brazilian asphyxia

Image: Cyrus Saurius

brazilian asphyxia


We are witnessing the actions of the most neglectful, lying, inept and murderous government in our history, the literal asphyxiation that the State – led by Bolsonaro – did in Amazonas, especially in its capital Manaus

“Today's power is based on abstract relationships between numerical entities. While the sphere of finance is governed by algorithms that connect fractals of precarious work, the sphere of life is invaded by flows of chaos that paralyze the social body and muffle and suffocate breathing”. (Franco Berardi, Asphyxiation).

“In times of terror, we choose monsters to protect us” (Mia Couto, The drinker of horizons).

The Italian Franco Berardi, in his work Asphyxiation[1], helps us understand how social relations, belonging to the sphere of language, are being suffocated by a type of ruthless artificial intelligence, commanded by the global financial economy, aiming solely and exclusively at accumulation. It has transformed the forms of social communication and our cognition in such a way, to the point of human culture abandoning humanism, also leaving aside dialogue, tolerance, the common good and solidarity.

Berardi calls this process semi-capitalism, characterized as the maximum abstraction of capital, which systematically interferes in the lives of social groups, increasingly submerged in virtual realities, unable to perceive the real world because they are devoid of reflection and criticism, since they are permanently connected to automatic devices that cloud your vision.

Based on the somewhat catastrophic reading of the Italian philosopher, it is possible to make some comments on the rise of the extreme right in Brazil, which came to power in 2018 largely due to the language of semiotic capitalism, with the help of the so-called mass shootings on the networks. social media such as WhatsApp and Facebook.

Millions of Brazilians, seduced by aberrant information that circulated throughout the country, bet their chips on a reserve soldier, successively elected federal deputy for Rio de Janeiro, with a series of anti-democratic agendas and in favor of the atrocities of the Military Dictatorship.[2].

Such digital masses experienced relational confrontations around what they believe, thus multiplying discursive tensions between family groups, friendships, work, school and college, causing real fissures in the most diverse social relationships.

Bolsonaro’s arrival in power was at the expense of what the psychoanalyst Christian Dunker called “segregative affects”.[3], with strong fascist traits, inherent to a mass that has always existed in Brazil, but which currently has the opportunity to vociferate on social media its most repulsive feelings, such as prejudice, hatred, resentment, envy and frustration. A hypnotized mass, which mirrors itself around the figure of a “myth”, a “hero”, a kind of redeemer who arrived to cure a Brazil that was sick due to “left-wing disease” and rid it of the communist threat. The elected official, however, is nothing more than a mediocre and caricatured figure, incapable of formulating a single proficient idea in his speeches, a clear symptom of the moral and intellectual indigence of the groups that brought him to power. We can infer that it is the semiocapitalism of the digital-technological era that introduces generalized abstractions to these masses, by commanding their nervous systems in everyday life.

It is admissible to state that Brazil is experiencing an unprecedented escalation of various setbacks, a deepening of tensions and social massacres, and as already noted, possible due to a mass that put an ignoble person in power. Using the title of this article as a metaphor, it seems that we are holding our breath, both because of the stench coming from the Planalto, which stinks the air, and because of the successive statements and actions, uttered and carried out by the head of the national executive, who has the ability to take the air out.

Thus, Brazilian asphyxia is represented by socioeconomic and political tragedies that have strong historical roots, which can be seen when entire, segregated, dispossessed and stereotyped populations in large urban centers are subjected to a life without dignity.[4], or when peasants are captured by “contemporary slave labor”[5] on plantations and farms, deprived of sleep, food and water. This strangulation in the country, supported by financial capital and accumulation, can also be seen from the unbridled release of pesticides[6] dangerous to human health, in the loosening of various environmental inspections, contributing to the destruction of biomes and to the contamination of rivers, fish, groundwater and aquifers by products derived from wild mining.

The Brazilian-style suffocation, with the omission or with the government's endorsement, manifests itself when mining transnationals annihilate human lives, throwing thousands of tons of iron and silica waste on top of them - without anyone having been criminally responsible for this to date.[7]; it also appears when factories close their doors and lay off thousands of workers, or even when the daily genocide of the poor and black populations occurs, as access to firearms is facilitated for a specific portion of the population.

The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the situation of a country that was already refusing to emerge from a social, moral, economic and political crisis, much more as a result of the blatant ineffectiveness of a management lost in its own daydreams, accustomed to creating fallacious narratives and to invent imaginary enemies with the aim of stirring up loyal supporters, in addition to quibbling when charged by press bodies or other instituted powers.

It seems unbelievable, but the federal government, mainly through the president and his ministers, has played an ignominious role in combating the pandemic in Brazil, which has already killed, in official numbers, more than 210 inhabitants.

The list of irresponsibility and omissions, in just under a year of the spread of the disease in Brazilian territory, is extensive. It includes the dismissal of two medical ministers of Health, and the appointment – ​​to the same position – of an active-duty general who does not have the minimum knowledge or experience to perform the function. Add to this, public statements that disdained the thousands of people killed by the virus, the incentive to not wear a mask and against social isolation, in addition to making the persistent defense of medicines that do not have scientific evidence to treat the disease, as in shameful pronouncement he made to the nation on March 24, 2020.

The discursive offensive against vaccines is another aspect that draws attention in the sea of ​​​​mud of incompetence and Bolsonarist denialism. The current management is made up of a bunch of people who constantly refuse to listen to the voices and warnings of technicians, scholars, intellectuals and scientists. This includes skepticism in relation to scientific research by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which has shown significant advances in deforestation and burning in the Amazon Forest, it also includes the demonization of the vaccine coronavac, produced by the Butantan Institute, pejoratively dubbed “vaChina” by insane interlocutors.

