When Politics is Made Synonymous with Violence
When Politics is Made Synonymous with Violence
In a parliamentary system, a politician could say: I will run for the presidency, and if I don't win, I will resign from politics. Another could say: I will run for this position, and if I don't win, I will rethink the strategy I had followed. Politicians can say many things, just not what Jair Bolsonaro said ten days ago. The Brazilian president saw that his future could go in three directions: he will be either imprisoned, killed, or victorious in the next presidential elections.
It could be said that this rhetoric is meant to create melodrama and mobilize supporters and followers. It warns them that the forthcoming elections next year are extremely serious, and they might rush to save their leader from being killed or imprisoned.
Nonetheless, the rhetoric is strange, especially coming from a leader who ascended to the presidency through elections. Bolsonaro's rhetoric leaves only a thin line separating politics from violence and violence from politics, while the latter was created to avert violence and conflict.
However, Bolsonaro is equipped for that: his political opinions are more militaristic than they are political and more belligerent than they are peaceful. He was a retired officer in the first place, and he had been accused, in his youth, of planting bombs in a military unit. When he launched his presidential campaign, he chose another retired general, Hamilton Mourao, as his vice president.
During that electoral battle, two strange events unfolded: after the first round, in which he received the most votes, in a speech given to thousands of supporters in Sao Paulo, he threatened to prosecute, purge or kill the communist "reds" and Workers' Party members. Then, as he was continuing his campaign, a man stabbed him in the stomach. That day, some said that the stabber had been mentally ill, suffering from delirium and schizophrenia. Others linked the ugly incident to the militarization of the electoral campaign through Bolsonaro's actions, speeches and statements.
All of the Brazilian president's opinions are of this sort. Here are a few examples:
He has repeatedly praised the 1964 military coup against Joao Goulart, which led to the emergence of a military dictatorship that stayed in power till 1985 and became notorious for its countless human rights violations. Once, he said he considers that era to have been a "glorious" period in Brazilian history. Another time, he said that the dictatorship's mistake was that it tortured but did not kill.
He praised Pinochet's regime in Chile, which took the lives of 3,000 civilians, and said that more of them should have been killed. Hugo Chavez being a "leftwinger" didn't deter him, a "rightwinger," from saying in 1999, he saw "hope for Latin America" in the man.
Seeing torture as a "legitimate practice" that is a necessary form of political action is another one of his opinions; he is also enthusiastic about passing legislation authorizing life imprisonment.
During a notorious interview he gave in 1999, when he was a senator, he said that the only way to "change" Brazil was to "kill thirty thousand people, starting with Henrique Cardoso," who had been president at the time. And although the 1988 Brazilian constitution rejected that capital punishment, Bolsonaro has defended it many times. More than that: as a senator, he tried to remove all the restrictions placed on sterilization in public clinics on three separate occasions.
Moreover, as a deft populist, Bolsonaro amplifies his personal role in the political game; he is contemptuous of parties and partisan life. We thus saw him move from the "Christian Social Party" to the "Social Liberal Party" in 2018, only to leave the latter that same year, when he became president, and found the "Alliance for Brazil." However, his populism manifests itself most clearly when he labels his opponents as enemies of the people, i.e., traitors, and traitors can only be dealt with through imprisonment or death. While he does not always use this label, he has split residents between those who are virtuous and those who are damned and created a rigid hierarchy.
Though it may be obvious that a nation of 212 million citizens can only be pluralistic and that all kinds of differences distinguish its people, who are divided into several ethnicities, it is not so obvious to the Brazilian president. That is because the non-white half of the citizens, including the indigenous population, is a damned half. The same applies to women, who should not be paid the same wages as men because they become pregnant and give birth. As for those who engage in alternative sexual practices and the secularists who advocate the separation of church and state, they are also dubious people who distort the image of the nation and the people.
Bolsonaro is merely one among many leaders brought to power by the crisis of democracy and the rise of populism across the globe. All of them, in one way or another, leave only a thin line separating politics for violence and violence from politics, and they rule as though they are waging a continuous civil war against their people. Either they stay in power until the lord decides otherwise, or they are imprisoned or killed because they had only dealt with their people through imprisonment or killing. Staying in power thus becomes a requisite to staying alive, and to this end, they describe democracy and liberalism as values that are incompatible with our values, that is, with the values of rulers who want to stay in power for ever.