The repressed shadows

José Resende Sculpture /Açude Museum, Rio de Janeiro


Why did Brazil reach this sinister historical figure, as head of state, which defies any psychological, ethical and political understanding?

There are countless excellent analyzes of the anti-phenomenon Jair Messias Bolsonaro, predominantly sociological, historical and economic. I believe we must dig deeper to grasp the irruption of this Negative in our history.

Western reflection, due to the cultural limits of our ingrained individualism, has hardly developed analytical categories to analyze historical totalities. Hegel's in his Philosophy of History, is riddled with prejudices, including about Brazil, and has few usable categories. Arnold Toynbee in his 10 volumes on world history works with a fruitful but limited scheme: challenge and response (challenge and response) with the drawback of not giving relevance to conflicts of all kinds, inherent to the story. The French School of Annals, in its variations (Lefbre, Braudel, Le Goff) included several sciences but did not offer us a reading of history as a whole. The categories developed by Ortega y Gasset in his famous study on Crisis schemes and other essays(1942)

We have to try to think for ourselves and ask ourselves in a philosophical attitude, that is to say, that seeks deeper causes than those merely analytical of the sciences: why did Brazil reach this sinister historical figure, as head of state, who defies any psychological understanding, ethics and politics?

Beforehand we must say that everything that exists is not fortuitous, since it is the result of a pre-existing, of long duration, which it is up to reason to unravel. Furthermore, it is always necessary to think about it dialectically: together with the negative and the somber, the positive dimensions that bring some light always accompany them as acolytes. We are not allowed to have only light or darkness. All realities are crepuscular, mixing light and shadows. But our focus in this reflection is on the shadows, because they are the ones that cause us problems.

I will make use of some categories: that of repressed shadows, the theory of destructive and generative chaos, the transpersonal understanding of karma in the dialogue between Toynbee and the Japanese philosopher Daisaku Ikeda and the principles of thanatos and Eros, associated with condition umgroin of beings sapiens and simultaneously demens.

The four shadows repressed by the collective consciousness

Brazilian consciousness is dominated by four shadows that until now have never been recognized and integrated. I understand the category “shadow” in the psychoanalytical sense of the school of CG Jung and disciples, which became a category widely accepted by the other schools. Shadow would be the dark and negative contents that a culture with its collective conscious/unconscious refuses to assimilate and thus represses them and strives to remove them from the collective memory. Such repression prevents a coherent and sustained process of national individuation.

The first appears in the shadow of indigenous genocide. According to Darcy Ribeiro, there would be a population of around 5-6 million indigenous people with hundreds of languages, a unique fact in world history. They were practically wiped out. The current 900 thousand remained. Let us remember the massacres of Mem de Sá on May 31, 1580, which liquidated the Tupiniquim of the Captaincy of Ilhéus. For a kilometer and a half along the beach, at a distance of a few meters from each other, lay hundreds of bodies of murdered natives, reported as glory to the King of Portugal.

Worse still was the war officially declared by D. João VI, barely arrived in Brazil, fleeing from Napoleon's troops, who decimated the Botocudos (Krenak) in the Rio Doce valley, because they thought they were uncivilizable and uncatechiable. This official war will forever stain the national memory. Ailton Krenak, whose ancestors survived, reminds us of this shameful official war of a ruthless emperor, considered good.

The current government of a supine ignorance in anthropology, considers indigenous peoples as sub-humans who must be forced to enter our cultural codes in order to be humane and civilized. The carelessness shown by his invaded reservations and abandonment in the face of Covid-19 borders on genocide, liable to be taken to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The second shadow is ours colonial past. There was no discovery of Brazil but a pure and simple invasion, destroying the initial peaceful idyll described by Pero Vaz de Caminha. A profoundly uneven clash of civilizations took place. Soon began the process of occupation and violence due to the riches existing here. Every colonialist process is violent. It implies invading lands, subjugating peoples, forcing them to speak the invader's language, incorporating their forms of social organization and the complete dehumanizing submission of the dominated. From this process of submission, the mongrel complex arose, thinking that only what comes from outside or from above is good, always lowering one's head and abandoning any pretense of autonomy and one's own project.

