The apocalypse according to Jair Messias



Prophetic force and tragic experiences of the last century put us in this paradoxical situation in which a radical transformation has never been so necessary in the face of such an absurd and meaningless present.


The revolutionary movement has always wanted an apocalypse as the end of times – and the beginning of new ones. The partners Marx and Engels vibrated with the announcements of an economic crisis possibly fatal to capitalism and the redemptive hecatomb to come. Prophetic force and tragic experiences of the last century place us in this paradoxical situation in which a radical transformation has never been so necessary in the face of such an absurd and meaningless present, in this era of multiple coupled crises and articulated collapses. But the movement nevertheless stalls.

Other prophecies were announcing another end of the world, from the magnificent the fall of the sky, by Davi Kopenawa (and Bruce Albert)1 to events of last year such as the sinister fire day in the Brazilian Amazon or the huge fire in Australia, which directly affected a quarter of its population. There are so many recent cataclysms, which already showed us the end of an era. The explosion of the Chernobyl reactors. Fukushima's. The Bophal industrial disaster. The Rana Plaza collapse. Hurricane Katrina ravaging poor black New Orleans. Mariana, Brumadinho and Belo Monte around here. In a longer scope, the ethnocide of the Amerindian peoples and the enslavement of the African peoples and many other genocides – “the radical strength of Negridade resides in the turn of thought; knowing and studying conducted by Blackness announce the End of the World as we know him”.2

In its Greek origins, apocalypse means unveiling, uncovering, revealing. What does the pandemic tell us?

Ombre d'Aralia, Lourdes de Castro (1977)

The misery of our social relations, with their aberrant inequalities

Old people die alone without being properly veiled and mourned in many parts of Europe. Young Yanomami are buried in abject disrespect for their funeral rites. Street dwellers, slum dwellers, migrants, prisoners, homeless and precarious people at the mercy and health workers working without adequate protection in every corner. The military police in the two largest cities (Rio de Janeiro and Sao Pauloo), which already had high rates of citizen death, have seen, in recent months, their number explode as well as sinister and emblematic cases of police violence3. Deforestation is growing brutally in Brazil (even compared to last year's record), as well as domestic violence (here and in so many countries). The hunger on the prowl again. Blacks and poor, Latinos and indigenous people dying in the two societies with strong traces of slavery and extremely unequal (the US and the Brazilian), which will probably be the most affected in the world by the new coronavirus. In a macabre update of the live the death! of Francoist fascism in Spain, a an influencer declares in a “provocative” way on the arrival of the epidemic in Brazil: fuck life.

The weakness of collective infrastructures, weakened by cruel austerity policies

 The destruction of collective health is shown as part of a precariousness induced by the destruction of the solidarity networks built and conquered with the rise of the working class since the end of the 19th century. Politics of death and damage4. Such precariousness fosters feelings of insecurity and fear, due to social isolation to the detriment of solidarity and mutual support, which are heightened in this pandemic context. In the case of China, the recent epidemics show their relationship with the degradation of the health of those at the bottom, with meager public investment in this infrastructure of life to the detriment of “brick and concrete – bridges, roads and cheap electricity for production” Colectivo Chuang, Social Contagion. In Brazil, without the Universal Health System (SUS), the result of struggles by popular movements and public health doctors in the 1980s and guaranteed in the 1988 Constitution, and despite its weaknesses (such as historical underfunding and neglect in recent years), the tragedy (there are several weeks in a row with a daily average of more than a thousand dead) would be even greater.

The lies and authoritarianism of governments

 In the current context, lies are widespread: from Trump and Bolsonaro, obviously, but also from France under Macron, where, due to not stocking more protective equipment (because it is considered expensive and can be supplied by the logistics flow at any time – health managed as contemporary company), doctors and authorities denied the need to use masks and health professionals served with improvised plastic bags. democracies? The repressive face is activated much more easily (against foreigners or unwanted populations, outside certain norms) than the care face (torn off by struggles) in which most governments have clearly failed. In Algeria, only the pandemic stopped the Hirak movement, and during the same war hundreds were arrested. The ridiculous rhetoric of war that used to be activated against protests (as in Chile) is now about the virus – in both cases, the targets are people, their lives-struggles.

Still Life (2016-2019), by Denilson Baniwa

In the Brazilian government, denialism (before global warming and multiple inequalities; now, the pandemic as well) reigns. The reactions of Jair Messias Bolsonaro (who recently became infected and reinforced his chloriquine propaganda) to the deaths are mockery: “I am not a gravedigger”, “We are all going to die one day”, “So what? What do you want me to do?”, “I don't believe these numbers”. Lack of empathy is not enough, it is necrophilia and a plan: let the most vulnerable die; supposedly to save the economy, which was already in recession before the pandemic and sinks even further with the ongoing mismanagement.

