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Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Worst Is Yet to Come

That's the subtitle of an article in The Atlantic. That may well be - we'll see. The surprising part is that my mother sent me the link to the article. I think my response to her is somewhat entertaining so here it is:

Hi Mom,

I didn't know you were such a political animal! I'm not much of a political animal anymore and probably wouldn't've even read this article if it wasn't you who sent it.

You'll probably find it kinda funny, but the sentence that caught my eye most in the entire article was this one:

"These kinds of views [all political] make it difficult for me and some of my New Year’s [from decades past] guests to speak about anything at all [anymore]."

Really? Political views make it impossible to talk about the weather? About your favorite restaurant? About a cool new jazz song you heard? About your family? About going for a bicycle ride? And a million other things?

One thing I really, really like about barbershop singing is that, via the Barbershop Harmony Society rules, discussing politics (and religion) is forbidden at all official society meetings (which includes rehearsals). Yet somehow, hard as it is to believe, we still find things to talk about! Even stuff other than barbershop music, though that topic does feature prominently. It really is possible to have friendships and positive collegial interactions without ever even knowing each others' preferred ideologies! Who'd have thunk it!

Outside of official rehearsals, political discussions are allowed. One singer was complaining about Trump and racists and fascists and nazis to which I mostly just politely listened. At one point he asked if I would "sing with a Nazi." I said, "Of course. I'll sing with anybody, anytime - any race, any religion, any gender, any ideology. Singing is separate and above all that. Besides, it's not like not singing with this hypothetical nazi would somehow change him (or her) into a non-nazi. Indeed, the opposite is plausible - that he'd see me as a human being even though I'm of jewish ancestry and soften his nazi beliefs because of the singing together. Isolating said hypothetical nazi will do nothing good and probably just make him more extreme."

This singer quit shortly after that and at least partly because any organization that accepted folks like me who would even contemplate hypothetically singing with a nazi was evil (even though he'd readily admit that I wasn't a nazi) and he wanted no part of that. Too bad, because he was a really good singer and his leaving the chorus has noticeably damaged it. If that's my fault, then oops!

To me, the fundamental problem underlying every problem discussed in the article is the inability or unwillingness of people to even talk (or sing) with others if they don't have the same professed ideology.

Yet politics is really not that important. Vote for who you think is best and speak out if you must, but beyond that it's so much less important than almost everything else in life. Ten or twenty years ago I was complaining about some politician or other and a friend asked, "So has this politician really had a major direct impact on your life? I mean other than the mere fact of his existence pisses you off?" It was a good question and the answer was no, it really didn't much affect me. Indeed, my being annoyed about whatever it was negatively impacted me far more than any of the actions or policies of the politician. In fact, none of the presidents or congresses of my lifetime have made any provable substantial difference to me. Have they made a difference to anybody? Of course, they're always winners and losers. But to me, not really much of a difference and far less difference than more immediate events. At that point I decided it was really silly to take political stuff so seriously. I'll do my homework and vote and that's it.

And I'll sing with whoever wants to sing with me!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Elections, Brazilian style.

Brazil is in the middle of an election process that, if you believe that's possible, is a bizarre-world version of Trumpland - so maybe the square of bizarre, if you like.

The candidate far ahead on polls, Mr. Bolsonaro, who is more of a Duterte figure than a Trumpian one, is famous for many infamous declarations. Not only the usual racist, homophopic stuff you can easily hear on America, but a more refined art.  Mr. Trump could learn with Mr. Bolsonaro.

For example, where Trump got on defensive mode denying ever assaulting women, Mr. Bolsonaro plays on offense: he once yelled at a congresswoman (he being a congressman himself) something like "I only won't rape you because you are too ugly".

He is famous for his defense of our last dictatorship. Mr. Bolsonaro himself is a former Army captain, nearly expelled for planning to plant a bomb in an Army bathroom while in service in the begin of the 80's, mad because the generals were moving to give power back to civilians. He has been elected and reelected to Congress for the last 27 years, basically counting on the vote of fellow armed force men.

In 2016, he famously gave his vote, on national television, to impeach the previously elected president, Mrs. Roussef, "in honor of Colonel Ustra", one of the most infamous torturers of the dictatorship, with at least 40 deaths plus a few hundreds of people tortured and raped under his eyes (Mrs. Roussef was herself tortured in the period, hence the jab).

His most repeated and emphasized campaign point is, you could easily guess, about guns. In a country where violence is rampant, he promises to solve it all by abolishing human rights and giving free rein for the police to kill. Not only the police, but citizens. He wants Brazilians to arm themselves against the bad guys, so we can all be more like America.  I am not such an anti-gun kind of person - maybe I would like to have one myself - but I sure think incidents like the previous link would be the norm down here, for I know my countrymen pretty well.

More worrying though is not the soon to be elected Captain, with a long record of incompetence: in his 27 years in Congress, he was able to pass exactly 2 projects. Who I truly fear is the General, Mr. Mourão, his fellow Vice-President candidate.

In 2016 Mr. Mourão was the General in charge of Brazil largest and strongest military force, the South Command, when he gave public declarations asking for the Army to revolt. He was not successful, and was demoted of the position to a more bureaucratic one until retirement last year. Since their election campaign started, Mr. Mourão already gave a number of high caliber declarations, the most prominent being that he believed the necessity of self-coup after winning the election could not be discarded, and that he'd like to order the writing of a new Constitution by his appointed "notable experts", without the need of elected people involved. The General, contrary to the Captain, has a long record of achievements.

Being a firm believer of a Big and Strong State his whole life - and that's clear on his voting record and projects - Mr. Bolsonaro has converted recently (six months ago, what a coincidence) to economic liberalism, which has apparently attracted the support of a number of businessmen and financial operators to his side. Not everyone was fooled though, and publications widely read by the international markets look to have seen Mr. Bolsonaro for whom he really is.

There are at least other three candidates with liberal economic programs - Chicago school style - on the race, but none of them were able to provide the masses what they really want: the smell of blood. Social networks - both virtual and real - are clogged by the same kind of divisive rhetorics you can see in America (hey, we import everything) in a dumbed down version (yes, that's possible). If you enter into those magical bubbles, Brazil is turning into Venezuela any minute now if Mr. Bolsonaro doesn't win (though he is the only candidate uttering anti-democratic discourses), the elections are being frauded by the Supreme Court, and the Universities must be closed down to fight Communism. The gay community will destroy families by teaching kids how to be gay, so they urge Brazilians to vote for him to "defend God and family" (the candidate is on his third marriage and famously said he uses his official residential apartment in Brasilia, paid for by the People, only to fuck women).

Quite tellingly, the politicians and businessmen most promptly turning to the new fanaticism are often the ones from old corrupt oligarchies, and crony capitalists who hardly can make their business to get by without a little hand from their friends. Many come from the groups who were in power back in the good old days of dictatorship, and they really long for a better and stronger Pinochet this time around. What we will really get, though, is fury and chaos, for in Brazil the economic elite always fear totalitarism from the Left, while it is always delivered by the Right.

Having a few laughs from you guys before - particularly our readers who are supportive of Mr. Trump - it is now my turn to be the butt of the joke.