Letter to the Editor by Victor Cherubim
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – There appear to be fault lines around the globe, where like volcanic eruptions, new “political shakes” in cities are exploding to tear up “civilised life.” They are as much unpredictable as earthquakes or tsunamis. Call it protests, demos, sit-ins or “sit-downs.” They are civil disobedience. It is a form of direct action that involves people often non-violently occupying an area (a centre of attraction) for a protest, often to promote political, social or economic change through disruption.
It has, over time, possibly since the Civil Rights march in 1964, been a modus operandi for drawing attention to causes and grievances, often quelled by the use of further violence, which in turn arouses sympathy from the public.
In Brazil since Thursday 19th June 2013, “police and protesters have fought in the streets in more than 80 cities in the biggest demonstrations yet against a government viewed as corrupt at all levels and unresponsive to its people,” reads a news-line.
When we think of Brazil, we associate it with Copacabana, carnival, cornucopia, and much less, but soon, with the 2014 Football World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. We hardly can imagine just weeks before the visit of Pope Francis to Brazil in July this year that the people of Brazil will take to the streets to protest.
Bus fare increases set off the initial protest. Financial corruption is one of many issues. In a country where poverty is pervasive and public education is in shambles, the minimum wage of $300 is more than cause for frustration. Did I say education, yes!
As more than a million people protested in many cities across Brazil and took the government to task on a broad range of issues including political corruption, high cost of living and spending lavishly devoting building stadiums for the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, there perhaps could have been another more real reason for the unrest.
Though the protests in Brazil, as far as we know, were vented peacefully, even joyfully at times as a mass awakening, there were reports that some of the demands of the protesters were ridiculous. Some say there is a growing class of “vagabonds” work-shy generation, who appear clueless about what they want in life and “who want everything for nothing.”
These “dispossessed” are seen around everywhere, who from victim status easily become “manipulated” or fall a prey to join any bandwagon of protest and vent their grievance on
public destruction. Is this conjecture or conspiracy? Is this the reward for being indolent?
Although like many fears, this fear may be discounted, nevertheless it resides, in the minds of many who look for progress as if it is a panacea of all evils. Progress yes, but at what cost? The dignity of the individual is the paramount cost of the nation. Even President Obama has stated: “Perpetual war on terrorism is self defeating.”
Terrorism, self radicalisation, containing youth anarchism is a sign of the times. They need to be tackled with precision and on time. The digital revolution has changed the very notion of how to contain these evils. But we as a civilised society must situate these evils and help achieve social stability, if we are to continue as a civilised society.
The action of Governments
The knee jerk reaction of governments is the use of riot police, rubber bullets and water cannon.
But unlike other governments the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a Marxist rebel who fought against Brazil’s 1964/88 military regime and was imprisoned for 3 years, was tortured by the junta, has now proclaimed:
“We need to oxygenate our political system………….. and make it more transparent.”
She and her government hope to diffuse the unrest by measures using all oil revenues for education. Yes, education. Besides, thousands of doctors would be brought in from overseas to assist the public health service.
The Brazil protests have caught the authorities on the hop, on the back foot. This is nothing new. We saw this in Greece, where to complete the work for the Olympics in time; money was poured in, along “with concrete and buildings.” Work was barely complete in time for the Greek Olympics.
The Outcome of overspend
Where is Greece today after this over expenditure? Everyone knows Greece is dependent on the hand-out from the EU and the Government of Greece is selling their embassy in London, but also privatising their broadcasting “stations” in Greece.
Every country wants to excel. Every country wants to hold the Olympics. Every country wants to contain the cost of living. But devoting too much money in the name of progress when there is underlying causes to be overcome is a short sighted policy.