Stupidity as a rule

Image_Elyeser Szturm

By Iury Tavares*

The stupidity that reduces living to producing is the same that, faced with the inescapable finitude of life, robs death of its dignity.

The public debate in Brazil seems to be driven either by irrationality or by scoundrel. The mess the country is in takes on surprising contours, even for those who were still under the impact of the relativization of a pandemic that has claimed more than 100 thousand lives.

The unwavering defense of the end of social isolation proved to be a wrong decision by Jair Bolsonaro (in Brazil, confinement or lockdown, as in other countries). In a practical sense, it is the only measure that allows, so far, some effectiveness in the drop in cases of Covid-19 and the consequent reduction of pressure on hospital networks. Politically, the President was worn out on different fronts. The clash with authorities for the easing of official guidelines framed him as a dissonant voice in the government itself, further institutionally isolated him and weakened him in the face of the rapid approval of the Minister of Health[I]. Main antagonists of the presidential posture, governors João Doria (PSDB-SP) and Wilson Witzel (PSC – RJ) are better evaluated than Bolsonaro in their respective states in relation to the coronavirus outbreak[ii] – it is worth remembering that both have already expressed their desire to run for the 2022 presidential elections. . On social media, the former captain also suffered. His pronouncements have been widely criticized, despite the use of robots to push information in his favor.[iii].

Cornered, Bolsonaro understood that he needed to reverse the position of vulnerability in which he placed himself. Aware that his attacks against social isolation or the relativization of the pandemic have lost power, it was necessary to resort to a tool that has dominated for decades: the polemicization of public debate. If he failed to deny the reality of the spread of the virus and the measures to combat it, the merchant of illusions entered body and soul in offering a cure for the evil. As a veteran former state and federal deputy and executive secretary once told me, it's the others who give bad news. It is the logic of old policy 28 years in Parliament who never had anything new to offer.

With that, Bolsonaro excites the public square by boasting the effects of chloroquine in the treatment of Covid-19 and creates yet another social division around a substance about which little is known about its effectiveness. In Science, making statements requires responsibility, but since everything that is sucked by Bolsonarism is contaminated by stupidity, the President encourages the vulgarization of the debate as if it were up to the voters to decide whether or not to authorize the use of the medicine. The discussion boils down to “Are you against or in favor of chloroquine?”, which makes no sense to be wrong. The medicine was and is released to be prescribed by doctors as long as they consider it appropriate to the case. What is sought to be avoided is mass self-medication of a remedy with very serious side effects.

Opportunism is not even original. In 2016, Bolsonaro was the author of the project that released the production of synthetic phosphoethanolamine, popularized as the “cancer pill”. After congressional approval and sanction by former president Dilma Rousseff (PT)[iv], the Federal Supreme Court prohibited the initiative due to a double risk: the proven absence of the effects of the substance and the abandonment of conventional treatments by patients. At the beginning of his term, Bolsonaro still insisted that the STF reverse the decision. Now, he repeats the tactic of manipulating the desperate hope of those who have little or almost nothing, but have nothing left to live for.

Reductionism favors narrow thinking, eliminates nuances, singularities that are necessary when one wants to understand the country's difficulties in its entirety. Brazilian challenges do not have two-dimensional solutions whose approaches are restricted to being for or against. Bolsonarism did not inaugurate logic, but deepened its use. Among many others, it was like this in: 1) criticizing the illegalities of Lava-jato is to be against the fight against corruption; 2) to defend progressive agendas is to be leftist; 3) to protect minorities is to be in favor of privileges for the few; 4) to seek the collective good is to be a communist; 5) to preserve the environment is to be against agricultural production; 6) be in favor of More Doctors is to defend the Cuban dictatorship, etc. That is, the lens through which Bolsonarism interprets the world has always been this one and there would be no reason to change the government.

The effects of this vision spread to other sectors of government and find their most pronounced examples in the Ministries of Education and Foreign Affairs. To cite two brief examples: Abraham Weintraub called public universities “shambles” that house marijuana plantations and produce synthetic drugs; and, let's not forget that Chancellor Ernesto Araújo defended that Nazism is a phenomenon of the left. This is how stupidity works as a main line of this government.

The polemicization of the public space also serves Bolsonaro to justify his failures, an idea that recurs with some frequency. He positions himself as someone prevented from promoting profound, transformative changes, as the system tries to ensnare him in institutional traps. Thus, he builds the image of a tireless warrior in the fight against powerful giants interested in maintaining the status quo, he being the only one willing to sacrifice himself for Brazil.

The role of the solitary hero also serves to consolidate the image of the man of principles, self-made, obstinate, with purpose – qualities that are much appreciated in neoliberal discourse and are more apparent in the motto “self-entrepreneur”. However, although such characteristics may retain positive values ​​in certain contexts, what is revealed in the Bolsonarist face is the difficulty of understanding the world in its changes as plural processes. Not understanding the multiple faces of life is frightening. Bolsonarism appropriates it to mold it into hatred and political power[v].

The consequences of public policies – or the lack of them – go beyond the span of the eye. However, the Bolsonarist understanding of life is guided by belief, which is diametrically contrary to science. Or, by selectively cutting out a kind of science that confirms your belief[vi], like when a decontextualized video of Dr. Drauzio Varella was used to weaken social isolation or the euphoria provoked by the confirmation that a famous doctor had used chloroquine in his treatment, even if the cure cannot be attributed to the substance.

Polemization also serves to monopolize the spotlight, a method that is being worn out by public opinion: with each setback, Bolsonaro and his offspring launch yet another insult that dominates social networks, reverberates in the traditional media and stirs up the virtual debate. The wave washes, cleans and takes with it a Pibinho, orange candidacies from his party, corruption in the family offices, the promiscuous relationship with militiamen, suffocating the time for due scrutiny and assimilation of information. It's a mockery of what Donald Trump does, but until then, the tycoon got real. A flu killed, so far, more than 20 Americans. The image of men digging mass graves in New York should be enough to bring down stupidity. In the Brazilian dystopia, green-yellow motorcades ignore that the virus has already reached the stage of national community transmission.

But you don't have to go that far north. In Nicaragua, dictator Daniel Ortega ignores any risks by promoting festivals and calling for mass activities. In Ecuador, the funeral system has collapsed and the bodies of Covid-19 victims are deposited in cardboard coffins or left in the street, awaiting collection. Brazil chose to wait for the wave to arrive while following the rise in cases in China and, later, in Europe. Manaus walks towards exhaustion. On the outskirts of São Paulo, with no schools or day care centers to provide meals, children are exposed to severe food insecurity. In several cities, hospitalization numbers put pressure on ICU beds. The funeral veil of the pandemic begins to besiege the country.

The pain is realizing that lethargy is purposeful and purposeful, as Bolsonaro tries to divert from the consequences of his actions and inactions in the Executive. Adhering to the policy of social isolation means placing oneself liable for neglecting the pandemic and its consequences, in addition to strengthening those who contested it. The economic impact will come and appear devastating in reports and balance sheets, but certainly much more in concrete lives. The stupidity that reduces living to producing is the same that, faced with the inescapable finitude of life, robs death of its dignity.

*Iury Tavares Master in Political Science and International Relations from Universidade Nova de Lisboa.





[iv] Two months before the completion of your impeachment, President Dilma Rousseff signed the bill into law in an attempt to improve her strained relationship with Congress, despite the negative recommendation of several advisory bodies.

[v] TIDE SETUBAL FOUNDATION. Conservatism and social issues [electronic resource]. São Paulo. 2019. Available at:>. Access at: 15 Nov. of 2019.


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