The year we will have nightmares

Image: Anderson Antonangelo


The ravages of populist irrationality make it necessary to rethink our rationality, including what we call democracy

The above statement is not a definitive sentence. The popular saying is wise when it says that “life is lived”. Any conclusion now is a mere guess for what will come in the majoritarian elections in 2022. However, in history there are trends, even if not all of them are confirmed, and, in the long term, everything changes. Unfortunately, this is not our case now. We are just over 18 months away from new elections.

And the current president is already strutting around with frightening phrases: like the one he recently gave at the inauguration of his doormats in the National Congress. In fact, when he was called a murderer, genocide, among other insults, he limited himself to saying: “See you in 2022”. In that sense, the phrase itself contains two hauntings: the first is the calculated and cold response to a distorted personality; the second is to verify that, from his point of view, 2022 is a long shot.

Starting from this first paragraph, it is possible to make two different analyses: one with a verb so fashionable in these strange times, namely, “to hope”; the other analysis, not so motivating, is based on a recent article by the philosopher Jacques Rancière. In this sense, for Rancière (1), the biggest problem is not that the “Trumpist” hordes (and here “bolsonaristas”) believe everything their leaders say, or deny, even though the world is flooded with news that, allegedly “decipher” its contents. Still for this philosopher, it is not stupidity that makes them reject the obvious. In fact, it is the pseudo-logic of intelligence to question everything. It is the argument from truth turned inside out.

But Rancière(2) asks, looking perplexed: “How should we understand this community and this denialist desire?”. The conclusion is frightening because of the factual truth. Modern society has come to value a type of rationality that sees everything as a consequence of the prevailing global order, even if certain events can only be explained by regional/local bias. It is the capitalist way of entering the popular imagination. It is enough to see how many barbaric situations were and continue to be explained with the logic of the commodity production system. Like concentration camps (no matter the ideology), technologies as saviors of the planet, viruses as mere collusions of global elites to dominate the world.

It is true that we are all, or almost all, frustrated, fearful and envious. The danger is that just at that moment populist irrationality can do damage. As it has done in various parts of the world, only the most visible for us Brazilians, the government of former President Donald Trump and the current neo-fascist government of Jair Bolsonaro. Indeed, if Trump excelled in the discourse of saving American inequality (remember the slogan “America's First”? our centennial “status quo”. Or did we not emerge as a Republic through a military coup? Or did we not have a “father” of the poor of military origin? Or did we not experience a false economic miracle in the most recent dictatorship? Is it by chance that we are at the height of the dismantling of democratic institutions, in addition to privatizing reforms, at this moment?

In this vein, I left it to make a brief, more optimistic analysis of our “hopeful” reality on purpose. Not because I believe in it, but because it's necessary. A people cannot survive without “hoping”. Whether in the banal tasks of everyday life, or in the desire for better days. As Rancière said:

“A political people is not the expression of a pre-existing sociological people. It is a specific creation: it is the product of a series of institutions, procedures and forms of action, but also of words, phrases, images and representations that do not express the feelings of a previously existing people, but that create a particular people, by inventing a regime of affections for him.” (3)

Thus, we need to relearn to “hope”. Somehow, in these last years after the parliamentary coup, with the disastrous consequence of Bolsonarism, we lost this cognition. Even for a republican society that was created keeping the colonial base among its children, we somehow evolved as an independent nation. Not by chance, the apex of our best muscles as a society came with the winning slogan of “hope lost fear” in the PT governments. Yes, there were mistakes. Screaming errors, too many even. But we were a hopeful nation. A nation that saw its top leaders as protagonists in various world affairs, in addition to the internal social improvements achieved.

However, a class society like ours, and I'm not going to get into the sociological uproar now, can only continue to dream when classes are somehow interconnected. In other words, when social mobility is feasible in the eyes and feelings of the less favored. That's why America is so fragmented today. Just as the Soviet Union had been. Or even the Roman republic, if we want to go back in time. The social layers are increasingly sedimented, since neoliberalism imposed an abstract value for the whole society, in an excessive way.

Unfortunately, the catatonic state of Brazilian society since 2016 was not the work of chance. Nowadays, the underground plots between the Planalto Palace and the National Congress to forge a new “bestialized” Republic are widely known. The dissemination, even if parsimonious, of the “LAMA JATO” would appall the old colonels of the Empire. Anyone who thinks that the recent loss of popular support is due to some kind of reestablishment of democratic ideals by the powers of the Republic is wrong. There is no democratic ideal. Democracy was invented by men. That's why it's nothing more than a kind of myth or passion, if you prefer. The loss of popular support, at least at that time, came in the worst form: starvation. Hence the hustle and bustle in the corridors of power to return to tipping a smaller part of the population. A change of 200 or 300 reais for some, a minority of those who were entitled to emergency aid in this pandemic.

I return to Rancière to corroborate his warning that we need to rethink our rationality, including what we call democracy. If it looked like a promising regime of government from time to time, despite having been gradually subsumed over the last two centuries by big capital, today something even worse is taking shape within the democratic body. Perhaps we are moving into the true upper stage of capitalism. Not the one written by Lenin, but the outline of what the French thinker Joseph Jacotot had already imagined, that is, anti-egalitarian madness as the basis of a society in which every inferior was able to find someone inferior to him and enjoy that superiority. Rancière translates this by saying: “for my part, only a quarter of a century ago, I suggested that the identification of democracy with consensus produced, in place of a people of social division, now declared archaic, an even more archaic people based only on the affections of hatred and exclusion”.(4)

As for us Brazilians, well … we have always been on the periphery of different types of global systems of domination. We would deserve a year of 2022, with new majority elections, more “hopeful”. But, the continuation of this chord will lead the entire band (our society) to be out of tune and out of tune. We will have nightmares!

* André Márcio Neves Soares is a doctoral student in Social Policies and Citizenship at the Catholic University of Salvador (UCSAL).



[2] Ditto.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.


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