Corona-capitalism is universal.

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Flávio Aguiar*

The United States, under Trump, ceased to be a model of civilization, returning to honor Baudelaire's sentence of being "barbarism illuminated by neon gas".

The most accurate metaphors of globalized capitalism under the aegis of financial and rentier domination are the big airports. Nothing looks more like a big airport than another big airport. The same brands, the same stores, the same transformation into a gigantic mall. Inside the stores, the same offers, the same products, the same monotony, even in the food sector. No metaphor surpasses the post-modern airport, as a symbol of the contradiction implied by the exacerbation of individualism and the annulment of individuality in the contemporary world.

Berlin is a classic example of this transformation. The city has three airports. The oldest, Tempelhof, is deactivated. Planned and built during the Weimar Republic (1918 – 1933), renovated and finished during the Nazi period, it was used as an “air bridge” to supply West Berlin during the beginning of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union decided to isolate it. by land (June 1948 – May 1949), in a late replica of medieval sieges, when most cities and castles were conquered by hunger and disease imposed by prolonged isolation, rather than by arms (contrary to what seen in most Hollywood movies).

It has a monumental architecture, within the Nazi practice. Today its main building serves as a shelter for refugees (see the excellent documentary Zentralflughafen THF, by the Brazilian Karim Aïnouz, winner of the Amnesty International award at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Berlinale, 2019) and its lanes have become a public park. There are still disputes about it, as real estate speculation in the city intended to demolish it and use its space for the construction of modern condominiums. Another proposal is to keep it as a park and make the building an aviation museum. The first time I came to Berlin, as a visiting professor at the Latin American Institute, in 1996, I landed at Tempelhof, which was still operating.

The second airport is Tegel. Built in the former zone administered by the French between 1948-1949, during the post-World War II occupation, it was first used as a military airport. From the 50's it also became commercial. It gained its definitive appearance in the 70s. It is no longer useful for two reasons. The first is actually logistics. Since 2017, more than 20 million passengers a year have circulated through it, and its size does not support such a volume of movement. The other is financial and commercial.

Tegel is a functional airport. Its Terminal A, the most important, has the shape of a hexagon, with several entrances and exits. This allows users very quick access to the counters where they must check-in and from there proceed directly to boarding. Its other four terminals, although with different formats, maintain the same principle of functionality. In summary: it no longer serves the logic of transforming airports into malls where users stop rather than go directly to their flights.

The third is Schönefeld, which is actually outside the city limits, on the border with the province of Brandenburg, 18 km away. from the center of Berlin. Initially built to house an aircraft factory, Henschel und Sohn, Schönefeld also built locomotives, warplanes and armored vehicles during World War II. After this, the Soviets used it as a military airport, but from 1948/1949 authorized its use for civil flights, in the former East Berlin. Today it operates with half of Tegel users/year, especially for “low price” companies, such as Easy Jet, Ryan Air or smaller companies in European circulation. Nor does it satisfy the logic of the mall, although there are areas reserved for duty free shops.

Well, to conclude this introductory trip on the subject of airports, I must say that a fourth airport is under construction, gigantic as it must be, destined to be as expected. Shopping of the sector's millionaire dreams and which, as is typical in this financial world, became one of the biggest financial scandals in German history. 

With an initially estimated cost of 2 billion euros, and scheduled to be inaugurated in the first years of the decade that is now ending, the construction of the airport was the scene of a series of embarrassments. The cost has already exceeded 7 billion, and the airport didn't even taxi on the runway, let alone take off. Dates after opening dates were being cancelled. In the most shameful of them, invitations were even sent to thousands of dignitaries, the inaugural flight, which included Chancellor Angela Merkel, towards Frankfurt, was already mapped, the change of companies from Tegel airport to there was on the screen, when everything had to be canceled due to technical errors then discovered.

And another series of fiascoes followed, between privatizations and renationalizations that cost the public coffers a bundle of euros. A lot of people made a lot of money, in indemnities from one side to another. The debacle reached such a point that in the local media someone demanded, in a message not devoid of prejudice: “Is Berlin the desired metropolis for XNUMXst century Germany or is it becoming a capital of the Third World?”

The question, however, reveals a true background. The capitalist system succeeded in becoming hegemonic thanks to its enormous plasticity, capable of adapting to a series of circumstances very different from each other, among the various continents that it occupied and often devastated. However, now, under the command (already less than a hegemony) of finance and rentism, the capitalist system has been notable in covering and hiding everything under the garments of its last principles. It has become less hegemonic but more homogeneous. It can be managed more intelligently or more stupidly; more refinement or more coarseness; a more balanced or unbalanced speech, etc.

But it always acts in a structurally very similar way, boosting, as has already been said here, individualism and burying individuality; exciting the fanciful and drowning the imagination; favoring egotism and destroying personality; pushing the artificial flavor to the fore and sabotaging the authentic taste. As in airports, transformed into labyrinths where the user loses the sense of self-direction and is devoured by the Minotaur of excessive prices, since there is no other option. There are no streets there, there are only “bretes” – a Gaucho term that designates the corridor where the oxen are taken for slaughter.

