Peaceful Protests about the amazon Are Doing Nothing
Texto em português disponível aqui.
Soaking rotten meat in red acid and selling it to low-income people is violence. Avoiding international fines and selling the worse product to the local population is violence. Raising the price of public transport while stealing the money meant for infrastructure is violence. Making noise, stopping traffic, and disrupting business-as-usual is resistance to violence. Yesterday there was a protest in one of the wealthiest parts of Rio, Ipanema, that after 3 hours looked like this:
This trash can is Peace. Thousands of people passed through here peacefully and quickly to see famous people, some of which were Bolsonaro supporters, sing and pose for cameras. There were downloadable banners made by designers you could print and bring with you. There were drones and beautiful photo-ops as if brands were directing an ad. It ended in a godly hour, so not to disturb the wealthy residents of the limited stretch of road from Ipanema to… Leblon. Resistance is being delivered pre-packaged, sponsored and sanitized for Rio’s most expensive square meter.
Many people I’ve talked to claim that disruptive and violent protests distract from the real message, but isn’t it the peace that distracts from the violence we are trying to resist? Do we need to say please and avoid stepping on people’s toes to be heard? We are not being heard, we are being manipulated, coerced and silenced.
Even the protests we love to call “peaceful” were disruptive and made a lot of people uncomfortable. Rosa Parks may have peacefully sat on a bus, but her protest was not peaceful, it enraged, it disrupted, and made the right people very uncomfortable. And by the right people I mean— the Government, the law. She broke the law.
Do you know who is not breaking the law? Brazil’s National Bank for Economic and Social Development when they turned JBS into the biggest animal protein producer in the world. JBS, on the other hand, has involvement in corruption, enslavement and they buy cattle from regions illegally deforested. Are we supposed to have respect for the law, while the law protects institutions that are responsible for destroying the planet?
It’s some irony to call this industry a symbol of development for our country. And it’s some irony for European Governments to criticize our Government for following European development standards. Indigenous peoples have been consuming meat sustainably for thousands of years, now we’re supposed to believe Europeans know better how to treat our natural treasures, after hundreds of years of colonial exploitation.
“The EU is Brazil’s second biggest trade partner [… and] the[ir] biggest foreign investor.”
“Brazil is the single biggest exporter of agricultural products to the EU worldwide.”
We export food to Europe and we import from them the machinery necessary to industrialize and maximize this production. The highest quality product is sent abroad, and what’s left for us to eat isn’t good enough or even legal to sell out there. On top of that, many of these export food companies are themselves attached and codependent with international companies. JBS, for example, is technically a Brazilian company but it’s the biggest holder of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, a poultry company from the USA.
What does it mean exactly to be a Brazilian company? First of all, it means you need to be based in São Paulo. Just kidding…? Well, it must have something to do with being Brazilian and being based in Brazil. But things get complicated. The Batista Family, which owns JBS, also has holdings in media, electricity and even flip-flops. I can guarantee most Brazilians have at some point had access to food, electricity, TV, and Havaianas. But they also exist because, through them, the world has access to our resources. This means 75% of JBS’ profits are from the United States and Europe.
How do we protest against the wrong-doing of those who provide some of our necessities, and against those who lie, promising us “development”? By causing discomfort. There is no begging, no boycott, no posing for photos and 500 facebook shares. There has got to be a disruption of how things have been operating. We need to cause damage to what causes damage to people and the world. How can you cause some damage to the system?
“A government which uses force to maintain its rule teaches the oppressed to use force to oppose it [...] our forms of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution. We chose to adopt the first. Sabotage did not involve loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations [...] We believed that South Africa depended to a large extent on foreign capital. We felt that planned destruction of power plants, and interference with rail and telephone communications, would scare away capital from the country, thus compelling the voters of the country to reconsider their position." — Nelson Mandela
Mirna Wabi-Sabi is a writer, political theorist, teacher and translator. She is an editor at Gods and Radicals press, founder of the Enemy of the Queen magazine, and a member of the Plataforma 9 collective.