A Nation's Legacy

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By RAFAEL GALVÃO DE ALMEIDA*

Looking at Bolsonaro's policy, one wonders: what kind of legacy will Brazil leave?

I grew up with the idea that Brazil is loved abroad. I remember, as a teenager, an interview with an Iraqi citizen in which he couldn't stop criticizing the United States; to borrow popular parlance, he threw firewood at the Yankees. But when the reporter mentions Brazil, his face changes; he says “Ronaldo!”, “Pelé!” with great animation. You can't help but be proud of it.

How different it is today. The Value, Management and Relationship Index, which measures the country's reputation abroad, plummeted. “Of the 1.179 articles published [in various newspapers with international circulation], 1.088 were negative (92%) and 91 positive (8%)[I]”. Most of this negative news is related to the management of the pandemic. The study quoted is from 2020. A year later, and more than 500 thousand deaths added, nothing has improved.

But it's not that kind of reputation that I fear is going downhill. In addition to the short-term reputation, there is also the long-term one, the concern to leave a legacy. Legacy is something that transcends short-term memory, it is what inspires people and generations. Leaving a positive legacy is a way of leaving a mark on the world, of saying that the world has become a better place, that humanity has been elevated, even just a little bit.

Seeing Bolsonaro's policy, I ask myself: what kind of legacy will Brazil leave?

The Covid CPI demonstrates that Bolsonaro continues to maintain his positions that prefer to sacrifice Brazil to keep his pride high. And so many people enable it. As I write these words, the hashtag #BolsonaroIncorruptible is already in our trending topics with 50 thousand tweets. The vast majority are bots[ii], but the fact that resources – probably public resources – are used to maintain an immaculate image of a person who does not hesitate to lie[iii] it's disheartening. Not only that, I am forced to listen to the Bolsonarist side of YouTube sometimes and every time I am appalled by the lack of character, lack of self-criticism that this side of politics has.

At the protests in May, the president posted a photo saying he was “imbroxable”. What the hell does "imbroxable" have to do with politics? Is it what the president admits he is governing with the dick? Robin Williams, in one of his tirades, said “God gave man a brain and a penis. And enough blood for only one of them at a time,” so I don't even need to finish this comparison.

If it were just a Brazilian problem it wouldn't be so bad, but we live in an interconnected world. The devastation of the Amazon and Cerrado has worldwide consequences. The lack of rain invokes the ghost of a blackout caused by climate change.[iv]. The savannization of the Amazon is occurring because of all this deforestation[v]. The Amazon has already become a producer of carbon dioxide[vi].

What are we destroying the Amazon in exchange for? Just to make a bunch of rich people even richer. Private profits, public losses. They are interested in the savannization of the Amazon and the crushing of anyone who stands in their way, including indigenous people, caboclos and other small producers, because it is easier to plant in the savannah. As Celso Furtado said, Brazilian underdevelopment is a project. I add that the destruction of the environment is also.

Of course, the “producer” elite cannot talk about these things openly. while the Mail Braziliense has the headline “Risk of blackout returns to haunt Brazil due to lack of rain and investments[vii]", Or rural channel has the headline “Despite the water crisis, Brazil is not at risk of a blackout in 2021, says ONS[viii]“. What a difference, what optimism, what an effort to avoid causing the public not to reflect and continue the illusion that Brazil will be the breadbasket of the world.

In 50 years the world will change, but how will Brazil be recognized? “The country of football”? “The country of carnival”? It's hard to predict, but I fear that Brazil will be recognized as “the country that destroyed the Amazon” and left the whole world worse off.

Obviously everyone is contributing in some way to this, especially the countries of the global north and large corporations, but history demonstrates that authoritarian governments love scapegoats. In Brazil, the government's great scapegoat is cultural Marxism. While the country's image crumbled and the death toll reached 200, former minister Ernesto Araújo posted about the dangers of cultural Marxism[ix]. The phenomenon of cultural Marxism demonstrates how parasitic modern conservatism is on the left.

But this is worrying, as the Amazon is also a symbol. Imagine in 50 years, in a city in a northern European country where populism is gaining strength, where it is the 30th day in a row of summer when the temperature exceeds 35°C for a Brazilian to be approached on the street and hear, in addition to the common curses, “you destroyed the Amazon!”

The only consolation is that the future is uncertain. Maybe impeachment will go forward and we'll be able to reverse official chainsaw policy. It's possible? Fyodor Dostoyevsky, one of the greatest Russian novelists, wrote a short story entitled “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man[X]”, in which a “ridiculous man” who wanted to commit suicide because he was more intelligent and cynical than others. He is transported to a world where its inhabitants live without sin, innocent and joyful and this "ridiculous man" introduces sin there, teaching them all sorts of selfishness.

Soon, people become just as disgusting and even worse than the people of the protagonist's original world, unable to believe that they were once innocent. Even saints and prophets arise preaching repentance, but they are ignored and abused. The protagonist realizes that he has done something terrible, that he has created a terrible legacy. Therefore, he works the rest of his life to reverse this situation, to restore innocence. The inhabitants of the world decide to put him in an asylum, but he wakes up and decides to dedicate himself to doing good.

Dostoyevsky drew on the biblical story of the Fall, in which the devil tempted Eve and Adam and introduced sin into the world. We can see a moral of the story: if a person introduced sin into an innocent society, if he had even a spark of humanity left, he would dedicate his entire existence to reversing the situation. What separates humans from the devil are feelings of regret, pity, guilt, and the desire for restoration. We can still leave a positive legacy and be seen as “the country that saved the Amazon”. On the other hand, we would leave a horrible legacy if the Amazon were destroyed. But if we're really human, we'll work to restore it even if it's too late, just like the story's protagonist. It remains to be seen whether Bolsonaro and his minions are too.

*Rafael Galvão de Almeida holds a doctorate in economics from UFMG.

Notes


[I] https://www.cartacapital.com.br/politica/com-bolsonaro-92-das-noticias-sobre-o-brasil-no-exterior-sao-negativas/

[ii] https://apublica.org/2019/12/como-funciona-um-perfil-robo-no-twitter/

[iii] https://piaui.folha.uol.com.br/herald/2021/06/15/bolsonaristas-reclamam-que-twitter-apagou-13-milhao-de-motos-da-motociata/

[iv] https://www.dw.com/pt-br/o-que-deixou-o-brasil-%C3%A0-beira-de-uma-crise-h%C3%ADdrica-hist%C3%B3rica/a-57988627

[v] https://valor.globo.com/brasil/noticia/2021/02/05/savanizacao-da-amazonia-esta-mais-proxima-diz-nobre.ghtml

[vi] https://revistapesquisa.fapesp.br/amazonia-agora-e-fonte-de-co2/

[vii] https://www.correiobraziliense.com.br/economia/2021/05/4927730-risco-de-apagao-volta-a-assombrar-o-brasil-por-falta-de-chuvas-e-investimentos.html

[viii] https://www.canalrural.com.br/noticias/crise-hidrica-brasil-risco-apagao/

[ix] https://veja.abril.com.br/mundo/imagem-do-brasil-ruiu-governo-acabou-e-bolsonaro-deve-sair/

[X] The short story was published in the volume “Duas Narrativas”, by Editora 34. A translation is available at https://andersonsandes.com.br/o-sonho-de-um-homem-ridiculo-fiodor-dostoievski/

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