Brazil: an Almost Postmodern Novel by Felipe Diógenes

Brazil: an Almost Postmodern Novel

by Felipe Diógenes

Writing an article about the political situation of Brazil is something a little bit peculiar, because since the beginning a poor boy is taught to think of soccer to be one of the only ways of becoming socially included. The interesting thing is to write about this when the Brazilian soccer identity seems to be deconstructed. Then raises the question: what is the actual Brazil? The dear reader would also ask: “I was expecting to read something about the political situation of the country, why am I reading about soccer?”

For the cliché or simply political incompetence I can’t think of another way of starting it. In New York every time I say I’m Brazilian I automatically become a soccer player or a professional samba dancer. I think all these compliments represent political compliments. According to the playwright Bertolt Brecht “the worst illiterate is the political illiterate” because “he doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions.” Justified on Brecht my ordinary decision to speak about the soccer situation, I mean, political situation of Brazil.

Brazil’s identity was deconstructed in 2014 when the Brazilian team lost to Germany in the Soccer World Cup. What would have happened to the poor weak warriors, the Brazilian players? I nowadays believe that poor players need more than only feet swing to become a Brazilian member team, because of all the corruption behind this green field business. Soccer moguls put only the players they want in every team they wish to. Then, an almost impolite team as the Brazilian one could not win a well organized Germany team. Impolite for sure because it leaves the poor people outside, as from the team as from the audience. Dear New York friends, I couldn’t go watch any games during the World Cup, because I am a professional of education, I mean, low salary and not a dollar currency.

This is the reality for the majority of the Brazilians. They are left outside their own houses, an Ark with no Noah, a ship with no pier, a country with no map, an almost postmodern novel. It’s true that a Brazilian poor person doesn’t fit in a post modern novel; I don’t even know what “postmodernism” means, do you? Maybe it is a country where the majority is poor; the education fails because of social inequality issues, police authoritarianism, and because of the almost fair meritocracy. It is fair, but only according to mass media and some politicians, responsible for sparing it as if good news. Aécio Neves, for example, the presidential candidate from the PSDB party defeated in the last election, strongly declares that meritocracy is fair to everyone. He states it means equal opportunities to anyone to show his talent and to ascend socially.

The rule of quotas created for universities, based on the obligation of federal institutions of reserving places for black and Indigenous population, coming from public schools, seem to bother the small population that shape Brazilian upper and also middle class. They seem to be uncomfortable with sharing the same college or flight to a foreign country. The wisest professors say “race” is not an issue. This way many understand that prejudice does not exist in any country, others understand that what matters is the human race, which is very kind. However, the majority of population does not understand anything because they do not know how to read or know how to read without context. Usually, these almost philosophers socially ascended and they speak through a lens called high salary paid by the federal government. The salary is not bad; it pays a trip to the first world to taste how an organized audience that does not scream or sing behaves.

About atmosphere of the audience I prefer the Brazilian one, I mean the one who enjoys a pick-up game in the Sir João’s field, because it is for free. I dislike the audience who watches the official Brazilian team games. I don’t like them because they don’t know how to play politics the right way, it means, to be quiet. Instead, they swear the elected president, Dilma Rousseff. Playing politics the right way means to watch the game in silence as well as we must watch the politicians do whatever they want: quiet. After all, the president is already elected and to buy beans, tickets to the world cup (how about my not Olympic Games?) and have lunch at McDonalds are the same.

Don’t say anymore that Brazil economic and education is worse than ever. I studied at the Federal University of Minas Gerais and there are several stories told by professors who used to work there during the Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s (PSDB party) presidential mandate, from 1995 to 2003. They related a very bad situation about the university environment, lack of both money and toilet paper. Nowadays there is a lack of money that nobody wants to explain its source. People in general tend to blame the actual political party, PT, I suggest that it is not that simple. I think we don’t need to blame only one player when the whole Brazilian team has not been playing good football for decades.

Meanwhile the upper and middle class keep beating their pans from their cabins, trying to draw attention from the means of communication in order to try to take Dilma over his throne. The pans are like chorus, symbolizing the way they feel unstable in the status quo. Now the poor people have more opportunities to go to the university because of the social-political programs that have been kept by the actual government. It is not more than a right for any citizen. Citizenship means having places for everyone both on the public transportation or to the private World Cup that happened inside my home where I could not watch on television because a teacher salary that barely pays the electricity bills.

