The pact with the virus

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By Flávio Aguiar*

Bolsonaro, like Hermógenes, the character of Great Sertão: Veredas, by doing business with the Devil, he himself becomes part of the Evil One's identity

I looked for a literary figure comparable to Jair Messias. I found it: it's Hermógenes, one of the jagunços' chiefs in the novel Grande Sertão: paths, by Guimarães Rosa. Hermógenes is evil and does not accept that history evolves, changing political levels. He assassinates the supreme chief of the jagunços, Joca Ramiro, because, in his view, he had betrayed the jagunçagem by drafting a political pact with the government envoy, Zé Bebelo, after defeating him militarily.

This would mean the end of the plundering that sustained Hermógenes, his gang, and his partner Ricardão, the rich and political jagunço who fought for pecuniary interests. Like Shakespeare's Iago, although on another platform, Hermogenes is pure evil, the one who takes pleasure in doing harm to others for the sake of doing evil.

He is a man without a neck, in the narrator Riobaldo's view, whose hat in the shape of a gourd forms a single piece with his riding cape, a stocky monster that acts treacherously. He ends up sewn and hacked to pieces by Diadorim, who also dies in the duel, surrounded by the enemy's henchmen. Like Iago, Hermógenes acts out of uncontained spite, envy and resentment against the flowing life symbolized by the solar figure of Joca Ramiro, the one who, when he got up, it seemed that the whole world got up with him, as narrated by Riobaldo.

A very important detail: Hermógenes is seen as a pact. In a way, Jair Messias is too. As he abuses religiosity, even surreptitiously suggesting an absurd comparison, in the middle of Easter Sunday, of the knife he took and his survival to the resurrection of “another” Messiah, he recalls the controversial biblical figure of the Anti or Pseudo-Christ, referred to in the epistles of João and, in some later interpretations, presented as an “outlaw”.

This is Jair Messias: there is no law to hold him back and he fits perfectly into the frame of false prophets who present themselves speaking on behalf of everyone, but actually creating hostile sects of aggressive fanatics and aggressors of reason, common sense and life oblivious. Just like Donald Trump, his Grand Master in this sinister and dark “anti-Christism”.

In the case of Jair Messias, one has the impression that he made a pact with the Virus, in some Vereda-Morta Palácio do Planalto. Or rather, in a certain condominium in Rio de Janeiro. In a sense, he and his fanatical followers incarnate the Virus, become a complex Virus themselves, at the same time favoring disease and universal stupidity. Like pactary Hermógenes, who, by doing business with the Devil, becomes himself part of the Evil One's identity.

The comparison between the world of the militiamen from which Jair Messias came out and the world of the jagunços from Great Sertão: Veredas there's nothing off-putting. Both these and those are armed forces that occupy the space left empty by the absence or complacency – or even complicity – of State agents in its various dimensions. They impose and administer a “law”, in fact “anti-law”, which is their own, and exterminate those who oppose it.

In the readings and debates on Guimarães' work, I came across a kind of mysticism that surrounds many of the scholars who dedicate themselves to his work. They see the jagunço world applying a great dose of lyricism, motivated by the love between the narrator Riobaldo and Diadorim, a character who is surrounded by an aura of mystery.

I saw and heard university professors aboiar and chant sertaneja litanies at academic meetings, as if they were between buritis and paths. “Everything is worthwhile when the soul is not small”, I would say, respecting your asceticism. Without, however, losing the focus that the world of Great Sertão it is completely permeated by an implacable violence, of which Hermógenes is the irreducible, fallen and atrocious angel. When leader Joca Ramiro tries to find a way out of this dead-end world, he is murdered. The rest is romance, revenge, love and adventure, and the best of them, as you know.

Comparing Jair Messias to the Antichrist is more complex. It is also pertinent, since he continually invests himself with religious and biblical values ​​and motives, all poorly digested and then expelled with that typical certainty of the ignorant and self-satisfied with their own ignorance.

In the first place, the Antichrist, as described in several passages of the Gospels and others of the New Testament, is not just one: he is many, who act in the name of common principles: treason, dishonesty, falsehood, usury, bribery, provoke hunger and disrespect for elders. They are all deceivers, false prophets, they surround themselves with other false prophets (any coincidence is mere similarity). Thus "the" Antichrists appear in Matthew (24: 4-5 and 11-12), in Mark (13: 6), in the 2nd. Epistle of Paul to the Telassonians (2: 1-4 and 7-10), ditto in the Epistles of the Apostle John (1, 2: 18 and 2: 7). These Antichrists will perform “lying wonders” and deceive many.

These figures of Antichrists find correspondents in the Muslim universe, in the character Al Mash ad-Dajjal, and also in Judaism, in the false prophet Armilus. Both equally deceiving the crowds.

I am an atheist, although I am not a practicing one, and therefore I am not among those who believe that the passages of the Universe open and close within the biblical words, whatever religion they may be (among which I include dogmatic Marxism). But I think that when someone approaches and swallows a doctrine, especially digesting it by the branch, instead of “devouring” it, this character risks “being devoured” by it in its most hidden and secret aspects.

I think that's what happened to Jair Messias. Imbuing himself with the key of his second name, he claimed to be predestined. He became a forger, pushing pseudo-doctrines he doesn't understand and, in the absence of anything else or cause, he has now become a pactário – a walking virus – that intends to extract its political survival from the Virus.

There are those who follow him and will follow him to the end in this universe with no way out, other than catastrophe. Let's hope that those who don't embark on this intoxication of the mental vacuum manage to survive, even if badly injured.

* Flavio Aguiar is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP.

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