According to United
Nations’ numbers, Brazil has 2.8 percent
of the world’s population and 11 percent of the planet’s homicides.
Brazil has the distinction of having 40,000 murders a year,
a number much higher than the deaths in the Iraq war and in
the whole Middle East. What a little sign can do against this?
I’m a psychoanalyst for 20 years
and for a few months now I have become an activist for citizenry,
which, in Rio, is oddly divided in four tribes. The first one
is composed by those who use alienation as defense mechanism
against the horror experienced with the growing trivialization
As soon as the shootout
at Rocinha favela ended, those who belong to the alienated club went
back to the "normality" of our pathological daily life, indifferent
to its perversity.
The second tribe is made
up by those who get depressed due to the brutal violence and the feeling of
having been abandoned. Hopeless, they keep on walking, resigned to our tragic
reality. Exhausted and abulic, they simply refuse do fight. Here hopelessness
is the mother of surrender.
The third group reacts
in a paranoid way. The fear and the hate they feel in face of the danger produce
a mental short circuit that makes them think that they will be victims of
retaliations if they do protest. They look at the danger from far away, and
terrified, take refuge in their private bunkers.
A minority is composed
by those who resist and set out to work: they are relatives of the victims
of violence, charity workers and indignant citizens. They sound off because
they understand that "normality" in Rio de Janeiro is in reality
a civil war.
They know that in an emergency
it doesn’t matter whose obligation is to take care of the problem or who is
to be blamed. All that matters is who can do somethingand now. And united
the irreplaceable power of public opinion can make it happen. And a lot.
Recently, I changed my
attitude and adhered to the fourth group. Luckily, my indignation wasn’t determined
by personal tragedy. It found its limit in the drama the city lived during
Depressed and leaning
over my flat’s balcony, opposite the Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers
Hills), I was lamenting my impotence face this unacceptable state of affairs.
Suddenly I became aware
that I wasn’t that impotent: after all, the "wailing balcony" is
a huge billboard in an area with a heavy traffic in Rio’s South Zone.
I decided to put a sign
with the words "Basta" (Enough). And transformed my terrace into
the "revendication balcony."
Since nobody is brave
the whole time, in a first moment, I was apprehensive with the repercussion
my act would have, and, emotionally went back a few steps, paying a visit
to the third group.
A few residents in my
building, and habitués of this tribe, feeling threatened by the sign,
and fearing retaliation by the drug traffickers, asked me to take it out.
Apart from them, nobody else seemed to have noticed.
From my viewpoint, the
whole city seemed in a daze as in the fables. It seemed like a negative and
collective hallucination (a hallucination in reverse with people not being
able to see what was clearly obvious) prevented people from noticing a red,
23-by-7-feet sign. I landed without a parachute in the second group and, depressed,
I started to lose hope.
I didn’t pester anyone
with "my" campaign, as I hear sometimes. Everybody thought the idea
was great, but very few joined in heartily. I never insisted.
One week after the shootout,
people, theoretically lucid, appeared to suggest that the expiration date
in "my" issue was over. After all, everything had gone back to normal.
I started to feel quixotic.
Ten days after having
put the sign, disillusioned and running the risk of becoming a permanent member
of the second tribe, I receive a call from a reporter from O Globo
newspaper, asking me if anyone in my family had been killed for me to be doing
I laughed and answered
that it was to prevent anyone from being murdered. Encouraged by the kind
article she wrote, I started to recover hope. It didn’t last long though.
That same day, residents
from the building, frightened by the article’s repercussion, gave me an ultimatum.
The "Enough" sign had to go from my balcony.
That Friday night, even
though I already had 1,000 stickers printed and a website being built, I took
my indignation from my façade. And gave up.
The next morning I woke
up with the scream of my six-year-old son.
"Rush to the balcony,
mom, the neighbor across the street has put up a sign like ours."
That morning, suddenly,
everything was worthwhile. Still on my nightgown and even before brushing
my teeth, I started to jump and to cry while waving to the unknown neighbor
who had definitely taken me back to the fourth group.
My sign is back, now high
in the veranda, inside my apartment. Notwithstanding, I have already told
my neighbors that I will not commit the violence of an imposition. It the
majority so wishes, I will take it out so that democracy may prevail. I may
remove my sign, but I won’t do the same to my indignation.
The city, as if waking
up from its fabular enchantment, starts little by little to offer its solidarity.
The movement is beginning to get strength and to build an interesting interdisciplinary
bank of ideas.
I’m hopeful, but I’m also
realistic because I know how hard is to pull out people from their emotional
But if I have to choose
between utopia and surrender, I will pick the former without a second thought.
Because for me it’s Enough! Really.
Beatriz Kuhn is a member of Rio’s Sociedade Brasileira de
Psicanálise (Brazilian Association of Psychoanalysis).
You can find the movement she started www.basta-ja.com.br.
You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
the Portuguese by Arlindo Silva.