The Logic of Resentment

Image Kendal Hoopes


An emotional phenomenon that unfolds in passive complaints that lead to murky waters for the extreme right mill

Resentment is a concept that has been on people's lips, in bars and at Palácio do Planalto since 2018. In societies mapped by rigid castes, without social mobility, there were no resentful people. Each one knew his place, and saw Providence in the space occupied. The idea of ​​injustice developed in modern society with the spread of rights (civil rights in the XNUMXth century, politicians in the XNUMXth century, social rights in the XNUMXth century and environmental rights in the XNUMXst century). When formal equality collided with real inequality, bitter resentment was born in groups or classes that, hoping to escape the condition of inferiority to which they were relegated on the social scale, preferred to pray for the reversal of their disadvantageous position rather than having to face the structures of social exclusion. An emotional phenomenon that unfolds in passive complaints that lead to murky waters for the far right mill.

In some cases, the contradiction between the formal and real dimensions impelled revolutionary acts against the constituted authorities, such as the sailors mutinous in the Revolta da Chibata in Rio de Janeiro (November 22 to 27, 1910). In others, it provokes what Pierre Bourdieu in The Rules of Art (Companhia das Letras) called a “submissive revolt”, like the neo-fascists who during the putsch failed in Brasilia (September 7, 2021) protested against poor black men and women at airports and universities, the extension of labor legislation to housemaids and the defense of human rights.

The yellow-green march, inspired by Mussolini, expressed the repressed discontent in the face of the rise of subaltern classes to the guarantees leveraged by progressive governments (2003-2016), targeting the legal guardian of the 1988 citizen Constitution, the Federal Supreme Court (STF) , immediately held responsible (sic) for ensuring the spurred remaining rights.

The starting point of the reflection is the malaise that erupted in the movements of 2013 and 2015, spread across the big cities, like a “storm in paradise”. The drive explosion uncovered the fetid drain of frustrations concentrated in the middle classes. Television covered the rebellions that reaffirmed the colonialist and patriarchal heritage, by families that divide society into “good citizens” and “sub-citizens”. There was no lack of couples straight out of the magazine Faces, accompanied by the uniformed nanny at the wheel of a pram.

The processions expressed “attempts to establish a compromise between feelings of revolt / dissatisfaction and subordination to the impositions of power”, points out Maria Rita Kehl, in Resentment (Boitempo). As in the novel The Leopard (1958), by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, adapted for the cinema by Luchino Visconti (1963), resentful people want to change everything so that nothing changes, in an acrobatic 360° turn compatible with political-ideological conservatism.

In submissive revolt, the subject does not seek to break the shackles of domination; he seeks to situate himself in such a way as to take full advantage of the system of oppression. This is the option of the oppressed who identify with the oppressors. Impossible, here, not to invoke the classic by Étienne de La Boetié, Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (1563). The oxymoron title shows the spontaneous acceptance of the sacrifice of freedom in exchange for obedience to a tyrant. Among us, the identity offered to mitigate helplessness is the necrophilic nostalgia of the military dictatorship, symbolized in the cowardly Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, the torturer recognized in court in 2008. The new Jews? The left, and Lula.

To achieve this goal, it is necessary to destroy the foundations of the republic, silencing the voice of anti-systemic critics. The Pakistani thinker Tariq Ali, who lives in England, alerts to the fact that it was easier to publish an article in the newspapers than establishment, in the 1990s than it is today. The hegemony of neoliberalism has shrunk the public sphere, with the use of economic censorship.

The power capable of including agendas in the political debate extends to the power of veto to agendas of general interest. With which the power of democracy was dismantled. The shield removed from the democratic regime the possibility of delegitimizing the existing iniquities. It confined the soul of citizenship to the private, while maintaining coercion in matters related to the body (abortion, sexual orientation, physical standards). Thus, in the public sector, the practice of freedom is reserved solely for finance, which controls the means of communication.

