Increasingly, we have the feeling that talking is useless. We are witnessing around us – against us – a functional deterioration of language, its reduction to vociferous mantras of hate and contempt. The propositions in circulation are measured by their falsehood value (only lies mobilize); resentment has become the dominant vehicular affect; disrespect and spite undergirds the general tone of what emanates from the upper circles of power. But how can I avoid repeating what has already been said by many more qualified than myself about what is being spouted by the hate apparatus installed in power? How can I not say what everyone already knows, has heard, has read, about the storm of abominations vowed and perpetrated against us all? How can we keep talking when there are no adjectives strong enough to qualify the situation and its protagonists? When each morning brings news more mortifying than that of the day before; when the pace of announced absurdities is such that each new absurdity overshadows the preceding one? How can we talk when each indecorous and quickly forgotten pronouncement distracts us from a calculated evil of long duration; when each vomit of ideological hatred diverts our attention from the economic traps that aim at further favoring the already favored? White noise. White noise made up of coarse grunts as background music, as elevator music, until we are numbed and rendered witless as our elevator descends farther and farther to the bottom of the well. But we must keep our ears to the ground, keep listening to what they are saying beneath their shouts. For the content of what they say is perfectly suited to the form. Like this one, it is equally stupid, violent, and cynical.
A war program
The political group in power in Brazil is endowed with an infallible instinct to systematically choose the worst possible option – the worst person, the worst idea, the worst policy –, when it comes to guaranteeing collective rights, the defense of minorities, socio-environmental protection. All the forces of chaos speaking in the name of order, ordering in the name of chaos. An entropic, anomic indistinction between order and chaos, ordinary hypocrisy and extraordinary insanity, biased news and outright lies. A government that lies. A government that is a lie. No one governs. In the words of Vladimir Safatle: “The program that brought Bolsonaro to power was never a program of government – no wonder no debate took place in the electoral campaign. It was a war program.” And war was declared. As per the program.
Imagine “pre-Columbian” America as an immense multi-ethnic continent that was suddenly invaded by the European ocean. The modern expansion of Europe is the analog, in terms of the history of civilizations, of the rising level of the planet’s oceans that threatens us today. After five centuries of increasing submersion of the ancient anthropological continent, only a few islands of aboriginal humanity remained above the surface. These surviving peoples formed a veritable polynesia, in the etymological sense of the term: a dust of scattered ethnic islands, separated from each other by enormous stretches of an ocean that is quite homogeneous in its political (nation-state), economic (capitalism), and cultural (Christian) composition. All these islands have suffered violent processes of erosion over the centuries, losing many of the conditions conducive to a full life.
A perfect storm
Let us quickly recall what everyone knows: that formal power in Brazil has been seized by a corrupt political group, the core of which is linked to criminal organizations, the militias, whose origins must be sought in the deepest recesses of the military regime. Commanded by members or ex-members of the so-called “forces of order,” these organizations, especially in Rio de Janeiro, provide armed security for powerful figures of parallel capitalism, systematically massacre and extort poor communities, and practice contract killing with impunity. This political group in power is intellectually legitimized through the internet, by charlatans dedicated to the demoralization of scientific and humanistic knowledge, who are engaged in a “culture war” against all forms of critical thinking. Charlatans and swindlers who are, moreover, agents of the campaign of climate denialism financed by transnational capital. This ideological movement, skillfully disseminated through the new technologies of cognitive colonization, has found wide resonance among a considerable portion of the electorate sympathetic to racism, homophobia, and misogyny, furious enemies of any form of diversity, haters of any form of difference which does not reiterate and validate contemporary versions of the original “difference” – the fundamental division – constitutive of Brazilian society, that between masters and slaves.
In short: a perfect storm, as they say.
Not to mention the part about crimes against reality.
To govern is to create deserts
In Brazil – and not only here – to govern is to create deserts. The territorial correlate of every State is always an abstract surface, a desert available to be striated by power.
