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!
Twenty years from now, Brazil will be where it is today unless young people learn to vote wisely. Really, they must learn more. No matter how wisely you vote, if all the candidates with a chance of winning are crooks, what good does it do to vote?
Someone must figure out how to move from the position of “all the candidates are crooks” to “at least one candidate is not a crook”.
The political establishment in Brazil don’t WANT things to change.They hold in their hands the reins of power. They are scared of revolution. But I am scared of revolution too, and most people who study history are scared. Violent revolution usually results in chaos and agony, followed by repression.
I guess the solution is to start a small but honest and smart political base, which will slowly attract honest and smart members of the power base. You could begin with sentimental academics, wild-eyed artists, and the cream of the most intelligent and stable from the favelas. You’ve got to move from there to honest engineers, business people, dentists, physicians, and, if any can be found, honest lawyers.
I have lived in Rio more than 13 years. I have never cheered when the good people of Rio burned tires or buses. I had hopes for the non-violent demonstrations. But in the end, what did they bring us? Just the intolerable situation we have today. And I know some good people were in those demonstrations.
I cheered the trucker’s strike. It proved the people acting concert CAN shake the establishment. But I was probably wrong to cheer. It’s likely an inchoate movement. I wish it could be directed to some positive goal which would benefit all.
Julia, thanks for your reporting and for giving me a chance to speak. I entered a comment a few weeks ago but when I checked on it, a comment was supposed to be there but I wasn’t able to open it. Maybe I tried to open wrong or there’s some glitch in the web page.
HI, thanks so much for this comment, I don’t know where the other one went, so sorry! The basic problem is a fragmented society that has until now operated on the basis of mutual favors. Under the pressure of the internet and anti-corrruption efforts and feeling, this is breaking down. The process is far from pleasant and there’s no way of knowing what will come in its place. The work described above is key to some degree of optimism!
I sometimes think the young people of Brazil are the only hope. I watched the middle-class professional 30-somethings demonstrate carrying a balloon with Lula in a prisoner’s suit and Dilma wearing a robber’s mask. They got what they wanted. They got Dilma using questionable means, they got Lula using questionable means, they kept Temer using questionable means. When the trucker’s strike hit, I heard them wailing: “I can’t buy strawberries!”
I would urge the middle-class to use their brain power and education to help us discover how we – Brazil – came to be where we are now. It seems the middle class in Western Europe has finally reached the enviable position of not having to worry much about having cell phones snatched from their hands by their fellow citizens. This was not an accident, it required effort. Would it be too much sacrifice to devote 10% of your free time to thought, study, discussion, meditation, and action towards solving the problem of a deprived underclass? No one ever said that the underclass can better itself without sweat. I think the underclass in Brazil is pretty tough. But it’s easy to give in to despair when nobody gives a damn about you and you can’t see anything better ahead.
As to young people, the discussion groups and forum mentioned in the link are all to the good. But we read that young people have “no experience of life under the military government”. Have young Brazilians ever considered going to their rooms, shutting the door, finding histories of Brazil online, and reading them? Silently and alone, reading and thinking about what you read? You have to BLEED history! Try to see the world through the eyes of the young Dilma, the young Lula. Of course, much of what they thought was only partially true, or even false. The same is true of all of us today. But no need to stop with Lula and Dilma. You can study of world of Pedro II, see the world through his eyes — the lies the elite were telling one another and straining to believe true — this certainly is relevant today. Everything you learn alone gives weight to what you say in a group.
Brazilians tend to be social, emotional, artistic, and fun-loving. It’s fun to put on a clown nose, to paint your face and body, dance in the street, release doves in plazas, plant rows of brooms on the beach. Then there’s the terrible job of an army of a million workers getting up early every weekday and somehow transporting themselves to work, and the army of a million then somehow getting themselves back home. And this HAS to be every workday, or Rio will die, as a human body will die without air and a beating heart.
To avoid a social collapse or a drastic regression — as Wiemar Germany collapsed into Hitler — somebody is going to have to do the serious study and thinking, the filing of papers, the organizing and the politicking, the raising money and getting media attention, the search of a charismatic individual or individuals, the — well, I’m not sure what must be done. I don’t know how long it will take — possibly decades. But certainly it has happened before that a political order has run its course and been replaced by a more viable order. It can happen in Brazil.
I am retired, I have time to study and think about these things. I will try. I appreciate your efforts, Julia — I think you are a person of good will — and again, thank you for giving me a voice.