The Brazilian anomie

Image: Bran Sodre


It is not far-fetched or opportunistic solutions that will restore democratic coexistence in Brazil

According to Durkheim, social anomie is the absence of solidarity, and disrespect for common rules, traditions and practices. It is not possible to understand the current moment in Brazil without returning to some elements of the recent process of institutional crisis that the nation is going through. Practically a democracy under attack, in Brazil it has always been convenient to “leave as it is” a clearly adverse situation, however with no solution. And this is happening at a time when the lethality of a pandemic disease is advancing in a country that was once a model of public health and that has a universal health care system.

It turns out that its current ruler proposes the destruction of this system, worse than that, proposes an institutional rupture. But how? One cannot forget that he was elected in a very unusual situation and serves the purposes of what has been called, according to the views of authors such as Achille Mbembe, among others, necropolitics. Disposable are those who have no role in what is called a “market”, but seems to be more like an arena.

the democratic rupture

Since 2013, Brazil has been experiencing an institutional crisis. The June days of that year represented the emergence of demands from the people that had been contained for a long time, initially represented in left-wing movements against increases in bus fares, therefore a way of opposing harmful oligopolies to the public good. But the banner of those protests became diffuse, “against corruption”, “for more health and education” and the leaders of these banners “could not be” political parties, an admittedly right-wing stance. Political scientist Norberto Bobbio showed us this. Sign of an institutional crisis, because political institutions cannot represent the people, they suffer interference. The STF itself, when finalizing the trial of the so-called Mensalão, exposed a fracture in the legal apparatus, by admitting that, even without concrete evidence, it could condemn the culprits. Well, the court was accepted as the word of last resort, after all, that's what the Constitution says.

It was a political party in power for ten years, the PT understood how Sérgio Abranches' “coalition presidentialism” worked and found ways to be re-elected. It enjoyed a golden period of economic growth, albeit moderate. Paradoxically, popular dissatisfaction came at a stop of the Confederations Cup, with no football clubs appearing on television, and aroused widespread dissatisfaction via social networks. Legitimate demands made room for expressions of hate, yes, that word that explains Brazil today very well. The institutional crisis occurs when hatred speaks louder than union, than respect, in short, when resentments (yes, in the plural, because there are several, as journalist Bob Fernandes says) overlap with understanding. In power, the PT of Dilma Rousseff and Lula defended itself by accusing “them”, elitists, plutocrats, prejudiced, of unfairly attacking a democratically elected government. A strategy known as “us against them” in the 2014 election, when the hegemonic party of the left correctly pointed out the mistake of the old right, represented in a decadent PSDB of Aécio Neves, in proposing with great shame the contractionist economic adjustment based on “meritocracy” at a time when the people asked for continuity of distributive policies.

However, the high tide of the economy had gone and in 2015 this continuity gave way to an electoral fraud, as the PT placed in the Treasury the opposite worldview to which it was elected to implement, in the figure of the former employee of Bradesco Joaquim Levy . And, in the institutional field, the attacks advanced with the election as mayor of an unscrupulous Eduardo Cunha (MDB-RJ), willing to interrupt the cycle of elected government counting on the help of the defeated at the polls, read the PSDB of Aécio, José Serra and others. Due to the inability of the core government to continue coalition presidentialism, these aggressors decided to break with the democratic pact. In 2016, the plan to forcibly remove the PT from the government was put into practice, which had the participation of the STF by preventing Lula from taking office as Minister of the Civil House, based on an illicitly leaked audio by the then federal judge and political neophyte Sérgio I live, exalted every day as the savior of a homeland thirsty for justice to be brought only by him and the prosecutors of the MPF in Curitiba.

Driven by green-and-yellow demonstrators with no greater interests than to criminalize the hegemonic political party at the polls, federal deputies and senators of the Republic struck a blow to democratic institutionality by admitting that “pedaladas”, irregular fiscal maneuvers, practiced for a long time and intensified during the administration PT, represented the “last straw” for a “corrupt” government. This coup opened the doors for the defeated to enter power, but, much deeper and more obscure than that, it allowed the Federal Police's Operation Lava Jato to attack the rights provided for in the Constitution. It also allowed for non-republican pronouncements, such as the exaltation of torturers, to be made in the House that listens to the people without reaction, and opened space for everyday statements of racism, sexism and homophobia to gain strength during the interim government of Vice President Michel Temer (MDB- SP). It is about none other than Bolsonaro, that deputy from the lower clergy for years without any bill proposed, responsible for “normalizing” prejudice, resentments and hatred in our daily lives.

