Let's say you're a Westerner, and you want to hate a foreign country. Really hate the shit out of it. But you're not the type who gets off on hatred-for-hatred's-sake the way, for example, some people at this newspaper do. Instead, you're a typically pious Westerner. You really believe that you're good. You believe that all of the freedoms, rights and benefits you enjoy as a citizen of your Western country not only make you a Better Person, but also that these wonderful freedoms exist in part because you help make them possible.
But this raises a problem: to feed this high you get from believing that you make freedom possible, you must fight injustice. You need action: to participate in that moral crusade against Something Evil. However, you're not the type to make waves at home. You're worried about your career. You're the type who seeks approval--which is why you're so righteous in the first place. You want to score the rush of being a freedom crusader, but you're not willing to pay for it. To paraphrase yourself, you're not stupid. So you've got to fight your liberal crusade in a consequence-free environment: somewhere safely far, far away from your home country. Just as wars are limited by manpower and budgets, your moral crusade is limited by "anything that might negatively affect my credit rating, my employment prospects, and my ability to be invited to other people's dinner parties."
So how do you square this circle of hate, piety, and conformism?
E-Z. Hate Russia.
As we've seen over the past year or more, Russia has increasingly become the perfect indignation-object of every crusading Westerner, from careerist to journalist to think-tanker to corrupt oil pimp to lonely blogger (see Russophobe article, page 3).
Rather than going over again all the reasons why and how Russia has become the Poster Boy for Evil -- and why this portrayal is in no small part disingenuous and deeply sinister I'd like to offer up another country to hate. It's newer. It's streamlined for a smooth moral-crusading ride. It's much more lifestyle-friendly. And the best thing of all is that it's got all the evil aspects of Russia, only worse, so you can feel great about yourself while hating it!
Folks, I now unveil to you the new 2007 model country for pious Westerners to hate: Please welcome... Brazil! [Gasps, applause...]
Why hate Brazil? First of all, the weather's much better there, meaning that if Brazil replaced Russia as The Country To Hate, life would be much better for those employed in the Moral Crusade Industry: NGO directors, Western journalists, etc. There's something undignified about hating a country with such repetitiously shitty, gray weather. Moreover, why pick on Russia when it's dying out anyway? Whereas Brazil's population is booming, now at 175 million and growing, Russia's 142-million population is dying out faster than the Chilean Sea Bass. Hating a country like this is like backing up over roadkill, then peeling out on its pelt. How satisfying can it possibly be to one's moral funny-bone?
There are countless other lifestyle benefits to dedicating your life to hating Brazil, allowing you to hate in comfort. For example, Brazilians always smile, they're always partying on the streets, and the food is spicier and richer. That means that while you crusade against Brazil's human rights abuses, you can actually be happy and enjoy your life. Just fake the hate. Best of all for Western womyn, you might have the kind of steamy love affair with one of those greasy Brazilian dudes that you read about in harlequin romances-you know, the type who dance and who have ponytails. And let's be honest, if there's one thing that drives the majority of Russia-hating Western women mad here, it's the distinct impossibility of ever having a harlequin romance in this country. The best a Western woman can hope for in Russia is a pale version of the Ike & Tina What's Love Got To Do With It romance.
So there you have it. Brazil: A Comfortable Country To Hate.
Now comes the big question: "What has Brazil ever done wrong?" This is the easy part -- or would be, if anyone knew the story. Brazil violates so many basic human values we Westerners hold dear that it's an absolute wonder it's managed to evade the Outrage Industry all these years. As far as your average schmuck is concerned, Brazil shed its authoritarian past, and for the past 15-20 years has pursued a progressively pro-American, pro-Western, pro-capitalist line. They have elections, after all. Have elections, will Westernize... or so the lazy-thinking goes.
Think again. Consider this excerpt from a recent Amnesty International report:
"The use of torture and ill-treatment remained widespread and systematic throughout the criminal justice system, at point of arrest, in police stations and prisons as well as in juvenile detention centres. ... Police officers and 'death squads' linked to the security forces were responsible for numerous killings of civilians, including children, in circumstances suggesting that they were extrajudicial executions. Land reform activists, environmentalists and indigenous peoples in rural areas were killed or assaulted by military police or gunmen hired by local landowners. Human rights defenders continued to be threatened and attacked. Important trials of human rights violators took place. However, most of those responsible for human rights abuses continued to benefit from impunity."
Sounds kinda familiar. Or would, if anyone ever bothered making a fuss about it. The fact is, if you read the human rights reports, Brazil, considered one of the world's emerging economic giants, almost makes Russia look like Norway.
According to Global Justice, in just one state, Rio de Janeiro, police killed 1,195 citizens in 2003. Human Rights Watch estimates that police murder well over 3,000 per year in total, noting that the figure could be far higher "as many states do not record such figures correctly and some do not record them at all."