Two ministers of health have already left and the interim one (he has been in office for more than two months, but has not yet been made official) is a general who understands nothing about the subject and has dismissed career cadres from the ministry, putting in their place dozens of military personnel who do not even dominate the public health issues. In addition, it tried to hide the data and canceled the daily interviews, aggravating an already extremely flawed action by the federal government, which did not buy either respirators or protective equipment and boycotted the confinement (leaving institutional actions solely to state and municipal governments). Worse, Bolsonaro vetoed initiatives by these sub-national entities such as fines for not wearing masks or their distribution to those who need it most. This is especially serious in the case of indigenous populations, quilombolas and other so-called traditional communities. The government, on the one hand, has refused emergency funding to provide drinking water, hygiene materials, cleaning and hospital assistance and, on the other hand, encourages invasions by miners and land grabbers, in addition to dismantling the government agencies that could handle these functions (from care and supervision)5. A genocide that never ends, a microbial shock that is sinisterly updated in these five centuries of epidemics (measles, smallpox, cholera, flu, whooping cough, pneumonia – and capitalism)6.

The links between capitalism and nature (colonial destruction machine)

The new coronavirus (and its predecessors) was “gestured at the nexus between economics and epidemiology”, moving from animals to human people. This “jump from one species to another is conditioned by issues such as proximity and regularity of contact, which build the environment in which the disease is forced to evolve” and feeds on the “evolutionary pressure cooker created by capitalist agriculture and urbanization”. Agribusiness, industrial agriculture and its monocultures (of grains and animals, but also existential), constitute an ideal means for its development. Such an understanding is reinforced in Brazil, where this key sector of the economy was one of the first in the business community to strongly support the candidate Bolsonaro and composes a subjectivity with fascist tones, of elimination of indigenous peoples, quilombolas and the landless – the good old fashioned way. land issue7.

Floresta de Pé, Fascism no Chão, by Denilson Baniwa

The vice-president, general Mourão, will glorify the Portuguese colonization of Brazil, placing the bandeirantes and mill owners (the “sugar lords”) in an “entrepreneurial” lineage and as makers of Brazil, tracing their “manifest destiny of being the largest liberal democracy in the Southern Hemisphere”. The privatization of land stolen from the inhabitants of that territory – which marks the beginning of Brazil – is seen as the “most advanced technology of the time”8. There is, in these conceptions, a nostalgia for a colonial past “whose culture was rural, agrarian, religious and patriarchal”. In this context, in the 17th century, “while the plantation owners built churches and protected the people, virile 'bandeirantes' led militias of mestizos on expeditions into the interior of the interior to apprehend Indians and seek natural riches, extracting from the exuberant nature as much as they could” . Bolsonaro comes directly from this, from these current marks of colonization and its “cult of death and violence”9. Its dystopian “golden age” is external to Brazil (it is in the US confederates and today in the Bandeirante-militia bond), in a curious subordinate nationalism. This centuries-old confrontation of the liberating flight against the slave owners continues: in the wake of the #blacklivesmatter uprising and its global resonances, the governor of São Paulo (from the traditional right, but elected with Bolsonarist votes and agendas) will take precautions and protect preventively the hideous statue of a bandeirante so that it would not be knocked down10.

Here is the Bolsonaro government’s project and its deep ties with the country’s history: “the problem with the Indians is that the Indians’ lands are Union lands, and the government’s objective is to privatize them. And more than the government, the classes that the government represents, of which he is the jagunço, because that's what he is: the jagunço of the bourgeoisie”. Hence their obsession (and that of the military in general) with the Amazon, as it symbolizes this confrontation between conceptions-practices of land in Brazil since 1500. They want to complete the conquest and, in this sense, “we are witnessing a kind of final offensive against indigenous peoples”. By not dealing (especially in this period of redemocratization, from the 1980s onwards) in a more forceful way with our colonial wounds (deep inequalities, genocide of young black people and ethnocide of indigenous peoples), by never settling accounts with these crimes, the most violence in an extremely violent country takes on even more crucial importance and points to a nationalization of its tragic situations: the Baixada Fluminense and the West Zone of the city of Rio de Janeiro with its militias, Mato Grosso do Sul (MS) and the massacre never stopped and Pará and the Amazon in flames. Not by chance, MS, a state with less than three million inhabitants, had two ministers (now only one, the one of health was fired) and both linked to anti-indigenous positions, composing a sinister mix with the open militia and landowner influence .

