Archives for category: Uncategorized

No Brasil, a política tem sido discutida em termos unidimensionais, ou seja: uma única dimensão que vai da esquerda à direita. Os partidos e os candidatos são percebidos como sendo “de esquerda” ou “de direita”.

Em outros lugares do mundo se adotam duas dimensões: esquerda e direita formam uma dimensão, enquanto que a segunda dimensão diz respeito a ser progressista ou conservador. Com isto, se pode mapear a posição de partidos e candidatos num quadro matricial “2 por 2”. Para dar um pouco mais de nuance, apresento uma versão “4 por 4”:

Muito de esquerda e muito progressista Um pouco de esquerda e muito progressista Um pouco de direita e muito progressista Muito de direita e muito progressista
Muito de esquerda e um pouco progressista Um pouco de esquerda e um pouco progressista Um pouco de direita e um pouco progressista Muito de direita e um pouco progressista
Muito de esquerda e um pouco conservador Um pouco de esquerda e um pouco conservador Um pouco de direita e um pouco conservador Muito de direita e um pouco conservador
Muito de esquerda e muito conservador Um pouco de esquerda e muito conservador Um pouco de direita e muito conservador Muito de direita e muito conservador

O conceito é muito interessante (embora não seja novo). Poderia ser aplicado no Brasil para melhor identificar as posições ideológicas de partidos, candidatos e eleitores. Na Holanda, que teve eleições municipais agora no dia 19 de março, o mapeamento foi feito de forma bem pragmática: fazendo 30 perguntas sobre trinta propostas práticas de ação discutidas durante a campanha política. Exemplos: (1) a prostituição deve ser declarada ilegal? (2) o aeroporto de Amsterdam deve ser privatizado? (3) o limite de velocidade nas auto-estradas deve ser aumentado?

Cada partido se posicionou em relação a cada uma das trinta perguntas (concordo plenamente, concordo em parte, sou neutro, discordo em parte e discordo totalmente) e com base nisso foi colocado no “mapa”. Um site da internet (www.kieskompas.nl) revela a resposta de cada partido a cada pergunta e permite que qualquer internauta mapeie sua própria posição política, respondendo a cada uma das perguntas e comparando suas respostas com aquelas dos candidatos.

Esse processo todo é fácil de executar. Quem se habilita a fazer o mesmo no Brasil? Seria ótimo ter algo assim como referencia para as eleições de outubro!

Para quem se interessa pelas tendências da política holandesa, que costumam ser um presságio das tendências políticas de toda a Europa, vejam a seguir o mapa dos principais partidos holandeses e o que ocorreu nas eleições municipais.

Muito de esquerda e progressistaPartido Verde D66 Muito de direita e muito progressista  PL
 PS
PvdAGL
 UC

 

 VVD
Muito de esquerda e muito conservador CDA Muito de direita e muito conservador

O grande vencedor foi o D66 (Democratas 66), que já foi o quinto ou sexto partido da Holanda, mas que cresceu muito nos últimos seis meses. Os eleitores querem mais progressismo levemente de direita. O grande perdedor foi o PvdA (Partido do Trabalho) que dominava as grandes cidades e viu seu lugar tomado pelo D66. Os trabalhistas perderam a prefeitura de Amsterdã e diminuíram seus assentos nas câmaras de todas as maiores cidades. O D66, por outro lado, chegou a duplicar o número de vereadores que possuía em alguns locais.

A mudança não é radical. Os partidos extremistas perderam espaço, alguns apenas conseguiram manter o pouco espaço que tinham. A mudança é de centro-esquerda para centro-direita e de levemente progressista para mais fortemente progressista. De qualquer forma, o eleitorado quer uma mudança, mas não uma mudança para o extremismo.

O uso da tecnologia não muda a cultura, mas exacerba os valores culturais já existentes. Alguns falam na “primavera árabe” como sendo “a revolução do Facebook”, mas essa é uma distorção perigosa. Perigosa porque afasta a atenção daquilo que realmente provoca e dirige os movimentos sociais: os valores e comportamentos das pessoas. Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, etc. São apenas instrumentos.

Triste é ver que as redes sociais, criadas para aproximar as pessoas, são utilizadas também para conspirar, para organizar atentados terroristas, para planejar crimes, e agora também para linchar.

O bárbaro e irresponsável assassinato do cinegrafista Santiago Andrade virou desculpa para uma guerra política entre direita e esquerda. O que é chocante para mim é ver um jornalista da Veja, Reinaldo Azevedo, acusando no seu blog uma pessoa suspeita de ser o autor do disparo de rojão que matou Santiago. As acusações são lançadas a torto e a direito sobre os possíveis mandantes do ato irresponsável, mas o mais chocante é ver um jornalista, supostamente um cidadão educado e civilizado, publicando termos como estes:

“Olhem aí. Esta é a foto de um dos assassinos do cinegrafista Santiago Andrade. A gente precisa perguntar agora para aquele funcionário do Marcelo Freixo, o candidato a santo do socialismo dos endinheirados da Zona Sul do Rio, se ele continuará a fornecer seus préstimos advocatícios para este patriota da causa popular. Caio Silva de Souza está foragido.”

Pelamordedeus, aonde vamos parar?

O tal Caio é um suspeito! Como pode um jornalista, com o respaldo que sua posição lhe dá, lançar a público uma acusação nesses termos, como se essa pessoa já tivesse sido julgada e condenada? Como pode fazer isso na internet, lançando uma acusação irresponsável que vai ser lida por centenas de milhares de pessoas? E se o tal Caio não foi quem cometeu o ato? Esse Sr. Reinaldo pode estar acusando um inocente e incentivando uma multidão a linchá-lo como vingança, por algo feito por outra pessoa!

Os comentários feitos no blog desse péssimo profissional vão de mal a pior: estimulam a violência e o linchamento popular de uma pessoa que ainda não se sabe se foi realmente culpado!

A mensagem do blog ainda liga o suspeito a um funcionário do Deputado Marcelo Freixo, de forma a evidenciar um ódio incrível. Talvez eu seja ingênuo, mas fico indignado com a facilidade com a qual um jornalista lança acusações pesadas, de forma leviana, inconsequente.

As redes sociais amplificam essas mensagens. É preciso ter responsabilidade e consciência sobre o que se escreve. Amanhã poderemos ter crimes ainda mais graves cometidos graças a esse incitamento à violência, a essa condenação precipitada de alguém que, repito, pode não ser o verdadeiro criminoso.

A massa quer um culpado, quer ver alguém pagar pelo crime ocorrido. Todavia, é preciso identificar o verdadeiro criminoso e não linchar o primeiro sujeito que é parecido com aquele que estava perto daquilo que outro viu acontecer.

Cadê a ética da imprensa? A entidade de classe dos jornalistas deveria cassar as licenças profissionais daqueles que agem dessa forma irresponsável e inconsequente. Infelizmente, há jornalistas oportunistas que aproveitam um sentimento popular de raiva e capitalizam em cima disso, apenas para ganhar audiência na TV e aumentar o número de leitores. Estão brincando com fogo, em busca de fama imediata e passageira. Estão botando fogo no circo e com isso podemos todos nos queimar. Os incendiários precisam ser denunciados e processados, antes que sejamos todos consumidos pelas chamas.

Este é um velho ditado que eu ouvia dos comentaristas de futebol, pelo rádio, desde a minha infância. Se um time domina o jogo, pressiona, mas não consegue fazer um gol, acaba levando um gol de contra-ataque do adversário.

Pois bem, o Brasil tem problemas que vêm sendo discutidos há décadas, mas que não resolvemos até agora. Falamos e falamos dessas mesmas questões, mas não conseguimos resolver. Se continuarmos assim, na base de muita conversa e pouca ação, vamos acabar levando gols de contra-ataque: a situação vai ficar muito pior. Ao invés de trabalhar pelo desenvolvimento, para nos tornarmos um país de primeiro mundo, vamos ter que lutar pela sobrevivência, para evitar o caos da Líbia, da Síria, do Sudão.