I would not like to end without explaining the title. According to Umberto Ecco, “the postmodern reply to the modern consists of recognising that the past, since it cannot really be destroyed, because its destruction leads to silence, must be revisited; but with irony, not innocently.” When people clap their pans on their cabins or apartments, it demonstrates they are afraid of losing their social status. It strongly symbolizes the destruction caused by the silence from a population who does not visit the house where they were born, being unconscious of the past. The unconsciousness is the sickness that doesn’t let a player like Garrincha to be born again or the reader to play with the irony that is like the brilliant ball this old player used to play. In addition, I found out that public transportation in Brazil got higher taxes again, bringing people out into the streets to protest. As you know, everything is related to politics and unfortunately public services in Brazil are very expensive as well as football, I mean, soccer games if you prefer.

1. Clapping pans: protest by a middle and upper brazilian class that do not approve the actual mandate. The claping pans act is commonly named “panelaço”.

2. Garrincha: Manuel Francisco dos Santos was a Brazilian footballer well known by his way of dribbling.


Topic Exploration Pack: Practioners: Brecht. Cambridge 2015 p. 11

(GEYH, Paula et al. (ed.), 1998. p. 622)

Shirtless Bodies in Pointless Times Square War

In New York politics, as in Newtonian physics, there is action and reaction and, too often, overreaction.

Take Times Square, and the handful of women there who expose their painted breasts and pose for photos with tourists among the Elmos and Spider-Men. They are vastly outnumbered by the milling throngs of out-of-towners, and far tinier than towering images of near-naked models preening and pouting on the digital billboards all around. But their presence has been enough to stir a Lower Manhattan tabloid into a righteous fury.

“BUST THIS FLESH PIT” read one Daily News headline this month. “TOO MUCH TO BARE,” said another

Times Square has an old reputation as a crossroads of bad behavior. But is it really being overrun again by vice? By pimps, prostitutes, muggers, drug dealers, bootleggers, pornographers or even card-game hustlers? Not even close. And yet The News, horrified at the rampant shirtlessness, put these frightening women on Page 1 for four straight days. (Its usual spot for breasts is Page 3.) It called the city to arms to repel this “dastardly” outrage.


A woman, shirtless and being painted, in Times Square on Thursday. CreditRichard Perry/The New York Times

Predictably, distressingly, our leaders took the bait. On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasioannounced the formation of a multiagency force “to curb topless individuals” and their costumed counterparts in Times Square.

There’s nothing wrong with asking smart people to study a problem — and theintense crowding in Times Square andreports of harassment of naïve tourists by illegally aggressive panhandlers certainly qualify as problems. But the size and firepower of this task force are more appropriate for an Ebola outbreak. It is led by Police Commissioner William Bratton and the City Planning Commission chairman, Carl Weisbrod, and includes the Police Department; the Manhattan district attorney’s office; the Transportation Department; the Law Department; the Department of Consumer Affairs; the Department of City Planning; the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice; NYC & Company; and the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, Alicia Glen.

Their job is to study how topless women can be “regulated,” and to report back by Oct. 1.

On Thursday, Mr. de Blasio suggested one solution: eliminating some of Times Square’s pedestrian plazas, apparently on the theory that if you can get tourists to go away, you reduce the topless-woman threat. Other officials suggest creating a pen for the women and costumed characters — sort of a panhandling zoo — or turning this great bustling commercial zone into, of all things, a park.

Such proposals, and Mr. de Blasio’s sudden willingness to roll back years of ambitious streetscape redesign, are a monumental overreaction. The mayor could save everybody a lot of time. He could just meet with a few First Amendment lawyers and some of the women and men who make their living posing for tips. He doesn’t have to wait a month — he could get a report this afternoon. It would remind everyone that being shirtless in the city is perfectly legal, a privilege men have enjoyed since forever. That the people who flock around the painted women in Times Square do not seem terribly offended. And that those who are can always walk away.

