Sunday, October 15, 2006

Everyday Politics in Brazil

While walking through Rio yesterday, my girlfriend and I were waiting to cross a busy street. Sitting nearby were two black men who looked to be in their mid-30s waving flags for Geraldo Alckmin, the rightist candidate from the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democratic Party). Waiting to cross the street, she was unable to resist her political inclinations, and playfully but honestly commented to the gentlemen, “You realize that if he wins, you’re the first ones he’s going to screw?”

They both got a big smile, and one immediately said, “Oh, believe me, I know – I’m not VOTING for him.” Turns out the PSDB pays poor people to wave these flags. However, the two gentlemen (and many who wave the flags throughout the city) are not stupid, and were fully aware of the potentially destructive effects Alckmin’s policies would have on them. So, in a brilliant case of “everyday forms of resistance,” they were waving the flags and getting paid on the PSDB’s dime, yet had no intention of voting for Alckmin. As the one man said, “I’ll just take his money and not vote for him.” Some may suggest that by waving the flags in the first place, the two men have been co-opted by Alckmin, but to this writer, it was one of the finest examples of “the subaltern speaking” I’ve ever seen.