The right to go to the beach

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By LUIZ EDUARDO SOARES*

A key part of the obstacles to the development of democracy was and continues to be the “internal enemy”, whether as an image and symbol, as a category and idea, or as a practice and value.

Dedicated to Manuel Domingos, Pedro Celestino and André Castro

I read with perplexity and indignation the interview with Globe by the governor of the state of Rio, Claudio Castro, published on December 16, 2023: “We are taking minors who are unaccompanied by guardians, who do not have documentation, and taking them so that we can carry out social research on them. There's nothing wrong with that, there's no restriction on the beach. If you want to go to the beach, take your ID, go with your guardian, you will be able to enjoy the beach in a good way.”

Who is the governor's order aimed at, which conditions access to the beach for children under 18 years of age on the presentation of documents and the presence of guardians? The phrase is very clear: it is aimed at everyone who wants to go to the beach. However, no information supplements the order.

Claudio Castro does not say, and strangely the reporter does not ask, how State agents will stand guard on the sidewalks to check documents and attest to the presence of those responsible, who, in turn, would be identified based on what criteria?

Would the entire PM force be mobilized? Would walls be built with turnstiles and ticket windows? Would the measure apply to all beaches in Rio de Janeiro? How many material, human and financial resources would be invested? What legal bases would support the initiative? Had the city halls of the cities involved been consulted?

Would municipal guards and other public employees be made available to enable the control provided for in the governor's order? What, exactly, are the age groups covered by the restrictive order? Is the issue at hand really access to the beach or does it extend to the neighborhoods adjacent to the coast? Can young people freely visit these neighborhoods? Any neighborhoods? Or would there also be restrictions restricting circulation that does not involve the beaches?

No, nothing like that: what the logical and grammatical structure of the sentence indicates on the semantic level (the order is universal, addressed to those who reside in the state of Rio) is reversed in the subtext (the order is addressed to some and some, not listed , explicitly, but implied – there is no doubt about who they are).

On the other hand, the access in the judgment screen does not correspond to the arrival at the beach, but to the movement whose destination is the beach – a movement that would be intercepted at the origin or at some point on the itinerary.

Access can be conceived as a good (to be potentially enjoyed - being common, the individual benefit does not reduce its potential for enjoyment), a right (to be exercised), a possibility (physical, material, as long as there are citizens and the good of which deals with access, in this case, the beach) or an act (being on the beach, enjoying what it offers, which presupposes having reached it, having arrived at it) and a fact (the occupied beach).

The police actions that constitute the implicit reference of Castro's statement occur on the route of buses that transport residents of the poorest areas of the city and the metropolitan region to the South Zone on weekends. It is in these police approaches that screening takes place.

Those chosen are taken to shelters where they await investigations until nightfall - I say chosen because the category of suspects would not fit here, as there are not even crimes in progress, in preparation, or signs of organization for their commission - and we still do not count on the paranormal anticipation of the crimes. researchers from minority report, film by Steven Spielberg, inspired by the short story by Philip K. Dick.

Understand: at dusk, the beach's shelf life as a place for fun usually ends. Therefore, Castro recognizes that the penalty – yes, a penalty without crime, without accusation – applied to young people precedes and is independent of the results of such “social research”.

Let’s go back to your statement: “We are taking minors who are unaccompanied by guardians, who do not have documentation, and taking them to us to do social research on them.”

The governor's phrase is maliciously elliptical, in the form of universal discourse: firstly, under the appearance of a dyadic relationship (sender, the governor, and receiver, the universal audience through the mediation of the reporter and, therefore, the newspaper), stipulates , in practice, a triangular relationship, by operating a distinction between two types of recipients: those to whom the order is actually directed and the others, not targeted by the restrictions, who only witness the act of governmental speech and whose obsequious silence (the reporter silences the crucial questions) symbolically confirms the legitimacy and authority of the statement issued.

Notice how the poorly concealed irony masks the duplication of types of recipients: “You want to go to the beach, take your ID, go with your guardian, you’ll be able to enjoy the beach in a good way.”

You refer to those who will never require documents or the monitoring of responsible people and, simultaneously, to those who will be the target of the requirement. The superposition barely disguises the factionalism and bias of the governor's order under the evocation of the universal interlocutor.

