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The deal I made with myself was to record, every day, the things and events that I could see as having benefitted me. It was a conscious attempt to confront unproductive and/or destructive mental habits. After so many recent ordeals, I thought I had found an elegant system to avoid self-victimization. I blew it: many days with no entries on my “gratitude” journal.
Today, as I stepped outside for my daily walk, a shower of pink petals from the spiderflower trees followed me. The rain of pink petals announced a much expected storm. The skies went black, thunder roared and huge drops cooled my skin. But the rain never came.
It has been a month of relentless heat. Something never seen before in these parts. There is an epidemic of lethargy and depression. Most of the people who lived, as I did, in the milder weather regions of Brazil have simply exhausted their resources for dealing with the heat. The heat nobody can escape from, that makes us run to turn on the AC in the car and hide from the sun while it cools down, that makes us sick for hours after a 15 minute walk on the streets, that burns our lungs as we breath.
Most of our houses were not built for inclement weather such as this. They have wide spaces, lots of windows and are very hard to seal. They were not built for ACs.
The heat reproduced a state of impotence and hopelessness that part of us have fallen into. The decay, the putrid smells, the speed in which everything rots seems to mimic all forms of relations around me. Any timid attempt to pretend that there is any dignity or honesty in them has given way to open cynicism.
The clumsy training for democracy in Brazil seems to be more and more abandoned. All we hear are the voices of hatred, authoritarian and opportunistic discourses sending shivers down our spines as we consider the likelihood of yet another totalitarian regime. From federal government to the tiniest social movement, the voices of reason and democracy were silenced.
We are trapped inside an oven. The heat, the corruption, the hate speeches from all parts and sides are one and the same oppressive force dragging us down.
The black skies above refusing to let the rain wash this sick condition mirrored my childhood repetitive nightmare. In that dream, a huge wave towered over me, thousands of tons of water to crush us all, but it never fell. It just stood there, threatening, the torture of the certain and announced destruction that doesn’t happen.
A friend of mine shared with me the dark thoughts planted in his mind by the stinging sun rays. Suicidal ideation. Hopelessness beyond all hope.
This week, a cameraman from a TV station was killed by a small bomb in a public demonstration in Rio. The bomb was thrown by one of the protesters. For five days, the only issue discussed is whether there is a political overreaction to his death because it was caused by protesters. Leftists flood the web with the names of countless innocent people killed by police action in previous demonstrations. As I read such updates and entries, I also read those from friends I have in the police and the armed forces. They write much less. They have no skills in political marketing and manipulation. The last I read from one of them was a call for prayers for an officer fallen in combat, shot by a criminal. He was in a coma. They die like flies but they have no name, nobody to defend them, nobody to publicly cry their loss.
It is hot and we are powerless. Every day is hotter than the day before. Violence is escalating on both sides and this is the only situation in which there are two sides: protests. Whatever people are protesting about, there is overt or potential conflict with the police.
Among the protesters, we have as many political and ideological colors as in the rainbow, including white: no reason at all, just a diffuse feeling of discomfort.
Today I heard a song written by a radical feminist group. The title of the song is “I will cut off your dick”. The content goes from more or less logical indignation against rape and domestic abuse to dangerous calls to violence against anyone who does not side with “the revolution”.
Not surprisingly, the radical right is growing. They are occupying the space of absent opposing voices to the authoritarian left, anything that could rise as a force to rescue democratic ideals. They are scary – a specular image of the radical left.
As the many irrational groups feast over inaccurate information, uncontained expressions of violence explode all over the country. A few weeks ago a prison break riot resulted in medieval deaths of innocent people, including children, torched to death, decapitated and butchered. The foreign press gave it more attention than the local news.
Sometimes we ask ourselves if we are failing to make sense of all this because of the heat. Nobody can think right when the alternatives are to lock yourself in a refrigerated room forever or face the oven.
I look around me, at my immediate environment. There is something called “reality” out there to be interpreted as I choose. In the sports, sound and ethical initiatives are under serious attack from the traditional corrupt actors, who have strong ties with crime. I can choose to see failure and defeat. But I can choose to see resistance and strength – a lot of strength.
It is hard to give a proper account of how much effort it takes to do that in Brazil, not only one of the most corrupt countries in the world, but one of the few (I actually don’t know any other) where unethical behavior is culturally glamourized. This is the country where it is “cool” to cheat, to be a charming delinquent or a fancy prostitute. It is hard to offer foreigners a proper idea about the corruption feast that takes place between sports organizations and the government or the partnerships with organized crime.
Likewise, it is hard to grasp what it takes to resist and confront this. The fact that there is resistance, that it is taken seriously by many, is a major reason to celebrate.
This week, my greatest reason to feel grateful has a face and a name: Eugenio Koprowski. He is the man who actually put all the strength sports in action around the 1960s. He is still harassed by the delinquents. This is fifty years resisting the “dark side”. And he is still the leader and the reference to those of us who chose to remain on the “light side of the Force”.
Yes, there are diamonds shining in the gutter. I am grateful for that.
With this said, I resume my “gratitude project”, my decision to keep ignoring the dark side and dealing with annoyances as privately as possible. Being grateful for all the gifts – small and big – and refusing to feed the beasts seems like a good idea while recovering from a serious illness and building important projects.
I will keep doing it.