Milk Chocolate bonbon

Image: Cyrus Saurius


About dreams, thefts and racism

A dream I had two or three times as a teenager: I was in a bakery with no one and a display of sweets at my disposal, so that I was tempted to take them and leave without paying; but a voice, I don't know if off or inside me, said: you're in a dream, this is to test you. And then I kept waiting to wake up, which must have happened shortly after the sentence ended, and I felt relieved that I hadn't committed a crime under any circumstances. If the dream occurred today, perhaps the talking cricket would not need to jump out of the dreamlike mist warning me of the trap because I would read the warning inside the dream or have the natural “awareness” there that it existed: Smile you are being filmed!

The dream beckoned to me with the mirage of a paradise that I refused, perhaps elaborating the desire, I believe universal, that things fall from the sky or are offered as fruits of nature, like the guavas that hang over someone else's backyard, or as the garden of eden, in which nothing has a price because there was no work to produce it, sweat or suffering – “Look at the lilies of the field, they neither weave nor spin…”. In the case of department stores and department stores, there is no doubt that this childish desire was captured and projected into the arrangement of things, but the presence of surveillance cameras only shows the contradiction with which this trade operates, undecided between the unconscious and the super. -me, so to speak – it is true that there is a branch of stores that are becoming more and more abstract or vaporous, and some do not even answer by name anymore, sometimes presenting themselves as “square” or “experience”, and only have of rarefied samples of articles, and in such a way that we are struggling to find them until we are offered a catalogue, truly artistic in conception, in addition to some experiences. Many for now only accept credit cards, but there are already those that work with more ethereal ways of carrying out the transaction. These places are so elegant and in general located in such fine shopping centers that naturally they do not encourage any poor person and even less a black person to set foot on their threshold, because, to dare to cross it, only organized in rolezinhos, like once intended to do at Shopping JK, but evidently without success because these new malls of an unattainable standard are positioned as bunkers or fortifications, all the better if on the non-pedestrian side of a pestilential river. It is an almost impalpable and elusive trade and, in this condition, it no longer promises “general happiness”, like department stores, conceived at a time when the production of goods under industrial capitalism gained another intensity. Au bonheur des dames ("For the happiness of women"), a novel from 1891 by Émile Zola, had as its title and as its main character a counterpart of this type of retail, in fact conceived for women, but above all for those coming from classes even more traditionally linked to consumption that to production and whose happiness waved to Octave Mouret (himself an irresistible man for the female sex), owner and daring businessman, who with an artist's talent knew how to compose the spectacle of merchandise like no one else, with his spiritual and synesthetic experience, and that for architectural conception, the play on the stairs, the layout of the shelves and corridors, the harmony or dissonance of the materials, the vibration or composition of colors, the design of the windows, the excess supply, which reached the sidewalk with very low prices, as if was offered for free. The new establishments, preceded by intermediate types, are less exuberant and more cool, and naturally lead us to a much more mediated relationship with objects, which do not fall into our lap, although they do not fail to carry out their ritual. Their utopia clearly does not announce itself to everyone, nor do they have that intention anymore (as if the promises of liberal democracy had also disappeared with them). And certainly thefts are much less common in them, for more than one reason.

My childhood experience in a famous retail store must have been daytime material for the reported dream. It was hard to contain the impulses that surged as soon as I approached the mountains of caramel or the sea covered with chocolates in marvellous paper, right at the entrance, within reach even of pedestrians, driving my eyes and my senses crazy. And so, by the hundreds, in large boxes where they were divided according to the color of the package or the variety, bouncing around in stacks in the shape of pyramids, it was not uncommon for the sweets to slip into the hand or pocket of a child more sensitive to taste. appeals. On one occasion they ended up in my armpit, and, keeping his arms close to his body the whole time, with a slight stiffness that from the waist up made me move practically only my hands, he went by the cashier to pay for something he had brought back. Explicitly and only on the street, in a sudden and distracted movement, already far from the store, I released the chocolates and sweets nestled there, which honestly astonished me, as if I had actually forgotten about them. But how did they end up here? As? I had probably used my armpits as a basket with the arm loops because I couldn't carry everything with my hands and then forgot to dump them at the checkout. I was about 7 or 8 years old, and an older cousin who accompanied me was amused by what seemed to her at first to be a tremendous blunt face. Some time later I perfected my judgment about what I had done myself, not excluding that my unconscious was to blame, but also adding the hypothesis that I really hadn't needed to do anything, it was things that had found a place in me, for they reigned there in the shop in their fullest immediacy or spontaneity, not to say impudence.

