The Pope has left the building. He returned to Rome after performing Mass for 3 million Catholics on
the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. The new Pope, who has already hinted that the Catholic Church has to be more tolerant of gays, has to start being groovy somewhere, so why not amongst the suntans and bikinis. Although with 3 million fighting for sand and blocking the sun, nobody would have had a tan that day. If sun seekers were irritated, they have kept quiet. They might have complained, after all they are the regulars.
Talking of barely dressed people, the Brazilian Government has released footage of the usually discrete Kawahiva tribe. The video was shot in the Amazon in 2011 and shows a group of men carrying bows and arrows through the jungle and a woman with a child. A reserve of 411,000 acres has been created in the west Matte Grosso state but according to Carlos Travasso, head coordinator for ‘Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Groups’, the tribes are still vulnerable to loggers and farmers. In the video, the tribesmen and women look comfortable in their surroundings and have that lazy sense of open-eyed purpose we normally associate with ‘Brideshead Revisited’.
Back in civilisation, in the Pope deserted streets of Rio de Janeiro, the empty tarmac was recently claimed by the trade union ‘State Union Of Education Professionals’. With almost as much aplomb as Kawahivans searching for prey, 7000 teachers in Rio have marched to demand a 19% pay rise. The teachers have already rejected a 6.75% increase in pay. With sums like that, one could be forgiven for thinking that the street action is purely about the final figures on the pay slip but the teachers say not. The strikers also want job security and direct election of school directors. And if that sounds like simple self-interest, the teachers say they also want a different education system. They reject classrooms organised like production lines, the dehumanisation of students and excess competition that inhibits learning. Well, anything that avoids the Brazilian equivalent of the obscenity of hysterical celebrations of A level successes while the TV cameramen step around the low grades and broken lives sounds definitely promising. More money for the workers and a different society was enough to persuade the anarchist group Black Bloc to support the strikes. A group of teachers actually occupied the residence of the State Governor for several hours. This was the building the Pope was no longer in. Whether they showed the film ‘Battle Royal’ to pass the time is not known.
But just in case anybody thinks the good old days are back, that is when class war was a two way street and not simply the rich 1% persecuting the rest, Brazilian bus companies have announced record profits. Two months after the violent street protests against a rise in bus fares, two bus companies in Sāo Paulo have announced record profits. 16, 000 buses cover the city so this was always likely to be big bucks but listen to this. The company, Viącāo Campo Belo, which operates in region 7 of Sāo Paulo, has just announced record profits of R$ 346, 690, an 896% increase on their previous year. Friendly neighbours, Cidade Dutra, who provide the buses in region 6 have seen their profits more than doubled from R$ 1,065,093 to R$ 2,507,074. There are 16 regions in all.
Brazilians, who presumably have not heard about the profits of the power companies in the UK, assume that this scandal is something to do with the original contracts not being auctioned in the correct manner. Even before the record receipts, the bus companies were promised $400 million in profits.
The less trusting Brazilians including some of those marching in the demonstration will question why the buses and transportation had to be privatised. The violent protests articulated concerns about the standard of service and price. They wonder why R$400m and rising has to be redistributed from the poor to the rich. The neo-conservatives of the USA and the UK exported privatisation of state services. Thatcher claimed deregulated economies would generate increased wealth and that the extra income would trickle down to the ordinary people who knew their place. Reagan nodded and grinned and here we are. Living standards for ordinary people are falling, and most of the money they do have is being directed into the hands of the few. Some people are noticing this change in affairs. In Rio de Janeiro where similar problems exist, protesters occupied the city council for 10 days. Sounds extreme? 49 bus companies and 17 businessmen operate all the Brazilian bus lines, which does not feel like the supposedly liberating Chicago school model of the free market. What happened to the other competing 32 businessmen? Milton Freidman is dead so he cannot comment but even if he was alive he would find it hard to justify the R$2.8 billion debt that the bus companies have with the Federal Government but which does not prevent them from operating and being awarded contracts. Why are they in debt and making record profits? Well, somebody has to pay for the buses and there are a lot of buses, which is why the Chicago school has decided to be flexible about the free market model and in this instance excluded capital outlay from its econometric models. As Noam Chomsky often reminds us, neo-conservatism is socialism for the rich and a free market for the poor.
But we all know that the real triumph of the deregulated society is the liberated individual. Unfortunately, a couple of our individuals have been having problems. After the recent accidents with harpooned husbands, the inevitable has happened. No names have been mentioned but there have been reports that a woman has removed the penis of her husband with a very large saw. She discovered he had been unfaithful with another woman. The man has survived but is disappointed with the consequences. His wife had tempted him to a light-hearted flirtatious bondage game and then taken advantage. One can imagine. Up until he lost his penis, it had been a good night. No, I should have not used the word ‘up’ in the previous sentence. I was being insensitive. Anyway, the penis could not be saved. The man will use a catheter for the rest of his life, which should be long enough for him to decide whether the other woman was worth it.
One person no longer has time nor the thoughts to occupy it. A particularly disturbed Brazilian teenager shot his parents, who were police officers, and his grandparents before killing himself. A school friend said that the teenage murderer had fantasies about being a hired killer. His plan was to kill the family and escape in the family car to an abandoned place. I know, we have all seen the movie. The considerable carnage in the living room must have produced second thoughts, and the killer shot himself in the right temple. He died with the others. The killer was 13 years old.
His suicide did the Brazilian authorities a favour because their recent experience with young criminals has not been good. Back in Sāo Paulo, inmates in a youth detention facility rioted. 29 staff members were held hostage. The director of the facility, another disappointed man, was taken to hospital with cuts and bruises. 54 of the 103 inmates escaped, which is almost as impressive a figure as the recent rise in the profits of certain bus companies. The escapees took advantage of a tree outside a wall and ran into the nearby suburbs where they found places to hide, some of these places may have been abandoned. This happened last Monday. Since then, the police have captured 17 of the escapees. The other 37 are still out there and can be found where their fantasies have taken them.
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