia strove in the 1960’s.

The reference to the cinema opens up here the opportunity for highlighting the interview with Thomaz Farkas, a multimedia man who, from 1964 to 1980, contributed decisively towards the production of almost two score documentaries that were highly revealing of our country. They are short and some medium and long films that little by little are coming back onto the scene in this quest of the new generations for an answer to a question that, in the words of the conservative Francelino Pereira, a politician from Minas now deceased, seemed to us in the years of military authoritarianism an astonishing irony: after all – his query was as if an echo of the entire nation -, what country is this?

To finalize, the highlight in science in this issue goes to the interview of the science editor Carlos Fioravanti and special editor Ricardo Zorzetto with physician Mauro Fisberg, about anorexia and other diseases manufactured by desire for a body whose design was originally determined by the fashion industry. It is a matter calling for urgent and coordinated actions against a dictatorship that also kills – the fashion dictatorship.

My best wishes for us all to have good news and great experiences in 2007.