It all started very simply with a group of students protesting against an increase in public transportation fares in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. The fare increase was for 20 cents, and the relatively quiet and composed criticism, which have been going on for a number of years, were found to be leading nowhere.
Because it isn’t just about those 20 cents.
As enough voices are added to the cause, the demand for lower transportation fees was met, not only in Sao Paulo, but the rest of the country as well. One for all, all for ….
This turned out to be just a stimulus, as other groups and more causes came into the equation, finding support in the masses that gathered, lighting up more hope: if they could make this happen, what other positive changes, changes for the people, can they get out of this crusade?
The issues escalated: from public transportation, to healthcare and education, to the governance system, corruption, media – in the end becoming a very complex social force that is trying to galvanize changes within the entire civil practice.
The crowds that have gathered in the streets of other big cities, including Rio De Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Manaus and Salvador, have watched their surroundings transform into something they have never seen before. Up until recently, they came together in such numbers to celebrate, famously hosting one of the world biggest events, the Carnaval.
But this revolution is one of the most significant movements of the current generation and they are excited to participate and add their voice. People of all ages, gender, ethnicities are sharing ideas and beliefs. People are more comfortable with expressing their views because they are finding support not only at home but around the world as well. They are also discovering that the traditional media is not the only source of information, and are largely beginning to doubt news sources and call the government on its corruption, lies and injustice.
At first, the people came out to march alongside their fellow citizens, in a largely Brazilian fashion, to enjoy the company of others, and even have fun, never expecting the movement to take such a turn. But in the process, my Brazilian friends say, they’ve learned that only the struggle of the masses (the 99%) can defeat the interests imposed from above (the 1%). The government’s uncompromising stance is being tested out on the streets by the people, united and resolute. They remind their government that it is the people who build and run the city every day, it is the people for whom the cities are built for, and they demand respect and their citizen rights.
What is different in this case is that the government (the president, Dilma Rousseff, used to, infamously, participate in social protests as a student) immediately reacted positively and also respected the people who stood up for their rights. The police and supporting security forces did not try to suppress the movement, just monitor that it stays peaceful and unified. The vandalism and looting, my friends from Brazil say, has been minimal, and contained.
Type in ‘Brazil protests’ into Google images and the results will yield a host of violent pictures. But, they insist, that the picture the media presents to the rest of the world is untruthful and appalling.
photo source: Media Ninja, UCL
Brazil, whose country flag has “ORDER AND PROGRESS” written across it, is still known as a country of contrasts – the pristine and blissful white sandy beaches, crystal clear seas, and lush rainforests are situated in proximity to squalid and crumbling favelas, some of which are lacking basic sewage, clean running water and power supply. It’s not all dire, they are good examples of strong communities and communal support.
There are currently a few main issues that the public unanimously doesn’t approve of, or is seeking changes for. The one that affects tourism and economy the most, aside from worldwide media reports of unrest around the country, is the infrastructure improvements that the government promised in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. So far, it seems that they have put in a lot of money into rebuilding and reconstructing a number of very expensive and lavish soccer stadiums, but the rest of the supporting facilities (roads, public transportation, power supplies, and additional accommodation – in other words, that which will benefit the actual local and regional communities leading up to the events and succeeding them) are still lacking.
This is why my friends in Brazil are circulating this message on social media and, in solidarity, I feel the need to share it.
After all, the World Cup and the Olympic Games will come and go, but the issues will remain and will need to be addressed, improved upon, and the public is finally speaking up for their rights.
photo source: Reuters
So, what about the cultural turn?
The changes that have come in the past number of years, especially regarding traditional media, have changed everything: the way we express ourselves, the way we consume and supply information, the way we communicate. Even imposing nation-wide media blackout cannot silence the movement because millions of personal cameras are documenting and exposing the truth.
With the use of Facebook and Twitter, information and support have promptly garnered over a million people to come together, virtually and on the streets, in favour of the demonstrations. The organizers urge the protestors to keep calm and collected, in order to give rise to a peaceful and effectual march. The verdict is that violence only results in more woes.
This isn’t a singular occurrence or a phenomenon (the media is labelling this phase of world history as a “globalization of protests”). In the past few years, social movements have sprung up all over the world, some peaceful, some violent, some political, some religious, some successful, some not, all momentous, all purposeful.
Educated and globally aware crowds are marching, displaying slogans in English, so as to generate more interest and support from the global community. With the prevalence of social media, people are expressing themselves more freely and publicly, and also using it as a platform to disseminate information, gain support, mobilize ideas and campaigns, and organize and rally. This is a new age in protesting, where the whole world is participating.
What does this mean for the future? Living in such a transparent world, we are becoming more conscious and attuned to our surroundings, perhaps we feel closer to one another as global citizens, realizing that everywhere, no matter the coordinates, the history or the culture, we all face the same future.
And that future has CHANGE written all over it.