What order and progress do we serve?

Image: Vinicius Vieira


Who do national symbols serve? By whom and for whom are they created?

The symbols make the representative bridges between the concrete and the abstract. The word itself carries in its etymology contrasting meanings, view in Greek it can mean union, while the verb ballein indicates launch. The bridge metaphor seems to be interesting, as it suggests movement and stability at the same time. The symbol takes the place (if it unites?) of what it wants to represent, but this place is only at the abstract level. A tree represented in a painting does not cease to exist when it is symbolized, but takes on new airs for us. Concrete then has the condition to launch itself into other possibilities.

Let us take an object more complex than the tree: the Brazilian identity, just like that, in the singular. Who do national symbols serve? By whom and for whom are they created? Far from exhausting the subject, just suggesting some paths, I want to dwell on the national flag of Brazil and how it has been used by Bolsonarist groups in its CBF version.

Contrary to what we learn at school, green does not symbolize the forests, yellow is not gold, blue is not the sky, and so on. The stars represent the states and the federal district, that part is true. All the symbology of colors refers to the Portuguese families that colonized (nature and people) in this territory. Diverging from the independence struggles in Hispanic America, our independence process was false, mixed with the illusions of the creation of an empire, as Anísio Teixeira said, even though the stability of the monarchy never actually happened due to important regional struggles, these yes of greater self-determination of peoples.

The national symbols (I restrict myself to thinking only of the flag and the anthem), although products from the imperial period, were re-signified and bought to serve the nascent republic. In the first decades of the XNUMXth century, we will see a great effort by many intellectuals to define the elements of Brazilianness. This movement is a partner in the creation of the fable of the three races, an ideological configuration of the myth of racial democracy. Now, Brazil had its own flag colors, its very original motto of “order and progress” and its own foundation myth. All the nation's rhetoric was set up.

These narratives produce homogeneous and unified notions that make the subordination of peoples and different cultures to the national identity project invisible. The totalizing effort is a necessarily ideological policy of nations, which hides the multiethnic and multi-national possibilities of our country, as well as the conflicts (which are happening right now, when you read these graphemes in the Portuguese language).

That said, it is not strange that conservative groups that unconditionally support President Bolsonaro (without a party) return to national symbology to (self) identify themselves. The old discourses of the traditional Brazilian family (which hide racism and sexism), of national unity, of the distortion of morals and good bourgeois customs are used, in addition, nostalgia is common in manifestations not only of the period of the business-military dictatorship (there is an approximation between authoritarianism and national symbols, “Brazil: love it or leave it”), as well as the monarchical period itself! What ideological operations are necessary for a republican citizen to identify with a foreign and slaveholding monarchy?

They say, in these liberal and conservative circles, that the communists want to put an end to the Brazilian nation. If it is this colonialist nation that repeats symbols of violence, that stereotype and kill the more than three hundred indigenous ethnic groups that (over)live in Brazil, that turn a blind eye to femicide and the multiple sexualities that exist in the name of the sacredness of the traditional Brazilian family, that pretends to respect different spiritualities as long as they say amen, that they don't care about the genocide of the black population and the growing precariousness of work, this nation must really be extinguished. The communist struggle is internationalist because it is against different mechanisms of exploitation and because of the certainty that the maintenance of a new order of life is supported by new senses of cooperation, and even so, the peculiarities of each place are not eliminated. The national symbology we should aim for is one that does not erase differences, but celebrates them. A multiethnic Brazil as a State (in transition to its end once class antagonisms are eliminated) is truly plurinational.

*Marcus Bernardes is a professor of sociology and anthropology. He coordinates the Nucleus of Research in Education and Cultures of the UniFG Observatory of the Northeastern Semi-Arid.


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