The Inequality Between the Low and High Class in Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America and it has the strongest economy in Latin America. The country has the seventh largest economy in the world by nominal GDP. Brazil is rich in natural resources and it focus on agriculture and industrial power. Despite the improvement on income distribution and bringing the middle class population to 95 million people which is a little bit more than half of the population in the country, poverty in rural areas are still very severe in Brazil. According to Rural Poverty Portal, “In the country as a whole, about 35 percent of the population lives in poverty, on less than two dollars a day. (1) The population in Brazil is about 197 million and with 35 percent of population living in poverty is equal to two times the population in Canada.
Most of the poverties in Brazil are concentrated in the North East region of Brazil and it can be considered the single largest concentration of rural poverty in South America.
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The North East region in Brazil is the undeveloped part of the country where the population have no access to education, health care, technology and even clean water. Several causes of poverty in Brazil are land tenure, lack of access to a good education and also skill training.
Through the literary short stories and Brazilian made films, we can somehow picture how different is the life between the lower and higher class families. The inequality is a very big issue in the country and even though the stories and films are fiction, it still shows us a reality that Brazil has been facing for a long period, which is the big gap between the rich and the poor. One of the films that shows the poverty in the rural areas of Brazil is “Behind the Sun”, directed by Walter Salles. We can see how the violence is a very big problem in the story because of a land dispute between a family and neighbour.
According to Scielo, “It is customary to state that the poorer strata of the population are more violent and that they cause the social disorder and disturbances that assail the country. ” ( Minayo, 1) It is true that the lower class would be more involved in violence since they are tired of working so hard and not getting anywhere, and it affects them emotionally. Furthermore, the film starts with a background of very dark orange which may represent the very hot weather in Brazil and it makes the viewers to somehow feel the tiredness, the hard working people in rural areas in Brazil.
The film begins with a very depressing color which almost represents “hopelessness”. The scene that most caught my attention and I think it was very meaningful to the viewers is when the oxes start to turning in circle over and over again. It brings a significant message of no matter how hard the people work in rural areas; they will always be in the same routine and will never be able to have the chance to succeed in life. Moreover, as we could see, one of the main characters, Pacu, a very simple and humble boy, speaks a Portuguese with several grammatical errors such as “mais melhor” and “eles que tava perdido”.
Illiteracy is another big problem in Brazil, especially with the lower class population, who live in the rural areas. Lower class people that live in the interior do not value education as much as people from higher classes. Sometimes it is because they are so focused on working to support their family that they do not have time to think about educating their children. Other times, they do not even have money to buy food, so how are they going to support their children to go school?
Many children who are born in lower class families do not have the opportunity to be educated, not because they do not want; however, it is because their parents cannot afford and they are incapable of sending them to school. There are approximately 14 million people that are illiterate in Brazil; which means that they cannot read and write. Fortunately, in 2003, Brazil launched the “Bolsa Familia”, where the government support poor families with 140 Reais which is equivalent to 80 dollars to benefit the family to send their children to school, accessing health care and other social assistances.
In addition, the literary story “The Hour of the Star” by Clarice Lispector also helps the reader to imagine how the lower class women’s lives seem like. In recent years, women had played a big role in the contribution to the Brazilian economy. Today, Brazil even has a woman president in charge of the country, Dilma Rousseff. Wealthy women in Brazil seem to always be able to have a free pass to succeed in life, although many lower class women in Brazil do not receive the same opportunity. Higher class women always succeed thorough high society connection or using the power of the money.
Macabea, the main character, from “The Hour of the Star” can represent all the lower class women in Brazil. Since Macabea lost her parents when she was very young, she became an orphan. Therefore, that is probably one of the reasons why she had difficulties succeeding in life due to the absence of parents supporting and guiding her. According to SOS Children’s Village, “In regions that are marked by high unemployment rates, children often face a substantial risk of growing up in an unstable domestic environment. “(1) It is possible to imagine how an orphan girl would need to go through without parent’s guidance.
Moreover, the story also highlights that due to Macabea status of being poor, her lover, Olimpio, believes that he would not have any chance of advancing in life being with her. Instead, he chooses to date her co-worker, Gloria, who was smarter and prettier than Macabea. In addition, the title of the narrative, “The Hour of the Star”, is about Macabea who wanted to be a cinema actress. Unfortunately, people would not pay attention on her and the fact of her being poor, there was almost no chance for her to become who she wanted to become, which is a very sad reality that actually exists in Brazil.
In Brazil, the poor still suffers inequality, they have almost no chance to succeed in life and they are pretty much ignored by the society. The poor is almost invisible to the society and the poor keeps getting poorer. For Macabea, she only sort of becomes famous after being hit by a Mercedes Benz, which is a “luxurious and imported item”. She did not become “famous” because she was hit in an accident, but the fact is because the “Mercedes Benz” was involved in it. People are always curious about the rich and the famous.
They are not interested in the “insignificant” lower class people that are considered a burden to the Brazilian society. According to a journal article, “For upper-class women, the result is a life of almost total leisure, in which they have servants to do all the work. For lower-class women, their survival often depends upon their ability to obtain one of these jobs. Approximately one-third of the women employed in Brazil work as household workers, including cooks, housekeepers, and child care workers”. (Brazil, 1987) Most of lower class women in Brazil work as housekeepers and child care workers to middle and high class families.
