The endless Brazilian Carnival


February 15, 2018 – Fort Russ News – By Uriel Irigaray from Nova Resistencia – Translated by Paul Antonopoulos

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – “In fact, how could we still try to ‘circumscribe’ disorder and confine it to strictly defined limits, when it is scattered everywhere and manifests itself without ceasing in every realm in which human activity is exercised? If we remain attached to outward appearances and to a merely ‘aesthetic’ point of view, we might be tempted to congratulate ourselves on the almost complete disappearance of these festivities, especially the ‘shapeless’ aspect of them, as is inevitable. But this disappearance, on the contrary, when it goes to the bottom of things, constitutes a symptom that is not very reassuring, since it reveals that the disorder has broken out in every course of existence and has become so generalized that, one might say, we are in the reality living a sinister and ‘eternal carnival’.

(René Guénon, On the Meaning of the Carnival Festivals, Études Traditionnelles, Dec. 1945.


What we think of writing, but we do not want to do, is a defense of popular festivals such as carnival and, at the same time, a denunciation of carnival – in the middle of carnival. We could, of course, talk about how the entertainment industry kidnapped a popular party, the old portuguese and Brazilian entrudo, that of the street marches and popular blocks, and, like football, transformed it into a private party with tickets and abadás of thousands of reais around a decadent musical cultural industry. But we will not do that.

It would be better to write, now praising, how the cult of work, the ideology of productivism, the idea, finally, that the year begins only in Lent is all part of the modern ideology we reject; of the same great modern paradigm that underlies the main political paradigms of modernity (liberal, communist and nationalist). Festivities, leisure, however, are not just the interval between one working day and another – they are part of life; precisely the part that the cult of progress seeks to suppress. We can read, for the European case, what Peter Burke wrote about (European) popular culture, which Bakhtin wrote (idem) and thus we can, without nostalgia, get a glimpse of what is or what was popular culture and “pre-modern” social life-which still coexists in different forms within modernity itself. To commemorate the popular feasts, we could cite here the Saturnalia, the Antesteria, and so many – citing Sir James Frazer, Mircea Eliade, Carlo Ginzburg, Georges Dumézil, etc.

We could also speak of our colonial condition, of a transplanted, adapted liturgical calendar of an archetypal carnival in which a saturnal King of an ancient Golden Age reigns during the feast only to be sacrificed at the end of it; we could speak of a carnival of the northern hemisphere that marks and celebrates the end of winter, the end of the ice and that, therefore, it is a feast of fertility as much as it is a feast of the dead, and that all this acquires another sense when it is celebrated in in the middle of the subtropical summer, just like Christmas and Halloween – sweaty Santa Claus (not to mention the lack of understanding that there is to celebrate a carnival excess after which there is no longer the abstention of Lenten meat, and not to mention the displaced situation of an urban mass produced by the rural exodus, celebrating festivities of a liturgical calendar related to the seasons and harvests). We could – but we will not speak of any of this.

We could talk about how, unlike this premodern Europe, the West is the empire of the Logos, a fallen Logos (like the sun to the west) – empire of technique, kingdom of quantity; we could affirm, as José Carlos Mariátegui, Georges Sorel, Glauber Rocha and others have stated, that the people also need the Myth and Chaos, and how this is the pattern of different identitarian, traditionalist, poststructuralist and other movements that, in Europe, seek to re-ssacralize life or subvert a project of modernity; we could still talk about how the case of Brazil and Latin America is curious, because we are imposed a model of the West (to which we will never belong entirely) when, at the same time, we know that it never penetrated the soul of our Latin peoples Americans.

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We could speak – and now perhaps even speak – that is why it sometimes seems meaningless to make the defense of the trance, the dream, the myth and the night in a Brazil that is already permeated and possessed, in greater or lesser degree, by candomblé, popular and charismatic Catholicism, prophetic and ecstatic Pentecostalism. We could write (because we do not talk about it), about how the Enlightenment project of Western civilization, with which the modernist elite tries to capture the peoples of Brazil, should be rejected, in the spirit of what Oliveira Viana wrote about the abyss exists between an alleged deep real Brazil and positivist and bureaucratic Brazil.

