From Plato's dream to Dante's inferno

Image: Florencio Rojas


Dthe reign of a pure-hearted philosopher to the ruin of the country under a contemptible ruler

I use the most eloquent allegories to designate good government, as formulated by one of the most fertile and primeval thinkers in politics, and the condition of ruin and damnation of so many, as in the poem by the medieval Florentine.

It is somewhat disappointing that in the history of peoples and their social organization, millennia of experimentation have not come close enough to the ideal of a good government, not only in relation to the ruler's virtues, but mainly with regard to the governing machine, its components, its gears, its functionalities, its performance.

It is a fact that the low performance of the organizational apparatuses that peoples institute to live and coexist, in minimally satisfactory terms, should not be limited to the sphere of command and obedience relations, that is, around power, politics itself; another restrictive dimension of good living in society is to be found in political economy, that is, in the relations between owners and the dispossessed, between exploiters and the exploited, the powerful and the oppressed.

In all latitudes, there are today obtuse, authoritarian or bloodthirsty rulers, and governmental structures that are disorganized, incongruous and out of tune with the people, showing that the historical process does not follow an ascending and continuous line in terms of improvements, nor is it in a hurry to carry out possible virtuous virtualities. The persistence of wars, racism and inequalities indicates that powers and structures, social and political relations are still far from forming what could be designated, in the proper and full sense, civilization, a standard of civility, goodness, beauty and truth .

But let us remain in our Brazilian parish, in this macabre and obscurantist period, of governmental stupidity and mesmerizing, idiocy or vulgar opportunism of the many who support it, signaling that the disgrace that debases the country results from this unfortunate meeting, this toxic magma between a government fruit of a perverse chance and of contingents that lost or never had direction or responsibility, when establishing it. Aimless because they do not distinguish knowledge from appearances, reasoned opinion from prejudice, reality from illusion; and without responsibility, because nothing interests them in the destiny of the country other than pretending it to be immune to the modernity of rights, the secularity of the State, the contemporaneity of civilizing values.

That this government came about by chance (sic) requires some elaboration. Only a topical and superficial look would fail to identify a line of multiple causalities – among which social inequality, unemployment, the various needs that affect the majority of the population, social and state violence, discredit in politicians, institutions, cultural poverty and low levels of civic and political awareness -, which could explain why such a mediocre character, such an apparent nullity, such a clamorous faker can present himself as the victorious recipient of electoral preferences for the presidency of the republic. What's more, being a "worn out" politician, from the "low clergy" parliamentary in several legislatures, without talents, without highlights and without scruples, and still capitalize on the generalized feeling anti-establishment proposing a “new policy”.

The former captain, very different and opposite to what is suggested in the work of the Ancient Greek thinker, who submits every aspect of the State to the virtue of knowledge, advocating an enlightened despotism, is a hardened enemy of science, culture, universities and the arts , in such a way that, from the Platonic formula, only despotism remains to him, in his proud ignorance.

To be fair, the Greeks of Athens and the Paulistas of the Ribeira Valley, who occupy the Palácio do Planalto, do not greatly appreciate artists; but while the former had greater reservations with the poets, basically because of the struggle between poetry and philosophy and his resentment of Homer; the second, in addition to these, is scolded by writers, singers, intellectuals, scientists, filmmakers, journalists and others who are given to creating or thinking, researching, exposing, representing, painting, for the sole reason of their unreason and imbecility.

However, if for Plato the true statesman was distinguished from the false one by knowledge, this does not seem to be the case for our current ruler and his supporters, for whom mere opinion, however odd or absurd, must have full validity, equivalence, or even priority over logical statements, consistent arguments, empirical evidence.

If from the structure of the language we can extract some evidence of truth, if from the use of rhetoric one could expect clarification, guidance and bases for a respectable persuasion around public affairs, which may result from the foul language of this ruler, his repeated offenses, his desultory babble, its compulsive swearing, its relentless rapes of logic and recalcitrant mendacity? And what about the crude stories of good against evil, frequent in the former captain's speeches, revealing his immature personality, and the infantilizing effects on those who take him seriously?

As G. Steiner observes, in Those who burn books, there is a pornography of the theorist, just as there is a pornography of sexual suggestion, to which we might add, there is a pornography of the politician, of the ruler, which Bolsonaro expresses to perfection. Or how would we qualify the exalted babble of the “unbrochable”, in its repeated appeals to eschatological banalities, obscene intolerance, social aggression and political hatred? There is, therefore, in this character an adequacy between his understanding (insufficient and primary) and the forms of language he uses (rudeness, lies, aberrations).

