The woes of the brazilian middle class
Wen germans talk about sumthing that is driving them nuts, thay say ‘das is zum mäuse melken’, this is to milk mice. And thats wat i think about the meedia reporting about Brazil. Wat cums on the cuvver, the Sugar Lofe plus parrot, or rather samba scool? Of corse, in the bakground the favela, the slum. And the report shouldnt miss samba and football, and cum to think of it, samba is the music from the region of Rio and the southeest, but not menny peeple heer it in uther regions – pop, rok, sertaneja (a sort of very schmaltzy cuntry music) ar the champions. And thare ar a lot of peeple who ar real pernas-de-pau, wooden legs, who cant play football and ar not intrested. In Africa the guys kept asking me all the time if i can teech them sum football, but thay playd much better than me, so i always told them i had a nee problem that day.
OK, the german reports about Brazil (and i guess in moast uther cuntrys) ar nowadays sumtimes mor diferentiated than a few yeers ago, but menny jurnalists just coppy wat uther jurnalists rote in uther meedia, and wen thay cum to Brazil, thare ies look for the confirmation of the information thay herd befor, and moast of them ar just stereotipes. Ar brazilians slo? Maybe. But wat should be taken as an example of the fast german eficiency? Maybe the new areport in Berlin, that should be reddy a yeer ago and now thay hav no idea wen it wil be reddy? Or the German Raleway? Thay could lern sumthing about being on time from the brazilian coaches, and brazilian flites ar amung the moast punctual ones in the world. Wat about the eficiency of the German Telekom, that bloks my tellefone and sends me a letter saying that thay cant continnue the service becaus thay dont hav an adress of mine? And thay send the letter to my adress? Stil, i guess germans ar the moast hectic peeple in the world, but wy should brazilians compare themselvs with Germany and not with the hole world? One can supose that the richer the cuntry, the quicker the peeple, so i guess that avrage brazilians ar sloer than 1/5 of the worlds population, and quicker than 4/5. The boom wasnt a real boom, and the slump in the last 2 yeers is not realy a slump, it moves inside the scale in wich the cuntry groes – cleerly less than China, cleerly mor than Europe. And it dusnt hav much to do with oil. The situation is better than say 2 deccades ago, by that time 90% of brazilian imports wer oil. Now the cuntry has started exporting sum oil, and it wil be mor wen thay got thru all that water and thru the seeground. But Brazil is far from being Saudi Arabia, and brazilians dont use 100 dollar bils as toilet paper.
Brazil is the seccond biggest food exporter of the world, it exports also ethanol en mass to China and India, thus it is rite to say that it is a raw mateerial exporter – on one side. On the uther hand it is producing mor passenger cars than the USA, it is the third biggest areplane producer, the forth biggest shipmaker, and a part of this production is exported. So it is a cuntry like the USA: it dus export raw mateerial, but it is far from being a pure raw mateerial exporter.
And then the sentence that the brazilian middle class absorbd – i’m talking about the tradicional middle class, middle and upper middle class – and wont forget as long as the PT, the Werkers Party, is guvverning the cuntry: thare was nevver so much coruption in Brazil, the hospitals, scools and rodes ar in a miserable state becaus the guvverment spends all the munny for the stadiums. The sentence is repeeted millions of times, the meedia ends up saying the same – thay mite belong to the big cappital, but the jurnalists and edditors cum from this middle class, think like this middle class and tel this middle class wat thay want to heer: that evrything in Brazil at the moment is shit. And the internacional meedia repeet it til thay can no mor, so it becums an establishd trueth, but this trueth has little to do with reality. Unless it becums a self-fulfilling proffecy: the crisis cums indeed becaus nobody trusts the cuntry ennymor – becaus of the meedia.
To understand the situation better, we hav to go bak a bit in time. In the 60s and 70s the big industrialization started in Brazil, the cuntry grew as fast as China is groing nowadays. Peeple talkd about 3 economic miracles: the japanese, the german and the brazilian miracle. The japanese miracle happend becaus thay ar so dissiplined, besides thay can coppy western prodducts and perfectionate them. The german miracle was becaus of thare organization tallent and thare hi educational levvel. And the brazilian miracle, wel, that was a real miracle, nobody can explane it.
