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Paulo Coelho Talks About Brazil’s Violence and Sounds Gloomy and Hopeless

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho Worldwide bestseller and Brazil's 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).  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."

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  • Show Comments (21)

  • Roberto

    EACH COUNTRY HAS THE COVERNMENT IT DESERVES!
    “EACH COUNTRY HAS THE COVERNMENT IT DESERVES!”
    I don’t like this idea but I came to beleive it’s true.
    Brazil is a democracy and the people can vote to choose it’s leaders. But who do they choose?
    Collor is Senator, after being removed from the presidency. Maluf (was in jail a while ago) and Clodovil (what does he know about politcs?) also won.
    Does it make any sense? Who voted for them? A whole lot o people.

    And that’s just an example.

    I still beleive Brazil can change, but it will not change because a good hearted president (a savior) will come and solve all problems. That will never happen.
    It will only change when we realize we all share the blame. Because we do!

    Then, we might realize that we can also make it different. That we can put pressure on the governants we elected and demand the changes we want.
    We can start by demanding vote to be open in the Senate and in the ‘Camara’. We vote for them, we need to be sure they are doing what they tell us.
    In my opinion that’s the most important change Brazil needs. Everyhing else will stem from there.

    In regards to Paulo Coelho comments, I’d like to applause them. And I hope he’ll have more to come.
    Because he’s doing the most important thing he can do it: Talk about it.
    A whole lot of people will listen, even if they don’t agree.
    Can you imagine what would happen if 10 more well known people, like Paulo Coelho, start to speak out?
    What if 100 more? On TV, Radio, Internet?
    What if 20.000 people march to the capital? Will the houses of power listen to them? Will the media take notice?
    What if 1 milion people marching in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, demanding changes?

    IT WOULD HAPPEN!

    At least, it’s something I’d like to beleive.
    And that people, then, will have the Government it deserves.

    Roberto de Morais Jr.
    robertojr@morais.us

  • Forrest Allen Brown

    i sleep beter than him
    IS NOT THE RESIDENTS OF THE PRESIDENT OF BRASIL OWNED BY THE GOVERMENT AND THERE FORE THE PEOPLE OF BRASIL

    YES LULA HAS MORE MONEY THAN I DO AND YOU ALSO
    BUT WE CAN SAY WE WORKED AND GOT OURS THE RIGHT WAY

    AND LULA HAS A PLACE IN 2 DIFFERENT COUNTRIES ALONG WITH BANK ACCOUNTS THAT SHOW HE MUST MAKE ABOUT $ 65.000 millino US a year
    not bad for some one that entered office with little more than $250.000 5 years ago

  • ch.c.

    Lula lives in a public housing ???????
    Doubtful…for a President !!!!!
    Do you know his adress ?
    Here it is : his official residence, Alvorada Palace.
    In one sense you are right, it is a public housing ! Free of rent ! laugh !

    Ohhh and dont forget that Lula also has a nice country residence…in his name !

    Dont worry for him, he is much wealthier than what you think !

  • Ric

    Farinha
    As we all know, farinha dÀ‚´agua is produced by allowing half the mash to rot and ferment before mixing it together for cooking.

    It was indeed a small lesson. Leaving out all the labels, hereÀ‚´s how I see it. A prominent Brazilian once made the comment that if we were all hunters and gatherers, Brazil would only sustain a few hundred thousand population at the most. And Brazil is no longer a land where a significant minority can make a living from small farms. Division of labor has come full swing.

    Social programs to give people land for farming are 50 years out of date. The individual small farmer is an atavistic concept. And the groups promoting land redistribution do not for the most part want their clients to achieve too much success, lest they be lost as clients. ItÀ‚´s a huge fraud. They want their people to look like Jeca Tatuzinho before he discovered Biotonico.

    ThereÀ‚´s not enough productive land to be reassigned, and thereÀ‚´s not enough money in the treasury to dole out so that people in the vast underclass can participate in the life they see on TV, upper middle lifestyle with not much emphasis on how itÀ‚´s being paid for.

