To find the future

Image: Francesco Ungaro


To see “the other side of history”, in Benjamin's expression, it is necessary to develop the virtues of citizen participation

“On ne détruit reellement que ce qu'on remplace” [You only really destroy what you replace] (Charles Baudelaire).

Among 15th century thinkers, Walter Benjamin has a prominent place. Born on July 1892, 27, in Berlin, he died on September 1940, XNUMX, in Port-Bou, Catalonia. He belonged to a prosperous Jewish family, which went bankrupt in World War I. He made his living from journalistic and literary collaborations for magazines and radio stations. Exiled in Paris, he received a small financial sum from the Institut für Sozialforschung, origin of what became known as the Frankfurt School, the birthplace of Critical Theory.

The attraction it awakens crosses several academic areas and generations of intellectuals. Here, the two ideal types of narrator studied by Benjamin are highlighted, represented by the sailor who tells stories of distant seas and the peasant, who tells past stories in the land he cultivates. The first brings up close experiences that come from afar, in spatial terms. The second, experiences that happened in distant periods, in temporal terms. In the absence of these instigating reports, the very concept of experience is emptied by the absence of referents that refer to meanings. The “aura” that guaranteed the uniqueness of what was told as experiences of a unique character is evaporated. Aura which, for Kothe, is “the central category of all Walter Benjamin's production”. How to apply the allegories about displacements to Brazilian politics?

A specter haunts mankind

In Brazil, the crucial political issue is fascism today. In Konder's definition (Introduction to Fascism, Graal) it is: “A tendency that arises in the imperialist phase of capitalism… with a conservative social content… making use of irrationalist myths… it is a chauvinist, anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-socialist, anti-working-class movement… presupposes the conditions of mass society of directed consumption, as well as the existence of a certain level of fusion of bank capital with industrial capital, that is, the existence of financial capital”. When the book was published, neoliberalism had not yet become the hegemonic socioeconomic model in most Western nations. The Washington Consensus, executioner of rights, would occur later (1989).

The manipulation that fascism promoted in public opinion in the 30s, in Europe, via radio broadcasts, currently takes place in the country through social networks on the internet, financed by the federal government and by businessmen. Emphasis for ruralists linked to agribusiness, arms manufacturers, rentiers and investors in the Stock Exchange, in supporting the tropical version of horror – Bolsonarism. No wonder, Jair Bolsonaro demonstrates despair with the demonetization of these digital vehicles by the ongoing siege of the Senate of the Republic and the Federal Supreme Court (STF) to robots that propagate lies, assimilated without metabolization by robotic humans.

The extreme right thrives on fake news, to keep the fan base galvanized. He enlists them with the practice of methodical illusionism. It does not prevent, sometimes, the correction of courses. See the news: “XP Investimentos cancels electoral polls, by deliberation of Bolsonarist owners and clients”. It went bad. In the presidential race for 2022, the performance of Lula da Silva, who resisted the campaign of infamy and imprisonment, surprised the market. Antropofagia, by Oswald de Andrade, with plenty of pepper and palm oil from Bahia, would be good for the intestinal disarrangement of the dissatisfied. Furthermore, according to the captain's wisdom, it would help to contain global warming (sic).

It is a pity that, in the face of Pinocchio do Mal, the corporate media is limited to moral reprimands about decorum and genocidal conduct in the (mis)treatment of the pandemic. Without uttering a peep about the virulent neoliberal disease that affects the economy and causes hunger, unemployment and suffering. By acting selectively, Rede Globo gives in to the deconstruction of the Democratic Rule of Law. It removes from the collective imagination the experiences that took place in the national territory at the time of progressive governments. The gag, useful to the predatory logic of the elite of which the Marinho family is a part, elides the promise of bonheur which involved the social ascension of more than 30 million citizens in a decade, the appreciation of the minimum wage linked to pensions, the policy of affirmative quotas, the expansion of the number of federal universities, the transposition of the São Francisco river, etc.

History is an allegorical ruin

In democracy, the past constitutes the present capable of realizing the future. In fascism, the present reconstitutes the past with the mission of blocking the future. So the displacement leans towards the rigid freezing of becoming, corrupts the imagination and paralyzes boldness in the grammar of oppression. Without recalling the lost happiness, the rage of the insurgents does not gather the strength to raise the club of transforming reason against the alienating and excluding (im)policies that hijack the common good. The liberating praxis of shackles is based on unlocking the memory of everything that managed to escape the fury of colonization. However, conquering the possible requires what Boaventura de Sousa Santos (The Future Starts Now, Ed. Boitempo, 2021) calls “ruins”.

Namely, the elements of the original peoples who survived, materially or immaterially, the destruction of the colonizers. From the presentified ruins comes the necessary and indispensable impetus for the struggle, which does not refer to a nostalgic desire to go back, but to go forward in the direction of experiments, in fact, civilizational – beyond the binomial of domination and subordination. The awareness of the signifiers contained in the ruins, for example, of the Amazon fires, of the indigenous handicrafts, of Quilombo dos Palmares, of the customs of immigrants of various nationalities, of country music, of capoeira or of the headquarters of the combative Sindicato dos Metalúrgicos de São Bernardo – serves as an atavistic impulse to soul yearnings for freedom and equality, dignity and cooperation. As in the poem by Benjamin by Paulo Leminski: “Legends coming / from the beautiful lands / from the far east // make me happy / as this life cannot do”.

To achieve totalitarian objectives, the suffocation of the sailor and peasant allegories is strategic. Because, regardless of the poles, such narratives underlie the differences that give the community guidelines for guidance, empathy and conduct to restore the symbolic aura of what was experienced. Preserving the allegories (etymologically, “saying the other”) through memories and signs praising what is distinguished in the evocations – is an act of resistance to the deleterious actions of the necropolitics of power, whose ambition is to bar the reminiscences of revolts and hope popular, in the name of a unitemporal dimension that engulfs the dialectic of past, present and future.

Paul Klee's engraving (Angelus Novus, 1920), which Benjamin was very fond of, depicts an angel advancing looking backwards, where ruins accumulate as a result of progress. The philosopher synthesized the image as follows: “The path that leads the angel (of history, certainly) to the future is the path from which he came”. The future is what the past could have been, and was not. The remnants, the pieces that remained after the genocide are the proof that provides the convictions for the right to tomorrow. The maxim applies to society. The story is an allegorical ruin, not a doom to the fate of zombies in the commodity system. As seductive as they seem to us shopping malls.

Social and political fighters have the task of harvesting from oblivion the energy of ancient battles to overcome the dystopia of fascism at the state level and, of neoliberalism, at the sociocultural level. Minerva's bird takes flight at dusk when a world fades and new dreams are born. The allegories help us to rediscover the ideopolitical compass that leads to utopia. One thing we already know. Among us, democracy cannot depend only on political representation (read: Centrão). To see “the other side of history”, in Benjamin's expression, it is necessary to develop the virtues of citizen participation.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.



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