The party can not stop

Sculpture José Resende / Mooca, São Paulo / photo: Christiana Carvalho


Even with the dead in the room

Anyone who knows the history of the formation of the modern State knows how its main theorists justified its emergence based on promises to protect populations. It would be up to the state to mobilize society's strength and resources for protection against violent death, against the dispossession of property and subjection to other peoples. Even if such a protection clause obeyed class restrictions, even if in states with colonial formation, such as Brazil, it was valid only for the portion that did not come from those subjected to extermination and slavery, the state created adhesion based on the desire in relation to such a promise.

It would be worth starting at this point because, in Brazil, we are witnessing a structural paradigm shift regarding the binomial state/protection. As if, without realizing it, we had become a laboratory, as if we were being pushed to be part of a social management experiment whose extent we have only just begun to realize. This laboratory touches, in a profound way, the relationship, state, social body and death.

Some may be astonished by this systematic effort to learn indifference to mass death, which encourages the Brazilian government in the face of the effects of the pandemic. But one should remember that the history of government technologies is associated with the history of epidemics, pandemics and wars. The modern conception of psychiatric intervention, urban planning, economic planning, among others, was born, to a large extent, in the midst of efforts against health catastrophes. Without us noticing, this is what is happening once again.

The macabre scenes of a President of the Republic swimming, in order to produce crowds amid the peak of a pandemic that stopped the world, the reiterated lines that we should not care about the 200 dead, because we must “touch life”, the refusal of official expressions of mourning, the refusal to have a minimally structured vaccination plan: all of this may sound crazy, but, unfortunately, it has a method.

The German sociologist Wolfgang Streck had identified, years ago, the consolidation of a horizon of final degradation of protective macrostructures (due to the stabilization of the trinomial: low growth, chronic indebtedness and brutal concentration of income) and the strengthening of territorial and community microstructures. His diagnosis aimed to show the kind of world that the exhaustion of the promises of capitalism had produced.

If we accept such a diagnosis, we will be obliged to state that one of the possible ways out of such a degradation of macrostructures is the reduction of the horizon of expectations in relation to protection. Unfortunately, Brazil has figured out how to do this while preserving the popularity of its rulers. It is enough to feed indifference on a daily basis as a central social affection, to undermine all efforts at generic solidarity and to make freedom as one's property something above mere survival. A macabre version of the “freedom or death” that founds the country as an “independent” nation.

A process of this nature could only begin systematically in a country like Brazil, with its history as the greatest necropolitical experiment in modern history. As Celso Furtado recalls, Brazil was an economic creation before being a social consolidation. It was born as the largest experiment in primary exporting slaveholding lands on record, being responsible for receiving 35% of the entire enslaved population sent to the Americas. This population and its descendants – as well as the original peoples who were decimated so that such an economic enterprise could serve as the zero point of this country – know only the predatory face of the Brazilian state. The face that reminds that such subjects are killable without mourning, are objects of disappearance, extermination and maximum economic spoliation. What better place in the world to start an experiment in structurally nullifying the limited protective dimension of the modern state?

The pandemic allowed the Brazilian state to generalize this logic to the entire population, even if this generalization has different intensities due to the privileged access to private health that the wealthy and rentier sectors preserve. But the final balance of the pandemic, at least for us, will be the overcoming of a state that tells the entire population: “Don't count on me for protection. That is the price of freedom.” It exposes the fact that we never get out of a presocial stage. A society that has such a degree of indifference towards the deaths of 200 people cannot be called a society.

In the 1970s, Paul Virilio coined the term “suicide state” to counteract the tendency, fueled by Hannah Arendt, to make undue comparisons between Nazism and Stalinism. Virilio was saying: “Look at the way the state kills and we will understand the radical specificity of Nazism”. Because it was not about killing sectors of the population or groups of opponents. It was about getting society used to a sacrificial horizon in which subjects seem to celebrate their own death and their own sacrifice. Until the end came through this last telegram from Hitler to his generals, the famous Telegram 71, which read: “If the war is lost, let Germany perish”.

Well, if anyone doubts the fascist nature of this government, consider the way in which it lets its own population die in a festive celebration of a self-immolation ritual. For it is only by getting used to such sacrificial immolations that capitalism will continue.

*Vladimir Safari, member of the Arns Commission, He is a professor of philosophy at USP. Author, among other books, of Ways of transforming worlds – Lacan, politics and emancipation (Authentic).

Originally published on the blog of Arns Commission.

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