Sunday, May 27, 2018

Strikes, Vegetables, Armies, Shit, and Fans



When I arrived in Brazil the mood was decidedly different from what it is today.

Brazil had just elected Lula.  Apparently lots of people were furious, but the ones I met were thrilled.  It was, as they say, the beginning of a new era, and I can attest that in some ways it really was.  I think largely about this in the context of having learned something, if not a lot, about Brazil's past, even its relatively recent past.  The dictatorship that ended while I was still in high school.  The hyperinflation that ran until after I graduated college.  The fact that Brazil has had seven constitutions since it declared independence.

At some point I asked myself, would I have moved down here during one of the rocky periods?

Lula's presidency was marked by a great economic boom, giving at least half of the national slogan "Order and Progress" (it's written on the flag) some substance.  We managed to fend off the global slump for a few extra years.  Things looked pretty good.  Of course, we didn't know that Lava Jato was going on, hollowing out the economy from the inside.  Eventually it came to light and Brazil impeached Lula's successor and Lula himself is now in prison.  The economy went to shit.  The Brazilian currency fell to less than half of what it was against the dollar.

Only now, I was in up to my eyeballs.  I was married, I had a kid, I had a business to try to keep alive to pay the ridiculous price of living down here.  My wife didn't want to leave, so I resigned myself to staying.  I have been plugging on for several years, usually one step away from disaster.

The marriage seems to have played itself out but the business clings by a thread.  The kid is entering adolescence.  And now it appears that the shit may indeed be hitting the fan.

Last week there was a bus strike.  Pretty normal, we get those every year or two.  Then I heard there was a trucker's strike, and I asked a friend if the two were one and the same.  No, I was informed, they are not.  In retrospect I realize how uninformed I was: oh, how woefully uninformed I was.  I'm being a bit dramatic, but now, a week into the strike, there is no gasoline in any gas station in the city, airports are shut down for lack of fuel, and at my local supermarket there was basically no perishable food to be had.

I was supposed to go to a graffiti event in the interior of Bahia this week, a six hour drive.  It got postponed: there is no fuel for the bus that was to take us there.  The paint that was intended for the event is stuck in a truck out on the highway somewhere,  a hostage of the strike.

I can kinda enjoy a lack of gasoline.  I'm a tree hugger.  I haven't driven a car in at least a couple years.  I walk everywhere I need to go.  Even the metro runs on electricity in case I get the urge to leave my neighborhood.  But it makes me realize that this, so far, is nothing.  It sucks that I can't buy carrots and onions, but people aren't hungry yet.  Dude, we live next door to Venezuela.  We've got a refugee crisis happening on the border.  That could happen here really fast.  I like cities, I (usually) like living in the city, I think it's ultimately better for the planet if we live in the city.  But it all falls apart if, for instance, you no longer have trucks bringing in the food.

And they're talking about what's going to happen if the cops run out of gas.  No bike cops in Bahia.  And when the ambulances run out of gas.  Supposedly there's fuel for a couple more days.

And I can't even take the nuclear option and catch a plane out of here if there are no flights.  Not that I'm particularly excited about that option, what with the USA currently making as much mockery of "Order and Progress" as Brazil is.

About an hour ago the neighborhood erupted with people yelling "Fora Temer" (Temer, the much hated president, Out)  You usually only get that kind of excitement when there's a goal scored in a soccer game.  I thought maybe he had resigned due to the crisis, but I can't find anything to that effect online.  Dude did call out the armed forces to deal with the strike a couple days ago.

It could, and probably will, get worse before it gets better.

The petroleum workers are scheduled to go on strike tomorrow.

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