Jacob A Chansley
Jacob A. Chansley, the “Viking” of the invasion of the Capitol, in the USA, on January 6, 2021.

What happened on January 8th of this year at Praça dos Três Poderes, in Brasília – the action itself and its performers – has already produced several reflections, and I am sure that many others will still be realized. After all, that event can be interpreted and characterized by several points of view that, even added together, will hardly give the true dimension of what happened.

What happened in the Planalto Palace, in the National Congress and in the Federal Supreme Court that day can (and should) be analyzed in its social and political bias as a strategic action to create conditions for a new anti-democratic coup against Brazilian society, fortunately foiled. It can also be an object of sociological and anthropological analyses, which seek to understand how and why apparently peaceful groups of the Brazilian middle class – fundamentally “white” – invaded the country's palaces of democracy as vandals and terrorists. [1]

But I would like to look at what happened from another perspective. I would like to understand it, and its actors, as a kind of buff opera, a clumsy and cynical parody of what happened in Washington, United States, on January 6, 2021, during the invasion of the Capitol.

Man dressed as 'Viking of the Capitol'
Man dressed as a 'Viking of the Capitol', in Niterói (RJ), during the celebrations of September 7, 2021. Photo: Isabella Finholdt /Fotoarena/Folhapress

***

Part of the Brazilian “white” middle class insists on not seeing itself as a member of a society defined by a series of characteristics and contradictions, preferring to live as if it constituted a group of exiles from other societies and cultures. He lives in the interior of Santa Catarina as if he were German; in São Paulo, as if he were Italian; in Goiás, as if I lived in Texas. But the paradise of this group tends to be the United States, Florida, Miami and Orlando – for its members, a kind of Brazil that “worked”.

Because of this need to live here as if they were there, this class ends up creating local correspondents to what they understand as international prototypes. Thus, Ismael Nery is never Ismael Nery. For these people, Nery will always be “our” Marc Chagall; Portinari “our” Picasso, Fabio Assunção, “our” Brad Pitt. Avenida Paulista as “our” Fifth Avenue, and thus culminating in the belief that Jair Bolsonaro would be “our” Donald Trump.

It is in this sense that January 8, 2023 was “our” January 6, 2021; It is in this sense that the invasion of the palaces at Praça dos Três Poderes in Brasília was “our” invasion of the Capitol.

Keeping the forcefulness of the parodic dimension of that act of January 8, 2023 and understanding this dimension as a drama, perhaps we can see that the well-known phrase uttered by Karl Marx can take on other meanings: if, for the German philosopher, history happens as a tragedy and repeats itself as a farce, here on the periphery, the farce – and its laughable dimension – is always tragic too, because, after all, the copy – when accompanied by the attempt at the symbolic erasure of time and history, (as we will see) – it can also be profoundly dramatic.

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Before going into considerations about certain images of the invasion propagated by the media, I highlight some facts that occurred in January 2023 in Brasilia so that we do not forget – and that it is well engraved in our minds – that everything was, to a large extent, a mockery of what happened in Washington in 2021:

1 -the capitol – seat of the US Congress – was conceived in the 18th century as a complex of buildings that, while referring to a Greco-Roman past, behaves like a fortress, a white and impregnable bunker. The palaces at Praça dos Três Poderes, created in the late 1950s, although they had classical Greek architecture as a prototype, behave, above all, as vulnerable places, designed based on the concepts of reception, integration and passage.

2 -The Capitólio was invaded and the palaces of Praça dos Três Poderes also. However, if the former was invaded on a weekday (Friday), to try to prevent John Biden from taking office (therefore, before he took office), Brazilian palaces were invaded on a Sunday afternoon, when were empty, a few days after Lula took office.

3 -Donald Trump, before the invasion of the Capitol, publicly and personally called on his supporters to go to that house of Congress, to reject and prevent the act that was about to take place. Jair Bolsonaro, for his part, leaves Brazil before the end of his term, seeming to have delegated the command of the January 8 operation to his closest followers and sectarians.

4 -If after the pronouncement of Donald Trump, his supporters went of their own free will towards the Capitol, those of Jair Bolsonaro were led to the Esplanada dos Ministérios by the local police.

Thus, what happened in Washington had a dramatic dimension, largely orchestrated in the heat of the moment and the circumstance of a particular moment in American history. What happened in Brasilia, two years later, was an orchestrated mockery so that the already ex-president Bolsonaro would become “our” Trump, a second-rate Trump, of course, but turned into a hero, the savior of the homeland.

