Denialisms – obscurantists, politicians and ordinary people

Image: Artem Podrez


The multiple denialist modulations that plague the country

The pandemic that is plaguing the world and this Brazil is so enigmatic and dark that it asks us for constant attention, precaution and vigilance in all attitudes of life: pragmatic attitudes, of our daily actions, cognitive, of our constant thoughts, psychic, of our pressing desires. This is the major premise of the text posted here.

Without major psychological or psychoanalytical pretensions, and aimed at a broad and non-specialist public, academic or not, I want in this text to illustrate and reflect on the multiple denialist modulations that severely devastate the minds of many people in our country at the present time.

The pioneer of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, an expert scrutineer of the human soul, in one of his thoughts said that when reality seems very cruel and undesirable to us, we have a strong tendency to deny what is happening and issue a kind of (unconscious) judgment. : that's not true, it's not happening, I don't want to see that, I don't want to know about any of that, and so many other denialist or denegationist forms, two terms that contribute to the idea. In this direction, I also invite other minds from the psi field to help expand the denialist palette, given that this is their daily routine in clinics, under the most unique enunciative strategies of patients' complaints. All forms of denialism must be eradicated.

The obscurantist negationisms erupted mainly after the advent of Bolsonarismo-Olavista or Olavismo-Bolsonarista, the order of the words doesn't really matter. They hit us hard, and at the worst time, in the face of the tragedy that hit the world at the end of 2019 with the arrival of this atrocious and enigmatic emissary of death: the covid-virus and its executioner strains. Such denialism quickly occupied internet content (blogs, twitters, instagram, facebook and how much)

One day, in some text that I quote from memory, Umberto Eco seems to have said that the internet “gave a voice to imbeciles”. I did not verify the reasoning and I apologize in advance to your most authoritative connoisseurs. The phrase is quite unfortunate, as it ends up reverberating great elitism: would only great intellectuals and great journalists have the right to speak? Perhaps a better phrase should correct elitism: “the internet has given a lot of imbeciles a voice”. Even because the mainstream media, the great Brazilian Justice, great intellectuals, especially in the technological, business and medical areas, proved to be cowardly imbeciles in the whole saga that was the monthly allowance, the serpent's egg that hatched the car wash, the coup against the Dilma, support for Bolsonaro, the expulsion of Cuban doctors (who are missing in the covid-tragedy!), I’ll stop the list here, otherwise this small reflection on denialism will not have space… Imagine a Brazil in which none of this had happened! If we weren't happier before all this, we were at least more decent.

I correct Umberto Eco's sentence even more, what pretension!: the internet (blogs, faces-book, twitters, instagram...) gave voice to the sewer! the most spurious reasoning, the most abject feelings, the most cowardly aggressiveness, the most irresponsible fallacies and lies (aka fake-news, a word certainly more popular in the minds of Brazilians than “spurious”, “abject”, and many other precious words in our rich language, curved as it was by the clumsy North American ideology that surreptitiously invades the world's mind, in particular much of it. Brazilian intellectual mind).

In this sewer context, the birthplace of obscurantist denialism (flat earth, the epidemic does not exist, the virus was invented in China, the vaccine does not work, especially the Chinese one, it has a chip inside it, it turns into an alligator, please hold back your vomit!) , I want to leave aside their dirty side, which have already been widely discussed everywhere, and turn to the political denialism that hides in governments and institutions and, finally, the ordinary denialism that attacks the common citizen, less informed, less prepared and victimized by the previous ones, denialisms of everyday life, in the face of the pandemic.

Without dwelling too much on the political denialism of governments, little differing between national and state governments, the most harmful ones, it is easy to find the source of their denialist “desire”: both militate politically much more for their electoral gains, and much less for the preservation of society. health of the population, workers, students from fundamental, basic, medium and university classes. For the sake of thoughtful prudence, schools could never return in person in the face of the thousand daily deaths that currently occur (not counting underreporting and changes in school records). cause of death). Will we be able to quantify everything, and correctly, someday?

This politically engineered denialism has inadvertently reverberated within educational institutions under the (also denialist) argument that bears the title of “the pedagogical cost of not returning in person”. Certainly, the psycho-pedagogical cost of not returning in person is great, very great, immense indeed, for children and adolescents in this country. But it never compares to the cost of suppressing the life of a child when he/she is your child, the child of the school principal, the teacher, the father and mother, the granddaughter of a grandfather or grandmother, or suppression of the lives of these parents and grandparents, due to the child going to school and contaminating it.

