The most contagious virus



Reflections on the trivialization of evil during Jair's government. M. Bolsonaro.

It would be nice to write that the most contagious virus is hope. Or that of universal solidarity. Perhaps it is even true – given the improvement in the mood of the left since the moment Lula emerged as a candidate capable of defeating Bolsonaro in all polls.

Only not. More contagious than hope, than joy, than desire or love, is the virus of violence – with its range of variant strains causing various types of physical and mental suffering: fear, anguish, despair, trauma. And death, death, death. The intensity of symptoms depends on the zip code of the infected person: slums, suburbs and prisons reveal high rates of contamination, in addition to low levels of immunity. The Brazilian police, militarized since the period of the 1964-85 Dictatorship and never demilitarized again, act as if they were in a war.[1] Rest assured, middle class reader, the enemy is not you. Me neither. It's the poor population.

Ever since I felt the urge to write about the exponential increase in brutality in a Brazil that has never been an example of respect for human rights, I've been procrastinating. The theme, distressing for all of us, had been blocking my text. I thought of this article for the first time on March 8th, when I read the news of the murder of the boy Henry Borel. The eight-year-old boy suffered frequent beatings from his stepfather, Rio councilor Doutor Jairinho. The mother did not react because she was also beaten by her partner – but she did not try to run away from home with her son either. The house's employee told the police that, on the day of the crime, she had seen Henry "terrified". If the mother did nothing, imagine the fear, but also the courage of the nanny who reported – even though she was unable to prevent – ​​the murder of the child.

The prospect of writing about the child's martyrdom paralyzed me for two months.

A little over a month after Henry's murder, on April 16, Kaio Guilherme da Silva Baraúna, also eight years old, was hit in the head by a "stray bullet" during a party in Vila Aliança. Kaio died the next day.

No bullet is missed. Firstly, they are not “lost” in Jardins (SP). Not even in Ipanema. They tend to go astray from the supposed “correct” target when they are shot through the most vulnerable and abandoned corners of large cities. In addition to the bullet, the person who tends to "get lost" often from the eyes of justice and witnesses is responsible for the shot. Especially when he wears the uniform that designates him as responsible for preserving the safety of the population.

Teenager João Pedro, 14, was also shot dead by Rio police during a party at his school. It seems to me that no one asks if the PM had ordered them to enter Vila Aliança shooting. Probably not – so what? Mandado is bureaucracy required only to act in the neighborhoods of the South Zone.

Eight days after Kaio's murder, on April 24, Ketelen Vitória's mother and stepmother beat and tortured the six-year-old child with a whip and pieces of electrical wire. Ketelen agonized without help until dawn. Her body was thrown into a thicket, from a height of seven meters.

At the age of four, the girl Maria Clara was murdered by her mother and stepfather who lied, in the hospital, that the cause of death would have been a choking on breadcrumbs. Maria Clara suffered head trauma and had bruises all over her body. It seems that the stepfather did not participate in the crime - but he preferred not to interfere.

On May 4, an eighteen-year-old boy, Fabiano Kepper Mai, invaded a children's school in Santa Catarina with a machete and killed a teacher, an educational agent and three children under the age of two. It is possible that Fabiano is mentally ill: but the eventual report of schizophrenia, or paranoia, is not enough for us to understand why his psychic suffering produced precisely this symptom: murdering people.

A psychotic is often extremely sensitive to the social environment in which he lives. Well, that could apply to any of us. The point is that the psychotic interprets in his own way the mandates that circulate in society: those that affect us, anguish and frighten us, but that also fill us with anger and indignation. Not all psychotics – this is vital to say – respond with rage when they are affected by incitements to violence. Some react to this with acts of extreme kindness. Others invest themselves in the conviction that their mission on earth is to act as angels of peace: spreading good, protecting the defenseless, saving abused children. There are also those who live in fear and suffer from paranoid fantasies. “Paranoiac is those who know they are being persecuted”, says the verse by Aldir Blanc in a musical partnership with João Bosco. Those who react to the violent environment with more violence are in the minority.

Then we had Jacarezinho. The orgy of the Civil Police. The deadliest police operation in the history of Rio de Janeiro.[2] Rio, where many communities started and grew in hills located in the so-called “Zona Sul”, has a long history of police violence against the poor. Jacarezinho is in the North Zone: the pretext for the invasion was not to protect the Carioca bourgeoisie from alleged banditry. The police arrived shooting, it doesn't matter who. Poor black is all the same. Killed twenty-seven residents (one police officer was killed).

The testimonies of the survivors, relatives and friends of the victims are in the newspapers. The skin color is the same as the young men tortured and executed by the Salvadoran Military Police, accused of stealing meat from a supermarket. Accused of starving. Accused of starving desperately. Accused of helplessness. Accused of being victims of State neglect. Accused of being, in the words of composer Itamar Assumpção, “police bait”.