And it is to this language, and to this verbiage, that many liken sincerity; that unsuspecting or fanatical take it for authenticity. It is these same good people, far removed from Plato's good man, who could only claim this condition to the extent that he was a good citizen, of a good state. It would be entirely idle to discuss what would be good for a citizen without also considering what would be good for the state. As we know, our current good people are the most aggressive against state institutions, their practices, norms, the Constitution, those that most disrespect them, those that most threaten them.

Problems arise, as we now see widespread in the country, when an ordinary conversation prevails, in the field of politics, a common discourse that takes on emotional tones, which coagulates perceptions, stiffens positions and prohibits any dialogue. Under these conditions, the political dispute is emptied of arguments for persuasion, which are replaced by sentimental, moral and even religious statements aimed at commotion.

A political communication strategy instructed in this way turns out to be, unfortunately, very effective, making options for government programs and electoral choices difficult. Such expedients are the preferred resources of demagogues, authoritarians and mystifiers, notably from the political spectrum of the right, as evidenced among us by the current president and new candidate, his entourage and supporters.

This lack of discernment on the far right makes moral values, even if distorted, appear as determinants of what divides people, obscuring the fact that political conflicts are due to social inequality, class issues, power or prestige. ; and then, that only a democracy could accommodate these cleavages, or a social transformation, overcome them.

It is not a question of questioning the legitimacy of each person's opinion, their contribution to the construction of political decisions; democracy itself favors the systematic structuring of opinions into a “public opinion”. This issue becomes critical, however, when “freedom of opinion” is transmuted into “absolutization of opinion”, when it is transfigured into political intolerance, when any criterion is challenged to discern “what is opinable from what is, by consensus, by institution, or by production of fair or true evidence”, and when a system of references is emptied or annulled, within which opinions gain plausibility, coherence, pertinence or validity.

In this way, Plato's dream, whose Republic has the subtitle “Do Justo”, it becomes the nightmare of Brazilians, with its militia republic, whose icon is a weapon and, Dante's inferno, then opens its floodgates and deepens its ditches to shelter a few of our compatriots.

Neither prosperity nor peace are having, but their opposites: economy in shambles, people in misery, rich more affluent, violent more aggressive, racism more ostensive, intolerant more rabid, ignorant more ignorant, idiots more stupid, foolish more insane.

But attributing to the highly disqualified politician who holds the Presidency such power, like an upside-down demiurge, a ruffian, who could massively institute and instill such deplorable conduct, would be to make him more capable than he is, would be to attribute to him competences that he has. This does not exempt him, however – from the position he occupies and defiles, as the main representative of the country – from aggravating such behavior, spreading prejudice, lowering standards of civility, insulting common sense, lying compulsively and rewarding mediocrity on an industrial scale and mass consumption. Unfortunately, however deplorable his decisions may be, harmful his omissions, mistaken, obtuse or clumsy his governmental dispositions, they affect the fate of the majority of the population.

Since he is not a statesman, in whatever sense we take this expression, how could we designate him? Was he just a court jester, as Lula expressed in an interview with the country's main television station? The tirade has its pertinence there, but it would make him a harmless being, even if caricatured or grotesque. A nickname, therefore, inappropriate for someone who, by disastrous action or criminal omission, by mocking or outrageous language, offensive, obscene or aggressive gestures, has degraded morals, mocked decorum, squandered rights, degraded institutions, threatened democracy and made the republic a What our militia.

His most prominent activities include motorcycle rides with supporters, under the non-existent and tasteless term designation, motociatas; frequent undeserved vacations; marches for Jesus promoted by political pastors and negotiators, saturated with demagoguery and blatant sentimentality; the soft talk in the playpen at Alvorada, with half a dozen fervent devotees; and the blah blah blah on Thursdays set in the Planalto library, for those mesmerized by digital media, who are provided with precarious statements, distorted information; instigated by false controversies and stirred up against what they consider to be “the enemies of the nation and traitors of the fatherland”.

Such is the agenda of the former captain at the head of the country, as the tasks that would have been his own were delegated or hoarded by generals in pajamas and other military personnel of various ranks, but equally obsessed with a non-existent communism, by technocrats without compassion or by the people of the “centrão”, a physiological aggregation that lies down and rolls on the carpets of the parliament.

