Sujando as Bandeiras

A semana passada (18/08), postei um blog: “As Bandeiras dos Candidatos”.  Como o periodo de propaganda eleitoral acaba de comecar, acho valido tambem levantar as criticas ou como um candidato vai jogar lama na bandeira do outro.  Varios comentarista ja estao prevendo, por exemplo, que a Marina vai receber “chumbo grosso”.  Assim ja acontece com a Dilma e Aecio.  Quais sao as criticas?

Contra a Dilma: 1) Ela nao esta fazendo o pais crescer e suas medidas economicas amarram os bracos dos empresarios e inhibem a possibilidade de expansao economica.  Em menor grau, porque eh mais complexo, vao dizer que ela interfere no Banco Central e entao politiza medidas como juros, impressao de dinheiro, etc.

2) Presidente Dilma nao consegue controlar a corrupcao no PT e nos partidos aliados do governo.

3) A Presidenta foi a principal responsavel pelo desprestigio e a queda de valor da Petrobras, e ela tem culpa no cartorio desde la atras quanto era Ministra e aprovou a compra da refinaria Pasadena.

4) Apesar de ser uma “tecnocrata”, ela nao e boa administradora e nao vem administrando bem o pais, tendo um numero absurdo de Ministerios.

5) Ela nao escuta a voz das “classes produtivas”: empresarios e banqueiros

6) Ela eh uma decepcao como successora do Lula.

7) A Presidenta, e o PT, lotou e loteou a administracao publica.

Contra a Marina:

1) Falta experiencia administrativa: Ela nem consegue organizar a Rede como partido.

2) Ela eh crente e os evangelicos sao vistos com desconfianca  e alega-se que so interessam pelo dinheiro.

3) Ela nao tem partido e nem partidos aliados.  O proprio PSB ja rachou em torno do apoio a sua candidatura.

4) Falta a Marina jogo de cintura e ela e rigida por suas conviccoes religiosas.  Ela e contra o aborto e nao gosta de casamento entre os gays.

5) Se eleita, estara sozinha sem possibilidade de governar e podera repetir algo semelhante ao ocorrido com Janio Quadros.

6) Ela eh ambientalista demais e sua politica de “tree hugging” nao eh o que o povo brasileiro quer.

7) Apesar da imagem “honestinha” na realidade ela eh comprometida com o grande capital (banqueiros, Natura)

Contra o Aecio:

1) Aecio e retrogrado e representa uma “volta para tras” para os maus tempos do Fernando Henrique Cardoso quando a economia nao crescia e os apagoes tomavam conta.

2) Pessoalmente, Aecio nao e uma pessoa etica e ja se envolveu com drogas, mulher e alcool.

3) Aecio esta um conluio com a corrupcao desde o mensalao mineiro.

4) O candidato de Minas so tem apoio no Sudeste e nao tem ressonancia no Norte e Nordeste e nem entre as camadas pobres da sociedade.

5) O que se chamou de “Choque de Administracao” nao passa de uma farsa.  Ele nao tem competencia e nem base politica solida.

6) A politica economica proposta pelo Tucano representa um retrocesso no atenuamento das desigualdades economicas/sociais no Brasil.

7) Ele nao eh Tancredo, apesar de ser o neto, quer dizer: falta-lhe capacidade politica e poder de articulacao.


Com certeza, as pessoas podem levantar outras “sujeiras” e “maldades”.







Dirty Faith: Bringing the Love of Christ to the Least of These by David Z Nowell, Bethany House Publishers, 2014.

Dirty Faith is several things: 1) a history of Hope Unlimited for Children in Brazil; a call to action; and a Jeremiad against the sins of indifference, the ills of hoarding wealth and the oppression and neglect of children in Brazil and around the world.  People in missions, churches focused on foreign missions and even Liberation Theology advocates will enjoy the book.  Agnostics may be challenged and atheists and some humanists will likely question the need to shroud sound policy in religious rhetoric.