Secondly, the speech is disquietingly elliptical and disingenuous. I quote, again: “We are catching minors (…) and taking them (…) There is nothing wrong with that, there is no restriction on the beach”.

No, no restrictions on the beach, in fact. On the beach we have acts (active modalities of being in that place) and facts (occupation of the beach) tautologically proving presence, a presence that is the opposite of exclusion.

Therefore, access as a good was not denied, as a fact, act or possibility (since anyone who was not on the beach could, in principle, be there — no one, in principle, would be prevented from showing documents and being accompanied responsible — and the discriminatory nature of the application of the requirements would not tarnish the affirmation of access as a universal possibility).

From this it would be deduced that the right had been preserved, access as a right would remain respected, protected, protected, guaranteed.

The violator's leap lies precisely in the intentional and cunning confusion between access as an abstract right (corresponding to the non-cancellation of the possibility of enjoying it) and an objective right (corresponding to the support of equity in the distribution of the effective conditions of experiencing the possibility).

No one in Brazil is prevented, in principle, from benefiting from public education, that is, access to education, from first to third grade, is possible – and this possibility is a precious asset protected by the responsible authorities (from the MP to the Executive, passing through the Public Defender's Office and Justice).

However, there are affirmative policies, such as quotas, and they were considered constitutional by the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision.

What are quotas for? Reduce the inequity that occurs, concretely, in the distribution of conditions in which social groups experience possibility.

The governor of Rio is introducing factors that reduce equity in the distribution of effective conditions for experiencing the possibility.

His decision confronts the axial principle of the Constitution, equity in access to public goods – he created the anti-quota or quota for exclusion. This is a perverse experiment along the lines of apartheid, with social and racial aspects.

I confess that the governor's words had a devastating effect on me: if there are no longer any limits, no modesty, if cynicism can be exposed without shame, if rationality is no longer a parameter for arguments, if the speech of the Executive's maximum authority If you can sacrifice any commitment to respecting the intelligence of your interlocutors, what can you expect from the citizens who listen to you?

The pact that establishes the minimum conditions for dialogue in the democratic public space was unilaterally broken.

In a vacuum, denialism and nihilism thrive, corrosive poisons, weapons of mass destruction of what, one day, with good (although idealistic) intentions, was called common sense: the minimum consensus indispensable to life in common, a substrate that does not it prevents differences, on the contrary, it makes them possible and gives them meaning.

The governor shot at what he saw and hit what he didn't see: he targeted the MP's criticism of police actions and imploded the inter-subjective foundations of language and culture.

Castro declared war (without barracks and flags, the Hobbesian war for the subordination of meaning to force, the war of all against all) by undermining the field of mutual understanding, by imploding discourse as a public space for rational argumentation. And, as Shakespeare said: when language is lacking, violence prevails.

My perplexity was worsened by the TJRJ's position.

The governor's demonstration was supported by the president of the Court of Justice of Rio, judge Ricardo Rodrigues, who, according to The Globe, on December 16, 2023, “revoked (…), this Saturday, the injunction granted by judge Lysya Maria da Rocha Mesquita, head of the 1st Court for Children, Youth and the Elderly of the District of the Capital. In it, the magistrate determined that the state government and city hall refrain from apprehending or taking children and adolescents to police stations or reception units, except when caught committing crimes. The measure was part of preventive actions under Operation Summer that reinforces security on Rio’s beaches (sic)”.

The report follows: “The president of the TJRJ also considered that the cases of referral of adolescents approached to the shelter institution do not violate their right to come and go (…) The action was filed by the Public Prosecutor's Office, which questioned the motivation for the approaches. The MP stated that, on the 25th, 26th, 29th and 30th of November and the 2nd and 3rd of December, Operation Verão sent 89 teenagers to the Adhemar Ferreira de Oliveira Reception Center (Central Carioca), in Cidade Nova, after being approached by security agents. These young people, according to the Prosecutor's Office, reported that they were taken without any explanation and that the technical team found a reason to take in only one of them.”

But the escalation of attacks on equity continued. The main press organization in Rio de Janeiro, The Globe, defended, in an editorial, on December 21st, the governor's decision and police actions.

Referring to constitutional principles and legal limits, the text considered: “All these aspects must be taken into account. But you can’t lose track of reality.”

