Political violence, of course, is nothing new. Despite this, it takes particularly special contours in the context of this century.
Just the last few months have we witnessed the murder of Shinzo Abe in Japan, the attack on writer Salman Rushdie in the US, and more recently the attack on Cristina Kirchner in Argentina.
In Brazil, a survey published by UniRio in 2022 shows that in the last three years alone in the country, cases of political violence have increased by 335%. Among its most recent repercussions is the death of PT treasurer Marcelo de Arruda at a birthday party in Foz do Iguaçu that was the theme of former president Lula.
Explanation of this movement certainly requires recognizing the multifactorial nature of such a process. So, unfortunately, there are no signs that this trend will subside in the next few decades. Rather, such incidents should become more and more common.
Although often perpetrated by so-called “lone wolves”, individuals who devise and carry out acts of violence on their own, without being subject to any command structure or relying on financial support from organized networks to do so, are at the root of this problem. It is deeply related to social dynamics, group life and the various systemic challenges of our time.
Political violence arises from growing inequality, the impoverishment of people and the growing social asymmetries that fuel tensions, and the constant search for “criminals” who can be held responsible for the diseases that manifest themselves. Perception of deterioration in quality of life, reduced opportunities, loss of competitiveness in the job market, etc. We’re talking about things.
In addition, political violence is highlighted due to the deterioration of individuals’ mental health and the limited intervention/service capacity available to deal with it. It is crucial to recognize the challenges posed by major disturbances in cognition, emotional regulation, and behavior in the 21st century, as well as their indisputable impact on social life.
In the same sense, we live in times when deep resentments are permanently reinforced. The quest for recognition as a transformative force in history (“making oneself special”), the need to belong, and a belief in individual heroism must be taken into account when we look at such violent scenarios.
Of course, we cannot ignore the role played by ideological radicalization and widespread disbelief in institutions, as well as increasing worldwide political polarization, in this huge cauldron full of important content. Political violence has a history of discontent with the mainstream, particularly traditionally viewed parties and elites/leadership. It involves seeking simple solutions to complex problems and is based on a belief in the revolutionary role of figures seen as “truth” and “saviour” and the narratives they propagate.
Finally, all this is symptomatic of a society that makes life on social networks wonderful, reinforcing beliefs that are seen as absolute truths in bubbles and echo chambers in this environment. In the digital universe, there is fertile ground for political forces to rally support for their own power projects by instrumentalizing discourses and manipulating the passions of individuals, especially the most vulnerable, in favor of an agenda that supports them.
In the face of the world on our horizon, it’s hard not to think of the great Hannah Arendt who made the right diagnosis a few decades ago: “We live in dark times when the worst people lose their fear. The best is to lose hope.”