It is hard to imagine how a country only 30+ years since containing fascism is bowled over by it once again. thought this looked instructive and interesting:
The values and metaphors of the Bolsonaro universe
"Strict Father". "Masculinity". "Just War". "Punishment". "Success". This is how the former army captain articulated the archaic values of Brazilian society in an effective discourse. Why the left needs to rebuild its semantic field
A series of justifications veiled in the form of metaphors were reproduced at the doors of Jair Bolsonaro’s house in the neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca, on Sunday, October 7 - the first round of presidential elections.
The Shock Police got off a bus, before the palms and the cry of “heroes, heroes, heroes”; “Let’s end the vagabondage”; “It is the myth, it is our last hope”; “We have to save Brazil”; “I come here to defend the family, the honesty, the honesty before the violence, the barbarity and the corruption” or “Sergio Moro lives”. Behind him stood a huge pixuleco , Lula’s inflatable doll dressed as a prisoner, and street vendors sold the same doll in smaller sizes as souvenirs, along with beers and popcorn. Behind each of these brief claims lies a justification: violence should be combated with a repressive-punitive policy, since every offender has a debt to be paid; and as to the ante for corruption, justice would be in charge of setting the moral balance.
Linguist George Lakoff1 explained that these markers are mental structures that shape our way of seeing the world, our justifications. They shape and order our knowledge, systems of beliefs, values and actions through language. In the current Brazilian political context, the new use of language in the Bolsonaro project offers a new experience of abstraction and internalization of the world.
The construction of the metaphoric markers in this new, violent Bolsonaro universe, could be explained by means of a broad metaphor that would have three characters - a villain, a victim, and a hero. The plot would be as follows: an evil person commits a crime against an innocent victim (a rape, an assault, robbery or kidnapping). There exists an imbalance of forces in which the hero must act on his own. The hero undertakes a harsh journey2 through the inhospitable enemy space, where an essentially malevolent and monstrous villain awaits him. The hero can not negotiate and must defeat the villain to restore the moral order and save the victim. The hero is acclaimed for his victory, for he acted with honor and glory.
The metaphor is constructed between an antagonism: the hero, representative of the Good and restoration of order against the malevolent villain, image of the devil, immoral and an addict. This is the Just War Metaphor employed by the Bolsonaro campaign, in which it is possible to set up various names to obtain varied schemes: The Police and/or Army (hero), the good citizen (victim) and the trafficker (villain). Bolsonaro (hero), the good citizen (victim) and the PT (Lula/Dilma’s Workers Party) (villain). The privatizations (hero), the good citizen (victim) and the state (villain). The Judge (hero), the good citizen (victim) and the bandit/corrupt (villain).
Bolsonaro’s sympathizers symbolize concepts through warlike language, if they perceive themselves as victims, good citizens who, only through heroic war and victory will be able to reestablish the moral order. This deals with widespread change of metaphoric markers that have automatically affected the demand for conservative social change with military features, a deepening of the worldview marked by the perception of violence, and the response, in which the hero must act on his own.
After the attack on Bolsonaro and his embodiment process, where the candidate becomes "all of us", the good citizen also acquires an active role as hero and as a victim standing up against of all the aforementioned villains. Thus, in certain cases, it is also permissible to stab the enemy, as in the recent murder of Bahian capoeira master Moa do Katênde, who expressed his repudiation of the Bolsonaro project. The Bolsonaro agitator mobilizes the metaphors and masses of feelings; and the metaphors are used as a license to kill.
Through these bellicose metaphoric markers, the Bolsonaro voter commensurate with degree of adherence to the project) establishes his/her thought/reason. Political reasoning, besides being literal, is metaphoric and imaginative. The reason in the grave electoral context is not lacking in passion, but is emotionally compromised, and is constructed primarily according to the morality markers such as God, Fatherland and Family.
"I fear my daughter will be raped"; "They want to do away with our families"; "Now they try to hide Communism under our banner, but they want to break our families," some of his followers say in agitation.
Both conservative and progressive policies have a basic moral consistency: they are based on different views of family morality, which extend to politics and other spheres. The conservative family is structured around the image of the Strict Father: who believes in the necessity and value of authority, who is able to teach his children to discipline themselves and to fight in a competitive world where they will triumph if they are strong, affirmative, and disciplined. In the metaphor of the Just War Captain Bolsonaro presents himself as a tough guy , macho and military, a cowboy to brazilian s who has ridden rodeo in public and who, like the Terminator Schwarzenneger in California, interminably declared War on Terror and Violence.
