Hey Jair?

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By John Sette Whitaker*

The darker side of Bolsonaro's mind flirts with the hypothesis that the virus will cool down in the highest income circles and tragically attack the poorest sectors, in a process of "ethnic-social cleansing".

After the accelerated demonstration by the President of the Republic on the night of May 24, in a speech broadcast on radio and TV, some reflection is necessary. The first, that the alternative to him being an imbecile with few neurons is even more terrible: he is a psychopath capable of carrying out a crime against humanity.

Let's reflect on the second alternative. Because in general we tend to shrink in the face of the absurd, to think that things are impossible. We thought it was impossible for a guy like him to become president. And he turned. So we better start worrying about the darker alternatives anyway.

The scariest thing is the increasingly evident possibility that Jair Bolsonaro does not stop doing politics, looking at electoral calculations, and that this definitely overlaps with the seriousness of the pandemic that he should have to face. It seems more and more that he doesn't care about the coronavirus and its effects. He is only thinking about political-electoral developments.

He's making an evil calculation, weaving strategies, going over any feeling, killing if necessary. In short: a psychopath. And his calculation (or his just as psychopathic advisors, such as, for example, his children), apparently, is as follows.

Now, even those who are not specialists already understood that there were two strategies to face the virus. One, from China, of total containment of transmission, thanks to a very strong state apparatus capable of monitoring each individual, closing cities and regions, etc. As a result, it faced a rise in mortality, but which dropped after the peak. The problem is that while the virus does not cool down around the world or a cure is not found, the isolation scheme must be maintained, otherwise the virus returns, in a population that is almost entirely uncontaminated. Despite zero cases in Wuhan, this week it was already on the news that China was concerned about the (re)appearance of a new case there.

Another alternative was tried by England, under the guidance of prestigious medical institutions there: let the virus run loose, in such a way that it infects young people, the huge majority asymptomatic or with mild symptoms, without many fatalities in this age group, thus creating a “herd immunity” effect, whereby those infected gradually make everyone immune. The idea in this model that the British called “mitigation” was to protect the elderly. It is clear that this is the strategy that Bolsonaro and his henchmen seem to be betting on.

But what the English saw is that, in this case, the strategy would fail, because the speed of contagion of the elderly, and even the less so, is so great that it quickly saturates hospital capacity in the ICU. A relatively simple thing: the ability to offer mechanical respirators to replace lungs for those who are in a serious respiratory condition and who, therefore, have a good chance of recovering. As the cases that demand this treatment multiplied – even among the elderly – in a spectacular way, it was soon realized that it would not be possible to attend to everyone, and that this failure in the system would increase contagion and fatal occurrences. The English began to predict no less than 260 deaths if they continued in that tune.

It turns out that in Brazil, there is not much choice to be made. Even if a strict quarantine is defined, the “mitigation” model imposes itself, unfortunately. The possibility of adopting an extreme strategy like that of China, in a continental country of 200 million inhabitants, would depend on a lot of public money and a strong State. What Brazil doesn't have. And the difficulty in keeping a middle class stultified by presidential influence at home, and a considerable part of the population, generally from poorer strata with little information, part linked to the false religious fanaticism – in fact a conscious and cold capitalist enterprise – of the churches" evangelicals”.

In fact, almost all countries were obliged to adopt, to a greater or lesser extent, the same mitigation logic, depending on the government's control and intervention capacity, the size of the country, etc. In Chile, the roads are blocked. In France, the quarantine follows strict rules, with safe-conducts for certain situations. In some countries going out on the street is even jail time. In the richest, the economic losses of the population deprived of work are compensated by state aid. This occurred, for example, in England, but also in the much criticized Venezuela. In Brazil, you can see that mitigation tends to be more elastic. What to think when the virus arrives in African countries for good.

Thus, a more or less effective quarantine with a portion of the population could flatten the contagion curve, but the great fear in Brazil – and the most likely one – is that the virus will spread very quickly in the poorest segments, not specifically because they didn't quarantine, but because the quarantine has another dimension and effectiveness when we start talking about densities of almost 2 thousand inhabitants per hectare, small dwellings with entire families living in one room (including grandparents), lack of adequate hygiene conditions, etc.

