union and reconstruction

Image: Elyeser Szturm


The positive side of the symbolism of Brazilianness mobilized by Lula's inauguration is fundamental.

Lula's inauguration was marked by a high symbolic content, which indicates the importance of this moment. Not by chance, some of the main oppressed groups of our society were represented, which would be the least to be expected, after the democratic blackout and the psychological terror, in addition to the real attacks, suffered by all those who were victims of the hate politics of the previous government. In this sense, the rite we witnessed on January XNUMXst happily restores, with all the necessary meaning, the democratic order suspended on the fateful day of voting on the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.

The importance of symbols is greater than often appears at first glance. It is not a mere allegory or a façade, as it has become fashionable to say today, that Lula performs this very important rite of passage alongside a black boy living in the periphery, a great internationally recognized indigenous leader, a garbage collector, a metallurgist do ABC, a Portuguese teacher, a cook, an influencer in the anti-capitalist struggle and a person with special needs, and an artisan. This means at the same time a promise and a moral commitment assumed before Brazilian society and before the world.

Not by chance, the symbolism of the Bolsonaro government was all the time referring to militarism, and here we need to reflect deeply on this, also because the government faithfully pursued the path suggested by its symbols, not just accomplishing what it could not.

The militaristic symbolism suggests all the time the mobilization of force against everything and against all those who disagree with some current authoritarian government or some social group that considers itself morally superior to the others. All possibilities for dialogue and tolerance have already been exhausted, when all expectations are placed on brute force. At the limit, we have recently witnessed the level of madness to which the imagery motivated by this type of symbolism can lead, with Bolsonarist militants praying in front of barracks and begging for military intervention, as if this were the supreme force of any society.

This type of imagery has permeated much of Brazilian society since forever and still today, to a large extent, which was translated into the polls, with almost half of the Brazilian population trying to re-elect Bolsonaro. In the past, militaristic imagery and symbolism marked practically all of our great historical moments, starting with Independence, then passing through the Proclamation of the Republic, the Vargas era and the dictatorship of 1964, among other minor moments.

Jair Bolsonaro was nothing less than the actualization of this symbolism and imagery of war, intolerant in its essence, because when we talk about war it should be obvious that the only objective is the annihilation of the enemy. Unfortunately, one of the absurdly mistaken theses that has dominated debates on the situation in Brazil in recent years is the one that attributes to the PT or the left as a whole the responsibility for reducing Brazil to the logic of “us against them”.

Lula's inauguration, with its powerful symbolic content, should make clear the mistake of this type of thesis and the proposal of this new government, explicitly defended as being to unify Brazil, in addition to starting the reconstruction process in the face of the devastation left by the Bolsonarist irresponsibility, starting with the obvious which is, as always, the economy.

In this sense, it is worth reinforcing the proposal that is being transmitted by the new government, without idealizations and without essentialisms, but with a pinch of realism, in the face of such confusing times. Not by chance, the slogan of the new government is “Union and reconstruction”, referring to the challenge of rescuing Brazil from the status of a devastated land, which is in tune with the new colorful slogan. This resumes, in a certain sense, the symbolism of the 1st and 2nd Lula governments, whose slogan was also colorful, referring to the country's cultural and identity diversity.

Today's catchphrase message needs to be even stronger, given the challenge of governing after Bolsonarism. The catchphrase of previous Lula administrations was “Brazil, a country for all”, which in a certain sense remains alive in the current proposal, in response to the cynical and instrumental false patriotism of the Tupiniquim pseudo-fascism of arak, represented in the catchphrase “Brazil above all , God above all”, defended by Bolsonaro.

Every time, in Brazilian and universal history, in which the homeland was mobilized as an abstract entity above all else, it was about authoritarianism and intolerance, secular or religious, or a mixture of both. In the Brazilian case, I analyzed the myth of Brazilianness and its role in the construction of our national identity, since independence, in my book Brazil-nation as ideology (MACIEL, 2022). One of the main things I learned when I went to study some of the main authors of Brazilian thought, in our main historical moments, is that the green and yellow symbol, articulated to the imaginary and military signs, was always mobilized in moments in which the forces most authoritarian in Brazilian politics came to power.

In this sense, an important distortion has always been carried out. In times of political upheaval, usually generated by serious economic crises and the intervention of external forces contrary to true national interests, the signs of militaristic green yellowism have always suggested that the Brazilian people and culture are essentially authoritarian.

This thesis was explicitly defended by Gilberto Freyre, for example, and reproduced by a large part of our intelligentsia even today. In fact, it was always about authoritarian governments, and not about an essentially authoritarian people, a thesis that demeans us before the world and legitimizes all the actions of such governments. After the rise of authoritarianism on a global scale, which we have witnessed in recent years, whose germ remains alive and needs to be fought, it becomes increasingly difficult to support such a thesis.

In this scenario, the positive side of the symbolism of Brazilianness mobilized by Lula's inauguration is fundamental. It signals the paths of multiple social inclusion to be taken in the coming years, which should guide the effective formulation of public and social policies on all fronts of battle against our structural inequality, deepened by the Bolsonarist conjuncture. If government is to succeed, it is up to time to provide the answer and not to intellectuals, who cannot predict the future. In any case, the sign is that we are back on the right path, and we must stay on it.

*Fabricio Maciel is a professor of sociological theory at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).


MACIEL, Fabricio. Brazil-nation as ideology. The rhetorical and sociopolitical construction of national identity. 2nd Ed. Rio de Janeiro: Autography, 2022.

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