Despite MPL leaders stepping down, the Brazilian masses continue to protest their government; what has ensued has seemed almost a farce of political activism.
The lack of right-wing activism in Brazilian universities, leaving the only form of politics present in campus to be the left-wing liberalism, has left a massive portion of the Brazilian population, the conservative youth, completely alienated from the country’s political activities and often rejecting politics altogether.
The end result is the naivety shown by the people who have played the biggest part in this recent uprising, the so-called “old middle class”, who was living quite well up until a decade ago (even though the majority of the population lived below the poverty line), but whose daily lives got significantly worse when Brazilian’s Labour Party (PT) got in power with Lula and Dilma Rousseff and their social programs such as Fome Zero and Bolsa Família lifted millions of people out of poverty, turning them into what is now being called the “new middle class”.
The country’s infrastructure and production were never ready to receive this new mass of consumers and practically overnight our roads got cluttered, phone lines busier, airports collapsed and, to top it all, inflation and the cost of living rose when the number of consumers grew exponentially, credit was largely distributed but the offer of products and services didn’t follow. The general feeling was that politicians were spending more with themselves than with the reforms the country needs.
Due to their lack of political involvement however, up until the beginning of this month their dissatisfaction could only be publicly heard on social media. Things only started to change when journalists from traditional media outlets got attacked by the police when covering a rally of a relatively small movement called MPL (Free Fare Movement) organised by people identified with the most leftist parties.
They were protesting against the hike in 20 cents on transportation prices, a clearly defined agenda that was dismissed by the old middle class at first, but with the sudden change of tone from the traditional media it became the perfect opportunity for them to express all of their bottled up complaints. It also didn’t help that the price adjustments, which were planned for January, ended up happening at the peak of the inflation and the FIFA Confederations Cup, in June.
The protests went viral. “The giant is awake!” claimed the protesters, on a clear indication that they weren’t being politically active until now, but also showing that they were not paying attention to the other portions of the population who had clearly been “awake” all along.
“It’s not only about 20 cents!” they shouted while, at the peak of the uprising, MPL leaders announced they were stepping out of the movement they had started. They had made the government back down on bus fare hikes, but when the tone of the protests turned conservative they felt they didn’t belong, much like other left parties affiliates who were getting harassed on the streets by the now conservative majority.
The ideological carnival that followed will seem to those more experienced in political activism naïve and unproductive. Some asked we shut down the congress and political parties to somehow have a better democracy, others wanted the simple end of corruption, some cheered for the president’s impeachment or even a military coup.
It showed however that this utterly alienated youth was finally stepping outside, coming out of social media, and starting to learn how to act politically, even if their demands seemed far-fetched from reality. The protests started to look a lot like a real life Facebook, where each had their own status update written on a piece of paper, however abstract or unachievable they may be.
While optimists announce that it’s the beginning of a better democracy, with a more active population and careful politicians, pessimists are afraid of the continuous state of unrest and the rise of fascism that is slowly coming with it. A movement so complex and metamorphous, however, will only be fully understood years from now, and will take a lot more than a few hundred words to do so.
It is also a consequence of these convoluted times that we all want to read and write about things so instantly, even if chances are these words will get obsolete in a few weeks. But that’s my take on it, what is yours?
Photo: Felipe Dana/AP