Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Times They Are A-Changin' (A-Bit).

Bollocks to the football.

It was always going to take something special to bring Your Life Is An Impossibility out of retirement. A third World War. Santa Cruz winning the Libertadores. The return of Guinness the Dog from the dead (we’ll save that story for another time).

Or more improbable than any of those (the first one excepted), Brazil finally stirring from its torpor, getting its arse off the sofa and its introspective gaze away from the novelas and the futebol, and hitting the streets.

YLIAI doesn’t mind admitting that he’d almost had it with Brazil. This is not an easy statement to make. Eight years. A few million words. Enough memories to last several lifetimes. And at times a love that was both deep and soaring for a country that is somehow simultaneously the best and the worst place in the world. As Fernand Braudel almost said (by way of the immortal Peter Robb), “Brazil made YLIAI intelligent." Or less stupid, anyway. No matter the weariness, hard to throw all that away and head back to chilly, gloomy Norn Iron.

Now though, electroshock paddles have been applied to the YLIAI temples, an adrenalin shot pumped into the YLIAI veins. Hope, as it always does, springs eternal.

By now, everyone must know about the wave of protests sweeping the country. Brazil, and the povo Brasileiro, seem to have awoken. Nobody knows where it will end. The #PasseLivre movement, and the hundred or so other factions involved in the protests, the biggest of which is of course the Brazilian people, have diverse and often confused goals and dreams (the sacking of Castle FIFA, the heads of Feliciano and Calheiros (and maybe even Dilma) on spikes outside the city walls, the quashing of PEC37, reform of the country’s brutish military police, free bus travel, and political change on a massive leve, are just some of them). It is to be hoped that it will not all simply f-f-f-fade away, that a few token gestures by the political establishment (the reducing of bus fares by a couple of centavos, for example), will not cause the movement’s energy to dissipate. Brazil’s problems are bigger than that by several galaxies, as is the potential for change that the protests represent.

The facts of the story have been dealt with in great detail by journalists from Teresina to Tashkent. YLIAI (now a pretend/proper journalist writer himself) will, in time-honoured fashion, take the easy way out with a couple of personal observations, thus:

(1) Now back in stolid old Belo Horizonte, the sticky, sweaty, even occasionally sensual charms of Recife a distant memory, YLIAI has recently made a new friend, a wildly intelligent, socially caring tax lawyer (these varied characteristics are not always mutually exclusive, though they almost always are) who we may call Captain Ahab (this is not his real name). Captain Ahab recently charmed the socks off YLIAI and his regionally inclusive soul by saying that the Copa do Mundo, for all its many faults, would at least make Brazil “one country for the first time”, in that snooty Paulistas and Cariocas would have to acknowledge that places like Cuiabá and Manaus actually existed, by watching World Cup games from said outposts. Captain Ahab, however, was just plain wrong. The protests have beaten the World Cup to it, and in a far more profound fashion, by making Brazil’s hideously divided society (rich: shopping malls+4x4s+condomiums+clubes / poor: favelas/buses/bars with dead rats in the toilets) almost whole. The manifestantes, it seems, are black and brown kids from the periferia, whiter than goat’s milk playboyzinhos from the walled apartment buildings, student political leaders and chancers, history and literature professors, not to mention those just along for the ride and to post photos of themselves on Instagram (eu estava lá!). In Brazil, this in itself is truly a marvellous thing.

An anecdote. Yesterday lunchtime YLIAI was chomping down some torresmo and feijão tropeiro at a restaurant in BH’s leafy Savassi neighbourhood (living in Minas does nothing for one’s waistline). A big TV blared images of the local police shock troops, surprisingly terrified of a bunch of scrawny/podgy students, chucking tear gas and rubber bullets around and generally beating seven bells out of said scrawny/podgy students. A sharp-suited lawyer, sporting de rigueur wrap around shades (not Captain Ahab), wandered past. Seeing the alarming images on the TV, he paused. Stared. “Fucking bastards,” he said (referring to the police, not the protesters). Not marginais (the standard war cry of the Brazilian privileged classes). Not Brasil não tem educação (“bunch of bloody savages in Brazil”, to translate with the heart, rather than the head). The sharp-suited lawyer and the unwashed masses in joyful congress. Not since the days of the caras pintadas (if even then) has such a phenomenon existed.

