roads in prison

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By Chico Alencar*

Scattered crowds, but united to boo at the top of their lungs the executioners of logic, the merchants of faith, the gangsters of politics, the executioners of science, the killers of hope.

During the dictatorship, initiated by the business-military coup of April 1, 1964, many friends were arrested, tortured and “disappeared like that, never again”. But other companions, who survived, had to endure three, four, six years in the dungeons of the obscurantist regime.

I learned a lot from them – and from life. Above all, I learned that no one takes away our inner freedom. The human being – the one who “is the only living person who refuses to be what he is”, as Albert Camus wrote – manages to open roads in prison and see the universe in a grain of sand.

This is how I have been trying to spend these days of isolation, in a situation that is not only unexpected, but unprecedented. Since my childhood, a new meteor that could fall on Earth has always been a gigantic, apocalyptic threat, but we, in our youth, already believed that space science would succeed, with the help of the tremendous weapons developed by the nuclear powers for destruction. of “rival nations and peoples”, hit and fragment it. 

With the microscopic new coronavirus it is different: no one yet knows for sure how to stop it. Faith in science, faith in research, faith in the common sense of government officials – yes, some will never have it and need to be isolated and interdicted. Faith in what will come! Will the post Covid-19 world be the same? Will the capitalist system, which has its guts of structural inequality now exposed, be reformed? Tendentially, it seems that it will only undergo “adjustments”. No longer fiscal, for the time being, but recognition of the role of the State and the need for its intervention, above all to save those it marginalises. Keynesianism rides again…

However, I would like to talk here about something more prosaic, simple, everyday, related to what is up to us and that no one will do for us: our ability to survive in the midst of everyday life. In isolation, absolutely necessary – only a stupid few in the world didn't understand.

Surviving in isolation, in embarrassingly accepted solitude, is also creating roads in “prison”. Make your bedroom your temple, prayer and/or meditation space. Make a garden out of a potted plant, watered every day. Doing the everyday chores of washing, cooking and sweeping – a first for some! – an exercise in discipline and even leisure. Turn reading into a magic carpet, on which you travel the world without leaving your seat. Doing essential body exercise, which is so good for preparing for the Olympics that you're excited to compete in, as if you were a boy.

More: make your window the best human and astronomical observatory. And her place in the atomized rally of the crowds. Virtual crowds that sing and applaud those who cannot stop to save us: the health personnel, the peasants who produce food and the workers who process them, the truck drivers, street sweepers, urban workers who maintain the services of water, electricity, gas, telephone and internet, workers in bakeries and markets, journalists who inform us, gravediggers, drivers and machinists who transport them.

We are learning what is essential and what is secondary work, and how we depend on those anonymous ones we rarely remember. In this return to the minimum of subsistence, locked in our homes (those that can), we see how there is a basic without which we would starve, thirst and get sick, and how we are enslaved to so many superfluous! We are all called to take the Socratic walk between four walls: they say that the philosopher went to the market just to check how much stuff he didn't need to exist.

Our political and citizen dimension cannot be quarantined, despite its immobility. It is good to see that there is no immobility when scattered but united crowds boo at the top of their lungs the executioners of logic, the merchants of faith, the gangsters of politics, the fanatics of profit, the executioners of science, the assassins of hope .

One day, a “tomorrow that will be another day”, we will meet again in person, grown in suffering. And, those who survive the great tribulation, even more firm in their willingness to transform the mechanisms that reproduce injustice and degenerate the habitable conditions of the planet.

*Chico Alencar is a professor, writer and former federal deputy for PT and PSol.

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