As I sat and listened to the live broadcast during last Sunday’s Brazilian election results, one common theme seemed to make sense of what I and millions of Brazilian voters were thinking: Today, Brazil has lost.
For those of us who voted for Aécio Neves, his loss of the presidential election was punctuated by the greater loss of having the country slip through the fingers of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) for the fourth consecutive time. It slipped, no less, to a party seen by many as an enemy to the nation.
For Brazilian businesses, the loss would come from the backlash of markets that, at best, were skeptical of Dilma Roussef’s ability to drag Brazil out of a period of stagnant growth and, at worst, denounced her as the key enemy of a free market economy in Brazil. For the average citizen, the loss comes from the feeling that our vote no longer matters; when the election is truly decided in just a few states, those who live in the periphery begin to see the election more as a burden than as a civic duty.
I tried turning away from my broadcast — I had had enough of the crushing sense of defeat and despair that was being systematically drilled into the mind of the Brazilian electorate — and took refuge in my Facebook feed. I was looking for hope, for something that pointed to the fact that this election cycle had been different and change was on the horizon. Little did I know that I would be met with another wave of anger, frustration and irrationality, originating from acquaintances and friends alike, that seemed to favor name-calling and mob-mentality over common sense and thoughtful reflection.
Passionate calls for the autonomy of the south went hand-in-hand with rampant xenophobia that described the northern states of the country as a rabble of poor, uneducated and ignorant voters. Elitism was just as pronounced as some reflected on how the vote of one business owner should be worth, at the very least, tenfold that of a poor farmer. Clearly social media would prove to be just as politically charged as coverage from any of Brazil’s main news outlets.
But none of this is new.
Our country suffers from a disease that seeps into our culture, our economy and — most importantly — our politics. I’d say that we suffer from the great boon that is selective amnesia. Our collective ability of forgetting the past seems to spark when we most need to forget something for the good of our own mental well-being. This disease frees the electorate of the burden of responsibility that is the current state of the country and the economy and places into the hands of an anonymous third party. Amid this crisis, we forget that the Brazilian electorate has been voting for the same party for the last 12 years, and we choose to blame foreign agents of capitalism and imperialism for the chronic problems caused by domestic governance.
I could hearken back to June 2013, when protests over health care and education reform were at their peak, and the nation collectively forgot that they, as a people, chose Roussef as our president. But as soon as election season came around, we forgot about the problems that have troubled her administration and Brazil willingly elected her and her party into power once again. A large portion of the population conveniently forgot about high inflation and the recession Brazil currently finds itself in. We forgot the scandals that have plagued both the president and her party. The electorate chose to forget the fiasco that was the World Cup spending and the countless examples of corruption for which high-ranking party members have been indicted.
Rather, a large portion of the Brazilian population imagined a preferable narrative that saw Ms. Roussef as a victim to her surroundings and absolved her of any blame. Roussef herself ran as an oppositional candidate, ironically campaigning for a change in the old way of doing politics, the discontinuation of partisan politics and the end of corruption.
With the periodic efficiency of a finely tuned and well-tested clock, Brazilian voters chose to forget the past and believe that old lies would be the answer to the future of the country. I wish I could say that I believe that the next four years will bring about change; I wish I could put my mind at rest and claim that this cycle was different in some way, that there would be a tangible change in Brazilian politics. But that’s politics in Brazil: You win some and you lose some, and, on the whole, nothing really changes.
Daniel Almeida is a freshman in the College.