Why so many attacks on schools in Brazil?

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By JULIAN RODRIGUES*

Why are such tragedies becoming more frequent in recent years?

The numbers vary slightly. But it is a fact that in 2022 and 2023 the number of attacks on Brazilian schools was greater than that recorded in the previous two decades!

There's something very wrong there. It's good to be wary of “experts” who come to offer us peremptory analyzes – let alone miracle recipes. The Minister of Justice, Flávio Dino, announced that he will set up a group of police officers to monitor the deep web and Internet threats. Good initiative.

We got used to the news coming from the US – where this kind of disgrace is trivial. The numbers are impressive. Last year that country broke the record for school shootings (193 cases, against 62 the previous year). However, only massacres with many victims and strong images gain media attention.

The United States is facing an epidemic of mass attacks on schools. The organization Gun Violence Archive records more than 300 crimes of this type in 2022. This year alone there were 131 attacks! Yes, yes: 131! Barbarism.

there we istaitis firearms are sold like soda. They are everywhere – any child or teenager can access a gun (or worse) at home. 20 years ago, Michael Moore filmed the now classic “Bowling for Columbine"(Columbine Shootings) When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people in spectacular fashion at a Colorado school (and then committed suicide).

It is difficult to escape the temptation to proclaim superficial judgments. The historical, classic, paradigmatic, structuring and never fully equated nature x culture debate “screams” in a case like this. Was the boy sick or was he sickened by American mass culture? Both, but what is the weight of each factor? Personally, I tend to suspend judgment and stick to my philosophical convictions. I am a disciple of Carminha (an iconic character of Adriana Esteves in the brilliant soap opera Brazil Avenue): “the human being is something that went wrong; God? God did it wrong. – he made a mistake, that mania was wanting to create the world in six days… a real man thing, lambão, lambão!”

This type of crime was almost exclusive to the USA, you know. But even in very civilized Sweden, now in March, an 18-year-old boy killed two women in a high school.

Since 2011, there have been at least 12 attacks on Brazilian day care centers and schools. There is something very wrong. You can't escape the obvious. The weight of neo-fascism, Bolsonarism, the hate speeches so widespread in recent years is very evident. A lot of misogyny, racism, homophobia spread massively.

Direct messages to the middle-class, white, straight male – who was resentful of the advancement of the feminist, black, LGBT struggle – a guy who was cherished, spoiled, empowered (and now he's kind of lost again).

Jair Bolsonaro opened the doors for the reorganization of far-right groups, neo-fascists, Nazis, supremacists. He gave voice and opportunity to the militia that yearned for the dictatorship. He captivated all kinds of little fascists in Brazil.

Algorithms are reactionary – something that most of us have no idea how they are structured and what they are for. It's hard to understand how this thing works and all the evil, omnipotent (omniscient-omnipresent) gears of Zuck – and those of the duo Larry/Sergey (Google).

We need to take care of our boys. Build new paradigms of masculinity. Boys can cry, have doubts, have vanity, try playing with their buddy without fear of being labeled the class faggot. Leoni sings: “boys, like me, always so smart, close to a woman (or another boy, huh), are just boys”.

Patriarchy, machismo, cisheteronormativity do not only oppress women, gays, sapas and trans. They are structures that “train” men to play an oppressive role, that of the super-provider, tasty, infallible, cold, strong and sensual – above all imbroxable.

I'm not here necessarily hypothesizing that the killers were closeted or gay/bisexual – or anything like that. But surely an advanced culture, added to libertarian, free, diverse and feminist sex education would do them a lot of good. Our kids would certainly be much less insecure – we would be creating centered teenagers. Much happier. Leoni sings: “boys, like me, always so smart, close to a woman (or another boy, huh), are just boys”.

Someone might reply: ah, here come the queer militants wanting to seal up and take everything to the topic of gender and sexuality! It is very easy to answer this supposed objection: is there a case where a girl took a gun and murdered a bunch of people? Why do only boys do this? Have you stopped to think? Everything is related to the patriarchal, sexist, cis-heteronormative culture.

Traditional masculinity, often in addition to being authoritarian and toxic, needs to be redesigned, redefined. It's not a simple task. There is always the ghost of a possible gayness circling the heads of the boys.

The massacres are carried out by teenagers aged 14-16 most of the time. It's a difficult age for boys, a lot of hormones and a lot of social pressure, a lot of horniness, a lot of insecurity in the little head. And now a lot of video games, a lot of craziness in the deep Web, the resurgence of a proud masculinism: the save pill, Chad and others.

But, after all, why are such tragedies becoming more frequent in recent years? It seems to me that this is the key question that we must try to answer in order to build effective actions so that things like this never happen again in Brazil.

Cake recipe no one has. I dare, however, to make a few guesses. In the long term, it is necessary to build not only socialism, but also a country with diversity and freedom (this is Rosa Luxemburgo, by the way).

Immediately, focus on education, on culture, on training boys, not just on emancipating girls. Increasingly spreading feminism and bringing the guys into feminism – trying to show that they are also oppressed to some degree by machismo. Break with the idea that every boy, every man is an evil being, per se. Understanding that structures are harmful – people are only part of a general context.

Preventing new attacks on schools involves not publicizing the crimes in the mainstream media. The protocol should be the same adopted for cases of suicide. Perhaps it is a controversial thesis. But the more visibility given to such tragedies, the more vulnerable young men will be encouraged to do the same thing, I think. It's the 15 minutes of fame, or the 15 seconds with rain of likes, in these times of addictive social networks.

The expansion of access to firearms operated by Jair Bolsonaro has this side effect. Makes it easy for the boys to pick up the watercress from the father, the uncle, the stepfather and go to their schools causing, shooting, screaming, injuring, killing.

This attack in Blumenau seems to be of a different nature: the subject is not a teenager – he is 25 years old, has a criminal history and had already tried to murder his own stepfather.

Finally, I would like to draw attention to a theme that is almost always ignored, underestimated, despised. This is the issue of mental health. Neoliberal capitalism sickens us all – more and more. And there is enormous prejudice surrounding the subject. Illness itself seems to be only those that have effects on the body, that affect our physical health.

The hegemonic culture not only ignores psychic suffering, but also discriminates against those who assume its weaknesses. The numbers are very diverse, they vary a lot – but there is a consensus: millions of Brazilian men and women suffer from some type of mental disorder (anxiety, stress, depression).

So let's pay special attention to the mental health of our children and adolescents. Mainly from the boys. It may seem counter-intuitive, almost heresy – but they are much more fragile, aggressive and silly than girls (they never pick up firearms to shoot and kill people).

The right, not only the Bolsonarist, will defend that schools are increasingly militarized – full of uniformed police. It's the well-known fetish for males in uniform – by the way.

Anyone who says there is an easy solution is lying. Facing and defeating the extreme right is a given. Raise the flags of feminism, human rights, LGBTI, black men and women, the poor, workers.

Disputing hearts and minds, focusing on this youth harassed daily by the fascism that suffocates us. We need schools that are more democratic, more progressive, more feminist, more anti-racist, more radically transformative.

 And also a strong regulation of the media, especially the internet. But that is another debate – a very urgent one, by the way.

* Julian Rodrigues, journalist and teacher, is a PT militant and an activist in the LGBTI and Human Rights movement.

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