TO THE READER
“The Moralist” contains an implicit argument: man is not good. It thus contradicts the thesis of Jean-Jacques Rousseau that states that man is, by nature, good; it is society that corrupts him. I wish to reiterate that man is driven by instinct—a pure expression of chaos who primarily seeks what is good for him though he does not ignore the good of those who are closest to him.
Because it is a work in diary form, it is possible for the reader to find some contradictions, perhaps due to varying mindsets. But I suggest for you, readers, to not give up reading because, at the end, by isolating certain images or ideas, you’ll be able to draw a conclusion, perhaps the same as mine that—only the strong survive capitalist massacre.
It is a controversial book with breathtaking scenes of realism, with an exaggerated sense of moralism that questions Christian morality, which sometimes presents faith as a solution to existential concerns. In later pages, there are ideas that support the claim that man is not obliged to bow to the idea of God just to be happy. Happiness is not tied to the idea that there is punishment for sin or reward for virtue. It is all a matter of perspective. Furthermore, it discusses the philosophical argument that money is the basis of a good life.
However, dear reader, I warn you that the characters and situations in this book are real only in the realm of fiction, created by the author-narrator in the form of monologue. For some, the ideas may sound more real, but for others, such remain tales. Still, the reader will find contemporary ideas, i.e. the snapshot of the world today with a touch of lyricism.
I will not talk about justice. Do not tell me that human justice is above the righteousness of God, or vice versa. I’ve been skeptical of both. I think I have no reason to believe in any of them. It is the responsibility of men that defines justice for everyone. And God, my dear friends, is not concerned with that or with our pettiness, like when someone owes something to another who does not want to pay or cannot pay. Capitalism is the only god that contemporary man knows and loves. So, I think that no help will come from heaven to the poor of this world. I say so because I know very well the ways of men, both the blessed and the unfortunate.
Please, gentlemen, do not look at me like I am not of this world. I’m not from another planet! I am a human being like everyone else. I think, speak and express myself so much clearer when it comes to ideas that I believe and support. This is my current truth: do not accept others’ truths. When I speak in public, I am not ashamed and I do not fear offending someone because I have lived long enough.
Look at retirees. They play cards or dominoes as they sit on benches and tell dirty jokes. For me, they are nothing but a bunch of lazy individuals who think that they have already contributed enough to society to which they belong. So, they do not work. They believe that they have achieved enough and are just waiting to die in peace as they continue to be regarded as heroes or praiseworthy partners of the state. It is true that public servants usually have a fat retirement package. But even so, in my view, they should be considered as useless. Self-sufficiency, for some indolent spirits, can mean a moral tie. Some come from a good family, one of origin and status. Unfortunately, they have bad character. I’ve seen them giving money to the loose women, such as those on “Mud Street,” as described by Graciliano Ramos. I do not know why old men are not content to wallow in their own miseries. They value physical attractiveness to conquer the opposite sex. Damned rascals who add more junk to the already depressing morals of this dying world! Damn!
There was a Roman philosopher, Cicero, who spent a lot of time writing a treatise. He became famous because, in addition to defending the rights of old, he also had a few ideas about the young people. For one, he postulated that the old were much wiser than the young. I completely disagree. Today, it is no longer so. My apologies to the old; but, in my opinion, the elderly should only worry about one thing: how to prepare for an honorable, death. And they should free themselves from their amoral and lascivious nature. Unfortunately, many do not think so; and they are the ones who are mentally stunted without hope of undergoing any spiritual or moral evolution.
I’m too old, or rather, almost old and perhaps older than many others out there. I realize that I’m not as young as I wanted to be, but I am not content with crumbs. I have a lot of stamina to run after my dreams. You are right that many have escaped me. But I’m still a mighty beast, with an impressive instinct. To me, every day is an opportunity to exercise my natural right: survive. In this race, the sky is the limit. And my experiences have taught me to be smart. Knowing the shortcuts implies that it is your responsibility to point others toward a better way. I believe that moving forward means turning off the ego and giving support to the weakest. This is our human-divine spark. If we can speak of something divine in this material world, then we can better survive.
After I retired, I found a way to not become a burden to my relatives even though I retired too early. I needed some activity to occupy my time. I didn’t want to waste my remaining life out there, wandering and drowning in the monotony of cafes and taverns. I was a public servant. I worked at the Trade Secretariat of my state. I retired to become a common and free citizen. I gave up some advantages. But how “free” are we? What nonsense! No free man is a slave of God or the Devil. But this is an unhealthy subject which is not worth discussing. Ultimately, all moralistic ideas must be based on Christianity.
Today, I am different, or better. I own an unusual business, a very profitable business for those who can stomach it. I do not need help from relatives or friends when I need to buy medicine; that is, if I get sick. I am quite healthy and I travel twice a year. I have been to several countries, all the Brazilian capitals and many other states.
It’s easy! It is only the miserable ones who accept poverty as their destiny. I’ve never been poor, so poor that I arouse the pity of others. Today, I’m not exactly rich, but I’m very cautious so that I won’t bother anyone. My father liked to say a common phrase that possesses a lot of truth, “Who has pity on you, poor thing, will soon replace him.”
It is true that I have gone through many critical moments in my life because some situations are just beyond our control. But I often succeed when it comes to doing thoughtful things. The other day, I had to use force to get money from a citizen. As a moneylender, I’m not afraid to go to any length just to receive what is due me. There are also cases that cannot be easily resolved. To illustrate, some people come to me with problems; and I help them and they promise to honor their commitments. But, as soon as they fill their bellies, they forget. Damn those miserable people who cannot manage the little that they earn. Instead of saving their hard-earned money, all they want is to live a life beyond their means! What have I to do with it?
