There is no nuance when it comes to choosing history’s villains; nobody will care if Brazilians really hated the Workers Party government when their major cities are under waterby Julia Blunck / August 28, 2019 / Leave a comment
2009 in Brazil, and the future had arrived at last. After decades of being a country slouching toward an unfeasibly distant better tomorrow, the young democracy had got it right this time: the ruling Workers Party was both generous to the poor and friendly to the rich, capable of expanding welfare and following economic orthodoxy, pleasing both green activists and the country’s agribusiness lobby. This was not simply an overeager prediction by enthusiastic business magazines, but something that even Obama could recognize, greeting the Brazilian President Lula da Silva with an effusive “I love this guy!” at a G20 summit.
One did not need to be a Lula partisan to feel, on some level, proud of Brazil’s new image on the world stage. In a way, Lula’s performance was a manifestation of the Brazilian myth of the cordial man, the warm and kind hearted friend, always willing to talk or lend a helping hand if necessary.
This trait is perhaps the most shared feature in Brazilian culture. It is an act that every Brazilian child knows by heart: this country might not be better than other countries in anything else, but its people are more lovable, and for that they will inherit the world.
Ten years later, the cordial men have blood on their hands. The election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018 shattered the myth of the sometimes scrappy, sometimes thriving country, filled with smiles despite adversity. Instead, Brazil is an axis of sadism. There was no foreign villain, no authoritarian break with democratic order, and above all there were no surprises; by its own choice and by its own decisions, knowing at every step of the way of what that would entail, the supposed loveable country chose a man who would praise torture and despise human rights.
Last week, the country learned that choosing that image has consequences. The scenes of the Amazon going up in flames might be many things, but they certainly are not unexpected. Bolsonaro does not believe in the urgency of the climate crisis; this is a man who takes advice from a flat earther. His administration is at best indifferent and at…