Therefore, an institutional crisis that had a growing participation of the traditional media without major disturbances, tolerating the intolerant, contrary to what Karl Popper enunciated in his famous paradox. The green-and-yellows, resentful on a national scale, liked to see “anti-people” reforms approved, such as the labor one, and the supposedly “anti-corruption” spending ceiling law, pushing a conservative and retrograde agenda down the throat of the left of country. They forgot the brutal inequality that plagues us from North to South, income concentration, racial and gender discrimination, perpetuating historical violence against races such as blacks and Indians, ignoring the precariousness of rural and urban working conditions and the environment environment. Solution proposed by the “brand new” right wing of the MBL da vida and the Partido Novo: “undertake, even if it’s delivering Ifood or driving Uber”. Thus, the impeachment process of Dilma Rousseff, which started in 2016 but began in the demonstrations of June 2013, is a fracture in Brazilian democracy. In the narrative of the left parties, and in the Left as a non-homogeneous whole, it was agreed to deal strictly with a coup. From “State” to some, “parliamentary” to others, but the fact is that the classification of an accounting maneuver, known to open supplementary credits in 2015, as illegal, was a political decision.

The next chapter of the institutional crisis occurs when ex-president Lula is arrested for committing a crime of money laundering without concrete proof, the purchase of the triplex apartment in Guarujá, after all, it represented an obvious possibility of returning to power in 2018 the PT criminalized by Lava Jet. Conducted with totally exceptional speed, the case of one of the most popular former presidents in history symbolized the blunt and severe punishment of the authorities for systemic corruption, “revolting to any good citizen”, who, however, forgot to look at the everyday tragedy of millions of marginalized Brazilians in the communities. Well, Lula paid with his freedom for the crimes of the entire political class. All to give way to “new” politicians, none other than Bolsonaro himself, the victim of a controversial and poorly explained knife attack on the eve of the Independence holiday. This response allowed the then candidate to decline all invitations to the electoral debate, and to take advantage of a terrifying machine of “fake news”, method responsible for taking intolerance and hatred to the most distant poor community, always forgotten by public policies, but ready to give subsidies and programs to large companies. And with the help of evangelical churches. Intolerance and resentment elected “anti-system” heralds throughout Brazil, deputies, senators, governors and an equally vile president.

In 2019, a misgovernment proposed for eight years began, whose method is chaos and which needs it to perpetuate itself, as philosopher Marcos Severino Nobre (Cebrap) says. The institutional crisis reaches a critical point when the country's ruler, taking advantage of “popular dissatisfaction” with these same institutions, starts to threaten them on a daily basis, as if he were still a candidate, and not part of the system he condemns so much. Daily life is also the pace of revelations of corruption committed precisely by the most dangerous family in Brazil, the Bolsonaros of Rio de Janeiro, linked at the same time to the basements of the Armed Forces and to the most obscure, intolerant and violent pro-armament militias. Institutional crisis that brings to the “debate” denialists, people who consider any advance or social progress explained by science and social interaction to be “the work of communists”. Who deny that our planet Earth is round (something Galileo and Copernicus proved in the XNUMXth century!) and that it is clearly being the victim of a warming process caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, in addition to having its ecological balance affected. Not only do they deny it, but they encourage an increase in environmental depredation in one of the largest reserves on this planet, the Amazon.

How can we say that “institutions work” in a country that promotes a social security reform that goes against the grain of the world? The minimum age is known to be a necessary device, but hindering access to the benefit, the practical effect of the proposed capitalization of the insurance, is certainly not. How can we say that “institutions work” in a country that discovers that Judge Moro of Operation Lava Jato is in intimate contact with prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol in the middle of the process, revelation by journalist Glenn Greenwald and his Intercept team, in a way that not only to combine that ex-president Lula would be the only one affected electorally, but also to guarantee his own participation in a government openly inspired by fascism and torture? What institutions are these like the media, which refrain from pointing the finger at the counter-democratic character of an election without debate in the second round and clearly financed by a corporate network of mass shootings of false messages on WhatsApp?