(2) TV Globo. Ah, where to begin? (one might start with the last post on YLIAI, almost eighteen months ago). TV Globo is the undetected cancer of Brazilian society, the cheap mouthwash for the mind that keeps the country and its citizens hypnotized in a state of slack-jawed, drooling imbecility. The fifth (at least it used to be, last time YLIAI heard) biggest TV network in the world, as rich as the pharaohs, and purveyor of at least eighteen hours of mind rotting, morally and intellectually bankrupt trash per day. Excluding Big Brother Brasil (which makes its British equivalent look like In Our Time), YLIAI’s favourite Globo segment is Sunday afternoon, when Esquenta! (gurning, deeply unpleasant female TV presenter screams things like what a party!, come on guys!, and woo-hoo! at a studio audience seemingly hopped on ketamine) is followed by Domingão with Faustão (gurning, deeply unpleasant male TV presenter screams things like what a party!, come on guys!, and woo-hoo! at a studio audience seemingly hopped on ketamine). Globo has never knowingly broadcast any intellectual content of any description, other than hard hitting documentary series Globo Reporter, which makes This Morning with Richard and Judy look like Woodward and Bernstein. A didactic aside to o povo brasileiro – next time you feel like saying “the problem in Brazil is a lack of education,” remember that education doesn’t just happen in schools. It can also occasionally, magically, come from that box in the corner of the room (though not often, admittedly).

YLIAI digresses. Last night, the Globo news (probably the least spine-chilling program on the network – YLIAI will even admit to having a soft spot for the Posh and Becks of Brazilian news reading, William and Fátima. Of course, Globo had to then go and split them up) covered the protests in São Paulo. The journalist-on-the-spot mentioned that some of the protesters had (shock horror) been shouting rude words, some of which were foda-se (“away and feck yourself”) and Globo. Cut to the studio. Earnest, toothsomely attractive newsreader Patricia Poeta (Patricia the Poet, no less) turned to camera. “Now listen,” she said, suddenly the stern spinsterly schoolmarm, “TV Globo has been reporting on the demonstrations since the beginning, and has hidden nothing: we’ve shown the police brutality, the #PasseLivre demands, the peaceful nature of the protests, plus of course the vandalism. It’s our duty. The right to protest and demonstrate peacefully is the right of every citizen.” Or something like that. YLIAI can’t quite remember exactly, though such a defence of journalistic honesty and integrity did make him recall the immortal Peter Robb’s (again) account of Roberto Marinho and Globo’s sinister meddling in the 1989 Lula-Collor elections. Still, the message was clear. Globo isn’t calling anyone vandals or hooligans (though they had earlier, several times). Globo understands the protesters. Globo cares.

YLIAI retired for the night and lay awake, pondering what he had seen. Could it be that Globo was, well, bottling it? Abandoning its normally stout championing of Brazil’s upper middle classes, and its contempt for the country's poor? Like the sharp-suited lawyer, there was no shrieking “marginais!” here. Did Globo believe something big was happening? Was Globo concerned that the trendy left wing liberal gringo press had its eye trained on Brazil, and that it wouldn’t be too clever to be seen to be aligning itself with the side of police brutality, political corruption, and (Everybody Hates) FIFA?

Globo (almost) apologising. Asking for acceptance? It felt like an historic moment. In his grave, Roberto Marinho was probably spinning wildly.

There is much more to be said, but YLIAI is tired and wants to go to bed, and has already said more than enough. Maybe he will be back. It feels like there is much more to come. Perhaps the Brazilian people will turn their backs on the novelas and the rest for good, and make their voices heard, not just now, but permanently. Perhaps the rancid colossi that stand astride the Brazilian political landscape, from Feliciano (the gay cure! The Curse of Ham! Oh Marco, with such treats you are really spoiling us!), to Calheiros, to noxious whiskey priest Jose Marin, will be toppled. Perhaps, the bus companies really will bring their fares down by 20c.

YLIAI dares to dream.


Richie said...

Nice to have you back

Alec said...

Fantastic piece. Glad you referenced 'A death in Brazil', one.of my preferred books on the topic of the country's often unbelievable political corruption.

V. O. said...

Excellent piece and slang translations