By Paulo Henrique Martins

Art often anticipates historical trends not yet revealed. We can exemplify with the film “Contagion” (2011) directed by Soderbergh. The film deals with the spread of a virus that, like Covid 19, would have emerged in the East and migrated to the West with effects that resemble the current pandemic: social disorganisation, intense mobilisation of health professionals and science’s struggle for a vaccine to contain the disease. Logically, the frenetic consumer society does not understand the signs that have been denounced for some time by aesthetic and scientific criticism. The pandemic event is, however, breaking the technical, economic and sanitary safeguards and generating ideological hallucinations with harmful effects in politics. The Brazilian case is emblematic. The denialism of Bolsonaro and sympathisers, the alarming number of deaths, the disorganisation of economic, social and cultural life, the inevitable confinement and the loss of spaces for sociability reveal a terrifying scene that we only knew in fiction films.

With the growth of the pandemic and the bottleneck in hospital logistics, the crisis enters a new level of risk in Brazil. Until now, the middle and wealthy classes could prevent contamination by locking themselves up in their homes with full refrigerators and the internet working efficiently. Now we have another worrying factor that is beginning to frighten the wealthier social segments: the pandemic threatens to break the hierarchical distance that historically separates rich and poor. The reality is that manual and basic service workers such as pharmacies, hospitals, markets, shops in addition to porters and housemaids continue to crowd into buses because they do not have other modes of transport to serve the rich. These people continue to take public transport because they need to “earn a living”. The virus then reveals itself as a socially explosive vector of contagion. How will this threat to disrupt the social and racial underpinnings of inequality impact on politics and elections?