Mas que falta de educação!

Há anos falamos que é preciso investir mais em educação. Entra governo e sai governo, passamos da ditadura militarista para a ditadura sindicalista e o problema continua. A qualidade da educação parece estar caindo, a qualidade dos professores também. As famílias educam cada vez menos e o resultado é uma geração perdida, revoltada, procurando um caminho no escuro. Entre black blocs e rolezinhos, a situação se deteriora. A falta de uma educação de base está levando o país à imbecilização generalizada e, o que é pior: à violência espúria.

Pior do que um imbecil é um imbecil armado e com raiva. Estamos gerando milhares de imbecis, que advogam abertamente a luta armada, à esquerda e à direita. Contra os protestos, advogam a polícia de choque. Diante da incompetência policial, advogam o exército nas ruas. O que vão pedir em seguida? Bomba nuclear na Avenida Paulista?

Prensando a imprensa

Os jornalistas estão sendo alvo de agressões nas ruas, pelo simples fato de estarem cobrindo os acontecimentos. O povo critica os políticos e os três poderes, agora está criticando também o quarto poder, a imprensa. Não só criticando: batendo, jogando rojão, ateando fogo nos veículos da imprensa, matando. A turba multa não perdoa, não tem noção, não tem educação, não tem escolha. A imprensa também se revolta, apoia a violência, endossa o linchamento de um garoto. A falta de educação significa que a imprensa não tem qualidade, a polícia não tem qualidade, estamos matando a nossa sociedade como um todo, aos poucos.

A via verde-amarela

Precisamos de uma terceira via. Entre a via vermelha da extrema esquerda e a via verde-oliva da extrema direita, precisamos de um caminho de bom senso e menos roubalheira. A nova geração não sabe disso, mas o PSDB, quando nasceu, era essa terceira via. Em seguida, fracassou a tentativa de uma coalizão dos intelectuais do PSDB com os moderados do PT, ainda no final dos anos 80. O resultado foi que o PSDB se juntou ao PFL e perdeu o rumo, saindo pela direita. Anos depois, o PT chegou ao poder fazendo coalizões ainda mais esdrúxulas, com o PL (que era mais conservador do que o PFL!) e com o Quércia (que havia batido todos os recordes de corrupção).

Nossa democracia virou uma piada, trágica, de humor negro, com gosto amargo. O futebol, que era a alegria do povo, agora é motivo de batalhas campais: entre torcidas adversarias e entre quem é contra e à favor do futebol. Até o tal de “Bom Senso F. C.”, que havia começado tão bem, perdeu o senso ao advogar uma greve. Essas palavras não combinam. A greve é uma tática burra, de falta de educação. Existem muitas formas mais inteligentes de resolver as questões.

Chega. Está na hora de organizar uma revolução de mentalidade, atacando o problema educacional em várias frentes. A solução não virá do PT e nem do PSDB, muito menos do PMDB, que tem representado o que há de pior nesse país: o fisiologismo. Precisamos organizar um movimento amplo de mudança da cultura nacional, para valorizar a educação com qualidade, em toda parte, em todos os níveis.

Se não fizermos isso logo, vamos perder de goleada.

De uma série que continua: “O Brasil que eu quero”.

Escrevo do Cairo, onde o terceiro aniversário da revolução egípcia que derrubou Hosni Mubarak, ditador militar durante 30 anos, foi marcado por choques violentos entre extremistas secularistas e islamitas. Saldo das comemorações: 49 mortos e centenas de feridos (nos números oficiais; como sempre, há quem diga que os números são ainda piores).

No mesmo dia (25 de janeiro) São Paulo comemorava seu aniversário mais do que quatrocentão. Em meio às festas oficiais, houve em paralelo protestos contra a Copa do Mundo e rolezinhos frustrados. Os shoppings fecham suas portas e aquilo que começou como uma diversão de adolescentes agora é um fenômeno político e social que empolga os intelectuais e assusta a classe média.

O que tem a ver um 25 de janeiro com outro 25 de janeiro? Infelizmente, têm tudo a ver.

Decifra-me ou te devoro

Era o que dizia a esfinge, aos viajantes que passavam na sua praça de pedágio séculos atrás. O enigma a ser decifrado hoje é outro: diz respeito aos valores culturais subjacentes que sustentam a sociedade egípcia, ameaçada de se tornar insustentável, e que são os mesmos que sustentam a sociedade brasileira, o gigante que acordou de mau humor. Tanto o Egito quanto o Brasil são culturas do tipo Pirâmide, na tipologia que Huib Wursten desenvolveu, calcado nas pesquisas pioneiras do Professor Geert Hofstede. Os escores verificados no Brasil e no Egito são os seguintes:

 

Hierarquia

Individualismo

Desempenho

Controle da Incerteza

Orientação de Longo Prazo

Brasil

69

38

49

76

65

Egito

70

25

45

80

Não pesquisada

China

80

20

66

40

118

EUA

40

91

62

46

29

Alemanha

35

67

66

65

31

  

Qual o motivo da minha preocupação? A escalada do radicalismo e da violência. Nos últimos três anos, passei mais tempo no Egito do que no Brasil, em função do meu trabalho (sou brasileiro, mas minha base profissional e residência são na Holanda). Testemunhei a guerra urbana crescente entre os radicais secularistas, de um lado, e os radicais islamitas, de outro. O Egito está dividido em três terços mais ou menos equivalentes em tamanho. No meio estão os moderados, que estão mais divididos e menos organizados do que os radicais. Quando dois querem brigar, quem está no meio para apartar acaba apanhando dos outros dois.

Enganam-se aqueles que colocam os militares no papel de vilões no conflito egípcio. As forças armadas (no Egito e em qualquer outro país) só se sustentam como força política quando têm o apoio de boa parcela da população, geralmente a parcela mais abastada e conservadora, interessada em manter seus privilégios. A classe dos guerreiros de qualquer tribo (os militares) costuma ser manipulada para servir aos interesses daqueles que detêm o poder econômico. A violência no Egito é incitada e executada pelos radicais de direita e de esquerda, islamitas e secularistas. Os militares apoiam a direita, mas quem atira nos manifestantes é a polícia de choque e não o exército. Os policiais à paisana pegam em armas e cometem atrocidades que assustam os soldados, os quais são na maioria garotos imberbes que carecem de qualificação para serem tão cruéis.

O que assusta, no Egito, é que os radicais não deixam espaço para o diálogo. Advogam abertamente, de ambos os lados, que a única solução para a divergência de idéias é a luta armada, é o assassinato em massa dos seus oponentes.

E o Brasil, é muito diferente disso?

Me assusta ver o crescimento das expressões radicais nas redes sociais, nas conversas de bar, no jornalismo cada vez mais Alcione. Com que facilidade se levanta a voz para gritar “morte aos petralhas” ou “tucano, só matando”… Por enquanto, parece briga de malandro: é muito grito e pouca ação de verdade; mas os ânimos estão se acirrando, o pessoal está se exaltando. Os “black blocs” começaram sendo taxados de vândalos infiltrados; agora já estão sendo justificados como atores políticos que expressam a insatisfação das massas contra um governo opressor. Já os governos estaduais parecem que só conseguem conter manifestações de protesto na base da porrada desenfreada. O que me preocupa é a apologia da violência, de parte a parte.

Dizem os frequentadores dos shoppings que os “rolezinhos” “são um ultraje!”. Minha sócia lembrou do “Ultraje a Rigor”, banda de rock paulista debochada, já antiga (é do século passado), e o seu hit “Vamos invadir sua praia!”. Pois é, praia de paulista é shopping center, então o refrão foi atualizado: “vamos invadir seu shopping!”. Só que um deboche adolescente está sendo tratado como estopim de uma guerra de classes. Toda guerra é estúpida e burra.