And we could finally talk about how neo-liberals, Maoist Marxists, the bourgeois left and others, all want to tame and tame a supposed archaic, savage, “populist”, “patrimonialist” Brazil – and how, against these and parallel to these (second the voice of the song), there are those who praise the fatalism, the mysticism and the passion.


Instead, we will say something more banal: the truth is that, while dazzled sociologists and intellectuals make the carnival apology, the people, or the larger part, hate carnival: different researches (which we will not cite) will show that something between 60 % and 70% of the population disregard this eruption of vital force, this rite of freedom, this cathartic mess that supposedly contrasts with the rest of the year, governed by the mechanics of work and the logic of calculus and utilitarian reason. In any case, most Brazilians, in different regions, feel nothing but disgust at this spectacle of sex tourism, narcotics, robberies and thefts, the streets bathed in liters of a ubiquitous and sparkling fermented urine that is confused with canned beer of dubious quality that sponsors much of the party.

Why does this recalcitrant majority, who rests at home watching canned or American novels, not want to participate in the freedom party? It is that the very exercise of freedom, in order to be able to happen, requires some order. Chiaroscuro. And order is missing – although it is written there on the national flag. A carnival that lasted, like a full tide, over the entire calendar, would be very much like a nightmare, and such is the Brazilian nightmare that consists of living squeezed and sweaty in train cars and impossibly crowded buses, amid odors, probing, the possible inconvenience, all along a journey that can begin at five in the morning and drag on for two or more hours in the chaos of a trance-like trance; everything to try to get home alive, paving the way through bumpy lanes, dark roads and masses of crack addicted zombies, robbers and the orgy of violence, mess, filth, endless queues, the meandering baroque and esoteric bureaucracy and speculation real estate, police corruption and labor exploitation that accompany the daily life of every Brazilian urban, peripheral, favelado and others, in a frenzy of excesses and absurdities. There remains, then, masochistic hedonism, self-destructive promiscuity, proletarian alcoholism, every weekend (or every day) cachaça and, perhaps, the escapist trance of the session or cult of which we do not speak above – or illusion and the hypnosis of a trance medium, soft pornography of video clips and hits of the moment, the endless assortment of auditorium shows, the demented and distorted humor of the obligatory memes, and the orgy of accompanying criminal / police violence the lunch hour news, or the Mephistophelean androgyny of the latest controversial celebrity that industry has made. It is the perpetual carnival about which René Guénon wrote, which we will not cite.

We could, after writing this text that no one will read, conclude with a note of optimism and a touch of ambivalence, to show how sophisticated we are and how we know that things are full of nuances, thus writing that samba schools are, yes, a vehicle for the great Brazilian mafia of the drug game, drug trafficking and contractors to launder money and reproduce their legitimacy with the population – but at the same time, schools are also a space for community socialization, for building an Afro- Brazilian culture linked to a non-individualist peripheral culture of samba and mutirões, which also includes some whites and caboclos; as we could also say that the Bakhtinian carnival served as an interface in Brazil to bridge the gap between a European and an African worldview on life and death, as well as other things in the same spirit. We will not, however, do any of this.

It would be better to speak of Momo, this son of the Night, and how a Momo, who sits on his throne year-round, will devour each of the children and revelers without ever being satisfied – this is the tyranny of Momo, the tyranny of sarcasm , of debauchery, of slander, of endless slutting; it would be better to write that, in addition to reaffirming the chaos, the archaic and the night, as do the decadent Europeans (and need!), we need others to discover and build our own luminous Logos, to find our own order, with a logic in it; let us awaken, finally, from the nightmare of our feverish nocturnal journey and give Momo what is of Momo – but to Jupiter what is of Jupiter. With the blessings of Thêmis.

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