There is a Brazil that is being extinguished as a new one emerges, but this transition cannot be felt simply by observing the political sphere. Since the democratic transition, we have grown accustomed to detecting the underlying social and cultural energies, the ideas that were in dispute, and the values and ethics that were being put to the test in the new times of the 1980s and 1990s in the ups and downs of political and institutional life. Cultural and social life was incorporated as an accessory to our understanding of the political sphere, defining choices such as whether to listen to Caetano Veloso or Chico Buarque. Nonetheless, nothing managed to escape politics; not even one’s choice of toothpaste.
But the political sphere does not necessarily always correspond to the social aspects and cultural life of a country. Paradoxically, it can become disconnected from what is created and transformed in people’s daily lives, in their tastes, values and interests, in their ways of facing challenges, of consuming, of loving and of being recognized by those close to them and by others.
The world of work, religiosity, and aesthetics have undergone significant changes in the last 30 years. Meanwhile, the political sphere still seems to reproduce itself in ideological disputes between the left and right. The last 20 years of political progressivism amid center-left governments materialized in a cycle of social and economic ambiguities, which have, in turn, led to an apparent dead end where the political sphere gasps for air.
It seems that its oxygen has been exhausted and that which maintained its eventually creative energy ended up becoming a part of the antithesis of politics. In this negation, there is as a game of disputing the free interests of citizens in a democratic society. It materialized in battles of identity and ‘appropriate languages’, policies of ‘economic aid’ for the poorest, and personal accusations. The negativity of politics forcibly dominates through its superficiality and debate on political projects and ideas. The a priori of every argument is the end of politics as an exercise, and as a place for the creation and transformation of people’s lives.
The Brazil that is progressively ceasing to exist is the one in which it was believed that people lived around continuous demands and conflicts. In other words, this pushes back against the understanding that in every social bond there is always, at all times, a logic of power at play. That society, which was so tense due to the proliferation of situations in which it was believed that there would be no more room for notions such as dialogue, consensus, ‘mulatto’, transition, mixture, hybridization, or encounter, is being pushed aside.
The Brazil of the imposition of perspectives, where it was determined what could be said publicly, disappears. There is a certain weariness for this polarized Brazil within which everything is discussed at length, and where positions are taken on everything as if it were a mandatory part of exercising one’s citizenship. I’m tired of hard populism.
While this Brazil dilutes, a large part of the population sees the emergence of values, tastes, and lifestyles that influence the world of work and people’s self-perception. Music, aesthetics, the sphere of culture itself, indicate how this emerging Brazil is associated with the so-called “fighting Brazilians,” millions of people who have been building biases and desires.
These are those who have already gone through the so-called ‘compensatory politics’, which, paradoxically, they try not to depend on. They have incorporated a certain ethic of ‘self-construction’ that is not necessarily the product of having watched videos on ‘self-help’ on social networks, or having internalized some neoliberal logic for the good of capital, as some intellectuals believe.
Perhaps this current can be understood as a direct and indirect product of the evangelical churches and their multiple aspects. It should not be forgotten that in Brazil in 2010 little more than 15% of the population were evangelicals (Pentecostals, Neo-Pentecostals, etc.), but in 2020 that percentage has risen to 31%, more than 65 million Brazilians. According to estimates, evangelicals will be the majority of the Brazilian population in 15 years.
But outside of this, the emerging Brazil is not reduced to an evangelical Brazil. It is made up of people who have incorporated the ‘culture of initiative’ and part of their identity is integrated into the “ecosystem of the individual or collective entrepreneur.” Their possession of this characteristic is proven in their enormous resilience, and their capacity to build networks of relationships, solidarity, and exchanges of goods and services.
In this environment, these “fighters” have built themselves around a discourse in which they do not admit tutelage or interference because of an absolute distrust of anything that does not come from their own efforts and actions. The State is a distant and close figure that plays an irrelevant role in the development of their personal lives.
The emerging Brazil is not included in today’s dysfunctional political sphere. Much has changed socially and culturally in the country in the last 20 years. Neither alienated nor intellectualized, emerging Brazil knows what it does not want: a repetition of tragedies. The question that remains is: for the October 2022 elections, will the political sphere look towards the millions of people of this emerging Brazil?
Translated from Spanish by Alek Langford