The right to hope

Image: Lara Mantoanelli


From splendid bitterness to militant hope.


“Exhausted. Tired. Feel like throwing in the towel. Definitely the civilizing project did not work out”. Outbursts like this one from an ex-student (Ana S.), and many others like it, populate the minds and prey on the emotions of so many of us, in this bad hour for Bolsonarists. The spirit of this time is the negation of the spirit in time, displaced as it was by the pettiness of unreason, by the abandonment of an infinity of minimum conditions that promoted the virtues of the republic, the production of social wealth and its equitable distribution, and the joy of living in freedom and security.

The superior sphere where the history of a people forging their destiny should hover, was brought to ruin by a moralistic misrepresentation of so many, captured by the opportunistic cleverness of disqualified people, soon catapulted to the status of saviors of the homeland. When the litany of private moralities, even in its noble version – which is far from the current resentful patriots in green and yellow – tramples politics, denying it entirely, or just seeing it for its physiological or corrupted pettiness, intending, therefore, to substitute it for those, we have dug the black hole that sucks our hopes, dissipating them in the oblivion, where all anti-democracy cats are brown.

From now on, the reconstruction of politics, as an autonomous sphere of social practice, as a key to analysis and interpretation of the modern and contemporary world and as the meaning of action, produced or submitted to the conflicting dialectic of social subjects, is imposed. Invoking this preliminary need is a premise for it to be perceived, for it to penetrate and persuade the conscience of many, but its effective recovery, the restoration of its dignity as ordering and propitiating social life, will be everyone's task, the mobilized streets, the haughty parliaments, organic parties, democratic leaderships, free and plural press and institutions and powers not limited to the influence or control of the dominant social strata.

Just look around to see how much to do, how long it will take; hence the urgency of this agenda, of its effective and successful resolution, both in the objective space of the conflict, and in the scope of the subjective conscience, on which sovereignty, democracy and well-being will depend – of the nation, the political regime and of the people, respectively.


The expression “From splendid bitterness to militant hope” contains a bit of a paradox, enunciated by the two initial expressions, apparently incompatible, denoting an exponentially distressing condition, which is followed by a summons, contained in the two final terms, to restore more promising perspectives in our lives and in our society.

It certainly sounds strange to call such misfortune or restlessness splendid, but given that its incidence is so pervasive, extensive and continuous, perhaps such a qualification would fit him with some propriety.

To be just probabilistic and not peremptory, there has been no lack of reasons to embitter peoples throughout history. Wars, economic hardships, political oppression, existential misery, disenchantment, commodification of life, reduction of its vital movement to the propitiating sphere of the circulation of goods in which, in the end, it in part becomes.

Bitterness can be experienced as consternation, as defeat, as impotence and paralysis in the face of the state of affairs that we are given to live in, in a world full of adversities that hinder us, of structures that imprison us and of processes that constrain our horizons as unique individuals. or as social beings, citizens of a country that does not seem to confer content, respectability or validity on this concept for the majority of its population.

We Brazilians, included here, and with due primacy, the original peoples, have historical background reasons and successive conjunctures in which a desired joy of living is suffocated or displaced by the bitter hardships of persistent structures or unfortunate events. Just to mention those who are in full swing, it is enough to see the extent to which the political deterioration has reached, expressed not only by the election of a sociopath, who seems to strive to live up to the characterization of genocide, to the highest office in the country, but astonishingly still have reasonable support from furious and fanatical self-appointed patriots, these even more deserving of Samuel Johnson's prediction or vituperation, that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.

Bolsonaro's election and his first two years of (mis)government have been experienced by many as the ultimate expression of a bitterness that goes beyond its political and social envelope to affect us from within; a governmental period in which the “splendour” of this condition acquires the strength and exuberance of a somber melancholy, almost depression, from which we are only gradually recovering thanks to a hopeful militancy.