The present moment, dominated by the Coronavirus pandemic, also exemplifies this circumstance. With more or less intelligence or more or less stupidity, the structure of the debate, all over the world, is the same. I have read comments that speak of the Brazilian situation, that denounce Brazil as a kind of aberration of nature and praise a Europe of Belle Epoque social democrat that no longer exists. One enters into the logic of derogatory expressions about Brazil and Brazilians: “if it were in a serious country”, “in a civilized country”, etc.

When it comes to saying “in our Tupiniquim world” my fury reaches its peak. Because the Tupiniquins were extremely reasonable beings, let's face it, victims of prejudice on the part of the Tupinambás... I think that the Tupiniquins are confused with the “brave and ferocious Aimoré”, d'The Guarani, by Alencar, presented this tribe as a group of primitive grunts before the articulation of… goitacá Peri, who was neither Tupi nor Guarani. Incidentally, the “Guarani”, the novel's hero, is not the Indian, but the language, transformed in Alencar's vision into a lingua franca in the country in romantic gestation, and which thus fertilizes the Portuguese language of Brazil, making it different from the matrix European. But this is a debate for another article.

Returning to Corona-capitalism, the confrontation in which Europe – and Germany, in particular – is being debated is the same, structurally and conceptually, as the Brazilian one. It is more refined, stripped of the stupidity of the Bolsonaro government and the lumpen Brazilian business community, but in essence it is no different: it is about the struggle between the “cautious” and the “hurried” in terms of loosening the isolation, between doing it “slowly” , safe and gradual” or “broad, general and unrestricted” in advance.

Of course: around here, no one will commit the criminal impudence of Messrs. Madero, Giraffas, and others, who in the wake of mr. Bolsonaro for the death of others, trivialize lethality. Although mr. Ryan Air, around here, has despised an eventual distancing inside his company's planes as something "idiotic". What frightens is not the discussion; it's the word.

North of the Equator and east of Cabo Roca, the extreme western point of Continental Europe, the discussion is more serious, but no less heated. The central argument of the “hurried ones” revolves around a document called the “Heinsberg Protocol”, made and disseminated by the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn, under the leadership of Dr. Hendrik Streek.

Heinsberg is a city in the far west of Germany, on the border with the Netherlands. It was the first city where there was massive contamination by the Corona-Virus, due to a public ball during Carnival, which was not cancelled. Hundreds of people were infected in a single night, 58 died. However, in the wake, contaminations and deaths dropped. In research carried out by the Bonn Institute, subsequent immunization was pointed out as the cause of the drop in contamination. According to the study, 15% of the city's population of 250 inhabitants had been immunized by the benign contamination. The study has been used by supporters of “broad, general and unrestricted” openness.

The conclusion is disputed by Dr. Christian Drosten, from the Institute of Virology at Hospital da Charité (equivalent to the Brazilian HCs), in Berlin. The Doctor. Drosten recognizes that Germany has performed better in the crisis than, for example, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. But he maintains that the conclusions of the “Heisenberg Protocol” are premature. For him, there is no convincing evidence of immunization because the virus mutates very quickly, and there were also rapid isolation reactions in many parts of Germany, in addition to a wide application of tests. He also praises the performance of Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Perhaps one of the distinguishing characteristics of good leaders is that they are not using the present situation as a political springboard” (interview with The Guardian, 26/04/2020).

But he points out that for many he, who is one of the main consultants of the German government, is responsible for “crippling the economy”, and he also says that for this reason he has been receiving death threats, like the Brazilian doctors who have been questioning the effectiveness miracle drug of chloroquine, transformed into a “cure elixir” by Trump and his servile Brazilian double, Bolsonaro.

The summary of this opera is that, if Trump's United States ceased to be a model of civilization for many people in Brazil, returning to honor Baudelaire's sentence, issued in the XNUMXth century, of being "barbarism illuminated by neon gas", certainly Imaginary Europe remains, stimulated image, mutatis mutandis, by what Sergio Buarque identified, in Brazil roots, as “the secret horror” of the positivist reformers, at the end of the XNUMXth century, in front of the real country they saw, when opening the windows and encountering banana trees and crooked trees instead of the erect pine forests of the Black Forest and the placidity of the waters of the Seine or from the Rhine.

But the universality of Corona-Capitalism is a fact. In the mentality of dominant financism, profit that is not immediately measured is accounted for as a loss, because in the world of exacerbated individualism combined with the suffocation of individualities, failing to profit immediately is equivalent to an irremediable loss of prestige, something unbearable for the little egos that depend on from positive monetary accounting to feeling great.

* Flavio Aguiar is a writer, journalist and retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP.

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