|What Brasil has to offer|
Everyone told me how dangerous it was living here. I'm currently in Curitiba, one of the more important cities in the south, which is also rumored to be as dangerous as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo on a per-capita basis. "It wasn't like this twenty years ago," I was told, but then I listened to how multiple people had had multiple cars stolen, houses broken into, or were robbed on the street at gunpoint or by knife...day and night...on busy streets and quiet roads. It happens every day to many people all over the country.
|The view of the crime scene through my kitchen window|
|A typical way of protecting your house in Brasil|
So this explained to some degree the electric fences, and barbed wire, and alarms, and cameras, and tall walls, and private security guards working overnight at the doctor's house next door. This explained the paranoia; it wasn't so much paranoia as it was smart: protect and you will be protected. Of course, this is only a patch. Protect and you shall be protected, but what about the culture? What about community policing? What about what the politicians think or are willing to do? Protect and you shall be protected, and corrupt and you shall be corrupted, too. It's a sickening disease. And while Brasilians will tell you they care, the truth of the matter is that they don't. They complain in private, and they do nothing practical to stop it. Is it just the thieves who are lazy? Laziness breeds laziness, too.
|Can't afford the electric bill? Go with barbed wire|
Normally on Fridays I have class, and those students give me a ride to my girlfriend's house after class. But this week they were travelling, so I was in my house painting (I'm also an artist, too). It was about 9:30 when my girlfriend came on Skype and asked me when I was coming over. "I'm a bit tired, can you pick me up?" I asked. She picked me up forty-five minutes later in her father's Chevy Montana pick-up, which she was borrowing for the day, and we were on our way, or so we thought. Upon backing out of the yard, a man passed behind the truck. Nothing to be concerned about because this normal. After all, my house isn't the only one on the street. So we let him pass and we pulled out, closed the door to the yard, and drove off.
|Yes, that's a playground|
Now, in Brasil, you don't go back. Going back means getting shot. Going back means something bad. You never want to catch a thief because you never know what he'll do. You never, never, never go back. But there were two girls in one of the small apartments inside the building. They were alone. We couldn't just drive away. Call the cops? They never would have come. They only come if someone is already hurt (more proof on that later). It was up to us to be sure that everything was OK. "What if the guy got inside and got to the girls?" we thought. So we went back.
I clicked the clicker to open the gate and we drove in. We looked. Phew, nothing. He went somewhere else. There was one other place in the yard he could have hidden, behind a wooden board, so we got out of the car to check. Within a second after that two guys, one with a gun, came running in the yard behind us. The guy with the gun went to my girlfriend presumably because she had the key. I got out of the car with my hands up and walked off to the side. She did the same, except to the front of the car. The guy without the gun got in the car and the guy with the gun suddenly couldn't see me. Why? Because there was a tree between the front of the car where he was and the side yard, where I was standing. Shouting in Portuguese, which I didn't understand due to the slang and speed of his language, he said I was getting away. My girlfriend convinced him that I'd respond to English. I did when she told me to "Come here." Funny, after she said that, he said "Come here" as well.
|More electric fences|
|Broken glass, the cheapest option|
I lost my backpack, some clothes, an expensive pair of prescription sunglasses, and a fading MP3 player. Nothing I can't live without. My girlfriend lost nothing. Her father lost the truck, but it was insured, so no problems there. It was a business vehicle anyway. We gained scars, images, and memories, of course. I knew I didn't want to live here anymore. When she finishes her PhD, we're going to make a decision. To where? I don't know, but not here. If this is normal, then I don't want normal.
My point? Look, Brasil has some wonderful people. The people are friendly, the beaches are great, the food is fantastic, and the culture is world-class. But it's not a country fit for the Olympics or the World Cup. It's a country where people are more concerned about their cars, their houses, their smartphones, and themselves...and no one else. They've failed as a country to come together be something great. I truly believe that Brasil has all the ingredients to be one of the world's greatest countries, both now and historically. The people are smart, entrepreneurial, great negotiators, even greater communicators, and wonderfully hospitable. They have amazing natural resources and the potential and willingness to be something greater than they are. But they never will be. They never will be because they do nothing about the corruptibility of their society, the politicians, and the police. They do nothing about the safety of the community; they only protect themselves. It's a country of separation, not togetherness. Is my country (U.S.A.) perfect? Of course not. Everyone all over the world knows our problems. And even though Americans often refer to themselves as Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Irish-Americans, etc. (I'm Scottish-American), when it comes to a moment of crisis, we're all Americans, and we all work together. Is that a perfect solution? Of course not. Of course we go too far sometimes, and of course many people all over the world hate how we respond, but the difference is that we do something. The great tragedy in Brasil isn't that they don't do anything, it's that they never will.
|Where we think the bastards were hiding|
|The beauty of Brasil|
And what's next? The landlord is thinking of putting a camera on the house now. Will I feel safer with this patch? Yes. But, will I feel safer? Absolutely not.
(I recognize that this article is anecdotal. Quotes are not direct quotes, but they're definitely close enough)
Edit: To be clear, I am saying that what happened to me and my girlfriend is fairly normal. While you may not get carjacked, crime (robbery and theft) is a big enough problem that it affects everyone...and in some places especially tourists.