Jair M. Bolsonaro in Rome

Image: Clara Figueiredo, blind goat, digital photomontage, 2020


The president showed in Rome, with his murderous vulgarity, that he is still alive and that he is not ashamed of what he has done

My affection for literature often gives me lessons in life and hope. I think that in modern times the great world bourgeois literature – proletarian and peasant in the Americas – with authors like Arguedas, Antonio Callado, John dos Passos, Hemingway, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky – in their respective times – not only help us to interpret History, but also renew energy to resume fights and renew desires. Great literature has always helped to place me, modestly, in my little place in the world.

How did we get to where we are? The “commitment to authoritarianism is rooted in fear”, “of losing a job to a foreigner”, fear of the “invisible poor”, “fear of racial alienation”, “fear of losing privileges”. In Brazil, the fear of not being able to travel to Disneyland also prevails! Fascist politics knows this and so replaces “fear-based debate” and likewise – I add – replaces positive science with medieval Intuition. (Luís Fonseca Pires, “State of Exception”, 2021)

The denialist can kill when he is summoned to assume the responsibility of defending himself against a virus, so as not to contaminate his neighbor: the other – for him – (who can be his father, son, friend, brother) only exists as a significant being , one shares his hatred, not his remote humanity. Denialist leaders are not only criminals because they consciously help to naturalize barbarism, but also and mainly because they spread ignorance, not only through brute force, but also through the hatred they instill in their accomplices and even in the victims of their death policies.

Jamil Chade's narrative about Bolsonaro's tour of the G20, in Rome, where he challenged the leaders of democracies originating from the enlightened and scientistic movements of the last three centuries, reveals all the ambiguities of modern political rationality. There fascism and democracy, torture and the tortured, reformists and conservatives – from all continents – coexist with the memory of colonial struggles and past heroism; with the reminiscence of the wars for independence and with the memories of the “iron and fire” of imperial domination.

No one, however, was as explicit in supporting modern rationalism in its technical and instrumental aspects, as was Bolsonaro when cynically sharing with Salvini a tribute to the Brazilian soldiers killed in Italy. The fascist regime that killed our GIs in the 2nd World War, the same that they themselves profess – partially or totally – thus allows itself to escape the daily lives of the deaths that it promoted, to find in the formal ritual of democracy its trace of union with Enlightenment reason .

Coming out of the pandemic, we presume, everything can get better. We say, to ourselves without much conviction that, if we lose the human bond of everyday life – replaced by the hallucination of networks festering with hate – it is possible that the warnings of memory – where we keep our better times – can slowly recover us: times in which the Hunger gave way to food, dialogue followed conflict and the State was not equipped by anger and ignorance. How was all this possible? Historical memory has been sclerosed by fear and fear is as modern as light, as old as any barbarity, as was the indigenous genocide in America.
Small symbols of modern humanity, alongside these great symbols of the G-20 meeting, can be found in the critical-realist literature of this cycle. The talent of writers to understand the epic reveals the ambiguous faces of the crisis, as Vargas Llosa – for example – who in a text of his book The Truth of Lies – remembering the Congo of Leopold II (where five million natives were mutilated and exterminated on imperial property) marks the genocide that preceded Hitler in this way: “Leopold II was a human indecency, but cultured, intelligent and creative”.

This “however” by the neoliberal “enlightenment” Vargas Llosa, however, disconnects the adjectives of “culture” and “creativity” from Leopold II's condition of genocide. And he does so as if his culture and creativity could neutralize the Emperor's relationship with the slaughter of his enslaved and "protected" natives to adhere to the Gospel. In Llosa's vision of the Enlightenment, human creativity and modern culture can be reconciled with the supposed genocidal innocence of Enlightenment culture.

Vargas Llosa, however, does not commit a mere mistake, but is the conscious bearer of one of the ideologies derived from modern rationalism, capable of creating means and reforms to martyr contingents of the hungry, without touching great fortunes and thus representing one of the two antipodes trends of the modern world, especially the one that assumes that Mandela and Hitler can travel in the same boat of History.

A particular literary episode with another meaning, where everyday life and history merge in a small book of short stories by our gaucho fiction writer Tailor Diniz. The author describes, in a simple and magnificent short story, a visit at the end of isolation, in search of the old normal. Without fireworks and without rhetorical exaggerations, the end of the “Covids” crisis is celebrated by real people, who break out of their cocoon of containment and fear and turn to the nourishment of affection and humor, to rebuild their lives.

In the epilogue of The Survivors' Club Diniz says that “you have to lift your head and go for fresh air, to reinforce the vitality of (human) energies, without offering a place of alienation, where those notoriously responsible for the tragedies of the real world hide.” It's a beautiful piece of fiction, the short story “A good idea”: two friends eating chicken with polenta, talk about life being raised again and baptize a dog “Citizen”. And they promise a new lunch, by mutual agreement, finding it “a good idea”.

Vargas Llosa, a great Latin American fiction writer, when he leaves literature he takes refuge in the same alienation that gave meaning to the life of Leopold II. Our gaucho writer – perhaps announcing the new fictions of a post-crisis life – shows that humanity has not yet been defeated by fascism and disease. And so we can recreate the world. If I'm wrong correct me.

I think, however, that we are behind in the conscious unity to face the beast, because Jair Bolsonaro showed in Rome, with his murderous vulgarity, that he is still alive and that he is not ashamed of what he has done. And as this time is a dystopian time, it can defeat us if we act separately within the general fear. It can get late! The ruling classes in the world and in the country do not easily give up maintaining the demons that created their image and likeness.

*Tarsus-in-law he was Governor of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Mayor of Porto Alegre, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education and Minister of Institutional Relations in Brazil.


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