When I moved from Brazil in 1990, I met Jack Smith, the founder of Hope here in California.  He wanted to pick my brain about Brazil, Brazilian culture and the status of orphans and street children in Brazil.  Calloused as I was with street crime and chasing “pivetes” (Brazilian street children), I was glad to talk to Jack. But I think I provided very little clarity or good information on the topics except to confirm that yeah, there were a bunch of street kids in Brazil and the problem seemed to be getting worse as poverty, inequality and inflation continued to rage even as Brazil emerged from the shadows of the military dictatorship.  The Candelaria killings in Rio de Janeiro, the death squads supported by merchants and gradual rise of drug gang domination in the favelas were all in the news.

Whatever the effect of my conversation on Jack, as a driven Christian missionary he would not be deterred and certainly his efforts and those of his son, Philip as well as those who came to support Hope have been successful.  More than two decades after its founding in Brazil, Hope has a story to tell and Nowell, who became President of Hope, makes an important contribution while at the same time promoting his bigger goal of motivating Christians to put into practice their professed faith.

The “improvement business” requires framing the problem and Nowell starts out with all the dire statistics and heart touching stories.  He gives the big picture of billions of children in poverty worldwide and the individual stories of Brazilian children prostituting and drugging themselves well before reaching puberty.  Jack – having worked long years with orphans in Ethiopia – had the experience, the contacts and the calling.  Philip inherited the same heart and was able to pick up his father’s mantle and assume the leadership role in Brazil.

Setting up the problem with statistics and examples, Nowell then appeals to the scriptures and his emphasis on how the Word should be understood.  His emphasis is on love and equality and how the Bible requires believers to dedicate themselves to the “least of these”, in particular the orphans, the widows and imprisoned.  In Brazil, the work of Hope has been to take kids off the streets and give them shelter, safety, food, education and a family setting all with a strong emphasis on Christian conversion.  Hope has been based on faith and the material has followed from the moral.  Hope Unlimited has worked through the application of a rigorous “tough” love policy.  In this, what will irritate some about Nowell’s work is his insistence on Christ-centered doctrine and the belief that only Christ can change lives.

Because of Nowell’s focus, most of the book points out failures and sins of the wealthy US churches rather than the successes of Hope Unlimited in Brazil.  Part of this flows from what I believe is the author’s sincere perception of complacency amongst US Christians. But another part is perhaps his desire to transform US Christianity so as to better share the wealth.  According to Nowell, the professional Christians and the churches need to get back to the example of first century converts and how they formed a sharing, caring but also rule-based community.  He cites the statistics that churches fail to live up to a biblical standard and that outreach in both financial and personal terms of most churches falls well short of expectation.  Thus, he challenges the Christian church to change.  The church needs to get out of its shell and understand Christianity as not only belief but also action and action means addressing the needs of the poor.  He points out that Hope has done this with street children and more recently with imprisoned children, citing specifically the abject situation of the Cariacica prison for minors in the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo.

While Nowell often argues from a theological and institutional position, he also rightly emphasizes the individual in Christian missions.  Thus he names the children at Hope and he gives specific examples where there have been successes.  I also find it heartening that, unlike many fundraisers, Nowell is also willing to admit failures both at an institutional and individual level.  Hope is not perfect as an institution. Nor does it have a track record anywhere near 100% in actually transforming street kids.  Some run away, some are lost, some return to drugs, some go back to prostitution.  Institutionally, Hope struggles with how much it should be “pure” in its doctrine and how much it must cede to the world as part of its outreach and participation in the larger Brazilian community.

Aside from its “parochial” focus, I find a couple of other aspects of Dirty Faith bothersome.  As an outsider and the President of an entity at work in Brazil, Nowell seeks to interpret the country and understand especially his target clientele (street children, delinquents, young prostituted girls).  These kids and their families come typically from a situation of  dire poverty and inequality.  I believe he tends to blame Brazil and Brazilian culture as a whole for the situation and as such might benefit from a broader historical perspective.  It is wrong to assume that certain evils may be inherent to Brazil.  This focus is typical of US evangelicals who often arrive with airs of cultural superiority.  True, Nowell is aware of this posture, but even so I think he finds it difficult to escape.

