Editorial, by Stone Korshak
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Now that Carnival is over the city takes a breath – or a nap – and waits for the rains to wash the hangovers and stench of teen spirit away. Although this year there is some added unwelcome leftover, trash, piles of it left by the striking garbage workers.
At first I thought, to mimic my English friend – “those cheeky buggers” – going on strike at a time like Carnival when the city is already a dung-heap of empty beer cans and unmentionables.
Then as we dug into the story it came to light they are asking for a raise from R$803 (US$345) to R$1,200 (US$515) a month, the daily food allowance to be raised from R$12 to R$20 (US$8.50), and overtime payment for work on Sundays and public holidays.
Picking up garbage is not a desirable job, let’s face it, if you are reading this then it means it would be hard to pay you enough to empty trash bins and sweep the streets up. In the U.S. it is no less desirable, but they sure do get paid well.
It brought me back to a familiar topic of ours, the economic inequality in Brazil, the political super-salaries, the highest paid executives in the world, and one of the most bloated expensive governments in the world. I find it hard to believe they can’t pay these guys double what they are asking for and not be able to balance their books.
Of course there is the thirteenth month salary and an amazing amount of public holidays and (at your own risk) free healthcare and education, but no one can delude themselves to think the life of someone making R$803 or R$1,200 a month can live near comfort in one of the most expensive cities in the hemisphere.
As another Carnival passes it strikes me the people of Brazil need to demand more, and although in my bubble the last thing I want to see is more trash overflowing on the street and more protests clashing with police, maybe drastic times call for drastic measures. With all the troubles in the world, peace and quiet sounds good, but … Someone has to do something.
Perhaps trying to watch “12 Years a Slave” last night got my blood boiling. After the tenth viciously gruesome whipping scene I actually stopped watching the film, but the capacity to oppress and exploit others is a human trait that must be resisted, by capitalists, socialists and all patriots alike.
Carnival in Rio was amazing, and the World Cup will be even more euphoric across Brazil, but the protest movement bubbling under the surface of the “country of tomorrow” could easily be back. Hopefully as powerful, peaceful, positive protesting of an unacceptably imbalanced society.
Side note: Just before Carnival in 2012, strikes by police and firefighters affected Bahia and Rio de Janeiro… in case anyone forgot.
End note: Carnival in Rio this year was fantastic and the blocos are a democratic way for Brazilians (and travelers) to set their worries aside for four long days to celebrate. I hope this never changes.