Brasilidade & Politics

By 23:39 , , , ,

Note: I just got back from class and I had to write because I love when I'm able to make connections and this is my favorite way to "put it on paper." And when I'm inspired to write, my ideas are pretty random, I tend to ramble, but I always have a point somewhere along the way. So please bear with me and I promise you'll leave this post somewhat enlightened... or confused.


You know how I've been saying for ages that I'm going to talk about elections and never do? Well, it's because politics and believing in politics in Brazil is tough... really tough. As optimistic a person as I am, the more I read, the more I'm disappointed in our country's politicians and the less empowered I feel to do anything because it's all just such... a mess!

So here's where I got excited. I had a very empowering class today. Today we talked about Sustainability and Ethics, topics I love devouring ever since high school practically (yes, I was and still am a huge nerd). And one thing my professor talked about was diversity - both environmental and socioeconomic - or as she put it... socioecological (amei!). A topic I love and fought for all throughout college...

And one thing she said that really hit me was "Why do you think people are putting so much faith in our country's growth? I mean, have you seen our history books? Our country shouldn't even exist anymore! Yet we're still around because of our diversity and our acceptance and adaptations... despite the small knit socioeconomic circles we place ourselves in here in Brazil."

Isn't that brilliant? The Brazilian nation is living proof that diversity can turn chaos into a thriving economy (loosely speaking, haha).

All of this made me think of something I had just read on the bus on my way to class. I'm reading the new Elizabeth Gilbert book, Committed (the author of Eat, Pray, Love), in which she's getting ready to marry Felipe, her Brazilian boyfriend (I promise I didn't just ruin the book for you, she says it at the beginning! haha). And there's this great dialogue between the two where she's soo American and he's soo Brazilian and what he says to me, is exactly how Brazilians get by and survive this chaotic society we live in - and manage to still be happy.

The dialogue goes (loosely translated to English because I'm reading the book in Portuguese):

Here Elizabeth is trying to figure out if she has a "greek" or " hebrew" way of looking at life and relationships, basing it all on how philosophers say Western civilization is a bizarre combination of the two, and when she asks Felipe where he thinks he fits in, he replies...

"Honey, none of that really applies to me."
"Why not?" - I asked.
"I'm not greek nor hebrew."
"Then what are you?"
"I'm Brazilian."
"But what's that supposed to mean?"
Felipe laughed.
"Nobody knows! That's what's so great about being Brazilian. It doesn't mean anything! That's why we can use our brasilidade as an excuse to live life the way we want. It's actually a brilliant strategy. It's taken me a long way."
"And how's that supposed to help me?"
"Maybe it'll help you relax! You're going to marry a Brazilian. Why not try to start thinking like a Brazilian?"
"How?"
"Choosing what you want! That's the jeitinho brasileiro, isn't it? Borrowing everyone else's ideas, mixing them all, and then, with that, creating something new..."

And then they go on to which parts of the Greek and Hebrew philosophies they're going to use in their lives together.

So where am I going with all this and what does it have to do with elections? I've realized I've been too American in the way I've approached my first opportunity to vote for a president in Brazil. I've done what all my friends did in the last elections and researched, read the paper constantly, read presidential candidates' profiles, watched debates, and stressed about who I'm going to vote for, and been irritated with people I know are going to make it into congress (i.e. Tiririca!)... but I've realized tonight that although for most things I can be much more Brazilian than I am American, having been educated in the United States has affected me to a point where it's kind of tough being Brazilian sometimes and that's why I've had such a hard time with elections.

In Brazil we're not at the point where we can be educated enough about a candidate and be passionate enough to vote for him or her. That's because we don't have any Obamas da vida running. Nor should we expect someone utopic to show up and run for office. Brazilian politicians have taken democracy and some have transformed it into capitalism while others have transformed it into socialism and others, well... uma palhaçada!!! And it's a mess... but somehow it works. And no matter who we vote for, we need to be conscious of the fact that as much as we believe they're the right person for the job, or the least worse person for the job, that they're going to mess up along the way. If they don't, their ministers will, or a senator we may not have voted for and so on. And I'm not making an excuse for Brazil's long history of impunity, but I am making a case for how things work differently here. Saying we're not expecting enough of our candidates is a very American way of thinking and one other thing I learned in class today is that sustainability in any way shape or form, just like any other system, will not work if imposed on a culture where it doesn't fit.

So on Sunday, I'm going to waltz into the school across the street from my aunt's house, take the information I've accumulated in the past few months, and cast the most educated vote I can without thinking about it or being too passionate about it at all. And then hope for the best. Not for the best candidate to win, but hoping the next government makes the best out of this chaos I love and is meu país.

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