Anxiety, about things and people, got worse at Christmas and naturally in March, April, with those Easter eggs hanging over our heads, golden and silver apples, and with them the enormous temptation to pull them, open our nostrils on them, untie everything, break the egg into pieces. When this was not possible, many took it out on their mothers. These stores were more promiscuous, because today the current trend is to tame the stalls more, so that the confectionery and lollipops no longer jump around so much or form mountains, somewhat embarrassing the fantasies of falling on one's mouth, of swimming with an armful in sweets, the that in my childhood was even more encouraged by a famous film and always rerun on television as The amazing chocolate factory, or the popular tale of “João e Maria”, with that hut whose walls, doors and windows were made of cake and confectionery. But there also lived the witch, who by this means attracted the children to fatten, fry and eat them... Among us, in fact, there was a story that there was a small torture room in the store. Once, at the end of the afternoon, the children, sitting on the steps in front of the house of one of us, as was common, went so far as to say that the stick ate inside (that was not the expression, of course) and “even the person even disappeared!” A heavy silence then descended on the circle, as if each one was thinking about the fate he had escaped. But this must have been a story invented by parents or even by shopkeepers to warn us, taking advantage of the shadow that still cast a military dictatorship in decline, although I never stopped suspecting that watching us between the boxes and shelves could be a “civilian ” as if wanting nothing, paying attention to every suspicious movement, so that, at a signal from you, the officials would surprise the offender when he was already setting foot in the street. Not everything had to be hearsay, as there could in fact be mechanisms that sought to contain us, which did not always work. They tried to limit us by haunting us at the same time as attracting and tormenting us, not putting any limits on things. Why didn't they display them to us more decorously, with the window just ajar? Objects also have their will, their impulses, and those magazines closed their eyes to them, opening them only to our side, when they could well do their somersault without needing our little hand.