The mentality of a good part of the ruling strata still consider themselves colonial in a certain way, for mimicking the lifestyles and assuming the values ​​of their bosses that have varied throughout our history. Today, it constitutes a humiliating expression for the entire nation, the fact that the current head of state makes a special trip to the USA, salutes the American flag and pays an explicit rite of allegiance to President Donad Trump, extravagant, ego-centered and by notable US analysts the stupidest in the political history of that country.

The third shadow, the most perverse of all, was that of slavery. The journalist and historian Laurentino Gomes, in his two volumes on The Slavery (2019/2020) tells us the hell of this process of inhumanity. Brazil was the champion of slavery. He alone imported, from 1538 onwards, around 4,9 million Africans who were enslaved here. Of the 36 transatlantic trips, 14.910 were destined for Brazilian ports.

These enslaved people were treated like merchandise, called “pieces”. The first thing the buyer did to “bring them well tamed and disciplined” was to punish them, “let there be whips, let there be chains and fetters”. The history of slavery was written by the white hand, presenting it as mild, when, in fact, it was extremely cruel and continues today against the black, mulatto (54,4% of the population) and poor population, as Jessé has irrefutably shown. souza in The Elite of Delay: From Slavery to Bolsonaro (2020). After the abolition in 1888, no compensation was given to the slaves, they were left to hell and make up most of the favelas today. The slightest humanity was never recognized in them. The ruling class, transferring hatred to the slave, got used to humiliating them, to offending them until they lost the sense of their dignity.

This shadow weighs heavily on the collective conscience and is the most repressed, in the false statement that there is no racism or discrimination here. In the current government this has been unmasked by the systematic violence against this population stimulated by the head of state who has been conducting a necrophilic policy. This shadow, due to its inhumanity, evoked sensitive people like the poet Castro Alves. His verses will resound forever in Voices from Africa:

“O God, where are you that you do not answer? In which world, in which star are you hiding / Cloaked in the skies? Two thousand years ago I sent you my cry / May it flow, since then, the infinite runs… / Where are you, Lord God”. That cry is still as piercing today as it was then.

Jessé Souza, in his aforementioned work, convincingly showed how the ruling class, in order to prevent any advance of the marginalized majorities, projected onto them all the negativities that it accumulated in the face of slaves, this “mass damnata” with refinements of exclusion. , discrimination and true hatred that amazes us and reveals unbelievable levels of dehumanization.

The fourth shadow is the constitution of a Brazil just for the few. Raymundo Faoro (the power holders) and historian and academic José Honório Rodrigues (Conciliation and reform in Brazil, 1982) have narrated the violence with which the people were treated to establish an order, the result of conciliation between the opulent classes always with the intentional exclusion of the people.

José Honório Rodrigues writes: “The dominant majority has always been alienated, anti-progressive, anti-national and non-contemporary. The leadership was never reconciled with the people; denied them their rights, devastated her life and as soon as she saw her grow up she gradually denied her approval, conspired to put her back on the periphery in the place she thinks she belongs to” (Reconciliation and Reform Brazill, 1982, p.16). Wasn't that exactly what the ruling majority and its allies did with Dilma Rousseff first and then with candidate Lula? Strategies change but never their purposes of a Brazil just for them.

There has never been a national project that included everyone. A Brazil for the few was projected. The others let go. Thus, not a nation emerged, but as Luiz Gonzaga de Souza Lima showed in detail, in a book that will surely become a classic, The Refoundation of Brazil: towards a biocentric civilization ((2011) Grande Empresa Brasil was founded, internationalized since the beginning in order to serve the world markets yesterday and until the present time. Thus we have a Brazil deeply divided between a few rich and the great poor majority, one of the most unequal countries in the world. world, which means, a violent country full of social injustices. Machado de Assis had already observed that there are two Brazils, the official one (the latter of the few) and the real one (of the great excluded majorities).

