social lethality

Image: Johannes Plenio


Reflections on the terror of Brazilian necropolitics

Is there the death penalty in Brazil? Formally, on a prescriptive level, no. Materially and concretely, it depends: if the individual has the wrong color at the right place and time, yes. It does not matter if the person committed an act in violation of the law, put himself at risk or attacked someone's life/physical integrity. Whether he was armed, unarmed, standing, sitting, handcuffed and surrendered. The question is not about what you do: it's about what you are.

There are many and varied “isolated cases” in this sense perpetrated by the state arm responsible for so-called public security. They are not coincidences. All have a political dimension and represent a historical, colonial and racist project of power, which necessarily involves the extermination of certain groups previously dehumanized and considered to have an unwanted life, therefore liable to physical or virtual annihilation. In the Brazilian context, the black population is the number one target of this massacre, which, we emphasize, is part of an unwritten State policy, a necropolitics.

And there is no suggestion of any mental deviation, any pathological perversity of the executors. There is a genocidal structure of society that goes beyond the individual condition. We are all included in it. It is the project of a civilization based on barbarism in which only a few, the chosen ones, deserve to live, while others inevitably must be placed on the sacrificial altar of the market god.

After all, it is known: material resources are scarce, the benefits of modernity are not for everyone and fundamental rights and guarantees are duly privatized, packaged in plastic as marketable products for those who can afford them. At the same time that the Constitution, the laws and all the wonders, magical objects and lights of ice of capitalism for the great mass of the excluded.

In this dire situation, extrajudicial executions and hyper-incarceration are, in fact, ordinary expedients of public security agencies and legal practitioners. And this is legitimized by the complacent way in which a considerable part of the social body behaves. Extermination is not only tolerated, but desired and praised as a remedy for a society sickened by fear, hatred and revenge. As Eduardo Galeano once said, “there is no valium that can mitigate so much anxiety nor prozac able to erase so much torment. Prison and bullets are the therapy of the poor.”

Now, what are a few hundred human bodies piled up every day in the streets and fields? Just another part of the landscape. The lethality of our police is not just theirs, but everyone involved in the white colonizing architecture, insofar as violence is a structuring element of our sociability.

It is up to the State and its security agencies, in this theater of horrors, to play the role of immediate executioners, however, the executioner also inhabits us, behold, the consummation of the torture is the final manifestation of a latent bloodthirsty and collective lust. Therefore, it is a pre-supported mortality rate. Therefore, instead of police lethality, we believe the expression “social lethality” is more accurate. No one pulls the trigger alone, the gas chamber is out in the open for the view and everyone's rejoicing, in the palms of their hands for the feed from instagram or as a main course served on the lunchtime news.

In the society of war, on the “enemy” falls, in a cruel, systematic way and in proportions worthy of a Fordist industrialism, all the strength of the State and its agencies. Law and death are closely allied forces in this morbid spectacle in which, acting through the fetid paths of subterranean criminal law, small armed sovereigns decide who deserves to live and who should die.

Are we a society, in civilizational terms, lost? Well, we don't believe so, but we affirm that we are indeed a society that, by not assuming the profound and serious differences and cruel characteristics of its formation, by not having Memory, by refusing to recognize brutality as a constituent element, moves away from of the field of reflection and, therefore, of the necessary inflection: the break with the cycle of horror and the implementation of the security of rights.

The trivialization of evil needs to be overcome as a paradigm of sociability and the agencies of the Brazilian State. For the realization of this historical redemption, we must deepen not only the understanding of the class struggle as the engine of any and all transformations, but also racism and genocide as primordial signs of the Brazilian social formation.

Recognize the other as an end in himself, with value in himself, place him in the condition of subject, guide life as a cornerstone, the biological and symbolic existence of all, all and all. This is the first step towards the great imaginative leap in the colorful parachutes of a world of life, equality and inclusion.

*Lara Ferreira Lorenzoni, lawyer, is a doctoral student in Fundamental Rights and Guarantees at the Faculty of Law of Vitória (FDV).

*Marcelo Siano Lima is a doctoral student in Fundamental Rights and Guarantees at the Faculty of Law of Vitória (FDV).

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