Reductive Thinking is the Norm: Conversations about the War in Ukraine and the Brazilian Left

Politico reported that the Brazilian Left is somehow acquiescing to not oppose Russia in Russia’s war against the Ukraine in a conversation between President Lulu and German chancellor Scholz. Political leaders do have a powerful political voice that often is used to convince people in their country about one thing or another especially if the people are not critically literate; however, readers should never believe in the reductive simplicity that indicates that all people in any country have some kind of unified belief. The reality is that there is a range of opinions in within any country or group of people such as Germany, the Brazilian Left, and Russia.

As a way to attract more readers, news organizations often identify groups of people by country without recognizing the diversity of opinion that exists in any one country, organization, political perspective. In the end, there evolves among readers who are not critically literate the belief that a whole country of people ascribe to a particular set of beliefs. For example in this case, readers might conclude the Russians are at war with the Ukrainian people. The reality is that many Russians vehemently oppose the war, some don’t pay much attention, others are in favor, and among those three categories of people, there are gradations of understanding and belief. Those Russians who are against war are being taken advantage of in that they have to pay money to the government to fund the war against their will.

As critical readers, we must always challenge these reductionist conclusions. We must never believe anyone who claims that for example, ‘Americans are (fill in the blank)’ because there are a range of beliefs, races, and other ways to organize people. What could you say behind, ‘American’s are…’? American’s are American? Well, many Americans members of other countries as well. Americans are not knowledgeable about geography? Well, within the country there is a range of understanding about geography. Similarly, you can’t stereotype Blacks, Latinos, Whites, Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Christians, the Christian Right, Baptists, pacifists, or war hawks.

If you stereotype people by saying for example, ‘White people are like this’ or ‘Republicans believe…’ or ‘Men are…’ you simplify your argument and reduce the possibility that what you say is true. Critically literate readers seek to problematize and to understand situations in their complexity. So in the adjacent picture, the author is presenting a very reductive and simplistic view of people who identify as Black or White. Consider people like Thomas Sowell, William Lloyd Garrison, Richard Rodriguez, Coleman Hughes, and Robin DiAngelo, all with ideas that problematize and challenge the status quo.

To a large degree, people are not well-informed on the facts that would support or challenge a position that they might take and that’s where critical literacy is helpful. In critical literacy, readers try to imagine other perspectives or deliberately seek to become informed about that range of perspectives that is sure to exist among any group of people.

There are a number of challenges that lay ahead for the critically literate reader. One is that news sources, companies, governments, religious organizations often create, maintain, and seek to understand a unifying set of perspectives within their own group. So if you read the New York Times, information from the Apple Corporation, information from the U.S. Defense Department, or regularly attend a church, you are likely to be immersed with information from a narrow range of perspectives. That can be good because that group allows you to explore in-depth from a particular perspective, but the critical reader also explores a wider more diverse perspectives.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for critical readers is to explore perspectives that complicate the status quo when the status quo is so prevalent and the well informed divergent perspectives are often so hard to find. So being critically informed means that you don’t succumb to simplistic dualistic, black and white perspectives such as the one in the Raphael Tsavkko Garcia complains about concerning the Brazilian Left.

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