How can a ruler, unless he has abdicated his duties and is completely alienated from the country's problems, wander so frequently through his regions, without relevant agendas, without motives and without purposes other than to exercise himself demagogically? Stirring up hatred among the crowds, confronting institutions, spreading their thoughtless or pernicious convictions, instilling prejudices in the unwary or confirming them in those who already have them?

What governmental prerogatives can exempt a representative from engaging in the analysis of the country's problems, in the study and evaluation of projects, in the formulation of public policies, in constant interaction with relevant protagonists, whether from the public sphere or from civil society, to account for of the tasks that are inherent to it?

In the affront to the protocols of office, ritualistic and ceremonial proper to high authorities and in the vulgar attitudes that are inherent to him, he intends to demonstrate, in a vain effort, that he is an ordinary person, level with the profile of the poor majority of the nation, but what reveals in this caricature attempt at authenticity and simplicity is just consummate cynicism, a resource of low demagogic marketing, which does not respect citizenship and demeans itself.

If you don't trust the institutions, rather hostile them, how can you incarnate them; if he confronts the constitution, how he can obey it or submit his acts to it; if it does not recognize human-social-ethnic or gender diversity, how can it legitimize itself before the nation; if he is ignorant of state affairs and how he intends to administer it; if he defiles the office for lack of decorum, how can he occupy it; life and private business are confused with the public sphere, how can an agent of the Republic be; if you don't respect people or their rights, insulting some and liquidating others, how dare you govern them? If it talks to us about freedom, misleading, but what it promotes is the threat of true servitude?

If science is despised and art is abhorred, culture is vilified and death enthroned through negligence, through the apology of weapons and torture; if it degrades the environment and does not address the climate crisis due to ineptitude, complicity with predatory interests or criminal omission, what can we expect as a nation, what does the future hold for us as a people, what solidarity can we receive or offer in the concert of nations, in the face of the same dramatic urgencies of our time?

If such is the profile of this dark figure, and his performance mediocre and harmful, it is difficult to understand how he sustains himself; or rather, who and how, keeps him in office. Among these we can find strategic agents, powerful groups and weak institutions, through misguided geopolitical calculations, corporate or market interests, and complacency and opportunism, respectively.

With the support of ultra-rightist businessmen with no commitment to the country, who do not hesitate to support it, even in coup-like grins; military of crass reactionaryism; religious charlatans and fundamentalists; militiamen as jack of all trades; resentful sectarians of diverse social extraction, notably from the middle classes, here is not only the social basis of the “myth”, but also a deplorable indication of the composition and political-ideological orientations of a considerable part of the people.

People, here deserves a qualification: from a generic concept and common sense, it has lent itself to all discourses and all invocations, from democratic to demagogic and eventually tyrannical. The people, socially, are not a homogeneous whole, and will never be completely united, either around interests or ideas, values ​​or ideology. Yes, we can, to simplify, make it close to what we mean by poor, dispossessed, exploited people.

This being so, we could inquire about which segments of the poor, and which classes or social strata have given themselves such a ruler, who is, to a large extent, contrary to their own interests; which would lead us to ask what kind of people this is. The mystifying effectiveness of the extreme right is known and its unfolding into self-mystification, which ends up leading its followers to unconscious subjection or voluntary servitude to the same extent that freedom is promised. Hence the contradiction, with masochistic reverberations from Bolsonarists who presume to conquer freedom by invoking authoritarianism.

Let's say that a significant part of these could do an internship in purgatory to redeem themselves from their political mistake, having the chance of atonement as long as they repent and make better electoral choices. The most recalcitrant and fanatical Bolsominions could be destined for the terrible eternal damnation, such is their degree of mental confusion and crazy or crazy actions; while the former captain would be swallowed by a red river, which would precipitate him into the central cavern of hell. Such abysmal destinations and irrevocable perdition would be in correspondence with the (self)annihilation drive of these “people who are full of mud” (Dante, canto VII,127).

Other candidates to descend into the depths of the Circle VII, distributed among the 10 infernal ditches, would be the institutions and their operators in charge of containing abuses of power, framing, questioning, investigating and prosecuting rulers, but who for lukewarmness, political calculations or condescension with blatant violations of the law, they do not. By failing to act, fulfilling the duties of their attributions, attenuating today's infractions by the ruler, waiting for more serious recurrences, which will in turn be dismissed awaiting another more serious one, and so on until the consummation of the disaster, that is , until all of us will find ourselves in the hell of arbitration, the burning of rights and the decimation of freedoms.

