One of the most frequent questions I receive from foreign journalists or from people following the ongoing comedy-drama of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics is, “Will Brazil be prepared to host?”
My stock answer is that this is the wrong question to be asking. In the light of the Columbine-esque shooting that took place in Realengo yesterday, the questions surrounding mega-event production seem even more insensate and mis-directed than normal.
One of the first things that people here comment on is that the school massacre is “another import from the United States”. OGlobo, in its best imitation of Fox News, announced that there was no evidence that the murderer was Islamic. Rather, this deeply disturbed 23 year old served the angry god of the Old Testament.
Brazil already has more than 7 million illegal arms with 60% of them coming from the USA. So not only was the act itself an imitation of Columbine, but the weapons likely carried the MADE IN USA stamp. I mentioned the other day that 40,000 PMs are now permitted to take their guns home for safe-keeping. Having more guns in private hands is not the answer here. This is a massive problem that might be able to be solved with money. How much money would it take to buy up all of the illegal arms? Let’s calculate.
A new .357 Magnum costs R$700. Let’s say that’s cheap and that the average cost of a gun is R$1600, or US$1000. 7 million x 1000 = 7 Billion. So for the price of the World Cup stadiums (give or take) the state could buy all of the illegal arms in Brazil (of course, it’s not this simple, nor possible, but I’m making a point here, I hope).
There are simply certain maladies that are going to become an increasing part of life in Brazil if it continues along the developmental path followed by the United States. When I explain to Brazilians that I came to Brazil for work, as a professor, they have a hard time believing that the higher education system in the United States is in such a sorry state. The idea that everything in the United States is better is still a very strong one in Brazil. Even when people acknowledge problems, it is a much longer conversation to get people (in a “developing” country[sic]) to recognize that constructing a consumer society in which one’s place within the social system, one’s ability to access basic human rights, is determined by one’s ability to pay for those rights is fundamentally flawed. This is increasingly the case in the United States and the idea that human freedom is now inexorably tied to the ability to fit within market systems is a palpable reality in Brazil. This is a tragic state of affairs and on occasions like yesterday it becomes poignantly so.
The discussion about this event in Brazil will be about increasing security. However, the bandwidth of that debate will be limited to the provision of physical security. Until civil society, individuals, reporters, academics, sei lá Joe Carioca, understand security as a broader concept we will continue to limit ourselves to ramping up instead of toning down the number of weapons on the streets.
Security means having access to clean water, a functional health system, quality public education, affordable and efficient transportation, transparency in government, stable infrastructure, access to food, clean air, soil, etc. These “securities” are as important as one’s bodily integrity and we should be able to take it FOR GRANTED that our children are going to come home alive when we send them off to school. In the absence of these other securities for the general population, the necessity for armed protection (for some more than others) is apparently paramount. This is an old story in Brazil and one that is going to get a huge boost with the installation of mega-events.
For instance, the 36,000 private security guards that are going to be hired by the Brazilian state to “secure” FIFA-space during their 5 week orgy in 2014, are all going to have guns. Is there a plan for those guns after the World Cup? Multiply those 36,000 x whatever Obama came here to sell and you get the general idea of the militarization of urban space that is “necessary” to “secure” the World Cup.
The sickening events in Realengo make the World Cup and Olympics seem small and stupid and petty. We know that football brings joy to millions and that the Olympics bring forth and compresses nearly, nearly the entire range of human emotions. What we never think about when we watch the games are the dead bodies and broken lives that sustain them. These are the hidden people, disappeared from stadia, wiped from the streets, cleaned or isolated into oblivion. There are people losing their homes and livelihoods to make way for stadium parking lots. Neighborhoods are being slashed and torn asunder to make way for Olympic transportation. There are kids getting executed in the city’s schools. Mega-events can only be installed through fear and terror – ironically, emotions that sport doesn’t, or shouldn't, provide.
The question, therefore, is not, cannot, and will not be “Will Brazil be ready?” But rather, why, how, for whom, and at what cost? Today, that cost was the lives of twelve middle school students.