By Juan Arias*
EThe sudden crisis that erupted in Brazil with the emergence of street demonstrations is generating perplexity, both inside and outside the country, first in rich cities, such as São Paulo and Rio, extending throughout the country and involving Brazilians abroad.
At the moment there are more questions to understand what is happening than answers. There is only a consensus that Brazil, until now envied internationally, is experiencing a kind of schizophrenia or paradox that still needs to be analyzed and explained.
Let's start with the questions:
Why is there now a protest movement like those that have been taking place in other countries of the world, when for ten years Brazil lived anesthetized by its shared success and applauded worldwide? Is Brazil worse today than it was ten years ago? No, it's better. At least it is richer, it has fewer poor people and the number of millionaires is increasing. It is more democratic and less unequal.
How can it be explained, then, that President Dilma Rousseff, with a popular consensus of 75% – a record that even surpassed that of the popular Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva –, was repeatedly booed at the opening of the Confederations Cup in Brasília by 80 fans middle-class people who could afford to pay up to $400 a ticket?
Why do young people who do not use these means of transport because they have a car, something unthinkable ten years ago, take to the streets to protest against the increase in transport prices?
Why are students protesting from families that, until recently, would not have dreamed of seeing their children set foot in a university?
Why does the C class applaud the protesters, this C class that came from poverty and that for the first time in its life was able to buy a fridge, a TV and even a used car?
Why does Brazil, always proud of its football, now seem to be against the World Cup, going so far as to hamper the opening of the Confederations Cup with a demonstration that resulted in injuries, arrests and fear in the fans arriving at the stadium?
Why these protests, in some cases violent, in a country envied even by Europe and the United States for its near-zero unemployment?
Why are there protests in the favelas where the inhabitants have seen their income doubled and have regained the peace that had been stolen from them by drug trafficking?
Why did the indigenous people, who already have 13% of the national territory, suddenly rise up on the warpath?
Are Brazilians ungrateful to those who have improved their lives?
The answer to these questions that leave many people, starting with politicians, perplexed and astonished, could be summarized in a few questions: first, it can be said that, paradoxically, the fault lies with those who gave the poor a minimum of dignity. : a non-miserable income, the possibility of having a bank account and access to credit to be able to buy what has always been a dream for them.
Perhaps the paradox is due to this: having put the children of the poor in school, which their parents and grandparents did not enjoy; having allowed young people, white, black, indigenous, poor or not, to enter university; have given everyone free access to healthcare; to have freed Brazilians from the old guilt complex of “street dogs”; having achieved everything that turned Brazil into an almost first world country in just 20 years.
Want the impossible? Not. Brazilians dissatisfied with what has already been achieved want public services to be like those of the first world
The poor who arrived in the new middle class became aware that they had made a qualitative leap in the sphere of consumption and now they want more. They want first world public services, which there are none; they want a school that offers good quality education, which does not exist; they want a modern, lively university that prepares them for future work. They want hospitals with dignity, without months of waiting, without inhumane queues.
And they want everything they still lack politically: a more mature democracy, in which the police do not continue to act as they did in the dictatorship; they want parties that are not, in Lula's expression, a “business” to get rich; they want a democracy where there is an opposition capable of monitoring power.
They want less corrupt politicians; they want less waste in works they consider useless when eight million families still lack homes; they want justice with less impunity; they want a society less abysmal in its social differences. They want to see corrupt politicians in prison.
Want the impossible? Not. Unlike the movements of 1968, which wanted to change the world, Brazilians dissatisfied with what had already been achieved want public services to be like those of the first world. They want a better Brazil. Just it.
I heard some say: “But what else do these people want?”. The question reminds me of some families where, after giving everything to their children, according to them, they rebel.
Parents sometimes forget that something that is essential for the young person is missing: attention, concern for what he wants and not for what is sometimes offered to him. They not only need to be helped and protected, led by the hand, they want to learn to be the protagonists themselves.
And young Brazilians, who have grown up and become aware not only of what they already have, but of what they can still achieve, are lacking precisely that: to be allowed to be more protagonists of their own history, even more so when they prove to be tremendously creative.
Let them do it, yes, without more violence, because there is already enough violence in this wonderful country that has always preferred peace to war. And don't let yourself be co-opted by politicians who will try to get involved in your protest to empty it of content.
Yesterday you could read on a poster: “A mute country is a country that does not change”. And another, addressed to the police: “Don't shoot my dreams”.
Can anyone deny a young man the right to dream?
This text was published in the newspaper The State of São Paulo, in 19 / 6 / 2013
* Corresponding journalist for the Spanish newspaper El País, writer and blog author Winds from Brazil