I remembered all this, my dream and childhood fears, when I read, on a sheet of newspaper that I found among some clippings, the article about a woman and her family who had their life completely transformed after stealing some Easter eggs from the supermarket and a kilo of chicken. She was caught in the act, she was pregnant, she was 26 years old at the time, in 2016, and was sentenced to serve 3 years and 2 months in prison. Three of her children were dispersed at the home of relatives, and the youngest would be born years later in the maternal ward of the Pirajuí Penitentiary, in an overcrowded cell, which houses 19 women and their newborn children. The article said that the Public Defender's Office of São Paulo had appealed to the STJ so that the woman obtained habeas corpus and the suit be overruled for insignificance, which would be tried in those days. In another article it was said that the STJ had denied the woman her freedom.[I] The news, in turn, also brought to mind the arrest I witnessed of another girl, almost the same age, denounced by the manager of a small supermarket because her son, about 7 years old, stole some packets of Negresco biscuits while she She herself took care of putting some deodorants from the drugstore next door in her bag. Employees and some customers from a shop I myself frequented were gathered together with the police, while the girl, small and black, who must have been under 30, like me at the time, and with a baby in her arms, just widened her eyes, mute, I think she was even less humiliated than confused, and she pulled her little partner close to her, also very startled. Behold, then a skinny young man approached, with tied hair and a beard, with all the appearance of being a Humanities student at the university nearby, and, after asking what was going on, someone then told him the story, with that indignation vein popping out of the neck. “But she's going to be arrested just for that???”, “Oh if she was stealing out of hunger!”, “But how do you know it wasn't?”, “Imagine!... who, feeling hungry, picks up packets of biscuits stuffed?”, “But, ma'am, children just want to know that, they throw a tantrum, it's hard for a mother to see her child wanting a sweet, a yogurt, and not being able to give it. Are you not a mother?”. Then I thought to myself that the centuries pass, the production of goods becomes more and more varied, but the eating patterns at these times are almost those of captivity in the Old Testament. If you want to end your hunger, you will steal old bread, a cubit of flour or rice, a measure of salt. If hunger is physiological and prehistoric, why satisfy it with these chemical innovations from the food industry? You won't need Coke - for the black, icy, bubbling liquid in red pop cans need not wet the beaks of those who can only eat grasshoppers or crabs. “Furthermore”, added a hairdresser from a franchised salon in the same shopping center, “what example will these children have? And no one is hungry picking up so many units of deodorant, and the same, on top of that, the same! Dove deodorant! It's very weird! She took it to resell ", " I don't see what's strange here, lady... And if it's to resell? To buy groceries, pay the bills – the stop here in São Paulo is tough… And, if it wasn't to sell, it was to use. It's the same if you think about it...". My buttons, glued to me like children to their mother, and who followed everything with interest, said that the young man's argument was reasonable. Then the student, who, on closer inspection, I realized was from the countryside and perhaps lived in the student accommodation, addressed the policeman: “Young man, don't arrest me for this trifle. Everyone here, by the way, he must have pilfered stuff from the supermarket in his life”. I took a step closer to him, pulled by my buttons, and nodded in shaky sympathy. then the little template shone with a strange light, coming from the Mount of Olives where Christ teased with that Let him who has never sinned cast the first stone... The policeman, confused by the discussion, vented, but in a mild tone: “You complain that the police do nothing, so we act and complain too, that makes it difficult…”; finally, as if giving in to the argument that it was a minor thing, but he couldn't refuse without a formality, he said: "Well, you know - if the manager withdraws the complaint, we'll leave." The manager shook his head to the sides, refusing the proposal, and, raising his chin like a priest of social morals, a middle-aged man, my neighbor, came to add, giving more courage to those who thought it was fair to arrest: “If it’s like this now child, it will be worse in the future. Soon this boy will be killing”; “My lord, honestly, one thing doesn't always lead to the other; Besides, that girl is going to jail, and away from her children, the boy is going to Febem. Have you ever thought about it? In two weeks it's Christmas… Do you think it's worth it?, think about it…”, “Who sent it? What doesn't make up for what she did! Now she is going to set an example”, “What example, what example?”, asked the cricket animal, frowning a lot. Another, silent until then, and now more free to give his opinion, gave his opinion: “And with the youngest son in his arms, he was doing his trickery… Where have you seen him? Put one to steal and another to see…”, “So I see it, right?”, the boy took advantage of it with a chuckle, because now he was really making fun of them, “that's what comes of not having a daycare…”. It is necessary to recognize, however, that, if this debate that I witnessed in 2003 had taken place today, the student would hardly have been able to begin his pedagogical preaching – they would have told him that he was on his toes or would have been cursed with petralha or even, who knows, beaten or summoned to go to the police station. along with the girl. Soon the young mother with the baby in her arms and the older one, who hadn't opened their mouths, were being led into the car through the side doors, because at least that wasn't an accident. paddy wagon, a word that, if it originally meant “vessel”, always reminded me of comburir, combustion, as if suggesting that whoever enters there is burned alive, which is the most recent term, caveirão, reveals it completely, as the skull of the name and the primitive design on the vehicle point bluntly to a future of skeleton and ditch. It is still a variant that the linguistic intuition of security and repression engineers was able to give the appearance of a philological evolution, with difference and repetition: camburão, caburão, cabeirão, caveirão… Ash and bone vase. Even though this was not the case in that episode, as she was just getting into a plain black car, I felt that that woman, the same age as mine as I found out later, was being buried alive and, with her, her children glued together. the belly. Months after the fact, I learned by chance and in unexpected ways that “some people there, some lawyers who help the poor”, contacted by someone, perhaps the student, went to the police station, tried to pay a bail, but that recourse was no longer possible, because the girl was already registered with the police for drug trafficking (probably it had been a mere little plane of drug dealers, I thought). They were following the case and had managed to get her to trial before the scheduled time and yet… the case that ended up reaching the judge was, due to a mistake, that of a namesake: like her, the other girl was also called Kelly, she was the same age and black… When I found out about this, nine months had already passed, the girl was still in prison, waiting for bureaucracy or ill will to unravel, and that because she did not depend only on the public defender. My informant couldn't say anything about the children. If that had happened recently, this girl would not have gone to prison, as she would have benefited from the STF's recent decision to grant habeas corpus collective for pregnant women prisoners or mothers of children up to 12 years old. Perhaps the two boys, who I did not know where they had been sent at the time, had not been separated from each other and from their own mother, nor would they join that contingent of “two thousand little Brazilians [who] are behind bars with their mothers suffering improperly”, as Minister Lewandovski said in 2018 (it is true that many babies and their mothers are still behind bars a year after this determination).