A society set up at a crossroads, on a perverse social injustice, will never create an internal cohesion that will allow it to leap towards more civilized forms of coexistence. A wild capitalism has always prevailed here, which has never managed to be civilized. And when the sons and daughters of poverty managed to accumulate sufficient basic political strength to reach central power and meet the basic demands of humiliated and offended populations, soon the descendants of Casa Grande and the new national bourgeoisie organized themselves to make this type of government impossible. of social inclusion. They dealt him a shameful, parliamentary, media and legal coup in order to guarantee the levels of accumulation considered to be the highest in the world and keep the poor in their place, on the periphery and in the poor and miserable marginality.

Writer Luiz Fernando Veríssimo summed it up in a twitter on September 6, 2020: “Hatred is in the DNA of the Brazilian ruling class, which historically overthrows, by arms if necessary, any threat to its dominion, whatever its initials”. It is this class of wealthy people that is not even an elite, because this presupposes a certain cultivation of humanity and culture, sustains the current ultra-rightist and fascistoid government for not threatening them with the abusive form of accumulation, rather the Minister of Finance, Guedes, disciple of school of Vienna and Chicago appears as the great demolisher of national sovereignty. The president knows nothing and understands what national sovereignty is.

The destructive and generative chaos

Another category that could make us better understand our current gloomy situation is that from chaos in its double destructive and constructive function.

It all started with the observation of random phenomena such as the formation of clouds and particularly what came to be called butterfly Effect (Small initial modifications, such as the fluttering of a butterfly's wings in Brazil that could, in the end, cause a storm in New York due to the interdependence of all factors. In addition, an observation is made of the growing complexity that is at the root of emergence of higher and higher forms of life (cf. J.Gleick Chaos: creation of a new science,1989). The universe originated from a tremendous initial chaos the big bang. Evolution was and is done to bring order to this chaos.

The original meaning is the following: chaos has a destructive dimension: it puts an end to a certain type of order that has reached its climax. But behind the destructive chaos there are constructive dimensions of a new order. And vice versa, dimensions of chaos are hidden behind order in such a way that reality is dynamic and fluctuating, always in search of balance. Ilya Progrine (1917-2993), Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977, particularly studied the conditions that allow the emergence of life. According to this great scientist, whenever there is an open system, whenever there is a situation of chaos (far from equilibrium) and a non-linearity of factors prevails, it is the connectivity between the parts that generates a new order (cf. Order out of Chaos, 1984). It was in this context that life erupted as a cosmic imperative.

Undeniably we live in Brazil in a situation of very serious chaos. In the context of Covid-19, which is decimating almost 200 lives, we have a President who is completely silent and without any concern for the cruel fate of his people, a denialist with a stupidity and arrogance, typical of authoritarian people with signs of mental insanity. A head of state must be a person of synthesis (symbolic) and not of division (diabolical) and personally live the ethical and civic virtues that he wants to see in citizens. This one does exactly the opposite, encourages hatred, lies blatantly and loses all sense of the dignity of the position he occupies.

The authorities that have power such as the National Congress, the MPF, the STF and others prove to be silent, inertly and irresponsibly watching the genocide that is taking place. I believe that history will be implacable towards the omissions of these authorities who did nothing to face such disregard for the fate of millions of families who mourn their dead. The current president has committed so many cases of serious irresponsibility that he would legally and ethically deserve an impeachment or a pure simple dismissal by a hit of leaders supported by crowds in the streets.

We take comfort in the fact that there is hidden within this humanitarian chaos a higher and better order. Who will unravel it and overcome the chaos?

We need to form a broad front of progressive forces opposed to privatization and neo-colonization of the country to unravel the new order, hidden in the current chaos but which wants to be born. We have to do this delivery even if it is painful. Otherwise, we will remain hostages and victims of those who have always thought corporately only of themselves, with their backs turned and, as now, against the people.

The Western Interpretation of Transpersonal Karma

Finally, I make use of a category, originating from the East, which, reinterpreted in the light of the new Earth and life sciences, can bring us enlightening elements. It is the category of karma, object of one of a three-day long dialogue between historian Arnold Toynbee and Japanese philosopher Daisaku Ikeda (cf. (cf. choose life, Emece. Buenos Aires, 2005).

karma is a Sanskrit term originally meaning strength and movement, concentrated on the word “action” that provokes its corresponding “re-action”. A transpersonal interpretation seems important because, as I pointed out above, we do not have conceptual categories in the West that account for a sense of historical development, for an entire community and its institutions in their positive and negative dimensions.

