Letter from . . . January 2019
Now we do
On politics and religion in Brazil after their recent presidential election.
Este ensaio está disponível em Português.
“I am very worried; he talked too much about God.” So said a prominent Brazilian political commentator on TV after hearing President Jair Bolsonaro’s victory speech on the night of October 28, 2018, when the polls showed his victory by a 55–45 margin over the Marxist candidate, Fernando Haddad.
So now talk of God is supposed to worry people. This is sad. But the people of Brazil don’t care. Bolsonaro’s government, in which I serve as foreign minister, doesn’t care what pundits say or what they worry about: they don’t have a clue about who God is or who the Brazilian people are and want to be. Their worry is that of an elite about to be dispossessed. They are afraid because they can no longer control public discourse. They can no longer dictate the limits of the president’s or anyone else’s speech. The last barrier has been broken: we can now talk about God in public. Who could imagine?
Over the years, Brazil had become a cesspool of corruption and despair. The fact that people didn’t talk about God and didn’t bring their faith to the public square was certainly part of the problem. Now that a president talks about God and expresses his faith in a deep, heartfelt way, that is supposed to be the problem? To the contrary. I am convinced that President Bolsonaro’s faith is instrumental, not accidental, to his electoral victory and to the wave of change that is washing over Brazil.
Brazil is experiencing a political and spiritual rebirth, and the spiritual aspect of this phenomenon is the determinant one. The political aspect is only a consequence.
For a third of a century, Brazil was subject to a political system composed of three parties acting increasingly in concert. Only now are we realizing the shape and full extent of that domination. First we had the of Brazilian Democratic Movement (pmdb), which took over after the regime established in 1964 (misleadingly called the military regime) gave away power peacefully in 1985. Originally a moderate left-wing opposition to the regime (although with some far-left infiltration), pmdb took the reins of government, wrote a new constitution, and became a broad front for the old oligarchy under a more modern, urban, social-oriented guise. That group mastered the art of political favors and bureaucracy, establishing itself as the foundation of the system. The extent to which the bureaucracy is able to allocate resources in the Brazilian economy—choosing winners and losers—has always been astounding, and during this period it became a full-fledged system of governance that completely stifled the economy.
The 1990s saw the ascendance of the Social-Democratic Party (psdb), an offshoot of pmdb with roots on the left but better groomed, which started to cater to voters eager for economic stability after a decade and a half of mismanagement and hyperinflation. psdb refashioned itself as the free market party, more or less hiding its true colors and its cultural-liberal agenda, and surfed on sound macroeconomic policies to become the dominant force from 1994 to 2002, always retaining its links to the traditional political-bureaucratic cabals represented by pmdb.
The third branch of the system emerged in the early 2000s, in the shape of the Workers’ Party (PT), an Orwellian name, by the way, since real workers are rarely spotted in this party ruled by Marxist intellectuals, former left-wing guerrillas, and members of the trade-union bureaucracy. After the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known universally as Lula) in 2002, PT—which had been preparing for this for years—quickly captured and co-opted the pmdb–psdb power scheme, retaining the old tit-for-tat machinery run by pmdb and the stability policies represented by psdb and establishing a much firmer grip on power than its predecessors. pmdb became the junior party in PT’s coalition, while psdb took the role of tamed opposition, participating in presidential elections every four years in which its role was to lose nobly to PT.
PT acquired control of all the levers of bureaucratic power, dominating the economy through public investment banks and state companies, and created a complete mechanism of crime and corruption. Almost every business, along with every local politician, every cultural, sports, and educational institution, and indeed almost everyone in Brazil, depended on the central government for its survival and had to pay its share in bribes, political support, or both. The model was so successful that PT started to export it to other Latin American countries, trying to create and consolidate a network of corrupt leftist regimes across the region.
At the same time, a left-wing agenda quickly took over Brazilian society. The promotion of gender ideology; the artificial stoking of race tensions; the displacement of parents by the government as the provider of “values” to children; the infiltration of the media; the dislocation of the “center” of public debate very far to the left; the humiliation of Christians and the taking over of the Catholic Church by Marxist ideology (with its attendant promotion of birth control); the misdirection of the arts through the allocation of public cultural financing; and so on—these were the results of the new government’s policies.
Dominance was thus established over the political institutions, over the economy, and over the culture: a thoroughly totalitarian enterprise. It seemed indestructible. The system only admitted debate about how best to implement itself. There was some debate on privatization, but it never went anywhere near the core of the corruption mechanism. (The supposedly big privatization wave of the 1990s led by psdb left Brazil with 418 state companies—compared to America’s fourteen—and an economy totally dependent on government financing for any serious projects, but psdb dutifully played the role of “neoliberal” party that PT assigned to it.)
