The silence that screams

Jorge Macchi, Incidental Music (1997)
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By RICARDO REZER*

Silence today is understandable, although it represents a big mistake, since the account of our decisions always arrives, whether by action or omission

The paradox contained in the title of this reflection represents a little of what we can perceive in the daily life of these elections in 2022, especially in its final stretch for the second round. I usually say that, like any frontier experience, the policy expresses very clearly, the best and the worst of the human – quite true, on this second aspect, there was no need to exaggerate.

Therefore, it is not surprising that many people are silent in the face of this polarized and highly dangerous scenario that we are currently experiencing. If a short time ago, we could even “tell jokes” about the occupants of the presidency, without major consequences, nowadays, depending on where we are, we run the risk, when making joking comments about certain figures, of getting involved in some conflict, being assaulted or something even worse. Thus, the silence of many people is understandable, although it represents a big mistake, since the account of our decisions always arrives, either by action or by omission.

The fear of “getting involved”, political apathy (apparently, we need to qualify our ethical and political training), or even disbelief at the point we have reached, are ingredients that we cannot disregard. Certainly, in the midst of this, we also have positions that assume neglect with the consequences of their omission or surf the wave that is most promising for them, without major concerns, where what counts is trying to “get along”.

On the other hand, we have those who “scream loudly”, shout “war cries”, use insults and aggressions, sometimes beyond verbal ones, especially in these days that precede the second round election. There has even been an increase in the number of cases of dismissal or threat of dismissal of workers who show support for the Lula-Alckmin ticket, socialized on social networks without any embarrassment on the part of the aggressor “bosses”. In a context where the logic of verbal aggression was established as a legitimate means of “communication” (read: intimidation), it is possible to infer that we have descended some steps in the civilizing process over the last few years, to the applause of a significant portion of the Brazilian population.

Thus, on the one hand, we have the screaming, latent silence, on the other hand, the screams that announce themselves as the silencing of voices – the threats for political choices do not combine at all with the speech of “freedom” given by many official voices and repeated incessantly by followers of these voices. Here we perceive one of the many and great contradictions present in the speech of those who remain faithful to the postulant to continue as “mandatory of the nation”. It is certainly not easy to be weighed these days, but we cannot abandon our responsibility in the face of grotesque contradictions that we see in progress.

Rules that we imagined long ago placed on the official agenda, which even advanced significantly over these two decades of the XNUMXst century, substantively receded and were once again attacked – the exploitation of indigenous lands was once again relativized; global warming was discredited; homophobia, racism, machismo, xenophobia, among other human “qualities”, were again disregarded as structural problems; finally, we had, astonishingly, to return to the issue of flat earthism; beyond the denialism of the pandemic; among so many examples that border on insanity.

In turn, this “climate” that has been produced, especially over these years, is a sign that, for a long time, a part of the Brazilian population “suffered” from not being able to openly say what it “thinks”. After all, for certain social segments, we have the right to be racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic, fascist, Nazis, denialists, among other “qualified” perceptions of the world – hence the fetish of freedom, explicit in so many speeches conveyed by the conservative field. And now these elements have an official beacon, a “ruler” that expresses the profile chosen by a good part of the electorate in the first round of this year’s elections: aggressive speeches, shouts of order, truculence, ode to armaments, “patriotism”, “faith”. ”, among others – and anyone who does not agree is “communist”, “leftist” and should “go to Cuba” or “Venezuela”.

Thus, the resentment of having to “hold back” impulses of barbarism for years, allied to the anti-corruption and anti-politics discourse, constituted the “soup” from which so many voices emerged crying out for “changing all that there”. From what we see, the changes really happened and it will take years to recover the damage that we see happening every day in the Brazilian reality. For example, in this set of elements, conspiracy theories have fertile soil to thrive and constitute themselves as alleged truths. As an example, the pandemic was propagated by some sectors as being a communist conspiracy, even absurdly nicknamed “comunavirus".

