Worldwide bestseller and Brazil'sÂ best-known writer overseas, novelist Paulo Coelho, the author of The Alchemist, has written a powerful piece on violence in Brazil following the killing of a little boy, who was dragged for close to four miles through the streets of Rio, after his mother's car was stolen.
The boy had pieces of his brain scattered on the asphalt. The crime has moved and outraged Brazilians and Coelho's article entitled "For Whom the Bells Toll," published on the web portal G1, is a statement that everyone is guilty of 6-year-old João Hélio Fernandes Vieites' death as well as the state of chaos and violence in some Brazilian big cities today.
The article was followed by a flood of over 300 messages, most of them critical of the author. One typical comment:
"This is shameful. Paulo Coelho is a millionaire, he has one of those one-apartment-per-floor property in Rio de Janeiro, which probably has a view to the favela (shantytown).Â He gives some pocket change to a few institutions to appease his conscience and comes to cast a collective blame in this unfortunate case.
"Children's death cases in Brazil happen daily, in a more or less brutal way, but they don't sell as many newspapers as a dragging episode. It's very disheartening to see how several sectors are using this unfortunate crime to advance their own agenda."
In his comments, Coelho says that Brazilians are getting closer and closer to the Absolute Evil: "When young men, who have full control of their mental functions, are able to drag a boy through the streets of a city, this is not only an isolated act: all of us, in a greater or lesser way, are guilty.
"We are guilty for the silence that allowed the situation in our city to get to this point.
"We are guilty because we live in a time of tolerance, and we lost the capacity to say NO.
"We are guilty because we get horrified today, but then we forget it tomorrow, when there are other more pressing things to do or to think about."
And he goes on: "We are the eyes that saw the car passing, the fear that prevented us from calling the police. We are the police that got some 190 calls and took too long to respond because the Absolute Evil seems to not require urgency for anything. We are the asphalt where body pieces were spread together with the remains of the dreams of the boy stuck to the seat-belt.
"Every day a new savagery, in greater or lesser scale. Every day some protest, but the rest is silence. We have gotten used, isn't it true?"
Coelho goes on to quote John Donne and his "no man is an island entire of itself." And draws some parallels:
"Actually, we might think the bells are tolling because the boy died, but they really toll for us. They are trying to wake us up from this weariness and numbness, from this capacity to accept cohabiting with the Absolute Evil, without complaining too much – as long as it spares us."
And a little ahead he shows his own lack of faith and hope: "Year after year, governments change, and everything only gets worse. What can I say? What word of hope can I put in this column? None.
"Perhaps only to ask that the bells keep on tolling for us. Day and night, night and day, until we can no longer pretend that we are not listening, that doesn't concern us, that these things only happen to other people.
"May these bells carry on tolling, not letting us sleep, compelling us to go to the streets, to stop the traffic, to close the stores, to turn off our TV sets and then say: "Enough! I can't take these bells anymore. I need to do something because I want my peace back."
"Only then we will understand that despite blaming the police, the robbers, the silence, the politicians, the habit, we are the only ones who can stop these bells."
And then Coelho concludes: "I am my city, and I'm the only one who can change it. Even with a hopeless heart, even without knowing how to take the first step, even thinking that any individual effort is worthless, I need to get to work. The way how do it will show itself if I overcome my fears and accept a very simple fact: each one of us makes a big difference in the world."