Someone who wishes to remain anonymous has decided to take a break from being a fiction writer. The 2015 crisis, the one which tipped the country from its position as an important player in world economics and a rising star in world diplomatic affairs to a place alongside those other Latin American countries unable to sustain steady growth and development, has also led to a drastic decrease in book sales. Bookstores in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and all over Brazil have closed down. The ones that remain open, aside from a few rare exceptions, have had to ask for temporary suspensions of their debts. They cannot pay the distributors or the publishing companies the way they normally would. Being the pragmatic type, this person who wishes to remain anonymous thought it best to channel his creative drive, the drive of someone who is now dangerously close to forty, towards something that might actually work out, something that might lead to a win. This person left São Paulo in early 2016 and went to live in Florianópolis, the capital of Santa Catarina, the penultimate state in the south of Brazil, one of the few places in the country where the crises of poverty and violence luckily have yet to arrive – and this is a violence that has led to a loss of life among black teenagers in favelas that rivals and surpasses most of the outright wars that are currently happening in the world today, this is a violence that has invaded the gardens, the backyards, the living rooms and the kitchens of the bourgeoisie – which means that in Florianópolis violence and poverty have not yet kept the local bourgeois from circulating, safe and happy, doing whatever it is they like to do and consuming whatever it is they like to consume. This person rented a two-bedroom flat in the wealthiest neighbourhood in the centre of town in order to start a new life.
Someone who wishes to remain anonymous is working on a massive publicity campaign for a high-profile agrobusiness corporation, a publicity campaign that includes blanket digital advertising and minute-long prime-time commercials on the television channels of the country’s most powerful broadcasting corporation, actually one of the world’s most powerful broadcasting corporations, a corporation that, along with the five banks that currently operate in the country, banks that treat the majority of the people like slaves, banks that charge astronomical interest rates, rates higher than any others charged elsewhere in the world, owns the official version of what is good and what is not good in Brazil. Someone who wishes to remain anonymous enjoys coming up with sentences and arguments that show how the agricultural industry, agrobusiness, agrofuture, agroeverything, is always good for the country. It’s a stimulating challenge, much harder than writing political speeches during election campaigns, which is what this person used to do for the highest bidder back in São Paulo.
Agrobusiness in a country like Brazil involves land. It involves the domination of that land, and the possession of it, it involves the prevention of any official demarcation of indigenous lands, or of quilombo lands, it involves conflict, psychological pressure, property deeds and the illegal alteration of those property deeds, it involves debt relief, underhanded favours and privileged financing, it involves laws and the changes of those laws, it involves revoking laws if they need to be revoked and ignoring laws if they need to be ignored, it involves buying senators, buying backbenchers, buying police officers and judges and journalists and magistrates, it involves armed security companies, protective convoys and bulletproof vests and it involves intimidation, it involves violence, it involves assassination. Land is far more important than politics. Someone who wishes to remain anonymous knows this.
By the time the electoral campaigning for this year’s election truly begins, it will truly only ever get going once Brazil is knocked out of the World Cup in Russia, someone who wishes to remain anonymous will take a break from working for this massive pro-agrobusiness advertising campaign to focus on the elections, the result of which, in order for him to stay on the good side of the agrobusiness people, the people who are paying for his easy life in Florianópolis, the same people who are laying out the strategies of all the candidates representing the interests of the agrobusiness industrial complex across the country, is a result that cannot be any other than one that increases the number of senators and deputies that will stand up for the agricultural industry, agrobusiness, agrofuture, agroeverything, an increase both in the state legislatures and in state government palaces. No one here is fucking around. Someone who wishes to remain anonymous knows this.
The worst part of it will be how this person will have to leave their daily routine, abandoning his peaceful neighbourhood and the elegance of the people living in his peaceful neighbourhood, educated people, people who know how to dress, people who frequent local cafes and patisseries, cafes and patisseries that have less of an affectation than the cafes and patisseries in São Paulo, it will mean submerging, once again, into that old, familiar insanity, an insanity more intense than ever before, of busy lunches and dinner parties and late nights with campaign managers and political advisors, of nervy people and pushy people with their constant requests and pleas and orders, the insanity of the machine that turns calamity into rational thought, it will mean writing sentences that persuade, that reframe narratives, transforming ideas into slogans and billboards, into stump speeches for the election tour, into columns on the internet and radio and for television interviews, into arguments wielded at debates, levelled at the questions the journalists keep asking to try and pin their politicians against the wall. Someone who wishes to remain anonymous will have to put up with it all, which will be especially difficult once the alcohol has gone to these people’s heads, and they start talking, saying things like respecting environmental protection areas, improving the monitoring of the deforestation of the Amazon, not compromising water resources, prohibiting agro-toxic chemicals banned almost everywhere else in the world, decriminalising transgenic seeds, maintaining task forces to fight slave work, increasing the policing of slave work, they will say that people who talk about these things are nothing but useless people, lazy people, the scum of the earth, people that don’t know what it is to get up before sunrise and work the fields, to harvest, that people that talk like this only hinder the economic growth of the country, a country that badly needs to grow again, a country that needs a win, desperately so.
