RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – First off, Happy 4th of July to all our American readers, and happy ‘see-ya’ day to our British readers. The relationship between empire and colony is usually a touchy subject but it seems the U.S. and the UK have handled it well as the years have passed.
Perhaps it is like my older brother and I, we started to get along much better after I grew larger than him. But that alone does not make for friendly relations, and Brazil and Portugal seem to get on well enough as well.
In the U.S., as it’s so geographically large, if you live in say Vermont, you can say “those people in Georgia are crazy, they eat possum and all travel everywhere with guns in their truck.”
Or even closer to home, marveling at how people in New York City live on top of each other but never talk to their neighbors, are rude to everyone on the street and know some secret about which taxis are available.
The point is society develops like a person does, part is a (cultural) genetic make-up and part is an environment, and no two societies are exactly the same. New York and Georgia, U.S. and UK, and certainly Brazil and … anywhere else.
I’ve only been living in Rio full-time for 3.3 years but there are certain social stereotypes that are well based in truth it seems. One of the biggest is that a lot of people comment on the work force, and how hard it is to find employees that actually seem to care about their job.
There is also the point-of-view that it is not a question of if a Brazilian employee will sue you, but when. The labor laws seem stacked in favor of employees, not to mention the 150 percent mark-up of taxes and benefits that an employeer already pays to have someone on the books.
My sense is – and I’ve probably written it here before in some fashion – that it is a result of the social development of semi-feudal society where the common people were so instinctively exploited that it was easier to make laws to help them after-the-fact, than change the cycle of inequality.
Also in the development of the society in Brazil was a sub-culture of black-market, because the taxation system was too high and too complicated and anyone that was smart enough to step around it should.
Which brings us to the the social development of grey laws, corruption – or ‘take care of yourself’ culture. With semi-feudal laws and even semi-more-feudal application of those laws, anyone smart enough would put themselves in a place to manipulate those pesky laws more efficiently.
That would be inside the system, inside the government. Now sure, it is also a steady paycheck in a country without a steady economy for a long time, but it has always been about the fully compensation package, and the natural gaming of the package.
So now, after all these decades of social development Brazil has a government work force that is paid more 88 percent of the time than the private sector. Which is amazing really.
However – and I know I’ve written this here before – Brazil is a country and a culture that is changing faster then an adolescent with a driver’s license. Balancing acceleration with caution and we’re all just hoping it ends well.