Lula's tears and Bolsonaro's laughter

Image: Egor Kamelev


To those who are denied mourning, in general, scornful laughter is also addressed, the mocking violence that denies the humanity of those humiliated and attacked.

Laughter and crying are human expressions full of moral content. What is a cause for laughter and what is worthy of mourning and tears are more than the product of judgment or the passions, they are matters of life and death. Of the meanings of life and death. Laughter is a party, but it can be the instrument of death. In all extermination processes, there are specific scenes of laughter and crying. To those who are denied mourning, in general, scornful laughter is also addressed, the mocking violence that denies the humanity of the humiliated and assaulted. In the most painful memories, there is often the mocking laughter of those who look from above, of those who plunder, outrage, violate, exploit, enslave. The laughter that is a party is always collective. The laughter that violates is narcissistic or flattering. The violent person is, with few caricatured exceptions, a laugher.

In a sermon on the tears of Heráclitus and the laughter of Democritus, Father Antonio Vieira said the following: “Whoever truly knows the world will precisely cry; and anyone who laughs or does not cry does not know him.” He argues, therefore, that Heraclitus was more right to weep than Democritus to laugh. The weeping that is knowledge of the world occurs through shared pain. The most intense pains do not provoke tears when we are in complete solitude. Dry tears. But if someone – a friend, a brother, a lover, even an animal (“Nothing / is so rude enough / that he never pities / and shuns living in our company”, wrote Drummond), pities us, the crying collapses.

Those who cry out of self-pity are narcissists and rarely shy away from laughing at the first one who crosses their path with greater or lesser pain than theirs. Vieira also argues that Democritus's laughter was, in fact, the most desperate cry, the one that, being so extreme, is not expressed through tears, but through constant laughter. He considers, therefore, that there is laughter that is, in fact, crying. But, we add, there is also crying that is actually laughter. Crying with joy is a common experience. But the cry that is laughter, as such, can also be mocking laughter.

In recent weeks, we have seen Lula and Bolsonaro cry on public occasions. One cried because, as Vieira said, “he truly knows the world”. I cry without impostures and artifices. The other wept because he despises the world and wants to bend it to his tyrant will. A cry of hate, of frustration, of a bad loser. Thus, the cry of one is for the pain of many. The cry of the other is an obscene farce of contempt for everything other than himself.

Lula cried at the ceremony of his graduation as president-elect at the Superior Electoral Court. He cried the same tears twenty years later. The eyes, as Vieira also defines, are the doors to the soul. And there are pains that have a fixed abode in parts of the soul that never heal. In 2002, when he was elected president for the first time, Lula cried when he said that it was his first diploma.

The diploma of President of the Republic was, then, offered for the democratic “boldness” (to use the term that Lula himself used) of a people who elected those who had been harshly attacked and humiliated for not having higher education. Crying is a gesture. What voice and tears expressed there was not resentment, revenge, but the knowledge of the world and the recognition that that pain was the pain of many. A cry of visibility, of collective dignity, of overcoming. After Lula's first diploma, millions of poor, black and black young people, historically prevented from accessing higher education, were able to cry the same tears when receiving their diplomas and remembering their fellow men, their humiliated, raped and enslaved ancestors. Recalling that excerpt from his 2002 speech, Lula wept again, at the 2022 diplomacy. A cry of collective victory.

During his campaign, we saw Lula cry a few times, mainly, on occasions when he spoke of the more than 33 million Brazilians who, under the government of Jair Bolsonaro, were pushed into hunger and misery. Lula knows the world, he knows humiliation and hunger. And hunger, in the terms of Carolina Maria de Jesus, was his teacher. There were some elitist and silly people who complained about Lula's tears about hunger, under accusations of populism (this empty political idea).

But that's just the lament of decadent oligarchies, like those from which Lima Barreto extracted characters that he had to turn over tombs and take classes in Javanese. There was, rather, collective crying, as in the presentation of the book “Letters from a president in prison”. A river of tears that washed everyone's soul, with a taste of happiness and sadness, of collective resistance. Who can resist so many emotions? Those tears felt like a group hug, a loving catharsis after perfidious injustice.

After more than forty days of conspiratorial seclusion and silence, Jair Bolsonaro was seen in tears at a military ceremony. Upon being greeted by the wife of an officer of the Armed Forces, he shed some tears. Of the few times he has appeared in public since he lost the election, on October 30, 2022, Jair Bolsonaro has always displayed a downcast, tearful countenance. All these appearances took place at military ceremonies, in the usual olive green coup frame. The cowardice of reducing the Republic to a barracks. Worse, the illegality of the barracks that aspire to be the Republic. Anyway, like everything in Jair Bolsonaro, a cry of pure farce. The scenario in which a defeated in legitimate elections, who sought to sabotage the democratic order from the first hour he came to power, tries to play the character of the wronged by a corrupted system.

The greetings of the military couple at the ceremonial unbuttoned the plots of the scenic game in which the empty character found the threads to make the tears flow through the clumsy mask. The fierce, when they see power slipping through their fingers, emulate the gestures of the meek. They wear the skins of the lambs they killed the day before. Farce is also mockery because it has no concern for verisimilitude. Jair Bolsonaro has always been a cabotage Antônio Salieri. The inhuman subject who will soon be evicted from Planalto has always mocked the pain of others. The cult of torture and torturers is a mark of his inhumanity. When he voted in favor of the coup against President Dilma Rousseff in the plenary of the Chamber of Deputies, he made a point of exalting the memory of Ustra, a nefarious torturer that he himself defined as “the terror of Dilma Rousseff”.

It wasn't enough to praise the torturer, he did it by attacking the honor of the woman tortured by him. He did it all with a wide smile on his face, demonstrating his smallness. So are the violent. Faced with the nearly 700 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, deaths that he himself has made efforts to promote, and for which he has to answer on the benches of the courts, he has not shed a tear. A sadist. To his victims and the victims of the pandemic, he always dedicated scornful laughter and aggressive contempt, as when he ordered interlocutors to buy vaccines “at his mother's house”, or when he imitated people suffering from COVID-19 suffocating.

Jair Bolsonaro's cry at the military ceremony is not even self-pity, a defect of low character. It's the coup scam of the heartless. It's rotten milk served hot to flatterers. It is a scornful laugh that tries to attack once more those who suffered under his acts of brutality and inhumanity. He tries to attack us, but fails miserably. Because we defeated him. And we will have the last laugh, because, from now on, it will be like in the verses of Chico Buarque: “You will pay and it will be doubled / Each tear shed in my pain”.

* André Rodrigues is professor of political science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).

*Andres Del Rio is professor of political science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).

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