Brazil Impressions: Trip 778!

I live in Brazil.  I live in the USA.  I travel back and forth and here are my latest quick impressions, from Belo Horizonte, on this June, 2022 sojourn.

Results of slavery: ongoing racism and elitist mentality with striving for social separation and hierarchy maintenance.

Much wealth, much poverty.  Inequality as always and possibly worse.

Fear and accommodation.  Many people are desperate and there is a feeling of hopelessness for many on the streets.  Much passive/aggressive behavior.

Lots of variety and options in supermarkets, but the best supermarkets pretty much sell only to upper middle class and higher.  The employees at the supermarkets cannot afford many of the items on sale.

Dirt and desolation.  Even in the better parts of the cities, you see lots of trash and detritus on the streets.  More so than in the past.  Also there seem to be more rag and trash pickers and all have darker toned skin.  Many people are living on the streets.  The numbers appear to have increased.

Asking taxi drivers who they are going to vote for generates an uncomfortable reaction.  They don’t want to admit to having a candidate.

Friends are friends and want to get together but usually “tomorrow”.

Family strife is common.  Problems of what to do with the kids and a newer problem of what to do with old people.  There is a whole industry that has arisen around elder care.  This is fairly new.

People complain about inflation and gas prices.  So what’s new?

There is no crisis except for the ongoing crisis which never seems to end.  In my 60 years in Brazil, I don’t remember a period without a crisis.

Futbol continues to be the main form of entertainment for men and novellas for ladies.  The most popular novela now is Pantanal, an updated version of the a novela of the same name from the late 80’s.  Not a rerun but a rewrite to update to the mores of the 21st century, and Pantanal was already risqué when first produced 40 years ago. Same old story, scantilly clad women and older ladies talking about maids, men, and children.

Razor wire and electronic fencing around schools, houses, buildings, but maybe that is better than 18 years old with high-powered, rapid-fire armaments.

There seems to be a greater visibility of transgender and individuals exploring sexual identity.  At the same time, the press and social media report many instances of aggressive and violent actions.

There are more gay bars and openly so then before.

Avoidable natural disasters continue to kill 10s and 100’s.  Right now, the news reports over 100 deaths from rains and mudslides in Pernambuco.  These slides and collapses have occurred in the same areas in the past and authorities continue to allow construction in totally unsafe areas.  Again, the poor always pay more.

The weight of Portuguese culture, the pervasive bureaucracy, the relationships of dependence on the state or the patron to provide, the conscious denial of basic education, the maintenance of all types of barriers, many of which are purposefully constructed, come together to impede social and economic ascension and change. 

At the same time, with nearly 230 million people, society is too complex to be easily managed and controlled.  As a result, there is a desire for democracy but also a tremendous fear of the popular, as masses threaten the status quo of the elites.  Thus, Brazilians are rightly skeptical of elections and democracy.  Authoritarianism attracts as it promises simple or simplistic solutions to complex problems.

In many ways, Brazil aspires to be an advanced social democratic nation.  The public health service is well structured and functional but underfunded and under fire by the private sector which sees it as competition.  Brazil provides special access for elderly and the disabled.  Every side walk is supposed to be user friendly for the lame and the blind.  At the same time, there are aberrations that lead one to marvel such as where the truncated domes lead directly to a power pole.  At the same time, that the country requires private owners to provide public services for the less able, the government cannot provide sewage for nearly half the population.

Brazilians are suffering from a creativity crisis.  Very little invention and innovation is taking place.  Instead, foreign trends are copied and often in an inept manner.  Examples are gyms and pet shops.  Brazilians seek and value status as important differentiation markers so they want to have a pet or get buffed at the gym.  The problem is that the cost of entry is relatively low and there are now so many of these types businesses that one cannibalizes the other.  Too much supply for too little demand.  The same goes for personal services.  Barbershops and salons supposedly have the latest international styles, but only dodgy fashion and many do not make enough income to stay in business.  I can’t see anything new; just repetition.

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