Anti-World Cup protesters are Brazil’s luddites

The vast majority of the tiny minority protesting on Brazil’s streets now is made of anti-World Cup protesters who say the tournament should be stopped because Brazil overspent with it.  Yes, that is what they believe in. Once Brazil has invested about US$ 30 billion (US$ 7 billion 0nly in stadia), they believe the country should bear an even bigger burden by not doing the event at all. Of course that won’t be happening, but the sheer notion this could be a valid point shows how low the level of political debate is here. Instead of taking criticism to the general elections in October, they choose to sabotage.

They aren’t very different from the luddites, who were working-class English protesters that broke machines during the Industrial Revolution. That’s how they thought they would keep their jobs.  I am not saying that anti-World Cup protesters are working-class, but many of them do come from a middle class that isn’t very used to being very political — and that makes them similar to the luddites of the 19th century. In England the fear of the protesters was automation and technology. In Brazil they are scared of putting the country in the international stage so it is better compared to other nations.

Part of the Brazilian bipolar behavior comes from the fact we enjoy being isolated from the world. We don’t even think of ourselves as Latin Americans. We have feared modernization for very long. We are an important nation that speaks a less and less relevant language — and that affects how we see things. That is why many of the protesters think of Brazil as the country with most corrupted officials, bad planning, violent police and violations to human rights. We surely have issues to address, but we are far from being Russia, China, Cuba or other flawed democracies that the rest of the world understands more about.

By telling foreigners not to come, anti-World Cup protesters have a hidden message. “We know what Brazil is, we don’t like it that much — unless all our ideas are accepted — and neither should you. Stay away so we can keep our rap.” That is far from true, since there is a huge divide between working-class and the elite. Brazil is one of the most unequal countries in the world. If it were about illegal evictions, why did it take them so long to come out? If it were about corruption, why didn’t they set the agenda years ago? If they were so concerned about bad planning and the need for investments in other areas, why not before?

My best guess is that anti-World Cup protesters saw an opportunity in June and took it. The early days of the demonstrations had nothing to do with football. But then, because of the Confederations Cup going on at the same time, the issue took center stage after the transport fares’ rise was stopped. Later on, black bloc protesters put people off. Support for protests has decreased. But so has the support for FIFA’s main event between June 12 and July 13 — and that’s what made them be vocally against football’s creme de la creme being hosted here.

The openly anti-World Cup protests have come to eclipse the black blocs and target the massive sporting event without any proper agenda. The don’t want to galvanize support. They want to sabotage Brazil and the football gala and still claim they are being critical, despite their long silence between 2007, when Brazil were chosen as hosts, and June last year. I call it luddite sabotage because they want to be vocal at the exact moment Brazil could, at the very least, cut losses with the tournament. And among most protesters the reason for sabotage isn’t exactly a moral compass — it is for them an opportunity to be seen.

Carla, my favorite luddite

No, the World Cup is no Industrial Revolution. But it is the first big opportunity Brazil has had to show it has a different standing now. Sluggish economy? Ten years ago we’d wonder whether Brazil would grow at all. Spend more on healthcare? Sure, but Brazil has spent US$ 50 billion in 2012 alone — same amount that go for World Cup and Olympic Games preparations combined. Lack of respect to human rights? We should go after the authorities that don’t prosecute these, we have a proper Judiciary system.

Just like England, Brazil will carry on. Our luddites are going to be condemned by history. Until then, three months of yada-yada-yada to deal with.

We will have to be patient as we stop them from breaking the machines.

About Mauricio Savarese

I am a Brazilian journalist who got tired of reporting only in Portuguese. Politics and football, these are my turfs. Twitter: @msavarese. Email:

Posted on 13/03/2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Superb article, tho I do have trouble with the Luddite analogy. I think the Luddites had a much more authentic, substantive movement than these black blocs.

    These black blocs are just young kids with no vision, no politics, no proposals, nothing, except sabotage. They’re not a real movement. They have no organization. They have no grassroots connections to the majority poor and working class.

    It’s not that their criticisms of the govt and society are wrong. It’s that they offer nothing in response except empty, shallow slogans.

    In the 70s & 80s you had real mobilization of genuine social movements of landless people, labor, indigenous, slum community organizations. Now all you have are kids just getting together on the streets shouting and throwing things.

    Your point about how Brazilians see their country as THE WORST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD is also spot-on. To hear Brazilians talk, you’d think we invented corruption. The romanticizing of countries like the US is farcical and deluded. Brazilians really live in a pathetic cocoon.

  2. swine flu affair

    “Lack of respect to human rights? We should go after the authorities that don’t prosecute these, we have a proper Judiciary system.”

    Do we? Have you been following the developments in any one of a number of recent major human rights violations?

    For instance, take the right of affected populations for previous consultation in areas of large-scale projects, such as the construction of dams. How is that working and how “proper” has been Brazilian Justice in its dealings in that matter? That is, of course, to touch on just one part of the wide range of illegalities that make the core of these “projects” where Brazilian Government and its backers at Odebrecht, Andrade Gutierrez, etc, act together. Projects such as the World Cup.

    Keeping things more closely pertinent to your blog post, how “proper” has been the judicial treatment of unequivocal, well-documented abuses by the police against protesters? Perhaps you remember the high ranking officer in Brasília’s Military Police who, after pepper spraying people who were just standing in front of him and being asked why did he do that, unashamedly said before video cameras: “I did so because I wanted to. Go on, sue me.” Eventually, a process was put on against that officer and I guess you know how that went in courts (if you don’t, I can tell you: case dismissed, no consequences.).

    Your whole defense of the World Cup and attack on protests is legitimate as your political stance, even though I think you’re in the wrong side of history. But it’s another, worse, dishonest thing when you feign ignorance, as in the accusation that people who campaign for human rights should take their grievances to Brazilian courts and stop protesting. People have been doing that and it’s not working.

    • Mauricio Savarese

      Thanks for your comment. I believe we have to make sure these checks and balances work, we are not supposed to just sit and watch it all unfold. We have a proper Judiciary, but it has to be scrutinized and accused when acting wrongly. That has to be in a consistent basis. It could have been like that since 2007. But most people concerned just pushed against the World Cup when it all was decided. That’s too easy.

  3. primeiro que essa menina mente para porra nesse maldito vídeo. Culpando policiais de forma errada e falando que gastamos 50 b dólares…. ela fumou um né?

  4. Cara, faz uma tradução para português de seus textos!

  5. Strongly disagree.

  1. Pingback: Why Brazil didn’t explode in the World Cup in 10 posts | A Brazilian Operating in This Area

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