Anyway, that's what we have in this regressive stage as a nation and civilization, in which from "political animals" integrated into a "polis" many of our (com)patriots have become "animal politicians" (may the offense be passed on to these other living beings ), adhered to a project to deny the polis or a republic, in favor of authoritarian forms of exercise of power and degradation of public functions. And whose conception of homeland boils down to vague and primitive affections, to a furious and intolerant devotion to symbols that they do not understand, to the colors green and yellow, having shudders for olive green, and associating it with family (private scope) and to religion (field of beliefs, faith and, come on, transcendence).

If this were not an indigestible salad of narrow-minded civility and bad rhetorical nationalism, it could be a crazy creole samba that puts the “good citizens” of Tupiniquim conservatism to dance, without lightness or grace, to the sound of the national anthem and wrapped by the beautiful banner of hope, hail, hail!

Be it in one way or another, as presented in the Bolsonarist version, patriotism is nothing more than a decoy, a subterfuge, a manipulation to cover up its nature as a civic aberration, its vocation to harm the country, its authoritarian drive, its order that is a violent, fascist-like disorder.

How far are you from leadership characteristics, according to Plato's criteria and recommendations for a good ruler, which are knowledge, using the word correctly to establish the primacy of truth, discerning between political regimes, temperance and prudence?

What has been the figure of this ruler, and what is happening to the country? What specters does he want to warn us against, if in himself he is the sick reality for which he intends to be the cure? If it is resentment itself that poisons its followers, tensions the nation, rages the people and makes the political, social and cultural atmosphere toxic?

With the cynical electoral proposal of renewal, of a misleading “new policy”, he was anointed by the ballot boxes, in 2018. The institution of his government enshrined delay, improvisation, incompetence, mediocrity. In the battle of ideas, Bolsonaro and his followers seem to have an inexhaustible stock of messianic excrescences, which they use in a kind of holy war, waged under the inspiration of a sick and delirious religiosity, out of time and place.

What some call “Bolsonarist jihad”, an attempt at religious terrorism, constitutes a threat to the secularity of the state and the diversity of beliefs, freedom and legitimacy of the various manifestations of faith, intrinsic to the human diversity that constitutes a nation. What is in danger here, as Muniz Sodré observes “is the sanity of those who are faithful to democracy”. In such a way that the first lady “and her consort seem to want to throw more guava wood on the bonfire of dementia, an event whose only perspective is that of mental self-combustion (Folha de São Paulo, 28/08/2022).

Such a formulation indicates the dimension of the setback that affects us as a nation, state and country, of which Bolsonarism is the condensation, symbol, expression and representation. Once the character is defenestrated, we will still have to deal with the audience, until we change the script, the scenery, the lighting and the sound and the fury of fascist madness, and open the curtains for a new show, for a new season.

What roots could it have planted in the soil of citizenship other than hatred, threats, fear, virulence, neglect, prejudice? What political memory, what historical records will remain of this period besides fanaticism, cynicism, abuse, impunity, neglect and indifference, and yes, corruption? What will result from this ruinous governance? From which corner of the rubble should a new social energy emerge, illuminated by an impetus for reconstruction, by an idea of ​​a nation, by a project for a country, by a utopia of freedoms and equity?

At what moment will these impulses and energies condense around a new beginning, despite the threats and obstacles that will be interposed against those who commit to advances and transformations, or even despite the hesitations they pose for themselves?

If, in line with the democratic agenda and the reconstruction of the social fabric, we must dispense with the excess of confidence and pride of being “on the right side of history”, we cannot temporize with the delay and repeated iniquities, condescend with authoritarians and coup plotters , nor tolerate the intolerant. But in order to carry out these purposes, it is not convenient, as collective protagonists, to lose sight of where the will is divorced from effective political force.

Transforming reality to transform consciences, such is the strategic axis of those who have already and always committed to a future of dignity and peace. But these undertakings, the first structural, the second “superstructural”, are not devoid of problematicity; neither the first happens by mere will or political voluntarism, nor the second is solved just because a light bearer intends to illuminate the social conscience.