Due to low or no education, they are only able to afford low skilled jobs. Yet, about two years ago, Brazilian television program has launched a reality show named “Mulheres Ricas”, which means rich women. The reality show is about five very wealthy women who travel by private jet, eat from gold plates and women who would spend many thousands of dollars in clothing and imported bags. The show has been criticized internationally by comparing them to 11. 5 million Brazilian living in slums. The reason of the criticism is because it somehow proves hat the higher class only care about their own comfort by ignoring the real issues that is occurring in the country, which is the severe poverty. In Brazil, there is definitely a very big gap between the poor and the rich. Although the poverty is a big issue in the country, according to a recent report, Brazil has been creating 19 millionaires a day since 2007. Yet, the poverty in Brazil is causing several other problems such as the drug traffic. Most of the times, the people who are involved in drug traffics, are the lower classes people.
We can find people from all ages involved in the traffic. According to SOS Children’s village, “In the country’s largest cities, particularly in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, children without parental care often end up on the streets where they are vulnerable to gang violence, sexual abuse and drug addiction. “(1) Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city in Brazil, has a place called “favela” where the drug traffic has been a problem for several years. The movie, “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within” by Jose Padilha, illustrates a “fiction-reality” that occurs in Rio de Janeiro.
The movie unquestionably shows to the viewers that “human rights” do not exist in Brazil, since the higher class people are the ones that hold all the power while the poor are not even recognized by the society. In the film, it mentions that the police would invade the “favelas” killing all the poor people involved in the drug traffic; however, they would not invade luxury apartments killing or arresting people because they receive some commission from the rich. In other words, the police officers are tipped with the money from the drug traffic from “higher class” people.
Most of the times, if a person from a higher class commit a crime; they would use their money to avoid getting arrested and going jail. According to The Guardian, the Brazilian jail’s population has doubled since the year 2000 due to the drug traffic. Of course, the majority of people who are in jail are from the lower class. Additionally, there is a scene in the film that might have caught many viewers attention. It is when the military killed one of the members in jail. The scene somehow send us a message by saying that it was not a big deal killing one of them since they are “trouble” anyways.
I believe that the movie certainly try to send a message by saying that Brazil needs to start listening to the lower class opinion and do not ignore or kill them without any reasons. The lower class and higher class people in Brazil share something similar and that is: both are humans. “Human rights” should be more clearly addressed in the country and the “Rich rights” should be banned. Most of Brazilian literary narratives and movies that we have watched in class, it involves children and adolescents working and not receiving any education.
According to SOS Children’s Village, “Quite frequently, young children have to engage in labour activities in order to put food on the table for an entire family. In the state of Piaui, approximately 26 per cent of children between 10 and 15 years of age are working. ” (1) Looking at the Brazilian demographic, Brazil is certainly a very young country with 25 percent of the population being under 15 year old. The country depends on these young populations for the economic and social growth in the future. Yet, looking at the national estimates, about 24,000 children and teenagers call the streets their home.
The lower class children definitely have the disadvantage of not getting any education and no hope for a better future. While the higher classes children will still be the ones to succeed in life and dominate the country. If the inequality between the rich and the poor in Brazil does not change, the poor will always remain poor and it is possible that the problem can become more severe in the future. Even though many literary stories and movies composed by Brazilian authors are “just stories” or “fantasies”, some of them still try to send an indirect message to the public that “social class” in Brazil is a problem and it needs to be changed.
In addition, the movie, “Four days in September”, directed by Bruno Barreto, is about a reality that happened in Brazil years ago, involving the MR8 group, who was fighting against the military dictatorship and fighting for human rights. The group was formed by some young members, who were very naive, did not have much experience in life and did not think about future consequences that they could face by being involved” in this type of activity. Thankful to this group formation, Brazil has overcome the military dictatorship.
Although, the country has overcome the dictatorship, human rights are still a problem. Showing that you have money is a way to receive respect from people. In the movie, there is a scene where one of the young members of MR8 goes to a bakery to buy bread; however, the baker underestimated him by asking if he had enough money to buy. The way you dress, the way you speak and the amount of money that you hold is the way that people are going to treat you. If you dress badly and is considered part of lower class, your opinion will not even be considered and there is almost zero respect towards you.
Therefore, I believe that many people in Brazil are confused between “human rights” and “class”. According to the federal government in Brazil, “The following human rights problems have been reported: unlawful killings, excessive force, beatings, abuse, and torture of detainees. ”(1) Most of the times, the people who are suffering under those problems are the innocent lower class population, who is sometimes always blamed for any issue that occur in the country. In, it is correct to assume that “money” can solve anything.
On the other hand, since the lower classes do not have enough money, they get severely punished for their actions or even blamed for things that they have not committed. All in all, even the literary stories and movies are fictional, the Brazilian authors or directors seem to always try to incorporate the fiction with the reality that is faced in Brazilian society. As we could see from the short stories and movies, “class” is a very big issue and it is confused with “human rights”. The poor still face several consequences while the higher classes ignore the surrounding by using “money” to solve most of their problems.
Inequality between the lower class and higher class is a big issue in Brazil that has to be solved before getting worse. It is also crucial for the country to understand the difference between “human rights” and “class”. I believe that if the poor is listened and given more opportunities in the society, they will also be able to succeed in life. It will not only decrease the poverty in the country, but it will prove to the people that the people from the lower classes also have the potential, but the only thing missing is the opportunity given to them.