In foreign policy, the system played the globalist tune without a flaw. It helped the transfer of power from the United States and the Western alliance to China; it favored Iran; it worked tirelessly to raise a new socialist iron curtain over Latin America by fostering left-wing governments or parties in Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, and, of course, Cuba. All of that occurred under the benign gaze of Barack Obama, who rarely raised a finger to counter any socialist or Islamist regime anywhere on earth, and who described Lula as “my man.” Yes, Lula was globalism’s guy, a guy who squandered all the resources that flew to Brazil during the commodities boom—hundreds of billions of dollars—to help dictatorships and to enrich his party and himself. Brazil was indeed a wonderful showcase for globalism. Starting with a traditional crony capitalist, oligarchic system in the late 1980s, the country went through fake economic liberalism in the 1990s, until it got to globalism under PT: cultural Marxism directed from within a seemingly liberal and democratic system, achieved through corruption, intimidation, and thought control.
A system so deep-seated would never reform itself.
A system so deep-seated would never reform itself. It would only find new masks to extend its rule—that was what several non-PT political figures strove to do every four years in the elections. Real change could only come from without, from the intellectual and spiritual domain.
So what broke the system? Olavo de Carvalho, Operation Car Wash, and Jair Bolsonaro. Since the mid-1990s, in parallel to the ascendance of an atheistic, corrupt regime (back then still in the making), strange new ideas started to circulate in the books and articles of Olavo de Carvalho, a Brazilian philosopher, perhaps the first person in the world to see globalism as the result of economic globalization, to understand its horrific purposes, and to start thinking about how to topple it. For many years he was also the only person in Brazil to use the word “communism” to describe PT’s strategy and everything that was going on in the country, at a time when everyone thought communism was just a sort of collectivism that had died with the Soviet Union, blind to its survival in many other guises in the culture and in “global issues.” Thanks to the internet boom, and especially the social media revolution, Olavo’s ideas suddenly started to percolate through the whole country, reaching thousands of people who had been fed only the official mantras. These ideas broke all dams and converged with the courageous stance of the only truly nationalist Brazilian politician of the last hundred years, Jair Bolsonaro, giving him a totally unprecedented level of grassroots support. Brazil suddenly redefined itself as a conservative, anti-globalist, nationalist country. At the same time, Operation Car Wash, the investigation into the PT corruption scheme—perhaps the largest criminal enterprise ever—evolved and started to throw light on the depths of PT’s attempt to destroy the country and seize absolute power, demoralizing the whole gang and sending its leader to jail.
So what broke the system?
With a wave of a hand, the nation cast away decades of political indoctrination and political correctness and finally elected a leader who leads and who knows where he wants to go.
But the story is, of course, much more complicated. Everything conspired against this national rebirth. It was not supposed to happen. But at every turn, especially since the large anti-everything protests of 2013, social, political, and economic events started mysteriously to fit into place. Denunciations, political breakups and alliances, revelations of new corruption from unsuspected quarters, and thousands of other pieces were somehow assembled. These delivered the country its newly acquired freedom—with all the responsibility this involves—in the shape of Bolsonaro’s victory. Was it divine providence that guided Brazil through all those steps, reuniting the ideas of Olavo de Carvalho with the determination and patriotism of Bolsonaro? I think so.
My detractors have called me crazy for believing in God and for believing that God acts in history—but I don’t care. God is back and the nation is back: a nation with God; God through the nation. In Brazil (at least), nationalism became the vehicle of faith, faith became the catalyst for nationalism, and they both have ignited an exhilarating wave of freedom and new possibilities. We Brazilians are experiencing an enormous broadening of political life—inside the Constitution and outside the narrow, materialistic, stultifying system that dominated us for too long and is still so powerful worldwide. We have now the choice to be great, prosperous, powerful, and safe, with freedom of thought, of expression, of enterprise. We have the choice to live democratically—by the will of the people and not according to a collection of empty phrases. We lived for too long in a nominalist world where only those hollow words existed; we lived for too long thwarted by left-wing globalist discourse. Now we can live in a world where criminals can be arrested, where people of all social strata can have the opportunities they deserve, and where we can be proud of our symbols and practice our faith. The psycho-political control system is finished, and this is nothing short of a miracle.
Tony Blair’s spokesman Alastair Campbell famously said of Britain: “We don’t do God.” Well, in Brazil, now we do.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 37 Number 5, on page 37
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