Inequalities

Richard Wright, Untitled Figure 4.
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By ALDO PAVIANI*

The many asymmetries between poor and rich in Brazil

The Brazilian Constitution is clear in assuring that “All are equal before the law”. This article of the Major Law is inscribed in article 5o., and is well explained throughout seventy-eight items. The constituents could not have been clearer, being thorough, detailing all possibilities for citizens. Therefore, there is no way to go over the Magna Law, in theory.

In daylight, however, everyone knows that equality has to be sought incessantly, because of what we witness around us. For the good of all, equality should be found in every corner of the national territory. It should, but it doesn't, for multifaceted and manifold reasons. One of these reasons is because human beings are not perfect and many are prone to selfishness when it comes to “having” or “being”.

Men are generally considered inclined to consider themselves diverse in terms of material or immaterial possessions. There are those who strive to have goods that bring them comfort, in certain circumstances, superior to their everyday needs. A larger house, located in a prestigious neighborhood; the car of the year, which sets it apart in the neighborhood; the designer clothes for being in fashion and so on. This reveals a propensity for inequality in formal terms.

In countries colonized by Europeans, ethnic (so-called racial) inequalities can still be found, because the original peoples (regarded as indigenous) have their own culture, habits and beliefs. The dominator, in all quadrants of the territory, tends to want to impose his rules on all these characteristics, as happens when talking about “acculturation”. Needless to say, it doesn't always work that way. There is no possible acculturation when ethnic groups are inserted in the legal protection or in the resistance of the existing structures in their domain for centuries.

On the other hand, in the urban environment, it will not be difficult to find inequalities between people and the situations in which they find themselves. A classic example can be seen in access to information. Those who are in a better social position have all the conditions to be well-informed. They can read newspapers and newsletters from anywhere in the world because they have the corresponding equipment for the desired access. The purchasing power of many people facilitates the purchase of books of interest on the same day of release. But for people of low purchasing power (poor) access to books is not easy. Or they frequent public libraries, universities or at bus stops, as already noted in Brasilia.

Even in the urban environment, inequalities can be noted in housing structures. In metropolises, the urban center usually attracts high-rise constructions with the offer of apartments of various sizes. There are buildings with a mix of properties from one to four bedrooms, favoring acquisition by different strata of the population. This does not reveal major social disparities because those who rent or buy a property do so according to their purchasing power or ability to pay medium or long-term installments.

In contrast, sometimes not far from luxury buildings, are poor communities with homes made with materials already used in works such as planks, asbestos tiles (with condemned use) or cement boards. In this respect, an aerial photograph is emblematic, showing the contrast between a multi-storey building in Morumbi, with a swimming pool on the terrace, contrasting in the background with the community of Paraisópolis (regarded as a slum, with over 40 inhabitants), south of the capital of São Paulo. Noted as the second poorest community in São Paulo, the inequality in the construction standard between the rich in the Morumbi buildings and the shacks of the underprivileged in Paraisópolis is notorious.

There are also significant inequalities in the diet of Brazilians. It appears that there are also differences in urban centers between the place of food for the poor and the rich. It is a truism to say that the most affluent layer has access to good restaurants or can purchase a wide range of foods at fairs or supermarkets. Poor people cannot afford fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and canned goods. This is the responsibility of those with good purchasing power. Therefore, the diet of the impoverished is unsatisfactory in terms of nutritional capacity and can be the cause of physical weakening in children and young people, and may cause poor physical and mental training. This picture of food insufficiency may be responsible for delay in school or in the body formation of malnourished children and adolescents. Therefore, this issue is of public health and must be taken into account by government officials. It is urgent to take the necessary measures so that everyone has access to balanced and healthy food so that people consuming good food can complete their studies and later enter into productive and service activities.

* Aldo Paviani, geographer, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Brasília (UnB).

 

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