Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Edge of Democracy

Not that it's solace or anything, but sometimes it's bracing and instructive to examine the problems going on in other countries, and recently I submerged myself in Brazil and its difficulties by watching the documentary, The Edge of Democracy. Made by Brazilian filmmaker Petra Costa, it's a movie that is part documentary and part memoir, and though it takes a very close and detailed look at the turbulent and sometimes head-spinning recent political events in Brazil, it also serves as a fascinating cautionary tale for this current time in the world, a time of bruised and battered and imperiled democracies. 

It goes without saying that Brazil has its own history and problems.  It has issues and political situations unique to itself.  But at the same time, it also has a number of things in common with the United States.  Here is a story of a place where a widespread optimism took hold under a particular leader and, briefly, his successor, only to see a remarkable series of events result in a total reversal of power.  A democracy that appeared to be heading in one direction (in this case to the left and toward more and more openness) wound up sliding backwards into nationalism and populism, and now Brazil has a leader who knows how to push, through his words and threats, all the autocratic buttons.  And this all happened, it's important to note, through what you might call legal means.  We're not talking about any actual coups here.  

Do you think the United States is polarized?  Our polarization has got nothing on Brazil.  Do you think we have a president who is an environmental disaster?  Brazil's president has set about allowing faster deforestation of the Amazon jungle than anyone in history. It's funny how the language used by opposing sides in the United States so often sounds quite like the language (and insults) hurled between opposing sides in Brazil.  And let's not forget that both countries still have to deal, quite uncomfortably, with the legacy of slavery.  

It might not be something you want to watch when you're in the mood for a comedy (unless we're talking about the overall and eternal comedy of being human), but The Edge of Democracy is a movie absolutely worth seeing.  I found that it had anger and sadness and very sharp analysis in equal measure, and I found it riveting.


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