“But, Mr. X, isn’t this type of activity against the law?” You might be wondering.
I answer, “Of course not! After all, what law prohibits this? There are more important laws, such as the law of survival. Or does the reader not know the phrase, “to the victor, the potatoes”?
Here, in this piece of land, it is the survival of the fittest. It’s nature. Survivors are those who adapt best to the system. Still, I ask, “Doesn’t the system produce victims?” With regard to my morale, I reply that all sins cause pain. Never cause physical distress to anyone. Others cause psychological distress to some, and it is such that I regret bitterly. I have a friend who defends the following thesis: it’s all worth it when you are free spirited and able to take advantage of all sorts of experiences. Based on this, he believes that even actions that are not politically correct can provide us with relevant experience, e.g. if we practice something that goes against conventions or publicly exposes the wrong side of others. He declares that these can produce positive effects on us. But this friend’s point of view cannot be taken seriously. As he says: life is too important to be taken seriously. To me, he is a reactionary because he uses moral ideas to form extravagant claims. Although I am not an ordinary being, I am still quite conservative in some fields of human morality. I do not accept as true all the theories presented by some materialist philosophers. If we were nothing but brains, the way Saramago advocates, would we live happier? But man, in my view, is a frightened animal because he sleeps thinking about tomorrow. He is afraid of death, which then awakens in him a vague hope of an eternal future, the continued enjoyment of eternal life. I’m being extremely skeptical about the good in man as I think each act is dictated by instinct. Man premeditates. He plans how to get along with others and how to take advantage of others, targeting either the strong or weak. Even worms have a plan of action as they prepare to seize the dirt from others of their kind. There is no hypocrisy when it comes to our pleasures. We always want joy, fun and tragedy. It is good to watch from afar, preferably viewing from a luxury suite.
At home, my wife, for example, is the mother of four children. None of them are mine, so I didn’t provide for their education. Also, I didn’t offer money or my precious time. Hence, I cannot be responsible for their delinquent acts. All she does is support a gang of tramps who cannot support themselves. Do you think that as a gentleman I should offer some help? No! To raise children, each has to bear the responsibility of feeding and taking care of one’s offspring.
When I married her, I told her not to tell them that I am rich. But of course, I will give money to help with everyday expenses, such as for clothing, food and things for our own home. I often traveled alone because she always had some outstanding family issues to resolve. Now, she is taking care of a son who was arrested for not paying pension and for drinking too much. Then, she also has a daughter who just gave birth to a bastard son. And I cannot share her feelings because these problem children are not mine.
“You are very ungrateful.” You may think that of me with disbelief. But I do not care what others think. I work and have my own way of living. Believe me when I tell you that I am like this even to my legitimate children. I have taught them to work and study hard. And, today, they no longer need my financial attention. Once the children are all grown up, they no longer need their parents. It is the natural law. They should learn to live their own lives and write their own stories.
I have two children. Both are graduates and married. They believe a certain infallible truth—capitalism. Early on, they learned the value of money and they became aware that everything in this life has a price. Indeed, we all have a price. The ladies would agree with me that a man without money is not an authentic human being. To have a little dignity, including a home and other basic necessities, a man must have his own money. He must be financially stable. If a man cannot enjoy the good in life, then he won’t be valued by his own peers. “It’s a stellar worm,” declares Raskolnikov, a Crime and Punishment character.
My philosophy in life can be described as truthful. I live well and sleep in peace. I have no pangs of conscience, if you ask me. I still apply an old system that I learned, not in books, because bookish wisdom is unlikely, but through an old friend who did not believe in human goodness and who could not read or write. I learned a number of valuable things from him, and one is that—man is not worth more than what you have. But how do you assuage your hunger? Food does not fall from the sky like manna from heaven. Today, you reap what you sow, and people must learn to understand this concept. There must be an exchange. Even the love of women is not free. You need to pay for it, and, in that case, should I use money to purchase such? Women are not as capitalistic as men. At least, that’s what I thought until recently. Some are still innocent, especially those who have not yet earned financial independence. They accept another form of payment when providing us the care that we need in old age. This is unusual in my opinion, and it indeed seems contradictory. I wish to explain. When a woman lets a man touch her, she thinks of him as her prince charming. She will never forget his oath of love or his declaration of “till death do us part.” So, who is really safe? Should he let his wife be devoid of loving care? Should he not use the power of money to gain and maintain a happy woman? But remember that this kind of love, even among women, occurs only once every hundred years or even a thousand.
I met a couple as well. Both have maintained an enviable marriage for years. But they got into a financial situation. They lacked the money to pay for their expenses at the end of the month. Then, their love went out the window. So, what is your conclusion about my thoughts? Therefore, do not confuse me with the immoralist Nietzsche. Maybe, at the end of my monologue, you’ll realize otherwise. As Arthur Schopenhauer said, “To marry means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties…”
 An expression used by Graciliano Ramos in his book, Angústia, to describe the brothel of their days
 An expression of Machado in his book, Quincas Borba, to explain the naturalistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer
 Dostoyevsky’s famous novel; he was a Russian writer of the nineteenth century and is considered as one of the greatest novelists of all time
 “Immoralist Nietzsche”—here, the author alludes to the philosophy of the superman, where Nietzsche (a 19th century German philosopher) demonstrated aversion to the Christian way