As causas de tudo isso, tanto no Egito como no Brasil, estão nos valores subjacentes de cada cultura, no inconsciente coletivo de cada sociedade. Jung falava nisso como algo hermético e obscuro. Pois bem, Hofstede surgiu e mediu o inconsciente coletivo. Agora isso é palpável e quantificado, com validade científica e coeficiente de fidedignidade estatística. Os números estão aí e contam uma história fascinante e terrível.

A Pirâmide Social

Na dimensão da hierarquia, ou Distância de Poder (DIP), Brasil e Egito têm quase o mesmo escore e é um escore elevado. Significa que nessas sociedades se acredita que vivemos num mundo desigual, onde algumas pessoas têm muito mais poder do que outras. Vigora a crença de que a desigualdade é uma realidade a ser aceita. O que cada um deve fazer é tentar escalar a Pirâmide Social e se posicionar numa posição vantajosa em relação aos demais. Manda quem pode e obedece quem tem juízo. Cada macaco no seu galho.

Os símbolos de poder e de autoridade são importantes e precisam ser ostentados, para que todos saibam qual é a quantidade de poder que você tem. Isso acontece em cada degrau da pirâmide. O mestre de obra se diferencia do pedreiro; a presidente se diferencia do ministro. Ao longo de cada nível, as pessoas procuram ostentar, conforme a sua quantidade de poder. Ou melhor, geralmente procuram aparentar ter mais poder do que realmente possuem. Cada nível social tem suas roupas de grife, suas bijuterias, jóias, relógios, automóveis, etc. Cada um tem sua marca de sapato, de relógio e de bolsa. A classe pobre sonha em ser classe média, a classe média sonha em ser classe alta, a classe alta sonha em ser americano e morar em Miami. Gente de todas as idades entra no esquema. Nos “rolezinhos” os adolescentes aparecem de boné, tênis e roupa de grife. Em busca das grifes se assalta e se mata.

No trabalho a hierarquia dá o tom. O chefe nunca é contestado, sempre tem razão. As pessoas têm medo de dar sua opinião, de fazer perguntas  que desagradem. Isso começou na escola, onde aprendemos a não discutir com os professores, até antes disso, em casa, onde o pai e a mãe devem ser tratados de “senhor” e “senhora”.

Nenhuma cultura é melhor ou pior do que a outra, mas cada uma tem seus problemas, suas qualidades e seus defeitos. Nas culturas de alta DIP o problema mais evidente é a corrupção. O poder corrompe; o poder absoluto corrompe absolutamente. Numa sociedade onde cada um busca exercer o poder no seu respectivo degrau da hierarquia, a corrupção existe não apenas nos altos escalões, mas em todos os níveis.

A delícia dos grupos

Na dimensão “Individualismo versus Coletivismo” (IDV) tanto Brasil quanto Egito são coletivistas. Individualistas são os americanos, com escore de 91. Abaixo de 50 somos todos coletivistas. Isso significa que valorizamos o fato de pertencer a certos grupos. Esses grupos nos ajudam, tomam conta de nós, em troca da nossa fidelidade. Os relacionamentos, portanto, são mais importantes do que as tarefas. Existe um lado muito belo nisso tudo, que diz respeito às amizades, que são duradouras. E existe um lado muito feio nisso tudo, que diz respeito à falta de respeito por quem não é seu amigo. Aos amigos, tudo; aos demais, os rigores da lei. Isso significa que a lei não vale para todos, não é universal. Combinando a alta DIP e baixo IDV, o que se vê é que a lei não vale para quem tem poder e não vale para quem é amigo dos poderosos.

No Brasil (e no Egito) se valoriza tudo aquilo que é “exclusivo”. Se valoriza aquilo que “é só para você e seus amigos”, todos os demais estão… excluídos. Nossas sociedades são exclusivistas. Não admira que a maioria do povo se sinta excluído de quase tudo: a propaganda na TV, jornais, revistas, enfatiza como é bacana ter algo exclusivo. O “ter” passa a ser mais importante do que o “ser”, pois as posses materiais alardeiam o poder que você tem, os grupos a que você pertence. Dize-me com quem andas e dir-te-ei quem és.

A combinação de alta DIP com Coletivismo facilita a eclosão de conflitos entre grupos: nós contra eles. O nosso grupo tentando subir na hierarquia, excluindo os grupos diferentes do nosso. O perigo é a escalada de radicalização. Nas sociedades coletivistas e de alta DIP o pensamento crítico costuma ser menos desenvolvido. Ninguém quer contrariar o chefe e ninguém quer contrariar os seus próprios amigos. Isso pode levar um grupo todo a fazer bobagens, pela falta de alguém que conteste a bobagem dominante. As ideias radicais são simplistas, distorcem a realidade e minimizam a complexidade da vida. Podem facilmente descambar para a violência. Por isso, são perigosas. Esse é o lado tenebroso das culturas coletivistas.

O Desempenho e a Qualidade de vida

Essa dimensão tem a ver com um dilema: o que tendemos a escolher, em situações nas quais precisamos optar entre valorizar o bom desempenho ou valorizar a qualidade de vida? É mais importante jantar com a família ou trabalhar até tarde para terminar aquele relatório no prazo definido? Diferentes sociedades apresentam respostas diferentes para esse dilema. No Japão, o escore mais alto do planeta (95), as pessoas se dedicam ao extremo na direção do desempenho. A família fica nitidamente em segundo plano. Na Suécia, escore mais baixo de todos (5), estar com a família vem em primeiro lugar, se o projeto atrasar um dia isso não será o fim do mundo.

O escore do Brasil é intermediário. Entre os estereótipos do paulista que não pode parar (de trabalhar) e do baiano preguiçoso, ficamos, na média, com um escore médio (49). O Egito pende um pouco mais para a qualidade de vida, mas não muito longe de nós. Ambos ficamos bem abaixo dos EUA, da Alemanha e da China (66) onde o desempenho é mais valorizado. Isso se vê não só no trabalho, mas em tudo, inclusive no atletismo e nos esportes em geral.

O Controle da Incerteza (CDI)

Nessa dimensão nosso escore é elevado (também no Egito) e o significado está em usar mecanismos inconscientes para evitar a ambiguidade. As sociedades de alto CDI valorizam a religião e a superstição, que são formas de evitar que coisas ruins nos aconteçam. Os brasileiros são tão religiosos que muita gente pratica mais de uma religião: se dizem católicos mas também frequentam um terreiro de Umbanda, ou uma sessão espírita, diante de uma grande necessidade. A flexibilidade (vide próximo tópico) reforça o uso de vários mecanismos que possam ser úteis, mesmo que pareçam contraditórios.

Orientação de Longo Prazo

Essa dimensão (OLP) tem um nome enganador, pois não se trata exatamente de pensar sempre no longo prazo em termos de planejamento. Se trata, na verdade, de flexibilidade (escore alto) versus rigidez na aplicação de normas formais e informais (escore baixo). O Brasil tem um escore de 65, relativamente alto se comparado com a Alemanha (31) ou os EUA (29), embora seja muito baixo do que o escore da China, que é de 118, o mais alto do mundo.

O Egito não foi pesquisado quanto a essa dimensão. Talvez aí esteja a diferença maior com o Brasil. As sociedades de baixa OLP favorecem o radicalismo, pois possuem menor tolerância às ideias contrárias à cultura dominante. Aquilo que se considera “certo” é seguido com muita disciplina e pouca margem para atalhos e desvios.