In this case, the quarantine strategy may even soften the curve, and will have more effect on those who have a place to live and isolate themselves, as well as protecting the elderly, but in any case it seems clear that this curve will rise, and quite a bit. , at some point, since – as the English noticed – the idea of ​​“mitigation” does not seem to be enough for this virus. If it wasn't there, a developed country, imagine what could happen here. Data from Abin, obtained by The Intercept Brazil, let us predict the worst: there is talk of a worst case scenario of 200 thousand infected and eight thousand deaths.

This is where the darker side of Bolsonaro's mind appears. It would be possible that he is calculating that the virus will cool down in the highest income circles, and tragically attack the poorest sectors of society and that, because of this, he is softening the issue, because, consciously, he thinks it is more "acceptable"? I wouldn't doubt it. In this case, Bolsonaro’s strategy is almost an “ethnic-social cleansing” strategy.

In a sense, this logic echoes the recent statements of some businessmen from that extreme right group that supports the president (Havan, Madero, Roberto Justus and Cia.). Everyone says that the pandemic will cause “a few thousand deaths”, but that “this is nothing” for the size of the country, and that worse than that are the negative economic effects. This speech only makes sense because, deep down, these subjects know that the “few” thousands of dead will not be people from their entourage.

If this frankly fascist logic is chilling, it could still get worse. For about this, Bolsonaro seems to make a cold political calculation, based on two alternatives:

(1) after the pandemic, if with some effect of the quarantine and a flattening of the curve, which will affect, above all, the poorest, the economy will be in shambles and he will be able to say: “look, I told you so, it was just a little flu , and you hysterics and the media have ruined the country.” He knows that our society, in the way it is accepting the values ​​of savagery today, is capable of pretending not to see thousands of deaths, as long as they are the poorest, and may well embark on a resumption of the “patriotic” adventure embraced by the myth. If, by a miracle, a medicine comes out quickly, “the myth” will undoubtedly be the great winner of this battle.

(2) Most likely? The mitigation doesn't work, the curve explodes and we have an even bigger tragedy. The thousands of dead could be hundreds of thousands, and also affect higher classes that once supported him and today increasingly disown him in the face of his disastrous conduct in the crisis. In this case, the radicalization of his speech, as seen in some analyses, can generate a serious institutional crisis between the powers, putting him in direct confrontation with the legislature and the STF.

In that case, you will have all the necessary conditions to take one more step: a coup. Only this time, not that cunningly orchestrated coup by the sophisticated right-wing elite – whom the captain ate by the edges – with parliament, part of justice and the mainstream media to “elegantly” remove a president. A real coup, closing the STF and Congress with a corporal and two soldiers. With chaos established, it will no longer matter whose fault it was, but only the nose for the opportunity of absolutist power.

Any alternative will do enormous damage to the economy. In companies and big capital, no doubt, but in a country where almost half of the active population works informally, with millions of street vendors and small informal businesses, the break in consumption, which is the core of the capitalist system, will affect first – it is already affecting, by the way – who depends directly on the presence of the consumer. From the Uber driver to the delivery guy, from the street vendor to the small producer. Bolsonaro knows this, and is thinking about how to juggle not taking the blame.

But both alternatives expose us to a psychopath, someone on a par with the great criminals we've seen come to power in recent world history.

The coronavirus will do a lot of damage. While our innocent minds were worried about seeing him arrive with a guy unable to face him at the head of the country, what is revealed is someone who seems to be able to transform the pandemic into his shortcut to the much-dreamed dictatorial power. If the first scenario was already terrifying, the second is even more so.

At this threshold, we are in the snooker of having to expect political agility and statesmanship from people like Maia, Alcolumbre, Dória, Tóffoli and even Witzel. The problem is that so far the STF has only shown that what it knows how to do is to become attached. But the reaction of these people is that the future of our country and our democracy hangs by a thread. By so much letting the subject play with all the values ​​that could still hold back this catastrophe, in the name of an irresponsible anti-leftism, there is a risk of letting him feel as if he were at the head of the Third Reich. My friends, things are not easy.

But there is hope. A Sofia choice. Because there is no good way out, but who knows one that remains “alone” in the context of the horrors of the pandemic. It is that, by rushing this movement, Bolsonaro is sinking the bottom of his own ship, and not surviving, as civilizing logic would dictate, his inability to face the coronavirus.

*John Sette Whitaker He is a professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at USP.

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