Brazil is a contradiction in itself. Anyone who spends a few months in this place quickly discovers how difficult it is, if not impossible, to tie all the confronting ends together. No matter how far one reaches out trying to grasp it, to take it all in, as it were, the country never fully reveals itself. One learns to acquire partial rather than total view of Brazil. That alone and the blind reliance on stubborn facts is what’s often responsible for the distorted perception of our country.
I’m convinced that the true understanding lies in approaching life indirectly. And to understand the complex (dis)order of which Brazil is composed I had no choice but learn to rely on something more than mind alone. I had to look beyond the facts and find what stands behind them. The journey, if you will, is a metaphysical one. It is diving into the depths rather than merely searching on the surface where all superfluous refuse congregates.
But what does it all have to do with the World Cup which kicks off in less than two weeks? I will answer this query in due time. The real question, however, is – is there anything good in the upcoming event for Brazil and its people? After all, the whole atmosphere surrounding The World Cup and everything that has to do with its preparation can hardly be called laudable.
There is a persistent rumor the World Cup has already cost Brazil as much as the last three World Cups put together (the actual figure to be confirmed), 70 000 Brazilians are being evicted in order to make way for the festivities. There are protests, riots and strikes springing out like mushrooms across the entire country. There are tales of mass level corruption and stupefying incompetence all contributing to the fact that many Brazilians come to view the WC as some sort a joke, and a very expensive one too.
Here we have arrived at a very important point – where corruption and incompetence were expected, the outcry of the public was not. Something unthinkable, something unprecedented is taking place in Brazil. People are protesting against Football Inc. And yet, one simply can’t escape thinking that it is thanks to the World Cup in the first place that our people are opening their eyes and once again reawaking to the disconcerting reality surrounding them. The problem, or at least, what people view as a problem, is pointing to a solution.
However paradoxical there is nothing abnormal in such typically Brazilian stance. This, after all, is the country that due to the centuries of plunder and gross mismanagement has learned to overcome its difficulties in its own unique way. As strange as it may sound, Brazil’s greatest strength, its creativity, is drawn directly from its weakness and perpetual problems; the country develops despite unfavorable circumstances AND, at times, because of them. Calamity can only be considered as such, if one sees no opportunity for self-improvement, if one doesn’t learn a lesson from it. Chinese, in their purely oriental, inscrutable ways had known it all too well from times immemorial. Their word wēijī, which stands for ‘’crisis’’, is composed of two sino-characters that can represent both “danger” and “opportunity”.
Brazil ‘’thrives’’ in chaos and crisis and has developed a rather awe-inspiring talent for dribbling around the forces discriminating against its people. If one considers, for instance, example of Capoeira and Samba and where those two originally sprang from, knows it to be true. The roots of both take us all the way back to their Afro-Brazilian ancestry and its heritage of slavery. Football is another supreme example, where 90% of players come from the lowest brackets of Brazilian society; the players, who are millionaires now, but not long ago disfranchised urchins literally indistinguishable from millions of other little boys inconspicuously beginning their professional careers on some dimly lit gravel pitch concealed from the eyes of the world in the labyrinth of favela.
Brazilian proverbial disorder, if it can be called such, is a fertile ground where the country continues to unearth some of its most spectacular talent. Amidst the rot there roses bloom; some of the best characteristics and qualities of Brazilian culture emerge from the soil where few have hoped to find any. This is where some Brazilians come to view the World Cup as ‘’the necessary evil’’ of sorts. There is even a more nuanced argument that good and evil, crisis and opportunity are dependent on one another. It is a fundamental tenet to many religions that evil, while mysterious, may clear the way for good, that men are perfected only in battle, that we live our life in contexts and contrasts, and so perhaps we can argue that only by witnessing, and confronting, our greatest problems we allow the forces of light to shine most bright, that we learn, and improve our character by struggling with the elements conspiring against us.
And in that the World Cup is one qualified success despite the wave of widespread criticism and condemnation we so often hear. Among the important results are:
1) A mild feeling of unity (where previously were none) among the poor and the middle class of Brazilians.
2) Plenty of exposure of the people’s cause, thanks largely to the event and the attention it has drawn of local and international media.
3) A chance to test the country’s ability to manage an event of such magnitude.
4) A slightly improved infrastructure (roads, airports, public transport, security et cetera.)
5) Better salaries for firefighters, waste collectors etc.
6) Thousands are learning English.
7) And finally the inescapable realization that we still have a very long way to go before we can call Brazil ‘’the country of the future’’.
Are these above mentioned, however minute, accomplishments not worthy of our pride and admiration? Are these not the ones we always fight for? However the real achievement of the World Cup lies in the shift of mentality and attitudes of Brazilian people. People have begun to ask themselves, what if we took the huge amount of money and energy used in the preparation of the World Cup and used for more constructive purposes like public health and education?
True, the event has exposed the extend of Brazilian fallibilities, like pandemic corruption and incompetence, but are these more powerful than Brazilian genius, creativity, courage and unity? I guess, we will know the answer in due time. The World Cup may have shown some of our weaknesses, but it also helped us believe that there are still heights we are yet to discover. And even though the games will last only a month, the attitude and the change it represents could have a long-lasting repercussions.