Democracy is beautiful, isn’t it true? Too bad that something as dirty as elections are at its base. Recently, I failed to fulfill my civic duty, as I have done for a good 15 years. Well, you may say, if I omit to cast a ballot, I cannot complain later. Could be, but neither do I have reasons for regrets.
College students, federal employees, and mostly retirees and pension beneficiaries, in the last national election, voted in herds for President Lula.
For it had been public knowledge that his rival, Serra, would put in place an 11% Social Security contribution from non-active government employees and bring to an end the parity between active and non-active state workers.
The Workers Party (PT) and its candidate swore on their knees that they would never do that and vehemently condemned the intentions of the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party).
What happened? Lula won, cut pensions by 30%, instituted the 11% contribution, and ended the parity. Let those who voted for the Workers Party pull off their hair.
Equally, there would be no lack of reasons for those who voted on the PSDB not to expand their balding heads.
Parties, today, no longer are concerned with the Nation’s welfare, but with power preservation and the perks from members of their close nit circle. I, not having voted on either, get to keep all my hair, which – by the way – is thinner and thinner.
The great majority of voters do so in the dark. They vote on fiction created by the media and political marketing pros. What do 120 million voters know about two or three presidential candidates, for example?
Potentially, their knowledge is near zero. The same can be said of a city of 15 million, or even 500 thousand. Victorious are those who better embellish the cake, the filling is handed out to the media.
In Athens, the birthplace of what we call direct democracy, people would meet at the Agora to practice politics. But the Agora, yesterday’s parliament, was diminutive.
For Plato, one of the regime’s first scholars, the Republic should not have more than two thousand citizens. Later, in the Dialogue of the Laws, he conceded to having five thousand.
Aristotle saw it necessary for democracy to run smoothly that citizens should know one another. Without setting a limit, he went so far as to say that the State should not be bigger than the number of people capable of hearing the orator. At the time, as a reminder, there were no sound amplifiers.
Those who followed the Greek footsteps found the proposition marvelous and decided to adopt them in nations with populations that go beyond a hundred, two hundred million people.
The downside is that now the Agora is televised and attracts millions of people. The dialogue between citizen and candidate no longer is in effect.
What we witness is sly foxes hungry for power, promising what they never – nor could they ever – intend to carry out, with a façade made up by political marketers, displaying mockups of utopian projects, and seductive smiles.
One of my criteria for not voting on a candidate – should I vote – would be never to vote on a smiling candidate. If he is smiling in a backward moving country, he must be cooking up something. The problem is that all candidates smile. One more reason not to vote.
During a debate with an Internet audience, one participant told me that – on the list of aspirants to elective posts – there should be someone worthy of his ballot.
It is very well possible. Perhaps not only one, but many. But, if they exist, I am not aware of them. And had I known them, I would know them today, but not tomorrow.
Coherence is an asset gone from the market. Did anyone ever imagine militants from the Workers Party being hostile and booing José Serra, one of the first men to go into exile after 1964? (Not that I see an asset in this, I merely wonder as to the logic). Indeed they are being hostile.
Did anyone imagine one day São Paulo mayor, Marta Suplicy, in an alliance with Paulo Maluf, whom she harshly tagged the image of abomination.
Well, lady-doom not only is sheltering Maluf from investigations into his “deeds of Malufism” (Maluf’s notoriety has led to additions to the Portuguese vocabulary), but she also is asking for his support.
However, the Workers Party, in the São Paulo runoff election, doesn’t just want the backing from Maluf. It also seeks the city’s former mayor, Luiza Erundina, once a party comrade, who recently was labeled “politically dead” by the Party.
Erundina, in response, in a rare moment of clarity, said that the aristocrat Suplicy “never was from the left and much less a Workers Party supporter-member”.
And she claims that if the Workers Party considers her “politically dead”, no use in requesting support from a corpse.
In a desperate move, the São Paulo regional office of the Workers Party turns its eyes to an immaculate citizen, former governor Orestes Quércia, who commands the PMDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party).
No one recalls any longer when Quércia stated that President “Lula never ran even a popcorn stand”. The President – aka Roaming Metamorphosis – was quick at the trigger:
“True, I never ran a popcorn stand, but never did I also steal popcorn.”
In summary, for the Workers Party leader (Lula) who now swims in this paradigm of honesty, it would not come as a surprise were rival Antonio Carlos Magalhães to beg for forgiveness from the popcorn robber.
Would José Serra be left standing? Not even Serra. As Health Minister, he gained fame with his anti-tobacco campaign. In the last campaign, for President, he was in Santa Cruz, state of Rio Grande do Sul, making promises to tobacco growers.
Cancer prevention always renders votes among cancer sufferers. But promoting cancer also renders votes among cancer causing agents. Therefore, long live the commerce of cancer and its export business.
In Lula’s administration, legislation prohibited cigarette advertisements in sporting events. But there was the Formula 1 Grand Prix, in São Paulo. Well, all Formula 1 champions are sponsored by the cigarette industry.
Marta Suplicy, always concerned with the health of voters, attained from her friend President an Interim Measure to allow cancer ads during the races.
And not a meager journalist dares to cross-examine candidates over such criminal acts, during pre-elections debates.
No, I don’t vote. For long I have not voted and don’t intend to for the rest of my days.
Back to that hypothetical ideal candidate worthy of my trust: Let’s say I’d vote for him. But he would not be elected. My ideal candidate would be someone who doesn’t lie, and a non-liar does not win elections.
My vote would then be directed to the party and end up electing another, who amassed more votes by cheating, misrepresenting, and lying. It would end up placing a crook in office.
Definitely, no. In Plato’s Agora, with pleasure. In the modern republics, no way.
Janer Cristaldo—he holds a PhD from University of Paris, Sorbonne—is an author, translator, lawyer, philosopher and journalist and lives in São Paulo. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Eduardo Assumpção de Queiroz. He is a freelance translator, with a degree in Business and almost 20 years of experience working in the fields of economics, communications, social and political sciences, and sports. He lives in Boca Raton, FL. His email: firstname.lastname@example.org.