The Chaos of the Pandemic

Behold, the institutional crisis receives a visit from within the already latent Brazilian humanitarian crisis, sadly precipitated by the pandemic in March 2020. last finally remembered by those first. Humanitarian crisis because it forces humanity to reinvent itself, but above all, to survive renewed. Industrial capitalism, which gave vent to its financial phase in the 1929th century, already showed signs of exhaustion in 2008 and XNUMX. Class resentments are no longer easily hidden by the economic bonanza. Racial prejudice can no longer and has exhausted any possibility of being ignored. The political left can no longer be scorned as corrupt or totalitarian because the old right no longer wanted to stay in the closet and proved to be, you see, corrupt and totalitarian as it had not admitted for some time. Overcoming the mourning of the loss of thousands of compatriots has become a challenge for so many amidst the denialism advocated by coup-mongering, obscurantist and persecuting rulers. Taking care of public health, which is expected from a government at this time, gives rise to a number of pretexts and diversionary maneuvers.

And we arrive at the incomprehensible impasse between caring for the health of the people and “reactivating the economy”, a false problem already pointed out in the 1918 pandemic, as remembered by the microbiologist Atila Iamarino. The economy serves humanity, not the other way around. This is what institutionality must keep in mind, any action contrary to this logic is anachronistic and perverse. Nobody deserves to die to “save the economy”, simply because nobody, absolutely nobody is disposable. How can institutions admit someone in power in favor of overlooking human losses because they are elderly, obese, sick, in short, “non-athletes”, or even because they are poor and black, “inferior” people? Such an immoral, eugenics, Nazi-fascist and genocidal vision in the 2020st century? And not just in Brazil, but in many parts of the world, as in the USA itself. Not by chance, and in fact it was not long before, anti-fascist insurrections took shape in full quarantine in the months of May and June XNUMX, not because they despise the risks of contagion, but because they absolutely cannot bear to see coup “demonstrations” in silence anymore.

In 2021, what appears to be the failure of our society has become latent. Mortality simply exploding in the midst of uncontrolled contagion and an unprecedented social crisis that forces us to reflect on who we are as a nation, based on our idea of ​​building a country for everyone. It is impossible to understand our disaster without mentioning that there are no signs that we are sympathetic in the sense of social cohesion. Brazilians, unfortunately, are not a united people. Throughout history there are facts that point to brutal violence in parallel with the support of political union, a parallel that explains the contradiction of a disunited people who live together.

Important elements for future digressions, but which signal the fundamental characteristic of the people who elected a ruler without empathy for their compatriots and whose plans are blatantly to perpetuate themselves in power at the expense of social stability. Following a totally reactionary worldview, that is, seeking the institutional destruction achieved by the 1988 Constituent Assembly and, even further, implementing a predatory capitalist logic with the label of “liberalism” which, in fact, means something like anything goes . Known to be the result of an election rooted in hate, the president rose to prevent the majority leftist party for 13 years from returning to federal command. Although this explains much of what happened, it may leave us inattentive to the perverse effects of a population that lives, for the most part, in unsatisfactory conditions, not trusting the electoral choice and disdaining the process. In the world we live in, it is bombarded with false and distorted information, a reflection of the authorities' neglect even in guaranteeing conditions of dignity.

So we reached the peak of a pandemic in April, whose most alarming data is the collapse of the health system in treating patients still on the waiting list. To act, with measures to immediately contain the problem, state and municipal governments decreed a new closure of trade and even early holidays, and in 2020 field hospitals were opened and other actions that were more palliative than preventive. No wonder that the lack of care for oneself, a sad characteristic of Brazilian behavior, is reflected in the rulers themselves and in total lack of coordination. Authorities try to put out fires, not prevent them, because after all it is a dysfunctional society that coexists with danger and the absurd.

