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Impeachment: Brazil Shows Its Face (Oops!) [OPINION]

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This article by Thamyra Thâmara is one of a series of five opinion pieces on the impeachment by community reporters published this week on RioOnWatch.

Thamyra Thâmara, resident of Complexo do Alemão, is a journalist and photographer who works with social media and created the organizations GatoMÍDIA and AfroFuturista. Thamyra writes for Anastácia Contemporânea and Revista DR.

An average day goes like this: she wakes up at 6am and has breakfast with her children before they go to school. She gets ready to leave the house and catches the bus. An hour and a half to get downtown if the traffic isn’t too bad. On her feet, almost falling asleep alongside the other standing passengers. She works, and works, and works. On the way home it’s the same story: on her feet, in traffic, falling asleep. She leaves work at 6pm and only gets home at 9pm because of an accident on Avenida Brasil [one of the North Zone’s main throughways]. On the way home she hears the news: her neighbor’s son has been killed, hit by a stray bullet, or more accurately perhaps, a bullet that found a target. The next day it’s all the same. This could well be the daily routine for many women living in favelas or urban peripheries in Brazil. The system is such that violations of rights are a day-to-day occurrence and as a result we end up not having a life to speak up about, fight for, take to the streets for.

A large number of Brazilians are politically illiterate. They don’t know how the three branches of government (the legislature, executive and the judiciary) function, or what all the political offices are for. What do deputies do? Or the senators, mayors, governors and the president? None of the subjects at school go near covering the country’s constitution and this is far from unintentional. Lots of people benefit from our political ignorance.

On the other hand, the poorest Brazilians might not know how the political system works but they do know when the price of rice, beans and meat goes up. They know how much it costs to travel by plane, or to buy their first kitchen appliance, their own house, or car–these are examples of social changes that have been achieved not only through increased consumer power but also through education. Many families have seen sons or daughters, nieces or nephews, relatives, becoming the first in their families to go to a public university. These are some of the achievements of President Lula’s government–achievements that everyone thought would increase during Dilma’s government but which ended up stagnating instead. The Workers Party government did what it had to, but it did a lot less than it promised. It could have done so much more.

The Rio de Janeiro city government was quick to take back all that was offered by the federal government. A partnership between the Workers Party (PT) and the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) in Rio only led to oppression, violations of rights for the poorest, forced removals of entire families, the deaths of young black Brazilians–all this going on every day, a legacy of the World Cup and the Olympics, which are still to come but which we already know will be a disaster.

Meanwhile, we end up teetering between defending a “left” that we no longer feel represents us and giving up, therefore allowing an increasingly fascist right wing to prosper in Brazil. People who hate the poor, who hate gay people, black people, women–people who, if they had a whip in their hand, would not hesitate to use it, arresting and killing people. And it seems as if this is a new force that has appeared out of nowhere. But it’s not! It has always been there.

So what’s left for us to do? Break everything down and start again? Reinvent a new left wing, a new political system, a new form of representation, new forms of fighting back, new leaders, new faces, new ideas. A new “other” that can rise up out of this chaos. Taking the daily disputes on social networks and turning them into face-to-face conversations in public, sitting in the bar. Like washing dirty laundry, you know? Face-to-face, we’re going to have to have new conversations about slavery, about inequality, about feminism, about minority rights, about privilege, about white privilege. We need to have these conversations again in a way that educates people! And who knows, this time we might start listening to each other. However, until this happens we’re going to keep on teetering on the edge of our tenuous and fragile democracy, with our heads in the sand.

Read our full impeachment opinion series here.