Letter to Brazil: You are not alone!

, by Marius Schlageter

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English] [Português]

Letter to Brazil: You are not alone!
Rio de Janeiro. Photo: CC0

Dear friends in Brazil,

Writing you a letter about the past presidential elections seems like a hopeless task. On the one hand, there is the colonial heritage of the Europeans, which has left such deep wounds on you until this very day. On the other hand, Brazil seems to be extremely politically divided. So where to start in order not to provoke even more hatred?

First of all, it has to be acknowledged that any European interference in your affairs is inappropriate. It is the power structures created by Europeans that still keep your country lacking today. It was the Europeans who “discovered” your country or as one should say “conquered” it and then divided it into “Capitanias”, administrative districts. It was Europeans who invented slavery and introduced it to Brazil. It was Europeans who anchored racism structurally from the beginning of their occupation and it was Europeans who took your natural resources and stole them from you.

The structural racism that continues today, the continuing structural anchoring of the exploitation of natural resources and the continuing structural maintenance of power for white male elites: that is Europe’s heritage in Brazil.

I can already hear the voices screaming: "Do you want to blame us Europeans for everything?” From my point of view, however, it is not a question of guilt, but of creating awareness. Awareness of our heritage and, associated with it, an awareness of how European commentaries must sound to Brazilians: hypocritical.

But now I am writing you, my Brazilian friends, a letter about the presidential election in Brazil. So how to comment without sounding hypocritical? When I reflect on my own political action and the values that my political action is intended to defend and realise, Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union always comes to my mind immediately:

“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail” - Article 2, Treaty on the European Union

It is important to know that these values are not in a vacuum. These values have emerged as a response to centuries of violence culminating in two indescribably horrific wars. These values have arisen from the pursuit of peaceful coexistence and collaboration. They have also arisen from the recognition that social progress and social justice can only function through the inclusion of people.

This also explains my rejection of your new president; he has repeatedly spoken out against solidarity with the weak and the poor. He has repeatedly spoken out against respect for the rights of minorities. He has repeatedly spoken out against democracy and the rule of law. He has repeatedly spoken out against respect for human dignity. Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly ridiculed all the values that I defend and uphold. I take Jair Bolsonaro’s mockeries personally!

“But this is not about you Mimimi-European! Bolsonaro was democratically elected and you should respect if we do not want to defend these values in Brazil”. Very right. Bolsonaro was democratically elected and I respect that too. But it is also true that Brazil is not only made up of Bolsonaro’s supporters. The big waves of protest against him and his politics before and after the election show this very clearly.

That is why this letter is also addressed to “my friends in Brazil”. This letter goes to Edna, Álvaro, Nathália, Rosy, Maurício, Julia, Raquel, Lucas, Cacá, Luis, Rafael, Ingrid, Matheus, Pedro, David and all the other Brazilians who also take the election of Bolsonaro personally. This letter goes to all those who are committed to the preservation of democracy. This letter goes to all those who do not wish to resign themselves to humiliating people because of their skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, political attitude or social background.

This letter goes to you because I want to shout out to you “do not give up hope! Nothing is inevitable! You are not alone!”

It seems hopeless indeed. Bolsonaro has won, you have lost. Brazil seems to be on its way back to a cruel past. A past in which the state oppressed minorities and tortured and murdered dissenters. A past in which your lives are in danger in the very present. This fear must weigh heavy on your shoulders. Hannah Arendt once stated that “nobody has the right to obey”! I am firmly convinced that you are aware of this already! In the days after the election, many of you also radiated hope, courage and the willingness to defend yourselves.

“Ninguém solta a mão de ninguém” [1]. Therefore; organise yourselves, join forces! Whether you are committed to environmental protection, education, equality or otherwise, be aware that you are all pulling together. Movements like OTPOR! in Serbia, the courageous students in Nicaragua or the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States have shown you how powerful people can become. Together you have a chance to avert the step back into the cruel past!

In this sense:

Don’t give up hope! Nothing is inevitable! You are not alone!

In deep friendship,

Marius

Footnotes

[1“Nobody may let go of each other’s hand” – A widespread message on Brazilian social media after Bolsonaro’s election

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