Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

4 June 2015

The tide may be turning in favour of conservatism in my native Brazil. Yes, we have a centre-left leader in Dilma Rousseff but it seems that politically the country is shifting towards the ideas of Brazil’s Congress leader, Eduardo Cunha, a staunch right-winger.

In recent weeks, Mr Cunha has been particularly busy, pushing forward an agenda encompassing everything from political reforms to his pet project: aiming to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 16.

Although Brazil is quite progressive when it comes to gay rights and other social issues, this is largely down to our judiciary. The current Congress, on the other hand, features the most conservative bunch since the early 1960s, when a military dictatorship was reinstalled in the country.

Some commentators in Brazil have described this crop of politicians as the “BBB” bench, which stands for “Bull, Bible and Bullet”. These MPs supports big farmers, are tough on law and order and are staunchly religious. MPs, in other words, just like Mr Cunha.

This is not comforting for me, especially after all the advances Brazil has made in recent years, both economically and socially. And this conservatism will have a wider impact, including on the cultural realm. The celebrated soap-opera writer Gilberto Braga, in a recent interview for O Globo, explained that television audiences in Brazil have become likewise “more conservative”. He recently had to change a few of the subplots in his latest show to appeal to this new public. Some socially conservative viewers of an evangelical disposition even called for a boycott of the programme after it showed a kiss between an elderly lesbian couple.

I’m worried that all this conservatism could threaten Brazil’s reputation for sensuality and our famous ease with people expressing themselves. For example, you hardly see any nudity on television any more. This in a country where in the 1990s, the afternoon schedule was dominated by bikini-clad women and men in Speedos. What’s next, Carnival with knee-length skirts and trousers? Please Brazil, don’t lose your cheekiness and irreverence.

Some observers in the Brazilian media have compared Mr Cunha with Frank Underwood, Kevin Spacey’s Machiavellian schemer in House of Cards. That might be true to an extent. But of course this is not all Cunha’s fault. He is merely the embodiment of a recent shift in the country’s national mood towards populism, conservatism and social reserve. Whatever you might think of Cunha, I can tell you that I do not like this trend one little bit.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a contributor to Monocle.

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