    In short, your blog made it sound like the young hoodlums in Rio would be so happy to leave the life of crime in the city for a nice 10 hectare plot of land. The people that know how to make the 10 hectares work are not criminals and already have their land.

    On a pragmatic basis, no amount of loving concern, no amount of intellectual handwringing, no plethora of government programs, no redistribution of wealth or land, is going to solve the crime problem in Brazil. Either it is first faced head on by enforcement and encarceration or it will get worse and more and more people will take the law into their own hands.

    The only thing governments can really guarantee to their people is citizenship. After that their priority should be personal and corporate safety. When Rome fell in 462, I think, it was the desire for safety that drove people to assemble around local strong men, warlords, and started the feudal system. Some people now are gathering around local traficantes who refuse to allow their own personal neighborhoods to be infested with pivetes.

  • ch.c.

    The earth is the petri dish !!!!
    1) Brazil is the petri dish….not the world ! Puting all the world in the same basket is just hiding the Brazilian SPECIFIC reality !
    SORRY….this doesnt happen EVERYWHERE !!!!!!
    A little bit easy from Brazilians to hide behind the whole humanity.

    Please look at known stats.

    A good article published a while ago on crimes in this site said :
    Assuming a number of 1 for UK, the USA would get 4 , and Brazil 28 !
    Meaning the USA has 4 times more crimes than UK per 100’000 capita and Brazil has 28 times more crimes than UK and 6,5 times more than the USA !!!!!!!

    Therefore please keep your crimes in YOUR own stats and dont spread them all over the world…to reduce your own stats !!!!!!!!

    2) Concerning the comments on Brazil deaths and war deaths !
    If you refer to the Irak war, SORRY but there are ALREADY more deaths crimes in Brazil than war deaths…IN IRAK !!!!! Therefore the future you are talking already met the past and present !!!!!

    3) Crimes are due to Brazilian laws !
    NOOOOO, many crimes are due to the SPECIFIC Wealth Inequality in Brazil !
    You country having one of the world worst wealth inequality…..as per the official rankings……Brazil can have thus ONLY one of the world most crime rates…..by definition !

    Therefore the very high crime rate in your country is due to YOUR GOVERNMENTS AND YOUR SOCIETY BECAUSE YOU DONT INTEGRATE ALL CITIZENS BUT ONLY LESS THAN HALF !!!!!

    AGAIN AND AGAIN……in Brazil, 50 % of the youths deaths, aged 15-24, is by violent deaths !!!!!!!!!!!!! Nothing wrong in the laws !!!!!!!

    Time and time again, Brazil society demonstrates how a Tropical Mud…….YOU citizens have created !!!!!!

  • Peter Howard Wertheim

    International journalist
    Coelho as a writer has been deeply inspiring to me, intellectually and spiritually. As a spiritualist myself (Kardecista) I am very aware that God made us with FREE WILL, not robots. Coelho knows that and he is using his free will and gifted pen to push this horrible crime further into the consciousness of the population and politicians who have become numb to exponentially growing violence in Brazil.

  • Forrest Allen Brown

    go robert i will help
    BRAZIL HAS GOOD LAWS ON THE BOOKS AS MANY IF NOT MORE THAN THE US HAS BUT LIKE IN THE US YOU HAVE THE GOOD OLD BOYS
    IN BRAZIL YOU HAVE THE FAMILY OR THE POLITICAL PROTECTION

    SO DON’T BLAME THE LAW BLAME THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE LAWS

    SELECTIVE LAW ENFORCEMENT AT ITS BEST IN BRAS IL

    as long as the goverment can keep pulling the wool over the eyes of the people in brasil by keeping them uninformed , not schooled well enough .
    and like in the us just out right lying to the pubilc .

    yes they are the holders of temp jobs and the president lives in public housing

    so as in the US we should as a people not give them there jobs back , and throw them out of public housing

    the 13 adment to the conistution of the UNITED STATES could help us up here but will not help the brasilians as i have not found a similer one on the books

  • bo

    [quote]BRAZIL IS NOT DISFUNCTIONAL ITS GOVERMENT IS [/quote]

    Isn’t the gov’t. supposed to be, “for the people, by the people”?

