The political lack of definition

Democracy needs to be suspicious, but if it requires some to confine itself more, then it is not doing well. Inclusion is the golden rule of democracy.

The confinement that was experienced in these months had many expressions, economic, social, but it was also political. The three presidential decrees of a state of exception restricted rights, the first of which was most likely wounded by unconstitutionality, something that one day, I presume, whoever makes the history of the vicissitudes of our Constitution will devote some time.

Yes, the right of resistance could not have been suspended when other rights were weakened. Furthermore, we did not speak out, there were no rallies, we kept silent protests that are like the air that a living democracy breathes. When you use the image of holding your breath to account for confinement, it hardly applies better than democracy. She was not suspended, but only because she herself controlled her breathing. The difference is tenuous and only does not collapse if democracy resumes, by its own, self-determined movement, its breathing.

Therefore, the lack of definition that we started, economically and socially, would also have to happen politically. There was an urgent need to erupt, as global as confinement was, at least in a certain Western globality. A scream, a loud one filling the lungs of someone who held their breath for a long time, under water, and finally comes back to the surface. The beginning was the demonstration of last Saturday in Portugal and all over the world where demonstrations of this kind can still happen, following the growing protests in Minneapolis and all over the USA.

Phosphorus was the death of George Floyd or, more precisely, the unworthy way - to exude racism from every pore - as in the days after his death it was thought that there were no consequences to be drawn, in the tacit complacency that color allowed. Floyd's breath-holding minutes, that terrible phrase “I can't breathe!” it was the suffering of racism that came, suffocating, through the videos and that, however, was also a little recognizable in the confinement that we all experienced, albeit in very unequal ways. And in the confinement of democracy.

American society felt the meaning of those words in every way they could mean, linked them up and reacted. It was the racism match, but all the other matches in a matchbox called America. The image is by Michelle Goldberg, columnist at NYT. America in italics so as not to have to say USA or assume that we are talking about the American continent. Trump is the pyromancer. He wanted to build walls around his “America great again” and ended up building them right inside American society, unable to understand how this virus kills and makes him suffer in the harsh proportion of the inequality he finds, but able to order “Dominate them! " targeting a “they” who are, in essence, the future of their country, black, Hispanic, white, American. Few gestures could be less patriotic than those of Donald Trump.

The human influence on the appearance of this virus is debatable. Human influence on the way and speed with which a local epidemic has turned into a pandemic is less debatable. Still, it may not make much sense to speak of particular responsibilities in a context of globalization to which we contribute every day in the way we consume and produce. What is more certain is that the catastrophic response to Covid-19 in the USA, the United Kingdom (which, however, shuddered its way) and in Brazil is inseparable from a phenomenon of exclusively human responsibility - populism. Many thousands of people have also died in consolidated democracies and little given to this political disorder.

In Europe, the number of victims in Belgium appears to be above that of any other EU Member State. However, account must be taken of the fact that the Belgian authorities have adopted a highly transparent victim count criterion, which includes tested cases but also suspected cases, even if not tested. It is exactly the opposite of populist political conduct, whose pattern of action is first negationist, then relativizing, little focused on the action that really mattered to be carried out, to always act counterfeit, when not even challenging imperative public health care, which was translated in higher numbers of fatalities. Even excluding the accounting of suspicious cases, or not testing them so that they are not accounted for.

Or, as is now being discussed in Brazil, certainly outside the democratic rule of law, go so far as to give up transparency in order to stop informing the population of data on the progression of the disease in the country. This denialism asserts the right to despise inconvenient reality, to turn its back on it, even if it means human lives. It is not a different matrix from that of the other denials - the scientific one, which the terraplanists exemplify, and the historical one, which usually accompanies the fascist claims.

It is difficult not to look at the numbers of several states on the east coast (where the virus entered the United States) as a result, in large part, of this initial negation of the disease. New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, four states in which more than 1 in 1 people have died. In the first of these four states, 600 in just over XNUMX people. Each resident probably knows someone who died this way.

The prolific Slavoj Žižek, who quickly published “Pandemic!”, Recalls in this book an evocation he made in previous works of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross's five stages of mourning, proposed as stages of the psychological process of suffering (denial, anger) , negotiation, depression, acceptance), to understand our reactions to the epidemic.

