Paul Vadas – Master Degree in political science from California State University Northridge, has worked for over 25 years as executive in Brazilian and U.S. higher education.
The World Cup is NOT over. As in politics, every four years it is renewed and the Brazilians who believe that “hope is the last to die,” are already preparing for the next Cup in hopes of winning the dreamed hexa. They know, however, that a lot of work has to be done from here to there. The path goes through the renewal necessary to win several other championships that are in the way, including the one to qualify. There are difficult years ahead but, as always, the Brazilians know that since the 1950s, when Pele and Garrincha emerged as world-class stars, Brazil has become a real producer of players who constantly renew their teams as well as that of others countries around the world.
The same, however, does not happen in Brazilian politics. Unlike soccer, every four years the “players” who compete for political offices are always the same. There is no renewal because there are no spare parts. The same players play the game they always played and consequently the result is always the same. The offices may change hands but they are not renewed – they are inherited from generation to generation. And so the political, economic, and social changes needed are not made, frustrating the aspirations of the people and creating a condition close to exasperation as the hope for economic growth diminishes at every moment.
Many Brazilians, those who believe that hope has died, leave the country either because of lack of opportunities, or lack of appreciation, or lack of security, or all of the above combined. Those of the less favored classes leave in order to seek better financial conditions to support their families. Talented soccer players leave Brazil to earn more and to be more valued. People from the wealthier classes leave the country because of insecurity. What good is it to have money if you find yourself constantly threatened with being mugged, if not murdered? They wonder.
Expatriates see better opportunities in other countries. And thus they emigrate from Brazil, leaving behind the roots that, without realizing it, follow them to their new destinations. They leave Brazil but take with them their culture, their ways of being, of expressing themselves, of living, of eating. In the pursuit of financial stability, valorization and/or security, they find in the countries to which they go other types of problems, other realities that make them cry.
The homesickness of family members left behind, the Brazilian way of being (I’m not talking here about the Brazilian “jeitinho” that harms both morals and ethical principles in Brazil), and the habits acquired in their native land, conspire in such ways that the cry of the expatriates manifests itself in the search for other Brazilians who make them feel “more at home”. They exchange information and stories that, in the end, are all the same. In pursuit of financial stability they end up accepting jobs they never thought to do. In the pursuit of security, betrayed by their own accent, they feel discriminated against as foreigners, and in the present circumstances both in the United States and in Europe they feel the emptiness of perceiving themselves as undesirables.
Little by little, however, and in time, they become accustomed, they adjust. They acquire the habits and the ways of being of the communities where they live and work. They understand that all types of work are valued and that there is no shame in being baby sitters, dishwashers, waiters, housekeepers, etc.
Gradually they realize that everyone is, in one way or another, a foreigner and that discrimination is more a perception than a reality. In general, those who immigrated legally and work hard end up seeing their efforts compensated and their talents appreciated. The desire to return to live in Brazil is transformed into a desire to visit in order to kill the longing.
As they become accustomed to their new lives, Brazilians do not cease to feel love for the homeland they left behind. They wear the Brazilian shirt during the games and root anxiously for the Brazilian team. However, when they weigh down the Brazilian political situation and ask themselves: “will Brazil have a way out?” many of them think that there is no way. They lost all hope. They end up acquiring the citizenship of the host country. Silently, they weep over the feeling of having left family, friends, colleagues and the homeland in which they were born and raised. They are resigned in accepting a reality they would have liked to have been different.
In the United States, despite the serious social problems afflicting a politically divided country, Brazilians realize that politics is not something that happens every four years. That politics, like any sport, is manifested in the constancy of political engagement, daily manifestation, freedom of expression, and especially in the constant pressure on those who have been elected to represent the interests of the respective communities they represent. The pure district-vote system guarantees this. The people know who their representatives are in the city council, the state capitols, the federal congress. Proximity between representatives and those who they represent is the main manifestation of a democracy that is expressed daily and not only every four years.
But that’s not all. Like any other profession, being a politician is valued. Schools promote the idea of political demonstrations and access to political office as something natural and possible for anyone. Being a political leader, a representative of the people, a public servant, is considered an honor and accessible to anyone interested and willing to participate in the process. Like soccer in Brazil, where talented players come from the most diverse social classes, in the United States being a politician is open to anyone who wants to enter the career and who shows talent for it.
From the earliest age, Americans understand the importance of political manifestations and constant questioning of those who represent them. A few months ago, students at Parkland, a middle school suffering from the death toll of 16 colleagues and a teacher shot by a former student, prompted demonstrations that spread throughout the country. These young people, aged 15 to 18 years, therefore not yet of voting age, demonstrated an unequaled capacity for political engagement. Very well articulated, they organized a mega demonstration in Washington D.C. that was mirrored in so many other demonstrations in the capitals and cities in every state in the country. The result was that in less than a month, several states changed their arms control laws.
Most recently, in early June, a 28-year-old woman in the Democratic primary overthrew a federal representative considered the fourth most powerful Democrat in Congress. The young woman, an African-American, without having any political experience and therefore, theoretically, with no chance of winning against a candidate who had been re-elected for twenty years practically without competition, besides being charismatic, well informed, well articulated, and engaged in her community, she worked for several years in social causes and was able to convince the community that she is really a more appropriate representative to represent the longings of the population that she would serve. She won big. The up-to-here “powerful” veteran politician will be looking for another job.
This accessibility that a truly representative democratic system, based on the direct vote by districts (not on party lists that guarantee the maintenance of the political chieftains in power, even with little votes), characterizes well in the United States the feeling that hope is the last to die. Politics is not manifested only in the political act of voting. It manifests itself in the political act of constant, direct questioning of the representatives and, when necessary, of engaging in public manifestations. It is with the pressure of direct questions and public manifestations that the politician is forced to act so as not to lose his position in the next elections. Every politician knows that there are ample spare parts, that he is replaceable, and that the public offices are renewable, they are not hereditary.
There is, in the country, the understanding that there is nothing more dangerous to a democracy than the ignorance of its people. Schools are charged with the responsibility of impressing on their students the importance of participation in the political system, not in any ideological manner, but as a process of critical thinking where the Constitution, with its freedoms, rights, responsibilities, privileges, and delegations of powers, is used as the basic guideline of American accepted political behavior.
Unfortunately, in Brazil, as long as the educational system (from primary schools to postgraduate) does not politicize the Brazilian citizen (as mandated by Article 205 of the Federal Constitution) and ensure that every Brazilian understands how the system works, he/she will not be able to fight to end the farce of Brazilian “democracy”. Raising awareness, discussing the structure of the political system and the importance of direct representation, of constitutional rights and responsibilities and of political engagement are fundamental conditions for changing both the political system and the culture of political participation in Brazil.
The expatriate has learned all this. He/she has learned about the harsh realities of adjustments as well as of the possibilities and the changes that need to be made. Many dream of returning one day. The few who do return are very important for Brazil because they return with other values and with the awareness that, just as in soccer, the political battle is a daily affair, that depends on engagement, that all the work done between elections are just preparations that are expressed on election day, and that every election, just like every World Cup, is an opportunity to renew the hope of achieving the aspirations of the people.
In essence, no matter how well prepared, there is no guarantee that elections ever faithfully reflect the anxieties of the population, just as no preparation, no matter how good it is, ensures that the best team wins the World Cup. What is known is that no unprepared country has ever won a World Cup. What is known is that soccer or politics are not projects with beginning, middle and end. They are continuous improvement processes that, as the American Constitution says in its preamble, exist to “form a more perfect union”.
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