O que o escore brasileiro significa, em poucas palavras, é que nessas sociedades (de alta OLP) os fins justificam os meios. Nós brasileiros temos orgulho da nossa flexibilidade, da nossa criatividade e da nossa capacidade de improvisação. Tudo isso está ligado à alta OLP, que significa valorizar o fato de que há muitas maneiras diferentes de se chegar aonde queremos. Não existe um caminho único válido, em detrimento dos demais. Existe maior tolerância a ideias contraditórias. Infelizmente, existe também maior tolerância à corrupção.

A ligação com prazos mais longos está ligada a um sentimento (consciente e inconsciente) de esperança, de que tudo vai dar certo, algum dia. O brasileiro típico tem uma fé no futuro distante que é admirável, considerando todas as dificuldades enfrentadas no curto prazo. Essa combinação de fé no futuro e de flexibilidade para chegar lá é o que evitou, na nossa história distante e recente, que a radicalização nos levasse a uma guerra civil que dividisse o país. A “turma do deixa-disso” predominou sobre os radicais que queriam sangue, de um lado e de outro. Tivemos nossas lutas, sim, nossas masmorras e torturadores; todavia, nossa violência fratricida ainda é menor do que aquela que se viu e se vê em outras culturas.

O mais importante disso tudo, entretanto, não é o passado e sim o que podemos fazer no presente para direcionar o nosso futuro. O que devemos fazer para que a radicalização deixe de se propagar? O que devemos fazer para formar uma cultura mais justa para nossos filhos e netos, sem precisar passar por um banho de sangue no caminho? Tanto no Egito como no Brasil, o problema central é a concentração de renda excessiva numa elite de pequeno tamanho e grande pobreza de espírito. Essas elites só pensam em manter seus privilégios, pouco se preocupam com o país como um todo e não ligam para o que acontece com os grupos dos quais não fazem parte. Os outros que se explodam. Se as elites brasileiras e egípcias não se mobilizarem para mudar a situação dos respectivos países, correm o risco de se tornarem vítimas do seu descaso para com a maioria da população, pobre e desqualificada.

O Brasil que eu quero

É um país com mais educação, no seu sentido mais amplo. Precisamos desenvolver mais a cidadania, o respeito, a valorização da diversidade e da equivalência, ou seja: somos todos diferentes, mas ninguém é necessariamente melhor do que o outro. Temos todos o mesmo valor como seres humanos, tanto os que usam mocassim italiano como os que usam chinelo de dedo. Precisamos desenvolver maior entendimento da nossa própria cultura, dos nossos próprios valores. Quero menos imitação cega de modelos americanos e europeus, e mais discussão aberta sobre o país que queremos ser. Essa discussão começa e termina com o entendimento dos nossos valores culturais.

Sócrates (não o corintiano, o ateniense) prescreveu: conhece-te a ti mesmo, antes de tudo. Para fazer um país melhor, precisamos conhecer a nós mesmos, entender nossa cultura, nossos valores. O resto é fácil… Um dia tudo pode dar certo, mas somente se decidirmos mudar nosso futuro, para que amanhã sejamos não o Egito, mas uma versão melhor do próprio Brasil.

De uma série que se inicia: “O Brasil que eu quero”.

Para a revista “Veja” (ou Época”, “Isto É”, “Carta Capital”, etc) sugestão número 1.

Por que não fazer uma reportagem especial, com uma avaliação das principais escolas de primeiro e segundo grau em cada estado brasileiro?

Valorizar a educação

Os melhores sistemas educacionais do mundo são aquelas cujas culturas valorizam a educação. Não se trata apenas de uma questão de política pública. Numa cultura que valoriza a educação, todos valorizam a educação; não apenas o governo (federal, estadual e municipal), mas também a iniciativa privada, as instituições, a igreja, as próprias entidades educacionais, as famílias, a opinião pública.

No Brasil, o que se pode fazer? Ao invés de simplesmente delegar para cima, pondo a culpa na Dilma (ou na Presidente de plantão) , podemos começar a tomar iniciativas que valorizam a educação de boa qualidade. Uma dessas iniciativas pode ser uma avaliação comparativa das melhores escolas, servindo de guia para os pais e estimulando uma competição sadia entre diferentes instituições de ensino.

As revistas “Exame”, “Forbes”, Época Negócios”, fazem isso em relação às empresas comerciais, com edições especiais que comemoram, anualmente, as “500 Maiores e Melhores”. Por que não fazer o mesmo em relação às escolas?

Na Holanda, por exemplo, a revista “Elsevier” faz isso todos os anos. Acaba de sair a reportagem especial de 2014, sobre as melhores escolas avaliadas no decorrer do ano anterior. É o sétimo ano seguido em que isto é feito e a reportagem tem trinta páginas, listando milhares de escolas, em cada região do país, com escores em diferentes critérios, tais como: alunos egressos que passaram nos exames finais, alunos que ingressaram na universidade, proporção de alunos para cada professor, tipo de orientação pedagógica de cada escola, etc.

No Brasil, o público em geral tem uma tolerância muito grande para o baixo nível de qualidade das nossas escolas. Precisamos mudar isso, exigindo mais das escolas e estimulando aquelas poucas que se esforçam por melhorar.

A educação de base é mais importante

Alguém pode dizer, como crítica e mal-disfarçada desculpa para a inação, que no Brasil o MEC já faz isso avaliando os cursos superiores. Existem dois problemas fundamentais com esse argumento.

Em primeiro lugar está o fato de a avaliação das universidades ser feita pelo MEC e não por uma revista de grande circulação. Ninguém lê os relatórios do MEC, mas todo mundo lê a Veja. É claro que estou exagerando, mas o ponto é que uma reportagem numa revista tem muito mais impacto junto à opinião pública do que um relatório oficial. As grandes revistas são formadoras de opinião, ainda mais no Brasil.

Em segundo lugar está o fato de que as pesquisas mostram que uma educação de base com boa qualidade é mais importante para o bem-estar econômico de um país do que a educação superior (universitária). Ocorre que, tipicamente, culturas de alta distância de poder (como o Brasil) investem proporcionalmente mais no ensino superior do que culturas igualitárias. Nas culturas de baixa distância de poder (igualitárias) se investe mais na educação de primeiro e segundo grau e isso repercute na economia de forma positiva. Vide os EUA e o norte da Europa.

Na Holanda, os milhares de leitores da Elsevier usam a reportagem anual sobre as escolas para dirigir suas escolhas de escolas; e as escolas se esforçam para melhorar seus escores a cada ano. A reportagem inclui uma seção apontando as que mais melhoraram e as que mais pioraram de um ano para o outro.

Formadores de Opinião

A imprensa brasileira, o nosso “Quarto Poder” pode fazer o que os outros três (Legislativo, Executivo e Judiciário) não conseguem: estimular a qualidade da educação de nossas crianças e adolescentes. É claro que um estudo dessa natureza não deve custar pouco dinheiro; todavia, imagino que não faltariam patrocinadores que gostariam de ver seus nomes ligados a uma iniciativa desse tipo. Isso dá mais credibilidade do que o patrocínio de luta-livre na televisão…

Com a palavra, nossos órgãos de imprensa: vamos fazer algo moralmente elogiável para valorizar o debate sobre a qualidade da educação de base no Brasil?

The first week of 2014 gave us a great example of how culture differences have an impact on the behavior of investors in the New York Stock Exchange. China Trip (NYSE:CTRP), the leading travel & touring operator in China and a darling of global investors, announced that, because of increasing competition from smaller companies trying to eat away on its dominant market share, it will offer its services basically ”at cost”, slashing its fees to the minimum, in order to defend its position.

American investors panicked. On the day this was announced, they sold CTRP shares like crazy and the stock plunged over 10%; on the day after, the stock dropped an additional 5%. The difference in mentality was starkly evident.

In China, positioning yourself in the market for the long run is more valued than short-term profit. For Chinese managers, it is a natural move to sacrifice your profits in order to gain market share or defend a leading position. In the US, it’s quite the opposite. Short-term results are more important than the distant future. Short-term results are concrete, palpable. The future is fuzzy and uncertain. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Plus, what is “long-term”?