None of this is new in Brazil. The novelty, since redemocratization, is that police executions at this moment in our history have the DNA of the president. The same man who honored, in a session of the Truth Commission in the Chamber of Deputies, the worst torturer of the Military Dictatorship: Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra. The same one who, in campaign, imitated weapons with his thumb and forefinger, like a child playing with cowboy; and to show that he wasn't kidding, after being elected he usually poses for pictures sporting rifles. The same thing that threatens to rape an opposition deputy and then claims that she just won't do it because she's "ugly".

The same one that celebrates the devastation of the Amazon and the Pantanal, encouraged by its contempt for the original populations, for the environmental reserves, for the waters of the rivers that will dry up, for climate changes (a “communist” thing), and for the country that supposedly governs . The same one who broke, without suffering the consequences in front of a venal Chamber of Deputies, all the limits of decorum imposed by his position when ordering the opposition to “take it in the ass” in the case of the condensed milk cans scandal. So far, with rare exceptions, the opposition has apparently obeyed. No more was said about the matter.

trivialization of evil

But long before the 2018 election, Brazil was already violent: against blacks, against Indians, against the poor. What has changed in the last three years is that all manifestations of evil have become commonplace. I purposely use the concept of “banality”, but I attribute to it a slightly different meaning from the one created by the philosopher Hannah Arendt, before the trial of the executioner Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt used the expression “banality of evil” to refer to the absence of subjective implication of the one who ordered thousands of people to die in the gas chambers under the allegation of having followed orders.

In the Brazilian case, the representative responsible for the explosion of violence that the country is experiencing does not “follow orders” from anyone, just as he does not respect anyone other than his children and an increasingly smaller group of sycophants. Evil is trivialized in Bolsonaro’s speech every time he says – “so what?” to the effects of the violence he himself promotes. Every time he says "I'm not a gravedigger!" instead of lamenting the mortality that, due to its negligence in relation to vaccines, today places Brazil at the top of the countries most affected by Covid 19.

The subjective resources that separate us from the worst psychopaths are fragile. The unconscious, that kind of repository of our forgotten memories, our childhood fantasies, our unconfessable desires, is the same psychic instance that harbors traces of the violence that the social bond forces us, since childhood, to contain. Anyone who has ever witnessed an uncontained childish tantrum has been able to realize how much fury there is in the child who kicks, who throws himself to the ground, who sometimes says “I hate you!” to the adult who frustrated his desire. The luck of parents and educators is that the child does not have the strength to do against us what his anger and frustration incite. Growing up is, on the one hand, gaining permission and the ability to do what until then parents considered risky or beyond their capabilities. On the other hand, develop resources to stop the manifestations of their hatred and replace tantrums with arguments.

The current president, when contradicted, reacts like a child. It would be cute – if it weren’t for a grown man with experience in the Army (from where he was expelled for insubordination) and in the Chamber of Deputies until he arrived, whith a little help from some fake news never cleared, to the post of leader of the nation. His malice, made explicit in words and countless actions, has not only ruined the economy and the course of democracy: it has contributed to the deterioration of that minimum of civility that Brazilian society fights every day to defend.

Certain taboos are not broken with impunity. The incitement to violence on the part of the nation's main representative has the power to render useless our daily efforts towards the consolidation of a social bond based on respect, understanding of differences and solidarity. Society, perplexed and wounded – yes, the spread of evil hurts us almost as much as the violence suffered in one's own skin – still does not know how to react to this.

Disenchanted, fearful, Brazilians have become increasingly prone to crises of violence. Sometimes an outburst of rage may just be the most extreme expression of anguish. But when that rage manifests itself in acts of armed people looking for a scapegoat for something that frustrates or oppresses them, criminality explodes, as it has in the last two and a half years.

This does not explain why, in so many cases, children – including the children of some occasional murderers – are the victims of domestic violence. What do these little victims represent – ​​that is, did they represent – ​​to the point of becoming intolerable to their fathers, mothers, stepfathers and stepmothers?

They represented tenderness, candor, innocence. Even annoying, as children often are, even stubborn or quarrelsome, children still manifest an ability to love and forgive their parents – their worst parents – with a greatness that few preserve in adult life. Children disrupt our efforts to adapt painlessly to the new deteriorated state in which we live. It is not a question, in cases of violence against them, of attempts to kill the messenger who brings us bad news. Children only bring us good news. Rather, it is the desire to eliminate these little beings that remind us that we were once better. These little beings who continue to love us still, although of our deterioration.

I must say here: this was the most painful article I have ever written myself. I apologize to the readers if some passages seem abrupt, incomplete or run over.

Maria Rita Kehl is a psychoanalyst, journalist and writer. Author, among other books, of Resentment (Boitempo).


[1] The demilitarization of the police was one of the recommendations made in the final report of the Truth Commission (2012-2014), created by President Dilma Rousseff to investigate crimes committed by State agents against Brazilian citizens.

[2] This observation is limited to Rio: in São Paulo, always ahead of the whole country, we had the one hundred and eleven from Carandiru.


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