Opinion by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Curmudgeon really shouldn’t write about Carnival, because he doesn’t appreciate it properly. He has, after all, fallen asleep at the Sambódromo during one of the splendiferous parades. Fact.
So, this Curmudgeonly contribution to Carioca culture is not about Carnival — it’s about the Colliers Dictionary 2017 Word of the Year: “fake news”.
A story in yesterday’s Globo newspaper repeats the misleading claim that Mayor Marcello Crivella has cut the “subventions” paid to the major Samba Schools by fifty percent.
In late 2016, outgoing Mayor Eduardo Paes, in a blatant attempt to buy votes for his preferred successor, dramatically increased the city’s “subvention” by one hundred percent, from R$1 million to R$2 million.
In 2017, incoming Mayor Crivella chose to reinstate the 2016 figure, which had previously been deemed sufficient by the Samba Schools. The 2018 “subvention” is not really a reduction, it’s a return to reality.
Moving on, the Curmudgeon spied in the same Globo issue, an opinion article claiming the Mayor’s failure to fund the minor samba schools borders on “the crime of lesa cultura” which in English might be rendered “lèse culture”, similar to “lèse majesté” — defined by Colllns Dictionary as “insolent or slighting behavior towards a sovereign”.
In modern governments, there is no crime of “lèse culture”, just as there is no crime of “lèse majesté”.
The Globo article claims that the minor samba school leagues are the seedlings of the world-renowned mega-event that has made Rio famous, and that if the City does not nurture these sprouts, all of Carnaval will soon wither and fade away.
What the Curmudgeon knows is that Culture (with a capital “C”), that which is truly popular, has always come from the hearts and minds and bodies and souls of people, not from the purses of the government tax collector. True Culture is popular because the people create it, and love it and nurture it and exercise it.
True Culture does not depend upon government participation, and for a very good reason — governments are censors. The primary function of any Ministry of Culture is to define what is “culture” and what is not; the secondary function is to support “culture” that fits within its definition, and to censor anything else.
True Culture, of course, has always thrived beyond the pale of government censors. For instance, samba was banned by past governments; funk is banned by governments today; however, both survive and thrive because they are of the people, by the people, and for the people.
To say that samba schools in the B, C, D and E minor leagues will not survive without the pittance they’ve been getting from the Rio government is, yet again, “Fake news!” The good ones will thrive, through the support of the people; the poor ones will not.