The Historian of the Future

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By RAFAEL IORIS*

Will we enter even further into the time tunnel revived today with fascist theories or will the calls for the end of the greatest nightmare in recent history have resulted?

Looking at Brazil in recent weeks, it seems plausible to think that the historian of the future will have great difficulties in trying to explain the growing paradox between the enormous mobilization of broad and influential sectors of national society in opposition to the current government and the continuity of still significant levels of support at the same. And although editorials, articles, analyzes by journalists and academics have been affirming, almost exhaustively, the unsustainability of the continuity of the current composition of representatives in the highest instances of power in the Republic, public opinion polls have consistently indicated that between a third and even half of voters support the current public administration or oppose its early withdrawal.

If the bankruptcy of the current government is so evident, due to notorious involvement with sectors of the state militias and notorious administrative incompetence, dramatically and tragically aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic (where Brazil became the new epicenter of its worldwide expansion) , how to understand the still existing appeal if not to the government itself, but certainly to its agenda and especially rhetoric? I see that the keys to understanding such questions must be sought in our history.

History of a society that is not only deeply exclusionary and elitist, but also conservative, if not reactionary, violent and especially deeply racist. Although relevant, a longer journey through our history, for example along the evolutionary lines of what would become the largest and most lasting slave society of the modern period, is clearly beyond the reach of these lines. Thankfully, for the purposes proposed here, the most recent past, even in its memorial form of our civil-military dictatorship, should suffice.

Let us remember that our dictatorship, especially in its years of lead, that is, between 1968 and the mid-70s – which, tragically and eloquently, even today, but especially then, were seen by many as glorious years–, enjoyed wide support and popular appeal! In addition to the important, but certainly not exclusive, question of the gains that the middle classes, base and spokespersons for the regime then, as now, had during the said brazilian miracle, it is essential to remember that there was, indeed, genuine support, especially by parts of these same social segments of the logic, narrative and action of the regime in favor of the so-called law and order.

Effectively, in the early 70s, ARENA, the first and central base of the generals at the time, boasted of being the largest party in the West. A party that could count on direct and broad support not only from councilors and deputies from all over the country, but also from various liberal professionals and multiple businessmen who thus agreed, explicitly or implicitly, with the commands and excesses of a repressive regime and liar but could, in any case, count on support among the most culturally reactionary and moralistic strata of the population that provided, in an influential way, the necessary support and legitimation to the ongoing authoritarianism.

The widows of the military business regime are still very much alive among us! Especially among the current reserve generals who head several of the main ministries of the current (mis)government, as well as among the officers and, interestingly, even at the bases of the military police of several states, young people who did not live through the dictatorship but who cling to the lying mantra by the elders propagated from hard manu that would have solved the country's problems in the old days of generals. In the civilian environment, in addition to the diffuse base among the usual reactionary and prejudiced urban middle classes, we have, among the political parties, since our shameful transition (always unfinished) in the 80s, the so-called Centrão, in fact the main representative of physiologism and corruption which (although their widows deny it!) were already raging during our call miracle.

But if the echoes of the past are too strong not to be heard, history tends to repeat itself only as a farce, as the time-honored truism goes. As a farce, if Medici had popular appeal as the friendly dictator who went to stadiums with his battery radio, our authoritarian buffoon today launches himself among the crowds in the middle of a pandemic. In the same way, if our dictatorship never knew and did not even seek to build a popular base that could add a fascist trait to its authoritarianism, this is exactly what our Captain (retired) has been trying to do. Will we thus enter even further into the time tunnel revived today with fascist tenors or will the clamors for the end of the greatest nightmare in recent history have resulted?

Much will depend on what our middle classes will do, always ready to support the last authoritarian on duty who promises to guarantee their meager privileges from a precarious but always fierce social distinction.

ARENA remains firm among us, helping to guide our paths, with its usual staleness and prejudices. Understanding this is the basis for something new to be, who knows, constituted, but at least envisioned.

*Rafael R. Ioris is a professor at the University of Denver (USA).

 

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