Each person is marked by the actions they performed in life. This action is not restricted to the person but connotes his entire environment. It is a kind of ethical current account whose balance is constantly changing depending on the good or bad actions performed, that is, the “debits and credits”. Even after death, the person, in the Buddhist belief, carries this account so that he can have more rebirths, until the negative account is zeroed out.

The great historian and thinker Toynbee gives it another version, within the framework of the western paradigm, which seems enlightening to me and helps us understand our history a little too. History is made of relational networks within which each person is inserted, linked with those who preceded him and with those present. There is a karmic functioning in the history of a people and its institutions depending on the levels of goodness and justice or evil and injustice that they produced over time. So thought Toynbee.

This would be a kind of morphic field that would remain pervading everything. The hypothesis of many rebirths is not required, as the eastern tradition presupposes, because the network of bonds guarantees the continuity of the destiny of a people (p.384). Karmic realities permeate institutions, landscapes, shape people and leave their marks on the culture of a people. This karmic force acts in socio-historical processes, marking beneficial or harmful facts. CG Jung in his archetypal psychology had somehow noticed this fact.

Let us apply this karmic law to our situation under Bolsonaro's nefarious rule. It will not be difficult to recognize that we are carriers of a very heavy karma, on a large scale, derived from the indigenous genocide, from the super-exploitation of the slave labor force, from predatory colonization, from the injustices perpetrated against a large part of the population, black, mestizo and poor by moneyed and insensitive bourgeoisie, thrown on the periphery, with families destroyed and corroded by hunger and disease.

Both Toynbee and Ikeda agree on this: “modern society (ourselves included) can only be healed of its karmic burdens through a spiritual revolution in the heart and mind.(p.159), in line with compensatory justice and healing policies with just institutions, as Pope Francis has been insistently proclaiming in his social and ecological encyclicals, Laudato Si and Fratelli tutti. Without this minimal justice, the karmic load will not be undone.

But she alone is not enough. Love, solidarity and universal compassion are needed, especially towards the victims. It is the central and paradigmatic proposal of the Fratelli tutti. of Pope Francis. Love will be the most effective engine because, deep down, “it is the ultimate reality” (p.387). A society incapable of effectively loving and being less evil, will never deconstruct a history so marked by negative and inhuman karma, strangely realized within a culture coined by Christianity, day after day betrayed. This is the challenge posed by the current systemic crisis.

Didn't the masters of humanity, like Jesus, Buddha, Isaiah, San Francisco, Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Luther King Jr and Pope Francis preach something else? Only good karma redeems reality from the karmic force of evil. And if Brazil does not make this karmic reversal, it will remain from crisis to crisis, destroying its own future as the necrophiliac and insane president of this country is doing, amidst lies, fake news, irony and mockery.

The illuminating function of the thanatos and demens principles

These are well-known expressions in the West and need no further explanation. It is worth remembering that these are principles and not simply accidental dimensions. Principle is that which makes all beings exist or without which beings do not break into reality. Thus was developed by Sigmund Freud the principle from thanatos that accompanies the Eros that live in every human being. O thanatos emerges as that drive that leads to violence, destruction and, in the end, death. We have to do with the Negative in the human condition alongside the Positive and the Luminous, which we believe will finally triumph.

The exchange of letters between Freud and Einstein on the possibility of overcoming violence and war is well known, back in 1932. Freud replied that it is impossible directly to overcome the thanatos, only reinforcing the principle of Eros through emotional bonds and the humanizing work of culture. (cf. Complete works III:3,215). But he ends with a heartbreaking sentence: “Famished we think of the mill that grinds so slowly that we can die of hunger before receiving the flour”.

Both principles for Freud have something eternal and leave open which principle will write the last page of life. But the principle of thanatos it can, in moments of history, permeate an entire people and flood the conscience of its leaders, producing socio-political tragedies.

These behaviors also show the principle demens present along with sapiens in humans. We live in a globalized civilization that is under the dominion of demens. It is enough to remember the 200 million deaths in the wars of the last two centuries and the principle of self-destruction already mounted with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, capable of putting an end to human life and our civilization, making such weapons ineffective and ridiculous by Covid-19 .

