HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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28 February 2014

Shocking Normalcy

I wish that I were so creative as to make up the stories unfolding in Rio and Brazil for the World Cup. I was criticized a couple of weeks ago for failing to see the humor in the Visa advertisements that featured Imperial Stormtroopers on the beach with the slogan “Everyone is welcome at the World Cup”. Two days ago, OBobo, South America´s biggest waste of cellulose and the paper of record for Rio´s Zona Sul, pinched off this gem above the fold. This is the new uniform of Rio´s Mega-event Shock brigade. There were, as often happens in USAmerican papers when invading Oil/Banana Republics, fawning descriptions of the weaponry, training and mandate of the stormtroopers. It would be comical if it weren´t so terrifying. Please, if you are going to the World Cup, do not wear black, don´t bring anything to cover your head and bring your running shoes. As long as you consume in the right way, in the right places, and with Visa, everything will be just fine.

Speaking of consumption, there was a national furor this week about the “poor taste” that Adidas demonstrated in producing t-shirts for the USAmericans that highlighted the desire of foreigners to ravage Brazilian women. Tudo bem, agreed, the t-shirts were horrendous and heads should be rolling at Adidas (which it should be remembered has been FIFA´s principal partner since the 1980s). But if we look at the way that Brazilians represent Brazilian women to themselves and to others, it would appear that Adidas was only following the disgusting lead of classic machistas like OBobo´s Ancelmo Gois. In his daily column, Gois always publishes, every day, hundreds of days per year, photos of women that he finds attractive. His comments might as well be accompanied by an icon of a drooling mouth. One slobber for pretty, three slobbers for gostosa.  Every year this middle aged white man has a competition to see who will be the “Mulata do Gois” . Beyond the idea of a black woman as a sexualized possession of those with more power and privilege, the general sterotypes propagated by Gois, OBobo, and Carioca society in general towards women make it completely normal for a multi-national corporation to market the place of Rio and the people of Brazil as objects of consumption. If Brazilians are shocked by the marketing of the “natural beauty” of Brazil to foreigners, they should take a step back and consider how they represent themselves to themselves (with a tip of the hat to Andrew Downie).

The Utopia of Rio in 2014
As if to confirm my infinite posts about how Rio is a city that needs a smart system to watch it fall apart, the heavy hand of the mayor has again fallen on the resident population. The genie of urban planning has been let out of the bottle yet again, reorganizing all of the vehicular traffic in downtown while eliminating second and third options at the time of greatest road closures because of Carnaval. The mayor is trying to make things so bad in Rio that if and when any of his hare-brained transportation projects get done, they will seem like improvements on  the hideous conditions the projects themselves have imposed.


Put this on repeat: Rio does not have the conditions to host its own population, much less mega-events. When urban systems are stressed out, they break. When one breaks, others are compromised. The metro broke yesterday. There was a two hour traffic jam on the bridge. The BRT Transoeste is a disaster. A broken sewage line in Copacabana closed traffic. Murders, thefts and petty crime are on the rise. Is it any wonder that the federal government is investing R$2 billion in the World Cup security apparatus? The closer we get to the Cup the more local populations will be treated as insurgents / rebels. Rio de Janeiro might be turning into a Death Star that holds its own people in tortured poses while it reconfigures urban space to maximize the flow of capital into private hands. 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Put this on repeat: Rio does not have the conditions to host its own population, much less mega-events.

Apart from the Pope's visit and New Year's Eve. Perhaps you were someplace else at time?

Christopher Gaffney said...

Indeed I was here. The infrastructure folly of the Pope´s visit was only mitigated by the jeitinho carioca, public holidays and a massive security apparatus. New Years is not a mega-event but a million people on the beach that leaves many tons of trash, pollutes the water and stresses out Copacabana´s infrastructures. Mega-events are typically considered those things that have long term impacts on teh city, or in which the city has to structurally adjust to receive them. The Pope´s Guaratiba plans were rained out, but the gov´t shelled out millions to restructure the area. New Years requires full scale adjustments to the transportation system, but nothing permanent.

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