05 April 2011

The Revolution will be televised in HD and 3D

Where does one get news that doesn’t come from news outlets? One basically has to do independent research or be a journalist one’s self, or take what you get from the journalists out there and piece together the narrative, reading between the thousands of lines and connecting dots to weave together a narrative. That`s what I`ve been trying to do with this blog for the past years. However, there is always the risk of anticipating what the picture is going to look like and then finding articles and directing one’s interpretations along lines and dots that don`t necessarily exist. Clearly, my interpretation of the production of Rio as a mega-event city is much different than that of O Principe, or Seu Sergio (Cabral), or those Brazilians who take their vacations in Miami and Orlando in order to “escape” from places like Barra da Tijuca which look, feel, and function in the same way as Miami and Orlando (sans Disney).

I was part of a conversation this weekend in which a wealthy Brazilian lawyer postulated that all of the problems in Brazil would begin to be solved if people acted with “Mais Deus no coração” (More god in their hearts). Tudo bem, you can fill that empty signifier with whatever you want. Of course, whenever someone launches into a discourse like that I wait patiently for the other shoe to drop, and it wasn’t long in coming. My interlocutor then said that Brazil was never able to overcome the problems left by a legacy of colonialism because they had “never spilt blood’ as the United States had during the Civil War or the European nations during the World Wars. The problems of Brazil, he suggested, would only be solved by a bloody revolution. This was a person that had just told me about the ten days he had spent shopping in Miami, the house he was thinking of buying there, and was sitting in a lovely garden  drinking his fill in a gated, isolated condominium high above Belo Horizonte. If blood isn’t being spilt in Brazil, daily, in the defense of this man and his property then I am John Carioca. If there is going to be (more, fresher) blood in the streets, to solve Brazil’s problems, then who will be those who are “revolution-ized”? Surely this man wasn’t suggesting that I kill him on the spot?

The point here is that the revolution has already happened, and this man has won with the turning of the page. Contrary to the assertions and discourses of “developmentalism” this has been  a bloody revolution, and  is armed and ready to pull the trigger to consolidate its gains. From the installation of UPPs to the multi-billion dollar investments in security apparatuses for mega-events, this revolution is slowly turning Brazil in to a realm of unfettered capital accumulation. The freedom to participate in this revolution depends on one’s ability or capacity or desire to enter the market as an entrepreneur or provider of services.  Or you can work in the defense of the revolution, as will the 36,000 private security forces that will be contracted for the World Cup. That’s right, a private FIFA army of 36,000. This in addition to the expanding Military Police, which in a move of strategic irony, gave permission to all 40,000 of its members in Rio to take their weapons home to prevent them from being stolen from the armory!

This is the democracy of a consumer society, where the rights and privileges of movement, freedom of expression, access to information, and basic human rights are entirely predicated upon one’s position within a global hierarchy of consumption reflected in the old class and race divisions of Brazil. The Brazilian revolution has been installed piece by piece over many years, hollowing out the state while at the same time filling it with employees and draining the public coffers. Brazil’s external debt is exploding as fast as its consumer debt. The Rio state government has opted to trade the martial law of the drug traffickers for the martial law of the state, dislocating the problems of violence to other, less visible, parts of the Rio metropolitan region. The service economy is trying to boom but at the same time the provision of basic services is astoundingly poor. The airports are in a shocking state, the streets of Copacabana have man-hole covers that explode with astounding frequency and the Metrô works most of the time.

The newsy discourse is all about how things are happening in preparation for 2014 and 2016, but these dates only tend to re-enforce the idea that the mega-events are the most important things to ever happen to Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. They are merely symptoms of a larger socio-economic-political trajectory. They are important, yes. We should understand why the state government is going to spend a billion dollars to reform the Maracanã. We should hold these people accountable. They should have their feet collectively held to a very hot fire until the money falls from their pockets and the vergonha actually creeps into their powdered faces. To get a sense of how pathetically fragile this call for transparency is, try to get some information out of http://transparenciaolimpica.com.br/ Careful you don’t involuntarily spit all over your screen when you check out the Legadômetro.

But everything is good! Be happy, you consumers, you Floridians who over mortgaged yourselves, you lawyers who want to spill the blood of your compatriots! This week the Real is trading at US$1,60. It’s time to buy some greenbacks and plane tickets to Miami F.L.A.


