In “Death as a Near Event”, a lecture by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro available on YouTube, the anthropologist talks about the relationship of indigenous peoples with death.
The enemies of the living, for the Amerindian populations of Brazil, are the dead. The dead do not know they are dead and are attracted to the living. It is up to the living to protect themselves, avoiding the nostalgia and proximity of the specters.
Everything that lives has a soul and conscience, speaks and has an ear. Everything is subject. And animals and vegetables are as people as humans. They are human, in fact, human in origin.
And, as humans are dangerous beings, it is necessary to be careful with the living and the dead. Never respond to an animal, a vegetable or a dead person. Don’t talk to a frog, a jaguar, a tree or a dead relative. Responding means submitting to the point of view of the frog, the jaguar, the tree or the dead. To respond is to lose the condition of a subject.
To be subject or subject. That is the question.
And, to translate the fear that these bad encounters cause in the indigenous people, Viveiros de Castro talks about the feeling we have when stopped by the police.
It’s no use being in possession of the documents, sober or free of illegal substances, no matter how innocent we are, fear of the police is always present in an approach. The police are unaware of any authority other than their own and, faced with the uniform, all that remains for us is subjection.
The police represent the life and death power of the state, especially if you are black and poor. The State is a supernatural force.
When I was happy and young and started going out at night with friends, we would run away from a blitz like the devil on the cross. The military dictatorship was already showing signs of a truce, but the brutality with the students persisted.
With the explosion of poverty and trafficking, the repression of communists turned against the communities. In the south zone, the young people still avoid the jaguars in uniform, but the “shot in the head” no longer targets them.
The years of lead have left us a legacy of police brutality. It is necessary to recognize, however, the change that has taken place in the Armed Forces since the end of the hardliners.
For decades, the Army, Navy and Air Force remained far from the volatility of politics, limiting themselves to the role of guarantors of order and democratic institutions. No longer.
A survey by the Federal Court of Accounts identified 6,157 active and retired military personnel in civilian positions in the government of Jair Messias Bolsonaro. The military elite seems divided between those who repudiate party engagement and those who defend the occupation of the stands.
Oblivious to the border that separates government and state policies, Messias preaches the right of security forces to position themselves.
Just like the frog, the jaguar, the tree and the talking dead, which subject the unwary indigenous to their field of meanings, the president captured the meaning of the “yes”, which used to belong to the progressives, manipulating it in his favor.
Messias repudiates the “no’s” imposed by political correctness and advocates for freedom of expression. Thus, the flaw of censorship and arbitrariness sticks to the “no’s” of black movements, the “no’s no” of women, the obligatory mask and the prohibition of partisanship by the troops.
In this upside down world, Jair is a libertarian. It’s all “yes”.
His praise of Carlos Brilhante Ustra, on the day of voting for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, was not just provocation. The honorable mention of the deceased torturer reflected the resentment of those who acted in the basements of the dictatorship and found themselves exposed to the public execration of the Truth Commission.
Jair’s government is the return of the undead, it is the uprising of Antonio Prata’s jagunços, it is the wounded jaguar speaking. Cornered by the specter of the barracks uprising, the moderate four-star elite accepts the inversion of the hierarchy and falls silent.
The riot police going blind at random, in Recife, without it being clear where the order came from; the invasion of Jacarezinho, in Rio de Janeiro; rubber bullets fired at point-blank range in Santa Catarina; the invasion of indigenous lands by miners and Pazuello’s impunity point to the lack of control and disaster in 2022.
Forget about polarization, there are no two sides. Like Lewis Carrol’s Alice, we listened to a talking rabbit, walked through the mirror, and subjected ourselves to a country where everything is according to its opposite.
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