More articles by Juan Arias
It was yesterday, Friday, on a busy street in Niterói, the beautiful former capital of the State of Rio de Janeiro. When my taxi stopped at a red traffic light, a 60-year-old man appeared with a giant handwritten sign: “I lost my job, but NOT my faith: help me”. In his hands he had some trinkets hanging for sale.
When the light turned on, he walked back to the sidewalk. In it, a woman had improvised, under a tarp, her little shop to sell something I couldn’t see. What I noticed is that she approached the man with the poster to buy something. Perhaps she too has lost her job, like millions of Brazilians, but not her dignity, and she does what she can to ensure her and her family’s survival. And she knew how to have a few seconds of compassion for someone, maybe like her, who lost her job but not her faith in life.
The scene, which lasted seconds, perhaps impressed me more because I was returning from an operation on the view that allowed me to suddenly see objects and faces in a new light, like that of the first day of creation. That was how I could see in the eyes of that old man, not pain, nor anger, nor resignation, but firmness and perhaps hope in better times, to which faith would lead him, which he wrote in capital letters that he had not lost.
When I got home, even though my eyes were still full of eye drops, I couldn’t resist looking at the newspapers to find out what had happened in Brazil and in the world in the 48 hours I couldn’t read. And that was how the image of that man at the traffic lights intersected with President Jair Bolsonaro’s assertion that it is better to go hungry than not to have a rifle. A phrase that sums up better than any other the cruelty nestled in the heart of root pocketnarism.
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The words of the retired captain, who still hasn’t realized the responsibility he has on his back to govern a country with 213 million inhabitants with the fifth largest territory in the world, where around 15 million people could take to the streets to confess, like Senhor de Niterói, who lost their jobs but not their faith, are a stark portrait of Brazil today.
The president, in the vulgar and sober language that offends the beautiful and sweet Portuguese language, thus said to the flock of his faithful hosts: “Everyone has to buy a rifle”. And he added: “Then there’s an idiot who says ‘oh, you have to buy beans.’ If you don’t want to buy a rifle, don’t piss off anyone who wants to buy it”. The IBGE had just revealed that inflation in Brazil has more than doubled in the last two months, dragging millions into extreme poverty and even hunger. But for Bolsonaro, it is better to be armed with a rifle than not to be in need.
To the lord of Niterói and to the poor in all the streets of Brazil who regret having lost their job, and with it a good part of their dignity as a person, Bolsonaro advises them to buy a rifle and stop complaining. For root-pocketing, there is nothing worse for a Brazilian than not having a rifle. Along with this terrible misfortune of living unarmed, the tears of children who cry from hunger can even be sweet.
I don’t know if having a rifle eliminates all the penalties for Brazilians, but it certainly doesn’t help them to sleep and make them less unhappy. This is demonstrated by the personal revelations of Bolsonaro, who confessed that he sleeps with a gun beside his bed, but at the same time suffers from severe insomnia and keeps sending messages to his friends in the middle of the night. What is clear to everyone, especially for those who don’t even have food to give their children, is that being armed doesn’t fill your stomach.
The Pocketnist culture places the center of happiness in guns and violence, in mocking those who complain of suffering with essential needs, those who criticize the president for having let the pandemic take the lives of more than half a million citizens. This culture also disdains the vaccine, which the nation’s president himself refused to receive. For this pseudo-philosophy of followers of the denial warlord who mock people’s pain and death, who have fun creating discord and mocking the weak and different, who exalt and inflame a language that parents would hide from their young children, the only true happiness is that of owning a rifle.
One of the most important ministers of the Pocket Government, the Economy, Paulo Guedes, in which Bolsonaro had placed the hopes of lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty with a super-neoliberal policy, even mocked, days ago, the drama of the poor who have seen the galloping growth in the price of electricity, gas and gasoline. He told them, with the greatest shamelessness, that there is no point in “sitting down and crying”. And he added: “What’s the problem with the light getting more expensive?”.
Nothing worse than sarcasm to offend the dignity of the poor who can barely survive. In addition to cruelty, this is institutional violence. At the same time, as Ricardo Noblat published on his blog, the numbers offend a rich country, where it is a sin for there to be a poor one. In the economy, for example, among the 100 largest companies in the world, there are 68 American, 11 European, 11 Chinese and 9 Asian. And Brazilian? It is shameful to say, but among the 100 largest companies in the world, Brazil has none. And as for the ease of doing business, to at least reduce so many people’s unemployment and hunger, compared to today, with a super-liberal government, Brazil’s fell 10%, while India’s grew 70% and China’s increased 50%. And to think that Brazil was once the fifth economic power in the world.
Given these numbers, perhaps the ultraliberal Guedes is right when he says, halfway between amazed and incredulous, that the poor have no reason to complain about the increase in electricity or gas, or the president when he gets angry at those who think it’s better not to pass. hungry than having a rifle.
However, Bolsonaro and his hosts will pass, because they are just dirty foam in the clean sea of Brazil, a country that, even with the open wounds of its sad slavery heritage, is increasingly losing faith in those who govern it today, but not the one you harbor in your soul. People may be starving today, having lost their jobs, but they have not lost faith that the death-laden clouds of the Pocketnarist cyclone will eventually dissipate so that hope for better times can be resurrected.
That “I lost my job but NOT my faith” on the pained poster of the Lord of Niterói will end up defeating the neo-fascist ignominy of a pocketbook that not only humiliates Brazil, but is also shaming and worrying the world, which so many hopes had placed in Brazil, a a country that, while continuing to feed the planet with its natural wealth, leaves its inhabitants to starve.
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