Ennyway the brazilian miracle had its dark side: by that time the cuntry became the 8th biggest economic power of the werld, but mor than haf the population remaned poor, one fifth of them eeven miserable. By that time the Gini coeficient was created, wich mesures the social injustice of a cuntry. And thare Brazil came out as the champion of social injustice. One could also compare the posicion in the per capita incum with the posicion in the HDI, the human devellopment index, that also mesures life quality of the population. In this sense Brazil has a werse posicion in life quality than in per capita incum, wich meens that it is rather a cuntry with social injustice, but quite a few cuntrys ar much mor unjust, amung them moast arab cuntrys. Stil, nobody was intrested in waching it from anuther angle, since thay had identified alreddy thare culprit: Brazil.
The grate crisis came at the beginning of the 80s: Brazil was neer bankrupcy, the inflation in sum yeers was of 2000%. Thare was an armada of employees whose oanly job was changing the prices daily in the supermarket shelvs. The turning point came in the middle of the 90s: the social-democrat president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, also calld FHC, wun the fite agenst inflation, the internacional cappital came bak to the cuntry, the car makers who stil didnt hav factorys in Brazil did the same. Quite a few left wing peeple wer disapointed about FHC, who had been an internacionaly famus left wing sociologist and became frendly to the cappital as soon as he came to power. But he introduced very important forms of welfare, and for the ferst time the difrence between the richest 10% of the population and the poorest 10% was reduced.
Actualy he had sed once in an intervew: if we start with welth distribution, the middle class wil grouch. In his guvverment he started doing it despite of that, and menny millions of poor peeple moved to the lo middle class. Stil he wasnt bood bi the middle class, presumably for two reesons: ferst, he was the heero who had wun the fite agenst inflation, and seccond, he carryd out his social programs discreetly. His mane wurry was not groeth, it was stability, and stil the cuntry grew, eeven if thare wer sum stumblings on the way.
In 2002 Lula, the candidat of the PT, the Labor Party, wun the elections agenst the social-democratic party, he mannajd as his predecessor to keep a ballance between cappital and left wing policys. He put all the social programs together, renamed it and shouted it from the rooftops. And the middle class woke up: Hay, who’s financing all this bullshit? Unemployment bennefit, welfare – the guvverment is just biing votes! And then peeple doant want to werk ennymor! Wel, i’v herd this sort of complaint in Europe and in the USA, too.
Thare ar stil uther reesons for the haitred: as a child Lula was just a few yeers in scool – he just finnishd seccondary scool as an addult bi corespondence corse – and he’s proud of it! Wat a difrence comparing with his predecessor FHC, who taut in the grate universitys of the werld! And the middle class in the southeest and south hav anuther reeson to hate him: he’s from the poor northeest, and he shouts it from the rooftops! The nordestinos, northeesteners, ar as poppular in the south as blaks and latinos in the States, or like pakistanis in England.
I cant remember havving seen so much haitred, so much polemic as i’v seen since Lula came to power, and this haitred is agenst evrything that has to do with him, and his PT, including his successor Dilma Rousseff. The 60% or so of the population who votes for the PT – moastly peeple from the poor and the loer middle class, who hav in thare majority brown or blak skin – moastly adors them, wile the tradicional middle class hates them as much as thay can. And the meedia poke this haitred.
The middle class isnt sufring economicly: the poor ar doing better, the rich ar doing better, the middle class is doing better, but not as better as the poor and the rich. And thees “povinho”, little peeple, moastly dark skind, ar travling with the areplane now, together with the tradicional middle class, who wernt upgraded to the ferst class. Thees peeple ar getting mor munny, but it dusnt meen that thay hav mor culture now – u see it bi thare behavior in the elections: thay vote for the rong politicians! Of corse it is the guvverments falt.
The economic improvement has to do with the fact that the chinese and the indians hav mor munny now and cant get enuf soybeen and ethanol from Brazil, but also with the fact that since the poor hav mor munny, a huje new market was created, for instance the cuntry is now the 4th biggest motorcar market and the moast expensiv ad minnut of the werld is on the brazilian TV Globo.
But complaning about a forced solidarity isnt especialy nice and ellegant, so thay had to criticize the guvverment for uther reesons: nevver the cuntry was so corupt as now, and the state of scools, hospitals and rodes is miserable – all that becaus the hole munny is spent for the Werld Cup.