The list is long and what calls attention is the absurd number of conspiracy theories promulgated without the slightest embarrassment over the last few years, in a movement of groups that intend to “perceive” what ordinary human beings cannot “see”, that is, they are “smarter”. In this case, remembering the anthropologist Isabela Kalil, a researcher who studies the extreme right and the so-called “Bolsonarism”, among other topics, the propagation of conspiracy theories is a political strategy that aims to enhance the maintenance of power relations and control through fear, misinformation and confusion.[I]

In the wake of absurd theories, the appearance of a “myth” is not surprising, because in the midst of the chaos produced, “someone” will save us from the lie and the unbearable present, leading us to a future of glories and bonanza. Thus, the scenario is constituted in which the “messiah” will lead us, in the name of God, the homeland and the family, to the future we deserve (of course, access will be restricted to “good citizens”). This equation fractured Brazil in a polarization that has been constituting the social imaginary of many in the contemporary scenario, placing human relations in an extremely worrying situation.

In fact, human beings have always lived well with polarization, considering the comfort derived from it (light/dark, smooth/rough, right/left, good/bad, right/wrong, hero/villain, among others). . To a certain extent, Manichaeisms provide comfort in the face of the countless gradients that life entails – after all, thinking is not easy at all. Therefore, the strategy of “us” against “them” represents the trigger speech that was missing to enact the war we are experiencing today, a war that, it seems, we will still have to endure for a long time. Even polarizations like this do not require reading and studying proposals and projects, as we already have a “side” and that is what matters to a significant portion of the population.

If there is anyone who hasn't realized this yet, the logic of a government like the one we have is based on conflict – this is one of the fascist traits that can be observed in its daily practices. Without conflict and without “the” enemy, there is no combat, and without combat, those who live to fight lose the meaning of their existence. This equation, although nothing new, is very clear in the actions structured over almost four years, as well as countless examples recorded in reports that various media have already signaled.

Mix these explosive ingredients with religion (since the Middle Ages, we should have known that mixing religion and politics is a big problem), and damage is guaranteed. Now, the cultivation of religiosity is a right of every citizen and religious diversity must be an inalienable element in a democratic and republican society. However, faith is constituted as a system of values ​​and beliefs that cannot be co-opted to justify decisions in the political dimension of a society. Even more, if this question is intensified by people who call themselves “terribly evangelical” and bet on the idea that someone is “the” one sent by God. Now, God cannot be trivialized as a “supporter” of people and political parties… Even for those who do not follow a religious life, it is offensive to see and hear the daily profanation of God as justification for decisions produced in the human world. Apparently, using God's name in vain is no longer a problem for many, many...

In this complex and paradoxical scenario, how can someone who is afraid and prefers to remain silent speak? How to dialogue with those who learned to scream to express themselves? How to deal with those who do not want to talk? How to pierce the bubbles? How to dialogue with wattsapps doctors? How to make the passions give way to reason? How can we make people understand that we cannot define the direction of a nation by shouting or by silence? How can we resume our possibility of dialogue as a guide for our decisions in the world? How can we qualify our readings of the world, learning and recognizing that the world should be a place for everyone? How to dialogue with those who “argue” with a gun in their belt? How to dialogue with those who understand that the bullet solves more than the word? How to dialogue with those who threaten or even dismiss “their” employees because of their political choices? How to dialogue with someone who doesn't care about readings of the world different from yours? How to deal with the cancellation “policy”? Finally, how to place dialogue as our possibility of the world and politics as the art of enabling coexistence between different people? How to make people realize that without politics, we are left with barbarism?

About politics, I try to approach the understanding of Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), as something that represents a human potential that is based on the plurality of human beings, as well as deals with the coexistence between the different, in a process in which human beings humans organize themselves politically for certain things in common. In this sense, politics makes it possible to organize absolute diversity according to a relative unit in exchange for differences, which are also relative. Therefore, it is not enough to “take sides”, but to think deeply and responsibly about the meaning and consequences of our choices. Sometimes, I learned from a great friend, it's better to be truly in doubt than falsely enlightened. And politics allows us to qualify our decisions. One question that remains is: why do we give it up so easily?

