Curtain Raiser

A Season of Untamed Fires, Colltalers

As new street protests irrupt, this time in Brazil, it’s becoming harder to keep track of popular unrest against corruption around the world. Which makes this either an exciting moment, if you need to learn something, or a fool’s errand, if it’s just to keep yourself abreast.
The Turkish youth had already been leading the way for a while, and as violent confrontations are now escalating to unpredictable new heights, there are concerns that hard-core radicals may gain the upper hand in the government, and try to crush dissent one way or another.
What began as peaceful demonstrations over the fate of a sliver of public space in Istanbul, has now spilled over and galvanized most of Turkey’s society. However, the much needed national debate that people in the streets are demanding may be short lived.
While support for the protests grows amid grassroots groups and unions, which called for widespread strikes, much of the initial push for transparency and an increased role for citizens in decision making may be drowned out by the thunder of firepower.
Of course, by most accounts, for as much as the situation in Turkey is serious, the tragedy in Syria is ‘the’ world crisis du jour, and the U.S. and other global powers made an unfortunate contribution to its worsening last week, when they signaled intention in stepping into the carnage.
You can be sure that such a step will be disastrous for it most certainly will involve some heavy-handed combat gear, and not much else of anything, except increasing exponentially the number of weapons and corpses all around.
We do seem to have completely lost the sense of what to do, other than nothing or bombing someone, in any and every kind of situation. For to seriously consider picking sides in this obscenely insane conflict, there must be a gargantuan cognition breakdown at the core of our foreign policy.
In fact, it’s so clear that any type of military intervention would be catastrophic, that one doesn’t even need to play out the likely scenarios: they’ve already been played not too far from Syria: in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re all fully aware of how well that’s worked out so far for all parties involved.
But the Middle East quagmire being what it may, there are some who’re truly shocked shocked with what’s happening in Brazil. And while skeptics may dismiss Turkey, for instance, as just another spring and summer fad, it’s actually winter in the Southern Hemisphere, so skeptics be damned.
Half a world away, Latin America’s biggest economy was supposed to have the perfect antidote to a predictable, albeit still disquieting, slowdown of the virtual cycle of growth it had experienced in the past decade: two major global sports events, the World Cup next year, and the Summer Games in 2016.
Because of the scope of such mega events, the rationale would go, a flood of investments and a renewed interest in Brazilian culture would certainly compensate for the impact of declining commodity prices on its economy, which is heavily tilted towards agricultural exports.
The dress rehearsal for those two events is the currently under way Confederations Cup, which predictably has attracted a windfall of investments and extended Brazil’s turn into the spotlight. But just as the soccer ball started rolling, so did the urge of the society to show that not all is going according to the script.
Thus, this past week a massive wave of rallies in Brazil’s biggest cities has started to dispute that same world spotlight with its football stars. After a long while, Brazilians have taken to the streets to protest a hike in public transportation prices and, by extension, official corruption.
And then, surprise surprise, law enforcement was called in and demonstrations turned into bloody battles, just like those seen during the Arab Spring and now in Turkey. So much for the fun loving, samba-dancing Brazilians, a description that most of them abhor as stereotypical and unfair.
It got considerably worse when members of the country’s organized press corps, reportedly one of the most combative and independent segments of the civil society, got beaten and shot at by the police. More rallies are set for this week, and the Rousseff administration’s already behind the curve.
If this scenario has become familiar, and the street protest are encouraging from a democratic point of view, confrontation between citizens and the armed forces are never a sight to be cheerful about. And that’s what Turkey and Brazil have in common, at least at this particular juncture.
The governments at the two nations seem to be clueless on how to handle what’s essentially Democracy 101: freedom of speech. Worst yet: calling them traitors and vandals can only aggravate the proceedings, besides being an open invitation for even more intolerance and violence against civilians.
What about the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, of all places, you may ask? We very much doubt that anything concrete towards eliminating tax havens for billionaires, for instance, will come out of it. And since the group doesn’t really care much about anything or anybody else, neither should we about it.
Much worthier of notice is the Moral Mondays, a striking new movement of North Carolinians rising against discretionary policies against the poor and ‘extreme conservatives’ heading the state’s GOP. We wish them well, and don’t count us among the cynical and the jaded who seem ever so eager to dismiss their intent.
There’s much more, of course, but as we’ve mentioned above, who can keep up with it all?
As for the weary and the restless, a good place to calibrate that angst is Colltales, even though we’ve been posting ever so lightly lately. Among a thousand-plus stories, though, you’re as likely to find one that you can use, as we are to write another to keep us going. So long. WC


4 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Interesting again, Wesley – and enlightening again. Thank you for your great in depth write ups.


  2. eremophila says:

    I’m not so sure there can be ‘peaceful’ demonstrations these days. Any form of ‘civil disobedience’ is going to be dealt with swiftly and without mercy. There are going to be a lot of martyrs. Will Good overcome Evil? I doubt it but I still, without any reason, keep hoping…


  3. Jerry Ashton says:

    It’s “a fool’s errand,” not “a fool’s errant.”

    You went errant on that. 🙂


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