The strategic themes

Image: Lucas Vinícius Pontes


A national project? Don't ask a military man. Ask a peasant woman!

Recently, the document “Project of the Nation: Brazil in 2035” came to light. Prepared by the Federalist Institute and the Sagres Institutes, under the coordination of retired general Rocha Paiva, the Project starts from the creation of “prospective scenarios” to outline routes for the development and national security of Brazil. I will not criticize the methodology of this exercise, whose defects were pointed out by a research group specialized in scenario analysis. I want to focus on a problem pedagogically silenced in the “Projeto de Nação”, despite the fact that it is probably the most enduring one in the history of Brazil: Hunger.

Project thinkers identified 37 strategic themes. For each theme, there is a Critical Uncertainty that guides the writing of a Mini Focus Scenario for the future. To face this scenario, Guidelines and Objectives are suggested and possible Obstacles are pointed out. Among all the themes, the food issue appears twice, in themes 06 (World demand for food) and 16 (Agribusiness in the Brazilian GDP). There are two mentions of “food security”, but nowhere does the document mention the cursed name, Hunger. It is as if Hunger were not a historic and first-order challenge for the development of the nation.

I defend the thesis that this silencing of Hunger was not a lapse in writing. In fact, silencing Hunger, as the nation's fundamental public problem, is strategic, as Hunger is an obscene force at the service of the Project: clearing the land for agribusiness and mining.

Hunger rarely kills by starvation, but it does in other ways. It leaves the organism vulnerable to different types of fatal diseases that would be easily preventable, as well as exposing people to all kinds of social violence due to the very vulnerability of the hungry body and the desperate situation. And when Hunger doesn't kill, directly or indirectly, it puts people on an escape route. It is the flow of migrants, remarkable in national history. Regurgitating hungry from the countryside to the big cities, this movement generates deaths, sequels and violence in its path, and even when there is no death, the pain of the forced separation of families remains. The longing for the homeland. Psychological trauma.

In one way or another, Hunger cleans the area: it expels people from what for them was territory, that is, their place of construction of social life. Repulsed by people, Hunger turns the ground into mere terrain, a factor of production and real estate business, for which human inhabitants are normally inconvenient. Isn't it strange that a National Project is not concerned with nurturing people who are willing to defend the territory, their place of life, in a country as large as Brazil?

Unfortunately, the pedagogical silencing of Hunger makes Brazilian men and women ignore that it is the main cause of death spikes in Brazil. Let's see: (a) War in Paraguay (1864-1870): 50 dead; (b) Great Drought of 1877-79: 500 dead (only in the Northeast); (c) Great Drought of 1889-1890: 1 million dead (only in the Northeast); (d) Covid-19 pandemic: 665 dead

Now, we know that people didn't die because of the Drought. They died because of Hunger, diseases linked to malnutrition of the body or in migration to escape Hunger.

Since the XNUMXth century, our history has been marked by other hunger peaks, both urban and rural, generating enormous costs for national development. Malnourished people are not just less productive and creative. They also increase costs to the national health system. It is revolting to write this, but according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the FAO, up to 97% of direct and indirect healthcare costs could be reduced with adequate and nutritious food for all people in the world.

In Brazil, the recently published data from II VIGISAN show that there are at least 125,2 million Brazilians in food insecurity, of which 33,1 million are in severe food insecurity. We also know that Brazilians have more difficulty buying food than the world average. By both measures, women suffer proportionately more than men. Returning to II VIGISAN, more than 60% of rural households live in food insecurity. Households with a female head of household experience more hunger than those headed by men. And, Hunger increased more among black people than among white people. So the hungriest person in Brazil is a black woman in the countryside. It is through her that a true Nation Project should begin.

And this in a country that breaks records for the export of food and agricultural commodities. But properly feeding all people, starting with women, is not a military “Nation Project” theme. Why? Among other things, because that would fix peasants on the land, or rather, on its territory.

The National Project document gave me the certainty that if Brazil really wants to be a Nation, the strategists must begin to identify the Guidelines, Objectives and possible Obstacles by talking to the peasant woman. The peasant woman is the one who needs a clean environment, clean water, to produce the food she will sell and with which she will feed her family. Her fetus, the grandmother, the godchildren. The peasant woman is the one who needs good, free, quality schools and universities for herself and her daughters and sons.

She needs a good public health system. It needs a great infrastructure to flow its production. You need public lighting and security to ride your motorcycle at night, peacefully. It needs a strong, dynamic State that will induce demand for its products in cities. The peasant woman needs industry that generates jobs and science that improves agroecological production. It needs public policies that favor healthy eating as opposed to a diet based on ultra-processed foods. It needs public policies that protect it from the inevitable times of drought and other bad weather, but that also encourage it to diversify biodiversity, a necessary condition to alleviate the severity of natural tragedies. She needs an economy that will guarantee her a fair retirement so that she can rest from her hard work in the fields. She needs financial independence so as not to be vulnerable to machismo. You should talk to the peasant woman because, unfortunately, the peasant woman suffers most from hunger in Brazil, especially if she is black and has little education.

The peasant woman must be a priority for us to overcome chronic Hunger and its acute episodes. The well-fed peasant woman, in a position to develop her territory to feed the Nation well, is an obvious focal point for building the most elemental base of national power. There is no sovereign international insertion that can sustain itself, with dignity, on a hungry people.

Any great strategist knows that feeding the nation from its land is the most basic element of building national power. Currently, the name given to this is Food Sovereignty. However, for the “Projeto de Nação”, the concept of Food Sovereignty does not exist and the reason is clear: this concept presupposes feeding people, producing healthy food, valuing biodiversity and rural people, short production and consumption circuits , reducing exposure to exchange rate fluctuations. But none of this is strategic for the “Nation Project”. As the document reads, the National Objective is “Guaranteeing sovereignty in agribusiness”. Clearer, impossible. For this, Hunger fulfills a fundamental task: transforming territory into clean land.

Deep down, this Nation Project does not bring innovations. He reaffirms the daily life of our historical formation in a strategic tone. As for the very brief interlude of public policies that contributed to Brazil leaving the FAO Hunger Map in 2014, there is nothing that should be learned there, nor that it can be taught to the 2035 generation. dismantling anti-hunger policies.

At this point, it is convenient to remember what the post-colonialist Homi Bhabha wrote: a Nation lives in two times. One is the pedagogical time, in which people are taught how to imagine, idealize the Nation. The other is performative time. In this, it is the repeated actions of daily life, spontaneous, that sediment layers of tradition and form culture. Both can be modified. And so we should once again talk to the peasant woman. A true Nation Project needs to teach about the historical social injustices that weigh on it – and its ancestors –, mainly Hunger. A Nation Project must not silence its inglorious past. A Nation Project must learn, from the peasant woman's daily life, more solidary ways of living and that are more harmonious with nature. But, according to the document presented, the peasant woman and her Hunger do not exist.

Finally, the “Projeto de Nação” makes it clear that there is no effective capacity, in the intelligence of the coalition that sustains it, to make Brazil a great power. European Union, Russia, China, United States and any great power knows that the first commandment of national power is to feed the nation. Foreigners can be calm with this “Nation Project”, but not us.

*Thiago Lima He is a professor at the Department of International Relations at UFPB.


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