Second, the book, because it is directed mainly at evangelicals, will fail to reach a larger audience with the message that only a mix of the material and the moral can provide a more lasting remedy to individuals, specifically the kids that are taken off the streets.  I don’t think that Nowell believes Hope and the Christ-centered formula is the only that will work in mending the lives on Earth of the children affected.  Jewish caritas, Islamic care and Buddhist meditation might work just as well if correctly adapted to the context.  Nowell advocates for Christianity.  Those who are not of the same persuasion may discard his discourse out of hand.

Third, the socio-economic environment in Brazil is slowly (too slowly for most of us) changing.  Inequality is being reduced.  Street kids are not as prevalent as they were a decade or two ago.  Education is expanding and Bolsa Familia has had a positive impact.  Still, I have to agree that Hope  has another 100 years or so of work in Brazil.

Overall, Nowell’s Dirty Faith is a challenging read.  It will make some Christians sit up. But I fear, like most prodding, it will only be as effective as its direct application.  Fortunately, Hope Unlimited for Children in Campinas and Espirito Santo is doing the dirty work, based on faith and love, with greater effect than most similar entities.  FEBEM and other Brazilian official and unofficial entities can learn much from Hope’s successes and fall downs.  In addition, concerned persons, Christians or not, can get a grasp of the need that exists to take care of the least wherever they may be.  An enormous problem but one that can only be addressed by first recognizing that it exists.





As Bandeiras dos Candidatos

A morte de Eduardo Campos e o provavel ascencao de Marina Silva como candidato a presidencia leva a gente a pensar em quais sao as bandeiras e possiveis atrativos para os eleitores.

Vamos comecar pela Dilma:
Bandeira: continuidade ou seja mais 4 anos do governo PT que ganhou renome pela redistribuicao de renda, da habilidade e legitimidade do ex Presidente Lula e pela percepcao de criacao de oportunidades de melhorias na educacao, na saude e ate na economia. Veja ai: cotas para os negros, medicos cubanos, e desemprego reduzido. Ademais, Dilma tera tempo suficiente (mais do que Aecio e Marina juntos) para transmitir a mensagem. E claro tera ainda Lula como seu grande cabo eleitoral.

Marina: Ela tem a rede sustentabilidade e a fama de “environmentalist”, ela eh crente e ganha, portanto, a simpatia dos evangelicos (que Dilma a contra-gosto dos PTistas tradicionais andou cortejando), ela herda o manto e simpatia do povo apos a morte tragica do Eduardo Campos, ela tem um perfil mais proximo ao Lula em termos de seu passado ou seja a mulher analfabeta que venceu. E, talvez principalmente, ela se destaca por ser uma alternativa evitando a continuidade de Petistas ou Tucanos.  Alem do mais tem fama de honesta, algo que a destaca dos demais politicos embora o problema e que os brasileiros nao conseguem enxergar honestidade na classe politica e os politicos nao conseguem transmitir-la.

Aecio: Tem um bom historico como governador que deu o que ele chamou de “choque de administracao” no governo de Minas, eh o neto do Tancredo, tem razoavel apoio entre o industriais e banqueiros ou seja, nao lhe falta dinheiro.  Desde o inicio da campanha vem no segundo lugar das pesquisas e tem suporte eleitoral em Minas, Sao Paulo e Rio.

Minha previsao e que Dilma ganha ainda possivelmente em primeiro turno embora  os comentaristas e os politicos, principalmente Aecio, estao dizendo que a ascencao de Marina garante o segundo turno.



Lessons from My Coach by Amir Karkouki – A Review

I don’t usually review books but this one is a little different. Coaching has become a popular subject worldwide and I see many people on Linked In and elsewhere offering coaching. Globalization and the world wide web help explain.

The author, Amir Karkouti, and I go back awhile. Amir attended high school with my youngest son, Pablo, and Amir and Pablo have been friends for around 25 years now. Both are in their mid thirties. Amir became a hypnotist, public speaker and coach. Pablo is a firefighter.

It also of interest to note that Pablo (from Brazil) and Amir (from Iran) had the commonality of being kids with a somewhat different background (foreigners/immigrants) in a pretty suburban and white community.

Amir, although he does not have a formal and traditional academic background, now has written 3 or 4 books and has become successful in his field.

I like Lessons from My Coach for a lot of reasons. Amir states it might change your life and indeed the book is full of suggestions on how to do things differently.