For the typical American Wall Street investor or investment analyst, “long-term” is anything over 90 days, or beyond the current quarter. “Short-term” is anything under three months.

For the typical Chinese managers, “short-term” is anything under three years. “Long-term” is in a decade or two. So, when China Trip decides to slash prices to defend its market position, it is quite confident that it can afford to lose money for two or three years and eventually make more money to recuperate the losses in ten years. Nothing more natural than that. But in New York, nobody is that patient.

If you are a truly patient investor, you might wait for the shares to drop even further, and then buy some stock for the long term. And I do mean long term: for beyond 2020…

Back in 1943, Abraham Maslow published his famous “hierarchy of human needs”, which quickly became a classic reference regarding the motivation of people at work and in any kind of situation.

The basic idea is that people first need to satisfy basic needs, such as physiological needs and safety, which stood at the two bottom levels of the hierarchy (often referred to as a “pyramid of needs”. Once the basic needs are satisfied, people become motivated to satisfy “higher” needs in the next three levels: belonging, esteem and self actualization. Whenever a need at a lower level is not satisfied, behavior turns to satisfy that lower need until it is satisfied. Only then will anyone be motivated by the next higher need. When the bottom four levels are reasonably satisfied, people will turn to satisfying the top need (self-actualization).

This “pyramid” concept of needs was disseminated all over the world for seventy years and was taken for granted as “universal”. It was used in psychology, sociology and management courses as a sort of “Motivation 101” course. It has become so popular, so well-known by people in general, that, for instance, in Brazil, the press and people in general have coined an expression: “physiological politicians”, referring to politicians in Congress who will vote on legislation independent of ideology, but rather based on whoever satisfies their basic needs. This is an euphemism for corrupt politicians who basically “sell” their votes to the highest bidder.

Not universal pictures

The hierarchy of needs was proposed and accepted by most people as a universal concept, that applies to everyone. However, we now know that this picture is not really universal: it has a strong cultural bias, like many other concepts that were born as a product of a given culture and mistakenly thought to apply equally to all mankind.

Yes, we can say that the bottom part of the pyramid is fairly universal: everybody needs to first satisfy their physiological needs before they can turn to safety needs, and only after these two are reasonably satisfied can they focus on belonging needs (the next higher level). But that is exactly when things start to become a bit more complicated.

I happen to be a fan of Maslow: his work reached far beyond the hierarchy of needs and included the foundations for the Humanistic Psychology movement of the 60’s and 70’s, that I joined as a young student. He turned the attention away from looking at people who were mentally ill in order to understand human personality, towards learning from people who were mentally well. That part of his work has had a huge impact on psychology, sociology and management. He deserves all the praise in the world for that. However, his pyramid is crumbling.

To speak about “belonging”, then “esteem”, and then self-actualization makes absolute sense in a culture that highly values individualism and performance, such as the US and its cultural peers (UK, Canada, Australia). Yet, when we look at cultures that value collectivism, the picture changes a bit.

Mind you, it might very well be that Maslow himself was aware of this; he was a sensitive and worldly person. Unfortunately he has passed away in 1970, so we cannot ask him to comment. He never got to know Hofstede’s research on culture values and their impact on how people perceive and assess the reality around them.

We can now see that in collectivistic cultures the emphasis on belonging to groups and maintaining loyalty to them during your whole life is much stronger than in individualistic societies. In collectivistic cultures it is all about “we” and group opinions are more important than individual opinions. Confrontations and conflicts are avoided.

The need for esteem is quite different in “caring” cultures (like Scandinavia and The Netherlands) than in performance-oriented cultures like Japan, Germany, the US and China. In the US, where Maslow was born and raised, esteem centers around self-esteem. It is certainly natural that once you have the need for belonging satisfied, you move to satisfy your emerging need for esteem. Specially in the US, esteem centers around self-esteem. Your individual responsibility is more important than the groups you belong to, so the precedence of “belonging” to “esteem” could be questioned. Also, esteem is obtained through standing out among your peers, gaining status through performance. Winners are admired, so self-esteem is reinforced by the admiration of others. The sense of belonging, however, seems to be less important.

In Scandinavian cultures, standing out is frowned upon; performance does not drive self-esteem. It is driven by a sense of autonomy and independence, most often not focused on performance, but rather on the ability to enjoy a better quality of life. Winners are often seen with suspicion; there is more sympathy for the underdogs and the less fortunate. Success is considered to be largely a function of luck, rather than capability.

Therefore, the pyramid might have a different order of needs, on the higher levels, depending on culture. The needs have a different way of manifesting themselves and people seek to satisfy them in very different ways. Priorities are different and the hierarchy of needs is different. 

At the very top of the pyramid, we find other differences as well. The very concept of “self-actualization” seems almost incomprehensible in collectivistic societies where your duties to your family, to your elders and to society are much more valued than the actualization of your individual potential. In some Asian cultures, people may never seek “self-actualization”, but rather they seek to “lose the sense of self” in order to blend in with the universe and to reach Nirvana. In China self-actualization is seen as selfish. Actualizing your potential is interpreted as fulfilling your duty towards your family and your “guanxi”(life-long networks of friends). Is that different from the need for belonging, placed at the third level of the pyramid?

The question that needs to be addressed is: “what are the underlying values supporting this (and any) concept?” We all have cultural biases of which we are seldom aware. We need mirrors provided by people from different cultures in order to become aware of our bias. Maslow and his early followers all lacked such mirrors in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, because the concept of culture differences was hardly tangible in those days.

Paramount pictures

Management models such as Michael Porter’s “competitive advantage”, or Tom Peters’ “Excellent Organizations” have also quite strong culture biases. They are paramount pictures in the American culture, but not necessarily elsewhere. Some things get lost in translation, but it’s not just a matter of translation. Even a well-translated concept may simply not apply to a different culture because the environment is completely different from a sociological point of view.

Porter’s ideas fit very well in cultures that are very competition-oriented, such as the US, UK and other Anglo-Saxon societies. However, there are cultures which are more collaboration-based rather than competition-based. In these cultures, companies are not focused on competitive advantage, they are focused on coexisting in harmony and seeking to better understand client needs. Competition is such an important aspect of doing business in Anglo-Saxon cultures that it may distract companies from their main purpose, which is actually… providing services and products to clients!

It is no coincidence that focusing on the client’s focus (rather than focusing on the client), as is often stressed by José Carlos Teixeira Moreira from the Escola de Marketing Industrial (a business school) in São Paulo, is a concept developed in a collectivistic culture such as Brazil. In collectivistic cultures communication is more receiver-oriented rather than sender-oriented. In such societies people grow up with a greater attention to other people’s perspectives, rather than their own; there is more sensitivity to non-verbal messages, to reading between the lines and to trying to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings, in order to better deal with relationships. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is easier to do in marketing terms, in Brazil, than it is in Northern Europe or North America, where individualistic values predominate. Naturally, this affects the type of models and concepts used in marketing, in management and in doing business in general.

When Tom Peters writes and leads workshops about “The Search of Excellence”, the first thing he mentions is that excellent companies all have one thing it common: a bias for action. Peters failed to see that this is true of his own culture, which values action rather than reflection or elaborate planning. Therefore, the bias for action is true for companies operating in America and in similar cultures. However, the bias for action is regarded as acting irresponsibly in cultures with a high Uncertainty Avoidance index, such as Germany, France or Japan. These cultures consider that if you act too quickly, you make too many mistakes.

Getting people to act fast in the US is easy; everybody has been raised with a favorable bias towards that and they quickly become energized and motivated by suggestions of “a little less conversation, a little more action”. Doing the same in Germany or Japan is much more difficult! People have learned that action should be preceded by careful planning and analysis. They believe that it is more important to take your time in aiming, and only firing when you are confident that you can hit the target. Conversely, in the US it is about being quick on the trigger and firing first.

