On the art of not seeing the fire

Ranjani Shettar (1977), Seven Ponds and a Few Drops of Rain, 2017.


Final considerations on the discussion with Leonardo Avritzer

I end my participation in the discussion with Leonardo Avritzer – held in a series of articles posted on the site the earth is round – with two considerations.[1] The first concerns his inability to simply understand the nature of dissent, which is sad for a professor of political science. According to him, I would have avoided answering him, since: “The question I asked, and which Safatle was unable to answer, is whether the logic of violence that comes from an excluding and violent state should determine the logic of action of movements social”.

Avritzer failed to understand that the problem was more fundamental, namely, his concept of “violence” is unclear, empty and imprecise and, if you will, “non-political” or simply “ideological”. In no way would he designate an action against a statue, made with absolutely no intention of injuring anyone, in a pedestrianized area, as “violence”. He imagined that the use of quotation marks was immediately understandable.

Describing actions of this nature as “violence” only shows a certain inability to understand the real dynamics of social struggle that will not be compensated for by the classic and well-worn academic prank of citing what is meant by the “most recent bibliography” and citing classic texts giving simply distorted interpretations ( as happened with the critique of violence, by Benjamin, in a Buenos Aires and social-democratic light version).

Therefore, the question asked by Avritzer completely loses its meaning because we do not even agree on what “violence” effectively means. It would have been better to have discussed this point rather than having a completely fetishistic and magical conception of certain words.

The second consideration is about a certain ability to simply see what one wants to see, even if everything shows the opposite. Avritzer ends his rejoinder by making considerations about the recent process of struggles in Chile and, for that, he lingers before what happened to the statue of General Baquedano. She was eventually removed from the scene. According to Avritzer, this would be an example of “non-violent” action since the only action he describes would be the symbolic struggle for the meaning of the statue. Fight made by placing the Mapuche flag on the statue by demonstrators.

And Avrtizer then brings a photo. By the way, a photo where we see the demonstrators with the aforementioned flag amidst the fire and smoke resulting from the fights in the streets. That is, everything that was happening around him is of no interest to Avritzer because the event he selected from its context gained a magical explanation that should show how: “The institution of the new does not happen from the setting of fire, a destructive form of action but of using the language of politics”.

But the most terrifying thing, and I hope this was just the result of a lack of knowledge of the concrete history of the facts, is that the statue was burned by demonstrators. In other words, in this specific case the “institution of the new” was supported by the placement of fire, which has nothing simply “destructive” (yet another classic conservative ghost linked to the process of disqualification of manifestations of popular sovereign power). Allow me to repeat: the statue of General Baquedano was burned by demonstrators on March 05, 2021 (whoever wants to can find the video at https://www.biobiochile.cl/noticias/nacional/region-metropolitana/2021/03/05/nuevo-viernes-de-manifestaciones-en-plaza-baquedano-desvios-provocan-gran-congestion.shtml).

After that, it became unsustainable for the Piñera government to continue trying to preserve it. A month later, it was withdrawn. In other words, the example chosen by Avritzer was constructed in more or less the same way as those false news created from undue relationships between cause and effect are constructed.

I will end just by reminding you that the transformations in Chile were made thanks to a broad concept of politics in which it finds itself: popular force, heroic resistance against police forces that perpetrated more than 40 murders, streets burning and parties capable of not criminalizing such processes, but of listen and stand beside the demonstrators. In Avritzer's magical world, none of that exists.

*Vladimir Safatle He is a professor of philosophy at USP. Author, among other books, of Ways of transforming worlds – Lacan, politics and emancipation (Authentic).


[1] Here is the list of articles, in chronological order:

Vladimir Safatle, “The Liberation of the Past”: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/a-liberacao-do-passado/]

Leonardo Avritzer, “Bastille and Borba Gato”: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/bastilha-e-borba-gato/

Vladimir Safatle, “Please make a disclaimer next time”: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/por-favor-da-proxima-vez-facam-uma-nota-de-repudio/

Leonardo Avritzer, “Between the fire on the statue and drop a note: the resignification of public space”: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/entre-o-fogo-na-estatua-e-soltar-uma-nota-a-ressignificacao-do-espaco-publico/


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