This principle of dementia is made clear by the intentional murders of blacks, the poor and others with another sexual option and a perverse femicide. All this is sanctioned by a president with clear symptoms of psychopathy, shamefully tolerated by those authorities who could and should, for crimes of social responsibility, denounce him, make him resign or democratically submit him to a legal impeachment. Maybe they themselves are already infected by the virus of the demens, which would explain his leniency and culpable omission.

Conclusion: the occult and the repressed came out of the cellars and a light came on

The sense of our disquisition has this meaning: everything that was hidden and repressed in our society came out of the cellars where for centuries it had been hidden in the vain attempt to deny it or make it socially acceptable, even to paint it rosy, as so do several unworthy ministers who come to see a gain in slavery and the colonial state. But just a little light is enough to undo this dense darkness. Now it has become visible and solar. There's no way to hide it anymore.

We are a contradictory society where we find, at the same time, brilliance in science, literature, visual arts, music and the extremely rich popular culture, generally made in spite of all oppression and from the mainstream and in so many other fields. And at the same time, we are a society that has internalized the oppressor, echoing the voice of the owners, conservative and even backward when compared to countries similar to ours. In a certain sense, we are cruel and merciless towards our fellow human beings, affected by the evils perpetrated by the ultra-wealthy strata and lacking any sense of compassion towards the millions who have fallen on the road without any Samaritan taking pity on them. They pass by without seeing them and what is worse, despising them as if they were not of the same nation or the same human family.

These still confess Christians without having anything to do with the message of the Master of Nazareth. Ethical and humanitarian atheists are closer to the God of Jesus, to the tenderness of the humble and defender of the humiliated and offended, than these merely cultural Christians who use the name of God to defend their nefarious individualist or corporate policies, of a Brazil just for they. They are far from God in denying the sons and daughters of God, called by the Supreme Judge "my lesser brothers and sisters" under whom he himself hid.

There is a lot of truth in what the philosopher Marilena Chaui wrote: “Brazilian society is an authoritarian society, a violent society, it has a predatory economy of human and natural resources, living naturally with injustice, inequality and the absence of freedom and with the astonishing rates of the various institutional forms – formal and informal – of physical and psychic extermination and of social and cultural exclusion”( 500 years - culture and politics in Brazil, n.38 p.32-33). Darcy Ribeiro's idyllic dream of Brazil becoming late and tropical Rome fades into the "vast shadows" as Pope Francis says in the fratelli tutti (ch. I). Celso Furtado, saddened, wrote a whole book at the end of his life: Brasll: the interrupted construction (1993)

All these dark clouds have condensed in recent years and gained their priests and acolytes who consciously assume them, wanting to take Brazil to pre-modern times. If only you could take them back to the Middle Ages, which had its majesty from the majestic cathedrals to the great summaries of theology. The Brazil of this retrograde and unrealizable project has become a grotesque farce and an international mockery.

The set of these vast shadows and the domain of the Negative were condensed in the figure of the current head of state and his government, associated with his project. He is the consequence of this anti-history and its most perverse embodiment. It represents the worst thing that happened in our history and consciously or unconsciously tries to bring it to a final conclusion. But he will not succeed because never in history have the mechanisms of death and hatred managed to carry out their intention, not even Hitler with all his military and scientific might managed to lay the foundations of a Kingdom of Thousand Years as he dreamed.

Historical processes are not blind and aimless. They keep a secret Logos that guides the course of things in consonance with the process of cosmogenesis and generates, from the midst of chaos, superior orders with new possibilities and unsuspected horizons. What will be our place, as a people and as a nation, in the set of all these processes? They mark the direction, but we all have to walk it and build it. We are not allowed to lazily tread in the footprints already made. We have to make our footprints. And we can't be too late either, because this time the path has no return.

I hope we are attentive to what history, despite the reactionary and proto-fascism of Bolsonaro and his followers, will demand of us. As Plato once said: "all great things proceed from chaos". Ours may have the same origin.

*Leonardo Boff, philosopher, theologian and writer, is the author, among other books, of Brazil: complete refoundation or extend dependency (Voices).


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