Earlier today, as I was walking back from my usual doctor appointment, I heard a young man in a car (and you always wonder how they got it) sending a voice message to someone, over the incredibly ethically sound messaging platform WhatsApp: “I’m gonna show you who runs the shit, and I’ll put it in your face”. He was talking about the barrel of a gun, and maybe contrary to rap culture, it wasn’t a sexy message at all.
Now there’s a lot to unpack here, but this blog will be short. I have several issues of my own to handle. This came right after a patient was telling about a conflict in my neighborhood, involving police and drug trafficking. Every neighborhood has its ups and downs, and as I told my social assistant and psychologist, most of us have learned how to separate. What I worried about, I continued, were the young kids, who sometimes didn’t even have a family and went on bike trips to rob people and smuggle.
Brazil has seen a culture of guns get imported from the United States of America. Statista shows that the homicide rates are pretty high in our country (27 per 100 thousand), but are beaten by other countries, which is not a trophy for humanity, especially not El Salvador (52 per 100 thousand). In the United States, the stats are lower. (7 per 100 thousand). However, turn on the news and you’ll hear about mass shootings in schools all the time, several times a year, besides police brutality.
That makes me think that the media has its own culture. There was an old newspaper in Brazil that, in popular culture, was said to drip with blood if you squeezed its paper. At a similar fashion, local news seem to talk about robbery, fraud, violence against women, hate crimes and also manslaughter, not to mention natural catastrophes, consumer issues and the poorly chosen words of politicians from today and the past. The latter, though, is a case for immunity. Hate crime perpetrators have been protected by Brazilians in positions of power, as we all know. To be fair, the narrative of corruption sweeps the country, but the tone has changed. It’s the truth versus the brainwashed minds of the youth.
If Brazil needs to organize and fight for something, then we might just quit watching soccer games and Big Brother Brasil. We might send less memes and get informed about the economy, in decisions taking place that have global consequences and which leaders have to carefully navigate, among public and private sectors; that aside, we have social media and personal lives, which people seem to forget exist for public figures, or at least devote their time exploring, regardless of a right to privacy — and, sometimes, national sovereignty questions.
Famously, the ex-president of Brazil went to Santos to ride jet skis. That’s exactly where I live. He was also on a trip to Jacksonville, home of far-right, book-banning, secretly closeted but nonetheless LGBT hater Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida. The city was named as the next home of the GOP (what Americans call the Republican Party, for the international readers). Despite Disney and its success stories that have endured the test of time, including in the business of streaming, this state is now home to Trump and Bolsonaro, the latter a refugee or asylum seeker. But that’s not what we say about criminals. He’s a man on the loose. And KFC seems to love him, or the contrary.
This man has spent his political career defending the role of the Armed Forces in taking control over the political system of Brazil; he defended that political opponents should be submitted to torture, including at the event of impeachment of ousted president Dilma Rousseff (and it’s worth remembering that was a very picturesque show of character of the Brazilian Congress, which gained two Netflix documentaries, one nominated to the Oscars). He also passed into law the easing of purchasing of guns, including for hunters and collectors (which was on Globo’s National News today).
What we can learn from a culture of guns is that we should drop the guns. It may sound like a cliché, but we should arm ourselves with books; and if you think that’s not your thing, seek knowledge. Seek fun, but maintain a minimal reasonable motive when you decide you want to behave like an animal. Let the internet know that your words are just for show, and that you’re not going to enact any of the said words, or written down, in this case. Let them know you’re a troll — there’s many groups that would accept who you are. But don’t mess with democracy, with working people, and with global institutions working for humanitarian causes. We are bigger, and we’ll win this one, even if we get hurt — in which case, the legal system will provide assistance for us, not to the violent perpetrators. These are the actual rules of the game. But go ahead and play your X-Box, that’s a totally different story.