In advanced countries, the pandemic provoked coordinated and rigid public actions. The infamous "lockdown”, the mandatory confinement of citizens, is the most efficient measure possible to stop the contagion of a respiratory virus, since, simply, people are prohibited from leaving their homes so as not to come into contact. Police fulfill the function of supervising, during the period of validity, where the citizen is, why he is leaving and how long it takes. Specialists in epidemiology, virology and public health are calling for such a measure around the world. Well, if in the advanced countries of the so-called West, that is, Europeans and Americans, the population accepts the rigidity of this non-pharmacological restrictive measure, as well as the mandatory use of masks in a shared contact environment, the story is not the same in countries emerging. Mexico, Brazil among others, to be the most populous, face the problem of public administration that is to deal with the refusal of citizens, whose connection with the denialist movement can be both causality and consequence. The fact is that the task is obvious for scientists, after all the medicine is bitter but it works, but it is not for public administrators, that is, mayors, governors, or even managers of various businesses and establishments. This is because dealing with citizens resistant to restrictions, angry with the greater evil and incredulous about their own exposure to the risk of death depends on coordination, either to inform or to show solidarity. In the approach of epidemiologists such as Miguel Nicolelis, the “lockdown” is “for yesterday” if we intend to reduce the curve of deaths and contagion, to which more measures such as contact tracing and mass vaccination are added. Perfect, we agree. But to put this into practice, the difficulty is enormous. A study on the initiative of Cepedisa (Center for Studies and Research on Sanitary Law at the University of São Paulo), in partnership with Conectas Human Rights, proposes that the Presidency of the Republic is improperly dealing with the pandemic, on the grounds that it deliberately disseminated the virus in society by disregarding non-pharmacological measures, mocking the effectiveness of vaccines at first and, at a second, delaying acquisition from international laboratories in the year 2020. The thesis behind this behavior by the federal government was that of immunization " by contagion”, that is, making people “naturally” resistant by creating antibodies to the coronavirus through direct exposure, in defiance of the scientifically accepted thesis of “herd” immunization of vaccines for 70% (on average) of the population.


This is how pressure was organized by business elites to bring the federal government out of a state of anomie, materializing a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry in the Federal Senate, the CPI on Covid. Certainly the clearest result of institutional reaction to the denialist and reactionary attack led by Bolsonaro, whose unconditional acceptance in Brazilian society drops to something around 15% of the electorate according to surveys by serious research organizations such as Datafolha. This is related to the movement of the left in street protests, claiming a responsible stance by the Brazilian State in the face of the population's need for work and with a view to accelerating vaccination, which has always been healthy in the country thanks to the Unified Health System, the SUS. There is, therefore, a clear popular yearning for change that slips into Bolsonaro through impeachment requests addressed to the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira (PP-AL).

Politically, there are numerous factors that make it difficult to depose this government in Brazil. But in concrete terms, the inconvenient fact stands out that whoever takes over an administration destined to combat the pandemic will have to repair damage and, at best, reduce damage. Added to this is the justified fear of many leaders in leading hordes and legions against what could be a macabre confrontation between the military, armed militias, organized crime and the unprepared civilian population. This is how the institutional crisis in Brazil takes shape in July 2021, eight years after the great autonomous uprising that awakened a large part of the youth and then took them to the streets.

On the left, Lula has his reputation restored by the Judiciary, which nullified the triplex process and considered Sérgio Moro a suspect. Upon being informed of the decision, he gave a statesmanlike speech, as journalist Luís Nassif pointed out, presenting himself as a moderate solution to the foolishness of Bolsonaro and his subordinates, even reconnecting with opponent Fernando Henrique Cardoso (PSDB-SP ). Ciro Gomes (PDT-CE), until recently hesitant between supporting Lula or putting himself as an alternative, intensifies the strategy adopted in the 2018 election, betting on the aversion of part of the electorate to left-wing candidates. He seeks alliances with conservative sectors of society, trying to add votes that were blank / null / abstemious in 2018 and, moreover, convince voters who opted for Fernando Haddad (PT) and Bolsonaro, but without being Bolsonarists. The account is difficult to close because of the militant reach of the PT and its left-wing allies, on the one hand, and the Bolsonarist virulence in destroying opponents, on the other. Ciro needs to accept that his personalism will be ineffective in the face of the destructive horde of Bolsonarism, he does not accept that his figure is smaller than the PT, even though he admitted to withdrawing his candidacy in 2018 if former President Lula was in the election. The revolt of the former governor of Ceará is the fact that he needs to be an extra in the PT strategy in the consensus solution on the left. He could have a relevant role in the campaign and in an eventual coalition administration. Nevertheless, Ciro is willing to sit down at the table to negotiate with conservative sectors, that is, he admits a role for the right in restoring a minimally democratic institutional environment, a point that is precisely the reason for the left's refusal to reach an agreement with the PDT , PSB and others, as they refuse to negotiate with those responsible for the deposition of Dilma Rousseff in 2016, a key moment in the rupture of democratic coexistence. Partly opportunism, partly strategic vision. But the fact is that Ciro, for better or for worse, offers a bridge. Unfortunately, nothing indicates that it will be built and the tendency continues to be one of division on the left, because the PT will not relinquish its superiority, nor can it. The state platforms will determine a possible alliance to define the coalitions, which cannot fail to take into account the role of Guilherme Boulos (PSOL-SP) whose performance in the municipal elections in 2020 exceeded expectations and emerges as a skillful and relevant option.

