Postmodern and Bolsonarist freedom

Image: Cottonbro


The freedom embedded in the postmodern vision absolutized the rights of individual freedom, producing much of the trivialized violence that permeates commodity fetishism in peripheral consumer societies.

Since Thomas Hobbes, the political philosopher who wrote Leviathan (1651), it is known that modernity chose to limit freedom in the name of security to escape the “state of nature”, without law or morals, and enter the “social state” with rigid and coercive rules of sociability. More social order meant more unrest, noted Freud in the essay Civilization's Discontents (1930). Society was then guided by the “principle of reality”, points out Zygmunt Bauman in The malaise of postmodernity (1997), unlike the subsequent period in which the “pleasure principle” assumed preeminence in the judgment of history. A civilizational turn of 180°.

For the Polish sociologist from the University of Leeds, in the United Kingdom: “Compulsion and forced renunciation (before), instead of an exasperating necessity, became the unjustified attack launched against individual freedom (after)… Our time is that of deregulation” – magic word for the commodification of everything and “everyone”. The concept of economic deregulation migrated to multiple dimensions of the social and reached the relationship between individuals and State norms, now at the mercy of acceptance of each individuality. It is from the values ​​of individual freedom, on the floor of the laissez-faire manchesteriano, that the presumption of the unrestricted right to pleasure drives the conducts of confrontation with the conventional beacons (laws and morals) that build the paradigms of collectivity. Without the neoliberal anchor, postmodernity would be a boring metaphysics adrift in dark times.

Postmodern thinkers created the missing theoretical framework for neoliberalism, which was reduced to the ten commandments of the Washington Consensus. They transported the market-god prescription of Hayek and Mises, at first focused on the economy and then transformed into the hegemonic “new reason of the world”, in a theory capable of covering the neoliberal process in the context of a Weltanschauug. Thus, a liquid fluidity enveloped utopia with a thick veil of sad hopelessness for the future.

“The plea for pleasure, once discredited and condemned as self-destructive”, replaced the asceticism (the primacy of thrift) of the Protestant ethic at the origins of capitalism, according to Max Weber's classic study. Hedonism (investment for personal satisfaction) took the place of moral sobriety. The body has become a consumer commodity, with an expiration date. The spirit has become a machine for calculating the amount of enjoyment, along with the object that identifies good with the pleasure of the senses and evil with pain. The hedonistic pursuit would be the categorical imperative today.

The famous “invisible hand” of the market has found a curious occupation, after two centuries: waving to the rejection of institutional mediations to exploit excesses. “Individual freedom has become the greatest predicate in the self-creation of the human universe. Postmodern men and women have traded a share of security for a share of happiness”, in short. The business criteria of performance and income assumed the function of a compass for the immediate enjoyment of life, amid the turbulent seas of deaths, disseminated hatred and summary cancellations.

The notion of freedom embedded in the postmodern vision absolutized the rights of individual freedom, even for the dissemination of fake news. “I hope that no power (explicit reference to the Superior Electoral Court / TSE) regulates the Internet. Our freedom above all else”, roars the militiaman among the emas of Brasilia, eager to make Instagram the land of Marlboro. “The hallmark of this administration is a lie”, ironizes the leader of the polls. He could. O You Tube punished 233 lying videos in 2021, with 34 of Bolsonaro alone. Imagine the campaign.

The denialist narrative, which aggravates the lethality of Covid-19, is supported by the axiom of subjectivities proud of themselves. The assumption: the inviolability of the body without prior consent. Argument used against mandatory vaccination by the liberal Ruy Barbosa, who used the serious danger of diseases that would result from the vaccine (becoming an “alligator” or “communist”, according to the genocide in the Central Plateau) to disavow the sanitary doctor Oswaldo Cruz. In the pandemic disease, the error of the charlatanistic conception that abstracted the safeguard of the rights of third parties and that disregarded the protocols recommended by the WHO and Fiocruz became evident.

To general surprise, a hundred years of science later, professionals in the biological areas echo the irresponsible morticidal blunder, hiding the underground motivation for a hard anti-scientificism. “The defense of the abstract and decontextualized idea of ​​freedom is nothing more than rhetoric from Bolsonaro and his followers. There is no lack of professors who, under the pretext of individual freedoms, subordinate scientific knowledge to neo-fascist ideology and pose as libertarians”, denounces Paulo Capel Narvai, indignant, in a timely article entitled Bolsonarista Necroliberty posted on the website the earth is round.

The motto for the public health professor's text was the resignation note from the coordinator of the undergraduate course in Medicine at UnB, who protested against the rectory's requirement of a vaccine passport for circulation on the institution's premises. Tergiversation aside, the decision went against his ideological convictions (vulgar sense wears out the term, equating it with an idiosyncrasy). There are photos of the scholar on social media at far-right demonstrations, wearing a CBF T-shirt and yellow-green face paint. Pity, because “ignorance never helped anyone”, to evoke the sentence of Karl Marx, taken from the epigraph of José Paulo Netto in the biography he dedicated to him. Our flag will never be red. Taoquei?

