The other day a friend from the U.S. saw the photo below, which I’d shared on Google+, and commented that he hoped it isn’t “getting too crazy down there” for me.
No, it isn’t “too crazy,” although to hear the foreign press tell it you’d think the country was coming apart at the seams.
In my opinion, Brazil hosting the World Cup 2014 has long appeared to be the setup for a comedy of errors. The nation has been gaining ground against poverty and the people here are more connected with the outside world than ever before. People are making more trips overseas and are seeing how much cheaper and simpler it can be. Even those who don’t travel have access to the wider world via Internet. Slowly, people who have long known things weren’t quite right here are waking up to just how much better it could be.
This scenario of a slightly better standard of living in general combined with more familiarity with life in the developed world is fueling anger against the existing system. Still, that isn’t the only reason for all the protests and strikes we’re seeing recently. It’s likely not even a primary motivation.
2014 is an election year, and the unions are tightly bound up with political parties and government officials. This would be a “strike season” anyway, and having so much at stake for the present powers that be with the upcoming World Cup just gives strikers that much more leverage. No one wants the buses parked and immigration offline when spectators start arriving next month. Further, the landless and homeless movements have a message that syncs up with the ongoing complaints from the general population over the World Cup and Olympics: Why billions for stadiums and so little for homes, schools and hospitals.
The government has tried to respond by showing that spending for the World Cup is only equivalent to around 10% of annual spending on education and public health. That’s not a very impressive reply, however. Combining school and hospital budgets inflates the numbers used in comparison, and in any case the World Cup preparations benefit an extremely small number of people.
Still, it isn’t “too crazy.” As I said, we’d be seeing strikes right now no matter what. The proximity of the World Cup only aggravates the matter. I tend to suspect that once the 12th of June arrives the strikes will be mostly set aside, protests will be minimal and most Brazilians will just want to see the games. Tourists will arrive to incomplete airports and have to deal with poor mobile Internet reception and myriad other indignities of life in this country, but they’ll see past it. The charm of this country and the warmth of its people will overcome most of the negatives.