What reality is this about?

The violence of the robberies has been scaring the residents of Copacabana in particular. This violence is real, it is repulsive, it must be repelled, contained and prevented.

But there is another reality: the violation of the rights of poor black teenagers, the arbitrary humiliation, the violence of blocking free movement and discriminatory subjugation — they pay not for crimes they perpetrated, but because they have the same color and social origin as some of the perpetrators; They pay for the government and police to account for those who, rightly, demand punishment and control, and they take the place of the real culprits, who the police did not identify and arrest. They pay for the incompetence of the police.

If there are two realities to consider, they are not equivalent and one does not serve to justify the other, because random detention does not constitute a security policy, the racist violation of equity does not guarantee security in Copacabana.

Rather, it deepens the separation, objectively and subjectively: on the one hand, addressing the fear of residents of the South Zone of the target population of police seizures on buses and, on the other hand, intensifying the feeling of injustice and justified hatred against police officers ( and the institutions that support them) of young people prevented from traveling to the beach.

Is this the method of the democratic rule of law to empty the much criticized polarization that fractures society?

Is this how to reduce violence and crime?

The editorial concludes: “Of course, police officers need to have discretion, they cannot go around detaining poor black teenagers just to justify their work. But the police are required to act preventively, before crimes occur. This presupposes approaches, reviews, checks. The MP and the Courts have an important role in curbing excesses and demanding respect for the law. The work of the police, however, cannot be curtailed. This would only benefit offenders, who would feel free to commit crimes.”

Superficiality, narrowness and ideological cliché set the tone. It is hard to believe that a responsible journalist would have written such an incredibly biased sentence, with a foundation so insensitive to the racist dimension of his words: “This (the restriction of police work, understood here as the execution of the actions covered by this article and that editorial) would only benefit the offenders…”

Wouldn't it benefit each and every innocent person who suffers authoritarian abuse?

Wouldn't it benefit the concept of Justice and legal certainty, by demonstrating that institutions refuse to negotiate the central value of equity in the demagogic counter of voluntarist measures?

On December 17, reacting to the decision of the president of the Court, PSOL deputies Renata Souza and Talíria Petrone filed a representation with the Public Ministry of Rio and the Federal MP against the apprehension and driving of teenagers without being caught on the beaches or on their way to beaches.

On December 21st, the Public Defender's Office of the State of Rio de Janeiro appealed to the “complaint” institute, addressed to the STF, alleging that, in AdI 3446, the STF itself had already decided exactly to prohibit these arbitrary and discriminatory seizures.

The objective of the Ombudsman's Office was to guarantee the authority of the unanimous ruling of ADI 3446. The definitive position of the STF is still being awaited.

While the legal fencing continues, the saddest thing is to see that we have not left the place.

In 1993, I published articles and research on the same topic. At the end of 1992, what would come to be called “arstão” occurred and the issue of access to beaches invaded the headlines.

In these thirty years, Rio has been a laboratory for lethal police brutality and the most diverse violations, always under the argument that if the method doesn't work it's because we don't apply it with enough energy: we need more of the same with more force.

Stupidity, disregard for evidence, denialism, obsession with the war on drugs, and mass incarceration have plunged us into the precipice of barbarism.

It is easy to point the finger at managers and politicians, given the decadence of the state of Rio.

Imprisoned governors and politicians, institutional erosion, increase in armed violence, advance of militias, economic decline, expansion of informality and the eternal return of the same degrading dynamics.

It's easy to accuse others, but what about those who feel like they represent the immaculate conscience of the elites?

How responsible are you in this regrettable process?

Applauding the violation of elementary rights, endorsing the humiliation of poor and black youth, accepting the Faustian pact, is this how the fall into the abyss will be reversed? I do not believe.

On the contrary, acting like this, carrying out a parliamentary coup against President Dilma to enthrone a neoliberal agenda (the bridge to the future), supporting abuses of legal principles to arrest Lula and exclude him from the 2018 contest — opening the way to fascism —, tolerating the way to adapt the Constitution to the utilitarian interests of the moment, sanitizing the beaches of inconvenient presences, silencing the 20.791 deaths caused by police actions, in the state of Rio, between 2003 and 2022, of which less than 10% reached the courts, in this sense , the well will be deeper and our debacle unstoppable.