The episode illustrates the fact that post-modern (neoliberal) freedom flows into Bolsonarist (neo-fascist) freedom. Bauman himself, upon closing the bestseller mentioned above, admits: “Liberal society offers with one hand (the unconditional promise of freedom) what it takes away with the other (individual freedom, to come and go – without a mask)”. After all, “the duty of freedom without the resources that allow a truly free choice is, for many (read 99% of the population), a recipe without dignity, filled instead with humiliation and self-deprecation”. The emphasis on freedom, in this case, does not face the iniquities caused by the dynamics of capitalist accumulation for fear of egalitarian doctrines. Fear paralyzes.

Bauman hears the rooster crow. He doesn't know what to do or undo. He recognizes “communitarians, who are distressed by the lack of possibility to choose in a society where being an individual is equivalent to being a free selector, but where practical freedom of choice is a privilege”. The dramatic crossroads "will require doing something to rectify the current distribution of resources." However, he warns: “In social engineering, the proposed remedy may make the disease even more serious… Communitarianism (a project based on the ideal of the common good) is not a remedy for the inherent flaws of liberalism” Stalinism.

This is the discomfort caused by reading works under the intellectual aegis of postmodernity. They describe neoliberal culture with vivid defeatism, as if there were no possible way out of the domination of the “one thought”. Unwittingly, they reiterate Margaret Thatcher's thesis: Theres no alternatives (There is no alternative).

“In postmodern politics, individual freedom is the supreme value and the standard by which all other merits and vices of society as a whole are measured”, concludes le vieux faleur. This culturalist dogma has contributed to the expansion of neo-fascism. Narcissistic hyper-individualism, more than the link of the feeling of “national community”, cradles the Bolsonarist movement that flirts with symbols that go back to the Second World War, by force of habit, and not by active conditioning in the present. It is understood that it resorts to individual freedom – the chosen alibi for perversity – to legitimize the countless serial crimes of brutal denialism.

Participation in a citizen mobilization of reparation about the racist and xenophobic violence that cowardly murdered the Congolese youth Moïse Kabamgabe has greater potential for political awareness than the insights listed by postmodernism on the march of everyday life in capitalism. Psychoanalyst Tales Ab'Sáber, when addressing the issue of “order and violence”, draws attention to the flag's emblematic motto, where “the authoritarian and ghostly weight of the notion of order” precedes “progress, whatever that is conceived by such, democracy or social integration”. The current misgovernment walks with the crutches of the neo-fascist and neoliberal order, like Bolsonaro and Moro, forged in subjection to the US power and in the total lack of empathy with the suffering of the Brazilian people.

Tales Ab'Sáber lays bare the peculiarity of Brazil land: “It is likely that in Brazil a true political and psychic field has been constituted, of an action for order that does not correspond to universal rights, related to the history of the Western normative and political process”. We would be below the laws and morals, in the style of the militias that, gun in hand, push us back to the Hobbesian state of nature.

The theme of trivialized violence runs through the fetishism of merchandise in peripheral consumer societies, which are also spaces for the landless, the homeless, those who are hungry, the precarious, those who have given up looking for a formal job and do not even enter the exclusion statistics, they are so excluded from the productive system. However, resilience keeps the ember under the ashes. As in the verses of the black poet Solano Trindade, statue in Recife/PE: “My grandparents were slaves / Olorum Ekê / I am still a slave / Olorum Ekê / My children will not be”.

Already pointed out by Nelson Rodrigues, the atavistic “mutt complex” perpetuates servitude. Atavism that emerges in the key of chroniclers to reveal itself, in a failed act of journalism forged by prejudices, including in the opportunities in which they intend to raise the self-esteem of “people with small brains and big hearts” (sic, sic). Stereotype inherited from backward elites without republican responsibility. Anyone who was a protagonist in shaping anti-PTism and pejoratively accused the social, welfare and affirmative policies of progressive governments (2003-2016) of being “populist”, incensing the false heroes of self-delivery, does not understand the delight and pride of belonging to the Brazilian nation. Belonging is the birthplace of what Lucien Goldmann calls “revolutionary reformism” – the momentum of political will, the clay of class identity, the courage to reinvent society.

By the way, see the skit that circulates on the internet in which, against a yellow background, one reads in green letters: Disarm yourself. The piece is in high spirits: “Disarm yourself and come with Lula to remake that country where we know how to be happy”. Without pride, it is not possible to fight and win, taught the revolutions (China, Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua), but also contemporary social movements such as the MST and the MTST. It is time to talk with the repentant in good faith and help them find their way.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.


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