In Brazil many people have an idealized impression about the United States. They tend to think that whatever works in New York will work just as well in São Paulo. Well, it ain’t necessarily so…  Things that work in the US do so because they are consistent with that culture. Will it work just as well in Brazil? Maybe. Ask yourself what are the key aspects of what you are looking at. Ask yourself whether these key aspects will be consistent with the Brazilian culture or whether they are likely to clash with it.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Whenever we encounter a business model, a concept or a framework that is presented as “universal” we would do well to question its origin and the cultural values it is based on. In analyzing the validity of models it is not enough to ask about its logic; we need to ask about whether that logic will hold true for any kind of environment and not only for the environment in which it was created.

Maslow’s Pyramid initially seemed to fit any kind of environment. This is largely because most of the western cultures’ graduate programs have a strong influence exerted by Anglo-Saxon ideas; when another idea comes along and it fits the concepts we’ve been hearing at school, we think that it must be true. However, it may not be consistent with the real world outside our universities’ walls! In the real world people’s behaviors are determined by the values they’ve learned at home, in primary school and in the community when they were children. The real world’s values are not determined by university professors who teach using foreign books as a base.

If we want to study people’s motivation and behavior, there is nothing better than going out and talking to simple  people. Try to learn from what small businesses are doing, try to learn from entrepreneurs who have been successful operating simple organizations in a small scale, in unsophisticated environments. This will give you fantastic insights about what people really need, what motivates them, what drives their behavior. Therein lie numerous opportunities to understand your potential clients and to offer them what they actually need. You can deliver true value, as judged by your clients, for which they will gladly pay you generously.

women should avoid trying to be versions of men

A news item caught my attention yesterday, about “the 12 strongest female characters in movies”. The list included:

#1 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009, trilogy): Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander

#2 – The Color Purple: Whoopi Goldberg as Celie Johnson (1985)

#3 – Kill Bill, Vol. 1 & 2 (2003, 4): Uma Thurman as “The Bride”/Beatrix Kiddo

#4 – Alien(s) (1979, 1986, 1992): Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley

#5 – Silence of the Lambs (1991): Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling

#6 – Elizabeth (1998): Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth

#7 – Girlfight (2000): Michelle Rodriguez as Diana Guzman

#8 – House of Flying Daggers (2004): Ziyi Zhang as Jen Yu

#9 – Resident Evil (5 films: 2002-2012): Milla Jovovich as Alice

#10 – Columbiana (2011): Zoe Saldana as Cataleya

#11 – Aeon Flux (2005): Charlize Theron as Aeon Flux

#12 – The Matrix Revolutions (2003): Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe

The problem with this list is that, with two exceptions (#2 and #6) all the other characters are basically “macho” types who fight, shoot, beatup and kick other guy’s asses… So it seems that the authors think that in order to be considered “strong”, a woman has to be violent.

Yes, a woman can do anything a man can do. So what? Being a strong woman should not be about being a better version of a man… it should be about being a better version of a woman.

The American culture tends to put a lot of emphasis on violence. This is so valued and idealised that it becomes desired behaviour for both men and women. In other cultures the feminist movement is about enhancing qualities like caring and quality of life, and criticizing men for being “macho”; in the US it seems that (at least some sectors of) the feminist movement focus on competing with men to see who can be more of a “macho”!

Women should realize that a cultural trick is being played on them… Instead of enhancing their character as women, they are trying to prove that they can be better versions of men. Rather, they should try to get both men and women out of the stereotyped roles, and seek a greater balance of roles.

It’s not about becoming the stereotype of a woman (frail and delicate, imprisoned in the home), nor about becoming the stereotype of a man (bold and violent, insensitive). A balanced list of “strong” female movie characters might have four of the above “shooters”, four “stereotypical female types” and four characters that transcend the stereotypes.

As it is, the list seems to glorify characters that are simply good at a) being more violent than men; b) showing that they don’t need men; and c) beating up men at every opportunity.

Just look at these quotes from the films:

From #7 — “I love you. I really do.” … And then Diana punches Adrian in the face

From #6 — “I am not your Elizabeth. I am no man’s Elizabeth. And if you think to rule, you are mistaken.”

The whole thing reeks of adolescent counter-dependence: teenagers (because they are immature) go through a long phase of speaking and behaving against anything their parents say or do, just to prove to themselves that they can be independent. When they finally become mature enough to be really independent (sometimes only when they reach their thirties…) they can be more serene; they are no longer counter-dependent. Perhaps these feminists (fortunately not all feminists think that way) are still going through that teenage phase of trying to prove to themselves that they can be independent from men.

All of this is kind of stupid: men and women should get along and make love, not war. Real love, not mindless sex.They are inter-dependent. They can be independent AND depend on each other, rather than be subordinate to either one or the other.

They are not equal: they are equivalent. That means they are, indeed, different. As the French say: “vive la difference!”. We should celebrate male and female differences. And realise that men and women are equivalent: that is to say, they have the same value. Neither is more worthy than the other.

We should stop this endless competition; the “sex wars” are silly, and they are actually an expression of a “macho” culture that turns everything into a contest. That’s a cultural trap that women should not fall into, and they should help men free themselves from that same trap.

This was part of the original philosophy of the feminist movement in the 70’s. We should not allow ourselves to be diverted from those original ideals.

Slide12Earlier this week CNN’s Jim Clancy had a quick interview with a London School of Economics professor about the psychology of the protests in Egypt and in Turkey. The professor, demonstrating how an academic can project his own biased values on a different culture and completely misinterpret what is going on, gave an eloquent speech on how the Egyptian people wanted more freedom and autonomy, rejecting Morsi’s authoritarian regime. He judged the manifestations in Egypt by his own standards and not for what they really were according to Egyptians.

Later Christiane Amanpour played “devil’s advocate” interviewing several people on the ousting of President Morsi and questioning the actions of the military in Cairo. The questions were valid ones to be raised, but we should take the opportunity to take off our culture filter glasses and examine the issues objectively.

Many people have heard the news about Egypt and jumped to the wrong conclusions, simply because they have based their judgment on certain cultural assumptions which are, in this case, quite mistaken.

These “wrong” assumptions are:

  1. An elected official must be allowed to conclude his/her term
  2. Military intervention in politics is bad
  3. The constitution and the rule of law must be respected above all else
  4. In a democracy the majority rules

Each of these assumptions is valid when referring to normal situations in the US and most countries in Northern Europe, but not necessarily in other parts of the world, for a very simple reason: these assumptions also assume a host of other things. For instance, they assume that people are equal. This is true in “egalitarian” societies, but it is not exactly the same in hierarchical societies. Hierarchical societies make up 91% of the world population and they include countries like Italy, Spain and France (the fact that it has “egalité” as part of its official motto does not make France an egalitarian culture).

These assumptions also presuppose that there is an institutionalized government based on three separate and equally balanced powers: the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. Egypt is actually a new-born democracy less than two years old. The parliament was elected under questionable rules, then dissolved (also questionably). The constitution was drafted and challenged. It was approved hastily by a popular vote with very low turnout and that resulted again in many challenges. Opinion polls show that the majority of the population questioned the validity of all this. One of these polls actually showed a country divided in three: the larger portion (38%) said they did not support the Muslim Brotherhood, nor a military government; 35% said they supported a military government; and 25% said they supported the Muslim Brotherhood.

These polls can also be questioned as to their validity, but anyone talking to Egyptians in the past weeks would agree that a “division in three similar thirds” was quite evident. That reality is behind the ousting of President Morsi, whether you call it a “coup d’etat” or anything else.Slide13

An elected official must conclude his/her term

We assume that if a President is elected for a term of four years, he must be allowed to finish his term, no matter how bad he is doing. The constitution describes a few exceptional instances in which the President might be ousted, and that basically involves an impeachment process voted in parliament. Anything different from that is considered to be “wrong”.