Most important, it would say that panhandlers who become aggressive and obstructive can be dealt with. Mr. Bratton’s officers are trained to handle terrorists and epidemics and armed criminals. They are more than capable of dealing with half-naked panhandlers who get pushy.

This page is not endorsing extortion. People who break the law should be arrested. And the city should be seriously thinking about how to make Times Square work better than it does — in many ways it is too successful, clotted with so many slow-moving people and vendors and leafleteers and untalented buskers that it can be a highly unpleasant place to try to walk through. Its vibe can be cruddy.

But Times Square is not going to hell, or anywhere near hell’s vicinity. Mr. de Blasio’s enemies have been predicting New York’s downfall since before the mayor took office. He should not be feeding their false narrative by panicking over some localized crudeness. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whorecently said that he thought what the women were doing was illegal and had to be stopped, and that they reminded him of the “bad old days,” should stop being ridiculous.

The Times has a long relationship with our namesake square. It’s in our backyard now, since we moved to Eighth Avenue, but it was our front porch for more than 100 years. We and the city have survived rallies and riots and many, many New Year’s ball drops. More seasoned members of our staff remember how shuttle vans used to take late-shift employees in safety from our old 43rd Street building to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Pennsylvania Station.

Times Square can reveal New York at its bleakest and most brilliant. It took grit and resolve to stick with it through the bad times. This is not one of them.


“Hamilton: the Musical:” Black Actors Dress Up like Slave Traders… and it’s Not Halloween

“Hamilton: the Musical:” Black Actors Dress Up like Slave Traders…and It’s Not Halloween


Establishment historians write best sellers in which some of the cruel actions of the Founding Fathers are smudged over if not ignored altogether. They’re guilty of a cover-up.

This is the case with Alexander Hamilton whose life has been scrubbed with a kind of historical Ajax until it sparkles. His reputation has been shored up as an abolitionist and someone who was opposed to slavery. Not true.

Alexander Hamilton married into the Schuylers, a slaveholding family, and participated in the bartering of slaves. One of “Hamilton’s” actors, Renee Elise Goldsberry (“The Color Purple”), who visited the Schuyler home, said the Schuyler sisters, “were the Kardashians” of 1780 — superstars, but with dignity and grace.”[1] Maybe they were able to maintain “dignity and grace” because they had 27 slaves serve them. Black women whose labor assignments left them little time to preen. Is this actor disregarding, callously, that the sisters thrived on the labor of enslaved women? No, she probably attended the same schools that I attended. A curriculum that endowed slave traders and Indian exterminators with the status of deities.

Even Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton, upon which the musical “Hamilton” is based, admits (kinda), reluctantly, that Hamilton and his wife may, [his italics], have owned two household slaves and may have negotiated the sale of slaves on behalf of his in-laws, the Schuylers. Chernow says that Hamilton may have negotiated these sales, “reluctantly?” How does he know this?

Like other founding fathers, Hamilton found slavery, an “evil,” yet was a slave trader. The creepy Thomas Jefferson also appears in “Hamilton.” He was even a bigger hypocrite in his
51haSf-ecnL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_blaming King George for the slave trade, a contention that was deleted from the final version of the Declaration of Independence.

“Jefferson railed against King George III for creating and sustaining the slave trade, describing it as ‘a cruel war against human nature.’”[2] Was Lin-Manuel Miranda, who designed this show, aware that Thomas Jefferson’s solution to the Native American problem was “extermination?” He told his Secretary of War, General Henry Dearborn (who was the primary government official responsible for Indian affairs): “if we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down until that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi.”[3]

Similarly, Andrew Jackson found slavery, “barbaric,” yet owned slaves. He might have been the founder of the false police report. “He concocted stories if discipline crippled or killed a slave. Of a beaten woman, he wrote to a partner in one such cover-up: ‘You may say to Dr. Hogg, that her lament was occasioned by a stroke from Betty [another slave], or jumping over a rope, in which her feet became entangled, and she fell.”’ [4]The same 1 percent establishment critics, who gave Andrew Jackson a pass, are praising “Hamilton.” One writer even hailed Jackson as a Rock and Roll star.

