The risks of armed ignorance

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By PAULO CAPEL NARVAI*

Neofascists sound more appropriate to the medieval world, although they are often wielding cutting-edge technologies.

Florestan Fernandes, compulsorily retired from the University of São Paulo (USP) and with his political rights revoked by the ignorance that the civil-military coup of 1964 installed in federal power, cultivated intelligence and reason. A man of ideas and action, he was elected federal deputy twice, once to help write the “Citizen Constitution” of 1988, which Ulysses Guimarães described as “light, albeit a lamp, on the night of the wretched”. A victim of different forms of ignorance, Florestan placed great value on knowledge and ideas and had a horror of authoritarian thinking, the imposition of something by force and violence, armed or not. Both times he was elected, his campaign motto was “Against the ideas of force, the force of ideas”. He knew what he was talking about – and to whom.

One of the distinctive traits of Nazi-fascism is the hatred of critical thinking, reason and free reflection, always accompanied by a recurrent cult of ignorance, conveyed and reproduced by common sense and bourgeois morality. Anti-intellectualism, as an expression of anti-reason, gives Nazi-fascism this condition of maladjustment, of permanent anachronism in contemporary societies, heirs of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Nazi-fascists always sound more appropriate to the medieval world, although they are often wielding cutting-edge technologies. The head is medieval, and nothing can hide this feature.

The disclosure, on October 29, 2021, that five leaders of ANVISA, the National Health Surveillance Agency, received death threats, by electronic correspondence addressed to them,1 announces reaching the edge of the precipice: ignorance, armed, turns against an institution of the Republic, whose mission is to defend the health of the population, since it is up to the State to do so, basing its decisions on scientific knowledge, worth say, reason. Yes, there are always several rationalities, which are expressed concomitantly. However, in matters of the public sphere, it is not possible to argue with rationalities that have no basis in science.

The respect, which there should always be for rationalities based on metaphysical knowledge, does not correspond to accepting that beliefs and superstitions are elevated to the category of grounds for decisions on public policies. In the recent episode involving technicians from ANVISA, the reason for the death threats stemmed from issues related to a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes covid-19. That said, certainly nothing justifies aggression against public authorities who act with reference to the common good, supported by scientific knowledge and with a view to promoting the health of the population, as determined by the constitutional precept. Anyone who does this commits a crime.

But the episode involving ANVISA leaders also expresses the risks of the State, through its institutions, not acting against the aggressors, protecting them and, ultimately, encouraging them to continue on the path of violence and threatening to kill. It is very serious that ignorance, armed, continues to act with impunity, receiving shelter from public authorities.

Em Epidemiological Terraplanism,2 article I published on the site the earth is round, said that “the main struggle of humanity, alongside the challenges of survival, has always been the struggle against ignorance, against the unknown. Certainly, satisfying hunger, finding shelter and surviving disease are permanent challenges for the human species. But, assured of survival, the Homo sapiens has in ignorance, lack of knowledge, fantasies and beliefs, the greatest threat to the species. Their everyday confrontation has a long history and registers passages that do not place us in any pantheon of species, or anything like that. There is no beginning for the record of those who paid with their own lives for daring to challenge the powerful, in the name of knowledge, but the milestone represented by the condemnation and death of Socrates is undeniable. The long list includes Giordano Bruno and made non-fatal but equally regrettable victims, such as Galileo, Spinoza, Darwin, Unamuno, Freire and Snowden, to reach contemporaneity”.

I also mentioned the concept of “strategic ignorance”, developed by the Canadian LinseyMcGoey, author of the book The Unknowers: How Strategic Ignorance Rules the World,3 according to which people, companies and governments deliberately omit knowledge that may threaten them in some way. By choosing to ignore what they know, people, governments and companies are not, in these situations, technically speaking, ignorant. They know what they are doing, but act to take advantage of situations, pretending to ignore, not knowing.

The idea of ​​“strategic ignorance” would guide the policy adopted by the Brazilian government to face the pandemic, according to the understanding of several analysts, of at least one Brazilian research group,4 and according to the conclusions of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) on the covid-19 pandemic, installed in the Federal Senate, and which concluded its work this month.5

Stupid ignorance, the product of complete stupidity, has nothing to do with strategic ignorance. The worst ignorance, however, is arrogant ignorance.

The arrogant ignoramus, I wrote, thinks he is above everything and everyone, notably the laws and rules of social life. Nothing that concerns “the people” and “things of the people” concerns him. He has "nothing to do with it" and believes nothing other than his convictions on any subject. The arrogant ignoramus is not even remotely touched by the knowledge that comes from scientific evidence. These mean nothing to him. He is not the heir, nor does he seem to need the sacrifices of Socrates and Giordano. In the bonfires of the Inquisition, and in the book burnings of Nazism, the arrogant ignorant had the fire in their hands.

In any case, whether due to “strategic ignorance” or “arrogant ignorance”, derived from the Nazi-fascist matrix, ignorance needs to be contained when it begins to show signs of how far it can go, as in the case of threats to technicians and directors of ANVISA .

The difficulties that stupid ignorance causes us are enough, even if restricted to “playpen” and other social spaces where creationisms, phantasmagoria and supernatural delusions are boasted. But the violence he engenders is limited in scope to the audience of his preachings. The macabre and monstrous consequences of the “strategic ignorance” originating from the office of hatred, installed in the Federal Executive, are also enough. And above all, the “arrogant ignorance” is enough for us, which now assumes an unbelievable role as a digital militia “cleaner” of “scientific influences” in public institutions, under the responsibility of the Brazilian State.

However, it is not possible to tolerate, in any way, armed ignorance.

For this reason, it is urgent that the institutions of the Republic defend it from the threats and actions of armed ignorant people, as this type of ignorance is capable of committing crimes and doing so assuming that it is acting in defense of the common good. It is necessary to act preventively and, with all the weapons available to the Republic, to contain armed ignorance.

Ignorance, in its various forms, is the mother that gave birth to “epidemiological terraplanism”, whose consequences are the 22 million cases and more than 600 deaths from covid-19. Now, in addition to killing for genocide, ignorance feels free and supported, protected, to announce homicides.

Basta.

*Paulo Capel Narvai is senior professor of Public Health at USP.

 

Notes


1 – National Health Surveillance Agency. Anvisa directors receive threats related to the approval of vaccines. October 29, 2021; Available at: https://www.gov.br/anvisa/pt-br/assuntos/noticias-anvisa/2021/diretores-da-anvisa-recebem-ameacas-relacionas-a-aprovacao-de-vacinas

2 – Narvai, Paulo Capel. Epidemiological flat earthism. the earth is round [Internet]. March 16, 2020; Available at: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/terraplanismo-epidemiologico/

3 – McGoey L. The Unknowers: How Strategic Ignorance Rules the World. London: Zed Books; 2019. 256 p.

4 – Brum E. Research reveals that Bolsonaro implemented an “institutional strategy for the spread of the coronavirus”. Country Brazil [Internet]. January 2021; Available at: https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2021-01-21/pesquisa-revela-que-bolsonaro-executou-uma-estrategia-institucional-de-propagation-do-virus.html

5 – Senate Agency. After six months, the CPI of the Pandemic is closed with 80 requests for indictment. Senate News [Internet]. October 26, 2021; Available at: https://www12.senado.leg.br/noticias/materias/2021/10/26/apos-seis-meses-cpi-da-pandemia-e-encerrada-com-80-pedidos-de-indiciamento .

 

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