The Geopolitics of Fear

Dora Longo Bahia. Revolutions (calendar design), 2016 Acrylic, water-based pen and watercolor on paper (12 pieces) 23 x 30.5 cm each


How can Bolsonaro say everything he says and go unpunished and still keep saying it?

“Abandon all hope of ever seeing heaven again, for I will bring you into everlasting darkness” (Dante, Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto 3).

“Arbeit macht frei” – “Work sets you free” (Darkly ironic inscription on the Auschwitz Gate)

But the most important sentence for understanding the perverse side of modern rationality is inscribed on the Buchenwald Gate: “Jedem das Seine”, which can be understood as “each one gets what he deserves”.

The last speech by President Bolsonaro, which will be received with passing indignation until the next more violent one, encloses all the Nazi-fascist logic exposed above, from Dante about the gates of hell and Nazism, at the gates of Campos: don’t be “sissy” (weak ) we are all going to die, it is not right to fight for life under these circumstances. Young people, children, elderly -all- abandon all hope! We are approaching the gates of hell and I am your talking demon – without fear and without limits – and this is how I treat the cowards who listen to me, who are among those who brought me here and those who chose or could not resist my appeals. With my crazy defiant speech, the President seems to say – contrary to Marx who said that “nothing that is human is foreign to me”- nothing that takes us to the gates of hell can be rejected.

In the History of heroism, resistance and the human capacity to fight fire with fire, – besides Stalingrad, the French Resistance and the Italian Partisans (besides the anonymous millions who died in the War against Nazism) – there is the unequal Ghetto Insurrection from Warsaw. It was the place where 1.500 prisoners, Jewish Communists, Zionists, Socialists and Libertarian Democrats, chose -between going to Treblinka or dying fighting- to be the vanguard of human dignity. Poems, songs, novels and essays have all celebrated the struggles of modern rationality against its perverse flow of reason. The owners of this face of reason have always murdered without mercy, based on the ability to arbitrate “that each one receives… what he deserves”, whether fighting or passively accepting his destiny.

How can Bolsonaro say all this and go unpunished and still keep saying it? I suppose that it is about the radical crisis of liberal democracy, which starts to be protected – in the environmental, health and economic crisis of capital – no longer by reason of State, in which political democracy fits, but directed by the myth engendered by the stronger side of capitalist rationality. This one comes with someone who can put aside the institutions he created, so that the rich and super-rich can see themselves in another mirror: no longer in the face of a Churchill or a Truman, but in the diabolical face of someone who has enough passion for the evil, to say who should live and who should die.

In this morbid historical framework, two discourses clash: that of the old modern reason of democratic law, which the fragmented society no longer understands because it deals with the immediate issues of life and death; and the discourse on the gates of hell, which offers death to everyone, but -attention!- makes it clear that the majority can be saved because naturally –in the gates of hell- only the “faggots” (the weak) will pass towards death , the rest will survive fantasizing their identities together with those who will be pointed out as strong.

I do not believe in Borges' exhaustive sentence, by which he states that “all the stories would be in a few books: in the Bible, in the Odyssey, in Martin Fierro”. This is – the formula – yet another of his brilliant aphorisms, in which literature suppresses philosophy and the taste for metaphor hides a certain irrationalist mockery, typical of a great writer who never got used to living in the present.

Perhaps “all the stories” are closer to each “set of songs” or poems – from each era – than in the books mentioned by Borges. The song, which rises on a stage of flashing lights and colors, also makes crowds dance, but it is different from the one whispered in a Harlem bar. Both, however, carry desire, death, happiness, the heroism of the human struggles of the daily life of each concrete person, in the sound of their infinite multiplication.

Woody Guthrie's lyric "This Land is your Land" (1940) responded to Irving Berlin's beautiful and apologetic "God Bless America". While Guthrie – with his guitar of anti-fascist inscriptions
– said “this land is your land, this land is my land (…) this land was made for you and me”, Berlin proclaimed: “let us swear allegiance to a land that is free (…) let us all be grateful for a land so fair”.

They frequented – Guthrie and Berlin – different environments. They thought of people, spaces, different deserts. They were souls marked by landscapes of strong colors – but diverse – in the territory of America at that time, in the same soil of its deserts, where the bodies of indigenous people, of blacks enslaved in the south -of poor people buried in the wrath of Steinbeck's vines, had their nerves , muscles and movements of their bodies, profaned by their piling up in Wall Street vaults. There, however, a nation arose.