We are witnessing the actions of the most neglectful, lying, inept and murderous government in our history, the literal asphyxiation that the State – led by Bolsonaro – did in Amazonas, especially in its capital Manaus, is something inhuman and unacceptable. The sad irony is that hundreds are dying in the heart of the Amazon due to lack of oxygen, under the nose of the federal, state and municipal public administration, a police case. The least the president should have done was travel to the Amazonian capital, set up a task force mobilizing all the necessary resources to alleviate the tragedy. But what did he do and do? He went to social media to do what he always did in office, spewing hatred against the press and political opponents, recommending the use of chloroquine to treat Covid-19 patients.

The most astonishing thing is that a portion of Brazilian society is indifferent or even conniving in relation to the disastrous and irresponsible actions of the federal government. Returning to Berardi, this can be explained, in part, by the semiotization of social production, which implies a profound metamorphosis in the processes of subjectivation, affecting, to a large extent, the so-called psychosphere[8], distorting ways of perceiving reality.

The potentially violent digital/virtual language devices under the aegis of financial capitalism, represented by an unprecedented aestheticization of the world, leads us to understand how new subjectivities are forged and why the appearance of unprecedented forms of voluntary servitude, rooted in apathy , in indifference, in the absence of reflection and criticism and inhumanity.

On the other hand, the perversity of the world, materialized in Brazil by the suffocation of dispossessed populations and precarious workers, subject to all kinds of insecurity: food, housing, emotional, etc. exposes the weaknesses and weaknesses of the system, unfair and unhealthy, characterized by Byung-Chul Han as the Fatigue Society, dominated by an abundance of positivity, which generates serious psychic states due to excessive stress, exhaustion and exhaustion[9].

It is in this perspective that possibilities for awareness open up, and as Milton Santos dared to think, “the history of humanity on Earth ultimately has the objective, material and intellectual conditions to overcome the deification of money and technical objects and face the beginning of a new path”[10]. But the challenge is one of the most complex, as it is necessary to perceive oneself in the world, to have a critical and totalizing view of how the system operates in the processes of production of subjectivities, conditioning bodies and minds to satisfy their objectives, which is to leave us trapped in the traps of algorithms and automation, negatively interfering with our wishes, ideas, desires, passions and desires.

Therefore, it is essential to try to understand and believe that this world – from the physical and social point of view – including a country with the diversity and size of Brazil, can be built and rebuilt as many times as necessary. And as David Harvey once wrote[11], we can then move away from fears, anxieties, depressions, overwork and sleepless nights. In this new possible world, there will be no shortage of oxygen cylinders and we will have the opportunity to breathe pure air, without soot, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons and, above all, without the fetid presence of putrefied corpses like Bolsonaro and his cohorts.

* Luiz Eduardo Neves dos Santos, geographer, is professor of the Degree in Human Sciences at the Federal University of Maranhão (UFMA) – Campus Pinheiro.



[1] BERARDI, Franco. Asphyxiation: financial capitalism and language insurrection. São Paulo: Ubu Editora, 2020. 256p.

[2] CAMPOS, Joao Pedroso de. Twelve times Bolsonaro and his children exalted and waved to the dictatorship. Veja. São Paulo, November 1, 2019. Available at: Twelve times Bolsonaro and his children exalted and waved to the dictatorship | VEJA (>. Accessed on 17 Apr. 2021.

[3] DUNKER, Christian. Psychology of the digital masses and analysis of the democratic subject. In: ABRANCHES, Sergio et al. Democracy at Risk? 22 essays on Brazil today. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2019. p. 116-135.

[4] VASCONCELOS, Gabriel; ROSES, Raphael. Number of households in favelas in Brazil is 5,12 million, informs IBGE. Valor Econômico. Rio de Janeiro, May 19, 2020. Available at:Number of homes in favelas in Brazil is 5,12 million, informs IBGE | Brazil | Valor Econômico (>. Accessed on 17 Jan. 2021.

[5] RODRIGUES, Savio Jose Dias. Those who don't have are slaves to those who have: peasant migration and the reproduction of contemporary slave labor. São Paulo: Paco Editorial, 2020. 248p.

[6] MILK, Catalina. Bolsonaro government has already registered 745 new pesticides; number is the highest in 15 years. The People online. Fortaleza, August 10, 2020. Available at: Bolsonaro government has already registered 745 new pesticides; number is the highest in 15 years | Brazil – Latest News from Brazil | O POVO Online>. Accessed on 17 Jan. 2020.

[7] MARTINS, Patricia. Brumadinho a year later: impunity and suffering of those who stayed. congress in focus. January 22, 2020. Available at: Brumadinho a year later: impunity and the suffering of those who stayed | Congress in Focus (>. Accessed on 17 Jan 2020.

[8] SANTOS, Milton. The Nature of Space: Technique and time, reason and emotion. 2nd ed. São Paulo: EDUSP, 2002. (Milton Santos Collection 1). 384p.

[9] HAN, Byung-Chul. Tiredness Society. 2nd ed. enlarged Petrópolis: Voices, 2015. 128p.

[10] SANTOS, Milton. For Another Globalization: from single thought to universal consciousness. Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2000. 176p.

[11] HARVEY, David. Spaces of Hope. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Edições Loyola, 2006. 382p.


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