But what if there is no parliament? If the elected parliament has been dissolved, the people have no representatives in government. If they express their will on the streets, not once, but three days in a row, in hundreds of thousands, what more do you want? Plus, this was not only in Cairo, but also in Alexandria and all over the country. Is this not more democratic than corporations lobbying at the Capitol in Washington? This is “the wisdom of crowds” expressed in pure form. It would be anti-democratic to ignore it.

Military intervention in politics is bad

Indeed, as a general rule, generals shouldn’t rule. But what if those three separate thirds of the population are preparing to go to war against each other? What if you see street vendors selling plastic helmets and wooden clubs as if they were football jerseys to fans on their way to a big game? What if this “big game” is actually on the streets of the capital and involves at least 200,000 on opposing sides? What if there have already  happened some clashes on the outskirts, resulting in 16 dead and over 100 wounded?

How about if the moderates, who do not support military rule, come to you and say: “please intervene to avoid bloodshed; we will support you as long as you put a civilian as interim President and schedule the immediate drafting of a new constitution and schedule new elections in less than twelve months”?

I guess maybe this major exception overrules the general rule.

The constitution and the rule of law must be respected above all else

Indeed, to step away from the rule of law is extremely dangerous. However, the assumption is that “law” has been approved by the people or by their representatives of the people and mirrors the will of the people. The problem in Egypt has been that the Constitution was approved in a referendum attended by less than half the population. Of those who voted, perhaps as many as two thirds were functionally illiterate and unable to read what was under discussion. They voted because influential people in their communities instructed them to do so; but you could hardly say that they were exercising “free choice”. The situation exposes a major flaw of trying to rush a country into a western style of democracy when the population is simply not ready to deal with such a model. The “laws” laid out in the Egyptian Constitution implemented six months ago do not represent the free will of the people. It is an illusion to think that the population has consciously sanctioned those legal guidelines.Slide14

In a democracy the majority rules

This is a basic principle that is quite valid in societies that share egalitarian values and have a reasonably equitable distribution of power, of wealth and of education. Yet in societies that endorse hierarchical values and where you see a concentration of power, of wealth and of education, the situation is quite different.

The moral principle behind democracy is that people are equally capable of making informed free choices. In a society in which two thirds of the population are functionally illiterate, there is no “free choice”. The ignorant masses are manipulated by the elite, and that happens not only in Egypt but also surely in most of Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The moral thing to do is to invest massively in education during an extended period of time, lasting generations. Then you can talk about real free choice. Democracy without education is an illusion, used by certain members of the elite to deceive and manipulate the people.

The people of Egypt have taken to the streets simply to say: “this current President does not represent me, get him out! We’d rather have an enlightened despot who will take care of our basic needs in terms of security, health and allowing us to work in order to make a living.”

Whether a government has been “democratically” elected or not, it should not impose the will of a third of the population on the other two thirds, no matter how much this basic principle goes against discipline and compliance with the existing legislation. Even if two thirds were dictating the rules over the minority of one third, there needs to be a minimum degree of respect for minority groups within the overall community.

Although some might say that it is not “politically correct” to lambast democracy, the truth is that a country’s elite (those with more power, more education and greater economic impact) end up having more influence in the political process, for better or for worse. When the elite are more enlightened, their influence is used for the benefit of the whole population. When the elite is not enlightened, things get worse and worse until you get a bloody revolution, civil war and genocide. This is also true for the US and Europe, by the way.Slide09

The Egyptian lesson

Reactions from around the world typically reflect the cultural and/or political biases of the foreign governments involved. I’m sure the Egyptian military must have consulted the US before acting. The American government can’t openly support the overthrowing of a democratically elected President, despite all the circumstances listed above; but by not criticizing it vehemently, they have made their support implicit, at least.

The Turkish government, of course, has criticized it strongly. Turkey is one country where the same thing might happen, if Erdogan continues to lose popular support; he has been at odds with the military there as well, so he has no alternative but to criticize what happened.

The English media have criticized it on a matter of principle; but I don’t see them doing it very eloquently.

As a foreigner I cannot aspire to understand Egypt like a local, but I might do better than other foreigners who do not understand the culture… I find that many egalitarian cultures have a knee-jerk reaction against military intervention, failing to realize that under the circumstances it may have been the best alternative for the country. I was impressed by how many people expressed their certainty, before June 30, that Morsi would be ousted on that very day. They were quite sure that the majority of the population was so unhappy about the situation, that either Morsi would resign or the military would remove him. It was as simple as that… Whenever I argued that perhaps he should be allowed to finish his mandate, they looked surprised and responded calmly: “Why? He has done nothing right, he has refused help from other factions outside the Muslim Brotherhood, the economic situation is much worse than under Mubarak, even the people who voted for him no longer support him, why should we wait?”

The lesson, for me, was to focus on the spirit of democracy, rather than the letter of the law. I realize that some flexibility is required to reach such a conclusion. In many other countries, in similar (but not quite like this one) situations, the military have forced an interpretation to suit their own interest. This time, although they also stand to gain, I really don’t think they had much of an alternative, under the very specific circumstances.

I do hope that the spirit of democracy prevails also going forward, and that means allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to have a voice and participate as a very vocal opposition in the short term, and perhaps winning another election and doing better next time. The best thing for Egypt would probably be to have a moderate government, avoiding the extremists on both sides of the political spectrum. In order to do that, they need a slower transition into democracy. If there was one problem with the revolution of 2011, it was the fact that the generals bowed to public pressure at the time and brought the whole transition schedule forward. Eventually, the facts proved that it was too much, too soon.

As I’ve said before in 2011, Egypt needs time. A society does not move from a totalitarian regime (Mubarak) to a democracy in just a few months. The failure of the Morsi administration demonstrated that.

Does this means that Egypt cannot become a democracy? No. It means that Egypt needs a longer transition period and it also needs to find its own model of governance, which should not be an imitation of the American model, nor the British one. Democracy is in crisis, all over the world. We need better versions of democracy, better than the outdated versions (from 200 years ago) we see struggling. Perhaps the Egyptian version, which is just being born in the 21st Century, can be better than what is currently out there.

They need time to discuss what is the role of a President, in their model. What will be the role of Parliament? What about the role of the Prime Minister, if they choose to have one? And how will the model reflect the will of their people? The rule of law can only be respected if it reflects the will of the people. The Egyptians have just shown the world what happens when it doesn’t.

www.lcopartners.com                                                        http://fernandolanzer.com                                             www.itim.org

See  also “Egypt Needs Time”, in my book “Take Off Your Glasses” at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_15?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=fernando+lanzer&sprefix=Fernando+Lanzer%2Caps%2C345

The New York Times published a piece by Simon Romero and William Neuman about the protests in Brazil, in which they conclude, along with people they interviewed, that “we really don’t know” why the protests are happening now.

This assertion is either naïve or a damn lie designed to cover ulterior motives.Image

Why Brazil?

Brazil is a democracy and has had stable institutions for almost 30 years. The President is a woman (no glass ceiling there) enjoying the highest approval ratings on the planet. Unemployment is lower than most developed economies in Europe or North America. The country will host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in Rio, in 2016. Some might say that it is surprising to see the protests, since Brazil is quite different from Turkey, where there were violent protests a week before, or any of the Arab countries where there were also mass protesting and even revolutions for the past three years. There is no discussion around the role of religion in a secular State, no military as a political force, no authoritarian regime, no sectarian violence. President Dilma was elected by a clear majority, representing a left-wing coalition with great popular appeal. None of these aspects seemed to indicate trouble in the relationship between the people and its government.