death machine 

The death machine is part of what we call Brazil, the novelty of this government is that it celebrates it. Deleuze, when working on Spinoza, celebrates his philosophy of life, which distances itself from everything that separates us from it and what poisons it with the categories of Good and Evil and, above all, hate, “including hatred turned against oneself. , the guilt". It is curious to note that Bolsonaro, coming from Vale da Ribeira, the poorest territory in São Paulo, where the Atlantic Forest was less deforested and with a strong presence of quilombolas, indigenous people and peasants. A self-hatred? For Spinoza-Deleuze, “sadness serves tyranny and oppression”11 and begets impotence — Contrary to joy, which it activates.

support and opposition

Faced with this tragedy, Bolsonaro maintains some support (25-30%), although his rejection has grown, approaching 50% of the opinion. In that year and a half of government, Bolsonaro lost one of his pillars, Sergio Moro, from the Ministry of Justice, a fundamental figure in the “anti-corruption” operation Lava Jato and decisive in the electoral victory (by condemning and removing from the election the candidate who led the elections). research, Lula). Its supporters are located in the military (thousands hold government positions12), evangelical pastors and now in the so-called centrão parties (which tend to support all governments in recent decades in exchange for positions and funds), but also in a fascist movement in society (bolsonarism's hard sector) and in the support of the ruling classes. Until the arrest in June of his friend, former adviser to his son Flávio and apparent link with the militias, Fabrício Queiroz, Bolsonaro seemed only to stretch the rope, appearing in demonstrations in which part of the agenda was the closure of the STF and Congress. The temperature was rising, but with these scandals linked to the Bolsonaros, he seems to have chosen to back off, to protect his family. Despite everything, there is still no political climate for impeachment (despite dozens of requests already filed) and for now “the political, economic and judicial elites offer a 'normalization' agreement to Bolsonaro”13.

In these delicate circumstances, “almost no word is heard from the most powerful sector of society, the capitalist class. Entities representing agrarian, industrial and financial capital (CNA, CNI, Fiesp, Fierj, Febraban etc.) maintain a deafening silence, amidst the rapapés with the minister Paulo Guedes”. As in the episode of the day of the fire, the owners of money only manifest themselves when the image of Brazil abroad starts to harm their immediate businesses – some bankers and businessmen wrote to the vice president, president of the National Council of the Legal Amazon, demanding a plan of environmental protection and sustainable production. The upstairs is thus betting on Bolsonaro’s control (without Bolsonarism, its most extreme face). The key figure in this perspective is the Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, the other remaining pillar of the government.

This can be clearly observed in a ministerial meeting, symptomatically held on the day of the so-called discovery of Brazil (March 22). Discovered the government in its subservience and mediocrity, in its two hours of horrors (in form and content14), released after the departure of Moro and his fight with Bolsonaro, accusing him of intervening in the Federal Police of Rio to spare his family from investigations. With a strong government presence, the meeting shows Guedes at ease, speaking only less than the president and much more than the Minister of the Civil House, responsible for the investment plan that was the agenda of the meeting.

Three points of his interventions call attention. First, bothered by proposals for state contributions to infrastructure by some colleagues, the Minister of Economy opposes the idea of ​​having a million young apprentices in the barracks, who would receive 300 reais (the minimum wage is 1.045 reais) to learn the discipline and perform these works. Then he drops the proposal to open resorts/ casinos with business centers and other services (including an environmental protection area, in line with Bolsonaro's desire to transform Angra dos Reis, on the coast of Rio de Janeiro, into a Cancun). Here are the so-called strategic proposals, the Guedes plan. Could this be a key to understanding the extreme right's obsession with Cuba, in this case with pre-1959 colonial Cuba?

Finally, Guedes illustrates well the inseparable links between the supposedly “civilized” and technical aspects of some and the crude and ideological aspects of others: “he cites Hjalmar Schacht, Minister of Economy of Nazi Germany (1934-1937): 'the reconstruction of Germany in Second War, in the First War with Schacht. The Second World War, with Ludwig Erhard, […] the reconstruction of Chile's economy with the guys from Chicago. […] the case of the merger of the two Germanys. I know it deeply, in detail, it's not just hearsay. You can read eight books about each reconstruction of this one.”15. Guedes, link respectable with the markets, who worked in Chile during Pinochet's bloodthirsty dictatorship (which he calls a “wonderful transformation”), cites a Nazi as a reference. This is not surprising, as the links between neoliberalism and authoritarianism are notorious. Von Mises argued that fascism saved European civilization. Friedman visits the Chilean dictator in 1975 and Hayek travels in 1977 and again in 1981 when, in an interview with The Mercury, declares preferring a liberal dictator to a non-liberal democratic government, as it allows greater economic freedom (this is the absolute value and not democracy) than in the previous period, under Allende. Freedom for capitalism that is stable and self-regulating16.

