Thursday, 12 May 2011

Recife, Pernambuco, Your Life Is An Impossibility’s spiritual home, is not just a wild and dusty cracked jewel of a city perched on the bony shoulder of America Do Sul. It is also capital of many things – of the state of Pernambuco, of overweight gentlemen pumping deafening (and ear-wreckingly awful) music from their car stereos whilst sucking down litres of Skol, of large polystyrene chickens standing mute sentinel over two million carnaval revellers, and of epically and romantically doomed sleeping football giants (which sounds like a subject for another blog), as well as of pitted and cracked tarmac passing as roads.

But enough of the positives. It is also the capital of people losing their rag for no good reason, and of beeping car horns (which also sounds like a subject for another blog), and, most of all, of complaining.

Recifenses complain about everything, particularly the burghers of As Republicas Independentes of Boa Viagem (and environs both physical and spiritual). Following recent fluvial excesses in the region a street protest was mounted against rain. Banners and placards were waved at sullen skies. Sullen skies took the protesters’ complaints on board and responded eloquently – by raining a bit more.

The culture of complaining is an intricate one. People who will never and would never take the bus complain about the appalling public transport system (which is in fact comparable to public transport systems in many similar sized cities across the world – a load of buses and a skimpy two line metro service). They also complain about the terrible traffic, which of course is a direct result of their decision not to use the appalling public transport system, and subsequently clog the roads by virtue of 2km spins to the supermarket or to pick junior up from school.

They complain, as previously mentioned, about the rain, or at least about the flooding, while at the same time lobbing crisp packets, used condoms, second hand nappies and those little packets of mayonnaise and ketchup you get with street vendor hotdogs or hamburgers into the street. The detritus, remarkably, does not miraculously biodegrade or make its happy way to heaven, but clogs the drains, which of course leads to all the flooding, if not the rain. It is really quite Nietzschean Will To Power, if you think about it – I wish to complain about the rain and the flooding, therefore I shall throw my garbage in the street to facilitate said flooding and enable myself to achieve my objective.

They complain about anti drink driving laws, which as well as reducing road deaths have the unwelcome side effect of making it a bit harder to get home when in a state of alcohol induced relaxation. They complain about why este pais nunca vai para frente, the reason for which is generally cited as being a glut of corruption, law breaking and lack of civic responsibility, while engaging in a glut of (admittedly minor level) law breaking and lack of civic responsibility themselves (driving the wrong way down one way streets, parking on top of pavements, jumping queues, buying pirate products from DVDs to edible underwear, and so on and so on).

The greatest complaint of all, however, is reserved for the most dastardly of villains seen since Bluebeard was a lad. The Brazilians. Ah, that´s the Brazilians for you, one Brazilian will say. Brazilians are like that, what can you do, cries another. Brazilians don’t respect arrangements made with other people, bemoans a third Brazilian, who doesn’t seem to be all that hot on respecting arrangements made with other people himself. It gets very confusing, trying to work out who the Brazilians are who are not the Brazilians who the Brazilians are complaining about.

YLIAI doesn’t mind. As is usually the case, he´s seen it all before. People in Norn Iron were fond of a good moan themselves. Really it boils down to the same thing – the poor get along as best they can with what they´ve got (poor Brazilians don´t complain half as much as better off Brazilians, and generally tend to adopt a grin and bear it kind of approach), the rich are happy enough because they´re rich but not as happy as they should be because they´re not as rich as they´d like to be or are scared of suddenly not being rich anymore, and the middle classes (especially the upper middle classes) aren’t poor enough to be grateful for what they have and aren´t as rich as they´d like to be, and don´t like it one bit, hence the complaining.

The dream of the upper middle class Brazilian, of course, is to hot tail it out of this godforsaken place and play house in the Never Never Land that is Europe or the USA, where as everyone knows there is no crime, pollution, traffic, holes in the road or overweight people on buses. YLIAI would like to draw attention to the plight of these poor souls – maybe an emergency fund could be set up, where people could make charitable donations inversely based on their earnings level, or in other words poor people would pay more while rich would pay less. The ultimate goal would be to buy plane tickets (one way of course) for all the wannabe exiles, who will no doubt be terribly missed.

Given that this is unlikely to happen, there is a cheaper solution for all those who complain about high taxes whilst not actually paying any tax, and all those who complain about the rubbish in the street whilst throwing rubbish in the street, and all those who complain about the traffic while making endless unnecessary car journeys and eschewing the public transport system. Simply put, sit them down and make them listen to a bit of the King Solomon of grouching, Mark E Smith and the peerless The Fall.

It was the fault of the government...
I was walking down the street when I tripped up on a discarded banana skin
And on my way down I caught the side of my head on a protruding brick chip
It was the government's fault.
I was very let down.
From the budget I was expecting a one million quid handout. 
I was very disappointed.
It was the government's fault. 
I think I'll emigrate to Sweden or Poland 
and get looked after properly by the government... 

NB: If the above photo is any example, those who complain about lawlessness in Brazil are wide of the mark. After all if I´m walking in the hills near Petropolis, Goias, surrounded by abandoned quarries, it is comforting to know that anyone in the vicinity who fancies blowing stuff up will be carrying his "blaster licence".