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What Were We Debating About Anyway?

18 Sep

A good friend of mine, who is a brilliant lawyer and a wonderful person, was reading “The last Day of a Condemned Man” by Victor Hugo and afterward made a remark about death penalty and abortion. She said she had difficulties understanding how someone can be against the death penalty and in favor of abortion. She asked: is it logical, considering the principle of respecting one’s life? Wouldn’t this principle be valid in both debates?

I answered her yes, it is logical to be against the death penalty and to be in favor of the decriminalization of abortion at the same time. To me, in both cases, what is at stake is not the respect for one’s life, but the need to limit state’s power. Indeed, I am against giving the state the power to decide about the end of someone’s life due to a crime he committed; and I am also against giving the state the power to legislate about what happens inside a woman’s body, especially if it is to criminalize it.

I do not follow the debate about the decriminalization of abortion closely, probably because that is one of the few legal problems I think my boyfriend and I will not have to deal with personally, unless men can get pregnant in the near future. But I don’t want to talk about the decriminalization of abortion itself here.

What I want to talk about is the gigantic importance of not letting a debate become twisted to the point that it is unrecognizable. And the debate on the decriminalization of abortion is the best example of how a conservative group has changed the debate such that even informed people do not know what the debate is about and therefore form an opinion in favor of the conservative/religious side.

In fact, debating about “abortion” is completely different than debating about “the decriminalization of abortion”. More seriously, wtf is the meaning of “pro life” and “pro choice”? To me, the meaning of someone being “pro choice” instead of “pro life” can only be that this person believes in the right to suicide.

Another example of intentionally misunderstanding a debate happened recently in Brazil. The government was preparing an anti-bullying campaign for schools. Among the subject of the campaign was the respect for diversity, including sexual diversity. How could one be against a campaign that protects children and adolescents from being bullied? That would be a hard fight, right?

So, strategically, some religious and homophobic groups that wanted to keep future generations from not being homophobic – God forbid, indeed– started to call the campaign material “the gay kit”. In interviews, articles, and general debates, they used the term “gay kit” so many times that the general media adopted the expression. Soon enough, the country was discussing who was in favor or against “the gay kit”. And guess what? Not only was the anti-bullying campaign gone before it started – it was aborted, pun intended – but now no politician wants to be connected with it. In fact, this week, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God accuses the Catholic Church of supporting “the gay kit”. Instead of discussing an anti-bullying campaign, we are discussing which church is or is not homophobic enough.

See? This post was not about my friend, abortion, anti-bullying campaign or the gay kit. It was about stupidity, pure and simple. And, unfortunately, stupidity hurts!

Affirmative Action in Brazilian Universities

4 Sep

Brazil’s president just sanctioned a law establishing that 50% of places in Public Universities and in Federal Technical Schools should be allocated to students coming from public high schools, which are generally less likely to pass the highly competitive entrance exams required by the public universities. Within this 50% quota, half of the eligible students shall be black, indigenous, or from families with very low income.

Apart from a few NGOs, the new law has created outrage among most Brazilians, to the point that is quite surprising that the law was actually approved by both federal legislative houses and sanctioned by the president. It seems like VERY few people agree with it.

I confess: I sometimes have mixed feelings about affirmative action measures. They look amazing on paper, but they are so incredibly hard to put into practice. And in Brazil, a country in which few people know exactly what they are, race-wise, categorizing everyone is quite difficult. Also, my personal desire for a meritocracy in Brazil is sometimes too strong to reasonably give space to other principles. Additionally, Brazilian public universities, even if they are actually not that good, are the few places in the country where some science is produced. And I fear science may pay the price when the university receives fewer qualified students.

Still, unless one chooses to close their eyes, Brazilian racial and educational divide is clear: in general, the darker the skin, the poorer, and the more years spent in public high schools (which are free, but generally bad), the less chance one has to get into a public university (also free, but of better quality). The best way to deal with the situation would be to improve the quality of the public high schools, but I admit it: this takes time, a generation at least.

So, even if just to prove that I have my eyes open to Brazilian inequality (yes, I’m not that cold yet), I salute the new law and hope it will be applied wisely and will meet its objective of a fairer society, with more equal opportunities to all. It is a brave law!

Disclosure: I studied in a private elementary school and in a private high school. They were far from the good, but way better than the public options in my hometown. I passed the entry exams to study law in a public university. At that time – the ancient 1994 – there were 1050 applicants for Law and only 40 available places. I don’t remember anyone in my law classes being from a public high school. There were around eight students with darker skin (though mixed race is 52% of my home state population, according to 2010 census). There wasn’t a black student in my class (blacks are 5,7% of the population there, according to 2010 census).

Olympic games and sexual repression in Brazil

13 Aug
Watching the Olympics and reading the comments about it in the online newspapers, Facebook and Twitter can be a weirdly revealing experience.
After a Brazilian victory in any sport (specially after a tough match), it has grown increasingly common for people to tell the loser to “suck it” (“chupa” in portuguese) in an angry, punishing tone. Although there is nothing new about it (people have told losers to “suck it” for a long time), it was something you would not say it in front of everybody here. Now it actually became quite trendy in this BRIC of a country.
I wonder why. Are people more open to talk about their sexual desires in front of everybody? Definitely, yes. Is it easier to spread ignorance nowadays? Another resounding yes. But this does not prevent me to question: do people really hate to suck it so much that they want to impose this punishment on the losing Olympians? NO!
Truth is, many people like to suck. (And yes, we are talking about penises here. It’s never about lollipops and you know it.) The simple fact is that most people actually like (or loooove) to be involved in the penis sucking practice.
So, why are the Brazilians growing so fond on telling the losers to suck their penises? Pure and unconscious (or conscious) prejudice. That’s because, even if most people practice oral sex, the ones who actually suck penises are women and gay men. So, when Brazilians tell the losers to “suck it”, they are just telling them to go to an inferior human position: become a woman or a gay man. Meanwhile, their alpha male status is confirmed. “Yeah, I’m the man” is the subliminal message behind “chupa”.
Ironically, based on Brazil’s performance at this year’s Olympics, we should be sucking more penises than any other country. But then, we ARE known for our sexual drive, aren’t we?
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