The soul of Bolsonarism

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The soul of Bolsonarism

By DANIEL AFONSO DA SILVA*

Brazil and the United States still need to explain how they allowed the rise of these gentlemen, Bolsonaro and Trump, to the supreme position

Ernesto HF Araújo was quickly dropped from the debate. The status of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs under the presidency of Jair Messias Bolsonaro instantly tarnished his credibility. A faithful follower and admirer of Olavo de Carvalho and the like, he was crushed and ejected from the government with the same abrupt harshness that he was surprisingly converted into the guardian of the Baron's affairs.

It is likely that no Brazilian chancellor has received such hostility inside and outside Itamaraty. Unappetizing and unfounded were the types of treatment most elegantly used to him by his peers and lay people. From within the diplomatic corps itself, its own alter ego in reverse – Ereto da Brocha, Ombudsman for Ernesto's psychosis  – to criticize and ridicule you and your management. His predecessor in office, Senator Aloysio Nunes Ferreira considered him “different”. Ambassador Marcos Azambuja, “stranger”. Ambassador Rubens Ricupero, “inappropriate”. Ambassador Paulo Roberto de Almeida – by far his biggest critic and his biggest victim, even being fired from the Board of the Institute for Research in International Relations (IPRI) on Carnival Monday in the first year of the Bolsonaro era –, “pathetic”, “accidental”, “Olavo-bolsonarista”, “bolsolavista”.

“Posto Ipiranga” to manage Brazil's international relations, Ernesto Araújo received unconditional consent from the captain to change the country's image and presence abroad. Olavo de Carvalho had recommended him from Virginia. Who warmed up the recommendation was Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of the president and future head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Defense of the Chamber of Deputies, accompanied by the academic Felipe Martins, mortalized by the nickname of “sorocabanon”, in allusion to his native Sorocaba and the idol common to all that was Steve Bannon, mentor of the radicalism of supporters of President Donald J. Trump in the United States.

Even before taking over the Ministry, Ernesto Araújo – “Arnesto” for the critics – arrived causing a stir. He declined to attend the inauguration ceremony on January 1, 2019, claiming that they were very dangerous leftist emissaries, representatives of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. He morally defined Venezuela as a country in “break of democratic order” – that is, in dictatorship. He expressed skepticism about global warming. He delivered scathing criticism of the Paris Climate Agreement. He indicated opposition to political correctness. He denounced ambient gender ideology. He roared against globalism. He questioned the ubiquity of cultural Marxism. And, to complete, he inclined Brazilian foreign policy to a subserviently automatic alignment with the meeting of the United States and President Donald J. Trump himself.

If none of that were enough, in his inaugural speech, he had it all. Tarcisio Meira, Raul Seixas. Even “Ave Maria” in Tupi.

Senator Aloysio Nunes Ferreira – who transferred the function to him with a diplomatically impeccable and highly acclaimed speech – had never been a diplomat, but he contained emotions, smiles and tears. Inevitably, with all the human and political experience accumulated since the times when he was Carlos Marighella's driver until his passage as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defense of the Senate, he foresaw that something very strange, tragic and far from comic was about to happen. happening in Brazil's foreign action.

It is not the case to scrutinize the management of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Brazil, Ernesto HF Araújo, from January 1, 2019 to March 29, 2021. There are plenty of qualified studies – for and against – available out there . But, on the contrary, the most important thing here is to note and evaluate the factors that led this obtuse Brazilian diplomat to this position of such prestige, responsibility and value.

Before becoming Minister of State, Ernesto Araújo was a fervent supporter of the captain-candidate. From a discreet anti-PT militant, he was gradually transformed into an eloquent defender of liberal-conservative alliances in the style of right-wing ideologically marked political movements – such as MBL and Brasil Livre – that emerged in the nights of June 2013. The peak of this militancy was the creation of the blog Metapolitics 17 - against globalism, whose name said it all: it was the mixture of Bolsonarism for the support “17” to Olavism for the denial of “globalism”. It was the synthesis of Bolsoslavism.

When he was at the head of the Ministry, Ernesto Araújo was the only one to consciously take Bolsolavista action to the last consequences. None of his contemporaries at the Esplanada dos Ministérios – not the young man, Ricardo Salles, who “took care” of the Environment and Climate Change or the successor of Minister Ricardo Vélez Rodrigues in Education, the fearless Abraham Weintraub – was more aware of this action. No Bolsonarist was more a Bolsonarist than Ernesto Araújo and no Bolsonarist contributed more to defining the soul of Bolsonarism than he, Ernesto Araújo.

All for one reason and in one place: Trump and the West. There everything is.

Trump and the West it is not a programmatic study of foreign policy. It is not a reasoned analysis of international politics. It is not an analysis of diplomacy or international institutions. It is not entirely an enterprise of the history of Ideas. It is a political program presented in the form of an essay and published in issue 6 of the Foreign Policy Notebooks IPRI, from the second half of 2017; twelve months before the captain's success in the 2018 presidential elections.

