Thursday, February 19, 2015
Recently, a newsletter I received from Kitchen Gardeners International included a blog entry from a gardener who had requested and acquired free seeds from GRIN, a section of the United States Department of Agriculture. When I used that information to ask for seeds, I got back a negative response couched in intolerably patronising bureaucratese. This is my message to GRIN. Stay tuned, taxpaying gardeners.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
My next door neighbour and I had one of our occasional chats yesterday.The air was balmy and we sat in the garden, listening to the music from the local Streetfest, four blocks away. We talked of books. That is, I offered her copies of Vargas Llosas THE DREAM OF THE CELT, which I reviewed, recently, on my book blog,Rich Texts and Edna O'Brien's COUNTRY GIRL, which I am about to review. I told her Llosa's book is fictionalized account of the life of Roger Casement's an Irishman who documented human rights abuses in the Congo and in Peru, in the early Twentieth century. He was knighted for his his work, but when he dared to compare the behavior of the British in Ireland to that of the Belgian oppressors of Congolese rubber workers, all hell broke loose. The British government acted swiftly to discredit him. It hired perfidious Norwegian, Adler Christensen to seduce him and it leaked the the Casement's private diary, which detailed homosexual encounters, to the press. Vilified for his sexual preferences, stripped of his knighthood, Casement was jailed and eventually hanged, ostensibly for bringing weapons from Germany to be used in the Easter Uprising of 1916.
2MNYHBU6NFRY I told my neighbor, who is a great reader, that COUNTRY GIRL ties in with DREAM OF THE CELT in that Casement's brother is one of the people O'Brien mentions in her memoirs. Her chapter on The Troubles echoes with the dream Casement had for a free and peaceful Ireland. For Brazilian readers such as I am, I added, both books, I added, are particularly relevant at a time when a protest takes place every hour in 375 Brazilian cities. Were he alive today, Casement, who was once the British Council at Sao Paulo, would probably be interested in investigating human rights abuses in Brazil. He would probably question government-sanctioned actions of the Brazilian Military Police against protesters and the press. He would want to bring to light the reasons why why the police attacked so many journalists--a total of 54 in two weeks. Many of these journalists were wounded by troopswho have a propensity to aim for eye when they shoot rubber bullets. Besides shooting reporters, during the Fortaleza protests, this past week, police used helicopters to bombard the press with tear gas.
Such violence usually outrages well-educated middle class Americans who have the leisure to reflect on civil liberties around the globe.Why did she think, I asked my neighbor, that events of vital importance to Brazilian elicited so little interest from most Americans? She grew thoughtful and said, "Maybe because Brazil seems so remote." My question about the best way to reach Americans hung in the air. My neighbor is a very kind, thoughtful person, but she has little free time. She has job and two children she and her husband parent commendably. It was almost dinner when we talked. The kids were hungry and she had to leave.I thought of her counterpart in Brazil and asked myself how she would respond if the protests were taking place in Washington, DC, Boonsboro, Maryland, Aurora Maine? How would she respond when her own time is equally taken up by her work and parental responsibilities?
How does each of respond to social movements in far away places? What do we do when our government sends troops to Iraq and Afghanistan? How do we respond to abuses from local officials, for that matter? What do we know about our police force and how it acts? Maybe we close our eyes and ears to bad news its onslaught is so intense that to watch television, listen to the radio and read the newspapers can be a form of torture. I don't mean, by this comparison, to trivialize the kind of suffering endured by those who undergo, say, waterboarding. But clearly, reading the news about Syria, Egypt, Turkey can be very painful. It can also induce such a feeling of helplessness we try to disconnect, to push the bad news away, to distance ourselves from madness over which we have no control. Or do we? If we have no control of the madness that leads Brazilian police to exhaust its tear gas supply in less than two weeks, as they did in Rio, recently, why is the press a target in every Brazilian protest? Is that not an indication that whoever yanks the chain of the Military Police--state governor, in this case--does not want bad publicity to mar events such as World Cup games, the Pope's visit and the Olympics?
Given that a real effort is being made to suppress news of police brutality--futile effort, judging from the massive documentation in available in print and digital media--it seems to me that remote as Brazil is, Americans, Asians, Europeans, Middle Easterners, citizens everywhere have the ability to influence events taking place in 375 Brazilian cities. Exactly how that is done, I am not sure. This past week, Amnesty International Brazil mounted an e-mail campaign to let elected officials know that the whole world is watching and that police brutality is unacceptable. Writing an e-mail may seem too simple a gesture to make. But millions of e-mail messages can influence events. What do you say, can you e-mail the governor of Rio, for example? His name is Sergio Cabral and his e-mail address is Sergio Cabral, Governor of Rio
Saturday, June 29, 2013
|Munduruku, Para, Brazil.|
According to Brazilian media, fifty-five journalist have been attacked by the police since protests against government corruption, lack of adequate social services, inequality, high taxes, and the billions of dollars spent for next year's World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, started in mid-June.