By Faustian pact I refer to the attempt to obtain security at any price, even if it is selling the soul of democracy, even if it is tearing up the Constitution, even if it is through a coup, a trick or a dribble in the legal framework.

I maintain — and I made this belief the motto of my activism — that security will not be achieved through these means, as either it will exist for everyone, or no one will be safe.

Before concluding, it would be interesting to visit the past. We were different once. Everything could have been different. So why not seriously think about profound changes?

Well, once upon a time there was a place where there was light — or rather, the immense sun of Rio's summer. But the person who put the sun's route on the map of emerging democracy was Leonel Brizola.

Elected governor in 1982, he hurried to open the way for the poor and black people. In addition to including anti-racist commitments in the government program, inspired by Abdias Nascimento, Lélia Gonzales, Caó and Darcy Ribeiro, it created new access to the city (Linha Vermelha), education (Cieps), popular culture (Sambódromo) and the beach (the public space in which — supposedly — we strip away the signs of distinction and celebrate equality).

Electing the Gaucho leader did not just mean returning to the present to the struggles that preceded the coup of 64, resuming the thread of history; It also represented affirming a cosmopolitan and generous perspective, the best self-image that Rio could offer itself: welcoming and averse to the rancorous spirit of provincial regionalism.

The rehearsal of a tropical social democracy by the sea, reducing distances — social, material and symbolic — to promote the great encounter: the party as utopia.

Therefore, in a sense, universal access to the beach was in Brizola's project like the parangolé in Helio Oiticica's work: the sensitive experiment for new tunes with nature and the community; the focus on cities without gates, fluent traffic, from north to south; open and accessible spaces; urban arenas open to the dance of democratic coexistence.

The less inflexible and dogmatic left had already intuited the profound meaning of the titans' declaration, in the 1987 song “Comida”: we don't just want food, we want food, fun and art.

In 1982, when the Brazilian population once again elected governors, albeit under restrictive conditions, society was changing and the world was approaching major transformations: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the globalized neoliberal order.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian dictatorship, at the slow pace of gradualist detente, concluded its work, transferring a ruinous legacy to the future: external debt, galloping inflation, concentration of income, fear, veto on participation, censorship, persecution, torture, political assassinations and unlimited license to police violence based on class, skin color and territory.

Governing the states, in that period when the dictatorship tolerated the functioning of some democratic bodies, required prudence and audacity, a challenging paradox represented poetically in the form of “equilibrist hope” — a portrait of the time and the theme of the memorable song by João Bosco and Aldir Blanc , which had become a kind of amnesty anthem.

There was an electorate with a thousand and one repressed and accumulated demands to contemplate; scarce resources to manage; legal parameters imposed by the dictatorship to be observed; unstable political environment to face; legal uncertainty and, in the air, tacit threats of intervention: the Damocles sword of regression raised over the heads of the leaders opposing the military regime.

In this atmosphere of hopes, promises, tensions and uncertainties, in the summer of 1984, Brizola determined the creation of three bus lines, connecting the North Zone to the South Zone, passing through the Rebouças Tunnel: 460, 461 and 462.

The beaches became accessible to residents of the capital's poorest neighborhoods. The experience of the city changed for those who had until then been confined to the aridity of what was called suburbia.

It also changed for traditional visitors, who began to coexist with a diversity that was previously isolated and invisible. Racist reactions appeared and are recorded in reports and documentaries.

The governor was criticized, proposals circulated to revoke decisions on transport over the weekend and there were even those who suggested charging admission to “filter” visitors and empty the beaches of unwanted people. Unwanted, of course, were the poor, the black, the “suburban.”

This emerging democracy began to be put in check, in this case not by the dictatorship, but by its deepest historical conditions of possibility: structural racism and the naturalization of the class hierarchy, legacies of colonialism and slavery, atavistic marks of capitalism. authoritarian.

A key part of the obstacles to the development of democracy was and continues to be the “internal enemy”, whether as an image and symbol, as a category and idea, or as a practice and value.

The national security doctrine established the category of internal enemy, which had been in existence since at least the 1940s, in the wake of the Cold War and the expansion of American influence.

Thus, through the mediation of this conceptual figure, there was an overlap between the areas of incidence of two types of institutions: Armed Forces and Police, the former projecting their authority over the latter — and not the other way around, naturally, for eminently political reasons.