Modes of isolation
The Amazon is the region of the planet with the greatest number of native communities classified as isolated. In practice, all of these peoples are in what is officially designated “voluntary isolation”: far from ignoring the existence of other societies, they refuse any substantial interaction with them, especially with “Whites,” a word used by Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Brazil to refer to the representatives, direct or indirect, of the nation-state that exercises sovereignty over indigenous territories. But the image of the archipelago suggests that all indigenous peoples in America should be considered “isolated.” Isolated from each other, clearly, but also isolated or separated from themselves, inasmuch as the overwhelming majority of them have lost their political autonomy and have had the moral foundations of their economy severely shaken, when not utterly destroyed. Therefore, these peoples find themselves in a situation of “involuntary isolation,” and this applies even to those communities whose initial contact with Whites was more or less voluntary.
The imaginary reverse justifies the real obverse. Just flip the coin.
How to recreate a people? How to recover the memory and reinvent a place within the strange, narrow and unstable gap between indigenous and non-indigenous that sometimes opens and sometimes closes for the native peoples of the continent? Today, the Baré people embody one of the answers to these questions. Herein lies the exemplarity of these ancient custodians of the Negro River, of this people who played a pivotal role in the pre-Columbian cultural dynamic. Their exemplarity does not lie in the same sad story of de-indigenization – of being captured by a fraudulent and bankrupt enterprise of “civilization.” It lies in their capacity to resist, to react, to invert this narrative, showing that the so-called “Brazilian people” are, as they continue to be, a multiplicity of peoples in a state of continuous variation, that the so-called Brazilian people contain an immense unconscious reserve of difference capable of generating many other futures than the one thrust at us, the one that the powerful impose as the only possibility, the only desirable future – the only future, pure and simple, because it is already present. This is why the dominant classes and their organic intellectuals are so scandalized today, when people like the Baré, among many others throughout Brazil, claim their indigeneity, take up the thread of tradition, revive forms and contents that have been repressed, interdicted, occluded by the “civilizing process.” These peoples are rowing against the current, reversing the unilinear march of History, refusing the realization of the Spirit and the advent of the Millennium.
The so-called Brazilian people are nothing but the homogenizing abstraction performed by power over all its minority peoples.
The Indigenous peoples in Brazil are the symbol of immanent resistance against the project of extermination of differences that the present government symbolizes by revealing itself as the brutal exacerbation of a pluri-secular attitude of the ruling elites of the country. And I speak of immanent resistance because the Indigenous peoples cannot not resist under penalty of not existing as such. Their existence is immanently a resistance, which I condense and express in the neologism to rexist.
A brief history of Brazil
The history of Brazil is the history of a succession of genocides – from the “just war” to the massacre at the 11th parallel; from the punitive expeditions of colonial governments to the predatory incursions of the bandeirantes; from the wholesale slaughter of Indigenous peoples in the “correrias”1 in western Amazonia during the rubber cycle, to the ethnic cleansing of the backlands of the Southeast region for the construction of railroads and the establishment of German and Italian settlers brought by the state to “whitify” the country’s too dark-skinned population. Or, to take a more recent example, the murderous offensive by ranchers in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul against the Guarani-Kaiowá people, giving rise to a state of affairs with many analogies to the situation of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. But this history is also, and perhaps above all, the history of a methodical program of ethnocide – from the catechesis under the sign of the compelle intrare and “the preaching of the sword and rod of iron” (Joseph of Anchieta, 16th century) to the recruitment of Indigenous troops by the sertanistas2 and the imperial army; from the missionary reductions3 and descimentos4 to the prohibition of the use of native vernaculars in the colonial villages and towns; from the imposition of a lingua franca in the 17th and 18th centuries to the kidnapping, well in the 20th century, of Indigenous children by the Salesian “schools” in Rio Negro. It is a