22 July 2013

The 20¢ Revolution

Okay, so we leave Brazil for three short weeks, our first trip abroad in over two years, and the Brazilians go and have a Revolution! There had been some rumblings just as we were leaving, but nothing like the news reports we began to read about in the papers, or see on hotel TVs, reports of mass demonstrations all over Brazil, waves of huge protests, with violence and vandalism, all because of a 20¢ increase in some bus fares. A 20¢ increase in some bus fares? No, it had to be more than that. And indeed it was. The 20¢ increase was merely the last straw in an avalanche of inequities that have been crushing Brazil for years, inequities and injustices that all at once — pushed by the 20¢ — have made the entire country stand up and shout out the window, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

We followed the unfolding story as best we could in the French press, and whenever we had a good enough Internet connection we read O Globo and The New York Times. Given the complexity of the issues, it was heartening to see that even most non-Brazilian reporters seemed to have a good bead on the story. Read Larry Rohter in The Times or James Surowiecki in The New Yorker and you’ll get it in a second. It’s not all that hard really. But I won’t regurgitate what those reporters have said. I’ll let the Brazilian people speak for themselves:

"Pardon the disruption, we’re changing Brazil"

"We don’t need tear gas, the government’s already given us plenty of reasons to cry"

"He’s not a bandit, he’s not a rapist, he’s not a drug dealer . . . he’s a teacher who’s just fighting to earn more than $363.85 per month"

"We want schools and hospitals at FIFA’s standard -- I can’t be bought for ten cents"

"Stop the robbery or we’ll stop Brazil"

We returned to Brazilian soil a few days before a scheduled one-day nationwide general strike. Half of me wanted to go out and participate, but I admit that my other half was happy to stay home and organize my recipes. The strike had mixed results, though, in that some cities were severely disrupted and some not affected at all. In Búzios it was business as usual, as if nothing were going on. But I firmly believe, along with many other people, that the giant has awakened and will not go back to sleep anytime soon. But wouldn’t you know it, just as the Brazilian people are clamoring for their rights, the tone deaf Brazilian Congress has gone and taken its vacation!

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