“I am in favour of a dictatorship…we will never resolve serious national problems with this irresponsible democracy”. Mussolini? Hitler? Stalin? Mao? No. Not views consigned to an ever-too-present 20th century history, not views consigned to fringe Neo-Nazi or Crypto-Fascist groups on the edges of our current political sphere, but views expressed by none other than Brazil’s new President-elect, Jair Bolsonaro. Oh, and don’t worry – there’s plenty more where that came from.
Whether you be a woman, a homosexual, a Marxist or Left-leaning social activist, a refugee or migrant, or anyone deemed to be of a different ‘race’ or ethnicity in Brazil, you should be scared. Actually scrap that, we should all be scared. The sheer amount of filthy, incendiary, discriminatory and simply revolting remarks this far-right, Neo-Fascist ex-military Captain and politician of nearly three decades has made is astonishing, and the parallels with Trump and other global leaders of the new ‘illiberal international’ that has emerged in the last decade across the world, are stark.
Just a selection of memorable quotes from President-Elect Bolsonaro include calling refugees the “scum of the earth”, saying that he’d rather his son “died in an accident” than be gay, saying that the only saviour for Brazil would be “civil war” and that someone must “do the work the military regime did not…killing some 30,000…If a couple of innocents die, thats ok”, saying that he’s “in favour of torture”, calling the birth of his own daughter a “moment of weakness” and saying to a female politician, Maria Do Rosario, that she “didn’t deserved to be raped” because she was “very ugly”.
But this really, is only a flavour of what this man is. Not simply a ‘monster’; that is reductive and misses a crucial analysis of what has happened in Brazil. He is the epitome of anger. An anger pent up over decades of socio-economic and political mismanagement seen not only in Brazil, but in almost every single nation of the globe. It is an anger buried deep in the hearts of those who have no voice, who have no agency and have no power. That anger is Trump. That anger is Brexit. That anger is Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban, Matteo Salvini, Jimmie Akesson, Geert Wilders, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Narendra Modi, and everyone in between. As the Indian historian, novelist and essayist, Pankaj Mishra rightly points out, we are now living through another ‘Age of Anger’.
So frankly, let’s stop pretending we’re shocked. Let’s not cower in disbelief and horror. Let’s not pretend that this is still a phenomenon. This is the world we have lived in for at least the 10 years since the financial crisis, and the ensuing collapse in political, social and economic trust that it brought about. We should have seen this coming, but we didn’t. Bolsonaro is not the cause of Brazil’s malaise, but yet another symptom of a global pattern – a perceived, yet heart-felt notion of a loss of nationhood brought about by the forces of globalisation and supra-national capital, mixed with a malign strand of liberal ideology that convinces itself and others that it purports tolerance, democracy and freedom of expression, yet denigrates and sidelines any opinion that strays outside the ‘Overton window’.
Take for example Hilary Clinton labelling half of, what would become, 62,984,828 Trump voters, a “basket of deplorables” whilst running to be President of the United States. The ignorance and sheer idiocy this comment encapsulates really makes me think she deserved to lose the election (despite winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes I should say). Let’s just call this episode in our global history, the revenge of the ‘Basket of Deplorables’.
Out of the old world’s ashes rises a new and frightening world where that Overton Window has been dramatically shifted to the extreme right. That means the left must come back fighting. If its ‘civil war’ Bolsonaro wants, that’s what he’ll get and the left must be ready to show the forces of intolerance, fear, hatred and violence that this will not go unresisted. Peace, true democracy and love for both fellow human beings and of our beautiful natural world must triumph. If they don’t, this new world will be sticking around for a long time.
“There will be resistance, there will be opposition, there will be street mobilisations. Our voices will not be silenced”. -Guilherme Boulos, National Co-ordinator for the Homeless Worker’s Movement (MTST) and the Socialism and Liberty Party candidate in the 2018 Presidential Election ( October 2018)