The challenge, and even more so the main task of those who still resist the outlines of fascist barbarism in progress, will be not only to dethrone the vile ruler by the force of a democratic political will, but, with even greater impetus, to face a reality infected by irrationalism, by fanaticism, by mystification; a long-term commitment that will impose itself on those who have not yet given up on rescuing the majority of our people from the grips of material and cultural misery.

But this task of enlightenment will not only, or even mainly, be achieved by spreading the light of what they know to the ignorant, to those already freed from deceit and staging to those still subjected to darkness and cavernous shadows, in an alleged pedagogy of libertarian voluntarism. The unveiled reality, the intelligibility of things and social relations so that they become effective and form a new conscience, imply complex processes and concrete experiences, in a process of knowledge and learning that combines intellection and emotion, reason and will, art and science, production and culture, interaction and reflection, information and wisdom, doxa and episteme, pathos and logos.

This night of citizenship – which so many of us experienced during this period, each one in his own way, some tragically, others with discouragement in their souls, others still despairing of the country –, will only see the dawn of a new day, when the many to meet again, and the few to disperse, in terms of civil coexistence, according to democratic parameters and guiding values ​​of freedom, rights, responsibility and respect of some for all and of all for each one.

Jair Bolsonaro, it will never be too much to insist, in terms of political personality personifies the anti-ideal of ruler, which induced part of Brazilians to emulate him in lowliness, to imitate him in aggressiveness, in disrespect for republican institutions and practices, in boasting from ignorance and prejudice. It should be noted, however, that these civic “anomalies” and these regressive trends precede the emergence of the former captain as a prominent protagonist in the (deteriorated) Brazilian political scene.

How to re-establish a pattern of relationships with each other, regularize them with criteria of justice, respect and solidarity, in such a way that a better quality of the political system results? How to rescue politics from the mystical-charlatanesque-militia, police-military swamp where it was launched in this Bolsonarist period?

How to restore dignity to the highest office of the State, after this institutional devastation, after this family-patrimonialistic and clientelistic appropriation? How to recover the functions of the presidency delegated to the physiologism of the “centrão”? How to reinstate the prerogatives of civil power usurped by the avid contingents of the barracks, presumptuous guarantors of the health of the republic?

And finally, how to reaffirm the value and necessity of politics, so denied, and of politicians, so debased, restoring them to their essential functions of equating the multiplicity of opinions and interests around the common good, making the truth prevail and validate , convenience and opportunity in the framework of public affairs?

It is, therefore, from these rescues and these reinstitutions that politics can once again become the field of social action, in which things can become different from what they are, starting with the power to designate the best government; in our case, a better government than that of the former captain, which at a bad time and due to the setbacks of fate, but especially due to the consequences of predatory capitalism and the ills of neoliberalism dating fascism, it fell to us to endure.

This ignominious being, at the end of his disastrous mandate, will have no dignity left, leaving him with a pathetic, caricatured condition, as once again evidenced in the distorted commemorations of this September 7th. Instead of a celebration of the homeland in the 200 years of independence, a recurrence in a pathos constituted by crossed purposes, capricious confusions, painful frustrations and resentments that do not dissolve, that do not bear fruit or expected results.

Not without irony, his responsibility for actions and speeches that are not edifying is due less to a conscious choice than to an unconscious weakness. In the end, you can always blame others for your shortcomings or impertinence and, as a last resort, feel sorry for yourself.

The Brazilian collective conscience, with all the ambiguity that this concept entails, when and if it unwinds from the sulphurous pestilences of this period, will have to ask itself how it could admit as ruler a figure so minor, so scabrous, so ignoble, destined to wither to the point of death. inglorious death.

If this political experience results in some learning, the country will have a future and its people will be able to aspire to better days; if nothing is apprehended, future generations will be the legatees of our failure, having to return to the field of struggle to rescue democracy from the marsh where it was left.

May other times hurry up, therefore, that new social configuration institute rulers who are proud of a more enlightened citizenship and more attentive to sociopolitical fundamentals and practices that allow us to live with greater justice, democracy and solidarity.

May the memory of this time not fade, in the racket of buffoons, ruffians and disqualified, other voices; voices of resistance and cries of struggle for democracy, dignity and civility, and may these continue to flourish for many suns.

*Remy J. Fontana, is a retired professor of sociology at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC). Author, among other books, of From splendid bitterness to militant hope – political, cultural and occasional essays (Insular).


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