I’M SORRY I EVER MET YOU

A.A. Gill writes a stunningly concise, delight-packed précis of Brazil as a fourth power (Vanity Fair, September 2007):

Brazil is everyone’s second team. We all love Brazil…. Brazilians have the most-sought-after stolen passport in the world because it could belong to anyone. We all look Brazilian. They have the biggest population of Japanese outside Prada [sic]. There are tons of blond, blue-eyed Germans having beer festivals….

While we all look at the cunning power of China, with its ravenous, belching industrial revolution that consumes the world and pukes it back out cheaper and tackier; and India, with its 22nd-century I.T., 19th-century infrastructure, and third-century philosophy; and Russia… no one seems to pay much attention to the fourth member of the four horsemen of the future: Brazil….

Almost every precious stone and halfway-useful bit of ore is buried under Brazil…. If you don’t care much for balance sheets, just go to a Rio juice bar and look at the menu. The first 10 flavours will be familiar. The last dozen you’ll never have heard of….

There is gym equipment all over the streets the way Phoenix has park benches. Brazil looks in the mirror every morning and loves, just adores, what it sees. Imagine what that feels like.

And since this article is now hard to find (and its writer was a monster):

Blame it on Brazil

With its trillion-dollar economy, stupendous resources, and habit of throwing a world-class party at the drop of a buriti, Brazil is the 21st-century giant no one worries about and everybody loves

There are many ways of bisecting the world, of making binary distinctions between north and south, haves/have‑nots, wheat/rice, Baywatch/Al-Jazeera, shirt-in/shirt-out. But what is most interesting, most telling, is the division between the breast world and bottom world.

The United States is right at the cleavage of the breast world. Breast Is Best. It is the wholesome American bosom, perky with promise. Breasts point at you from billboards, glossy pages, shop windows, and while you’re running for rush-hour taxis. The breast world encompasses North America, most of Europe (though the Swiss are non-aligned), reaching the permanent tundras of Siberia and the glittering Bosporus. The Turks go for stomach. Who knows what tickles the mojo of the hijabbed and burkaed Middle East and Central Asia. Fancy eyes, probably. The bottom world is most of the Southern Hemisphere and includes much of Africa, as well as the subcontinent of India and those parts of the Far East that stated a preference – as far as we can tell, the Inuit are bottom folk.

And then there’s Latin America, booty country from the Rio Grande to Tierra del Fuego. The bottom world meets the breast world at the gringo border. Derrière mecca, Rearsville central, the vibrating, syncopating, sashaying, working-it, heaving seat of bottoms is Brazil. Rio: proudly, majestically, the butt of the world. The rapt adoration of bottoms by Brazilians is astonishing. It’s the defining characteristic of Brazilian society. It makes life slightly different. If your main feature is worn in front, if it’s your chest, then you have to make eye contact with the men who are sizing you up. But if the object of attraction is behind you, you can only imagine how it’s being received. Men turn and admire quite openly. Brazilian women are all optimists. It gives them a peculiar swagger. Brazilian women’s independence comes directly from their bottoms.

Brazil is everyone’s second team. We all love Brazil. All the associations with Brazil are good, warm, and sexy. Samba and Ipanema, bottoms and beautiful soccer, carnaval, rainforest, and biofuel. Brazilians have the most sought-after stolen passport in the world because it could belong to anyone. We all look Brazilian. They have the biggest population of Japanese outside Prada. There are tons of blond, blue-eyed Germans having beer festivals. There’s every shade of indigenous Indian and West African. This is the melting pot. It’s not a country without racism or snobbery, but it’s malleable, more homogeneous than hierarchic, or, as they say, Um pe na cozinha. Everyone has one foot in the kitchen.

While we all look at the cunning power of China, with its ravenous, belching industrial revolution that consumes the world and pukes it back out cheaper and tackier; and India, with its 22nd-century I.T., 19th-century infrastructure, and 3rd-century philosophy; and Russia, with its black miser’s heart and lachrymose marzipan soul, and a society of pitiless cruelty and exploitation, no one seems to pay much attention to the fourth member of the four horsemen of the future: Brazil.

It’s big, almost as big as the continental United States, and it has everything. A whole world in one country, a one-stop shop. Almost every precious stone and halfway useful bit of ore is buried under Brazil. Everything grows on top of Brazil. It has great swaths of underutilized agricultural land – the capacity for growth is exponential, staggering. It’s a country that can feed or cleanly power half the planet, but perhaps the most remarkable statistic, the sleeping fact, is that Brazil has nearly 20% of the world’s freshwater.

It’s a trillion-dollar economy with a balance-of-payments surplus, roughly 3% growth, and inflation that has plummeted from 2,500% in 1993 to between 2% and 4%, depending on whom you ask. In the same period the minimum wage has risen from $55 a month to $200. If you don’t understand or care much for balance sheets, just go to a Rio juice bar and look at the menu. The first 10 flavors will be familiar. The last dozen you’ll have never heard of. Brazil has more of everything than you can imagine, and it’s still on the first page. It’s like the U.S. in the 1850s but with better music.

But what makes Brazil the most enviable place on the globe is something that doesn’t appear on U.N. synopses. Brazilians have the ability to make a party out of nothing, and then make it the most exciting night you’ve ever had. Someone once said that dancing is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire. The way Brazilians dance, it’s not an expression, it’s foreplay. There is a rhythm that runs through Brazilian life, and it affects everyone and laces them together with an amoral, prehistoric, sweaty, rainforest beat that’s as dirty as sin but also as elegant and suave as angels: excitable, dangerous, irresistible, and best of all, most attractively, it’s all guiltless. Remember what that felt like? Remember a time when fun didn’t come with a disclaimer, a health warning, neighbors, consequences, and all the sensible nanny responsibilities, the restrictions that make us worry about offsetting our party footprint?

Brazil is a nation of inexcusable social division. Drug and gang crime blight and support the favelas. But the urge and the ability to have a really big, good time is a Brazilian birthright. They didn’t get much of life and liberty, but they went all out in the pursuit of happiness.

Nightlife unites the nation with music and gyrating bums. The greatest display of exuberance and joy is made by the people who have the least. The rich live lives of unapologetic extravagance, but they do it shoulder to shoulder with the poor. There is nowhere to hide, nowhere to dissemble. The poor of the favelas look into the windows of the rich. The plastic surgeon who’s lifting society buttocks in the morning will be mending cleft palates in the slums in the afternoon. The president is a barely literate man who rose from abysmal rural poverty to govern a country that does all the things that Hollywood pretends to be about, all the posturing of hedonism, all the expensive beauty and personal maintenance, all the trappings of sexual availability. All the things that are so fake in our society they have for real in Brazil.

In Brazil, they feel no pain, no responsibility. All they feel is impending great expectations, and buttocks. Ultimately, it’s the vainest country on earth, besotted by the way it looks, its tan, its glutes, its bikini. Just watch the 60-year-olds in Speedo thongs pound the boardwalk early in the morning, sucking in their stomachs. There is gym equipment all over the streets the way Phoenix has park benches. Brazil looks in the mirror every morning and loves, just adores, what it sees. Imagine what that feels like.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.12.14 14:35. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2007/12/14/gill-brazil/

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