Source: FrostSnow.com, Rio Gold Medal Winner Simone Biles and Larry Nassar
I can’t but help compare the actions of Larry Nassar, the so called Michigan physician in charge of the US Olympic gymnastics team and the many abuses that take place in Brazil on a daily basis. Curiously, I am not thinking of sexual abuse under the guise of authority. Maybe this type does not frighten that much. After all, for years, Brazilian women would not go to their doctor unaccompanied under the presumption of abuse. What I have in mind is the type of malfeasance causing furor on Brazilian social media: the current outcry over a housing stipend for judges.
The Nassar story in the US caused outrage because young girls and women were victimized for years, no one complained, a pattern of acceptance of authority prevailed and there supposedly was a reward (gold medals) at the end of the story which perhaps resulted in complicity and connivance.
In recent years, with the rise of social media, Brazilians have identified corruption as their most detested form of systemic abuse. However, corruption is only a symptom
Brazilians are strivers and see competition and tests as a means to meeting their goals. These public exams cover everything from being hired as a primary school teacher, a highway patrolman, a public servant, a public prosecutor, a university professor or a judge. In the end, all of these positions are offered and controlled within the state apparatus. In most cases, these positions offer success in that once you pass your public exam, you have job stability, with benefits and compensations for life.
On the gymnastics team, Nassar somehow created, and my feeling is that he was not alone, an image that he was instrumental to athletic triumph. It is well known that sports involve training, physical and mental preparation and possible injury. Nassar positioned himself as one who could help, assist, facilitate, advise, support and contribute to winning at the highest levels of competition.
The state and those in control are thus positioned similar to Nassar. The paternalistic state authority offers power, influence and reward to those who are willing to participate and win as well as those who participate and fall by the wayside. People make assumptions, play the game and render authority in a cavalier fashion. The state channels and even censures, and its actions are not transparent. Participants accept the state’s paternalistic power, a certain the invasion of their privacy and a loss of political autonomy. All this, in the hope that the same state will offer something in return, i.e., a sinecure or a contract.
In Nassar’s case, many, if not most, of his victims were minors. They lacked experience, knowledge, maturity, information and strength. He apparently described his actions as necessary even as they were physically painful and mostly unrelated to anything but the satisfaction of his own perverse desires.
While the Brazilian state does not usually engage directly in sexual assault, it does consider the citizenry as uninformed, inexperienced, weak and vulnerable. As such the individual is subject to abuse and even becomes, as with the athletes, accustomed to it.
Many in Brazil are upset that judges are abusing the public trust by accepting a housing subsidy and other largesse. These bonuses are seen as unneeded, immoral and corrupt. Yet most Brazilians seek public employment or public contracts with an eye to enjoying similar perks. If we look at the many unions, associations and labor organizations in Brazil we discover that each category has its own lobby whose mission is self-preservation through gaining and protecting benefits. Thus when one category discovers that magistrates, for example, receive a housing allowance, another caste seeks isonomy or equalization. Brazilians are well known for being creative with taxes. They are apt to copy revenue enhancements from anywhere in the world. What people do not know is that Brazilians also create many publically funded perquisites ranging from special commissions, “jetons”, attendance awards, repayments, special compensation, 13th, 14th and even 15th month salaries, vacation stipends and much more. Moreover, these additional benefits are codified and as such are not seen as special favors but legally sanctioned endowments.
While this is the system, Brazilians miss the mark complaining about corruption while failing to recognize their own participation in and sanctioning of institutional advantages which are viewed (from the outside) as un warranted and immoral . Larry Nassar is certainly a despicable individual but it is hard to believe that he acted for so many years abusing so many without institutional support and societal connivance. Likewise, Brazilian only fool themselves if they think they will solve the systemic problem by attacking the individual housing allowance or even the beloved 13th month salary. As the expression goes, “O buraco é mais embaixo.” (The problem runs deeper.)