The ongoing anti-political sentiment expresses, to a large extent, the origin of the simplifications that we observe daily, as well as some of the reasons why the government programs presented and in dispute in these elections are not the main object of discussion, but rather, slogans, buzzwords and stock phrases (good ingredients to make you stop thinking). After all, after deciding which “side” to “fight for”, it is enough to profess our belief, WhatsApp messages and bet on “#fechadocom…”. In this broth, we perceive less the evidence of proposals and more the search for each candidate's ills – for what proposals, if the “debates” become more “electrifying” if filled with aggression and humiliation? The expression “electrifying” was widely used by an extreme right-wing website in the vicinity of the last electoral debate of the first round.

In this logic, it was quite noticeable that such a menu caters to the taste of part of a population that likes to watch confusion, gossip, sensationalism, aggression, in a “Big Brother” real, something that moves the media and makes it seem that there are people in public positions who are “like us”, as well as, makes visible the “struggle of good against evil”. Perhaps, this is a consequence of a movement of apathy of our ability to think and the strengthening of conviction, sometimes, "convicted conviction", which is not thought, and the worst, does not have the due ballast.

Such a posture makes things easier for the emergence of smokescreens that anesthetize and shift the most necessary guidelines (employment, income, health, education, public safety, urban mobility, climate, deforestation, among many others) to bomb denunciations (for example, the involvement of the left with satanic sects, the existence of global conspiracies, among many others). After all, these “big themes” fit better in groups of watts and can be conveyed quickly and directly in the bubbles that welcome them, after all, many people admit that they don't read “textão” anymore.

“Ah, but the PT stole it!” Mandatory phrase in the repertoire of most of those who supported and support the current government, when faced with the proposition of dialogue (after all, in this logic, dialogue is “for the weak”). Yes, we know that there was corruption throughout the PT governments. However, as already expressed in another text, it must be recognized that Lula was arrested and served his sentence (with several others) and Dilma Rousseff was impeached (accepting the political decision imposed on her). That is, the institutions responded and acted, even in the midst of a series of controversies, polemics and interests (as we have seen over these four years, figures who took advantage of the events of the Republic and assumed high-ranking positions in the government).

And the institutions themselves, together with the population and social control, can prevent organic corruption from recurring. We certainly cannot support corruption. In this way, I can even understand what happened in 2018, the feeling of hopelessness and “antipetismo” as ingredients that were strongly placed in that period, something still ongoing. However, must we mature – or will we go on repeating simplifications such as “the PT stole” or “Brazil is going to become a Venezuela”?

Now, if the corruption that took place during part of the PT government cannot be disregarded and served as a justification for the choices of the 2018 election, the corruption of this current government undoubtedly needs to be better considered for its bubbles. Or are current forms of corruption mere inventions? If some time ago, we used the saying “be careful, the walls have ears”, today it seems evident that, for part of the population, we have an update of this popular saying, “be careful, the ears have walls”. Ears that only listen to what corroborates their reading of the world, which represents a fertile ground for fundamentalisms that we see emerging across the country. And this cannot go on.

As an example of this auditory ineptitude, the questions about the safety and suitability of electronic voting machines have not ceased, even after numerous technical arguments produced over the last few years. Now, the attacks on the electronic voting machines represented one of the most cowardly attacks on the Brazilian electoral system (aggressions coming from people who were elected by this same system, countless times, without the slightest questioning).

Fortunately, the institutions did not give in to raptures based on the preparation of a speech that sustains a possible defeat in the current electoral process. After all, according to the speeches, the election will only be “clean” if the current president is re-elected. It should be remembered that the elections, in their first round, despite the errors of most of the electoral polls, ran smoothly in the vast majority of polling stations and no evidence of fraud was even mentioned.