    Some of you talk about the brazilian gov’t. as if it’s a permanent entity, that the people are powerless. And that in itself is the problem. The VAST majority of brazilians feel as if they’re powerless, and by their inaction are allowing these atrocities to be committed.

  • farinha dágua

    Well, since we’re talking about Brazil, lemme start by giving Ric a small lesson. Ric, although US conservatives love to scream about “liberals” and “liberalism,” as somehow synonymous with leftist, in Latin America, the term “liberalism” actually hews closer to its classical meaning, and tends to refer to a set of policies that give the greatest leeway to the liberation of capital–somewhat closer to “libertarian” in the U.S. vernacular. You’ll cause unnecessary confusion if you use “liberalism” in your little Rush Limbaugh kind of way in non-US contexts, so if you intend to be understood, I’d advise against it. That said, let me respond to the tidbits of content in your post. Yes, some do ignore cause and effect, you’re right. Cause and effect, though, are precisely the point. The left simply does not rule in Latin America. You’re wrong. The basic macroeconomic policies of the Brazilian federal government are still basically in line with a “neo-liberal”–on a Latin American and non-Rush Limbaugh usage of the term–set of policies, despite a few very small positive steps. The cause and effect that we need to be attentive to is the overall hopelessness of millions of Brazilian youth, with no prospects of gainful employment or a solid future. The effect of this explosion of hopelessness is an explosion of violence. You can institute all the death penalties that you want, and you won’t scratch the surface of that basic problem.

  • american eagle

    Mr. Paul Coehlo, If they give you any crap down there … call us ..

  • u.s. guest

    Well said !!….forest allen brown !!!….

  • Forrest Allen Brown

    THEY GO TO JAIL FOR PAINTING THE THE COLLEGE LONGER THAN MURDER
    BRAZIL IS NOT DISFUNCTIONAL ITS GOVERMENT IS

    THE PEOPLE ARE JUST TRYING TO GET BY ON WHAT THE LAW MAKERS FEED THEM .

    AND WHAT THE PRESS GIVES THEM , IF THE GOVERMENT DOES NOT LIKE THE SIORIES TOLD ABOUT THEM THAN THEY CALL AND SHUT UP THE PRESS AND THE TV NEWS .

    CAN ANY ONE SAY FOR SURE THAT ANY OF THE POLICE OR GOVERMENT OFFICALS THAT WERE TAKEN TO JAIL BEFORE THE ELECTIONS WERE EVER GIVEN JAIL TIME !!!!!
    I WILL BET GOOD MONEY THAT THE DEATH COUNT IN RIO IN ONE YEAR ,WILL BE HIGHER THAN THAT IN THE WAR ZONE HAS HAD SENCE THE WAR STARTED . ANY TAKERS

    PAUL COELO NEEDS TO BE THE PRESIDENT OF BRASIL AND PLACE HIS OWN CONGRESS AND SENADORS I WILL VOTE FOR HIM AND HIS MBA AND PHD TO RUN THE COUNTRY
    NOT RUN IT IN THE GROUND

  • u.s. guest

    Paul coelho !… You are a noble, and intelligent man !!… Yes Brazil is gloomy and hopeless!!!…300 hundred years of chaos !!!!…. Brazil you are disfunctional!!!!!….

  • Ric

    Should read, raise the age of criminal responsibility.

  • Ric

    IÀ‚´m afraid to throw cold water on Farinha lest he turn to XibÀƒ©. Some are so attached to a philosophy that they will deny such obvious principles as cause and effect. The left loves to hate the military years. But people were safe on the streets. Now the left is running the show, and the effect is chaos. Worldwide, liberals stand for no death penalty, crime is the fault of society and not the perps, incarceration is mainly for reorientation, lower the age of criminal responsibility, guarantee the right to a chicken in every pot whether you have the means to pay for it or not. You got the constitution you wanted. Now live with it. But Farinha thinks that the answer is more liberalism. Okay, keep going down that road and see if it gets better.

