Thursday, March 06, 2014

Oh My God! Look at the Poor People!

How do you parody poverty? I believe it's offensive to poor people not to make jokes about them because they're poor. Poverty deprives you of many material things but it shouldn't deprive you of a sense of humor. That's still free, even if comedy has been largely commercialized. Judging by some Hollywood "comedy" films I've seen lately, the comedy writing process has been pretty much robotized. 

In Rio's slums, poverty has been commercialized too. They call them Poverty Safaris. They are as disgusting as they sound. 

They are basically safari cars flanked by police escorts with sun-burnt tourists wearing carnival hats snapping photos of poor people with their instaphones. 

But those are not nearly as bad as the EuroAmerican-NGO activists who "volunteer" in Favelas. These have the audacity to brag that they are "fighting poverty."

I spent hours in the hilly alleys of Complexo do Alemão. I also rode the cable car that gives you an invasive bird-eye view of poor people's houses. 

When the 2016 Olympiad take place in Rio, the cameras focused on the Olympic stadium will not zoom out enough to show you this heavily populated area of the city. 

Three out of four people I told my name to had the same reaction: "Jamal?!  Millionaire!!!" I was puzzled at first, but then I realized it was a movie reference. Mumbai is 13,400 kilometers away from Rio.

People are conditioned to be afraid of the poor. "They steal!" I say if they were any good at stealing they wouldn't be poor. There you go, a cheap joke at poor people's expense. Of course, they can only afford cheap…. ok ok I'll stop.

Judging by the fortifications and barbwire they hide behind, the people who run the Igreja Catolica are the most scared of their poor neighbors. There are a lot of Igrejas around the favelas. Igreja Bautista, Igreja Evangelica, Igreja Adventista….They are the original NGOs after all. Two thousand years of exploiting and pacifying people in exchange for tax exemptions. It's God's will that 85 individuals control half the world's wealth. Coincidentally, these generous 85 tend to fund NGOs that fight poverty.

Speaking of Brainwashing, I too could not get over my own childhood legends. Sure, FIFA and the Brazilian government are destroying homes and displacing people to build parking lots for the World Cup, but I had to visit the Maracanã.

Now you would expect futebol fans to be energetic. But this kind of energy fills every corner of Rio from the shirtless alleys Complexo do Alemão to the shirtless shopping boulevard of Ipanema – shirts just aren't a thing in Rio –  and I think I figured out Brazil's secret.

While the rest of the world is splitting atoms over energy options, there is a clean, renewable, and potent energy source in Brazil…it's called Samba.

I'm convinced Samba originated as someone was trying to walk on the Hot sand of one of Rio's beaches. The rapid foot motion makes you hover over the ground and thus avoiding third-degree burns. It's a survival skill really.

Brazilians love to dance, and they're pretty damn good at it. Sure there is Samba, but I also witnessed something called Forró. Samba is pretty simple.. just let every muscle and bone in your body shake at warp speed. I said simple, not easy. Forró is more structured. Your feet move front and back, hips oscillate right and left, shoulders stay still, head slightly bobs up and down, and arms alternate between squeezing your partner hard enough that your spleens fuse into one and twirling your partner around with that centrifugal force seen in olympic hammer toss, but without letting them go.  Oh, and this is done on a dance floor packed with dozens of other couples doing the same thing. I stayed away from this because the only thing I could picture if I got in the middle was a tour-de-france peloton tumbling down the alps. 

I felt inadequate and thought I might challenge Brazilians to a Dabke-off, but I have no doubt that if they decide to Dabke it would take them about 30 seconds to out-jump and out-kick Abdel-Halim Caracalla in his prime.

May be continued...

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