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The Economist on Brazil | Munchausen’s Quagmire

Topic: A revealing image

Author: Muniz Sodré

Source: Observatório da Imprensa

Excerpt (draft quality): C. Brayton

In the newspaper columns and on the cover of The Economist magazine, Brazil is portrayed as a samba dancer trying to free herself from a swamp. Images often speak louder than In the newspaper columns and on the cover of The Economist magazine, Brazil is portrayed as a samba dancer trying to free herself from a swamp.words, giving rise to ambiguities and different interpretations. The Economist is a weekly magazine that advertises itself as a guide to “global intelligence” for “6 million world-class thinkers.” That degree of brain power is not needed, however, to conclude that the samba society underwritten by the dictatIn the newspaper columns and on the cover of The Economist magazine, Brazil is portrayed as a samba dancer trying to free herself from a swamp.or of Equatorial Guinea, using dubious means, is stamped on the cover as a metonym for Brazil as a whole. For a country that, for good or ill, tries to take good care of its international reputation, the image is an important conceptual tool. The editors, buried in their statistics as though only quantitative analysis can represent the reality, do not realize this …. As useful as governance and public policy are, statistics – literally, “the state of the State” – is like “the shoemaker who should stick to shoes,” to evoke an old Latin saying. In the words of B. Lussato, “in attempting to give form to our lives, we run the risk of translating only its noise and shadows.”

For a country that, for good or ill, tries to take good care of its international reputation, then, the image is an important conceptual tool. The editors, buried in their statistics as though only quantificative analysis can represent the reality, do not realize this …. As useful as governance and public policy are, statistics – literally, “the state of the State” – should take the advice that “the shoemaker who should not deal with anything but shoes,” to evoke an old Latin saying. In the words of B. Lussato, “in attempting to give form to our lives, we run the risk of translating only its noise and shadows.” The truth is that an abstract, quantifying language – the same that recommends fiscal adjustments as a social panacea – not only translates but also overshadows important aspects of the imperfection of our social dynamic, characteristic of any and all nation-state, though especially relevant to the current moment in Brazil. And what moment is that? A moment remarkable for the elevated index of corruption in every walk of life and the shamefaced state of public self-esteem. Corruption may be measured in numbers, but self-esteem expresses itself in non-logical terms, as a datum that powerfully shapes human activity, but which cannot be reduced to statistics, or rather, to anything that corresponds to the discourse of the executive suite. The social “shadow” must be observed, therefore, in fragments of actions and discourse, recorded by the media, though generally without registering the connections among them. …

“The Sleep of Reason”

In this case, the public discourse of this year’s champion samba school, implicit in the metonymy of the cover, borders on the surreal: “The government of Guinea did not give us money, they gave us cultural support. They gave us books, photos and other materials. They are a long-suffering people and, thanks to their president, are creating a new nation, with health care, infrastructure, basic sanitation. Their people are super happy, so the question of the regime does not matter.” (O Globo, 19/2/2015). Bordering on the incredible is the behavior of the judge caught behind the wheel of a Porsche belonging to Eike Batista after ruling on the expropriation of the unlucky ex-billionaire’s belongings. A Porsche in a private garage, a piano lent to a neighbor, here we see the moral ground zero of the judiciary and its sensitivity to social issues. The two cases may seem different from one another, and what is more, much less significant than cases like Operation Car Wash, with all the risks it presents to the Brazilian business climate, exposing investment funds, pension funds, and large oil, gas and construction firms. What importance, then, do these “insignificant” facts have when compared with the overwhelming numbers uncovered in the Car Wash case?

Saturation

The answer may lie in the notion of “saturation,” a concept developed half a century ago by the creative sociologist Pitirim Sorokin. Sorokin thought of “saturation” as a substantial breakdown of social forms. People only exist insofar as they are inscribed in a social context whose limits guarantee a rational definition. reasonableConfronted with these limits, however, any and all social form finds itself in the dilemma of discovering an alternative form of life, more appropriate to the transformations of history or day-to-day life. In this, the second decade of the third millennium, there are multiple examples of saturated social structures that nevertheless continue standing, like that famous invention of Jorge Amado, the cadaver of Quincas Berro d’Água, held up by his drinking buddies. goyasleep   There are many outmoded structures in the executive, legislative and judicial branches, in the business world, in the press, and in the realm of personal relationships. If, in the past, you could proclaim that “the sleep of reason gives rise to monsters,” today you can be confident that the saturation of social structures produces examples of the living dead.

By the hair

The image on the cover of The Economist may, in its ambiguity, be pointing beyond the mere numbers of the spectacular highway robbery that permeates matters both great and small, both symmetrical and asymmetrical, in the grip of a limitless bog. And yet trying to climb out using only the logic of numbers is like Baron Münchhausen trying to escape from the quicksand by pulling himself up by his own hair.

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