By now the world beyond Brazil has heard about the tragic fire of two weeks ago in the disco Kiss, in the town of Santa Maria, state of Rio Grande do Sul. The similarities between this most recent nightclub disaster and so many others are startling. How is it that nothing ever changes? Whether it’s Boston in 1942 or West Warwick, Rhode Island in 2003 or Buenos Aires in 2004, clubs are still allowing illegal pyrotechnic flares to be used in closed rooms full of flammable, toxic materials. Exit doors are still being locked and chained from the outside and windows are still being boarded up. And bouncers are still blocking the escape routes of panicked, screaming people because they can’t let them leave without paying. Jeez, do they teach them that in Bouncer School?
There has been plenty already written about the Santa Maria tragedy itself, I won’t add much more to it here. What I’m watching is what’s happening all around Brazil in the tragedy’s aftermath. All of a sudden, laws that have been ignored for decades are being rigorously enforced. All of a sudden, there is manpower aplenty to conduct inspections of hundreds of thousands of nightclubs, bars, restaurants and theaters. Most of the public venues being inspected are, indeed, operating without proper documents and against safety regulations. But ostentatiously shutting them down after allowing them to operate in the first place? Visions of Captain Renault closing down Rick’s Place in Casablanca run through my head:
Look, I’m all for abiding by the law. I come from a country of (mostly) law-abiding citizens. But no one’s being fooled here, these inspections and closures are predictable and heavy-handed. Can’t help but think, What if they had been doing these inspections all along, in a timely manner and on a rotating schedule? How many lives might have been saved? Because doing it now, in one fell swoop, with no discussion allowed, is resulting in draconian closures, a huge economic impact and the renewed cynicism of an already cynical public. It’s the quintessential closing of the stable door after the horse has bolted.
|CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE!!!|