Professor Michelle Duross, of the University at Albany, State University of New York, is much more direct and shows what happens when someone from a class, whose voice has been neglected, invades the all-white male country club of historians. Unlike Chernow, her treatment of Hamilton as a slave trader is not couched in equivocating qualifiers that are favorable to this founding father. She takes to task the Hamilton biographies written by his awe-struck groupies:

“Alexander Hamilton’s biographers praise Hamilton for being an abolitionist, but they have overstated Hamilton’s stance on slavery.

“Historian John C. Miller insisted, ‘He [Hamilton] advocated one of the most daring invasions of property rights that was ever made– the abolition of Negro slavery.’

“Biographer Forest McDonald maintained, ‘Hamilton was an abolitionist, and on that subject he never wavered.’”

She writes, “Hamilton’s position on slavery is more complex than his biographers’ suggest.” Some historians maintain that Hamilton’s birth on the island of Nevis and his subsequent upbringing in St. Croix instilled in him a hatred for the brutalities of slavery. Historian James Oliver Horton suggests that Hamilton’s childhood surrounded by the slave system of the West Indies “would shape Alexander’s attitudes about race and slavery for the rest of his life.’”

She writes,

“No existing documents of Hamilton’s support this claim. Hamilton never mentioned anything in his correspondence about the horrors of plantation slavery in the West Indies.

“Hamilton’s involvement in the selling of slaves suggests that his position against slavery was not absolute. Besides marrying into a slaveholding family, Hamilton conducted transactions for the purchase and transfer of slaves on behalf of his in-laws and as part of his assignment in the Continental Army.”[5]

Another historian, Alan McLane Hamilton writes to counter the claim that Hamilton never owned slaves: “[Hamilton] never owned a negro slave… is untrue. In his books, we find that there are entries showing that he purchased them for himself and for others.”[6]

In the musical, black actors play Washington and other founding fathers. Are they aware that George Washington is known for creating strategies for returning runaways? That he was into search and destroy when campaigning against Native American resistance fighters.

“By 1779, George Washington had already earned the famous moniker ‘Father of His Country.’ Among the Iroquois he was known asConotocarious, or ‘Town Destroyer.’” [7]

Historians, who serve as lackeys for famous, wealthy white men term him a “merciful slave master.” An oxymoron.

“Washington authorized the ‘total destruction and devastation’ of the Iroquois settlements across upstate New York so ‘that country may not merely be overrun but destroyed.’ Under Washington’s orders forty Iroquois villages to ashes, and left homeless many of the Indians, hundreds of whom died of exposure during the following frigid winter.

“Chief Cornplanter, who headed the Seneca tribe of the Iroquois, stressed the durability of ‘Town Destroyer’ as the commander-in-chief’s nickname. ‘And to this day when that name is heard,’ the chief said, ‘our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling close to the necks of their mothers. To this day, ‘Town Destroyer’ is still used as an Iroquois name for the president of the United States.”[8]

Slave trading usually involved sex trafficking, where the planters

turned their plantations into enforced and involuntary harems, an enterprise that fugitive slave writer, William Wells Brown, found disgusting. George Washington’s Sally Hemings, according to black oral tradition, was a slave named Venus. Fifty percent of the slaves at Arlington, where Robert E. Lee lived with the granddaughter of Martha Washington, were “bi-racial.”[9]

So what’s the difference between Ariel Castro who kept three women against their will and Alexander Hamilton and other founding fathers? His groupies argue that despite his flaws–they don’t include the slavet-rading parts–he was smart. Well so was Ariel Castro. He was able to evade detection by even members of his family. For years. Moreover did he work these women from sun up to sun down without paying them? Maybe Broadway will do a musical about his life.

Already, the same 1 percent critics who drooled over “Bloody Bloody, Andrew” about Andrew Jackson, the Eichmann of American Native American policy, are already embracing “Hamilton.” They must be as ignorant as the black and Latino actors who have lent their talents to “Hamilton.”

Maybe that’s why the establishment critics leave out the slave parts. The idea that Black Lives Matter is an improvement over their slavery status, where blacks were treated as objects to be bought and sold, worked, beaten, killed and fucked. Though ignorant hateful people say that the Civil War was fought to uphold “states rights,” the slaveholders of the south, who kept Africans against their will, as a result of their free labor, were the richest white people in the world.[10]Maybe the country clubs of historians and Beltway critics still feel that way about African captives.

