Brazil’s back to the Middle Ages
Stripped naked, publicly humiliated, punched, kicked, part of the ear chopped off, neck chained and body tied to a bicycle frame. That’s the punishment that an angry mob of upper-middle class citizens inflicted on a 16-years old pickpocket. A passerby tried to interfere and help the adolescent, only to be threatened with lynching by the hysterical horde.
A TV presenter then celebrates the barbarity live on national television. A nation applauds. A political party threatens the TV presenter with legal action for inciting violence. The nation slams the political party for being opportunistic.
This is not the script of Tarantino’s or Ken Loach’s latest film. The TV presenter in question is Rachel Sheherazade from the Brazilian TV network SBT, the place is the Flamengo district (in the city of Rio de Janeiro) and the political party is PSOL (a small left-wing party). The 16-year pickpocket is (surprise, surprise!!!) a black, poor dweller from a nearby slum.
There is something intrinsically wrong with the mindset of the Brazilian middle classes. Their values are twisted and corrupted, and their stance is highly hypocritical. The widely spread adage “a good thief is a dead thief” is racist and elitist.
Online commentators accused PSOL of being “communists” who “sympathise with Hitler” (both at the same time even!!!), and therefore have no moral authority to criticise the journalist. They supported Rachel Sheherazade almost unanimously. Their rhetoric can be read in most leading media, such as this one. This is deeply shocking and disturbing.
Every country has their Anne Heche, Melanie Phillips and Rachel Sheherazade. The danger is when they come out of their rotten trenches and shoot their toxic idiocies in every possible direction, and get commended for that.
Rachel Sheherazade is a antediluvian religious fundamentalist, member of the Baptist Church, and has a history of inflammatory and highly reactionary comments. Last year she affirmed that “supporters of the lay State are ungrateful towards Christianity, which is responsible for our principles of freedom, honesty, respect and justice”. It defies logic how she applied these principles to the lynching of a 16-years old.
Or perhaps not. The Christian fundamentalist would probably welcome the return of the Inquisition, where all pickpockets, defectors and infidels could burn mercilessly!
Luckily the Brazilian law does not allow for such acts of savagery. In reality the Brazilian Constitution – written in 1988 – is very lay, balanced and modern. The problem is that most people are not.
Brazilians are very good at histrionics, and that’s why so many identify so profoundly with Sheherazade. Brazilians love screaming their rights. They have the ability to turn an item in their agenda, however small, in an issue of epic proportions in a split second. Unfortunately, they are equally good at neglecting their duties, conveniently forgetting that the law also applies to themselves.
For example, one of the favourite hobbies of the Brazilian middle class is to bemoan corrupt politicians. Yet they are unrepentant of the lawless lynching of a 16-years old.
Brazil wants to be “the country of the future”, but it is still bogged down in a precarious mentality of the past. Many Brazilians have the habit of taking advantage of every single situation, dismissing justice as they see fit. This crooked and nefarious attitude is affectionately described as the “the Brazilian way” (“o jeitinho brasileiro”) of doing things. Vigilantes, make yourselves home: this is nobody’s land!
The savages who beat the 16-year old and this vile “journalist” should be arrested and prosecuted. Worryingly, that is unlikely to happen. Instead, the barbarians are being celebrated.
Brazilians must pick their role models more carefully. We need more Mandelas and less Talebans. Otherwise, who is going to take us seriously?