The Laughter of the “Myth”



Considerations about the facial expressions of Jair M. Bolsonaro

From a very early age, we learn, more self-interestedly than interestedly, to deal with the signals emitted by facial expressions; a slow learning, by trial and error, and in a practical way. These expressions are used to replace words, but sometimes only to reinforce them, to add emphasis – “that's exactly what I wanted to say”. Other times, however, they contradict the words, as if they were even the opposite of them.

These are more interesting, much more, as if they offered an enigma – as in Gioconda’s smile – as if they appeared as such, “in the gap of words”, as Carolina sings, or to try to fill that gap. A moment of surprise, the place par excellence for the appearance of the subject. Certainly as one of his houses, better still, as one of his manifestations.

The face, of course, is the seat of facial expressions. In it we find different possibilities: frowning; the raising of the eyebrows; the cramming of the nose; and the smiles, then, how much they can mean; and looks, champions of the meaning of desires.

Who has not noticed the sullen and childish pout of Donald Trump and Gilmar Mendes directed at their respective mothers when they are contradicted, as if they wanted to signify the almost unbearable weight of frustration. Notable moment of a subjective regression, when the infantile gesture invades the face of the old adult.

At first sight, the smile of the Myth, which we are dealing with here, at this very mythologizing moment, already shows signs of significance. It is directed laterally as if its recipient is a “nobody”. In addition, its most obvious resemblance is a hyena's smile, smirk, fake smile. A “I don't care”, as he himself likes to say, but pregnant with an aggressiveness that the smile makes an effort to contain. Moment full of ambiguity.

But her smile also reveals a malaise, a feeling out of place: you're sure it's me it's about. Couldn't we solve this another way: you would just guarantee me your future vote, so we wouldn't have to be in this "scrubbing".

There is still another addressee in that smile, a smile for oneself, an “inward” smile. This aspect is perhaps the most profound, an “inner” moment, which should take place as a moment of truth, without deception, or, in this case, with a minimum of deception.

Who could not have noticed at the time of that infamous vow honoring one of the best-known torturers, that one of his sons was standing right behind his father to blow him, syllable by syllable, the name of the said whose.

In addition to the sordidness of this vow, it highlights the lack of confidence that at that “solemn” moment, the future Mito might not remember the name and surname of the torturer.

Certainly, father and son had combined this maneuver in which the son would “give” the father the right words, in an inversion of what psychoanalysis calls “the father's name”. Psychopathology in sight?

In moments like this, revealing a structural fragility, the “Myth” withdrawing into itself (which is not an examination of conscience) discovers itself as a “victim” of an emulation. That there is a fundamental mistake, simply a mistake about the person. He knows his smallness well.

The smile that could be one of contentment and celebration is exposed in the ambiguity and smallness of this subject who reveals himself as such exactly in this shrinking, I would say – in-sur-pe-ra-ble.

* Paulo Silveira é psychoanalyst and retired professor at the sociology department at USP. Author, among other books, of On the side of history: a critical reading of Althusser's work(Police).


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