Succession is tempting, and it is always reassuring to have a thread, especially if it promises a conciliatory end point. But its application in as many contexts as Žižek intends is very debatable. For example, it is not at all obvious that we did not start here with acceptance, precisely the last of the stages. However, if applied to populism, at least the first two stages - denial and anger - seem to make perfect sense. The truth is denied and anger is projected on those who challenge the denial.

The sequence simply tends to evolve in a different direction than the Kübler-Ross model predicts. Not negotiation, depression and, finally, acceptance, but abuse of power, obstinacy, authoritarianism, even repression, until at one point the populist has to be confronted and deposed, forced to resign or, at least, to become a state politically inert.

It is better to wait seated for Trump or Bolsonaro to become depressed and end up accepting anything. More than the stages of mourning, it is Macbeth's narrative order, which is useful to understand the Shakespearean outcome of these very powerful figures of our time and that, politically, cannot be dissociated from the highest mortality of Covid-19 in the respective societies. As in the tragedy, at some point someone, some legitimate power, must be able to restore normality - that is what we should be talking about - and shout like Captain Macduff after defeating the tyrant: "time is free!" As if the breath were returned to us.

For all these reasons, more literal or more figurative, there is a real urge for a political lack of democracy for democracy, which needs to breathe again at the top of its lungs, but also very concretely, here and now, against populism, and its modes of negation and anger , who find body and life in racism or xenophobia to express the power of violence.

Last Saturday it happened to be politically suspicious, with the dose of the unexpected without which no event is genuine, an outbreak beyond a mere order of things already arranged. In Portugal, it was particularly important for two reasons.

First, because there is usually a lack of support for anti-racist demonstrations. It is compared to the protest against racial violence that hurt Cláudia Simões for months and that only mobilized a few hundred people. Second, because at the time of the violence that killed Ukrainian citizen Ihor Homenyuk, at SEF facilities at Lisbon airport, the country was already in confinement. In addition, there was a prompt response from the authorities, with the resignation of the leadership and detention of the inspectors involved in the murder, which was precisely what took place in the USA. Still, there was an awareness of the lack, of the social catharsis to be accomplished. The will of democracy and its full expression back. On the street, which is the public space in its pure state.

But this urgency must not override democratic attention. Defining is not simply the end of confinement and its inequalities. It brings other inequalities and keeps the previous ones in a regime of less intensity, but present. Because the deflation is only partial. If they are not others, at least the confinement of the mask, and of the public voice and face behind, continues, which continues to rarefy the public space.

The confinement that we are leaving has put us in the house for months and, thus, has put all inequalities out, in plain view. Without pillows and increased: being in an unequal condition, one died more easily, one lost his job, one remained in lay off, suffered and lost more because of having less. But to think that the lack of definition was therefore the interruption of this exacerbation of inequality is an error of perspective. The lack of definition risks making the elderly, and, more generally, the bearers of risk factors, a minority, as politically vulnerable in their equal dignity as other minorities. And we cannot want that. It attacks against intergenerational solidarity and equality.

Democracy needs to be suspicious, but if it requires some to confine itself more, then it is not doing well. Inclusion is the golden rule of democracy. Bring those who do not take part in, do not let those who take part fall, always widen the circle of inclusion.

Democracy is a frontier struggle for the care of the passage inside. That is why border policy is so evident that democracy is an agent. There will always be interests installed to oppose inclusion and that will provide reasons. It was like this with race and ethnicity, it was like with gender, it was like that with the capital that some have and others don't. Between the privilege of possessions and the possession of the privilege, there are many nuances, but they are established as a continuum that guarantees a closed frontier to inclusion. And where one border closes, then another and another do the same.

Intersectionality is an identification of overlapping inequalities that amplify, generally condemning those in the circle of one to fall into the circle of others, like rings of chains that fit together. What this pandemic has shown. For example, it was the older poor and black people who died most on the east coast of the United States.

For these reasons, it is essential to realize and defend an active commitment that the lack of democracy cannot make it exclusive. Whatever the difficulties. This is the biggest challenge of political lack of continuity in a regime of confinement remains that will persist - not sacrificing, on the contrary, recreating the conditions of greater inclusion, without giving in to the temptation to hierarchize exclusions, or relativize them, which only redoubles them. it still forms a field of power.

The author writes according to the old spelling.


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