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Alarmist manifesto: Bolsonaro is not making mistakes

To debolsonarize the future, nothing is more risky than the waiting pace

​There are presidents who govern by decree. Others, by legislative initiative, constitutional amendments, all combined and so on. Jair Bolsonaro governs by common crimes and responsibility crimes, both by acting and by ommission. His performatic insubordination to law, decorum and civility has always been treated as a caricature. In the presidency, he routinely attacked freedom, life and sovereignty. During the pandemic, the technique became deadly en masse.

​In the face of a threat that is already materialized, just to start with, in 260 thousand deaths (partly preventable),alarmism remains as the only realistic and rational posture. In the name of honesty, alarmism becomes an ethical demand and a pragmatic call for survival.

​Alarmism can come for good and for bad. It can overshadow the problem, blow up bridges, produce panic, noise and ineffective action. Sounding the alarm when there is no danger takes its toll. In history, sounding the alarm cynically against imaginary enemies has led to coups, military interventions and redemptive and "carwashing" furies against all sorts of arguable corruption.

​The anti-alarmist vocation, when facts advise against it, also has a cost. People warned against alarmists in the 1930s, for example. When Churchill gave a startled speech after theAnschluss and the annexation of Austria in 1938, a conservative reassured the spirits: “Oh, the usual Churchillian filibuster; he likes to rattle the sabre and he does it jolly well, but you always have to take it with a grain of salt”.

​The anti-alarmist pact currently in force, without any grain of salt, neutralized the possibility of understanding Brazil of the present and imagining the Brazil that lies ahead. This pact has already been responded to with more than 70 requests for impeachment, criminal representations, lawsuits, international accusations, journalistic scoops, incredulous screams in the country's hospitals.​

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro gestures during a ceremony at Planalto Palace in Brasilia
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro gestures during a ceremony at Planalto Palace in Brasilia - Ueslei Marcelino - 23.feb.2021/Reuters

To tell this story with the proper sense of urgency, I sketch an alarmist manifesto here. It is not a contribution to dystopian literature, but a realistic chronicle in at least 6 postulates.​

1) "Denialism kills, complacency anesthetizes." In the Brazilian encyclopedia of denialism, there is no risk to democracy, no health threat, no climate warming, no racism, no homophobia, corruption and police violence. Illusionism hijacks primary emotions and spreads violence.

​2) "Bolsonaro made himself unfit to plead, infallible and irresponsible. He just isn't unbelievable." Bolsonaro is not making mistakes and warned what he would do. That was already on his carreer records and in his biography.

​3) "The Constitution is being repealed by stealth." Theliquidation of constitutional assets liquidation eviscerates its civilizing commitments without changing its formal text.​

4) "State institutions surrender to collaborationist temptations and are increasingly coopted." It is not just the judiciary and parliament. The politicization of state institutions runs through the prosecutor's office (ministério público), the military professions and the complex building of accountability institutions within the Executive and public policies.

​5) "The illusionist mantra 'Armed people will not be enslaved' paves the way for the republic of militias, not security, let alone freedom.' Armament and environmental degradation are Bolsonaro's red lines, by which he will go to the last consequences.

​6) "Democracy is not a machine for counting who has the majority of votes.' We are learning by force what political philosophy and history have tried to teach: elections are not enough for a democracy to emerge, and "people" is different from any sort of mob. Nor is a coup necessary to institute a dictatorship.​

What lies ahead will be worse. Politically, worse than the last 30 years and worse than the last 2 years. From a public health point of view, 2021 will be worse than 2020. Climatically, environmental devastation contributes to a more serious future than any other time in the industrial era. The social and economic consequences are up to us to imagine.​

There is no vaccine for instant immunization against a mutant and multiplying bolsonarist ethos. But there is medicine and therapy to debolsonarize the future. Nothing is more risky than the waiting pace, as if the game were the same as before, in the same terms as before.

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