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Arestas do Brasil / Edges of Brazil

Vicious imitation

Bruno Peron, 5 April 2017

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Brazilians are never satisfied with what Brazil is and they always desire that which the country is not. However, one thing is not being yet, and the other is being unable to be. My argument is that the historical hardship and social misunderstandings in Brazil have taken us to configure an authentic and diverse country. Certainly, this scenery does not form without any conflicts and doubts. Brazil congregates the best and the worst that the world has ever produced in an Ark of Noah where beings distrust each other. This country is getting prepared for something larger: a scene of changes of the political engineering that corrupts us and of the cultural mismatches that depreciate us.

Today, Brazilians from varied levels of instruction meet in public spaces: they elbow themselves on pavements, they glimpse at each other in shops, they look at each other as neighbours, they help each other as service providers, they comment the same video they see on YouTube, they polemize on Facebook. Brazil shelters really diverse beings: some of them are very ignorant because they lack the basic understanding of common situations; and others are lettered, ambitious, entrepreneurs, innovators. How beneficial will it be to Brazil when these predominate over those in the wish for labour and cooperation towards a better country!

What we have today, however, is cultural and institutional depravity. I explain myself. The eagerness for becoming a civil servant overcomes the wish to create and innovate in the private initiative. Civil servants in Brazil are so corrupted that they expect to be served by the population instead of serving people. They consume public resources and leave good people little alternative to the multiplication of tributes, censorship and State control. Endless and harmful vices of imitation originate in it. As if it were not enough, senators struggle with federal attorneys, deputies challenge presidents, and judges do not know how to act.

A commonplace example of cultural depravity is “delivery” (an English word commonly used in Brazil without translating to Portuguese) phenomenon in services offered by bikers, who are a thermometer of the evils of Brazil. Labour relations take place less formally; our road mesh is precarious, badly planned and with bumpy streets; and foreign terms prevail over Brazilian colloquialism such as in “delivery”, hair style” and “built to suit”. Yet, a biker has recently revealed to me that it is advantageous to have a motorbike because it enables driving through cars, next to them, skipping rows and –so I thought – increasing chances of accidents without authorities doing absolutely anything to solve the problem. It is an atrocity in terms of civilisation! Poor Brazil!

It is more remarkable, when it comes to vicious imitation, that the elites (and lately the so-called “middle classes”) flatter imported products, except Chinese stuff. An apology to Western modernity. It has been like this in relation to clothing used in the nineteenth century in this tropical heat, in the political ideals that emerged in France and England, in the English for business that spreads from institutions in the United States, in the affirmative action politics arising from countries that segregate ethnic groups (e.g. quotas for afrodescendants or black people).

Thus, Brazil is not readable by any interpreter. Even one of the most authentic and productive intellectual in this country – Gilberto Freyre – is criticised by myths that he never proposed. Such critics lack a careful and thorough reading of Freyre’s work. It is necessary to have an elevated cultural background to understand the meanders of Brazil and, consequently, guide its progress with fidelity to its multiplicity of forms, combinations and goals. Imitation is unavoidable. There is an insatiable search for references from which Brazilians can mould their preferences and their tastes. That is why it is viable to take this one and discard that. The problem, though, is when imitation becomes vicious.