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.