Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil_02/05/2018
Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil_02/05/2018

By Cilene Victor*

CAs a researcher, I have avoided commenting or writing about tragedies or disasters, mainly for two reasons.

The first is because these occurrences, for the most part, are rarely inevitable or unknown, such as the collapse of the building in Largo do Paissandu, which served as precarious housing for more than 140 families. Talking about a disaster, about a tragedy, means saying that we are waiting for it to come.  

These tragedies have been built throughout history, a result of the social inequity that defines all the rest of history. Real estate speculation, with its gentrification projects, and the State's omission push the poorest families to areas with the highest risk of disasters related to floods, floods and landslides.

To give you an idea, according to figures from the National Secretariat for Civil Defense and Protection, SEDEC, an agency of the Ministry of National Integration, in the last five years, the country has recognized an annual average of 2.400 disasters. And here are only those who demanded a declaration of an abnormal situation, such as an emergency situation or a state of public calamity. The number of occurrences is therefore much higher.

Disasters and tragedies, like the one in Largo do Paissandu, happen every day, but remain invisible in the media and politically.

The second reason that has led me to avoid the topic of tragedies and disasters is the typical atmosphere of a scenario of great media and, consequently, political appeal, even more so in an election year.

While victims are cared for in tents or improvised tents by volunteers and humanitarian institutions, and the Fire Department and Civil Defense work in search of survivors, many media outlets want an answer that could be given later. The first moments of a tragedy demand efforts to reduce the loss, damage and suffering of victims. That's because the culprits are in the previous lines. They are all those who contribute to the social construction of risks and the statistics of disasters and tragedies.

Afraid of questions from the press and criticism from public opinion, politicians resort to the most perverse resource to shield their image: the raised finger in the face of someone who has lost everything and yet is blamed for the social tragedy that culminated with the collapse of the building.

While much of the world tries to humanize the care of victims, here politicians prefer to go against the grain, tearing up protocols, agendas and global frameworks adopted or ratified by the country.

The old resource of blaming the victims was not only used by Governor Márcio França, but also by his opponent, João Doria. The worst escape route.

I could associate their speech with the pressure that a tragedy generates on the institutions that should prevent it, but this pressure cannot be responsible for the ethical, moral and human setbacks.  

França and Doria put forward a signal and entered the back door, not of tragedy, but of a world that can no longer tolerate, especially in a scenario of pain, the perpetuation of the violation of rights by those who did not guarantee them.

França and Doria tried to draw the profile of residents of irregular occupations, but both were only able to draw the profile of the managers they are and promise to be. No amount of pressure would be enough to remove a manager from the role he must assume in disaster and tragedy scenarios. They didn't just lack preparation and lucidity, they lacked humanity.

I forgot to write there at the beginning, but the outrageous attitude of some public managers is the third reason I avoid writing about disasters and tragedies. Remembering their speech gives me the certainty that the tragedy has not yet begun for most of the victims of Largo do Paissandu.   


Journalist in the areas of science and environment. She is a professor at the Postgraduate Program in Communication at the Methodist University of São Paulo – UMESP, a postdoctoral fellow at the Postgraduate Program in Planning and Territorial Management at the Federal University of ABC-UFABC, where she works as a researcher at the Management laboratories. Risk – LabGRIS and Territorial Justice – LabJuta. She holds a PhD in Public Health from USP, a master's degree in Scientific and Technological Communication and a specialist in Applied Health Communication, both from UMESP.

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