Protest plebiscite which could take place in September 2013 could cost up to 500 Reais.
Ceara parliamentarian Ely Aguiar, Ceara, had this to say about Fortaleza protests, "It's at such times that I miss the dictatorship," adding that if he were chief of police should he would beat the living daylights out of protesters. AnistiaOline #semviolencia
Public prosecutor in Fortaleza says that his office is investigating charges of protest movement infiltration of by gangs allegedly paid for by political parties.
According to the Associated Press, President Dilma Roussef's approval rating plummeted in the wake of protests, slipping from 64 to 40 points.
It is unclear whether there will be a general strike in Brazil tomorrow. AP reports that representatives of two of Brazil's largest workers' unions claimed to know nothing about it.
The fate of four Eletrobras biologists taken hostage last week, by Munduruku Indians in the state of Para, is unknown.
Friday, June 28, 2013
|Pedro Rocha, from Fortaleza, is the latest journalistpolice hit in the eye with a rubber bullet.|
In case you have yet to understand why Brazilians are protesting, please note that ”In Fortaleza, more than 1,600 people suffering from kidney disease depend on dialysis in order to survive. But due to non-payment dating back to December 2012, clinics (under contract with public health system, SUS, Sistema Unico de Saude, might make treatment to dialysis patients unavailable at any moment. ” Contrast that with the Bolsa Copa per diem of close to 600 Reais awarded by the government to parliamentarians and military officers who wish to attend World Cup games. Abuse of privilege, corruption, and a host of social problems are among the reasons Fortalezenses protested yesterday. Allegedly, yesterday was the first time police used a sonic canon against the citizenry, something police spokesperson denies though some of the symptoms experienced by some of the demonstrators–vomiting, for example–could be attributed to acoustic trauma.According to Castelao stadium are residents they and their children suffered the effects of mass control weapons used by policemen who invaded their houses searching for protesters. Police also attacked members of the media with rubber bullets and tear gas. So far, 200 people have lodged complaints with the Ceara Public Defenders Office.
“Worried about the growing repression by the police against demonstrations and the authorities’ inability to protect, adequately, the right to peaceful demonstrations,” Amnesty International Brazil,
is appealing to the public to act against police violence” by contacting the following people,
- Governador do Estado do Rio de Janeiro
Rua Pinheiro Machado s/n – Laranjeiras
CEP: 22238-900 Rio de Janeiro – RJ
- Governador do Estado de Minas Gerais
Palácio Tiradentes – Rod. Prefeito Américo Gianetti – S/N
Belo Horizonte – MG
- Governador do Distrito Federal
Palacio do Buriti – 1º andar, sala P60
Praça do Buriti
- Governador do Estado da Bahia
Predio da Governadoria
3ª. AV, 390 – PLATAFORMA IV – CAB
Salvador – BA
- Governador do Estado de Goiás
Palácio Pedro Ludovico Teixeira
RUA 82, 400
- Governador do Estado de São Paulo
Palácio dos Bandeirantes
Av. Morumbi, 4.500 – Portão 2 – Morumbi
São Paulo – SP
- Governador do Estado do Ceará
Palácio da Abolição
Av. Barão de Studart, 505 – Meireles
Fortaleza – CE
- Governador do Estado do Pará
Palácio de Despachos
Rodovia Augusto Montenegro, KM 9
Th eorganization asks that participants in the writing campaign mention @AnistiaOnline and the hashtag #semviolencia
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Long ago, in another country, I studied journalism with a man, who introduced me to the poetry of Fernando Pessoa. Though I did not know it at the time, Pessoa was a B'nei Anoussim, a decendant of forcibly baptized Iberian Jews who continued to follow Judaic practices for hundreds of years. Had I known this, I would have read a different meaning into the poems where he exposed again and again, the essential loneliness of the outsider. My teacher was also an outsider, a Leftist at a time and place that punished dissent with prison, torture, extraordinary rendition and death. He knew all this and yet he kept dreaming that he could make a difference, that he and a few others like him could change the country, make it self-reliant and just. He had been to Russia and when he spoke of workers attending ballet performances his eyes would light up, his smile would grow wider and he would add, "It can be done, you see. It can be done."
If my teacher knew of Stalin and gulags, he chose not to bring either into the conversation. He did talk about the evils of imperialism and that grasping monster, Uncle Sam. He carried in pocket, a little pamphlet that described the day of the average citizen in our country as a succession of bows to American imperialism--from the moment he shaved with a Gillette blade to the moment when put on his imported pajamas. His fervor was such one of my classmates, a blue-eyed girl from an upper middle class family, trembled and prayed for him. When he was arrested, as Leftists tended to be back then, she visited and cosseted him, always praying that he would stop being a godless Communist. It did not happen. Eventually, she became a godless communist, married him and together they sought refuge in Paris where all good communists go to refresh their souls.