The pivot role of this category (internal enemy) is key because it produces a double turn: firstly, it displaces communists from the place of political opposition, disqualifying them as legitimate actors in the ideological dispute and redefining them as foreign infiltration, destined to undermine sovereignty. national.

But it doesn't stop there. In the same movement, surreptitiously, it repositions the circumstantial holders of power and the Armed Forces as permanent expressions of nationality itself, immanent manifestations of the essential substrate of the nation, which, by some metaphysical magic, would have consolidated itself as a territorial and institutional.

Everything happens as if nationality emanated from the spirit of the people and was incarnated in the military – as Manuel Domingos taught us.

We still don't know what nationality, spirit and people mean, but we understand very well what is at stake: whoever opposes this ideological-mystical-political amalgam — an amalgam identified with the nation itself — will be considered an enemy of the nation.

The enemy label brings with it practical consequences, as military personnel adopt warlike language and procedures to confront enemies. Unlike the adversary, who puts the maintenance of power at risk, the enemy represents an existential threat and must be eliminated, annihilated, slaughtered, extinguished, neutralized.

For opponents, the dispute of elections; to enemies, death.

Double turn, I insist: the same conceptual gesture that disqualifies the other qualifies the person who performs it.

Furthermore, this semantic operation engenders the thesis of twin souls: the nation and the Armed Forces; both emanations of a common essence, destined for eternal bonding.

For all these reasons, dissolving the “internal enemy” category (thus abandoning the doctrine of national security) would have to be the most urgent and decisive task of the New Republic, created with the momentum of the “Diretas, Já” movement, whose contours were gaining body and voice throughout the decade, and which would finally be inaugurated with the promulgation of the Citizen Constitution, in 1988.

It was necessary to untie the knot that tied politics to war — that is, to the military —, to unlock the mechanism that superimposed national security on public security, military personnel on police officers.

In other words, the number one commitment of the democratic rule of law, to deserve this title, at the very moment of its installation, would have to be to remove the military from politics and the police, that is, to demilitarize politics and public security.

Otherwise, the Armed Forces would continue to protect political life, while the social order of citizenship, founded on the guarantee of individual and collective rights, would remain confused with the stability of hegemonic economic power over the State.

In this way, democracy would be condemned to simply staging a relay in the government of exponents of the same hegemonic project, just as the police and the penal system would continue to be governed by the “combat” against “enemies” (of “society” or “good men”). ”).

Have we accomplished task number one? No, the constituents faced limits imposed by the correlation of forces — and, in the following decades, the practice took root, following the trail of the darkest traditions, originating from the most remote depths of our history.

The dictatorship was eclipsed but still maintained its claws in the not only corporatist, but also ideological and political defense of the Armed Forces.

Hence the veto on transitional justice and the very extension of the democratizing transition to the three forces and the police — whose model forged during the dictatorship remained untouched in the 1988 Charter.

We created a monster, which coexisted with many civic achievements, but limited them. The monster is a double-faced institutional enclave, refractory to political and civil authority. The genius of the Armed Forces seemed to the unwary to have definitively returned to the bottle, until a captain uncorked it.

The police, on the other hand, never even simulated containment, subordination to external controls (not even from the MP) or to the command of governors.

We have created a double enclave, in the middle of the living room of the democratic rule of law, which breathes on devices, every now and then struggles and asserts itself, at other times it withdraws, cornered, concedes, compromises, retreats.

On the horizon, free, light and loose, the devilish character mocks us, and stains the Republic with blood: the infamous “internal enemy” — this practical-moral-conceptual amalgam, which brings with it a strong emotional appeal.

On the beach, he is the one who expels the crowd and shouts “suburbanites”, whip in hand, shouting: “there are no innocent people in the outskirts, there are none in the favelas, just like in Gaza. Cancel the bus lines, wall the hills, invade the favelas, exterminate the damned. Stick with kids, that’s the language they understand.”

How about we pick up the thread of the story from here?

* Luiz Eduardo Soares is an anthropologist, political scientist and writer. Former national secretary of public security. Author, among other books, of Demilitarize: public security and human rights. Boitempo: 2019. [https://amzn.to/4754KdV]

Originally published on the website Viomundo.


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