“The intellectual function is always exercised by anticipation (about
what could happen) or
late (about what happened);
rarely about what is
happening, for reasons of rhythm, as events are always
faster and more pressing than
reflections on them ”
Eco’s words retain special relevance and topicality in light of what is happening in the world and in Brazil in the pandemic. We are in the midst of the most severe global shock of the past 75 years. The direct and indirect impacts of covid-19 will be with us well beyond this dramatic year of 2020, and will not be restricted to public health issues.
The pandemic created economic and social problems, derived from simultaneous negative supply and demand shocks that reinforced each other in a hellish vicious circle. Tens of millions of jobs have been lost, the contraction of economic activity is unprecedented, the levels of poverty, vulnerability and inequality have risen on a global scale.
“When will we get to the post-covid?” is the question that is often heard. Unfortunately, this is not a very appropriate question. There is no “new normal” on the horizon. The course of history is nothing normal, it has always been full of adventures, instabilities and surprises. When effective drugs have appeared, vaccines approved and applied to billions of people – even then, and beyond, we will be talking about the “post-covid world” to designate what followed 2020. The year in which, in addition to the pandemic and because of it, pre-existing trends have been exacerbated.
In particular with regard to the growing discontent with globalization, which the crisis of 2008-2009 caused to strike strongly. Dissatisfaction with the effects of technological advances on the labor market and the consequent worsening of the perception of excessive inequality in the distribution of opportunities. This trend is long-lasting and will continue to demand economic and political responses from governments and, paradoxically, inescapable international cooperation. The world is already different in post-2020 – and so is Brazil.
On this same page, the always serene Fernando Gabeira published an article entitled Beco sem cul-de-sac (2/10), in which he registers that “what Brazil needs (…) government economists cannot offer”. It may be worth adding: what Brazil needs, the government, in its dysfunctionality, is unable to offer – namely, articulation and coordination not only within the Executive, but also with the leaders of the National Congress, to advance the country’s interest agenda ; with a vision that does not include, above all, the next election, but the next generations. This October 2020, we are on an absolutely unsustainable route regarding our fiscal situation, of which the majority does not seem to have realized yet. We may be writing the chronicle of a pre-announced end of the line, as in a chorus of tragedies of old.
The necessary correction of directions requires enormous effort – which involves analysis of evidence, thoughts and coordinated actions and which will be necessary to undertake over the next two years. The interaction of politics with the economy, which has always been relevant, is particularly important in serious crises such as the one we are going through. It is necessary, with a great sense of urgency, to connect the present with a credible narrative about the past and, more importantly, with an honest signal about future paths. There are difficult choices to be made, both serious and inescapable.
The corridor for options and exits is narrower and narrower. Encouraging examples of what could be done to expand it brought us to the debate (6/10) that brought together Paulo Hartung, Arminio Fraga and Marcelo Trindade, on the occasion of the launch of the excellent book of Trindade O Caminho do Centro: memories of an electoral adventure . A must-see conversation about what happened, what could happen and what is happening in Brazil today.
Eco’s words in this article come from a text in the book Cinco Escritos Morais, in which the author notes that reflection on events cannot escape “the intellectual duty to understand one’s own time and participate better”. According to Eco, “even when choosing spaces of silence, the exercise of reflection does not exempt from assuming individual responsibilities”. In the introduction to this book, Umberto Eco says, regarding characteristics common to the Five Writings: “Despite the variety, the themes are of an ethical nature, that is, they refer to what it would be fair to do, what should not be done and what that cannot be done under any circumstances ”.
The signals, attitudes and examples issued by the political leaders of a country, in particular by their heads of state or government, are fundamental in this regard. For better or for worse, there is no shortage of examples in today’s world. It remains to be remembered that only in democracies is it possible for the electorate to correct, by peaceful means, any mistakes made in past choices. Whenever there is a minimum of reflection and debate about the present, about how we arrived at it and, obviously, about the future.
* ECONOMIST, HE WAS MINISTER OF FARM IN FHC GOVERNMENT
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