I've confessed before about the large chunk of Western Europe that I consider too complicated to get a good grip on its history, but I'm starting to feel my ignorance zone should probably extend down into the Southern Hemisphere too.
Because I've realised lately I don't really understand why good government seems such a difficult thing to achieve in virtually every country in Central and South America. Sure, there will be lingering issues with exploitation from the West and all, but it seems to be taking a remarkably long time for it to be overcome.
I should probably also admit that it would seem I didn't even have the right impression of Brazil, culturally. I thought the gaudy display of Carnival, the small bikinis on the beaches of Rio, as well as the mixed skin colours showing a relaxed attitude to intermarriage between races, all indicated an openness to sensuality that would mean they are not all that culturally conservative, even if religious. Which would mean the election of an obnoxious Trump-like President is a bit hard to understand.
I guess I was sort of right, as this WAPO article starts with:
Brazil for years reveled in its image as a post-racial, left-leaning society. Now Jair Bolsonaro — a far-right outsider who says he “loves” President Trump — has surged to the front of the pack in Sunday’s presidential election, sharply dividing Latin America’s largest nation.But - I had also missed how big the swing to evangelical Christianity had been in the last decade or so:
In recent years, as crisis has consumed Brazil, there has been a notable shift in political, social, and religious attitudes. According to a 2016 survey, 54 percent of the Brazilian population held a high number of traditionally-conservative opinions, up from 49 percent in 2010. The shift is particularly evident on matters of law and order: Today, more Brazilians are in favor of legalizing capital punishment, lowering the age at which juveniles can be tried as adults, and life without parole for individuals who commit heinous crimes. Observers have ascribed this phenomenon to Brazilians’ increasing fear of violence over the last few years. This rightward shift has been accompanied by a massive growth in the country’s Evangelical Protestant and Pentecostal churches, which constitute the greater part of Brazilian Protestantism. The percentage of those who identified as evangelicals in Brazil has grown from 6.6 percent in 1980, to 22.2 percent in 2010.Another article I read recently, but which I am having trouble finding now, indicated that the society is more conservative than first impressions give. A third article from earlier this year explains how Carnival is a bit misleading:
Irreverence is a fundamental element of carnival, as are costumes mocking politicians or political scandals. In his 1979 book Carnivals, Rogues and Heroes, anthropologist Roberto DaMatta detailed how carnival’s temporary libertarianism and role-playing actually expose the rigid social structures and codes of Brazil’s deeply conservative society. The classic carnival costume of a poor man dressed as a king shows how hierarchical Brazilian society is. “It has a sociological role. It is an escape valve,” he told the Observer. “What happens in carnival dies in carnival.”Anyway, it's incredible how closely Bolsonaro's policies, behaviour and life are closely aligned with Trump's - he too has been married several times, and has risen to the Presidency on the back of social media and the creepy, cultish worship of his followers that indicate they are voting for him more for emotional reasons than rational. Maybe he is more sincerely Right wing than the mere opportunism of Trump - and certainly he actually has done military service. But the similarities as political figures are still pretty amazing.