Poliana's syndrome

Image: Jimmy Chan


How long would a government with tied hands be sustained, authorized only to carry out assistance measures and something else?

Pollyanna is a classic of children's literature, by the American Eleanor Porter, originally published in 1913. The character Pollyanna is a young girl who is guided by the gentle and credulous commitment to always look for the “good side” in everything. In Brazil, the book popularized the term “poliana”, which became an adjective. Although most of the most popular dictionaries do not record the entry, it can be found in Wikdictionary, which describes it as referring to “a person who is excessively and idealistically positive, optimistic and innocent, pure, naive”. Well, if you look willingly, you can really find a “good” side in anything. Even in Nazism.

The Nazis rescued, in the period 1933-45, the national pride of a country defeated in the First World War, which had been brought to its knees by the victors. Nazism was the first regime in the world to achieve full employment, its economy emerged from depression and began to produce frenziedly. Its roads and housing developments were the best of their time. German science leapt to the world's forefront, and the Volkswagen automobile, produced especially for the use of German workers, was an international success for 50 years.

It is even chilling to imagine how the outcome of the war could have been, if Hitler had not made the military mistake of invading the Soviet Union, choosing to fight on two military fronts. The overwhelming majority of the German people liked Nazism, benefited from it, supported that violent and anti-human regime – even after its end. But none of that characterized Nazism, these were not the predominant traits of that horrible regime.

According to Hegel, we discover what a thing is, not by its good “side” – or bad, it doesn't matter – but by the main course, by the determining course of its movement.

Of course, it is “better” to have Alckmin with us than against us, or Michel Temer, or Sarney, or the MDB – in full or in half – or any other right-wing politician or bloc that distances itself from Bolsonarism. We don't even need to waste time arguing with this "good side".

The question is another: what comes along with this package? Will we have to abandon our government program again, as Dilma did in 2014, a week after being re-elected? Well, it didn't work, they knocked it down anyway – and without the people to defend it. “Ah, but Alckmin is going to bring us the faithful votes of the toucans from the interior”. Will even? Who insures? This is just a wish. A variant of the same argument: “Without Alckmin, we could lose the elections”. Really? Here is another indemonstrable conviction.

But, in a Poliana way, let's pretend that these two arguments are true, and that Lula needs Geraldo Alckmin to defeat Bolsonaro electorally. Will Alckmin and the rancid anti-people right, his longtime companion, give this support for free, programmatically speaking? Because the young man is already raging against tampering with Temer's labor reform! It is worth remembering the content of that enormous trough of evil deeds: flexibility/decline of labor rights, informality becoming the rule, lengthening of working hours to up to 60 hours a week, slimming down of Labor Justice powers, fragmentation of vacations, autonomization/pejotization of workers, unrestricted outsourcing of all activities (even the core activities of companies), the “negotiated” overlapping with the legislated, emptying employer responsibility for damage to health and safety at work, return to mandatory work even for pregnant women and breastfeeding. A long etcetera would still fit here.

Furthermore, it is public that this same business veto also falls on all the other evils that the ruling right perpetrated against the people and against the country from 2016 to now. Remembering: the pension reform that, at the limit, extinguishes or makes retirement miserable, the budgetary expenditure ceiling that prohibits social investments, the autonomy of the Central Bank, capable of curbing even developmental policies, the sale of the pre-salt layer to foreign capital, tax relief for exporting mega-companies, predatory agribusiness burning and sterilizing the cerrado and forests, the indecent social inequality that continues to deepen. That way, go. The rights are consistent: they are there to defend their class interests. They take government programs seriously, require your fulfilment.

And the lefts? Assuming, even informally, the commitment to respect these strengths that the right has banned – a condition for electoral support – for how long would a government like that be sustained, with its hands tied, authorized only to carry out assistance measures and something else?

In politics, behaving like Poliana is a conformist way of looking at reality. Poliana spends so much energy looking – and finding! – the “good side” of things, which runs the risk of not recognizing their main side – that side that ultimately determines how they are/will be.

Poliana is not a reformist. It's conformist. Settle for any good little thing. “Better than nothing” is her favorite thought. She doesn't even suspect that "nothing" can be so close. In children's fiction, Pollyan behavior only produces frustration, even healthy, for emotional maturation. In politics, the “Polyana syndrome” can have consequences that kill a government before its birth.

*José Damião Trindade is a retired attorney for the state of São Paulo. Author, among other books, of Social History of Human Rights (Peiropolis).


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