As someone who runs a blog called Transition Consciousness and who is experiencing a very historical moment in Brazil, it would be remiss of me not to be writing at least something about the great demonstrations happening here. I have held off these last few days, wondering if I can add anything meaningful to the many articles now appearing on both blogs and in the press around the world. As a Brit who has been living in Brazil since 2010, I feel I can offer a meaningful perspective, and what I want to focus on is self-esteem in the Brazilian people.
The very low levels of self-esteem is something I have commented on a number of times on my blog, but it has been astonishing to see the change in people here these last two weeks. The protests started with a relatively small protest group fighting against the increase in bus tariffs of 20 centavos (around 7 pence). After what was perceived as a monumentally disproportionately violent response from the military police, many millions of Brazilians were angered, and began to take to the streets across the country. The protests allowed the Brazilian people to voice their many frustrations with many aspects of life here including corruption, the vast investments in the World Cup and Olympics, the lack of investment in health, education and transport, and the lack of security and daily threats of violence, robbery and assault.
In a hugely symbolic moment for the country, both Sepp Blatter, the head of Fifa, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff were booed loudly at the start of the Confederations Cup on 16th June. This moment showed the world a side of this country which had previously not been seen, and this was the people united, left and right, young and old, rich and poor, against a bankrupt leadership. It has been interesting to watch PT, Rousseff’s political party attempt to manage this “crisis” and they are yet to acknowledge that they are very much a part of the anger being vented, especially with many of the party’s members having been found guilty of fraud and corruption in the mensalão trials, but none being imprisoned.
There have been daily protests for the last couple of weeks, and I have to say the Brazilian people can be immensely proud of themselves. One of the things that so many want to see an end of is high crime and violence, and as a British person it has been quite amazing just how peaceful the protests have been, especially with far fewer police in attendance. Of course there have been many acts of violence, vandalism and fighting against the police, but given just how much this country suffers from violent crime, those taking part should be receiving a huge amount of praise. Time and again on television I have seen peace protestors remonstrate with vandals who are just mindlessly fighting or destroying public and private property. And on the social networks there are a huge number of posts in which the protestors have taken the initiative to educate those so lacking in education about the proper way to act during the protests.
The protests were sparked by one small event, and spread rapidly across the country. Events in some ways mirror what happened with the rioting in the UK which saw widespread rioting and looting in many cities in England. But these were riots, where those taking part seemed to be more interested in looting high street shops in order to get their hands on trainers, designer cloths and electrical equipment, with many small shops being raided and many others destroyed by fire. I watched these while in Brazil, and was frustrated with the mindlessness of it all. In these last two weeks we have also discovered the extent to which the NSA in the US records all phone calls and internet activity because of the whistleblower Edward Snowden. As a Brit it gets even worse, with Snowden saying that GCHQ are even worse than the Americans (although Senators attending a private closed-doors session in the US revealed that what has been revealed in the press is but a fraction of what is really going on in terms of the US and UK governments spying on both their own citizens and also other countries and businesses too).
If we return to the main theme of this post, self-esteem I would like to tell a very short story. i was at a barbecue three weeks ago, just before these events happened in Brazil, and I was saying to a Brazilian friend how much Brazil had to offer the rest of the world, and how much potential the people have here. Brazil is a country with huge riches (many natural resources which need to be protects, and sometimes are), as well as other riches not just relating to the insane wealth which is here. Brazilians are emotional people, and these protests have seen a huge outpouring of many years of pent-up frustrations, with some of the world’s highest taxes being paid, which seem to end up in the private bank accounts of the elite who care not one jolt for the people or their well being. My friend began to cry as he realised that I could see beyond the problems, and into the potential, and I have to say even I have been amazed at the turnaround in events here.
PT seem scarred of the people, humiliated, and unable to celebrate a triumphant Confederations Cup which was meant to be rehearsal for the world cup next year. Changes are being promised, although people are rightly wary and will not be celebrating until real results are seen. Brazil is suffering from many complex and inter-related problems, and a few grand pronouncements are not going to solve the situation overnight. But people here have discovered that collective and peaceful actions can make an impact on their politicians, and I am sure the protests will continue, quite probably into the world cup in 2014 as well.
Collectively self-esteem and pride in the nation and the national flag are going up. This can be seen most clearly in the boisterous rendition of the national anthem at the start of Brazilian football games, with the Brazilian people continuing to sing the rest of the anthem after the music has stopped half way through. One aspect though which has not yet registered, one that I don’t think has registered, is just how much the Brazilian people are now playing a role in leading the world into a positive change. I think the people here may still look up way too much to “first world” countries and maybe they do not quite yet see the corruption, the draconian Orwellian levels of control being imposed by elites who too are also scarred of their citizens. In the comments section of many British newspapers I see many readers lamenting how the British people are still asleep, how they are “sheep” and how they are sleepwalking into a monumental nightmare, whereas the Brazilian people are rightly applauded for their efforts in changing their realities, in looking for a better Brazil. In Britain we are still part of the way through uncovering an immensely horrible scandal surrounding pedophiles in the highest echelons of British society, although the arrests are now moving from those in the entertainment industry, celebrities from the 1970s and 1980s, to a focus on politicians and those in other positions of power who visited and abused some of the most vulnerable children in many different children’s homes in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Despite the very real lack of education in all levels of Brazilian society, it is amazing to hear such wisdom being articulated, especially in the youth of Brazil, and also the explosion of creative and humorous expression. People read Transition Consciousness right across the globe, and I do not know how much of what is happening in Brazil is being reported in your countries. I think I will hand over now to Carla Dauden, a young Brazilian director who like many Brazilians is requesting people not to come to the world cup. You may or may not agree with this sentiment, and I am not posting the video because I agree. I am posting it as she articulates the many issues here in Brazil, but also shows an intelligence so rarely portrayed by Brazilians to the outside world, a world which for various reasons before these protests only thought of Brazil as carefree and loving samba and football. You will see in the video footage of a Brazilian doctor on the edge of despair too, someone who until these last couple of weeks would never have been heard.
I wish the Brazilian people all the best. I live in Brazil and really want to see the country prosper. It is a stunning country with so much potential and wisdom and love to offer the rest of the world, and it is amazing to see so many around the world support what is happening too. Yes you will continue to see images of violence on television as violence always is popular with the media. But there are many many good people here trying to make a difference, and now they feel their time has come.
Credits for Images
The images of the protests come from the Facebook group Movimento Contra Corrupção (Movement Against Corruption).