“There is nothing that guarantees the just management of the Hobbesian sovereign, except his own will for justice – which, apart from the will of the people, will always be arbitrary… The best realization of democratic equality (which will never be identical to the ideal that guides it ) occurs when ordinary men authorize themselves as co-managers of order and/or transformation”, stresses Kehl (idem). Without instruments that make collective participation possible in the elaboration of State policies and without the opportunity to intervene in decisions about the future of cities, “armored democracy” becomes a caricature and society watches the naturalization of authoritarianism by arming militias. By the way, it is worth remembering that the STF recently considered unconstitutional parts of the measure, edited by President Bolsonaro, to dismantle the National Mechanism for the Prevention and Combat of Torture (MNPCT), a body with civilizing bias and attributions.

Egalitarian flags form the grammar of modernity. The rule of the strong, whose mantra is found in the Washington Consensus (1989), by restricting the intervention of the masses in public affairs, threatens the ideals of democracy that are inseparable from the ideals of the republic. In this context, by refusing the place destined for the lower social strata, the sectors that challenge structures by joining movements, parties and associations arouse the visceral hatred of the resentful. The decadent fractions of the bourgeois classes, with their self-esteem still dependent on elitist habits and values, cannot withstand the courage of the losers who question the social ordering of winners.

Theodor W. Adorno addressed resentment in the upper echelons of society in the lecture entitled “What does it mean: elaboration of the past?” (1959). He resumed the content in the conference given in 1967 on Aspects of New Right-wing Radicalism (Unesp), at the invitation of the Union of Socialist Students of Austria. “The assumptions of fascism persist socially, although not in an immediately political format, thanks to the tendency of capital concentration. A tendency that implies the permanent declassification of strata that were bourgeois in their subjective class consciousness and would like to establish and strengthen their privileges. These groups tend toward a hatred of socialism, shifting the blame for its potential declassification not to the apparatus causing it, but to those who opposed the system they once owned. status".

For the icon of the Frankfurt School, the Social Welfare State's egalitarian policies diverted energies from the project of Marxian overcoming of capitalism, on the other hand, reduced the distance that separated the groupings in decay from the layers sunk in pauperization and in unworthiness. As a result, “convictions and ideologies considered outdated take on their demonic character… The witch hunt did not emerge at the height of Thomism, but of the Counter-Reformation”. Reactive affects were and are predictable, and are invariably repeated under popular administrations.

On the ground floors of the society, research carried out by André Singer was illustrative, which contributed to the understanding of The Senses of Lulism (Companhia das Letras) and the oscillation of the social bases of petismo that, in the beginning, were composed by the middle classes with strong support in the civil service. Later, they tended to the world of work without organizational and union experience, which previously rejected all incentives for organization and mobilization with a view to change, via class clashes.

There was a notorious increase in the awareness of the population with an income of up to two minimum wages. A situation that changed in the 2006 election, date of the “electoral realignment” of the Workers' Party (PT). The resentment of those “from below” was then transfigured into the attitude that knocked down the fences of the halter voting corrals that fed the right-wing political associations in remote caves, which meant an important step towards the final emancipation of the most vulnerable.

The resentment stems from the difficulty in recognizing ourselves as subjects of our history, collectively committed to solving the problems that make sleep a nightmare. The repression of the past exacts a high price from us. traumatic memory, et pour cause the blackout of more than two generations, failed to become a narrative shared by the nation. It was necessary to make the homily of the Memory of Oblivion: the secrets of the basements of the dictatorship (L&PM), with Pieces of Death in the Heart (L&PM), as Flávio Tavares and Flávio Koutzii did after their harsh exile.

Without the transmission of what was lived, the experience was not assimilated as it should have been, so as not to repeat itself again. It was not enough to bring out the information, narrators of the suffering suffered legitimized by the institutional initiative were needed, together with constrained narrators who asked the community for forgiveness. It did not work, despite the efforts of the National Truth Commission (CNV) installed in the Dilma Rousseff government to investigate crimes against humanity between 1946 and 1988, with emphasis on the period 1964-1985. It is up to the reader to find out who were angry who attacked CNV's work.