This is the Strict Father, who perceives the world as a violent and dangerous place, as a place in which authority and obedience are part of his moral justification. Familial morality that has to be articulated around this figure [corresponds and] responds effectively to the metaphor of the Just War. It represents a masculinized universe, where the father is the head of the family, a universe where the father inspires and organizes the puzzle of the conservative tides from the evangelical currents, financial groups or the agricultural industry, to the collectives such as Vem Pra Rua (Come Into the Street), Movimento Brasil Monárquico (Monarchic Brazil Movement), Direita Já (Right now!), Brasil 200, Templários da Pátria (Templars of the Fatherland), the Movimento Brasil Conservador or the Movimento Brasil Livre (Free Brazil Movement).
Strict Father Bolsonaro offers a War against corruption, violence and "for defense of traditional values", and proposes as hero in the metaphor that he himself has constructed and presented: the metaphor of the Just War.
This moral project understands the world as the zero sum game, a place of winners and losers, in which Good and Evil are absolute concepts, and where dialogue with the villain in scheduled televised debates serves little, since victory must be absolute and without dialogue - a complete extermination. At the same time, the family and its traditional values must be protected in this dangerous world where the values of the Strict Father are being threatened with policies like legalization of abortion and with various forms of civil marriage. The hero must act, must react against the villains who want to destroy a series of traditional values understood as rights. It is a difficult world where one must teach children the difference between good and evil, which necessitates the strengthening of their morality, not allowing a "manipulation" of their sexual interpretation in schools to weaken their goodness and purity. Obedience is demanded of the child, for the father is a moral authority that distinguishes good and evil, and merits respect. "We are losing respect for everything, the family, our values," a Bolsonaro voter nervously exclaims. The child will progress according to this discipline, which will then allow him to enrich himself and defend himself. The Strict Father model is military, associates [sets a causal relationship between] morality and discipline with prosperity and security, a good citizen who must combat the bum and the bandit , arming himself if necessary. The father explains the rules, and punishment occurs when the child behaves badly. "The bandit must be in prison or six feet under!", cried Flávio Bolsonaro in one of his campaign stops.
Fear and despair are activated in the blicose metaphor of the Just War, and tend to provoke the support of the Strict Father model in each of us. For there to be a moral order it is necessary to defend the sovereignty of institutions like the Army.
We observe how the Bolsonaro family , led by Jair Messias Bolsonaro, instrumentalizes the metaphor of the Just War to consolidate a "family with Strict Father," a hero who, through using the application of a series of post-fascist practices (2), will win against the villains. Ultimately, he tries to consolidate himself as a moral authority in the conservative field, attracting nearly half of the Brazilian electorate with his profile of the Strict Father waging a Just War. In his view, evil "is throughout the world," conspiring, and the Good must demonstrate its strength and destroy it, calling for punishment and revenge. Therein lies one advantage of the conservative camp, in that even if the opposing camp demanded "justice and not revenge", they would able to reconstruct this principle, normalizing the idea that "punishment is justice", the most important metaphorical representation of which is the arrest of former President Lula.
The model of the Strict Father does not mean that the millions of people who voted for Bolsonaro are less democratic, but in this model they have found the most effective way of winning in the metaphor of the Just War, detecting a crisp series of conservative narratives that permeate Brazilian culture.
From the progressive field it is urgent to adopt coherent conceptual metaphoric markers that permit the definition of the disputed values and feelings through language. It is necessary to understand the current political arena as a space of metaphorical interpretation, where the statements are framed through mediation of contexts being confused, social networks and fake news.
Faced with the difficult times to come, the ball is in the progressives’ court to engage the arduous task of reconstructing its semantic sphere through a clear and sound political project, to defeat the actual imaginanational villain: the illusion and the seduction of our metaphors.
(1) LAKOFF, G. 1996. Moral politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
(1) LAKOFF, G. and M. JOHNSON. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
(1) LAKOFF, G. and M. Johnson. 1999. Philosophy in the flesh. The embodied mind and its challenge to western thought. New York: Based books.
(2) TAMAS, GM 2000. ‘On post fascism’, Boston Review, Summer.
Gabriel Bayarri is Spanish, PhD in anthropology and writer. He holds a doctorate from Complutense University of Madrid and Macquarie University of Sydney. During the period 2015-2018 he was a city councilor elected by the party Si Se Puede!, member of the movement We can in Spain.
1Understanding Trump’s Use of Language available at: https://georgelakoff.com/2016/08/19/understanding-trumps-use-of-language/
2The 12 stage myth of the hero’s journey explained by Joseph Campbell as used in movies/media