Maiakowsky – poet of the Russian Revolution – committed suicide in the middle of the Stalin era at the age of 36 (1930), some time after having written “with me anatomy has gone crazy, I am all heart”, to declaim, later on, his suffering in sarcastic verses: “ better to die of vodka than boredom”. His most recognized successor – as a poet\politician in Soviet Russia – Eugeny Evtushenko, aged 20, became famous in the 50s, denouncing Stalin and reciting his verses in public places: “you will remember strange times where honesty simpler was called courage”.

The two poets lived different times – both difficult and dramatic – with their lives colliding in the harsh historical events that marked their biographies. In the basement of the revolution, in the resistance to Nazi barbarism, in the terrible processes of Stalinism, in the liquidation of the old tsarist autocracy, which made the Russian people a herd of indigents, nevertheless, a nation rose.

Russia and America today share the same vices and sufferings with authoritarian governments, leaders within the capital system who exploit the geopolitics of fear and militaristic abuses within a “cold war”, among the most diverse interests of capital. In America, the Constitution of Philadelphia survives in tatters, manipulated by a narcissistic fascist, who expands his denialist rage with the use of the song “Good Bless America” to manipulate his voters. This one would certainly reject “This land is your land”, if he understood its lyrics. Putin, for his part, detests Mayakowsky, although he could certainly declaim some verse by Evtushenko in Red Square, to promote the poet's oblivion of the true revolution.

The way in which songs, poetry and literature formed opinion and consciences in societies in the last century is related to the very designs of republican democracy. As power – in democracy – is not concentrated in a single body (tyrant, dictator, despot), but takes place in an “empty place” (Lefort) that the Republic instituted – formally – to be occupied by the vote, its “talk of power” ” is disseminated by those who receive the delegation to occupy the institutional place of power.

The counter-discourse to the discourse of instituted power, in art, books, songs, poetry – issued in instances where people socialize and live together through approximation and dissent – ​​has rationality, but it is of short flights: it is coherent, but it comes from a dispersed place and its sources do not have a single body to represent them.

GACohen, in a brilliant study of “equality as a norm” in modern society, seeks this lost rationality in several songs -in the art of social fighters- as in the song “Buddy, Can you spare a Dime” (“Give me a nickel partner ”). When the man says, in the song, that “I once built a railroad and ran it, that rose to the sun…”, he justifies that he “deserves the nickel”, for the fact that he once produced, not because now he does not have the capacity to produce: he thinks of himself as a “creditor”, therefore, not as an abstract citizen, who must have his life guaranteed just because he exists. This is how the ritual of Bolsonaro's necrophiliac speech is established, which says, ultimately, "if I don't owe you, you must die".

In February 2017, Lady Gaga's almost metallic voice, during a Super Bowling break, propels her produced body to spin, float, swim in the air and sing “God Bless America”, in an unlikely communion with “This Land is your land” . The fusion is evident and there is Joe Biden to, through it, say – as the old fox of imperial democracy – that the America to be saved is the one that can assume the fusion of these two destinies, which must also keep a reasonable place for the poor and disinherited.

Is this possibility at an end in the land of Trump's coup d'état, which challenges democratic America itself to defend a democracy other than that of the Wall Street billionaires? I don't know if it's over, but parodying Castells, in his now classic “Ruptura”, “it won't stay like this”. Lady Gaga brought that already desperate questioning to the final Democratic campaign rally on November 2, 2020, when her voice was raised – as a voluntary art of resistance – to fuse the imaginary America of “God Bless America” with the real America of the verses of “This Land is your land”.

Driven by young people, black communities, struggling women, immigrants and democratic and libertarian intelligentsia, the faltering democracy of the Founding Fathers can now be taken to the Gates of Hell by Donald Trump. On the other side of this door, civilization is waiting for Hitler and his assassins in uniform, and here in Brazil, Bolsonaro's speech – in this week of terminal tests of our disgust and our patience – has already invited us to cross the arches of his accursed gates. And nothing happens, in the finite space of democracy, where the dignity of institutions – as Mayakowsky said – here did not even come close to the “strange times” in which courage became a collective virtue.

*Tarsus-in-law he was Governor of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Mayor of Porto Alegre, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education and Minister of Institutional Relations in Brazil.


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