I am really amazed to watch a greater part of the international press covering the protests in Brazil, to focus mainly on what represents the 1 % of the overall protest. I mean the 1 % of vandals, gangs and thieves that took advantage of the situation and decided to prey on what is probably one of the most important recent democratic movements in Brazil, turbocharged by the social networks power.
Therefore, I decided to set the record straight. Moreover, I consider that I am actually obligated to do so, because of my unique situation of being bi-cultural, half American and half Brazilian, having lived half of my life in both countries, and understand very well the cultural nuances, and how they have an overall impact on the way of life in general. This is the reason for my title in fact.
For someone from the outside to get a grasp on what is happening and understand it, it is necessary first to gain a bird’s eye-view and try to see the whole picture. One cannot look upon what is happening with a WASP perspective and make a judgment call, only because the cultural DNA is different.
A WASP would have been born with an entrepreneurial spirit and had always been able to foster advancement at what he or she called homeland at the time of the discovery of the Americas, while Brazil was contaminated by an extractivist mindset of the Portuguese and was populated by unwanted prisoners and prostitutes.
Yes, it is necessary to look back at the roots to understand that there has been a very different mindset that was engraved and embedded into the Brazilian culture, as a result of having been ransacked by the Portuguese rule.
It was under that rule during in colony days that a famous saying was created, when Portuguese were dodging the British oversight on slave trafficking by loading the top of the ships with chicken and the galleries with slaves. “It was for the English to see”. This was probably one of the most representative acts of establishing the status quo of making believe.
This status quo ended up being perpetuated and engraved at all levels of society when Brazil, after being independent, became a monarchy (unlike United States that was automatically a republic after independence). The Monarchy era only served to keep the status quo and eventually help contaminate the new republic when it was finally declared in 1889.
So the new republic brings along, from the Colony and Monarchy days, the old stigma of making believe, and becomes part of the daily political routine. Fast-forward to today, the only difference is that there are a lot more political parties. Not to mention what the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985 did to solidify and consolidate the make believe concept.
In 1985, the campaign “DIRETAS JÁ” (Direct elections) made the Brazilians believe that they finally would be able to control their destiny. In 1988, they also saw a new Constitution being voted by Congress, and that extended further that sentiment and hope for a better future. But as it probably could not be different with a very young democracy, just like an infant still learning to walk, many distortions were created, culminating with an overly extended freedom without safeguards of accountability.
Brazil as young Democracy still had not learned the true lesson that freedom only comes with education and informed citizens. However, that was never a priority for the politicians and governments, other than to make it believe, especially around elections, and focus solely on their personal gains.
Today, if you ask a dozen Brazilians how many political parties are in the country, you will get a dozen different answers. There are 33 with a 34th brewing. Last month there were 29. Not a single party is able to govern without forming a coalition of many different parties, not even Lula. This proliferation of parties has turned the science of politics in Brazil into a bargaining counter.
Recently, an American political scientist made the comparison between the political structures of Brazil and United States. He commented that, while in the US it was mainly a bi-partisan structure, the parties always remained the same and what changed were the politicians, in Brazil it was the other way around, what changed were the parties, the politicians were always the same.
Most politicians in Brazil are more concerned with the image then their effectiveness. Most of them make sure that they are able to legislate to protect their feuds and shield themselves from any accountability for wrongdoing. Nevertheless, most politicians are so infatuated with themselves in the mirror, they never saw the “social tsunami” coming.
The protests were sparked by one more insensitive dog-cheap move by governors and mayors, with the hiking of the bus fare. However, this was just the last drop in the bucket that made it overflow with all the dissatisfaction and resentments from the population after many years of corruption and lies from most of the politicians in Congress.
How can they explain taking over 30 years to vote on political reform bill? How can they explain not being able to come to terms with a minimum wage baseline, but be able to vote within 24 hours for their own salaries increase? How to explain that they recently created a bill, PEC 37, that in essence it is designed to prevent them from public prosecution for any possible wrongdoing, putting themselves above the law?
So the Brazilian population could not accept any longer the make believe, and decided to take the streets to protest against the bus hikes, against corruption, against the lack of priorities for health and education, against the constant poor quality of public services, against the make believe politicians that hide themselves behind deceived voters.
The protests in Brazil are peaceful in nature and have nothing to do with the images that most of the press ends up highlighting. Yes, there has been some violence out in the streets, provoked by gangs and thieves taking advantage of the situation. They will soon go away, as they do not have the legitimacy nor the sustainability to fight for real change in the country.
Where these protests will end up and what results will bring, we still do not know. Two things for sure: The Giant has finally woken up, and now it will only get better, as the population has already manifested their zero tolerance with the make believe. Brazil now has a real chance to build a solid democracy with solid checks and balances. Not just for the English to see, but for the whole world.