One of the most commonly posted topics on ex pat social media websites in Brazil is reaction to what are seen to be criticisms from foreigners.
At first glance, they can appear to be hasty “How dare You!” protests about innocent comments made by the unwary foreigner and some of them are probably no more than that.
A closer look over a longer period will reveal that a rather strange paradox lies between the commonplace and the absurd.
Take the political situation for example, as a subject that is especially of current interest due to the recent elections, and which is often open to criticism and indeed ridicule, among foreign and national discussion groups alike.
Amid the furore of the latest Presidential race there was much derision about Dilma. She had suffered public humiliation early on in her campaign when she attended the opening match of the World Cup in Sao Paulo when she was subjected to taunts, jibes and derogatory songs chanted by a hostile crowd attending the game.
No wonder that she subsequently steered clear of football until her misguided remarks following the 7-1 massacre from Germany, when she meekly said that Brazilian football needed to change.
As the campaigning period drew towards its climax the press became choked with caricatures of her portrayed as a bumbling fool often prone to hysterical fury when caught out. The talk in the bars and padareias was all about getting rid of her.
It seemed as though no one had a good word to say about her and her party, except for ex president Lula, who could be seen each lunchtime on national television in a rather poker faced presentation, imploring voters to re-elect her.
Meanwhile the political and criminal shockwaves from the recent “Mensalao” scandal that had engulfed the PT party, threatened to include Lula, when a demand was made to freeze his assets while further investigations were carried out.
The polls however, continued to show Dilma in front of her rivals.
This appeared to be in direct contradiction with what people were saying on the streets.
What was going on?
Then after a vote that placed her ahead, but short of an overall majority, the election went towards a second vote with the ousted third place candidate, Marina, (an ex PT minister of the environment), throwing her weight behind the “Get Dilma Out!” campaign.
Despite all of this, and albeit by a tiny margin, she won the election, and we Gringoes expressed our dismay, disbelief, and in some cases our determination to leave Brazil before the ground crumbles beneath us.
The reaction from Brazilian commentators who had read our anguish, was rapid and furious!
How dare we criticise the President who had done so much to improve the lives of poor people!
How dare we bitch about things that were far beyond our understanding?
Rich Gringoes should either keep their mouths shut or get out of Brazil!
We could never really appreciate what it is like to be a downtrodden Brasileiro!
It was as if poverty had been invented in Brazil and only Saint Dilma stood between a glorious future or their return to slavery and annihilation!
No one seemed to notice the volte-face that had taken place, except for a few puzzled commentators.
Could this have been something to do with being ashamed of flying true colours?
I raised this as an issue among friends and social media groups in order to discover whether my hunch was shared by others.
The reaction was mixed, as you might expect, with some who just said that we lived among a bunch of no hopers who could never get out from underneath the sloth and corruption due to their own self interest. To others that could see little advantage in electing Aceio, the runner up, to others who just shrugged their shoulders and said lets get drunk!
There was however one persistent fellow who took great umbrage at our comments and who lambasted us all for bitching about something to do with Brazilian culture which we could never hope to change.
He had hit the nail on the head!
The paradox is not about politics or personalities, or economics, or socio economic circumstances. It is about culture, a culture that has a deep rooted sense of insecurity.
In conversation with a well educated Brasileiro, I discovered that it even has a name; – “Complexo de vira-lata.” Direct translation; – Mongrel Complex.
Now I can hear my old friend Tony Patel, wisely shaking his head and murmuring;- “Marshy ground.”
No one likes to be called a mongrel, and what does that have to do with changing your mind about something?
Let me put it this way:-
You want to appear to be successful, bold, confident and self determined, full of “Bravura”!
The talk is about politics with much anger vented due to failures and broken promises made by the current regime.
You join the bandwagon and before you know it, you are adding to the denunciation, due to your personal frustrations.
Frustrations that are built on, a lack of cash, a lack of education and a lack of opportunity, not because you don’t work hard, but because you were not born among a white skinned family of the ruling classes.
You may not even be able to read or write, and you have a skin colour that will always mark you as being of humble stock.
Then comes the crunch with the obligatory vote and your self interests take control and you roll over.
You voted for Dilma.
Your candidate is elected and someone pokes fun at your decision.
Maybe the embarrassment is only momentary, before rage takes over!
© 2014 Alastair Kinghorn