I ask the peeple if thay compared coruption statistics from older guvverments with the ones for the new guvverment, but of corse thay can oanly anser, “It is ritten evryware! Evrybody noes it!” The fact is that thare wer no statistics for coruption until a few yeers ago, and now the organization Transparency International tries to mesure the coruption in the cuntrys, wich is almoast as making statistics for perfect crimes. Ennyway, looking at the statistics it becums cleer that the richer the cuntry, the less coruption, so Danmark is one of the leest corupt cuntrys, wile cuntrys like Congo and Somalia ar the moast corupt. In this aspect Brazil is not an ainjel, one therd of the cuntrys in the werld ar less corupt. But 2/3 of the cuntrys (with 4/5 of the werld population) ar mor corupt, and Brazil is eeven a few posicions better in the coruption table than in the per capita incum table. Besides, president Dilma Rousseff has alreddy fired 7 minnisters for suspicion of coruption.
The rodes ar rarely as good as the swiss or german freeways. But: i crossd the cuntry from north to south 5 times, the last time in the last yeer, and the rodes ar much better than 20 yeers ago, wen thay lookd rather like a swiss chees, with all those potholes. A few deccades ago evry meesly cuntry in Europe had mor motorways than Brazil, nowadays oanly Germany. OK, Brazil is a big cuntry, stil: u cant say it is werse than it was.
Ilitracy was reduced, menny new universitys wer bilt, but i agree that the jenral quality of the scools sank – i guess at leest. Stil i think that this isnt a specificly brazilian fenommenon, it seems it is werldwide, or at leest in Europe. And maybe the public hospitals in Brazil doant hav swiss quality either, but the middle class dusnt realy no how a public hospital looks like from inside, thay ar all privatly inshured. And after all, the cuntry spends proportionaly mor for public helth than 3/4 of the cuntrys in the werld.
No dout, thay bilt stadiums that sum cittys need as a fish needs a bike. The Werld Cup is the moast millionare event of the werld, and menny peeple and grupes want a peece of this cake. Of corse if cuntrys want to hoast a Werld Cup, ferst thay hav to let thare pants down for the FIFA. Coruption, reejonal pollitics, economic intrests – stil it has to be sed: thay spent 3 billions dollars for the new stadiums, in the same time thay spent mor or less 580 billions for helth. So if the stadiums wernt bilt, thare cud hav been an improvement of 0,3% for public helth, or 0,1% for helth, 0,1% for education, 0,1% for the rodes… so peeple wud be a maximum of 0,3% helthier. If thay doant notice that helth (or at leest life expectancy) improved mor than 10% in the last 2 deccades, how can thay notice an improvement of maximaly 0,3%?
Of corse, if the meedia want to find and sho hospitals and rodes in a miserable state, thay wil. This dusnt hav to be malicius, it is eeven thare duty to sho wats rong in the cuntry. On the uther hand thare is for instanse a huje industry on sensationalism, especialy about criminality. A few yeers ago thare was eeven a TV program that orderd murders, to be the ferst at the crime seen.
Thay thro evry stone thay find on thare way at the guvverment. All the time statistics ar publishd that compare Brazil with a few uther cuntrys, and of corse thees cuntrys ar selected in a way that Brazil is always the werst one. For instanse thay sho two tables, one comparing the economic groeth with uther BRIC cuntrys, beside it anuther table comparing the per cappita incum of the USA, Western Europe and Brazil. Of corse Brazil is at the very bottom in boath comparisons. If thay did the oppozit – per cappita incum comparison with BRIC cuntrys and groeth with ferst werld cuntrys, then Brazil wud look quite good, but thats not the efect thay want.
A little time ago a new studdy came out saying that noware in the werld peeple pay so much taxes and get so little for it. For example brazilians pay 34% of taxes, the danes 25%, and stil the danes get 79 yeers old, brazilians 73. But the danes get in avraj 4000 dollars per munth, brazilians almost 1000, so the danes pay mor taxes than wat brazilians ern. U cant compare persentages with absolute numbers. Is this an error in reesoning or dus the wishful thinking obscures the vew?
Thay complane about criminality. Sao Paulo is as safe or unsafe as Frankfurt. OK, at the moment Sao Paulo is one of the safest sittys in Brazil, Frankfurt the moast dainjerus in Germany. In Rio and moast uther big sittys the criminality decreesed, but criminality emmigrated partialy to smaller touns, especialy in the north and northeest. The sitty of Vitória, stil in the southeest, became quite dainjerus a wile ago, and peeple say the reeson is that becaus of the menny poleese and persecution, the crimminals dont feel safe in Rio ennymor, and menny came to Vitória. Altogether the cuntry is stil dainjerus, a small consolation is that it is not amung the top ten ennymor…
Thay complane about the guvverment eeven becaus of the trafic. But wat do thay expect for example in Grater Sao Paulo, ware Evryday almoast 3000 nu cars ar injected into the sitty? Do thay want the welth of Switzerland and the floing trafic of North Korea? Quite a fu peeple complane that becaus of the hier wajes and the social taxes thay cant pay a domestic werker ennymor. I can just say: U wont find a Switzerland with slaves bi home delivry.
