Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A leitmotif of the just-released MIB3 is people saying profoundly: “Never ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to.” In Brazil, a very popular tagline is “tudo acaba em pizza” (everything winds up as pizza). A Curmudgeonly explication of these subtexts follows.

The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.
The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.

The Brazilian phrase has its origin, not in politics as most people these days think, but in football, aka soccer. Way back in the Sixties, there was a power struggle between two warring factions of Palmeiras, a São Paulo football power, long known as the team supported by all Paulistas of Italian descent.

Fourteen hours of a meeting filled with acrimony, accusations, allegations, arm waving and arguments had resulted in no solution, but… everybody was hungry. So, being good Italians, off they went to the nearest pizzeria and ordered eighteen large. The sports page headline the next day trumpeted the restored harmony by stating “tudo terminou em pizza.”

Since then, the phrase has been used to describe what happens when two or more warring factions, typically politicos, have created a situation where each charges the others with corruption, prevarication, defamation, and other crimes and misdemeanors.

Hours, days, weeks or even months of mutual recriminations, amid threats of legal action and/or fisticuffs, are all duly headlined by the Fourth Estate, which thrives on such fodder. But then, nothing (aka pizza) happens.

This brings us to the CPI, short for a Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito, or a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee, which is formed when the legislative branch decides it should investigate alleged illicitudes rather than wasting its time on laws. This has recently occurred after disclosures in the press of suspicious relationships between several prominent pols and one Carlos Cachoeira, a “bicheiro” or numbers racket boss.

So, after much hemming and hawing, amid blatant intro-missions by the Executive Branch, anxious to ensure its own nefarious henchmen were not ensnared, the competing factions in Congress did eventually agree upon the number of committee members, which parties got to appoint how many of them and, most importantly, who will choose those to be investigated.

Obviously, that is not the way to conduct a serious investigation. But, equally obviously, that’s the point.

A serious investigation into corruption is the last thing anyone in Congress wants. Corruption is so rampant within the ranks of the legislature that no one will be willing to ask any questions that deserves an answer, because they don’t want to know the answer—or, more accurately, they don’t want the public to know the answer.

So they call witnesses (e.g. Mr. Cachoeira) who will plead their right not to incriminate themselves and will refuse to answer questions. And, learning from MIB3, committee members will refuse to ask any question they don’t want (us) to know the answer to.

After endless pointless sessions, replete with posturing opportunities for CPI members to do self-serving sound bites, mendaciously proclaiming their desire to eradicate corruption from their ranks, the Cachoeira CPI, like all prior CPI’s, will close its deliberations without bringing any charges and without publicizing any findings, and its members will all repair to the nearest (figurative) pizzeria, where they will clink! their glasses and celebrate their great victory over corruption.

Then, wearing black suits and sunglasses, the pizza pols will flick on their gadgets, turn them towards voters, and click! The Cachoeira CPI? What Cachoeira CPI? Oh, yeah, now I remember! Nothing happened, it wound up in pizza!

Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus 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!)


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