(a longer version of this article has been published on: http://www.mangalmedia.net/english//foratemer-some-anthropological-notes-on-credos-and-carnaval)
Shouting Fora Temer may be the only political anchor amongst the booze, glitter and sex of Rio’s Carnaval.
Note for noobs: On the 31st of August 2016, the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff of PT (the Worker’s Party) was impeached for crimes of fiscal responsibility and fiscal pedalling, in addition to involvement in a bribery scheme in Petrobras. Evidence was presented, and she was found guilty. The political maneuvering which led to the impeachment, however, came about from deputies and senators involved in similar bribery schemes, and who were set on placing a different party in power: PMDB (Democratic Movement Party), the party of Dilma’s Vice-President, Michel Temer. He is now President, and has himself been cited in the ongoing major corruption investigation, Operation Car Wash.
Anyone who’s walked the streets of Rio since the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff will have seen or heard the impassioned slogan #ForaTemer! (‘#OutWithTemer!’). It rose to popularity after the failure of the previous credo, #NãoVaiTerGolpe (‘#ThereWillBeNoCoup’), which, in addition to equating the judicial (not necessarily ‘fair’) impeachment of a president to the military coup of 1964, proved that hashtags about the future make no difference on the actual events. Since #NãoVaiTerGolpe did not stop the country from having a coup (of sorts) one would think that the crowd would be put off from tempting fate with hashtags. As a ritualistic pessimist, neurotically knocking on wood and hesitant to speak of any future plans (and if forced to, always adding the cautionary inshallah), if I wanted Temer out I’d use something more along the lines of #TemerOlhaAchoQueNãoTáFuncionando or #ForaTemer–InshallahBateNaMadeira.
The odd thing about the slogan is that it’s used in all kinds of random social and cultural gatherings throughout the city. Obligatory when the crowd’s wild at a concert. At the end of any charity event. And even at a dance and chant ceremony at the indigenous occupation at Maracanã. I wouldn’t be surprised if I were at a yoga class and after deep slow breathing and some Oms the teacher instructed: ‘Respira pra fora. fooora. Respira pra dentro. teeeemer’.
I don’t support Temer, and actually hope he lands in jail (along with Dilma, Lula, Cunha, Renan…). I’m merely weary of magical words that excite people every now and then, and which openly emblematize ingroup belonging (and thus, outgroup exclusion). The same way I’d feel uncomfortable if I walked into a a community permaculture class and out of the blue someone announced ‘Jesus is the Lord!’ and everyone else chanted back ‘Jesus is the Lord!’. To the exclusion of the unconvinced,the lefty heil serves as a way of ensuring everyone in the room is on the same page. I say Fora Temer, you say Fora Temer: we thus recognize our mutual cool leftiness and can be friends.
My conspiracy-theory side also suspects this focused hatred of Temer to be an ingenious plan by PT for everyone to forget their crimes, thus ensuring their reelection in 2018. At least, it’s pretty convenient for them. Indeed, at the Maracanã Village (an indigenous occupation of the building of the former Museum of the Indian), I overheard an indigenous person complaining about PT’s policies which negatively and harshly affected their livelihood and rights. As was due of the nice lefty liberal, a white Zona Sul girl promptly said: ‘E agora com o Temer então…’ (‘and now with Temer…’). When I was like, ‘dude, they’re talking about actual problems they had with PT, and if it’s bad with Temer, maybe it’s because his policies are continuing PT’s’, to judge by the look on her face, I might as well have said I liked to eat babies. How dare I be at a movement in support of indigenous rights if Temer did not represent all evil on earth for me? Yes, the #ForaTemer works like magic. Not by magically making the president disappear. But by magically saving the face of the president before him.
But this February I realized that the magic power of #ForaTemer may be even greater than I had supposed. For now, instead of the irritatingly partisan tone of ‘Thank you for your participation at this event for the homeless and fora Temer!’, the words of political dissent are being echoed where they belong best: in the chants of the Carnaval Block Party. ‘Olêee olê olê oláaaa— Fora Temer!’ In the heat of my four glasses of caipirinha and a mango sacolé, jumping up and down to drums and trumpets and feeling the glow of slender ripped tanned bodies covered in glitter, drowning in a sea of exciting sweaty colors, I’m just there to have fun. I’ll sing whatever the hell it is they want me to, be it ‘Fora Temer’, be it ‘Jesus is the Lord’, just keep bringing me booze and keep the party going. Such is Carnaval’s power to suspend the rules of ordinary life— dress like a beggar, kiss your friend’s wife, shout Fora Temer! Why anyone would blindly yell out credos whilst sober, in exchange for nothing but group approval, puzzles me (I’m not a popular one). Ironically, there’s a joke running on Facebook satirizing the president’s generally unpopular policies: ‘Michel Temer Proposes the End of Carnaval in Brazil’. In fact, the more unpopular the president, the greater the fun of mockery; conservatives in power make for the best block parties. For the past 14 years of PT, only the most uncool people mocked the government. It was considered radical to be pro-establishment. Thanks to Temer’s presidency, anti-establishment politics, and hence, political catharsis, are back to cool in Carnaval. Shouting Fora Temer may be the only political anchor amongst the booze, glitter and sex in Rio’s Carnaval.
As for post-Carnaval Temer hate, maybe a switch from the carnivalesque to the serious? Such as pressure for judicial proceedings against him to be held the same way as for Dilma? Unfortunately, the judge in charge of Operation Car Wash, in which Temer is cited, was killed in a mysterious plane crash. The new judge for the corruption trials has been named by the president himself. The response on Facebook? #ForaTemer.