However, Brazil has a very hierarchical culture and a very collectivistic one too. In practice, this means that power tends to be very concentrated at the top of hierarchies that are very exclusive: they benefit their friends/cronies and exclude the rest. There is high concentration of income, as well. Although income distribution has improved in the past ten years, it is still worse than most countries in the world.

There has been growing discontent with corruption in government at all levels. The dissatisfaction with politicians in general has grown in the past couple of years and is clearly visible to anyone surfing the internet. Thousands of posts express daily the insatisfaction with politicians, the fact that they have the second highest pay packages in the world (behind the US). There was a high profile court case against a few Congressmen accused of corruption lasting several months. Eventually they were convicted and sentenced at the end of 2012, but there were appeals and that was quite disappointing. None of these convicted politicians has gone to prison and a few still hold key positions in Congress, as if nothing had happened, and in spite of the fact that thousands have signed motions requesting them to step down from their posts.

This growing discontent was a revolution waiting to happen. Discussions in Brazil have been about how long it would take before something major would trigger protests. Most analysts, however, felt that the cauldron would only boil over next year, closer to the next presidential elections. The accusations of corruption would increase and so would popular discontent with the fact that even convicted felons were not in fact punished, let alone the many others who had not even been brought to justice. The opposition political parties would then have an interest in stoking dissatisfaction with the current government and capitalizing on that in the elections.Image

Why Now?

This is where it gets really interesting. A group of youngsters started a movement in 2005 (when they were 15 years old) called “Passe Livre” (Free Pass) advocating free public transportation for students. Eight years later, they were still lobbying for this, but had extended it to “free public transport for all” and sometimes staging demonstrations to promote their cause. They got very little attention from the press and the general public, and were never able to gather more than a thousand people at any given place.

A few weeks ago, this movement (MPL for the acronym in Portuguese) saw a good opportunity to demonstrate once again and promote their cause, perhaps getting a bit more of attention, this time. The local mayors of several state capitals announced a bus fare increase of 6% which would soon go into effect. This was approved in January, but in negotiations with MPL, some union leaders and politicians, it was agreed to delay its implementation until mid-year 2013. The increase, by the way, was smaller than inflation since the last hike, over two years ago.

As the date of implementing the increase approached, the MPL leaders realized that they had a good opportunity to demonstrate just before the beginning of the FIFA Confederations Cup, a prelude to the World Cup. There would be a lot of international press coverage for the tournament, which would start on June 16. MPL scheduled protests for the week before, thinking they might get some good press coverage and that local mayors would be more open to negotiate again, to avoid the embarrassment of protestors disrupting the football tournament.

Indeed, this time they got a bigger crowd than ever, over 2,000 or 3,000 people marching on the main avenues of São Paulo, Rio and a few other state capitals. The press was there, filming and taking pictures.Image

Police Pull The Trigger

What they did not expect, however, is that the mayors and state governors were quite upset about the scheduled demonstrations precisely because of the global football tournament about to begin. These political leaders felt that they had to show the FIFA officials and the world that they were totally in control of the security situation in their cities and that “zero tolerance” to such demonstrations was the best policy. They unleashed “Shock Troops” against the demonstrators to disperse them. These troops employed unprecedented brutality against the crowd: they used tear gas, “moral effect” bombs, pepper spray and rubber bullets. They advanced towards the demonstrators and assaulted them with bats, kicked them when they were down and arrested many.

This was all against peaceful demonstrators presenting no real threat besides shouting slogans… What is worse: as they did all this, the police also injured many of the news people who were covering the event, a couple of politicians and several innocent bystanders who just happened to be there when it happened.

The next day the web and the press were full of interviews and pictures of wounded people with some serious damage: ugly bruises on their faces, broken limbs, risking to lose their eyesight, still feeling the effects of tear gas.

Public opinion was outraged. Another protest was scheduled, this time to demonstrate against police brutality. President Dilma was shocked. She publicly condemned the brutality and called on local authorities to refrain from using rubber bullets. The new demonstration was now scheduled a couple of days after the Confederations Cup had already started. Now the whole country was discussing the police’s unwarranted violence and criticizing a left-wing democratic government that was more brutal than the military regime had been from 1964 to 1985.

On the streets there were at least 250,000 people between Rio, São Paulo and other cities. Most of them had never taken to the streets before. Many were not usually riding buses. This was no longer about a 20 cents increase in bus fare. It boiled over and became a protest against police brutality and against the authority figures who had unleashed it. It also targeted football and the World Cup, as government ploys to entertain the masses and distract them from the lack of schools, hospitals and proper security.

Police forces were in a quandary: they were not allowed to be brutal, but now they were the target of the demonstrations! When the crowds saw the police, they were angry and they felt justified in their anger. They threw sticks and stones. They burned cars. Violence increased, although the majority of the demonstrations were still peaceful.Image

Collectivism, Hierarchy and Revolution

Hierarchical cultures have more revolutions than egalitarian cultures. This has been researched and it has been going on for centuries. This time it was happening in Brazil.

The feeling of revolt that had been brewing for three years came to the surface, and the flames were stoked by collectivism. In such cultures, crowds grow very quickly as people are loyal to their groups and value solidarity when fighting other groups. When you know that “everybody is going to the streets” you want to go too, you don’t want to feel excluded.

President Dilma called the mayors and told them: “back down! Cancel the bus fare increase. We need to defuse this thing.”

It was already too late: when the cancellation was announced, the day after the big protests, the people decided to stage another demonstration, to “celebrate victory” and protest against other things. On Thursday, June 20, there were 1.2 million people demonstrating in about 100 cities throughout Brazil. The movement was growing.

Against what? Against everything. Against any form of authority, corruption, the World Cup, and the fact that a lot of money was being spent to organize it, while hospitals and schools were short of funding. Against specific bits of legislation that different groups didn’t like. People were just fed up. There were clashes between groups of protesters with conflicting agendas. It was like somebody had decreed this was “national protest day” so everybody just went out and ranted about something. There were also people protesting the protests, and incidents where people hit protesters with their cars, as they tried to drive through an avenue filled with demonstrators.

By now, even the MPL leaders were scared. They had lost control of the crowds already on “Day Two”. There was no leadership; just a million people going out and voicing their dissatisfaction, most of them simply because they felt this was exciting and they wanted to be part of it. Collectivism in its purest form.Image

Brazil and Egypt

By the way, the same thing happened in Egypt in 2011. It all started when a few thousand people started a kind of “occupy Tahrir Square” movement to protest increases in food prices and unemployment. Mubarak made the same mistake: he unleashed the police on the crowd with orders to “clear the square”. Until then, the demonstration had been peaceful. It was worse in Egypt: people got killed in the clashes. A few days later, like in Brazil, the crowd increased tenfold, protesting the unwarranted brutality. Police were violent again and the whole thing escalated and spiralled out of control. Dozens were killed. Because of collectivism, soon there were hundreds of thousands coming to the streets, many just to support their friends. It culminated with the military removing Mubarak from power. A real full scale revolution, triggered by police brutality.

In Brazil, we don’t know yet what will happen. The movement there is diffuse, unfocused. There is no unified leadership. Political leaders have said they will talk to the protest leaders and take their grievances on board; but there are no protest leaders and the list of grievances is a mile long. There is no common cause to bind the crowd together. Still, 99% of the demonstrators have been peaceful. The media is placing undue emphasis on the 1% who looted and vandalised a few shops. They haven’t showed that the crowds have jeered the vandals and have sat on the ground the minute something like that happens, to expose the perpetrators and show they do not support such actions.

The giant woke up, and in a bad mood. If the police are stupid again and clash with the crowds, the movement will gain new energy and might even turn into a revolution. If the police stay out of it, the demonstrations tend to gradually exhaust themselves. The outcome will be determined by politician’s mistakes in coping with this, rather than by anything else. Considering their track record, however, I would not bet on them sorting this out easily…

%d bloggers like this: