Opinion, By Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – “Rolezinhos” (“flash mobs”) have sprung up like mushrooms around urban centers in Brazil during the past few weeks. Shopping malls have seen hundreds or even thousands of youths assemble and ramble and rumble through the corridors, rarely entering a shop.
Scary? Probably so. Dangerous? Probably not. Illegal? Again, probably not. After all, the freedom of peaceful assembly has long been one of the most important of human rights, as is the right to come and go freely in times of peace.
Back to mushrooms. A hoary old joke about the corporate rat-race likens employees to mushrooms in a farm where “they keep you in the dark and every so often someone comes along and dumps a load of [excrement] on you.” Some commentators portray the “rolezinho” participants (we’ll call them “rollers”) as mushrooms, long kept in the dark of their squalid “communities” and periodically dumped on by the better off.
This theory treats the events like social protests, where the former underclass have decided to break their bonds of indentured servitude and parade their newly emergent wealth (most wear ostentatious clothes and accessories) as a way of saying “Yo, Dude! Check me out!” It’s a sort of “in your face” attitude.
Back to mushrooms (again). Mushrooms come in all colors, but most are not white. One online definition of “mushroom” color for trousers is “darker than dark tan and lighter than light brown.” In Brazilian terminology that matches the catch-all phrase for dark-skinned people, i.e. “morenos”.
From newspaper accounts, most of the “rollers” are “morenos”. If one can believe certain commentators, “rolezinhos” are protests against oppressive white supremacy, as evidenced by the opulent shopping malls where “morenos” are rarely to be seen.
In this vein, let us reflect on the malls’ reactions. Several have gone to court to obtain injunctions against “rolezinhos”. Two ritzy malls in Leblon simply closed their doors when faced with an “invasion” of hundreds or thousands of people. Nobody was let in or out.
Some pundits see in this search for injunctions, or lockdowns, a form of racism — a variation on South African apartheid or the Jim Crow laws in the U.S. where non-whites were not allowed access. In other words, overt racism.
The Curmudgeon isn’t buying any of these alleged rationales.
The “rollers” aren’t protesting anything at all, they just want to have fun. Because they are adolescents, fun involves making a lot of noise. As someone young once said about rock and roll music: “if it’s too loud, you’re too old.” In the adolescent world, when you can have fun and upset a bunch of older people, you’ve had a really good day.
Nor is this racism. The shop owners in malls don’t give a hoot what color your skin is, as long as your credit cards are good. Lots of the “rollers” are wearing gear that’s sold in luxury malls. What shop owners do care about is having shoppers who shop; carousing around corridors is not shopping. If your mall is known as a place where “rolezinhos” regularly occur, you will lose the bulk of your clients, no matter what their color.
So, what’s the solution? The Curmudgeon doesn’t have one. He wishes he did.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 36 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!)