program of ethnocide that extends from the brutal destruction of Indigenous sacra, identified as manifestations of the devil, to the evangelical-capitalist proselytism of North American missionaries, generously tolerated, when not officially welcomed, by all our “nationalist” governments (from Vargas to Rousseff). It extends from Pombal’s “Indian Directorate” to the creation of the “Indian Protection Service and Location of National Workers“; from the Land Law of 1850 to the sophistic restrictions on the constitutional article 231 approved by the Supreme Court in the Raposa Serra do Sol case in 2013. This ethnocide extends from the invasions of Yanomami land by legal and illegal mining concerns to the environmental and economic destruction, expulsion, and forced relocation of communities affected by the Belo Monte hydroelectric complex, constructed in insolent disregard of the legislation (which was sidestepped by way of the fradulent obtainment of the so-called “informed consensus” of the Indigenous peoples affected, as well as disregard of socio-environmental “conditionalities” required to obtain the plant’s Operational License). A fundamental aspect of the relationship between the (biological and/or spiritual) descendants of the European invaders of the Americas, their political-administrative apparatuses, and their doctrines of nationality – elaborated with much difficulty, from an ideological point of view, against both the colonial metropolis and the indigenous populations – was, and in many ways remains, the conviction (and the implementation of the conviction) that the indigenous condition is doomed to disappear.
What is usually imagined as “the future” in this country resembles more and more the past of other countries – mirroring the past of the capitalist powers of the past centuries, which began the 21st century in a trajectory of clear decadence, after having made the planet literally unbreathable. If our real future, if any future, remains open to us, it is only because “Brazil” – the oligarchies and bureaucracies and powers that, by oppressing and exploiting and destroying it, have acquired the curious habit of speaking in its name, or even more, of imagining themselves as synonymous with Brazil – has not managed to completely abolish its own past, its pre-Brazilian past. If Brazil still has a future, it is because the obvious political competence of the ruling classes has always had as its counterpart a phenomenal anthropological incompetence. Thanks to Jurupari.
Make your bets
I’ll call the following hunch a hunch: the technological mutations needed to offset or stabilize the ongoing ecological collapse would need to:
(1) occur more quickly than the accelerated collapse of environmental conditions, which seems unlikely;
(2) be accompanied by the deliberate extermination (by omission or commission) of a large, perhaps immense portion of the human population – which seems likely.
Item (2) is being tested in vitro, so to speak, in Brazil, a laboratory of the future.
Brazil is big, but it’s a small world
Perhaps the time has come to conclude that we are living the end of a history, that of the West, the history of a world shared and imperially appropriated by the European powers, their former American colonies, and their contemporary Asian nemeses. It would therefore be incumbent upon us to note, and draw the proper lessons from this, that “the national no longer exists; there is only the local and the global.” At the very least, we may begin to realize that if we continue to obtusely destroy the local – that is, this place in the world that we call “ours” (but who owns, beyond mere pronominal right, the brutally proprietary fact of this possessive?) there will be neither funds nor foundations left for us to build any national, be it anachronistic or futuristic. Brazil is big, but it’s a small world.
“A federative republic full of trees and people saying goodbye.”
Brazil, in the beautiful and melancholic image of Oswald de Andrade, was once “a federative republic full of trees and people saying goodbye.” Today, it is more like a business corporation covered, as far as the eye can see, by transgenic and agrochemical-dependent monocultures, riddled with hills inverted into monstrous holes from which hundreds of millions of tons of ore are extracted for export, smothered by a thick cloud of oil pollution that suffocates our cities while we trumpet records in automobile production, clogged by thousands of kilometers of rivers dammed to generate energy of dubious “cleanliness” and even more questionable destination, devastated in tracts of forest and cerrado as large as countries, cut down to provide pasture for two hundred and eleven million cattle (today more numerous than our human population). Meanwhile, we… Well, we keep saying farewell – to the trees. Goodbye to them and to the republic, at least in its original sense of res publica, of thing and cause of the people.