The ancestry of African origin and the affective memory of the places where he lived are the main references for the works of Rafael Pereira, who since the age of 24 has dedicated himself exclusively to the profession of artist, selling his work on the streets of several cities throughout Brazil. The artist is currently represented by Galeria Estação. Photo: Patricia Rousseaux

While this too is a very distant dream, it is much closer than the dream of a golden age. However, the first requirement is memory. Poor memory benefits us, but harms our descendants. The ability to forget allows people to step away from the suffering they once knew; but the ability to forget also leads people to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors.
Lu Xun (1881-1936), on women's right to equality with men (XUN, L., 2017, p. 259)

PFor the ancient Greeks, at one point the inventors of the democratic experience, speaking Greek was enough to be considered Greek, or at least not to be considered barbaric. At a certain period in the history of that country, democracy was linked to speech and, therefore, to the capacity for persuasion. Being a citizen, however, was already something more complex, because it was a concept associated with decision-making that affected the course not only of fellow citizens as a whole, but also of the ruling class and its ability to perpetuate its privileges. Economic power, since the ancient Greeks, therefore, took care that those who took the decisions that affected everything and everyone were exactly the actors coming from an elite: a race of people who would defend their conflicting and, not infrequently, contradictory interests. private in polis (city), that is, in the political world.

On the other hand, in the historical moments when the elites autocratically or oligarchically led everyone's paths to chaos or to the brink of destruction, these were the periods in which the nefarious presence of instances that wanted to be above politics became more evident. In Brazil, too, a certain Afro-descendants thrown under the rug due to the shame that slavery meant to the country's history, once hidden, today is open to everyone's light via the internet, advertising and the media, helping us, ambiguously, to to see concrete democracy as the only light at the end of the late capitalism tunnel.

The ancient Greek decline, which the historian of philosophy Will Durant called the “suicide of Greece,” was linked to the decline of freedom and democracy. During the second Athenian Empire “grave denunciations used to be imputed to the most prominent bankers, and the people regarded them with the same envy, admiration and displeasure with which the poor favored the rich at all times. The substitution of movable wealth for immovable wealth produced a feverish struggle for money, and the Greek language had to invent the words pleonexia, to classify this appetite for 'more and more' and another, chrematistikê, for the ferocious conquest of fortune. Products, services and people were increasingly judged in light of money and property. Fortunes were made and disposed of with a speed never seen before, and they were squandered on all sorts of extravagances, in an exhibitionism that would have scandalized the Athens of Pericles.” (DURANT, 1957, p. 148)

Equality before the law, direct participation in the course of the nation, as well as the legal guarantee of exposing, discussing and voting their opinions in public assemblies are not only the highest level of democracy, but access to it is the highest level of what is be a citizen. Those who are excluded from equality, whether above or below the law – either by coercion or by their own will excluded from political participation or those who are socially, physically or psychologically minimized to the point of not being able to expose, discuss and vote their opinions in public – are people private, barred from citizenship, alien to what it means to be a citizen.

In the democratic system of consumers, with the exception of tax evaders, those who are tax payers who assume their responsibilities as citizens, regardless of skin color, origin or status social tend to be called citizens. At the limit, even when it comes to population groups in extreme poverty, they make up the country's economy when they participate in the circulation of goods, purchase and sale or provision of services, making up a percentage of the economic framework, even though they often do not have any percentage. in political participation.

Marginalized people are coerced not to participate in public debate. However, even these and their ancestors helped to build the set that forms the State, the market and society. The murder rate of blacks brought in by the Atlas of Violence (IPEA, 2021), for example, indicated that the number of deaths by homicide was around 77% in 2021 (this same data, in 2008, was around 64,55%). Being black means being twice as likely to be murdered in today's Brazil. However, even with this so-called “genocide”, according to data from the IBGE, 54% of the population is black. This number may be even higher considering that these data are collected through self-declaration and a large part of Afro-descendants have not yet come out as mestizos or blacks.  

For those who doubt the need to repair the slavery process that officially lasted about 400 years, we launch the following reflection just to stay in the professional and educational fields: the Portuguese kingdom was directly responsible for the black and indigenous Brazilian enslavement; millions of people were enslaved from around 1530 until Brazil's independence in 1822. They prohibited Africans and their descendants from learning to read and write, and even poor whites, since the Portuguese never opened a single university in Brazil. How many blacks are called today to attend universities with scholarships or to participate in public notices, socio-educational or vocational projects in Portugal? After independence, Brazilian royalty assumed slave control until its end in the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889. What responsibility did the heirs of the Luso-Brazilian royal family or the governments that succeeded them in the first and second republics attribute to themselves in relation to the entire earlier Afro-Indian exploratory period and the later abandonment period? In other words, the Portuguese and Brazilian governments and others were directly responsible for slavery and for the lack of social reparation for the damage it caused to their descendants; What real arguments would absolve them of this and other responsibilities towards marginalized Afro-descendants?

