The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Why I Blame Rio

A year or two ago, I wanted to post about my trip to Brazil, apropos of something on City Comforts. But my thoughts on that brief visit, now more than a decade ago, have always been extensive and a bit complex, so I never got around to writing them up. But this post over at Alterdestiny (which I've been meaning to blogroll - and to read more often) gets at part of why I don't have a lot of good things to say about Rio:
What we couldn't know as she did that was, earlier that very morning, 7 people were burnt to death on a bus in a wave of violence across all parts of the city. Even eerier, the bus that held the victims was the same company as the bus we were on.... And near our apartment, while shooting up a new police stand on the sidewalk, the assailants killed an innocent street vendor.

Much of Rio is rather anxious, tonight and going into the weekend. [...] The theories are not really clear as to the reason for the violence. The article claims either economic struggles or gang-related turf wars, though here in Rio, the most popular explanations seem to be a reminder from traffickers in the favelas to the public of who exercises power and can instill fear here, especially given the high number of tourists present. The general paranoia is severe enough that, while riding back on a bus from dinner tonight, my girlfriend and I saw a cop with an MP5 pointed at a guy who was slowly reaching into his handbag on the sidewalk, something she'd never seen before in her 24 years here.
I have never felt as unsafe as I did wandering Rio de Janeiro, and this includes late night walks in some seedy parts of Manhattan and nearly getting jumped in the projects of my own fair city. There's something palpably broken about civil society in Rio, and no amount of white sand beaches (many of which are too polluted to swim at these days) can wash that away. Throw in truly oppressive heat and humidity (it was late March), and it was not a place I intend to revisit.

[Updated to add obvious title]


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