Ok, I have to admit that I have refrained from writing for a while because I understand that Brazilian readers might find me too critical, but some things just have to be said.
These last few months, I have been reading lots of posts from foreigners (gringoes.com and similar websites) and Brazilians alike. Mostly on finding work, doing business, surviving, the “boom” we are supposedly experiencing but not feeling, and so forth. It was refreshing to know that I am not alone in my frustrations. It seems that when foreigners say something good about Brazil, mostly in articles in official media, Brazilians attack saying it´s not that good. When they say something bad, they also attack saying it´s not that bad, why are they here, why don´t they leave, etc.
My point being? Well, this seems to be Latin American characteristic as Argentinians are the same, but Brazilians are incredibly touchy when it comes to anything…Brazilian.
This incapacity to take constructive criticism or accept any form of comment or opinion on the way they do things is one of the most damaging characteristics they have. It all boils down to insecurity. The Brazilians are the most insecure of all the South American people I have met, no exceptions. They only appreciate something when it is the reflection of something else (they seldom open a restaurant with an innovative theme, for example, unless they saw it on a trip abroad), and they only feel secure about something if it is being done somewhere else, mostly in films. Women cut their hair and dress to look like women in the novelas, men buy SUVs that are considered eco un-friendly and costly in the rest of the world but that still appear in US films. The Brazilians are great imitators, although that innovative restaurant might not get the crowd it expected because people here are sometimes afraid or skeptical to try anything new.
The problem is that they fail to see that the rest of the world is praising us, emerging countries, because they need people to spend. No one is buying anything in their countries, so they say we are booming, emerging, “the ones”. It´s nothing personal, it´s just business. No one really cares. It´s the Brazilians who should care, about Brazil.
If they could only value what they have, what they are, and only imitate the good things from other countries, like investments on education, science, technology, sports. If they would only allow good, stable companies to enter Brazil to improve the incredibly bad quality of raw material used in some Brazilian industries (glue on shoes, thread in clothing, dyes, etc.), some finished products, such as furniture (Brazilians women have been crying for Ikea for years), and services, and compete with Brazilian companies to make them more aware of the importance of customer assistance, quality… the red sea. So far, they have only swum in the sea of carefree, tax heavy, bliss, which is incredibly expensive and short on quality.The tax load is the main culprit, but it´s not the only one.
You can only grow if you are eager to listen, to really take in the good things that you see in other countries, other companies, other people.
In Brazil, people have only just started to complain. When I got here 20 years ago, there was nothing in the way of customer rights. Now, there are websites where people complain about services and damage company images. But there is still a lot to do. They have to REALLY complain to improve things around here. The only noteworthy public manifestations on the news are for the legalization of marijuana, gay rights and the like. No one hits the streets to complain about the billions they pay in tax and then have to take their kids out of private school because they can no longer afford it, about the billions politicians steal under their noses every day, in every way, about the buildings that collapse, the planes that crash and kill hundreds of people and no one gets compensation, no one goes to jail, about the increasing violence they see every day on TV, with absolutely no consequences, about the criminals that are given amnesty on Christmas and never go back to jail, only to commit more crimes, kill, rape. Those manifestations are never popular. No one can be bothered to organize those. Brazilians are collectivist, but only with the people they know. Only with their closed social groups, family, colleagues. There is not strong sense of society, of “we can do it!”
There is, of course, that annoying Brazilian law that say you can´t speak ill of anyone.
The terrible weight of reality will hit us all hard on the head if we do not start to accept that there is a lot of work to do, and do it, if we do not stop shrugging off constructive criticism from the people who have chosen to live here or were born here and love this country (no, not me, important people!), from the people who come here to work and find it almost impossible to enter the market, to get a job, or even clear their goods through customs! To protect a country is one thing, to ensure work for its people is also one thing, but to prevent other successful companies from entering Brazil to improve the life of Brazilians and make their products and services better through healthy competition is entirely another. To keep that cloak over our heads, to avoid discussing issues that matter, those really gritty, touchy issues is just prolonging the inevitable. Maybe the world cup and the Olympic games will rip that cloak off with a vengeance. I hope not. I hope it comes from us.