Opinion, by Simon Thomas
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In Brazil right now it feels a bit like the last few scenes of one of those movies where the protagonist finally overcomes the main villain and there appears a series of black frames with writing, the so-called epilogue, telling of how things went down, who confessed, died, fled the country or lived happily ever after.
Such a film, something like “The Untouchables in Brazil”, “How to Lose an Economy in Ten Years” or simply “Brazilian Psycho”, could have any one of fifty bad guys (or gals), yet would likely end with the same epilogue no matter which way the story was told.
I myself will probably not want to watch this movie, primarily because the majority of the ongoing protests, political speeches, expert analyses and social network-driven diatribes, all of which would likely be included somewhere, are just so damn frustrating and at times utterly bewildering that I do not want to see or hear of them ever again.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been engrossing this first time around, especially for a gringo (nine years in country) who’s never seen anything like it before. Indeed, it’s been kind of exciting waking up each day to news of another police raid, leaked audio file, high profile defection or mass protest, and then following the repercussions throughout the day. It´s just that it´s now all getting a bit tiring, and somewhat hazardous. And did I mention very damn frustrating? Get to the end already, kind director.
It’s not like I haven’t been patient. Everyone knows Brazil is like this. These things take time, they get caught up in red tape, the ones responsible have a coffee and will get back to it soon, muita calma nessa hora.
Plus it is always hard to know just how much of the information you are being fed is actually legitimate. You see Brazil, apparently, has the most ideology-driven, dishonest media on the planet, with few alternative views, despite the fact that the internet has existed here for at least a few years now. Apparently.
This is actually one of my greatest personal vexations about this country. Echoing the quintessential good vs bad movie format, in Brazil it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from, what you do, how much money you make, etcetera etcetera, the popular wisdom is that you are either manipulated by or manipulating the media.
There is very little room for fact, or even grey areas, for honest reporting or trustworthy analysis. Absolutely everything has been spun, apparently. Sure, this concept is not restricted to Brazil, see the likes of Fox and CNN in the U.S., for example, it’s just that in Brazil it feels like that this is now a defining element of the social fabric.
However much substance there is to this idea or whether you believe it to be a (not so) clever ploy of the country’s true power-brokers, in the end it is just not helpful at all and very bloody annoying. Almost as irritating is that foreign commentators almost always buy into this seemingly compulsory polarization, although there are so few legitimate ones around that they are easy enough to ignore.
Without getting much further into this issue, which, given this article itself is interwoven into the very phenomenon I am commenting on, is effectively impossible to resolve here, I will only add that it seems very strange that a country with an apparently overwhelmingly conservative, hawkish media – featuring one all-powerful, omnipresent network that indoctrinates everyone in its path, in between soap operas, of course – is about to enter its 14th year of left-wing rule. Well, probably not, actually.
Contrary to the impression created by this widespread theory of a malicious media machine run by Dr Evil, Brazil does in fact have plenty of alternatives, like the above-mentioned “internet”, for instance, and people do have access to “information technology”, like smartphones, notebooks and tablets, and a good portion of the population can read, and reason, and research information for themselves.
Certainly, those that don’t and can’t must also rely on the government to feed them news and opinions, all in good faith, of course, but that´s not important right now, nudge wink. Anyway, however you look at it, the blame game has to stop somewhere, you would hope.
Back to the movie. In terms of style it must be fairly obvious by now that it will primarily be a criminal investigation film, mixed in with a fledgling prison break scheme and various romantic scenes involving myriad politicians.
The crime, for those still interested, involves the destruction of a once reasonable economy. Two years of recession with a predicted eight percent decline in GDP at a time when similar countries are getting along OK is undeniably a heinous felony, and someone has to pay, apart from the taxpayer.
Sure, Petrobras is in there as well, and the billions in bribes run through her will form the backdrop for many scenes, but the real transgression is a government giving up on actually trying to manage and develop a fully functioning country.
Corruption always has existed and always will, and there’s no doubt it has to be fought and minimized, but there’s simply no excuse for democratically elected leadership that puts itself first to the severe detriment of its dominion.
The prison break plot will occur mid-way through and offer a bit of light entertainment, tying in a number of the key players from the private and public sectors, and will serve as a key turning point in the investigations, giving the second half of the movie some oomph.
The upright chief investigator and ragtag bunch of co-conspirators will trade barbs as they pave the way for the final scenes, with the backroom deliberations stripping all sense of nobility and decorum from the rest of the villains in the narrative. All but one.
She will be left until last. In that kind of bittersweet ending where some smirk and some weep, the once proud, staunch, virtuous leader will be reduced to a shadow of her former self, offering increasingly loud, incongruous and desperate war cries as she clings fast to her former mentor-turned-executive assistant, he himself trapped in a farmhouse web of his own making, until at last the cursed embrace is broken, the red drains from their faces and she is left alone, powerless, wondering where it all went wrong.
Come to think of it, maybe I will see that movie. If anything, it will be an important backdrop for the sequel, a part horror part redemption tale scheduled for 2017.