On the right, there is a resignation of a president “without manners”, whose image never left doubts, he is linked to the criminal underworld and carries out a project of destruction. But he is willing to put up with the absurdity if it is to keep the left out of power and reap the profits of privatization and the plundering of the national wealth. Thus, it produces solutions pasteurized by the media such as Eduardo Leite (PSDB-RS), Luiz Henrique Mandetta (DEM-PR) or even João Doria (PSDB-SP), until now unable to gather support beyond the Center-South axis of the country. Gilberto Kassab (PSD-SP) and Rodrigo Maia (Sem Partido/RJ) will be guarantors of any “third way” (from the right, of course) that arises, knowing that such a hypothesis is remote. And the “Mourao solution”, in an even more remote hypothesis of Bolsonaro’s downfall, would be the maintenance of a government raised both by the military and the financiers.

It is important to point out that, whatever the competitive alternatives at the table, there will always be the weight of dealing with the most outstanding character of the recent Brazilian democracy, the Centrão. Affectionate nickname given by the media to the amorphous and heterogeneous broth that combines physiologism with coronellist practices and concentrates all sorts of deputies who deeply identify with society's prejudices, they are, in fact, the old right of professional politicians who "don't sell themselves, but rent” for the highest price and for the positions with the greatest electoral showcase capacity for an unprepared population, and which delivers figures of the most obscure presence on the benches of Boi, Bible, Bullet and Bola in the National Congress. Bolsonaro is a typical representative, he was affiliated with the PP for years. Many of those who, still in 2014, were dazzled by Lava Jato had, in the best of their intentions, cleaning the Centrão. But behold, in 2021, he reveals himself fully strengthened and, ironically, renewed to do something surprising: take over the Civil House, the heart of the federal government. We can only pay attention to this as a meteorological warning: where the Centrão is going, there are clear chances of an election winner.


It is not far-fetched or opportunistic solutions that will restore democratic coexistence in Brazil. Printed votes, semi-presidentialism, “reforms” and other rhetorical solutions brought by the right in advance indicate that it is a question of change to leave it as it is. They advocate economic liberalism and the austere administration of public accounts as an honest path to development, forgetting that the State is a fundamental part of any project for a deeply unequal country with historical injustices like Brazil. One cannot depend on a trajectory of predatory and income-concentrating economic growth. Nor a tax arrangement that burdens the poorest. Even less of evasive public policies.

Ironically in confinement (for those who can and for those with sense, of course), we rehearse what the world could be like in our heads bombarded by this entire spectrum of injustice and despair. Still, there is hope. There is hope in the institutions, because the State can indeed mediate interests and place those of the public above those of the private sector. What will say if the way out is in free initiative, in reformism, in communism or in environmentalism only the debate will say, but it will certainly not be totalitarianism, armed arm of a neoliberal capitalism. Let's start this debate by silencing intolerant people, because there is no room for them. The keyword of the future is Solidarity. Not simply “meritocratic” or “entrepreneurial”, but the Solidarity of respecting others and the (round) Earth, accepting races as equals and effectively including blacks and Indians in our society as they deserve, that is, as subjects, endowed with honor and culture of their own. Including praising the strength of African and indigenous culture, which means participating in institutions. And Solidarity will also be the economy that is based not on exploitation, but on the recognition that work is the source of all wealth and must be distributed to those who generate it, giving strength to class entities, these indeed are the true bridge to a future more human, that coexists with, and does not prey on, the environment.

Because self-respecting institutions live in democracy.

*Alexandre Favaro Lucchesi é Professor and PhD in Economics at Unicamp.


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