This exposes the hypocrisy on the part of those who oppose Bolsonaro, but appreciate Guedes – “Jair Bolsonaro’s sertanista pioneerism is the grandfather of Paulo Guedes’ social Darwinism, for whom the main function of the Brazilian economy is to supply the metropolis market with commodities agriculture, as it happened in the XNUMXth century”17. They are inseparable in the war against the population, taking place everywhere, but particularly acute in Brazil. How to qualify a State whose agents continuously fire at civilians? A colonial war of occupation, on which Brazil is based, in its continuum of massacres against the poor, black, indigenous and others. The pandemic sharpens an “agenda of death”, which constitutes the (explicit) link between the different actions and initiatives of the government, such as cutting solidarity policies, total liberalization of pesticides, dismantling environmental policies, opposition to the demarcation of indigenous lands, destruction of the historic and award-winning STD-AIDS policies, expansion of the ownership and carrying of weapons, punitive intentions in a country that has already embarked on mass incarceration, foreign policy of intervention in its neighbors. Genocide18.

Covid-19 holds back for now protests that could gain another dimension against this massacre. Will they pop up after this terrible situation passes? In May, soccer fans launched Somos Democracia in the streets, protests took place within the framework of the anti-racist explosion in the USA, initiatives such as “As long as there is racism, there will be no democracy” articulated and delivery workers, app workers, made their first strikes. The deep economic and social crisis, the politicization of the new generation, the continuous work of the older ones – all of this could be generating a rebellious broth that could take on a greater shape as soon as the sanitary conditions allow it – as in 2019 it already shook several corners of the planet ( Algeria, Sudan, Haiti, Chile, France, Hong Kong, India, Iraq, Colombia, Ecuador…) and took place from the USA in recent weeks.

The pandemic reveals our planetary crossroads. In the face of chaos (the overlapping of crises), in several reports, the state of nature would emerge and in this sense, the most likely future perspective would be to deepen the sinister Hobbesian revelation that brings covid-19: increased inequalities combined with more authoritarianism and deepening the war against the population and the destruction of what we call – mistakenly – nature or the environment. Another path, Spinozian, would be to tread the etymological sense of catastrophe (sudden end or great turning point) of the virus called capitalism, understanding this system as the disease itself, which causes people to become ill. But a big turn only if it involves organization, creation and experimentation. In 2008, the crisis seemed to provide conditions for transformations, but not even with the cycle of protests from the squares movement did this materialize in the slightest. Everything remained or even got worse. Now, some auspicious signs are emerging: appreciation of health workers and other underpaid and undervalued professions, collective health, guidelines such as guaranteed income, multiple solidarity networks and collective self-reflections.

Countless peoples, dissident bodies and living beings show us and indicate paths. The same ones that were so many times, in the last centuries, placed in the field of nature and thus, placed as disposable after consumption. This predominance of Man over Nature puts human life at risk and its survival now depends on listening to those previously considered non-modern whose reports always took into account the activities of life, human and non-human, and to revolutionize. Common land inhabited against capitalist private property, appropriation, expropriation and exploitation. Thinking-practicing democracy with the situated devices of the collective intelligence of territorial bodies19. Against pandemics (colonial, capitalist, extractive, racist, sexist, ethnocidal...), new alliances between species, association of networks of existences and intergalactic internationalism.

*Jean Tible He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at USP.

  1. S. Written for euronomad from the text “apocalypse and/is revelation”. Quarantine Times #2, journal of the Literary Autonomy pandemic. Thanks to Clara Mogno, Hugo Albuquerque and Leonardo Araújo Beserra for their encouragement.


  1. Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert. The fall of the sky: words of a Yanomami shaman. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2015 [2010].
  2. Denise Ferreira da Silva. the unpayable debt. São Paulo, Political Imagination and Living Commons Workshop, 2019, p. 91.
  4. Judith Butler. Bodies in alliance and street politics: notes for a performative theory of assembly. Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian Civilization, 2018 [2015].
  8. September 28 and 29, 2019.
  10.… Thanks to Hugo Albuquerque for sharpening this point
  11. Gilles Deleuze. Spinoza Philosophie Practice. Paris, Editions de Minuit, 1981, p. 39; 76.
  16. Grégoire Chamayou. La société ingouvernable: une généalogie du liberalisme autoritaire. Paris, La Fabrique, 2018.
  19. Veronica Gago. Feminist power: the desire to change everything. Buenos Aires, Tinta Limon, 2019.




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