intolerance and sadness in the wake of the pandemic

posted on 09/06/2021 06:00

  (credit: illustration publisher)

(credit: illustration publisher)

Faced with an overwhelming disease, which led to the collapse of health services throughout the country and which left behind more than five hundred thousand deaths and millions of infected people, Brazilian society has also seen a wave of intolerance emerge that contaminates the very relationships between people. The reflections can be seen in examples from North to South of the country. It’s a traffic fight that turns into persecution followed by being run over or an argument over the use of masks that ends in death. According to specialists heard by the Mail, even though intolerance has been present in Brazil and in the world since the beginning of the history of human relations, the pandemic has potentiated in many people this lack of empathy, patience towards others and respect for norms of coexistence.

The intolerance of the Brazilian people is an ancient social construction that dates back to the early colonization of Brazilian soil by the Portuguese, who used violence as one of the strategies to subjugate the Indians who lived here, starting a process of genocide. That is what explains Eduardo de Castro Carneiro, sociologist from the University of Brasília and Master in Sociology of Violence from the Federal University of Goiás (UFG).

For him, the worsening of intolerance motivated by the covid-19 pandemic occurs because the current scenario works as a vector of hyperindividualization, including in the responses that society has received from public managers, who hold individuals responsible for the prevention and cure process. “The fear of death and responses that are given by subjectivity, without a clear perception of a collective discourse, of how the State deals with it, how the government deals with it, how society deals with it, further decouples this belonging. Therefore, this situation can lead to an increase in intolerance, in violence against one another, because (people) do not perceive themselves as social beings of a group”, he theorized.


(Photograph: -)

sadness and irritation

PhD in Psychology and professor at the Psychology Institute of the University of Brasília (UnB) Suely Sales Guimarães highlights that any change in context influences people’s emotional response to each situation. Therefore, it is already possible to observe certain changes in people’s behavior. “We have seen an increase in intolerance because certain behaviors have been affected by the conditions they are forced to experience,” she said.

Suely Guimarães emphasizes that the context of the pandemic, however, does not explain all the intensity of the current wave of intolerance, as this is a social behavior that has not surfaced now. But that takes shape under certain circumstances and historical periods. The current one, of social distancing and health safety protocols, has a very intense influence on human behavior. “This pandemic context affects different segments of the population in different ways. Distance and isolation are factors that have a very high depressive and anxiogenic effect (which causes anxiety or psychological distress), because human beings naturally seek socialization”, explains the academic.

The psychologist believes that the context is favorable to make people angry. According to a survey on mental health carried out by Pfizer Brasil in partnership with IPEC (Intelligence in Research and Consulting), with 2,000 Brazilians, irritation ranked second, tied with insomnia, in the list of symptoms related to mental health senses during the covid-19 pandemic. It only fell behind sadness, as shown in the illustration above.

In the view of psychiatrist Fabrícia Signorelli, all behavioral changes directly affect people’s irritability, and the emotional problems caused by the pandemic exacerbated intolerance. “Although intolerance comes in a growing wave in Brazil and in the world, as we already saw before the appearance of covid-19, the pandemic was a catalyst and greatly increased the intolerance of Brazilians,” he said.

The doctor explains that this intolerance can manifest itself as an attack of fury, which we observe, for example, in traffic fights, or insubordination to the rules imposed by government officials to face the threat of covid-19. Last week, the Federal District was the scene of one of these episodes of intolerance, when the lawyer Paulo Ricardo Moraes Milhomem, 37, chased the car of public servant Tatiana Thelecildes Fernandes Machado Matsunaga, 40, after a traffic dispute. Paulo even ran over the server, who is still in the hospital. (See more examples in the box below)

“The mental illness of the population, seen during the pandemic, and the symptoms that something might be wrong with people’s mental health directly affect human behavior. Psychiatric disorders will affect people’s functionality, whether in terms of work performance, relationships within the home, interpersonal relationships in general”, explains the psychiatrist.


Isolation measures and the depressive environment that the health crisis fuels an increase in individualism. Fabrícia Signorelli explains that this feeling of exhaustion and the population’s excessive concern with the consequences of the pandemic make it difficult to be empathetic. “It’s a human movement. It is much more difficult to be empathetic with others when we are experiencing a time of greater personal difficulty. But when we have fewer people thinking about the collective, the general suffering increases somewhat”. For her, the reaction to these feelings needs to come precisely from the community.

To circumvent intolerance, sociologist Eduardo Carneiro believes that it is necessary to work from the perspective of “we”, of belonging to the group. “If more and more we individualize the responsibilities for living together, less and less will we have a society that complies with rules, norms and values ​​that are condensed in the perspective of group life”, he pointed out.

Memories of a day of fury
Memories of a day of fury
(photo: illustration editor)

*Intern under the supervision of Vinicius Doria

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  • Memories of a day of fury

    Memories of a day of fury
    Photo: Illustration Editor