The idea of ​​a repeated Kelly gave me that vertigo produced by the (psychic and literary) phenomenon of the double, which in general has a sinister connotation. Maybe it was more about serial production of many other Kelly calls who were in the same circumstance. But in reality they weren't copies, and rather originals, with the chance of a name perhaps more appreciated by the mothers of their generation and which a common destiny came to match.

By the same thread of memory I slipped from the Negresco cookies to the cookies of another brand, taken by one of the women, mostly black, interviewed in the documentary Trifle (2009), by Clara Ramos. Over 60 years old and undergoing chemotherapy treatment, at the time of the interview she was awaiting the resolution of the process for having taken a cheese and two packets of Trakinas biscuits, those biscuits with a human and naughty face, as designed by industrial food design , and advertising ended up blowing their souls with computer graphics pranks. Because of the Trakinas, the lady had already spent 2 years in prison, but she was seeing the moment when she would need to steal again, in this case, cans of milk, to feed her grandson, whose father was unemployed, like herself. A judge appears at various times justifying imprisonment even in those situations that some might consider, with a consequent release order, according to the state of necessity (“starved theft”) or according to the “Principle of Insignificance” or Principle of Trifle or Precept of Trifle”. . According to the story of Maria Aparecida, the one who stole the cheese and biscuits (which, however, never ended up in her mouth and crumbled as the packages passed from hand to hand among the police agents), a delegate at a PD, who unfortunately did not it was what would decide her fate, he cleared her saying that there were more important cases to be judged. Another girl, psychotic and charming, lost an eye, was tortured in prison, spent months in solitary confinement and almost would have died if it weren't for the intervention of her sister and a militant lawyer. The archaic Law of Talion, that of an eye for an eye, did not apply here: the girl lost hers for taking a shampoo and a conditioner[ii]. Luxury items, according to an interviewed judge, who at a certain point lists things commonly stolen, which, from his perspective, would not indicate need, hunger: cod pieces (certainly more sought after at Easter time), personal hygiene items, cookies , drip… What then would they indicate? Perhaps the peculiarity of the theft of each of these elements could be discriminated... It seems beyond doubt that personal hygiene items would be of primary necessity; as for the cod pieces – could they not be the object of “psychic hunger” and whose deprivation, as Antonio Candido had already observed in a famous study on caipiras, already traditionally undernourished, would lead to profound psychosocial imbalances? Sometimes even released through the liquor, this is also in no way a luxury item, in the condition that it has in the country of almost universal solution of all frustrations? Wouldn't this type of lack, in turn, also imply the desire to eat steaks because they are an element of prestige, of social belonging, because of the convention of having this fish for lunch on an important date of the Christian calendar and still followed among us? Or, in the hypothesis, which does not exclude the previous ones, of being an element of luxury – like so many others snatched by hands in various social classes –, would it not include the just ambition to participate in a sphere beyond the circle of necessity? Man cannot live on bread alone, but it is necessary to consider that today's bread is made of deodorant, toothpaste, refrigerator, kitchen gas, running water, electric light, pass for the bus (and now cell phone, mate of all hours on the bus and train and yet stolen a thousand times) etc. etc... It is such a huge list that, under certain conditions of being unemployed or poorly employed, just stealing is not complete and even so it does not alone make up the whole of living life - not just bread... Not just what is necessary for production of vital forces, considering that these occur as it would be enough, which is not usually the case, since hunger, as one of the most admirable Brazilians, Josué de Castro, already showed in the 40s, is an experience that, in Brazil, becomes it occurs in degrees and with regional variations, and at its mildest level it presupposes malnutrition.

In any case, if surveillance is already high on the poor, it is much higher on the black population, which is, of course, a truism. In this case, not always being well dressed or having the appearance of belonging to the middle class earns them better treatment. There are even those who they are questioned because they carry objects or wear clothes... which is their owns, like a girl chased, in the Pavuna neighborhood, in Rio de Janeiro, by the saleswoman of a store, who, finding it suspicious that she had tried on an outfit that she ended up putting aside, accused her of having taken what was actually yours, a coat. The case is exactly one of terror, because, having waited almost two hours for the police who called 190, in view of the humiliation suffered, but also because she was almost beaten by the security guard, she was advised not to press charges. At the police station, she was unable to file a police report because they also thought the case was of little importance and, at her insistence, they threatened to accuse her of theft. Afterwards, she came back with the invoice for the purchase of the coat, which she turned the house over to find, and photographs in which she was wearing it, the coat, already the main character of the story, which she couldn't get back because it was under investigation... I don't know whether or not it still is will have fallen apart, but perhaps it would not be inaccurate to say that she was the victim of the theft.