As someone who believes in equal rights, it pains to say that the women Leftists I knew back then found their way to Marx through some man with whom they were in love. No matter. All roads led to the kolkhoz. Most followed their men into exile and at least one died after being raped and torture by the military. Years and years later, the country found its way back to democracy, the exiles came home to expose the horrors committed during the undemocratic period and to remake the country into a semblance of their cherished dreams. The tired, suffering people elected a Leftist government that thumbed its nose at evil Uncle Sam even if that meant cozying up to dictators of countries where they stone women and gays. This show of independence and national pride buoyed the hope that the huge economic gap between classes would close or in the every least become narrower. A brief period of prosperity followed during which exports to China helped fill the national coffers. Leftist leaders announced spectacular successes in their fight against hunger and poverty. The economy continued to thrive and despite much demagoguery, few people seemed to questions the policies of such a brilliant president, such a dazzling presidential cabinet.
Alas, the bubble burst. Factors such as the Chinese tightening their purse strings, made it harder for spectacular successes to happen. The infrastructure which had been spectacularly neglected, failed to meet the needs of a population that had grown exponentially--one of the tenets of the Left, way back then was that contraception was part of Uncle Sam's plot to depopulate the country thus making it easier to conquer.Go figure. The gap between rich and poor did not close. This seems is the root cause of the dissatisfaction that erupted into protests, recently. News of the unrest in the global media reflected a dismal ignorance of the culture of the country in question. There were linguistic obstacles and that is where I thought I could do a tiny, bit to help get the world out.
Little did I know that as it stumbled toward a participatory democracy, the country in question was fraught with paranoia. Leftists suspected that Uncle Sam hid under every bed, ready to rape and ravage--"...egorger ses filles et sem compagnes...". Everyone was suspect but those who spoke English and lived abroad, much more so. Just as Chico Buarque sang, long ago, the country seethed with "lies and brute force." Machiavellian machinations, disinformation, agitprop abounded.Rumors of a coup, baseless accusations swirled like dirty water in a drain. I was unequipped for this sort of activity. I'd been through the lies and brute force and I'd escaped by skin of my teeth. I am old and I am too much of a realist to believe that the individual makes that much difference. So, I withdrew from the fray. Solutions will come or not. It's their gig, not mine. But I feel very much like good old Fernando Nogueira de Seabra Pessoa,
"I am my own landscape,
I watch myself journey—
Various, mobile, and alone.
Here where I am I can't feel myself."
I watch myself journey—
Various, mobile, and alone.
Here where I am I can't feel myself."
Monday, June 24, 2013
Following the initial unrest, some state governments walked back the proposed hike on bus and boat fares and part of Movement Passe Livre decided to withdraw from the fray. Stage two of the protest movement began with militants meeting in cities, such as Fortaleza, Ceara, to clarify goals and set an agenda for upcoming protests. At the same time, ABIN, Brazil intel services agency, started monitoring social media, and the police announced that it will use triple strength weapons of crowd control in upcoming protests. A mysterious blogger calling himself Marco Caleb–Google search of his name yielded a picture an infant–started a campaign of disinformation aimed at deligitimising the #changebrazil movement on the internet. The blogger/s hints at a dark conspiracy by English speakers who have suspiciously expensive gadgets with which they make videos pressuring Brazil to submit. Just what Brazil is supposed to submit to is not clear, but the blogger also claims the the Brazilian Right is poised for a military coup, that is creating cells in closed pages of Facebook, and many other allegations that do not hold up to fact checking.In a theater of the absurd moment, the blogger’s hints of a foreign conspiracy made today’s edition of Jornal do Brasil. The story is incredibly fuzzy-wuzzy and it seems to be an attempt to neutralize #changebrazil and to cast doubt on the loyalty of English-speaking Brazilians living abroad.”Why would #changebrazil make videos in English,” it asks By the way, I am an English-speaking independent e-journalist living in the United States. I became an American citizen after a nasty encounter with DOPS, the Brazilian Secret Police in the Sao Paulo airport in 1976. If this makes me suspect, keep in mind that they Brazilian foreign minister speaks accentless English and he makes videos. My answer to the dubious questioner in the JB is, ” We speak English in order to reach the global media, stupid.” I mean, who the hell speaks Portuguese outside Brazil and Portugal? Should we rely on Google translations to get the news out?
Questioning all segments of the protest movement movement is healthy. So is to doubt the press. Journalists, especially citizen journalists need to establish their creds. BUt there is a difference between questioning and lying by implication in order to gag the opposition. Brazilians are not children, The know that violence, agitprop. dubious rumors, divide an conquer moves are as old as dirt. They can ask the big question, who is behind the JB story? Who finances the conspiracy theorists? Who gains from demonizing Brazilians who can read the news in Portuguese and pass it on in English to the free press of the First World? You can agit, but you better be able to prop your accusation with facts, guys. Brazilians are smart. They can see through you.