Before looking at some of the “revelations” or insights that Amir offers, I want to make clear my take on coaching and perhaps expose my biases and limitations.

I grew up the son of a Baptist minister/missionary and came of age in the 60’s in Berkeley and Brazil. something of a combustible mix. When I was younger, coaching was pretty much restricted to sports. We had a coach on the basketball team, a football coach and other sports coaches with some often doing double duty.  Today’s coaches go well beyond sports and have become “life” coaches.  I think this reflects the decline and transformation of traditional institutions such as the family, the traditional role of the father, the pastor, the big brother, the teacher, the professor, the doctor, etc.  Traditional nuclear families are already a minority in California and the trend continues throughout the country.  Moreover, individuation and specialization allow for definition of new modes of interaction and people seek counsel and value in alternatives such as a coach.  In the absence of Jesus coaching Peter to walk on water, we have myriad of gurus teaching people a gospel which, I think, borrows unconsciously and maybe unknowingly from the great traditions of the New Testament.

Amir wants his clients to gain insights (Chapter 1) and recognize their own souls and he suggests that to do this one must slow down (Chapter 2).  We are too busy to take note of what really is going on and we cannot connect with our innermost self and our most basic wants and needs.  In the religious tradition, this involved prayer and meditation and in Christianity the desire and effort to follow Christ.  In Chapter 3, “Know Less”, Amir makes a confession: He does not know as much as his clients.  In so doing he seeks to transform a weakness into strength.  By being humble, one is strong.  Chapter 5 (Go Full Out) is commitment which to me is similar to conversion.  You have to want to change and turn over a new page.  Once you are converted, make sure you can do what you say you are going to do and start with your own example as in Chapter 6 (Go There First).  When you have converted yourself, then you deal only with Kings and Queens (Chapter 7).  The parallel here, of course, is that Kings and Queens rule with divine authority and the extraordinary coach must deal with extraordinary individuals.  Long term, the objective is to help create the community of saints where all perform according to their full God given potential.  As you grow and perform, you tell a powerful story (Chapter 8) and your testimony enhances your own performance and sets a positive example.  Your success, the coach’s success and the client’s success leads to dreaming bigger dreams (Chapter 9).  Just as the Apostle Paul divinely saw that by opening and transforming the Judaic tradition, Christianity would be universal rather than restricted.  Amir’s dream is to gather all the “right” clients (Chapter 10) so that you have what used to be called the “elect”.  Once you have these, Chapter 11 states that you build the relationship and one way of doing this is by getting a Coach.  In the Christian tradition, the same idea is to get closer to Jesus.  Amir states that it is comical that so many coaches fail to use coaches.  Christian leaders similarly lament how we constantly fall away from Jesus and emphasize that we need to keep going back to the fount.  I suppose Chapter 13 (There are No Rules) seeks to avoid the doctrinal arguments that probably exist in the coaching community just as we have denominations in the Church. While there are no fixed rules to coaching, Amir does say that agreements (Chapter 14) are fundamental.  Chapters 15 through 19 deal essentially with “evangelization” or spreading the good news.  Get people on board but don’t do their work.  Let them find their own “breakthroughs”.  Be bold and remember that money should be a consequence not an objective.  Value yourself (as a coach) as you would value a brain surgeon.  By doing so, certain people (the right ones) will recognize that you have worth and will want to be your follower or disciple.  Use prayer and silence(Chapter 21) and remember that life is infinite (Chapter 23) so we all head out on our material and spiritual journey to eternity.

Lessons from My Coach brings out valuable teaching but it does not really address moral dilemmas that we all face.  Life, living, coaching, religion are all fraught with contradictions.  The unresolved task for the individual, for the pastor, for the coach, for the executive is how do we find our moral compass and how do we deal with situations that are nuanced and essentially unresolvable.  Examples abound and we need only witness our foreign policy, immigration policy, the war between Israelis and Palestinians, the fights between Sunni and Shia between the particular and the supposedly universal.  Certainly, Amir approaches these questions only peripherally and I suppose that is enough since these same questions have been handed down since humanity discovered its conscious and consciousness.