Giving space to endless debates, the mainstream media is against reparation because it questions the existence of historical violence, naturalizing it in everyday life. But Afro-descendants would be innocent if they expected this reparation from the mainstream media or the Brazilian State or, even worse, from the Portuguese government. But young people of African descent have shown themselves to be aware of this due to the great discontent they have been showing on social media. They know that historical racism has found ways to perpetuate itself and that the widening of the social gap and the creation of marginality also creates the illusion of superiority in certain groups that feel differentiated or above the law – this is still a thorn in the side of the future of democracy in the country.

Pushing blacks into marginality, a racist tactic that worked for a while, is not only dysfunctional today, it is now turned in a big wave against those responsible for marginalization. The expansion and deepening of citizenship is a citizen's duty; indeclinable attitude of those who live in society. The right to be, the right to exist, the right to come and go, among many others, are always rights that are always questioned by marginals or those considered “marginals of the time”. The expansion and deepening of the citizenry will necessarily move every “stray sheep” into the social body, because simply and logically there is no human outside of their gender, just as there is no human outside of politics – even if they are excluded from all rights. Access to cultural goods, access to health, science and the arts, access to public thinking, means human right: access to information and human production, access to education, food, work and leisure, etc. it simply means being human.

The marginalized are dehumanized. He has space in life, however limiting and limited, but his access to social well-being, to total cultural production is restricted or blocked by the absence of the space he would naturally have in the political economy. But even if there is rationality in the identification that there is an indifference between economic power and political power in a country with slaveholding bases, we live in a type of formal democracy that illusively suggests that any citizen has access to political participation only by voting, which is not and truth.

Let's still think about blacks with economic power. I am not referring to black musicians or company technicians whose purchasing power guarantees them access to entry-level cars from major automakers. I am not even referring here to black producers of major events or those who have pursued a career in medicine, law (especially criminal law), engineering or who have had access to technical jobs in multinationals and who have made them able to access their SUVs with payment on time. and pickup trucks—in short, I don't mean the middle-class Negro. I am referring to those high-performance players who, as soon as they become millionaires, “whiten”, evade taxes, defend class interests, but who continue to be called “monkeys” in Europe or despised by judges, or still reduced to objects by women. which are likewise reduced to objects by those. The economic power of these athletes does not absolve them of their blackness – especially in places where they cannot hide behind their supposed heroism. Black humanization in a “white world” is an aspect that goes beyond formal democracy and economic power. To be black is to be a pariah within your country, but also outside of it.

That is why the expressions of multiculturalism with its internet upheavals, unofficial surface spelling reforms, infantilisms, “witch hunts” or “cancellations” of medieval spirit, attempt at self-foundation of political correctness, carnivalesque identity and the word wars and swearing are just the end of the tunnel, not expressions of end-of-the-tunnel democracy.

Even though the (badly) raised and (badly) educated youth on the internet (informed only by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., and by the pseudo-sages who post videos on any subject in exchange for likes and superchats on Youtube) feel like an “empowered” majority (narcissus in front of the mirror), the dictatorship of the majority is still a dictatorship.

particularly the coaches and youtubers, those who more broadly “swim a stroke” in the sea of ​​ignorance and authoritarianism, are those former “experts” who appeared on TV to shape the “being-informed” and its sociability. They taught how to behave, how to be clean, that is, they taught everything from how to treat ingrown toenails or get rid of dandruff, to how the poor could get rich just by investing in the stock market! The same industry that, through advertising, intimidates the social being says it will save him from intimidation. Perhaps one of the crass examples is how some women are forced to stuff themselves with goodies and at the same time are forced not to be fat; who creates fatphobia is who creates gluttony and invents that happiness “can be within your reach: just click here”. The world of supposed ease is one of the most tyrannical worlds possible. Post-truth applied to the internet has the same objective that advertising had on television: to form passive, docile, submissive, moldable internet users within the spectrum of “content consumers”.

In the clash between the “expectation versus reality” (made meme to be swallowed in the universe of the acceptable), the huge difference between the title and thumbnail of the video slots and their true content is naturalized, turned into a joke, assimilated and accepted as “the bones of the trade”. In the publicized society the means has become the end, the middle class dream is no longer to have a house and a car, but to have your recommended video, your post viral, your life exposed to the greatest number of people. So it is possible to be recommended, have your post viral and be able to restart the vicious cycle that will not take most content “creators” and their (consumption)followers anywhere, not even, sometimes, to monetization on one side or the other. entertainment of the other – just a waste of time and an increase in general authoritarianism. As a rule, with the nosy invasion of The legal basis for the processing is our legitimate interest to promote our products and services. – which practically prevent taking a single step on any website without capturing valuable personal information from internet users – and with the current form of Google search, among others – increasingly targeted, commodified and minimized, because it no longer delivers free and without any monetary intermediation of any kind -, the internet that was once the space of freedom is today the cookie addressed to the dragon and we are the ones who feed it, unaware, with our clicks full of excitement.