The general initial reaction to the text was “I didn't read it and I didn't like it”. After Ernesto Araújo was assigned to the Ministry on November 14, 2018, his readers began to multiply and impressions began to change. For those who read for some professional reason, the considerations were varied. Those who were quicker identified its author as a mere opponent of Enlightenment ideals. The more leisurely ones noticed and denounced confusion of ideas and conceptions. The most visionary – Olavo de Carvalho at the head – found the soul of Bolsonarism there: everything that an ideological program requires and everything that Bolsonarism needed.

The core of the argument Trump and the West involves three premises. First: the West falters, agonizes and heads towards decay. Second: Trump offered to save him and he is (was) the only one capable of doing so. Third: Brazil needs to decide whether it is part of the West and wants to participate in this salvation; if so, you need to look to the example of the United States and its president Donald J. Trump.

The theme of the decline and decay of the West and Western civilization is an old one. Very old. But, with the end of East-West tension between the Free World (Westerners) and the Soviet Union, Samuel Huntington's idea of ​​"clash of civilizations" began to rival the intuition of "end of history", of Francis Fukuyama.

For Francis Fukuyama, the implosion of the Soviet world destroyed the main idea that opposed the liberal world. In that way, from now on, the only destiny available to the societies and nations of the planet was that of liberal democracy. Even if magnetized in "sad times"and "a lot of challenges".

Samuel Huntington, no less erudite and acute, suggested that the end of real socialism, deep down, rehabilitated the turmoil of resentments omnipresent in human history and currently translated into cultural, moral and civilizational shocks. Samuel Huntington – and all the traditions of thought that he mobilized – understood civilization as a product of a culture that stems from a religion. The West – embodied in the United States and Europe and one and another zone of influence –, therefore, could even, in fact, have “won” the Cold War. But from then on, on the eve of the 21st century, it would enter the dispute for survival as a nation and civilization. Thus, the season of clashes of civilizations was opened.

Ernesto Araújo – like, moreover, every European or North American conversationalist or ultraconservative – re-signified this perception of Samuel Huntington, mobilized the historicity of the discussion from Ésquilo to Oswald Spengler to Michel Onfray, updated it for the XNUMXst century already entered, pondered that the West (and its values) is more than ever on the edge of the abyss and has considered President Donald J. Trump as the only possible savior; the Messiah.

Donald J. Trump, in Ernesto Araújo's view, was the only one willing and able to promote a symbolic, historical and cultural recovery of the West. He was the only one who, since the presidential office in the most important country in the West and in the world, understood the implications of the denial of God. A denial branched out into rejection of the past (History), religious worship (Christendom) and family (the basis of everything in Christianity). A denial that comes, according to him, passi passu, since the French Revolution, dismantling traditional structures – family, religion, history – in favor of unmediated individualism that reached the paroxysm of postmodern identity after May 1968. A denial that, in this way, weakens the defense mechanisms of the West in the face of rising “radical terrorist Islamism”.

Brutally synthesizing the message of everything that Ernesto Araújo, at length, wants to inform with this: the enemies of the West are available to die for their civilization; Westerners do not. In short: “we want God”.

It was with “we want God” that Pope John Paul II was received by the Polish faithful and anti-communists on June 2, 1979 in Warsaw and it was with him that President Donald J. Trump intoned his Warsaw speech on July 6, 2017 Seduced by the “God” of this discourse – an anti-communist and anti-globalist “God” – Ernesto Araújo was convinced of the messianic character of the American president. “We want God”, stated Ernesto Araújo in his Trump and the West, because “The enemy of the West is not Russia or China, it is not an enemy of the state, but rather an internal enemy, the abandonment of one's own identity, and an external enemy, radical Islamism – which, however, occupies a secondary place in relation to the first, since Islamism only represents a threat because it finds the West spiritually weak and alien to itself.” (Trump and the West, P. 331).

This search for God, the revitalization of the spirit and the reinforcement of national identity are at the heart of Trumpism, in the vertebrae of all European extremisms and could be (and are) – seen through the eyes of Olavo de Carvalho – in the soul of Bolsonarism. Therefore, after reading Trump and the West, the guru from Virginia did not shy away from promoting and recommending the obscure diplomat who “wanted to change the world” to the Minister. All mysticism of the author of Garden of Afflictions, The collective imbecile e The least you need to know to not be an idiot was contained Trump and the West and in the perception of diplomat Ernesto Araújo about the place of the United States of President Donald J. Trump in the world.

Ernesto Araújo came with Trump and the West. Olavo de Carvalho saw everything there. And the ideological body of Bolsonarism, finally, found its synthesis, and won: it justified itself as Bolsoslavism.

Were it not so, the rusticity of the captain and the mysticism of the guru from Virginia would not have been so deeply inoculated into the pores, into the soul and into the daily life of Brazilian society. Due to the difficulties inherent in measuring it, it was agreed, quickly and lazily, to call Bolsonarism and Bolsoslavism as “extreme right” instead of perceiving it as the interiorization in Brazil of global societal anxieties. For this reason, there is a lot of talk about the “extreme right” to classify and interpret the presidency of Jair Messias Bolsonaro and his civilian and military followers before, during and after his days in Planalto. Ernesto Araújo's tenure – which was not so brief, lasting more than half of the president's term – is unanimously evaluated as well. A chancellery of the “extreme right”, radical and unconventional.

