These notes are primarily a means of stimulating thought. First and foremost in myself: although open to the web, they’re basically being disseminated in a small inner circle that’s known to cultivate (and tolerate in others) the noises made in forceful attempts to think. Furthermore these notes are not quite essays: they’re badly and hastily written in distracting non-idiomatic English. They’re written in haste because too much text has to be written and discarded in order to arrive at something sufficiently concise for their ostensible purpose; and in bad style because they attempt to convey something that’s poorly understood.
Where they’re (hopefully) adequate — what they document in adequacy: coping with the situation under (the ambient conditions of) truth; and groping towards a theoretical vocabulary that expresses in adequacy what the ambient conditions materially entail. This is almost the same as “a vocabulary that expresses true things”, except that “the truth” can, at best, be said in adequacy, not in reality. Still, these tortured and obscure statements need to rise to a higher standard (that I’ve cheekily called elsewhere quability by contrast to probability) in order to inform action; and what’s needed for this is a vast array of conceptual resources that are already handled with difficulty by philosophers. I’m in a precarious position by contrast, writing in stolen chunks of time and reaching for that porous membrane between what one knows and what one doesn’t.
This kind of “theoretician’s apology” is necessary from time to time if one is to expose oneself to the ambient conditions of truth. But also more concretely because I’ve promised to say almost-true things (material entailments in adequacy, maybe henceforth to be abbreviated “i.a.” in the style of mathematicians) about Jair Messias Bolsonaro. Outside the inner circle that’s game for my usual antics, it’s i.a. true that you have been promised political insight and received a first-primer-in-English (I used to write in my native tongues) on my technical vocabulary (interfacticity, the Situation, quability, ambient conditions…).
The issue is that in precalculus you learn that and then progressively learn that nothing is what it seems; the issue is that I could give you political opinions and (a) run a risk of being so pathetically refuted by evolving events that overwhelms the payoff in trying to say something under truth; and (b) constantly stray from the rain-truth as judgements of policy and efficacy bleed through the (i.a.) true things I want to express.
Asked at gunpoint to provide an executive summary already, I’d ‘fess up to trying to articulate true and novel insights on what the hell is going on. But that would already be a partial lie. We can only refer to evolving structural conditions and how the structural role currently being played by Jair fits in an abstract structure that could go anywhere. Macunaíma, for one, is Moloch-in-Patropi (and this is no longer merely in adequacy). Then: where’s Jair?
My drafts folder has fragments of text that mobilize Simulacra and Simulation and The Real Slim Shady in service of making sense of Bolsonaro’s “pink panther” (let me repeat: his “becoming-world carried out in such a way that it becomes imperceptible”) — his years of antipolitical, self-alienating congressional service and his (having become-imperceptible) meteoric rise to popular acclaim. There’s much to say about that — in particular how he differs from Viktor Orbán and the likes in that his career has never had a chessmasterly calculated masterplan to reach dictator-like conditions of self-perpetuating legitimity. Bolsonaro’s rise is no accident — it’s carried by the entire systemic wave of causality that leaves nothing out. But there’s something particular, a metamorphic quality that differs from the usual cynical metamorphism of politicians.
That’s interesting. But not especially current.
What is especially current is that Bolsonaro lies in hospital, his very guts (from where gut feeling and dead reckoning come from) swinging between getting better and getting worse again. Bolsonaro is in hospital because they tried to assassinate him. The following is as much a fact (not just in adequacy) as political statements go: the very status quo, through its satellite parties (Lula tends to indicate presidential candidates for his satellite parties in larger-than-life big TV screens at party conventions), did this.
If this seems approximately innocuous, I suggest trying to conceptualize (in adequacy — maybe in quability, even) the structural features of John F. Kennedy before and after assassination.
The attempt on Jair’s life made him unique — Macunaíma, or the (very rough, not even i.a.) background radiation of irony, or point-blank postmodernism, has never allowed for that in our political history. Not only by giving him historical importance, but by making him suffer. Ambient conditions are not especially dire for his health in the long term, as far as TV tells us, but this suffering has already been far more protracted than anyone could have anticipated. And in a culture (shared by Americans, as far as we know) where ill health is metonymic with political weakness, nothing seems different now that Jair has been placed in intensive care for the third time and his recuperation seems to be slower with each passing day.
Having emerged from ridicule as an isolated far-right congressman who would make speeches for empty congress sessions, Jair has performed the most-celebrated presidential inauguration in a generation, forcefully introduced Brazil’s dormant weight both in the Israel-Palestinian and Venezuelan crises and convoked the most chaotic ministerial cabinet in generations that somehow moves forward under his banner of “being saved by the Truth”. And he did this with a colostomy bag under his suit — translation: he did this while smelling like shit.
There is a (quable, which is stronger than in-adequacy) cynic-in-the-historical-sense quality to this — Bolsonaro smells like shit like Diogenes lives in a barrel. By minimizing Alexander, king of kings, Diogenes takes on some frightening kind of power (and power is always taken, not given. By suffering in hospital while not making himself into a martyr, Jair vexes our baudrillardian theories of what he was until a few years ago and how he became his pink-panther. There’s nothing postmodern about his wounds — not in his shredded bits of duodenum nor in the doctor’s expert sewing. Macunaíma reels and teeters on a segfault; the likes of Caetano Veloso repeat empty slogans but transparently reveal — in their sweat and the bags under their eyes — their thorough and even existential confusion.
And you too, potential reader, ask yourself — what the hell is going on?