Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Curmudgeon, who for years has deemed politics his favorite spectator sport, has been watching the demonstrations, and has paid particular attention to several slogans that are now brandished by protesters. Following up on last week’s PEC 37, he will now clarify other things people are saying.
1. “Padrão FIFA” – denotation: literally, “FIFA standard”; shorthand for “first world”; connotation: ironic, commonly used in phrases such as “we want ‘padrão FIFA’ in education, sanitation, transportation, etc.”; derivation: FIFA insists that the stadia where it stages its quadrennial “panes et circenses” be of a standard where overweight elderly persons from the First World (read Switzerland, FIFA’s home) will feel comfortable; contradiction: demonstrators are appalled by the cost overruns which have lined the pockets of “picaretas” (see definition below) and don’t want the new stadia. FIFA, on the other hand, says all it wants is stadia, it doesn’t care about anything else.
2. “300 Picaretas” – denotation (obsolete): 300 pick-axes; connotation (less obsolete): 300 crooks, swindlers, charlatans, phonies—in short, politicos lacking honesty, ethics and/or morals; derivation: during his three unsuccessful runs for the Presidency, Lula used the phrase to refer to Congress, or half the members thereof, almost none of whom belonged to his party; contradiction: it should now be 600 picaretas, because there are 594 federal deputies and senators, most belonging to Lula’s party and its allies; if any reader knows of a single one of those who is honest or ethical please write the Curmudgeon, who doesn’t.
3. “Passe Livre” – denotation: “free pass”; connotation: a free ride on public transportation; derivation: a 1998 Law, which put an end to the indentured servitude (look it up in a real dictionary) previously imposed on professional footballers by their clubs; contradiction: primary and secondary school children already have this right, as do “seniors” age 65+; the working classes could care less, because they don’t pay bus fares now—their employers uniformly grant them the “vale transporte” or transportation voucher, of which a measly eight percent is taken out of their salary. So a bus fare of R$3,00 costs workers R$0,24; the R$0,20 rise in fares works out to less than two centavos per trip. It’s not about the R$0.20.
4. “Constituinte” – denotation: a Convention designed to draw up a Constitution (think Founding Fathers); connotation: a place where 600 picaretas (see above) can, as if by magic, transmogrify themselves into a body filled with honest responsible persons (again think Founding Fathers); derivation: constituents are voters, and in truly democratic systems, elected representatives must defend their constituents’ political interests; contradiction: Brazilian federal politicians have no constituents, because elections are statewide and controlled by the party elite—ask any Brazilian to name the Congressperson who represents her, but don’t be disappointed by the blank stare you will receive in return.
5. “Nenhum partido nos representa!” – denotation: No political party represents us; connotation: No political party represents us; derivation: in a representative democracy political parties and politicians should represent their constituents; contradiction: in Brazil, they don’t.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 35 years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)