No better metaphor for the huge waste of browsing time on smartphones than the idea of ​​using the finger on the small screen to “wipe the ice” and work as “clickers” for free for billion-dollar companies that finance world authoritarianism. The idea of ​​being a product for sale is not in line with the idea of ​​living or working under a democratic system and a republican regime. If what is presented as entertainment becomes addiction, work or manipulation, we are talking about a disease of the end of an era and not the beginning of another – because there would be no future without a light at the end of the tunnel.

Being thrown into the midst of the current dispute between mercantile interests and public interests, Afro-descendants and their advocates, now armed with their smartphones, have emerged as a consistent phenomenon on the internet. However, contradictorily, due to the great angry force of the search for rights through social networks, as a “light at the end of the tunnel”, they seem to want to exercise democracy, instead of passively accepting “wiping ice” in the face of the emergence of social changes. that they require. The perception of Afro-descendants on the internet, in this sense, has become fertile food for the exercise of virtual citizenship, promoting a boiling point at this exact moment of democratic decline, also fueled by the internet. Insofar as a gigantic group is called to anchor itself in this “bay” taken militarily by retrograde and anti-democratic forces, even if they are only accepted as consumers, this Afro-Brazilian insertion can also mean a turning point: in the appearance of democracy , the now pressing need to insert diversity in the advertising frame also generates black culture and consciousness among young people – they don't seem to and don't want to accept it either!

Those who were called to participate in the mercantile world and were excluded from citizenship and consumption now also distrust those who call them. Those who, through their black conscience, have come to realize that being called to consumption means only being a “consumer” will deny this participation in their own way in this sphere where everything has a price, everything is bought, everything is sold. On the contrary, this newly inserted subject knows that black inclusion in the mercantile world makes him one more among other commodities. For this reason, he has also used his own ability and originality to find ways to assert himself in the public sphere as a citizen and reject the label of mere consumer of products aimed at Afro-descendants.

Regardless of the methods that will be used for the real social insertion of Afro-descendants, this insertion will only be lasting by fighting condescension and encouraging protagonism and self-management. For this – as indicated in the epigraph of this article, with the phrase of the Chinese writer Lu Xun -, historical examples must be taken into account. Because, when marginalizing social models such as the feudal serfdom system, mercantile slavery, among other exploitative systems, whether of the latifundia, commercial or industrialist type, collapsed or were historically minimized, the marginalized figures changed their status, but remained the same. The serf became a peasant, the proletarian became a “precariat” (that is, a “precarious” worker, without those labor rights won so hard by the proletarians), etc. In other words, those eager for citizenship remained the same ones who were in need of citizenship in a world that still marginalized them. These examples are taken at the same time that we can take into account the examples of the struggle for female emancipation, in which women “won, but did not take” – learning the hard way that their social independence was not linked to their independence in the field of habits and customs (including indoors). The female experience has shown that all social beings hold the same principles of struggle: the joint democratic and citizen struggle for the political inclusion of all marginalized groups.

Will this process of social insertion that is now starting on the internet be successful in its attempt to transfer itself from the virtual world to that of political relations in the public sphere? Will Afro-descendants achieve the long-awaited protagonism and independence, without which no one is freed from the burden of being treated by everyone as a mere number, a mere consumer? And yet, will the virtual activists, now raised to the world of formal democracy, be mature enough to transfer their forces to the realm of real democracy? This only time will tell!

One may not like very much the lack of manners of the newly inserted or how this insertion is being done, but one cannot say that democracy cannot be strengthened with this initially virtual insertion and with that transforming poison into medicine. With the exception, therefore, of those cases in which privileged people or groups are openly or covertly anti-democratic, all other groups that are aware that there is only light at the end of the tunnel will applaud the black admission, the self-declaration of Afro-descendant Brazil as one of the main between the new breaths for the consistency, continuity and deepening of the democratic struggle.


References

DURANT, Will. History of Civilization. Second Part: Our Classical Heritage (Volume II). Sao Paulo: 3rd ed. National Publishing Company; CODIL, 1957.
XUN, LU. In: CHENG, Eileen J.; DENTON, Kirk A. (Ed.). Jottings under Lamplight. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017. 

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