tapestry with generals

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A political figure who left the military ranks and starts his battles against real and imaginary enemies, in search of a past that we do not want to return.

The short story “Theme for a tapestry”, by the writer Júlio Cortázar (1914-1984) consists of only one paragraph and reads as follows:

“The general only has eighty men and the enemy five thousand. In his tent, the general curses and cries. Then he writes an inspired agenda, which carrier pigeons scatter over the enemy camp. Two hundred infants pass to the general. A skirmish ensues which the general wins easily, and two regiments go over to his side. Three days later the enemy has only eighty men and the general five thousand. Then the general writes another order of the day and seventy-nine men move to his side. Only one enemy remains, surrounded by the general's army that waits in silence. The night passes and the enemy has not gone over to his side. The general swears and cries in his tent. At dawn, the enemy slowly draws his sword and advances towards the general's tent. Go in and look at him. The general's army disperses. The sun comes out.”

With your mastery. Cortázar brings into play a major fictional conflict in the very first sentence. “The general only has eighty men and the enemy five thousand.” What does this statement tell us? It's a battle, no doubt, and you can see that, as strategists note, the firepower of the parties is key. A few lines later, the situation is reversed, with a large advantage for the general who wins the adhesion of enemy regiments. The war was practically won, there was not an enemy left.

The text translates the current political scene of our country, where a political figure who left the military hosts his battles against real and imaginary enemies, in search of a past that we do not want to return. What are the battles of Jair Bolsonaro? Anticommunism, the theme of the Cold War, which began after the Second World War, in 1945, and ended with the extinction of the Soviet Union, in 1991. The proposal of real socialism failed in the world, it won the capitalism that agonizes in its own contradictions with the emergence of the global pandemic. Bolsonaro resurrected the ghost of communism to declare himself its staunch enemy.

The Bolsonaro government would like to have total control over the imagination of Brazilians, hence its contempt for what it sets free: art, culture, thought. Some media are considered mortal enemies of the president. He sees social media as the realm of truth, where fake news spreads intolerance and hatred of opponents.

Olavo de Carvalho's ideological influence on his government's policies is often mentioned, including the indication of followers to public administration positions. In books, online philosophy courses, and on social media, he became known for his virulent attacks on left-wing intellectuals and freedom of artistic creation. He is the author of the alphabet of Bolsonarist ideas that his followers repeat as if they were maxims.

Their conspiracy theories appear as the backdrop to this tapestry. They dialogue with authors such as the German Oswald Spengler and the Italian Julius Evola, the latter being an inspirer of fascism, and, currently, of neo-fascist currents that are reproduced in Europe and in the world. Among Brazilian authors, Gustavo Corção, an exponent of conservative Catholic thought, is one of his references.

But Bolsonaro's speech does not assimilate the slightest intellectual luster that may contain the extreme right. It will always be rough. He expresses only his formation in the barracks, faithful to the most obscure representatives of the dictatorship.

In principle, nothing against the military in the current government, the 1988 Constitution establishes the attributions of the Armed Forces. It is worth noting that when they occupied power for 21 years, the military drafted the 1967 Charter that backed up the arbitrary acts they had already passed. However, the toughest of them was AI 5, from 1968, which overshadowed political life in the country, with prior censorship of the press and artistic production, exiles, arrests and torture of political opponents.

Some who miss the military dictatorship draw a misleading picture of the time, with the fallacy of the economic miracle, the fight against terrorism, the absence of corruption, the defense of morals and good customs. Now they take to the streets against social isolation, the STF and Congress, and ask for military intervention. Those who lived through that period have bitter memories. The younger generations, who have studied the history of the dictatorship, can use their discernment to judge.

In another battle of this tapestry, Bolsonaro demonstrates his hatred of Science. Despite evidence to the contrary, he claimed that Covid 19 is a “fantasy” created by the media, which stimulates collective hysteria. He repeatedly contested the social isolation suggested by the WHO, put into practice by governments around the world. And what did we get as a result? The situation that was relatively under control, turned into a Brazilian tragedy. Faced with alarming statistics, the president displays, in scenes and daily statements, his lack of empathy with thousands of people who have lost their loved ones.

Bolsonaro's denialist position had already been evident in topics such as the environment, global warming, among others. While denying the researchers' warning against the pandemic, he appeals to religious conservatism that supports society's retrograde values. Whenever he sees an opportunity, he aims his artillery against the achievements of blacks, women, indigenous populations and homosexuals. But this is an uphill battle – no matter how much he and his pastors blaspheme – because these conquests are part of history.

A government is also made of possibilities. This is how, in the distance, the impeachment of the president appears. There is a consensus that he committed crimes of responsibility by participating in anti-democratic acts that threaten the Legislative and Judiciary powers, in addition to defending the end of social isolation, at the height of a pandemic that has already claimed the lives of thousands of Brazilians. It takes a combination of political factors to trigger the impeachment process. But, as in the aforementioned tale, the commander who one day has five thousand soldiers at his side, the next may be unguarded, and, in his case, the enemy will always remain.

*Marcio Salgado, journalist and writer, is the author of The Philosopher of the Desert (Multifocus).




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