  • farinha dágua

    Coelho’s usual new age Hallmark feel good blather is not illuminating here (or anywhere). Yes there is collective blame to be assigned, but the problem isn’t, as Coelho suggests, that we need to condemn violence in our hearts or something like that, rather, the problem lies in a economic and social structure that doesn’t offer hope or prospects for millions of Brazilian youth. The Coelhos of Brazil can condemn violence as much as they like, but as long as Brazilian agrarian policy and economics continue to strangle the rural poor off the land and into the urban periphery, and as long as there is no meaningful reallocation of social resources to this growing socially marginal population, we’re gonna watch this violence get worse and worse every year, and the cities of walls that the Coelhos live behind get more and more closed every year. And that’s a guarantee…

  • Jimmy

    What are you going to do?
    Inspired writing from Mr. Coelho. Veja is incensed. Fine and dandy. I still don`t sense action happening anywhere. Mr. Coelho, Veja, politicians, officials, psychologists, analysts — please plan your next action, not your next word. Sorry, this message is already too wordy.

  • Simpleton

    I will do what it is that my maker had set forth for me to do as the ultimate achievement in this life. I know not yet what that deed is nor in what form it will take. I know that it is there that it will come to pass, that it scares the crap out of me, and that it brings me to tears every time I try to contemplate such unfathomable action, activity or event. Whatever it is it that will be done it will happen not out of choice nor deliberate action nor any conscious decision on my part. It will be natural, instinctual, most likely instantaneous without any sense of or fleeting moment to give due consideration to preservation of self.. Please Lord, release me from this burden.

    Recall some years ago when the black muslims started going door to door and taking care of business to eliminate the drug dealers, sh*t heads and other worthless garbage to help the community as a whole. What got noticed was that they were black, that they were muslim, that they weren’t the law. What was missed was that it is up to the people in the community to take things back. When it’s so bad you dare say nothing, don’t risk telling what you’ve seen, point to the lack of or untimelyness of police response (they can’t possibly respond to such tragedies, the intervention was needed years ago) there’s little hope that things will reverse themselves. Brazil does not make war but but maybe it must have its own war for the sake of the people.

  • Concerned but not surprised

    A great article and Coelho makes a great contribution to the debate; not in saying anything new (because Lord knows how many gringos have pointed this out over the years) but finally a Brazilian is taking responsibility for his society and his culture.

    A weak state and an apathetic, self absorbed and blind population – these are the true root causes to Brazil’s violence. NOT the poor, NOT the disenfranchised, and certainly NOT the Yanks. You all have only yourselves to blame. With CoelhoÀ¢€™s efforts in trying to redirect responsibility maybe the discussion can move to real solutions, however, given some of the comments aimed at the writer, it appears that your typical Brazilian Gorilla ethics have already come to surface, and chest pounding nationalism and insecurity will totally eclipse rational thought À¢€“ YET AGAIN.

    The crimes are getting far more barbaric. It is not just ONE case. Remember the five year old from BraganÀƒ§a SP last month; the 7 burned alive on the Bus in Rio last month; the 5 found killed and decapitated in Rio, and on and on and on and on.

    RIOBODYCOUNT.com was just launched last week and has already registered 100 murders in just 10 days. In 7 days the city of Rio de Janeiro had more killings than the city of Toronto in a year.

    Where is the indignation? Oh ya, saved for the producers of the American film TURISTAS.

  • bo

    Everything they quoted him as saying seems to be right on the mark. It is the “acceptance” of these behaviors that allow them to continue. This is the fault of the brazilian SOCIETY.

    But as usual, some brazilians complain, but take NO ACTION. It’s time to take to the streets in Rio de Janeiro. It’s time to remove the corrupt policeman, military officials and politicians. But that would mean that more people would die, many more, but it would be for a cause, to one day, transform Rio de Janeiro into a “normal” city. Without some type of revolt, by the people, Rio is going to continue “as is”, and even get worse.

  • George

    Humans are not intelligent
    Bacteria, when placed on a petri dish with nutrients, will consume those nutrients, and multiply . This will continue until all nirtients are gone, the bacteria dying in their own excrement. The earth is the human petri dish. Humans the earth’s bacteria. If we are intelligent, then why do we not reduce our population peacefully thru education( only 2 children, and the first not until age 29), rather than thru horror.

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