In the midst of all this and much more, we can only survive the political poverty of these elections and seek the minimum reestablishment of normality from 2023. For this, the evidence points out that this government cannot continue. Its essence is conflict, aggression, instability, something that will once again become the driving force of its actions in an unlikely second term, probably with greater radicalism: fighting the invisible enemy, stoking aggression and violence in the face of difference, promoting even more so the purchase of arms, enacting new secrecy on tricky topics, continuing to bet on persecution and new conspiracy theories, in a process of radicalization of a mistakenly “sanctified” government that governs for its own people.

In addition to all the elements presented throughout this brief text, we have to consider that after October 30th, we will have “the next day” (the day after). What will happen to those who lose the elections? How will the fractured families move on? How do you intend to go on with life, friends and relatives who have learned to silence, shout, cancel and offend as a form of relationship? How will we go back to being a country minimally? When will we be able to go back to work and produce with minimal peace and quiet? What awaits us from October 30, 2022? Amidst questions that are not easy to answer, which project in dispute is more likely to, even minimally, enable a government for a multifaceted, plural Brazil, immersed in contradictions and paradoxes of the most varied kind? I suspect that dialogue with different people has a very small chance of happening with the current government if it continues – after all, when has the president managed to conduct a conversation with someone who does not agree with him, without exploding, uttering profanities or verbally attacking?

To paraphrase the Italian Nicolau Machiavelli (1469-1527), if the Lula-Alckmin ticket does not take us to paradise by decree, keep the “modus operandi” of the government that is there for another four years, it would already be hell. The possibility of a Brazil for all, in a country governed beyond the “enclosure”, must again be considered. Thinking differently or simply taking a political stand in an increasingly aggressive, violent and armed society cannot put people in danger of aggression, dismissal or even death. Or is this agenda meaningless and deepening our differences is the ongoing project?

How to minimally unite a divided country? Who would be better able to do this, in the current scenario? Which government program can make the country return to a certain normality? What program will allow us to criticize the government without fear of being attacked or even shot in return? Thinking about the possibility of a future for a country like Brazil that does not descend into civil war presupposes other forces in the presidency from 2023 onwards, quite different from those that are there.

Based on these elements presented in this brief text, as well as on the elements presented in two previous texts, the Lula-Alckmin ticket and the project that supports this candidacy have a greater possibility of management, aggregation and dialogue to lead Brazil over the next four years . But I repeat, no illusions... The ills of the PT and its allies are ills of the human world, which can be faced by rational means, as has already been demonstrated in our recent history.

In turn, the current government, which seeks its reelection, has ills that escape the rational scope and are placed on the mythical plane, the gateway to the most distinct fundamentalisms, space and time where reason has no place, because the shots of decision are justified, to a large extent, by the motto used throughout the Crusades in the Middle Ages: God wills! (Latin expression meaning “God wants!”). This expression has been increasingly used by the world's extreme right in order to justify any and all actions/decisions taken by it, with decisive impacts on the current government's ways of being, thinking and acting.

Concluding this reflection, in a democratic and republican society, conservatives, liberals, progressives, anarchists, among others, have to have their place, as long as they accept that antagonistic fields can coexist democratically – we cannot support totalitarian projects that use democracy to finish with her. In this case, that the conservative field returns to its inner circles and qualifies its speeches and agendas, placing itself more in line with the diversity and complexity of the contemporary world.

May the 30th of October smile on those who do not condone hatred, aggression, violence, weapons, hypocrisy, influence peddling, conspiracy theories, denialism, secret budget, hundred-year secrecy, simplifications of reality, political poverty, undue appropriation of faith, religious manipulation, among many other possible arguments to be mentioned. But let's not be naive: our future in the short and medium term will not be easy. As I usually say, may we have strength and serenity...

*Ricardo Rezer He is a professor at the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel).

Note


[I] For more information on the subject, I suggest the research report entitled “Politics of fear in Brazil: extreme right-wing conspiracy theories about COVID-19”. KALIL, I. Politics of fear in Brazil: Far-right conspiracy theories on COVID-19. In: Bristol University Press, Global Discourse, volume 11 issue 1 (dossier: Understanding the Politics of Fear: COVID-19, Crises and Democracy). June 2021. Available at:  https://www.isabelakalil.com/conspiracy-theories.

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