Two restraining notes

Image: Hamilton Grimaldi
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By HELENA TABATCHNIK*

Brazilian periphery and middle class do not know who the rich are because they are invisible. Our income concentration is such that they are no longer with us.

the place of the other

I've heard from black friends, on these networks and on the streets, that white people will never understand what it's like… I've also seen some feminist women saying similar things about men. I understand that each specific social group is not obviously immersed in the experience of the other. About your ability to "understand", I disagree.

Understanding is a rational process, as is the ability to put yourself in the other's shoes. If it were necessary to live something to understand it, it would be the end of the dialogue between the groups and, after all, between each monad that we are. After all, none of us has lived the experience of any other human on the face of the earth.

I think of many examples of how it is possible to understand another's experience. I'm going to start with my supposed place of speech, even though I don't believe that a place of speech immediately corresponds to a place of Truth.

I didn't live Auschwitz. I didn't go through the irreversible trauma of a concentration camp. This does not mean that I cannot rationally understand what happened, nor that I cannot be moved by the violence against everything human that was that genocide. Understanding Nazism was possible for me due to a rational action that was necessary precisely for those who did not experience it. And it made me empathize not only with the victims of this particular extermination, but with all people who are persecuted, dispossessed, exploited, tortured or dehumanized in any way. I know it's not always like this, but it was for me.

Now imagine if there was the thought that those who were not in Auschwitz will never understand, or that non-Jews will never understand… What would become of all literary and cinematographic production on the subject? A huge silence? It seems self-evident to me that such production is aimed precisely at those who did not experience the holocaust, Jewish or not.

It's also quite obvious that I don't have the experience of going out into the streets on a daily basis and risking being exterminated by the police just for being alive. But fear I know — and how! Secondly, because I was born at the height of the military dictatorship and my mother froze, holding my hand tightly every time a police car passed by. To this day I freeze.

And in the first place because I am afraid of being kidnapped, raped and killed by these agents of the state of exception. Anyone who has ever been harassed by police officers in uniform certainly remembers the terror she felt. So, look, I know the vexing history of the country I live in, I understand what it means to have a militarized police force, I know the fear even of it and I know what it is to feel vulnerable and threatened just by being on the street. How could I not understand the plight of a young black man on this earth?

Equally, if I choose to believe that men will never understand what it means to be measured from head to toe, evaluated, harassed (which in practice means men generally reminding us at every turn that we shouldn't be there, that our body is a public object and they can do with us whatever they want) and often raped in the public space? Doesn't this also happen indoors, where we're supposed to be safe? They certainly don't experience this, but they can, for example, learn from what they hear, they can understand what it is to be objectified based on their own objectification in the world of alienated work. Have you ever thought how beautiful?

To firmly believe that one has to live to understand would be the end of dialogue, democracy and art. Why would I narrate my own experiences if the other has not lived them? Nor would she be authorized to narrate the experience of the other, now transformed into a radically Other.

Those who don't like dialogue, democracy and art are the people who are killing us.

We need allies.

the invisible rich

“The worst thing I created was this stigma, which I don't even know if I created it, but I'm responsible, that even RAP carries a certain stigma, I think it was the worst thing I created. Having a certain ignorance and blindness too, I don't tolerate some things. I belong to another generation, so when we created the Racionais symbol, in the late 80s, it was another world. The foreign debt had not been paid. Lula had not been elected yet, there was no Metro in Capão, a lot of things had not happened, a black president had not been elected in the USA, Barack Obama. Brazil didn't have a female president, there wasn't even asphalt in our hood. When we created Racionais, it was another world, so there's no way you can stretch your gum for 25 years talking about the same things as if they hadn't changed. It would be a lie, it would be masking a reality that the new generation is there to show. (...) So, from 88 to now, it's been 24 years, the world has changed a lot, music has to follow the mind of the young, it has to go to the mass, to the mind of the mass.” (Mano Brown)

Brazil is a country where the middle class hates the poor and identifies, through some magical thinking, with the rich. This phenomenon has historical and social roots, starting with our slave-owning past – our first never elaborated genocide – which I will not develop.

It turns out that the periphery also tends to hate the middle class. Could this be the “stigma” that Mano Brown talks about? And why is this the case with two exploited classes, whose enemy, the rich, is a common enemy?

The first answer is more immediate. It makes perfect sense to hate a class that hates you. It would be reactive anger, fully justifiable.

Another thing is that, in the eyes of those who have nothing, the minimum (a two-bedroom house, a used car and, perhaps, a health plan) really seems like a lot. Of the middle class of self-employed professionals who earn more than 40 minimum wages, then, it is not even mentioned. But those rowdy white people who still have (or had) the right to a “weekend in the park”, and whom the lyrical Self observes with justifiable resentment, are middle class.

The truth is that the Brazilian periphery and middle class do not know who the rich are because they are invisible. Our income concentration is such that they are no longer with us.

And I say more, I had no idea either, until I had the opportunity to work at the school of the richest man in Brazil. A banker, evidently. An elite, orthodox school that he built for his own granddaughter and that one of his daughters ran. It was a school that no one even knew existed, hidden nowhere, unseen in the middle of a business center. There was no plaque.

Every day I, a teacher of teenagers, already known by all, showed my badge and passed by ten security guards (not hyperbole) super trained, equipped and dressed in black. After some time of this unpleasant ritual and already knowing the ten (not hyperbole) serious faces, I started to call them MIB [Men in black(Men in Black), 1997 film]. Hi MIB, good morning MIB, see you tomorrow MIB. They didn't laugh, it wasn't allowed. Later I would learn by crooked ways that some of them remembered me fondly. The girl who ate guava paste with gorgonzola. learned from the movie Stomach.

The environment was terribly antiseptic. Children arrived and left in armored cars. There was a heliport, a beautiful super private theater built with public money, impeccably trimmed grass, a huge restaurant that guarantees you eat every day (I couldn't resist) following a detestable diet.

Those kids believed that value is price. They knew only and exclusively the school, the club and the Shopping of the neighborhood where they lived. They were literate in English and didn't think it was necessary to master their mother tongue because they didn't feel Brazilian and hated Brazil, despite the fact that it was our misery that gave them so much wealth.

Their ninth-grade graduation trip was to New York, where they would ride the subway for the first time. I saw, with those eyes that the earth will eat, the director of the English area advising the students to take only one suitcase, so they could return with two more for shopping. Aside from the great adventure of riding the subway, I'm not sure they've done anything in New York besides shopping.

It's true that they weren't exactly Brazilians, they lived and live here without ever knowing the country they extort and despise. This elite, I saw with those eyes that the earth will eat, really has no commitment to the country. It's not safe (somehow they sense the damage they do and shield themselves), and it's not good for shopping.

Without going any further, the moral of the story is that we urgently need to track down the rich. Those who keep us in poverty. Those who, at this moment, keep a genocidal Nazi in power because his ultra-neoliberal policies interest them. Those who don't care that we starve because, I heard with these ears that the earth will eat, the poor are to blame for being poor. They are our great common enemy.

*Helena Tabatchnik is a writer, master in Literary Theory and Comparative Literature at USP, author of Everything I thought but didn't say last night (Hedra), released under a pseudonym (Anna P.).

Originally posted on the author's Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/Helena-Tabatchnik-113428627162058/]

 

 

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