We are so punished as a people that the legal Brazil has appeared to us the most, and has been implemented most of the time, as a “hate enterprise”, in the shocking expression of the writer Luiz Antonio Simas. Even more terrible is the fact that this undertaking has, in recent times, extrapolated its institutional framework and spread across the social ground in which we all live.

We are therefore, in this homeland more debased than loved, under multiple painful determinations, to use a term consistent with the martyrdom of its people: of its formation under the auspices of a peripheral and late mercantilist capitalism, which is realized here under the modalities of slavery colonial, updated by a dependent capitalism until it culminated in its neoliberal phase of the last 30 years, which adds, to the spoliating and reifying structures and processes of its original mode of production, a particular and intense load of psychic suffering, as last ratio of social control and power strategy (see, by the way, Vladimir Safatle, Nelson da Silva Junior, Christian Dunker (eds.) Neoliberalism – how to manage psychic suffering (Authentic).


Overcoming such a past, freeing oneself from these structures and their ruses is a Promethean task, waiting for a Hercules to free us from such punishments; and may Pandora not be late closing the trunk, from which many evils have already come out, except the worst of all, the one that destroys hope. As modern rationalism does not allow us to successfully invoke the Greek myths, we can nevertheless draw inspiration from them so that, no matter how bad things are, we can keep hope alive with the Herculean strength of a democratically mobilized people.

In this way, this bitter condition can instigate in us an action that denies it, a mood that confronts it and that ultimately overcomes it. This is the bet contained in the last two words of the title. Thus, this condition does not need to be felt as a swamp of hopelessness (even because what is a swamp can be drained), but rather as a ground of a reality on which we can exercise our creative potential, our nonconformity, our fighting capacity, always transforming it a little more, developing it for the benefit of many.

Bitterness and hope should not be perceived only or mainly as stages of a linear process, from the first to the second at best, or its reverse at worst. In practical life these terms and respective conditions are intertwined, in continuous oscillation; only a conscious and determined action can make prevail, in each period, and maintain for the longest time, that condition that makes life worth living.

A knowledge associated with courage is thus an active way and partisanly committed to the good that has been paving the way. What we are looking forward to is not a rigid and final target, but rather a longing drive of will and work, which follows paths that create possibilities for an open future.

Hope, waiting, not as resignation, but as an act passionate about success, against anxieties, the machinations of fear and its disseminators; coming out of oneself, expanding the circuit of participation and its movement. Hope points to a becoming in which something will have changed; make yourself, remake yourself and your conditions, propose something new and different for yourself and for society.

Against fraudulent, illusory, manipulative hopes that confuse the unwary, and affront the most informed and aware, we must affirm authentic hope, that which confronts fear and desolation.

Culture here, in its multiple inventive expressions of ways of life and being in the world, and its exercise through the cracks in the system, is one of the effective forms of resistance, of forging, through the collective participation of many, a renewal, a ritual that celebrates life, protects and promotes celebration and joy not because life is easy, but precisely because it is not. It is also through this means that hope is restored.

One of the three theological virtues; not an optimistic passivity, but the tenacious combativeness of someone walking towards a secure goal (Pope Francis); inscription on the entrance to hell that Dante faces in the Divine Comedy,”Leave all hope, you who enter” (Leave all hope here, you who enter); portentous reflection of the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch (The hope principle); or just a current expression of common sense (hope dies the last), are all pieces of a mosaic and instances of a desired in which hope constitutes the main thread that magnetizes life, which induces us to move forward; a performative principle capable of “producing facts and changing life”. It is with her that we can face the present time, it is she who gives us the strength to walk in life.

The right to hope is our fundamental and irrevocable right. And its active form, our means of containing the 'advance backwards', confronting our inglorious and rooted position, now in Bolsonarist times deepened, at the forefront of backwardness.

*Remy J. Fontanasociologist. Retired Professor at UFSC – Federal University of Santa Catarina.

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