The storms of January 8, 2023 were immediately identified as being promoted by Bolsonaristas. And, therefore, by people from the “extreme right”. “Terrorists”, “coup plotters”, “fascists”, “Nazis”. All these terms, needless to say, come from strong historical frameworks and overly forceful political appropriations. Its exacerbated use in recent times in Brazil has led to its frank banalization. The use of “fascists”, “nazis”, “terrorists”, “coup plotters” to classify Bolsonarists means nothing or almost nothing. It confuses and complicates understanding and analysis. And, about that, the storms of January 8 said it all.

The rude invaders of the premises of Praça dos Três Poderes in Brasília that Sunday are just ignorant, “Galileans”. Wilson Ferreira nailed it by demonstrating that “the invasion of Brasilia did not happen”. It was all scene play. Folguedos para bolsolavista see. So much so that the governor of the Federal District, a Bolsonarist without dissimulation or fear, was the first to apologize to the newly sworn government. The guru from Virginia, if he were alive, could calmly say to President Lula da Silva “forgive them, they don't know what they are doing”. Salvini, Orbón and Meloni, who are still alive, could, at any time, make the same request for forgiveness. Steve Bannon, in a gesture of compassion and together with the now Senator Hamilton Mourão, can legitimately request clemency and application of Human Rights to those incarcerated; for they are but desperate, herd-men of the movement. Herd men who, by principle, do not know what they are doing.

For these reasons, Bolsonaro's nomination of Trump as almost two brothers and the approximation of Trumpism to Bolsonarism need to be more nuanced. Trump is Trumpism and embodies it to the end. Jair Bolsonaro is perhaps still not Bolsonarism, especially since in the most decisive moments – after October 2022 and during January 2023 – he fled.

Donald J. Trump decided to change the stages of reality show for politics, he joined one of the two major parties in the US system, went through all the political and party rites, eliminated his internal opponents in primaries and mercilessly humiliated his external opponents throughout the 2016 election. he was disruptive. He desecrated conventions. He destroyed decorum. He demoted the role. He was vulgar – though not as vulgar as Silvio Berlusconi. He demoralized alliances – especially the Atlantic one. He wanted to resolve openly what his predecessors – Barack Obama in particular – were secretly plotting in secret. He reached positively relevant levels of popularity. He promoted important social and economic achievements. He resignified the America first and the great again – nothing more than the explanation of the North American national interest since the founding fathers. And he lost – with widespread suspicion and intense contestation – his re-election by details. Being the outbreak of the pandemic, among the details the most eloquent.

Who is – and what was – Jair Messias Bolsonaro? First of all, a man without a party. The captain behind Jair's business. One insider peripheral and ill-fitted that was presidentially made possible by the exposed fractures and the open veins of a society in a trance due to the exhaustion of its unwritten pacts of redemocratization. The Bolsonarism of Jair Messias Bolsonaro took only the nickname via his name. Bolsonaristas – among which Jair Messias Bolsonaro himself is included – come from hordes of sleepwalkers in search of a Holy Grail. They are neither rich nor poor; although many of them are very rich and some are very poor. They are not cultured or foolish; despite the fact that there are among them erudite and unclassified. They are neither nationalists nor surrenderists; even if it is a fact that among them there are many patriots and some sold out with a stray complex.

Brazil and the United States still need to explain how they allowed the rise of these gentlemen, Bolsonaro and Trump, to the supreme position. To say that “nations are mysteries” explains, but does not justify. On the other hand, because nations are mysterious, the reasons for common and unusual dreams that trumpists and Bolsonarists dream are justified.

There and here, Trumpists and Bolsonarists are conservative or ultraconservative. Everyone – without even knowing it – wants to restore the West with culture and/or history and/or faith. There they are more aware of it. Not here yet. There, the West pulsates in them, as destiny and as a manifesto. Here the demands are dispersed and riddled with vagueness. There globalism is a burden. The most embarrassed bureaucrats feel. Here, a salvation. Only the Law imposes some harmony in the daily life of the jungle. Even so, the skirmishes – the Capitol over there and the Praça dos Três Poderes over here – have order and schedule. Trumpistas and Bolsonaristas live parallel lives. The same momentum and the same drama.

The West is adrift. Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump too. But Trumpism and Bolsonarism are more vigorous than ever. Which indicates that, ahead, anything can happen. The acts of January 8, 2023 were just the beginning. Thus, Ernesto Araújo could return to the obscurantism that seems to have been his trademark in the Baron's house. But anyone who wants to understand the soul of Bolsonarism and where the movement is going needs to go back to it and meditate more slowly on its shocking Trump and the West. Otherwise, it's all belittling and underestimating.

*daniel afonso da silva Professor of History at the Federal University of Grande Dourados. author of Far beyond Blue Eyes and other writings on contemporary international relations (APGIQ).

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