So what is left for you as an alternative? Going to councilor Marielle Franco's office... Apparently, from other news, showing the invoice for what was bought does not exempt the person from being searched, and here it is not worth saying that money is a universal mediation and non olet, does not smell, as Marx wrote, because you look at the color and face of the person who gives it, so it may not even be accepted, as in the story of the girl who wanted to buy a vase for R$6,00, having R $40,00 in her pocket, and was thrown out by the shop owner, her son and the watchman, and finally thrown into the street, against her parked bicycle. That happened a few months ago and a few meters from the place where João Vitor, that 13-year-old teenager, who, daring to approach Habib's, ended up murdered by security, and even tried to frame him when his body was barely cooling. As a story pulls history or curiosity, I also read the news that, by court decision, five boys searched “in a vexatious way” in a Záfari supermarket, in Porto Alegre, in 2013, were going to be compensated in R$20.000,00 each. It had also been of no use to them, called “these neguinhos”, according to the testimony of a witness, to show the invoice for the packages of biscuits for which they had just paid… Supermarkets do not do well on tape, and another case – which was also decided in favor of the victim, to be compensated in R$458.000,00, according to the decision handed down in the last month of April – it made me think that the opinion that my friends and I had in childhood that some stores should have a torture chamber, even if and following the best practices. A ten-year-old boy, unaccompanied by a guardian, went to buy his sweets, or perhaps something requested by his busy mother, and despite presenting unequivocal proof that he had bought them, was taken to a warehouse, where he was cursed and almost beaten. As Ayala Dandara, the designer who wanted to buy a vase, said, “we black people, from the periphery, are taught all the time by our parents to, as soon as we enter a store, never put your hand on things, always look at the price from afar” (emphasis mine). That is, they are unable in so many situations to carry out the most elementary commercial exchange. Neither this nor liberal democracy is valid for the black population. If one hour can be, as Robert Kurz would say, “monetary subjects” with money (because a large part is without money), less or more scarce, they will also often be prevented from consumption. Judging by the testimony of Dandara Ayala, if the external coercion of not putting one's hands on things and only seeing them from afar is expelled or internalized, it is because it is known that even the deformations of the “promesse de bonheur” are not valid for them. embedded in ideology or spectacle[iii].

The Negresco cookies, caught in the episode with Kelly and that never left my memory, or even the Trakinas by Maria Aparecida, could well be on the threshold between necessity and luxury (to use the term of the magistrate who must not know it), between bread and beyond-bread, and would be taken at the insistence of children and to satisfy impulses, in them and also in adults, for one and the other, that is, by force of necessity and freedom, in no way contemplated by the ramerão opaque from the basic basket, which, when it exists, does not last the whole month, and, if it lasts, it does not bring, despite the marmalade, any fantasy more golden, or pink, the favorite color of children, who light up their eyes at it, or like when you see lots of Sonho de Valsa wrapped in that bright and noisy wonder-colored paper, conceived by some industrial genius.

*Priscila Figueiredo is a professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of In search of the nonspecific (Nankim).



[ii] As the writers and lawyers Paulo Ferraz and Mário Feliciani explained to me: “Perhaps it would be good to draw a line dividing the concept of trifle/insignificance of starving theft, which indeed requires the 'state of necessity' to rule out the typicality of the crime. The principle of insignificance would apply to everything that is of small value and that would not justify state intervention (cost with police, notary, judge, jailers, etc.), here the criterion is financial. (…) According to Article 24 of the Penal Code: 'A person who commits the act to save himself from a present danger, which he did not provoke by his will or could otherwise avoid, by his own right or that of others, is considered to be in a state of necessity, the sacrifice of which , under the circumstances, it was unreasonable to demand'. As the principle comes from Germany, I don't know how willing legal operators here are to accept it. There are those who say that criminal law should only be used as a last resort, which is only valid as a theory, since the truth is that it is arrested for any reason. There is recent jurisprudence that ruled out the crime of theft in the case of a low-value cell phone… and I swear I heard phrases like 'Ah, so the STF now authorizes everyone to steal up to 100 reais?'”.

[iii] I would like to add a case that has occurred these days, in which another young black man is accused by security guards in a supermarket of having stolen... his own boot, bought in another store. ( -de-mg.ghtml)

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