Brazil: Rio, Stop the Civil War!

     Brazil: Rio, Stop the Civil War!

    According to United
    Nations’ numbers, Brazil has 2.8 percent
    of the world’s population and 11 percent of the planet’s homicides.
    Brazil has the distinction of having 40,000 murders a year,
    a number much higher than the deaths in the Iraq war and in
    the whole Middle East. What a little sign can do against this?
    by: Beatriz

    I’m a psychoanalyst for 20 years
    and for a few months now I have become an activist for citizenry,
    which, in Rio, is oddly divided in four tribes. The first one
    is composed by those who use alienation as defense mechanism
    against the horror experienced with the growing trivialization
    of evil.

    As soon as the shootout
    at Rocinha favela ended, those who belong to the alienated club went
    back to the "normality" of our pathological daily life, indifferent
    to its perversity.

    The second tribe is made
    up by those who get depressed due to the brutal violence and the feeling of
    having been abandoned. Hopeless, they keep on walking, resigned to our tragic
    reality. Exhausted and abulic, they simply refuse do fight. Here hopelessness
    is the mother of surrender.

    The third group reacts
    in a paranoid way. The fear and the hate they feel in face of the danger produce
    a mental short circuit that makes them think that they will be victims of
    retaliations if they do protest. They look at the danger from far away, and
    terrified, take refuge in their private bunkers.

    A minority is composed
    by those who resist and set out to work: they are relatives of the victims
    of violence, charity workers and indignant citizens. They sound off because
    they understand that "normality" in Rio de Janeiro is in reality
    a civil war.

    They know that in an emergency
    it doesn’t matter whose obligation is to take care of the problem or who is
    to be blamed. All that matters is who can do something—and now. And united
    the irreplaceable power of public opinion can make it happen. And a lot.

    Recently, I changed my
    attitude and adhered to the fourth group. Luckily, my indignation wasn’t determined
    by personal tragedy. It found its limit in the drama the city lived during

    Depressed and leaning
    over my flat’s balcony, opposite the Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers
    Hills), I was lamenting my impotence face this unacceptable state of affairs.

    Suddenly I became aware
    that I wasn’t that impotent: after all, the "wailing balcony" is
    a huge billboard in an area with a heavy traffic in Rio’s South Zone.

    I decided to put a sign
    with the words "Basta" (Enough). And transformed my terrace into
    the "revendication balcony."

    Since nobody is brave
    the whole time, in a first moment, I was apprehensive with the repercussion
    my act would have, and, emotionally went back a few steps, paying a visit
    to the third group.

    A few residents in my
    building, and habitués of this tribe, feeling threatened by the sign,
    and fearing retaliation by the drug traffickers, asked me to take it out.
    Apart from them, nobody else seemed to have noticed.

    From my viewpoint, the
    whole city seemed in a daze as in the fables. It seemed like a negative and
    collective hallucination (a hallucination in reverse with people not being
    able to see what was clearly obvious) prevented people from noticing a red,
    23-by-7-feet sign. I landed without a parachute in the second group and, depressed,
    I started to lose hope.

    I didn’t pester anyone
    with "my" campaign, as I hear sometimes. Everybody thought the idea
    was great, but very few joined in heartily. I never insisted.

    One week after the shootout,
    people, theoretically lucid, appeared to suggest that the expiration date
    in "my" issue was over. After all, everything had gone back to normal.
    I started to feel quixotic.

    Ten days after having
    put the sign, disillusioned and running the risk of becoming a permanent member
    of the second tribe, I receive a call from a reporter from O Globo
    newspaper, asking me if anyone in my family had been killed for me to be doing

    I laughed and answered
    that it was to prevent anyone from being murdered. Encouraged by the kind
    article she wrote, I started to recover hope. It didn’t last long though.

    That same day, residents
    from the building, frightened by the article’s repercussion, gave me an ultimatum.
    The "Enough" sign had to go from my balcony.

    That Friday night, even
    though I already had 1,000 stickers printed and a website being built, I took
    my indignation from my façade. And gave up.

    The next morning I woke
    up with the scream of my six-year-old son.

    "Rush to the balcony,
    mom, the neighbor across the street has put up a sign like ours."

    That morning, suddenly,
    everything was worthwhile. Still on my nightgown and even before brushing
    my teeth, I started to jump and to cry while waving to the unknown neighbor
    who had definitely taken me back to the fourth group.

    My sign is back, now high
    in the veranda, inside my apartment. Notwithstanding, I have already told
    my neighbors that I will not commit the violence of an imposition. It the
    majority so wishes, I will take it out so that democracy may prevail. I may
    remove my sign, but I won’t do the same to my indignation.

    The city, as if waking
    up from its fabular enchantment, starts little by little to offer its solidarity.
    The movement is beginning to get strength and to build an interesting interdisciplinary
    bank of ideas.

    I’m hopeful, but I’m also
    realistic because I know how hard is to pull out people from their emotional

    But if I have to choose
    between utopia and surrender, I will pick the former without a second thought.
    Because for me it’s Enough! Really.

    Beatriz Kuhn is a member of Rio’s Sociedade Brasileira de
    Psicanálise (Brazilian Association of Psychoanalysis).
    You can find the movement she started
    You can email her at

    Translated from
    the Portuguese by Arlindo Silva.

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