the ruffians

Image: Elyeser Szturm


The power of the people is diverted in favor of capital

In the interior of Brazil, on small and medium-sized livestock raising properties, it is still common to resort to the ruffian: a male (very often a bovine) who, after having undergone specific clinical procedures that make him incapable of fertilizing on his own any female, is released in the pasture or confined in a corral along with several of them. Thus, when trying to cover a female, the ruffian shows the producer that she is ready for insemination, and that is the only function of that male.

We are talking, therefore, about the manipulation exercised by man over the reproductive instinct of another living being, a management that generates fecundity, productivity, wealth and, at the limit, pleasure, not for the animal whose instinct is managed, but for the manipulative man, who, it is no exaggeration to say, enjoys this immense ephemeral power to deny and/or manipulate the continuity of another being's life.

I have no background in Psychology; I am at most curious about Psychoanalysis. I could not and will not venture into these fields. However, thinking literary about the, in theory, unfortunate fate of the ruffian, I ask myself if we are not talking about an unconscious manifestation of a certain dose of perversion – in the Lacanian sense of the term (ROUDINESCO&PLON, 1998[I]) –, at once narcissistic and sadistic, in which a bit of the pleasure of the self (in this case, the producer/owner of the animal) is realized in absolute control over the painful power of the other (the animal that, in the fullness of its reproductive sexual instinct, is artificially prevented from effecting copulation to which it is overstimulated).

Still in this mainly literary speculation (perhaps half sociological and philosophical too, with reckless notes of psychoanalysis from a tavern), I find myself wondering if I – Brazilian, black, well-off, son of hardship and grandson of necessity, public school teacher and aspiring intellectual progressive – if I wasn't a metaphorical ruffian myself; I wonder if little or much of my power would not have been perversely diverted to meet the interests of my imaginary owners, whose diffuse socio-political identity is not even difficult to outline. I enter this delirium (surreal or ultra-real?) and at first the figure of the female (a cow, in my construction) seems to be missing from the general analogy. Then I realise: it just seems…


“Golden calves”… “Agro is pop”?

On the homestead, the daily sadism with the ruffian ends after he signals which cows are in heat and ready to be impregnated. From then on, these females are separated from the rest of the herd and are either taken to cover by a selected breeding bull, or undergo the process of artificial insemination - which in general terms means receiving the semen of animals directly in their uterus. of privileged genetics, or even a fertilized embryo vitro, heir to an exponent of the breed. In short, the greater the owner's economic power, the less the animals' nature is respected and, therefore, in my hypothesis, the greater the perversion. The more money a rural producer has, the more expendable the ruffian, the more irrelevant the cow, the more selected the bull – which, in the end, does not escape the mercantile logic either, noble and unscathed, as it can end up being worth much less by itself, whole and sound. “in person”, than the amount to be collected from the sale of his millions of microscopically mined spermatozoa.

It may be that people who are more sensitive to the suffering of animals or those who are less used to touches of sarcasm in opinion texts consider the image of a sperm mine to be exaggerated; ranchers would certainly call it a “communist thing”, if any of them came to read this text. However, the recurrent practice of the so-called “industrial crossing” guarantees the pertinence of such an image; after all, this industry aims at nothing more, nothing less than the mass production of “golden calves” – a frightening similarity, by the way, between these people of today and those of the Pentateuch, perhaps Brás Cubas (the one from Machado), to whom Moisés (the one from the old testament) then he would answer bitterly, between his teeth: “the agro is pop".

Jokes aside, what I associate with perversion is this deliberate absolute manipulation of the generating power of one individual by another, a power that, in the end, is radically denied to the former. The ruffian has all the organic conditions to copulate and reproduce, he is superstimulated to try to do so, however, only after the minimum operational conditions necessary for him to be able to carry out the attempted coitus have been suppressed. The vital instinct (for reproduction and preservation of the species) speaks loudly in him and the ruffian tries countless times to cover the females intentionally gathered and placed at his disposal, and all his attempts result in a waste of energy for him, and, at the same time , profitability for its owner. In his life, the ruffian's, everything is continuous, just potency, an incessant become unrealizable, because interdicted in advance. The ruffian is an individual hostage to a permanent attempt that was previously and surgically oriented to failure, because this failure is the trigger for the success of another individual, its owner.

How many of us Brazilians does this also not happen? Since Cabral invaded these lands, how many has this not happened to? How many will it continue to happen to? Indigenous people exiled centuries ago, slum dwellers descended from enslaved people, refugees chased away by the most severe deaths in life, thousands of children, teenagers and young people without access to quality public education and health… how many ruffians were we, are we, will we be? They say that the ox is only meek because it doesn't know how strong it is.

Returning to the (cold?) cow, only glimpsed and bumped into by the ruffian, she is constantly enjoyed by the producer/owner, the boss, the owner of the money. He always has her at his disposal to guarantee the genetic continuity of the pet bulls, some chosen by her – but also manipulated by him. To the ruffian, nothing; everything to other bulls, supposed members of the so-called superior caste, those who, in theory, will improve the herd and, as a result, further enrich the owner of all those involved – land, fences, cattle, people and even sperm.

As for the cow in my sad speculation about our everyday perversion (since 1500), I can only assume that she has a first and last name, and by now it shouldn't be difficult to imagine what they are. The name is “Beloved Homeland”, the last name, “Gentle Mother”. To those closest to her, she goes by her hitherto sadistic, tragic nickname: “Country of the Future”.

The rebellious ruffians we need to caetane and call her "unholy cow".

* Luciano Nascimento He holds a PhD in Literature (UFSC) and teaches Basic, Technical and Technological Education at Colégio Pedro II.


[I] ROUDINESCO, E. & PLON, M. dictionary of psychoanalysis. Translation: Vera Ribeiro, Lucy Magalhães. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 1998.

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