September 7, 1822 is the date of Brazilian independence. Brazil became independent in a very particular suffering way, as every suffering struggle for independence suffers in its own way. Indeed, it was not a people that became independent but the Portuguese prince regent D. Pedro who declared Brazil’s independence from the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarves. This declaration was performed through the words: “if it is for the good (wealth) of all people and for the happiness of the nation, say to the people that I stay. [Se é para o bem do povo e para a felicidade geral da nação, diga ao povo que fico].”
Who stayed? “I”, the prince regent, the Portuguese colonial power, and practices. This “I” did not declare “we are from now on an independent people and nation,” but ordered an unnamed mediator – the declaration itself – to say to the people that “I”, the prince regent of Portugal, stay. Brazilian Independence Day is the day of the “I stay” [dia do fico], the day when it was declared that the future would be “from now on” the acting remainder of the past. These words expressed with precision that what was about to happen had already happened: rather than the colony or the people, what became independent was colonization itself. Independent, colonization would “stay” for the good of the people and the happiness of the nation. But, to render even more precise what the declaration had already declared, colonization stayed for the people of wealth and the happiness of the nation. It stayed for the oppression of peoples, of the plural singularity and the despair of a nation still waiting to be realized. The independence of colonization means that colonization became a practice ruling itself by itself, a monstrous automaton of a machine, a causa sui legitimating itself by itself for itself, the black hole of dependence depending on dependence.
September 7, 2021, one hundred and ninety-nine years after this violent and inclement declaration, Jair Bolsonaro, the “president” of Brazil, proceeded, as he has been promising from the start, to declare “freedom” from every democratic practice and, more specifically in this day, to declare freedom from the Supreme Court, which is maybe the last remainder of the institutionality of Brazilian political life. Always following the main rule of global techno-mediatic societies, which is the imitation of imitation, Bolsonaro and his firm supporters imitated the Big American Brother Trump and instead of attacking the United States Capitol, attacked Brazil’s Capital. The Caput – the head, Capitol or Capital – is always what must be appropriated; thus, what is at stake is Capitalism, the head of all modern atrocities. “Freedom” and “Democracy” – these words were screamed and streamed out by green-yellow bolsonarists, meaning freedom from justice, freedom to unleash the force of some people – the racist, homophobe, genocidal, misogynous, xenophobe, violent people – against the people.
The last September 7 performed the spectacle of a declaration of the freedom from justice for the sake of legitimating injustice for all, thus, “from now on” – a segment of phrase repeated several times in his parody of a political discourse – we are free to do whatever, whenever, wherever that serves to the unlimited neoliberalization of every level of existence. If historical fascism used the institution of justice to exercise oppression and persecution, the new form of fascism – the one which upgraded the inherent fascism of Brazilian society – aims to extinguish the institution of justice, the very meaning of institution in modern democratic societies, for the sake of releasing the freedom to destroy everything and, above all, the residuum of a sense of freedom, which involves responsibility for the freedom of existence.
Once again, Brazilian Independence Day was the day of a declaration, and once again it was a declaration of independence qua dependence on dependence, meaning that the system of social, economic, political, existential injustices, upon which Brazil has built its history, is to remain, and to affirm in all sorts of declination “I stay”. Indeed, the threatening words of Bolsonaro perform what has already happened: the destruction of the vulnerable basis of Brazilian democracy. In the last performance, the declaration was that “from now on” – a now-on already in power – Brazilian government is independent from the State, that is, from any duty towards social, economic, and political justice. From now on there are no duties, only rights: the right-wing rights of doing all sorts of human wrongs.
Two days later, Bolsonaro gave a step back, rhetorically undeclaring his declaration of independence, when saying that he “never had the intention to make aggressions against the juridical, the executive and the legislative powers” and to put himself above them. He declares and undeclares, he says and unsays, he lies and denies. But the day after his undeclaration, he delivered to his supporters a clear commandment: instead of “love one another”, “arm (or weaponize) one another”. This is the typical performative mode of proceeding of the new form of fascism, the fascism of ambiguity, the one which naturalizes itself by means of a continuous ambiguization of all meanings and significations for the sake of rendering destruction necessary and legitimate.
Was it a coup d’état or was it not a coup d’état? The coup d’état about to happen has already happened, since this oscillation of meaning is the coup d’état, in which, “from now on,” the état is a continuous coup against meaning. Coup against meaning – we could say, in French, coup du contre sens, a cut of sense, that “from now on” can receive whatever meaning. Indeed, it is the State that has been cut off from the modern meaning of a State, i.e. as a sovereign political institution that organizes society with a territory. At the same time, insofar as the State is conceived as a distinguished power that organizes society and, hence, as what has an independent political power with respect to civil society, its tensions with the people make possible the opposition of the people to the State, sich as the ones new-liberal fascists foment, and the declaration of the State as the enemy of the people, rather that the people as a potential enemy of the State, as in old fascism. The coup or cut of the meaning of the State, the attack of the State for the sake of using the State to dissolve the State, has already happened. This is new-liberalism. In a country whose independence was a declaration of the “stay” of colonization or the dependence of dependence, this “cut” of the State by and through the State, the coup d’état that engenders a state of “coups,” has already happened.
But the real coup against sense that has already happened is the coup against the sense of “freedom”. It has to do with liberalism and new-liberalism as the economico-political expressions and practices of nihilistic metaphysics; indeed, nihilism is a coup against the sense of freedom. Binding freedom in the chains of unlimitedness and infinity, freedom has been cut from the experience of sense.
One of the many gifts of Jean-Luc Nancy’s thoughts to our worldless world is his liberating views on freedom as the naked fact that existence is existing, that is to say, on freedom as the experience of existence existing (as) each one, transitively, plurally. Freedom is neither from something nor toward something. Freedom is neither liberation nor deliberation, but the ground for all possible liberation and deliberation, the fact that existence exists plurally (as) each one. It is indeed nothing but the experience of being touched by this fact. It is the deepest experience of limit.
There is a Brazilian rap song composed by a musician together with a theoretician of literature and sung by one of Brazilian most famous black woman-singers that says: “Freedom is beautiful, but is not infinite; I want you to believe me, freedom is consciousness of limit [a liberdade é bonita mas não é infinita; eu quero que você me acredite: a liberdade é consciência do limite].” We could add: freedom is experience of the limit à flor da pele (literally, “on the flower of the skin,” though the expression is largely untranslatable). Thus, what is limit if not the skin, in which the inner is already out, the “I” is already the others, the singular already plural, recalling other unforgettable words by Jean-Luc Nancy? This is what Brazilian fascism aims to destroy, murder, and exterminate in every of its “coups of conter-sense”. This has already happened. However, and despite all this nonsense and all its forms of insensibility, existence is happening. And it demands from us a serious struggle for re-existence.