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Brazzil - Behavior - September 2004

Brazil May Be a Country, But It's Not a Nation

In order to be a country, only a territory and a president are
needed. To be a nation, what is needed is a long-term project
that unifies all the inhabitants. The small number of medals won
in Athens and the many violent deaths in our streets originate
from the lack of a project to build a winning and integrated Brazil.

Cristovam Buarque

Picture On the same day it killed six beggars in the streets of São Paulo, Brazil received three Olympic medals in Athens. These are two tragic, shameful results with the same cause: Brazil is a country, but it has not yet become a nation.

Throughout our history, we have always been a country divided, one without either objectives common to all or a long-term project, without unity and without a proposal. We began divided between colonialists and indigenous peoples, then between white ladies and gentlemen and black slaves.

Today, we have merely changed the names of the groups and the manner of division. We are divided between includeds and excludeds, beggars and murderers. Despite possessing the same language, territory, national anthem, currency, flag and government, we are without a unifying principle. Even so, we are surprised when the dead beggars are many and the athletes winning prizes, few.

Brazil has still not become a nation.

In order to be a country, only a territory and a president are needed. To be a nation, what is needed is a long-term project that unifies all the inhabitants. The small number of medals originates, above all, from the lack of a project to build a championship Brazil; the many violent deaths originate, above all, from the lack of a project to build an integrated Brazil.

We still have neither a project of social inclusion nor one of Olympic championship. And, sadly, we know that even if one administration were to initiate these projects, the next ones could interrupt them, simply because we are not a nation that is continuous in its history.

If we compare Brazil with the other countries that participated in the Olympics, by size of territory and population, gross domestic product or per-capita income, we will see that we lost to many smaller and poorer countries.

This happened merely because they defined propositions, invested in objectives, built up their athletes. In the same manner, if we compare Brazil with countries that are poorer, we will see that our misery, our inequality, our violence do not originate from lack of resources or from size of the economy. They originate from the division of the country between includeds and excludeds.

Because of this, the decisive step for Brazil's success in future Olympics is the same as that for becoming a nation: a project of social inclusion. But Brazil refuses to undertake this project.

We still believe that the growth of the economy will build justice. And we remain without any project of inclusion, revenue distribution, reduction of regional inequality, increasing medals, protection and broadening of cultural heritage, defense of the environment.

It is due to the lack of projects like these that we commemorate the increase of exports without measuring who benefits from it; we celebrate the growth of national revenue without asking ourselves how it is distributed.

As if the country were already a nation and everything good were spread about equally. We do not perceive that we are still like we were 500 years ago, when the increase of brazilwood sales meant nothing to the indigenous peoples except more deaths; or 300 years ago, when the increase in sugar sales meant nothing to the slaves except more work.

We have measures and incentives, but we do not have clear projects that span administrations, that are incorporated to the will of the entire population as a single proposal. Much less a project to avoid our shame over the few medals for athletes in the arenas of Athens and over the many deaths of beggars in the squares of São Paulo.

Even worse, we are suffering from receiving so few medals but doing nothing to prepare for Beijing in 2008; we are suffering from the many deaths of beggars but are doing nothing to halt this shame.

We are creating a country without worrying about making a nation of it, each of us segregating into our own interest group, be that businessperson or worker.

If we cannot commemorate either the few medals or the many deaths, let them at least serve to arouse our sentiments and strengthen our will to build a unified nation—one looking to the future—from the divided country in which we are presently imprisoned

Cristovam Buarque - - has a Ph.D. in economics. He is a PT senator for the Federal District and was Governor of the Federal District (1995-98) and Minister of Education (2003-04).
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome -

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