Where does this denialism come from: the pedagogical cost is so “undesirable” – I remember Freud – that it is worth taking a risk… I call it psycho-pedagogical denialism. If bombs had destroyed schools, this face-to-face return would not have been scheduled. It is forgotten (implicitly denied) that the virus is the most lethal bomb, just silent, sneaky, easier to “deny”. And this denialism prevents other creativity from emerging and giving space to other creativity, other alternatives that can minimize such costs and make us learn to live with the pandemic until it lasts.

Another example of political-academic denialism, a mixture of political complicity with the state government, under the cover of academic prejudice, is what happens at USP: in mid-2021, an ordinance from the Rectory determined the in-person return at the height of deaths from covid, in a context, let us invent the term, heroic-“rambolesco” (from Rambo): USP cannot stop, was the motto. Another ordinance at the end of 2021 and another one at the beginning of 2022, already within the cruel evolution of covid-ómicron, show that in the decision-making spheres of USP, eyes are closed so as not to see the risks of physical transit of hundreds of thousands of students inside and off campus, on the bus route, in the canteen, in the restaurant, in the corridors, in the classrooms. The strong “desire” – I emphasize the word – that we return to normal is so great that it obscures (denies) the cruel reality of pandemic life.

One day at the end of last year, at a face-to-face event at an inauguration, I heard a video from an institutional announcer, a sentence more or less like this: it's great to be able to be here again, after this pandemic that hit us, that's right, verb in the past perfect. The blunder, since Freud, is flawed in conscious speech, but very successful in betraying unconscious desires. The “wish” that everything was over, obnubila (denies), inside the event room, the stark reality outside. This institutional denialism still persists, as the few and insufficient infrastructure actions in the classrooms and buildings for the face-to-face reception of students have so far barely left the paper or the speeches of the meetings to walk at a snail's pace. Everything is being pushed further in a kind of “bet” (here, denialism) that things will improve quickly and do without these actions: the strong desire to return overshadows the complete imprudence of inertia.

Examples of denialism, this time ordinary, occur at the scale of the common man, the common student, the common teacher in the ordinary routine of his work. It is more subliminal: at a meeting of heads of the Arts departments in which professors racked their brains trying to find prudent means of preparing some form of face-to-face return, albeit partial, students raised the argument that “all other private and public schools they have already returned in person, only USP has not”. Where is the negationism piece?: if those schools are back, it means that there is no longer an impeding pandemic. Here, too, the strong desire for everything to return to normal denies that the decisions to return in person to public and private schools have already been previously affected by their own denialism, electoral on the one hand, financial on the other.

Another example of ordinary denialism: “many students already work outside and take the bus”, so we can go back to face-to-face classes. Prudence and precaution are also obscured here, two virtues little remembered in the pandemic: we must avoid, whenever possible, the spread of the virus. So let's let students take a second risk, within the University, as they run a first risk, in their work. Here, too, a prior denialism is obscured: the bosses of private companies are not concerned that their employees may contract the virus, they aim first at sustaining their businesses.

One wonders whether any public and/or private company has invested heavily in special, sanitary controlled transport for its employees, vaccinated, distanced, with quality masks distributed to them. No, they left their workers to God. This is the role of the governments, they think, as a rule, and pass the rubber (denialist) in the rest of the reasoning: such governments were elected for their abundant funding, governments that, once sworn in, many take little care of it, when they do not deny the pandemic fact. As a rule, businessmen do not spend a nickel, even when they benefit from huge tax breaks, reductions in their taxes, already meager compared to the common worker, and always passed on to the consumer, in prices... How many vaccines, hospitals, beds, doctors , nurses, tests, masks would not fit in the bulky billions of tax breaks that were left in their pockets in these two years already drained from the pandemic!

Another example of ordinary denialism: “I can't stand to stay at home anymore, I really miss my office desk” (heard at a meeting at USP). Here, once again, if a bomb had destroyed the office room, wouldn't those longings arise? What does prudence command? We have to endure and arrange ourselves in the best possible way to avoid the risk of our lives and the lives of those we may eventually contaminate. Is there a cost to it? Yes, great cost, immense cost, but nothing comparable to the cost of a life, which could be yours.

A phrase that Freud invented for his theory and clinical treatment applies to our everyday, ordinary life, in the face of our mini-denialisms: psychoanalysis is justifiably distrustful. Let us always be suspicious of decision-making, of others and even of our own: they contain the spring of a desire that needs to come out of the shadows, come to light, to be pondered and prudently equated.

Waldir Beividas He is a professor at the Department of Linguistics at USP.


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