The Promised Land and Election Violence

Dora Longo Bahia. Senta, 1994 Oil on canvas 200 x 290 cm


In Brazil, the state of exception is the norm in precarious territories and against the disposable bodies of democracy

It was appalling to watch and hear the narratives about the death of Marcelo Arruda. The violence of the scene, the result of hate speeches, the consideration of the other as an enemy. Even more, the fact that the criminal was a Bolsonarism militant and replicated in his act the speech of “war of good against evil”, as his leader had announced the day before the crime.

The president's proposition is right in one respect: we live under a war! Sadly, tens of thousands of young people die violently every year. And the vast majority are black people. This data is repeated in other spheres, with the annihilation of access to health, employment, education, the right over one's own body, freedom of expression, religion and organization.

Hunger, the absence of the right to existence and life, especially for the black and peripheral population, is the result of the colonial war still in practice in the country. And this war is political. Against bodies exposed to the system of capital, unfair, unequal and, in Brazil, operated through a patriarchal and racist logic. The targets of warlike escalation are specific groups of the population, demonstrating the political and targeted character of violence.

In the journalistic coverage of the murder of Marcelo Arruda, an old ghost of post-dictatorship politics was renewed. It is the fiction that two extremist sides are in action, which generates violence and demands a controlled and “consensus” exit, under the discourse of pacification and reconciliation. On the network's Sunday show Globe, “Fantastic”, the crime was presented as a result of political extremes. Several politicians and officials were quick to condemn the clashes between extreme positions.

There is an attempt to equate the limited opposition through political parties with the manipulations and militia acts linked to the practices of the Brazilian extreme right.

In the passage from dictatorship to democracy, this ghost of extremes was called “theory of the two demons” and justified the controlled exit from the civil-military regime without major ruptures. In democracy, on many occasions, acts of exception by public agents in the peripheries are justified, alleging the violence of the other, always marginal, drug dealer, element with passage in the police, linked to organized crime, among other definitions of the extreme enemy that makes him susceptible to being deleted.

There are, from the point of view of politics functioning through war, two elements that we would like to comment on: the illicit and genocidal actions of the Brazilian State and the production of the enemy.

We can say that the political crime in Foz do Iguaçu is related to the massacre in Vila Cruzeiro. In this second case, in a typical police action in the city of Rio de Janeiro, at least 25 people were murdered at the end of May, less than two months ago. The massacre took place during the validity of the “ADPF das Favelas” (Arguição de Descumprimento de Preceito Fundamental 635), accepted by the Federal Supreme Court, and which determines, among other things, the limitation of police action in these territories.

When the police, Civil and Federal Highway, invade the territory and promote the massacre, despite the Judiciary having imposed limits on this type of action, the State is acting illegally and, as a result of this situation, making the political choice for war. to certain segments of the population. Instead of complying with the Constitution and guaranteeing these territories access to health, education and a dignified life, public agents corroborate the permanent existence of a state of exception.

Initially made possible by legal mechanisms, the state of exception has the force of law, when using state violence, guaranteed by measures legitimized in the laws of the rule of law itself. Killing under strong emotion, legitimate defense of security agents, excluding illegality, resistance acts, among other terms, are the names that have been given to the effort to make lawful what is already an everyday illicit practice. The strategy of including a license to kill in the law marks one of the facets of the exception in the country, aiming to produce mechanisms that establish war as a social practice.

In Brazil, the state of exception is the norm in precarious territories and against the disposable bodies of democracy. However, not necessarily the norm inscribed in the law, but that of daily and continuous action. This is what the action in Vila Cruzeiro demonstrates, in which the main site of violence was at the top of the hill, known as Promised land.

The permanent and legitimate exception makes militarization the government's authority and right-wing groups and militias the dispatchers of liberated violence. This is how the “promised” massacre in Vila Cruzeiro relates to the murder of Marcelo Arruda. With the rise of the extreme right to command the executive power, the practice of exception and state violence, historically reinforced by its dispatchers, gained an extremely serious connotation.

And this process of permanent exception and implicit or explicit authorization of violence only becomes viable through the production of the undesirable body.

The enemy, according to the discourse of violence and hate, is polymorphous and is found everywhere, which makes it possible to maintain the existence of his ghost in any space or relationship, personal, public and, as we have seen, even between people who do not know. It doesn't matter who the other is, but what the other represents in a society divided by racism, fascism and patriarchy.

State violence proves to be inseparable from violence exercised against the other. In this sense, constitutional mechanisms for triggering the state of exception are not enough, as it is anomic warlike violence and released to any sphere. It is necessary to produce a society permeated by undesirable bodies that supposedly represent a danger to the very lives of those on the other side.

If we were to make an inventory of democracy, we would have to talk about a history with “two faces”, as the philosopher Achille Mbembe teaches us: one “solar” and the other “nocturnal”. In the “solar” aspect, we could speak of a citizen Constitution, consolidation of democratic values, State and social policies, alternation of power, etc. In the “nocturnal” vestige of democracy, we have to face the face of racism, femicide violence, ethnocide against native peoples, right-wing militia cowardice, genocide of black and peripheral people.

Just as the favelas of Rio de Janeiro were born from the promise of another life that would come after the manipulated process of abolition, at the end of the XNUMXth century, democracy was conceived in the country as the elaboration of a society of “mixture” and miscegenation. , in which blacks and whites would live peacefully, reconciling their past wounds. In the promised land of the last decades of democracy, black and poor people from the periphery continued to experience the dictatorship of violence and precariousness.

* Edson Teles is professor of political philosophy at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP). Author, among other books, of The Abyss in History: Essays on Brazil in Times of the Truth Commission (Mall).

Originally published on Boitempo's blog.


See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table