The President's Speech

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By Luciano Nascimento*

It is imperative to look at things as they are: for a significant portion of the population, the president tells the truth

Part of Michel Foucault's immense intellectual production is centered on reflection on truth, its production and recognition conditions. Foucault searches the classical Greek texts for occasions in which true discourse is on the scene and, from then on, always making use of the archeogenealogical analysis procedure, shows how some of these scenes accompanied the passage of time and determined the way the West deals with, even today, with the truth. Foucault's reading of Oedipus the King is an example of this.

According to the French philosopher-historian, there are three necessary conditions for the emergence of true discourse: the perfect harmony between word and gesture, the asymmetry between the interlocutors – which implies risk for the speaker – and the courage of the person, despite of the unfavorable asymmetry, he speaks his mind. Observing attentively, on the one hand, these three conditions and, on the other hand, the behavior of the current President of the Republic, a possible explanation emerges for his attitudes and for the support they still receive from close to thirty percent of the population, according to recent research. The possible explanation is: for these people, the president tells the truth.

The first condition for a speech to be recognized as true is the perfect harmony between word and gesture. Care must be taken: it is not appropriate, at this moment, to think about empirical, scientific evidence; we only talk about the superimposition between what was said and what was done. Thus, the truth about the belief in the salvation or purification of the race through the sacrifice of human lives is only actually established when someone, a man or a national state, takes up arms and kills people. The suicide bomber and the genocidal ruler have this in common: the death of the victims is full proof of the truth of the words turned into facts.

In this regard, it is undeniable that the current resident of the Palácio da Alvorada tells the truth. In campaigning he made it clear that he did not recognize the indigenous people's right to land; Once in power, he was at least unkind to Chief Raoni, and he seems to be making little effort not to be taken for granted by the escalation of violence against the leaders of indigenous nations. Also in the campaign, and even before it, the president always showed a special appreciation for firearms and the arms industry; elected, he takes several actions that seek to arm the population and restrict the State's control of data on weapons and ammunition purchasers. Throughout his public life, the executive's leader has shown himself to be used to approximations between public and private matters, be it striving to make his own children politicians, be it distributing commissioned positions among friends and relatives; Sitting in the main seat of the Republic, he feels free to nominate friends for high positions, despite expressions of disapproval from opponents and even allies. He believes that, because he is president, he can do whatever he wants. And he has done. Therefore, for many people, the truth is with him.

The second condition for recognizing a true speech is the asymmetry of forces: the speaker is, at first, seen as weak, as less powerful than his interlocutor. Faced with this difference in power, those who, even at a disadvantage, expose themselves to the risk of displeasing, are seen as true, authentic. Living more closely with teenagers is enough to reveal how deceptive this so-called “authenticity” can be… It doesn't matter: in many circumstances, for many people, the truth lies with those who, even taking risks, say what they think, heroically. Or, if you prefer, mythically.

Again, the Brazilian representative, with his pen Bic in hands and his sometimes erratic and faltering speech, he is humble and fragile, almost a Daniel in the lions' den – these, the well-dressed men with fluent speech, difficult to understand for most Brazilians. Someone who assumes that he doesn't read what he signs – because he “can't interpret” – easily generates identification with a good part of the people, who also have interpretation difficulties and are often harmed by it. This identification process enhances the recognition of the truth in the president's words. After all, who has never felt powerless in the face of some disability? Remembering that we are not talking about just anyone, but the head of the national executive, who is expected to have an excellent ability to read and interpret texts, is an intellectual refinement still inaccessible to many people, in a country that has just left slavery and is still under threat. for the “School without party”.

The last characteristic of true speech is the courage of the speaker. This courage is directly related, of course, to the asymmetry of forces that we have already talked about. It turns out that, in certain scenarios, the perception of this courage (to tell the truth) can be hypertrophied. Facing a murderous monster, for example, gives the individual who carries out this battle great social prestige. Oedipus faced and defeated the Sphinx, and became king of Thebes; Jair Messias faced Adélio Bispo, survived the knife attack and became president of the Republic – without attending any debate of ideas with the other candidates. It is a clear sign of courage to survive an attack and continue to carry out the same activity that supposedly motivated it, an exercise allegedly based on opposition to the “old policy”, to the establishment. Not giving up even when facing the risk of death, in defense of an ideal, is a sign of speaking the truth. A good part of the Brazilian population believes that the president did this.

Again, it is necessary to remember that, according to Michel Foucault, the empirical proof of a fact is just another way of producing and recognizing a true discourse, but it is not a necessary condition for any discourse to be considered, a priori, as true. . If it weren't, there wouldn't be so many people who don't believe in the spherical shape of the Earth. Otherwise, more people would recognize the absurdity and incongruity of a head of state disregarding scientific data about an ongoing pandemic, contradicting medical guidelines from the World Health Organization, and encouraging the people to fight against the only measure proven to be effective in decrease in contagion and deaths, social distancing.

Today, Brazil already has more deaths from COVID-19 than China, the origin of the pandemic. Confronted with the mathematical reality of the indisputable tragedy, the president of the Federative Republic of Brazil replied: “So what? Sorry, what do you want me to do? I am the Messiah, but I don't do miracles”.

There is no doubt: he tells the truth, meeting each of the conditions that Foucault listed. In fact, speaking and acting, he doesn't care about the high number of deaths (he questions the authority of the WHO and sabotages social isolation). Defending the return to normality, he really believes himself to be a man dealing with a much more powerful enemy, the pandemic, in the most adequate way: with objectivity and “without hysteria” (defending the interests of capital? yes, also without a doubt, but, above all, naturalizing death, according to the formation of a combatant). Publishing, in social networks, in the midst of the greatest health crisis on the planet in decades, photos of shooting practice, at a time when hundreds of his countrymen are being buried daily in mass graves, he shows the courage to enunciate the obvious truth: the life goes on. For him.

As hard as it is to deal with this, it is imperative to look at things as they are: for a significant portion of the population, the president tells the truth. Against everything and everyone. For these people, he really is a myth and most likely will not cease to be, come what may.

*Luciano Nascimento He holds a PhD in Literature from UFSC and is a professor at Colégio Pedro II.

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