And why would President Obama lend his prestige to this thing? First he welcomes black pathology pimp, David Simon, to the White House, where he endorsed “The Wire,” a show in which black children are singled out as degenerate drug peddlers, when all of the heroin seems to be stashed in Vermont and other states with few blacks among their population. He honors this hustler even after Prof. Karl Alexander, who did an actual study of Simon’s black Baltimore neighborhoods, found Simon’s presentation to be “one sided” as he put it, politely.

Is this the president’s view of traditional African Americans? Criminals. People who sang and danced their way through slavery under the watchful eye of merciful slave masters? He went to Harvard. Didn’t he take courses from Martin Kilson? Doesn’t the president know that Thomas Jefferson’s proposal for the Native American problem was extermination?

Now The New York Times has appointed Simon the chief interpreter of the black experience. The honorary Head-Negro-In-Charge. Al Jolson without the black face. He’s doing a miniseries about Martin Luther King, Jr. He’s already lined up a couple of black writers to be in on the project, who will be there to defend the thing if black people become upset. It’s being sponsored by Oprah Winfrey who gave a green light to Precious, the worst black movie ever made. I can understand why some young black Americans are leaving the country. I met some of them in Paris.

Now I have seen everything. Can you imagine Jewish actors in Berlin’s theaters taking roles of Goering? Goebbels? Eichmann? Hitler?

When I brought up the subject of Hamilton’s slaveholding in a Times’ comment section, a white man accused me of political correctness. If Hamilton had negotiated the sale of white people, do you think that an audience would be paying $400 per ticket to see a musical based upon his life? No, his reputation would be as tarnished as that of his assassin Aaron Burr.

Benjamin Franklin wrote a satire, called “Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim on the Slave Trade,”[11] in which he dealt with his contemporaries’ justifications for slavery only he, in order to spotlight the defenders’ hypocrisy, put these same arguments in the voice of a fictional Muslim, who justified the enslavement of white Christian slaves.

And here is the final insult: “The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is working with the producers on an effort to make it possible for large numbers of New York City schoolchildren to see the show.”

This is the best argument I know for the establishment of more Afro-Centric schools and Hispanic schools in order to balance the curriculum promoted by Euro-Centric schools, in which perpetrators of genocide and slave holders are honored. Was school integration a mistake? Were these the brainwashing schools attended by the Latino and Black actors who are performing in this thing?

The best argument that I know for the advocacy of such schools came from a Jewish professor who attended Hebrew School before public schools. When a public school teacher praised the Crusades, she was able to point out that the Crusaders set up pogroms.

In the heady times during the slave revolt of the 1960s, the rebels boasted about how they were using the enemy’s language and how they were “stealing his language.” Now things have been turned upside down. Now the masters, the producers of this profit hungry production, which has already made 30 million dollars, are using the slave’s language: Rock and Roll, Rap and Hip Hop to romanticize the careers of kidnappers, and murderers. People, who, like Jefferson, beat and fucked his slaves and spied on their fucking.

The very clever salesman for this project is Lin-Manuel Miranda. He compares Hamilton, a man who engaged in cruel practices against those who had been kidnapped from their ancestral homes, with that of a slave, Tupac Shakur. He is making profits for his investors with glib appeals such as this one. The first week’s box office take was $1,153,386.

Amiri Baraka, the master of irony, your voice is missed.



[1] “Actresses in ‘Hamilton’ Take a Trip to a Family Home for a History Lesson” James Barron, New York Times, July 13,2015

[2] “Letter From Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec.6, 1813.”


[4] Nixon’s Piano, Presidents And Racial Politics From Washington To Clinton Kenneth O’Reilly, The Free Press, New York, 1995




[8] ibid.

[9]Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters, Elizabeth Brown Pryor.

[10] The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. Kindle Edition by Edward E. Baptist.

[11]“ Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim on the Slave Trade.” Pow Wow,Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience-Short Fiction from Then to Now, edited by Ishmael Reed with Carla Blank, Da Capo Press, 2009, New York.


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