Farewell, beast!

Clara Figueiredo, series_ Brasília_ fungi and simulacra, national congress, 2018.
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By RICARDO CAVALCANTI-SCHIEL*

If the PT insists on playing the part of a republican fool, it will be devoured by the wolves

Four years ago, in a interview for the Unisinos Humanitas Institute, I defended the hypothesis that the Bolsonaro government, which was about to begin, would be characterized by just one thing: destruction.

Of course, it was no prophecy. It was just a truism. What was not very difficult to deduce logically, still today, probably for the overwhelming majority of people, in the realm of feelings, arouses a profound aversion: better not to see very well (despite knowing yourself quite well), so as not to be assailed by the discouragement, because of the displeasure of having been Brazilian for the past four years.

We know the size of boçalidade very well, but, for the sake of psychological health, it was recommended not to feel the size of perversity, however wide open it may be, even to be intimidating (the social tactic par excellence of Bolsonarism and probably its exclusive trait of sociability). Now it's hangover time. Now it will be necessary to start doing the math… and feel the size of the damage.

The biggest challenge of Lula's election was simply this: now, all those who think of a life in society - because half of the Brazilian population was indoctrinated, by the most varied discursive tactics (I only use this term because it is more conceptually elegant than "brainwashing" ), not to think about it – we can get indignant again, without it destroying us from the inside.

Bolsonarist intimidation is analogous to that of Nazism: the nullification of thought under the steamroller of mystification and bestiality, without effective social means to challenge them. Everything boils down to a minimal survival program. Bolsonarism is indeed biblical, to the exact extent that it is not much more than a form of damnation.

The political logic of Bolsonarism was shown in absolute fullness: that of the annihilation of differences. It is tremendously naive that some “political scientists” and naive scientists want to see this state of affairs as a casual and naturalized fact, merely observable, which expresses a polarization as if it were the Zeitgeist of a post-post-modernity woven by bolsonaristas and petistas, both equally vociferous. No! This state of affairs was produced by one side, and it must be said by whom. And that now needs to enter the balance of accounts, without which, Jair Bolsonaro will have won the third round, and politics in Brazil will enter a stage of permanent zombification once and for all.

São Paulo's PSDB acquitted Paulo Maluf and gained more than three decades of control of the local government. In the end, toucanism was nourished by malufismo, to enter, both, in deep symbiosis, until Bolsonarism insinuated itself as a much more potent high. In the case of the latter, however, the thing is of a different nature of toxicity.

I suspect that if the forces that elected Lula acquit Jair Bolsonaro, they will not remain in control of any government for more than two years. And this is not prophecy either. It is simple logical deduction. Simply because these forces will be making the very possibility of politics unfeasible and surrendering to the symbolic field demarcated by Bolsonarism, as they so joyfully dedicated themselves to doing during the election campaign.

When the government transition team looks at the breakdown of the secret budget headings, it will have a more accurate map of the size of the loot and who is who in the predatory pack. It will be necessary to make good use of this data. If the PT insists on playing the part of a republican fool (former president Dilma Rousseff's favorite sport), it will be devoured by the wolves. Because it is the nature of wolves to devour (and republicanism be damned).

This is not a “witch hunt”, as fearfully hinted at by the still-president of the Chamber, leader of the Centrão, in his first speech after Lula's new election. It is a question of disarming the mechanisms of the destruction machine and bringing its innards to light.

And that's just your budget facet. The institutional face of destruction is even darker. If progressives play republican fools with, for example, those who are the greatest (because they are the most systematic), most incorrigible and most calculating enemies of the Brazilian people, the military, they will be handing themselves over as hostages to those who do not hesitate for a single minute to endorse the destruction of the country, in the name of its tutelary privileges.

I have serious doubts, however, whether the PT and its allies offer greater hope of reversing the destruction. Throughout the campaign, Lula spoke to the hopeless. He promised them opportunities. And not much more than that. At the stage of deterioration we are in, anything else is perhaps too much of an abstraction indeed. But what Lula may not know is that the logic of the machine of (individual) “opportunities” is the same that drives the predatory doctrine that society is unthinkable. Or is it enough to establish quotas for social networks and influencers, to then manufacture more “empowered” people?

I could be wrong, but in no campaign speech that I can remember, I heard Lula speak of the common good and the construction of public space. Of course, too much abstraction! (Interestingly, what is now an abstraction was the central argument of Lula's 1989 presidential campaign). It remains to be seen whether these abstractions, in terms of a political view of the world, ever become part of the “opportunities” equation. From what has already been demonstrated by the PT governments, it does not seem so.

What Lula doesn't seem to know is that behind the “opportunities”, in a society like Brazil, hide privileges, or better (or worse), the logic of privilege. The left, in general, still does not seem to have discovered this – orthodox Marxists, in their naivete, are excused, because, for them, “culture” (what some anthropologists understand as the great submerged unconscious of the iceberg in which “cultural” manifestations are just the tip above water) is no more than an imponderable abstraction.

In terms of symbolic landmarks, what seems to be missing from the discourse of the Brazilian progressives' program of opportunities is simply society, that which is built through relationships, and not through reified identities. In the only moment that I saw the PT questioned by a diffuse demand for the expansion of citizenship, which was in June 2013, its reaction was very close to the patheticism of someone who sold his soul for perpetual, enjoyable and unquestionable power.

Reified power was elevated to paroxysm by Bolsonarism. Here, too, it is society that is abstracted from the equation. My doubts about whether the PT will be able to reverse the destruction are based on the recognition, first, that the destruction is much deeper than that of “lack of opportunities” and, second, that the PT hates self-criticism. By the way, Lula got out of prison in Curitiba and categorically banned it. And if, today, one of the fields of “polarization” managed to sell its political agenda of the annihilation of those who are different, it did so largely because it found a field of expectations fertilized by the arrogance of the other field.

More than ever it is necessary to be attentive and strong. But those who are afraid of farts are not strong (and what is Centrão, if not the realm of flatulence?). It's not enough to dispatch the beast with a party on Paulista (more than justified and memorable catharsis). It is necessary to deconstruct the machine of destruction at its most intimate level; have the courage to do it; reinvent yourself along that path; and leave no more room for bestiality itself. Otherwise, progressivism will be trapped in the enchantment of its (beast) nostalgia for better days ahead.

*Ricardo Cavalcanti-Schiel Professor of Anthropology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS).

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