If wanton murder by law enforcement bodies and death squads isn't hyper-Russia-y enough to get your moral indignation juices flowing, then this should: Brazil has become an increasingly hostile country for journalists and human rights workers. In 2004, Brazil canceled the visa for New York Times reporter Larry Rohter, and moved to expel him after he published an article accusing adorably bearded quasi-socialist President Lula of being a boozer. Around the same time, Lulu nearly pushed through a law enacting a Federal Council of Journalism, whose job was to oversee the "orientating, disciplining and controlling" journalists and the media. The bill eventually died, but was revived again last year in different form.
Brazil's own journalists have suffered far worse. Last October alone, two journalists were murdered in one week. Already this year, a leading TV news presenter, Domingues Junior, was assaulted in his home with his family, prompting the Committee To Protect Journalists to call its members to action.
The de-ja-russia-vu list goes on and on. Racism, rampant poverty, gross inequalities... And a bad attitude towards NGOs. Another bill in 2004 introduced by the government and passed by the Senate proposed to "register, regulate and control" NGOS. To quote Human Rights Watch, "Federal funding to these organizations would be conditioned on their registry, and they would be required to report annually on all private and public funding they receive, including donations."
Brazil has more than its share of Politkovskayas. One possible candidate for future death is Conceiulo Paganele, who runs a mothers' organization monitoring juvenile detention centers called The Association of Mothers and Friends of Children and Adolescents, or AMAR. In 2005, she reported on torture in a juvenile detention center complex. Ever since then, she has been receiving anonymous death threats, and so has her family. By late 2005, the Governor of Sao Paulo publicly accused Paganele of "always acting against the government" and "creating problems." Last year, three separate criminal investigations were opened up against her, which Amnesty International called "politically motivated."
Brazil also has a record of treating decent Americans badly, and blaming everything on the good ol' U S of A. For example, did you know that last year, America's main pilot's union advised all of its pilots not to fly over Brazilian airspace? That's because a crash last September of a passenger jet was initially blamed on two American pilots who were flying a small jet in the larger one's path. According to a New York Times reporter who was with the pilots, Brazilian police threatened the pilots during the interrogation, and the two were arrested and accused of manslaughter. Only when the transcripts of the Brazilian flight controller's fuckup were leaked the greasy bastard told both planes to fly straight into each other were the American pilots freed.
There are plenty of other reasons to hate Brazil. They fudge elections. They're incredibly corrupt. They were close to building a nuclear bomb, and still might. They play a double-game with Everybody's Favorite Latin Villain, Hugo Chavez. They're singlehandedly responsible for destroying our atmosphere by mass deforestation of the Amazon. And, worst of all, Brazil is home to some of the nastiest creatures on planet earth, including the candiru fishlet, also known as the "vampire fish of Brazil," which lives in the Amazon River. I'll just quote our own Schopenhauer Award description here:
"The Candiru is the only vertebrate parasite on Earth to target humans. When it gets hungry, it sniffs the current of its stream or river for a human urine trail, then follows the trail upstream to the source: someone pissing into the water. The Candiru, which is eel-shaped and translucent (and thus difficult to see) wriggles up the victim's anus, then gnaws its way into the urinary tract.
"The pain is reportedly agonizing. And once the Candiru is in place, it's impossible to dislodge, thanks to several sharp, back-pointing spines which pop up when the critter has reached its destination.
"Men who have been Candiru-ized have an option, at least: cutting off their penis. The pain and horror of infestation is so great that victims not only accept but beg for this radical therapy. Women aren't so lucky. They have no way at all to get rid of the spiked hook inside them.
"People aren't the only species the Candiru chooses. It will chase, enter and suck the life out of anything it sniffs in the water. Its spikes are actually designed to force apart the gills or scales of other freshwater fish. It rides along with the victim, using its rasp-like tongue to scrape flesh and blood until the host fish dies. Then it settles down for a nap at the bottom of the river until it wakes up feeling like a snack. It could be a cow, a fish, or, say, a nature-show host unwisely pissing into an Amazon tributary."
Give Russia this, at least: there are very few horrible parasites here. Instead it hosts some of the mammal kingdom's most exquisitely beautiful species, dwindling though they are (thanks largely to the Chinese, another country we'd want to consider for Hate). Brazil is like the Serengeti of God's Horrible Creations. The Candiru is not an exception, but a metaphor for Brazil.
We're just scratching the surface, but we think you get the picture: Brazil is a much more appealing target for hate than Russia. With Brazil's exploding population, its growing economic and geopolitical power, its nuclear and aerospace ambitions, and its appalling human rights record, you can see that there's a lot to hate. A lot.
See accompanying Hacks Path to Putin's Fascism flow chart.