Dilma Roussef is probbably mor eficient than her predessessor Lula, but not in carisma. And she hasnt had so much luk as Lula. The inland market keeps groing, but China and India arnt groing so fast ennymor, so the soy and ethanol export isnt groing that fast. Thats not that bad, the werld dusnt hav to be a Formula 1. But then thare is a grate draut in quite a fu parts of the cuntry, and then buss drivers, poleesemen, teechers and uthers ar striking: nevver the guvverment was so eesy to blakmale, for shure thare ar mor strikes to cum. Then the protests of the millions of unsattisfied peeple in the middle class, plus the fu radical left wing peeple, and peeple hoo luv to get a lot of prodducts in the supermarket and not hav to stay in the line to pay for it. I dont like wating in the supermarket line either. But all this is a bit too much for the meedia, thay’r not intrested in caos either.
Brazil isnt a paradise for evryone, thare ar stil problems with povverty, criminality, environment, besides a prohibicion wave sweeps over the cuntry – i gess soon smokers wil hav to hide under the bridjes. Thare ar mor and mor alcohol bans – brazilians wer the gratest lickor consumers of the werld, and now thay ar just the number 15 – a scandal! The obsecion with helth and security expands uncontrold, and then thare ar the pentecostal cherches, all the nu born cristians, hoo wil be probbably the majority in one or two deccades, and thay like to forbid mor than uthers. Now politicians ar banning evrything that crosses thare way, and unfortunatly menny brazilians say this is good as it is. Wat i doant like shud be forbidden. At the end Brazil woant be like Switzerland, but rather like the USA – maybe we hav soon deodorant and parfume bans in guvverment departments and restaurants, too. In Brazil thay doant hav that at the moment, but thare is a kissing ban in sum bars and at leest in one shopping mall.
Brazil hasnt performd badly in reesent yeers, the cuntry eeven lends munny to Europe, so that europeans can solv thare crisis. Brazilian multinacionals expand in the werld, and now eeven Heinz Ketchup and Burger King ar brazilian, and Budweiser belongs to the biggest brewery of the werld, the belgian-brazilian Inbev. But much mor important than that is that the cuntry belongs to the fu ones ware the difrense between rich and poor is decreesing. In the Sertao, the northeestern inland and poorest reejon in the cuntry, thare is now a hospital in almoast evry villaj, ware 30 yeers ago nobody nu wat Aspirin meens. Peeple doant moov walking or on a donky ennymor, thay hav a motorbike or a car. The touns ar getting nise and cleen, the scool busses pik up the kids in the moast remote villajes, in the outskerts of the big sittys thare ar sport halls evryware, and menny bars hav poetry slams. For brazilians like me this is afecting to see, i’m not used to it. I cum from the tradicional middle middle class, stil i belong to the optimists.
Sumhow it is all a bit absurd: visualy the meedia prezent a Brazil ware 90% of the population seem to liv in favelas, and in fact thay’r 20%. In terms of content thay present a Brazil that reflects the opinnion of the tradicional middle class, and thats 40% of the population. If thay had the oppozit, it wud be much mor pozzitiv, but so it is always neggativ, ennyway thay ar consistent in not reflecting majoritys.
Besides, i dont get very happy heering and reeding speekers and jurnalists pronounsing and spelling brazilian jeografic names, exprecions and werds the spanish way or haf spanish. Ay, if u dont no it, just ask me! And then menny jurnalists stay hundred yeers in the cuntry and stil dont no that the werd ‘gringo’ dusnt meen american or blond european, it meens a forener in jenral, so eeven paraguayans and colombians ar gringos in Brazil. Thay get nuts wen thay heer it. Ay, we’r not gringos!
Ennyway, if thay ar so unsattisfied with the politicians at the moment, and thay like so much to compare themselvs with Switzerland, to feel realy bad, i can only suggest that thay outsorse thare prezzident, and thare i hav alreddy an idea: wi not a swiss gi, hoo being swiss must be sertanly free of coruption – wi not Sepp Blatter?