***

A figure that drew attention during the invasion of the Capitol was a guy dressed as a Viking, painted with the colors and stars of the American flag, as if he were ready for war. As pathetic as that guy looked, something about his attitude needs to be taken into account: dressed as a Viking, he invoked – only for some North Americans, of course – a Northern European ancestry, a past with one foot in the ethnographic origins of some of the inhabitants of that country.

Because we also had “our” Viking, which appeared during the celebrations of September 7, 2021 in São Paulo, eight months after the appearance of the “original” Viking in Washington. As a kind of prologue to what would happen two years later – or as a kind of “wing opening” for a samba school that went bad –, in the Bolsonarist celebrations on that September 7th, “our” Viking reflected like a mirror. distorted “their” prototype.

However, not being able to be a Viking, neither true nor fake, (like the North American), the Canadian Viking chose to transform himself into a false indigenous. An indigenous person entitled to green and yellow body paint, holding a sign with the name of former federal deputy Daniel Silveira [2] and – lo and behold! – a white, green and yellow headdress in the mold of the natives… apache! Yes of the Apaches, those of the bang-bangs of North American cinema.

This bizarre figure, “our” Viking – a false pantomime Indian –, by staging that grotesque episode, symbolically announced what would happen in the country’s capital two years later: the Tupiniquim simulacrum, “our” invasion of the Capitol.

***

It is certain that the man who destroyed the 1808th-century clock that D. João VI brought to Brazil in XNUMX, carried out this action in the same way that he destroyed the piece of furniture that supported the piece, the table and the chair that were nearby. In the plot of general destruction that seemed to govern him, neither the preciousness of the watch, so rare, stopped him or encouraged him to specifically destroy it. No: he ended up with everything that appeared in front of him in a “democratic” way, nothing seemed to be saved from his fury.

However, it seems that there was a glimmer of awareness in that subject that, in fact, that watch was not – or should not be – any other object. And perhaps it was this realization that led him to want to destroy the surveillance camera.

In any case, by throwing D. João VI's watch to the ground, that man tried to stop time, transforming that invasion into a break, into a kind of hiatus.

If the Capitol invaders aimed to prevent Biden's diplomacy, regaining power to move forward, ′′ our ′′ invaders had another goal. The interest there was not to continue the historical process, reversing its course (like “their” invaders), the purpose was to stop it. It was to institute an end, a zero degree so that, subsequently, the reactionary elite would take over the country. Hence the symbolic importance of the clock that had belonged to King João VI.

Hence also the symbolic importance of the destruction of pieces from the gallery of images of the presidents and the president that decorated an area of ​​the Planalto Palace. Ruining those images complemented the allegory into which that invasion had become: to stop time, but also to break up and destroy history, the Brazilian past – always Bolsonarist’s greatest desire.

The question was not to destroy the image of all the former presidents and the president, the question was to remove, from this kind of iconographic chronology, the image of the “myth”. A selective iconoclasm. The image of the half-astonished, half-silly subject, holding the photo of Jair Bolsonaro in front of the other destroyed images, says a lot about what that mob wanted when it invaded the palaces of Brasília.

***

I am not interested in expressing here my regret for the vandalism committed against the works of Emiliano Di Cavalcanti and other such significant artists. It doesn't interest me because I couldn't perceive, in these acts of attack on works of art, any difference with which the rioters of the 8th of January destroyed chairs, shop windows and other equipment. There seems to have been no ability among them to distinguish a precious and rare good from a more trivial one. What seems to have prevailed there was the destructive fury, preserving only the image of the “myth”.

If “our” vandals destroyed art objects and everyday objects, defecated and urinated in the palaces of Brazilian democracy, “their” vandals were less destroyers of symbols and, as far as we know, not at all scatological. This is not, of course, about establishing a hierarchy, stating that “their” protesters were more civilized than ours. It is just a matter of drawing attention to the fact that the farce can be even more harmful and dramatic when they try to repeat (and silence) history. ✱


References
[1] Yes, terrorists. Whoever strikes terror with rockets, metal bars, etc., and, on top of that, steals weapons from the Institutional Security Office, is a terrorist.
[2] Yes, Daniel Silveira, the one who, in public, helped to destroy a plaque in honor of Marielle Franco, councilwoman executed with her driver in the city of Rio de Janeiro years ago, and to this day it is not known who ordered the crime .

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