appeared in the New York Times International section this morning, concerning a recent massacre of 30 people in a working class suburb of Rio. Speculation is that the murders were carried out by corrupt military police officers who committed the crimes in response to recent efforts to eliminate corruption from the ranks of the police. You can read about the specifics by visiting the above link.
I have a few incoherent thoughts about the whole incident that I wouldn't mind getting feedback on. To begin, it seems as though the most prominent news we receive by way of Brazil (particularly by way of Rio and Sao Paulo) is news of the violence that often times populates conversations I have with other Americans. It is an image of Brazil that is difficult for a lot of Americans to shake, either by virtue of the fact that they've seen City of God
, or the fact that they've seen City of God
and it has confirmed their worst nightmares.
For anyone that has spent any significant amount of time in Brazil, I'm sure that we share in the mutual frustration that stems from the bad rap Brazil gets on safety. The Times
article even falls into the same trap, commencing the article with the following misleadingly vague statement: "At least 30 people were killed in drive-by shootings in two gritty, working class suburbs late Thursday night and early Friday, in what the local authorities described as perhaps the worst blood bath in the history of this often violent metropolis."
What exactly is meant by "often violent" naturally seems underscored by the event described, adhering to the laws of "what bleeds, leads" quite faithfully. However, to editorialize a story so steeped in speculation to begin with is unfair to the Brazil I know and love. Similarly, to reduce the country to a sun-bathing, thong-sporting caipirinha of a nation is equally disturbing.
Brazil seems often misrepresented in the media, and thus in American culture. I think the preponderence of "chill Brazillian lounge" is directly correlated to the image that is communicated so effectively and yet so inaccurately in stories like the aforementioned one, leaving it up to us to resolve the conflicting images of care-free party people and AK47 wielding 6 year-olds by resorting to recycled popular music from 50 years ago. Which isn't to say that it can't be done extremely well...
The one thing that Brazilian culture, and in turn music, does retain is sheer beauty. My previous comments notwithstanding, Brazilian culture thrives today in a way that is seldom appreciated here in the United States because of our preoccupation with the issue of crime. It warrants, and deserves, a trip to Brazil to see for yourself. The culture is complex, significant, and most of concern to many people, original. Crime is an issue, but as many of my faculty members abroad have said, the United States is the most dangerous country in the world and we don't seem to have any problem with it.
This isn't meant as an ideological rant in any sense; instead it is a plea to look beyond the limited universe of stereotypical images of Brazil, whether those images be favelas or beaches. Most of you are here because you already know how rich Brazilian culture can be, but passing along the message is equally important. How so many Americans can be completely oblivious to a nation of 80 million people is baffling, to say the least. What is more disturbing, however, is how much our two nations have in common with each other. I think Americans are in a unique position to relate to Americans more so than perhaps any other nation in the world, and there was a time in our collective history when we appreciated that.
So ends my rant... I started feeling guilty that I said I was going to discuss "politics" on this blog, but had failed to do so thus far. Happy April Showers to all, and I'll be back with some music in a couple of days.