despair farm

Image: Joel Kueng


Indifference to the suffering that torments the lives of 33 million Brazilians

“When your ship, moored too close to the harbor, leaves you the misleading impression of being a home, when your ship begins to take root in the stagnation of the docks, put out into the deep. It is necessary to save, at any cost, the traveling soul of your boat and your pilgrim soul”.

At the end of the 1960s, in the middle of the Brazilian military dictatorship, the then Catholic archbishop of Recife, Dom Hélder Câmara, in his quest to understand the escalation of violence in the neocolonial situation of that period, in which the populations of Latin America were subjected to the yoke of national armed forces in obedience to the US Empire, published a study entitled spiral of violence (Ed. Sigueme) pointing to structural injustice as a form of basic violence, practiced both between developed and underdeveloped nations, and within “neocolonized nations”, where the ruling class oppresses the population in general.

In such situations, national governing groups collaborate with governments, banks and international corporations in exploiting their own countries, seeking to benefit from such exploitation. This study continues to remain very topical in the face of the violence to which we are subjected, since the hybrid coup of 2016, ruthlessly deepened with the arrival of Bolsonarism to central power.

Both in etymological terms and in a basic sense of values, the term “violence” is related to the Latin violate (violate). In this way, everything that violates another person, in the sense of harming, disrespecting, abusing or (dis)recognizing them, whether with physical harm or not, can be understood as an act of violence. Thus, the basic generic definition of violence can be thought of as a violation of the state of the person.

Furthermore, in the case of authoritarian governments where situations of continued exception to the rule of law prevail, in which democratic and republican institutions are constantly threatened, incapable of acting properly in the defense of human rights, the use of force by the State as a form of solution of social and economic conflicts presents itself as open violence, insofar as citizens are the target of the discretionary will of groups in power and the authoritarian structure that results from it.

A recent example is the death, at the end of May, of Genivaldo de Jesus Santos, 38 years old, father of two, suffering from schizophrenia, who was alone and unarmed, brutally tortured and murdered by suffocation inside a Highway Police vehicle Federal, transformed into a gas chamber, in the style of German Nazism, in broad daylight, in front of several people in Umbaúba, on the coast of Sergipe. As the song by Marcelo Yuka (O Rappa) reminds us, “every van has a bit of a slave ship”. In fact, in a country where the President of the Republic proclaims the torturer Brilhante Ustra as a hero, torture becomes a reference for the imagination and daily action of those who hold the monopoly of force, configuring the worst of all worlds.

The question of violence, therefore, does not start with the individual agent. On the contrary, violence is often structured in the socio-historical situation in which the individual person lives. In addition, structural injustice can be so dominating that no manifestation of indignation is allowed against the source of injustice, favoring interpersonal violence, which is literally institutionalized, through the anger of power agents and social actors. social outbursts against other people who are trapped by such a situation.

This is the case of indigenist Bruno Pereira and journalist Dom Philipps, brutally murdered in the Vale do Javari region, victims of gangs of predators in the Amazon.

As the writer and social activist Thomas Merton (1915-1968) reminds us, when oppressive power is carefully well established, it need not always openly resort to the bestial methods of manifest force, as it manages to compel people to live in conditions of abjection, impotence and misery, which keep them on the sub-human level. It is a completely violent system for forcing people to live at an infra-human level and constraining them in such a way that they have no hope of escaping their conditions, they survive permanently in despair. And even those people who apparently preach forms of pacifism or benevolence, when collaborating with such a system of oppression, exercise violence. (Faith and violence. University of Notre Dame Press).

Last week we had access to the “II National Survey on Food Insecurity in the Context of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Brazil”, formulated, carried out and coordinated by the PENSSAN Network, directed by the Doctor of Economics Renato S. Maluf, carried out by the Vox Populi Institute, aiming to contribute to the scientifically based knowledge and debate of the social reality of the country with regard to Food Security (FS) of the population. The relevance of this contribution is even greater in view of the absence of official surveys in the Bolsonarist government with the required frequency for monitoring this, which is the central condition of a dignified and healthy life.

The determination to dismantle the package of effective social policies and labor laws was inaugurated, as the first act of the Bolsonarist government, by Provisional Measure 870, of January 1, 2019, which extinguished, among other public policy structures, the Special Secretariat for Family Agriculture and Agrarian Development, the Special Secretariat for Aquaculture and Fisheries, the Special Secretariat for Micro and Small Enterprises and CONSEA (National Council for Food and Nutritional Security) which, according to Rafael Zavala, FAO representative in Brazil, played an essential role in the policies to combat hunger promoted by the governments of the Workers’ Party (PT) – Lula (2003/2010), Dilma (2011-2016) – making Brazil achieve the victory of leaving the hunger map . All this dismantling added to the recession installed in the country, due to the PEC da Morte that froze Public Spending for 20 years, causing a huge loss of jobs, resulting in the growth of poverty, with the return of inflation in the prices of food and fuels, accentuated the structural social and economic inequality, leading historically more affected social groups and regions to poverty.

The results presented by the II Survey show that 36,8% of families have an average per capita income of up to ½ the minimum wage; in 14,3% of households there was at least one resident looking for a job; to aggravate the situation of vulnerability, in 42,5% of families the person victimized by Covid-19 contributed to meeting family expenses; 57,1% of households, given the context, had to cut essential expenses; and the situation of people suffering from Severe Food Insecurity (Severe IA) has skyrocketed from 15,5 million people at the end of 2020 to 33,1 million now in 2022, paradoxically in a country that is the largest grain exporter on the planet.

As shown, structural violence is rooted in concrete historical conditions. If millions of people die of hunger when it is clearly avoidable, as happened in the PT governments with their transversal food security policies / real appreciation of the minimum wage / development of family farming / developmental model aimed at full employment / income transfer, then violence is perpetrated and the consequences of the installed misery are the result of the social and financial system implemented with the 2016 coup, aimed at developing an unequal power to offer unequal chances for members of national society.

In PT governments, Brazil, as the world's largest grain producer, behaved like a farm of hope, offering all Brazilians the right to food and food security. With Bolsonaro and Bolsonarism, Brazil has become a farm of despair, indifferent to the suffering that torments the lives of 33 million Brazilians.

*Alexandre Aragão de Albuquerque Master in Public Policy and Society from the State University of Ceará (UECE).


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