The current wave of protests in Brazil against the rise in bus fares caught me by surprise. Though of course, as we all know now, that is not the only reason the protests are happening.
Large chunks of the population feel disenfranchised from the economic boom that Brazil has experienced in the past decade. Now they are asking for better public transport, a better health system and less corruption. They want to see more being done, which is a sign of a population doing something to improve its country and take it to the next level.
Let’s not forget that the past 10 years were very good for Brazilians in general. Sometimes we have to sit down and think about the fact that 30 million people were lifted out of poverty in a very short time – that’s one of the most impressive feats Brazil has ever achieved. It has been a product of the same level of growth and advancement that Europe enjoyed during its post-war period.
To a certain extent the protests are a means of maintaining progress, to fight for improvement and not conformity. It might come to not much in the end but then neither did the iconic protests in Paris in 1968. However, the legend of those protests still remains, and with it the idea of a perhaps fanciful utopia that can sometimes be healthy for society.
From what I can see, many of my fellow friends are joining in the protest movement for the first time, not only via social media but also on the streets. That makes me content, especially when I have heard that Brazil is not a country of protesters, that nobody does anything, that we are very accommodating. There are even protests scheduled in other major cities with Brazilian communities, from New York to Dublin.
Of course, I don’t agree with some of my friends who have the incredibly pessimistic view that Brazil should not host the World Cup and the Olympics, arguing that there are so many more important things to invest money in, such as health and education. I think it is OK to host huge events that need public money but here’s the catch: it needs to be correlated with great investments in other areas.
I have had a long and conflicted week, because while I was happy that the protests were happening, I am very much in favour of the World Cup and the Olympics taking place in Brazil.
But now that inner conflict has gone: I’ve decided I can be both. You always need a bit of circus but it needs to be accompanied by some serious governance, too.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a researcher for Monocle 24