The normalization of barbarism

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By RAFAEL R. IORIS*

The progress of the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil and the USA

The new version of the coronavirus (Covid-19), which has been spreading around the world in recent months, has forced new productive, political and cultural arrangements, as perhaps only occurred at the end of the Second World War. Global production chains were suspended, work and teaching routines had to be quickly reinvented, economic aid measures through public spending took on new relevance in the parliamentary agenda of most countries, and social and even family life itself had to be reorganized as perhaps it only occurred when the so-called Spanish flu occurred about a hundred years ago.

A virus of extremely high and treacherous transmissibility, Covid-19 had as its initial means of propagation travelers with greater purchasing power, whose international visits, especially 'to China, allowed the rapid expansion of contamination at global levels never seen before. But if in the beginning, especially in Brazil, the first infected and victims were people from the upper middle classes, who returned from trips 'to Europe and congregated in cinematographic weddings in exclusive tourist spots, it was their servants who quickly started to increase the numbers of dead from the new pandemic.

Adding infamy 'to tragedy, in the US and Brazil, two of the largest countries in the world, the expansion of Covid-19 has been defined by administrative excesses, denialist and conspiratorial narratives disseminated by supporters of the neo-fascist groups in power and, finally, by the deep socio-economic and racial inequalities of each nation. The United States today has a quarter of the number of cases in the world (despite having only 5% of the world's population), as well as the highest number of deaths linked to the new virus: more than 150 thousand victims, three times more than the country lost over the 10 years of the Vietnam War, a conflict that so marked the recent history of that nation. In the inglorious second position, the land brazil it has already lost more than 80 people to a disease that, despite being serious, certainly did not need to acquire such magnitude.

Initially, the main leaders of each society either denied the very existence of the new virus or systematically minimized its seriousness, even signaling for a quick resolution of the problem through miraculous remedies, and attacking those who defended the need for a firm policy broad social isolation. “We need to liberate the states”, stated Trump. “We cannot bear the confinement”, said Bolsonaro repeatedly. intimately, that the pandemic will not be resolved in such a negligent and ideologically defined way, why would these leaders have insisted on maintaining such postures?

In addition to the well-known lack of human sensitivity of the two presidents, it is certain that both one and the other understood that, although enormous, the death tolls would be acceptable and even despised in the midst of the ideological disputes in progress in each country. And even though Trump has lost support, among other reasons, given the incompetence that has guided the actions of the US federal government in the face of the pandemic, it is difficult to understand that more than a third of the US electorate still supports him, in many cases. in an enthusiastic way. Likewise, Bolsonaro, who showed even more irresponsible and theatrically macabre behavior in the face of the pandemic (going to hug supporters at public demonstrations, for example) also seems to have important margins of popular support. How to understand such tragic scenarios?

While every form of essentialism should be avoided, it seems clear that no society has gone through centuries of unequal and oppressive treatment of the majority or, at least, of significant portions of its population with impunity, most of the time through massacres, genocides and especially , more continuously, multiple systems of slavery developed over time.

Once a specific group has been given, in different ways, especially by the colonial experience, a position of socio-economic, political and cultural privilege, a whole sophisticated and consistent process of dehumanization of the excluded population portions is put into practice. .And although the most evident forms of such exclusion mechanisms are now in disuse, at least in most cases, the sensitivities (or perhaps, insensitivities) that maintain them, especially racism, cultivated over decades, are not as quickly eliminated. And so, it is a fact that deaths of black or brown people in Brazil, as well as in the US, do not have the same value as the loss of lives of white people.

If this were not the case, how can one explain that while blacks and browns tend to die in more than half of the cases of contamination by Covid-19, a third of white people suffer the same fate in Brazil. And if we add schooling to the comparison, the contrast is even more dramatic since black or brown people without schooling die in more than 80% of contagion cases, while among whites with higher education, the mortality rate is less of 20% of cases. In the US, such comparisons are not very different, as black people are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 contamination as white people.[1]

What we are experiencing is a situation where, despite the daily media exposure of the suffering of countless victims and their families, what has been experienced, both in the US and in Brazil, is a process of gradual normalization of an ongoing barbarism. Numbers of deaths, despite being obscene, end up being dehumanized, becoming cold statistics of a human tragedy that, despite biblical proportions, no longer shocks or mobilizes almost anyone.

Reversing this morbid situation requires, first of all, rescuing the fundamental notion of equality, in life or death, for everyone. it is inevitable and perhaps even transient.

A pandemic, by definition, is an experience of a collective nature. And although it is not experienced in a democratic way, there is no way to minimize its broad impact unless there is a vision of a minimally inclusive society, where collective behavior either enhances us or destroys us in a definitive way.

*Rafael R. Ioris is a professor at the University of Denver.

Note


[1]https://g1.globo.com/bemestar/coronavirus/noticia/2020/07/12/por-que-o-coronavirus-mata-mais-as-pessoas-negras-e-pobres-no-brasil-e-no-mundo.ghtml

 

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