Now that this person who wishes to remain anonymous is tied to the agrobusiness lobby, he finds himself wondering if he still has the same gift for destruction that he used to, for reducing the arguments of their enemies into dust. This person wonders if his cynicism is as solid as it once was, if the closeness he now enjoys with agrobusiness will not one day become a Faustian bargain, or if he has already crossed the line. That is fear. That day, this person tells himself immediately, is inevitable, it will come sooner or later, this someone who wishes to remain anonymous will end up becoming a servant, forever attached. And in the grand scheme of things, given the chaos Brazil has been plunged into, he tells himself that the best thing to do is to go with the landowners, the ruralistas, rather than working with the evangelic crowd, though they are the fastest rising caucus in the country, since they benefit from a section of the constitution that states that temples of any kind need not pay tax, and any given donation goes straight into the pastors’ pockets, into the pastors’ private dealings, but then again, this person who wishes to remain anonymous could go with one of the organised crime candidates, either the PCC, Primeiro Comando da Capital, or from whatever is left of Comando Vermelho, the ex-military militia that is more crooked than the crooks they used to chase, or with one of the politicians who demand a return to the military dictatorship, thinking that repression, that bringing back state-sponsored torture, will put everyone in their right place.
Someone who wishes to remain anonymous, at this very moment, is at his girlfriend’s place, a twenty-five-year-old woman, daughter of one of the most important businessmen in Santa Catarina, and one of the many businessmen that, all over the country, set off fireworks and pyrotechnics when the most passionate political leader in the country, the leader who became president with the highest popularity rating in the history of the country, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was arrested and accused of passive corruption, even though the material evidence against him was unsubstantial. Someone who wishes to remain anonymous is at this moment in front of a television waiting for Brazil’s first match in the World Cup in Russia to begin. This person doesn’t really like football that much, so will never be one of the happy fools that most Brazilians transform into as soon as the World Cup starts. He is watching the game because it feels good to be with his girlfriend, and the girlfriend likes football. It’s no bother at all, pretending to enjoy a little bit of football.
Someone who wishes to remain anonymous would prefer things to be different, but the truth is, even in a year in which Brazilians are not that excited about the competition, once the ref whistles and the match kicks off, an entire nation is frozen, hypnotised before their television screens. It’s the great truce, the great anaesthetic. It matters not that the Brazilian Football Confederation, one of the most corrupt institutions in the country’s recent history, has acquired a new manager, one who was able to overcome the persistent idea that the national team would, once again, depend on a single player’s talent, a team that would, again, weep unconsolably like the team back in 2014, a bunch of millionaire crybabies who cried during the national anthem, cried when they scored, cried when they conceded, cried even during practices, if they were allowed to, a team that Brazilians are still trying to forget, but will never truly be able to forget, a manager that, it seemed, had given the team a fighting chance of reaching the final, and it matters not that the current president, Michel Temer, the one from the political party that altered its initials in an attempt to avoid being referred to as a party of leeches, a party that is largely responsible for the country’s recent ruin, the most unpopular leader in all of Brazil’s history, who was vice president to a faltering president, Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached in a soft coup brought forward by his party so that he, her vice-president, could take her place, the place of a woman who was not willing to bribe senators and federal deputies, who did not know how to compromise, who surrounded herself with sycophants, who stopped paying attention to the signs, perhaps because she never learned to read them in the first place, who moved away from the groups that got her re-elected, she who betrayed her supporters when she decided to enforce an economic policy that she’d promised to overturn during her electoral campaign, who nominated for minister the right-hand man of one of the owners of a bank that enslaves the Brazilian people, who failed to understand that this was like throwing buckets of gasoline into a burning building, none of that matters once the ball starts rolling, even among the elegant people in the cafes and patisseries of the wealthiest neighbourhood of Florianópolis, even they will stop, and cheer, and smile, and curse, and cry.
During the Brazil match, minutes after Philippe Coutinho scores the single Brazilian goal, this person who wishes to remain anonymous will tell his girlfriend that he is looking to buy a flat, she will cheer up, and he will not think about how lucky he was to have moved to Florianópolis, feeling a little proud of himself, proud of not having been one of the many Brazilians of his age and status who have left for Portugal in the hopes of escaping the crisis, he will not be thinking about what he will have to do to sustain that lifestyle, he will not be thinking of the fear he’s been feeling of late, the fear of growing accustomed to seeing the world so cynically, just like the cynical people he works for. And this week this person who wishes to remain anonymous will post a photograph of the facade of a real estate agency on Instagram, on the social media profile his girlfriend helped him create, and will write in that post that World Cup match times are the best times to book viewings with estate brokers, and in the text of that post this person will not mention that the flat he is looking for is a three-bedroom penthouse with en-suite bathrooms in one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods of Florianópolis, preferably with a view of the sea.
photograph © Semilla Luz