Is there any logic to voting? Young people debate politics and political consciousness
New blood is coming. This was part of the news heard last Thursday at the Rio de Encontros, a unique debate forum that meets monthly at the Museu de Arte do Rio de Janeiro, the MAR.
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New blood is flowing in a scenario of contested power among Rio de Janeiro groups, according to political scientist Francisco Mendes Guimarães, founder of the Instituto GPP. Casa Fluminense, working with the Fundação Cidadania Inteligente, is also fanning the flames of such energy, as they encourage political participation on a platform set to go live in June, Rio Por Inteiro.
This may not be quite so apparent in the October elections, but new generations are mobilizing to better prepare themselves to be part of the public debate. The Festival Todo Jovem é Rio (Every Youth is Rio) has already brought together 1,600 young people, who met in eighty private homes to talk about politics. An equal number is to meet up this year.
“Young people think politics is a bourgeois thing,” said Carol Santana, age 24. Carol, who runs a project for vulnerable kids in her Vila Kennedy community, also thought this — until last year, when she was recruited to host a meetup for the Festival Todo Jovem é Rio, organized by the Agência Redes para Juventude. Created by agitator Marcus Faustini, the Agência arose in 2011 as a sort of favela youth startup incubator, with Petrobras funds. Faced with the economic downturn, the Agência pivoted, with great relevance to us all.
The non-partisan youth meetups, instead of preaching dogma, raise questions.
Is it possible for someone from Rio’s socioeconomic periphery to become mayor? Next comes a discussion of the positive and negative aspects of such an idea. Many young people put no faith in their own peers. They believe that peripheral citizens are poorly educated; that they’re incapable of broad knowledge of the whole city, that such a candidate would face prejudice, racism and lack of support; that corruption would be certain, along with a lack of political access and funding; and that an alliance with drug traffickers would be necessary.
How to deal with so many difficulties? Provoked, the young participants come up with strategies. So far, Carol said, these have included making a habit out of political debate, formulating proposals to bring citizens together from across the city, thinking about political preparation early on, promoting a positive image on social media, and getting a good education.
Festival participants also identified their top concerns: public safety and education.
Once Carol related this information to Rio de Encontros participants, they immediately turned to the presidential election. Young people present at the MAR said that many voters their age will opt for conservative Jair Bolsonaro. They explained that is comes out of worry over safety, lack of education and information, no experience of life under the military government (which left power in 1985, well before they were born), the need for change and a general feeling of revolt. Today’s Globo newspaper has an article on the phenomenon.
Political scientist Francisco Mendes Guimarães, a specialist in political research analysis, spoke to the Rio de Encontros gathering about the probability of a high absentee percentage in October, already a trend in recent elections.
It’s relatively easy to analyze the presidential race, given such data and trends. The local election is more difficult: candidates are still unknown, and Rio lacks the much-desired outsider profile, a role that Bolsonaro plays in the race for Brasília. Mendes Guimarães indicated that here, sadly, politics will continue to reflect the growing and confused power mix among traffickers, militias and evangelicals.
Is it possible to reboot all this? The Fundação Cidadania Inteligente (Intelligent Citizenship Foundation), already at work in Chile, teamed up with Casa Fluminense. Together they’re investing in Casa Fluminense’s role (one of many) in promoting public policy proposals, connecting these with candidates. The Rio por Inteiro platform, to be launched June 23 at the upcoming Casa Fluminense Forum, will be open to proposals from individuals, groups and civil society organizations, said Ana Carolina Lourenço, the Fundação’s Executive Coordinator in Brazil.
At this chaotic pre-electoral moment in Rio, with the trucking strike, federal intervention in local public safety, the unsolved murders of city councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes, and the perspective of a national oilworkers strike, it’s at least heartening to hear young people talkingand thinking about their place in the world. We need more of this!