The perpetrators of atrocities committed under the umbrella of the state apparatus in Brazil have never responded for what they did, unlike what happened in Argentina and Chile. In the opinion of many, this is the mother of the infamous impunities that cover up the massacres – soon forgotten – in urban peripheries, in landless camps and in indigenous territories. Civil society, shrouded in silence, is unable to metabolize the horrors that distance us from Western paradigms of civilization. Redress policies would prevent the repressed from becoming corrosive resentment. The haste with which we put a stone on top of official / unofficial barbarities is a component of our social pathology, not proof of any cordiality.

Heloísa Starling, also quoted by Kehl, accurately summarized the failure in the egalitarian and solidary projection in the country's leaden horizon, by emphasizing that we lacked to forge the republican foundation that is the people, and recognize in the population as a whole the virtues of concatenated union by the impersonality of the laws, and not of favors or prejudices. She lacked the amalgamation for sharing “of a imagination that allowed to overcome the limits of private and domestic life and represent, as common, feelings, values, principles and norms for the construction of one's own destiny” (lofty). The hiatus appears in the literary/artistic creations and in the jokes that represent us. The anointing at the ballot box of a genocide of our compatriots crowned the spirit of scum. Oswald's anthropophagy and Caetano's tropicália did not manage to rewrite our biography.

It is not surprising that a chronicler condensed Brazilianness into the “mutt complex”. See the secret settlements of the Lava-Jato operation with the US Department of Justice, in the greatest treachery against the country that has ever been heard of. The “hybrid war” promoted by the USA, that is, the fight between currents of identical nationality with the use of the lawfare in the media to hide the true interests at stake on the broad international chessboard – “it has clouded who the combatant is… who can take the form of the supposed combatant for public morality, like Sérgio Moro and Deltan Dallagnol.

That's what makes this war asymmetrical and difficult to fight. Lava-Jato exchanged submission to American economic objectives for cash: 2,5 billion to be deposited in the account of the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba, as part of the 'agreement' that ruined Odebrecht and Petrobrás. The clay heroes demanded their 'kickback' for the good services rendered to the foreign power and wanted to perpetuate themselves as a political party, exploring the nonsense of fighting corruption”, accuses Jessé Souza, in The War Against Brazil (Brazil Station).

The articulations on screen appear as if they accumulated successes, with their task forces, to attract people's support. They pretend that they are the true guarantors of the future and that they have God knows what divine mission behind them. One should not underestimate the messianic role they invest in due to their very low intellectual level or due to the absence of a theory. What characterizes these spurious articulations in hybrid wars is a perfection in the use of means of manipulation, Postgraduate Course , combined with a complete confusion regarding the (false, simulated) ends that are pursued there. Imagery propaganda in the society of spectacle is really the very substance of the thing, as Hitler and Goebbels say, who were, essentially, two propagandists with an extemporaneous franchise in Paraná. Folha de São Paulo, Estadão, Rede Globo and satellites went too far in the selective farce to now back down on the lies. In the vine of the bad conscience of the resentful, there are the smart ones who get rich with the bait.

In the footsteps of a Brazil “for all and all”, however, we move forward. On the one hand, under the gaze of metallurgist Santo Dias and, on the other, of journalist Vladimir Herzog, both martyrs murdered by those who should have given them protection. With the word we salute the audacity of those who wave on the side of the road, removing the inert resignation of so many still undecided. The raised hand holds the standard of dignity that leads to peace. As in the famous poem by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado, sung by Joan Manuel Serrat: “Caminante, son tus huellas / el camino, y nada más; / walker, no hay camino / se hace camino al andar (Walker, your footprints are / the path, and nothing else; / walker, there is no path / you make a path by walking)”. And vote for hope in October 2022.

* 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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