Brazil is a country that is highly creative in social politics, finding ways to ease conditions without changing reality. This creativity began in slavery: instead of abolishing it, we resorted to the Law of the Free Birth, which in 1871 freed newborns whose parents were slaves.
The sixty-year-old slaves, the old ones, were freed, a euphemism for abandoning them. Even the Abolition of Slavery occurred without offering either education or land for the ex-slaves and their children. Abolition was a euphemism for expelling the slaves from the plantations into the favelas.
In modern times we have also been the champions of imagining partial solutions.
Salaries were insufficient for the worker to pay for transportation to the worksite. Instead of increasing salaries, we created the vale-transporte, the public transportation-ticket, as if it were a great social benefit, when, in reality, it was a service to the economy.
It guarantees the worker’s presence at the factory. The rule is the same for the vale-refeição, the meal ticket. The salary was not sufficient to assure the worker the minimal amount of food. The solution, therefore, was to guarantee the workers food, even though their families would still go without it.
When inflation became endemic, instead of combating it – this happened only in 1994 – we created the monetary correction, which guaranteed a stable currency for those who had access to the financial market stratagems while the rest of the population continued to see their salaries decrease in value.
Today, when the country is experiencing a qualified-workforce shortage, we are rushing to set up technical schools while at the same time forgetting that, without elementary/secondary education, the students will be unable to take advantage of the professional courses.
The Bolsa Escola was created to revolutionize school. Since this was not done, it was transformed into the Bolsa Família, which is yet another of the compensatory solutions along with the vale-refeição and the vale-gás, the cooking gas ticket.
The good, free universities are reserved for those who can pay for private elementary/secondary schools. Instead of establishing good schools for everyone, we created the University for All (ProUni) and quotas for black and indigenous students. Brazil improved with these measures, but did so without confronting the problem and accommodating the population, as if everyone were now equal. Benefits were promoted with provisionary solutions, as if these would resolve the problem.
The deferred solution would be a revolution assuring quality school for all children, in a program spread throughout the country, where all the schools were federal, like the Pedro II College; the military technical schools; and the colégios de aplicação, the elementary/secondary schools run by the universities.
When the social inequality forces the separation between the poor and the rich who are estranged from each other, instead of overcoming the inequality, we built walls in shopping centers and condominiums, separating the social classes. To impede the classes from socializing, we hampered building metro stations in wealthy neighborhoods, which demonstrates these residents’ total disinterest in public transportation.
Since there is a lack of physics teachers, physics was removed from the school curriculum. The students do not learn so we have adopted automatic promotion to the next grade. The Congress does not work; the Federal Supreme Tribunal (STF) has begun to legislate.
The population speaks Portuguese incorrectly; instead of teaching everyone correct Portuguese, we legitimized the erroneous version for the part of the population without access to education.
We adopted two languages: the Portuguese of the educated rich and the Portuguese of the uneducated poor, the Portuguese of the condominiums and the Portuguese of the streets. Instead of combating prejudice and inequality, we legalized inequality.
Instead of making the structural changes to build an efficient, balanced, integrated and just social system, we opted for a simple oiling of the contrary gears of society. Our solutions may perhaps even be creative, but they are stupid and unjust.
The society is accommodating its deficiencies. Instead of confronting and resolving the problems, our creativity adjusts the society to live with them. And it defers and aggravates the problems because it deceives the mind and accommodates the politics.
Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. You can visit his website at www.cristovam.org.br/portal2/, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SEN_CRISTOVAM in Portuguese and http://twitter.com/cbbrazilianview in English and write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New translations of his works of fiction The Subterranean Gods and Astricia are now available on Amazon.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome (LinJerome@cs.com).
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