Rodrigo M. Nunes said...

hey man,

it's a global malaise, dude, and it's fueled by apathy and conformism. From the US to China to Brazil etc, values and priorities are out of whack. Don't give yourself an ulcer because of it!

Troy said...


For the sake of argument I would like to take an opposing view; agreeing in some sensibilities with the attorney, and by suggesting that the absence of revolutionary events in Brazil's past has had a direct correlation to the economic, political, and social strife facing the country today.

"The greatest illusion ever played on the people of brazil was not the appropriation of 75% of the country's wealth amongst 10% of the privileged population. That was the easy part. The mastermind was convincing the people that Brazil was actually a poor country, convincing them that there was nothing to fight for, convincing them to be docile in the face of tragic conditions."

Of all the peoples that I've had the pleasure of knowing on a more intimate level, the Carioca has been the most acquiescent towards government. Considering the vast majority of the people live below the poverty level, in a country where the living conditions too often resemble that of a undeveloped nation, much less a First World Nation (which Brazil is claiming to become in the very near future - perhaps to the privileged few). The mentality of the Carioca is to concede with an unresponsive attitude, the ambitions of the leaders of their nation.

One might argue that during the military occupation of the 70's-80's there was uprising by the people (a revolution of sorts) that brought about Democracy and freedom. But if you dig a little deeper, it becomes ironically clear that the demonstrations and protests did not escalate from a cry for Democracy. It was the censorship and exile of their beloved musical artist that initiated the outcry. Indeed the people wanted to protect their way of life. They wanted the ability to sing and dance without oppressive government interventions. Where the Carioca is more footed with emotional stability and familiarity is within the jovial atmospheres of cultural celebrations, not on the battlefields of social injustice.

Troy said...


This non-rebellious characteristic of the Carioca I identify with the lack of willingness to take ownership of ones rights as a Brazilian citizen. Inalienable human rights that are indebted to you, provided and protected by the constitution, for which you would (metaphorically) SHED BLOOD to protect. But then again, the Carioca has never shed blood to protect anything, so what has ever been installed or embedded into the fabric of society to protect said rights? What historical precedents exist to mold the actions of government and/or the powers that be away from facilitating own personal agendas to the detriment of the people? As we all know; in the absence of opposition, the course of the "position" rarely changes. So, from whence did such a docile people emerge, in a world whose history is so tattered with war and bloodshed? That discussion gets too dangerously close to the "chicken or the egg". Is it the absence of war and bloodshed that led to the evolution of a docile people, or was it docile people that molded a nation without a revolutionary past. That question I dare not answer. I think the more important question is how do you define the ideals of such a rare breed of people? When nothing has seem to bother them enough to justify sacrificing their sons and daughters to protect their way of life.

I for one am not a proponent of war and needless bloodshed. Life is precious and the innocent always suffer the most. The Middle East and North Africa are by no means a model for what Brazil needs to become in order to realize a nation where the government is determined and adapt at providing a environment where exists real opportunity for all. But I have to quote the late Dr. Martin Luther King, "A man who stands for nothing, will fall for anything." And right now, from where I am sitting, it appears the Brazilian people are falling for anything the government throws at them. One thing I can say about a people who are willing to fight for the right to be equally recognized by their country. It is a defining characteristic. It defines a people and what they will and will not stand for. It defines the agenda, it sets the precedent and hence, the ideals of a people are born. So yes, I say there needs to be a revolution, a paradigm revolution. A shift In the Cariocas way of thinking. A unified gnashing of teeth to establish the willingness of the people to fight for the rights of every Brazilian man, woman and child, regardless of social class, to social, political, and economic inclusion.

Who knows, after all, they did fight for their beloved Samba........

Troy said...

(side note)
Yes I am well aware that I utilize the term Carioca quite loosley in a generic sense. I am well aware that Carioca is generally associated with people from the state of Rio De Janeiro and it was used by no means to isolate the people of Rio. I really used it as a metaphor to exemplify the "relatively" casual nature of Brazilians. So I hope no REAL Cariocas were offended.

Dr. Christopher Gaffney said...

Thanks for the comments Rodi and Troy.

Troy, let's see if this recent horror has any impact on the woy of thinking. I agree with the lack of motivation of Cariocas to undertake political projects on their own behalf, but there are groups here working very diligently and seriously and tenaciously to articulate a response to the autocratic regimes of Paes and Cabral.

I'm going to draw attention to your comments in my next post. Hopefully more people will start responding. Thanks again for the thougtful commentary.


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