Scandal is the only way to punish the powerful


Source: O Estado de S. Paulo, 02/09/2007

Whenever the news of a crime against the collective interest causes revolt in Brazil, the defenders of the criminals transfer the blame to the 'media', for converting it into a scandal. His concern is not with the crime, but with the news. It's understandable. Where justice does not reach the powerful, the only way to reach them is scandal. Who guarantees that something else will happen to the 40 defendants in the monthly allowance, in addition to the headlines from last week?

'In Brazil, transgression is treated as a scandal, because the subject has to explode, make him go through shame, publicly denounce him, because he is not going to be arrested', noted State anthropologist and columnist Roberto DaMatta, in a seminar on the topic, promoted on Tuesday by the Brazilian Institute of Competitive Ethics (Etco) and by the Fernando Henrique Cardoso Institute.

"Any Brazilian knows that, in the scandal of the moment (whatever it may be), the punishment will depend less on the circumstances and much more on the person", analyzes the anthropologist. 'It is not just a matter of indeterminacy, as there could be a competition between the law and the person. Not! What is there is a certainty that the law varies according to the person to whom it applies. '

Driven by the certainty of impunity, the scandal is an attempt to punish shame - those who still have it, of course. There is a disturbing symptom in this. Shame is a malaise felt by the transgressor only when he is caught in his transgression. Guilt is something else. To feel it, the law must be introjected. This requires a certain type of education that is not given to a large portion of Brazilians.

'What is serious about the other person becomes a common fault when committed by us', describes DaMatta. 'Dodging the law is socially accepted. It has a knack in other countries too, but a knack for branding a country is only in Brazil. ' Throughout their lives, Brazilians have repeatedly confirmed the notion that complying with the law is not only unnecessary and harmful, but humiliating: 'There is a Brazilian axiom according to which obeying the law is a sign of social inferiority', says the anthropologist.

This point is reinforced by the historian José Murilo de Carvalho, another participant in the debate, who recalls the priceless dialogue between Major Vidigal and the three comadres who went to intercede for grenadier Leonardo, imprisoned for indiscipline, in Memoirs of a Sergeant of Militias (1854) . 'I know, but the law?' Resisted the major. 'Now, the law ... What is the law, if mr. major want? '

Carvalho classifies four basic types of citizens: 1) the rich, politicians, businessmen and high-ranking bureaucrats, who are 'above the law', and for whom 'transgression is the norm'; 2) sub-citizens, marginalized from the countryside and the metropolises, who are below the law, who for them is only an enemy in the figure of the arbitrary policeman; 3) the lower middle class and workers in formal employment, who "cannot escape the law, respect and fear it, but who have difficulty accessing it"; 4) the middle-middle class, which has' the most ambiguous relationship with the law ', because' it clearly perceives the transgression of others, especially politicians', but, 'as it sees it violated above and below, also the fraud as and when you can '.

The law in Brazil is demoralized by a physical limit: the impossibility of complying with it. From the traffic code to tax or labor legislation, 'the chances of meeting all provisions are zero', evaluates jurist Joaquim Falcão. He cites as an example the number of certificates required for the transmission of a property in Rio: 16. In Fortaleza, a document is even required proving that the street has not changed its name.

The impossibility of satiating bureaucracy creates drawer contracts, which 'increase reasonable legal uncertainty', attests Falcão. They are like 'legalizing simulacra'. The Democratic Rule of Law 'survives like a heart full of bypass, breast and stents'. All are available to the discretionary act of the police authority, says the lawyer. 'We all live under Damocles' sword of probable illegality. Individual transgression has become collectivized. '


Falcão cites data from the 2000 census that 12 million families, or 48 million people, lived in illegal homes. It is a quarter of the population. Faced with the inability to correct such a huge problem, 'justice by sampling' is practiced in Brazil, when trying to impose, on time, the execution of repossession warrants. 'As it is not feasible to comply with the law, circumventing it is almost a necessity', adds José Murilo de Carvalho. 'The law is the mother of transgression in Brazil. The law is corruption. '

Laws are made in Brazil as if they alone have the power to solve problems, ignoring key factors, such as education, says DaMatta: 'We made a Constitution inspired by France, but where are the French, to comply with it? '

The anthropologist sees a similarity between inequality before the law and that before the currency, at the time of high inflation. At that time, DaMatta recalls, there were 'different currencies for each social layer', and a 'difficulty in creating a universal currency'. While those who had more money were able to index it to inflation, through the various options for financial investments, the poor were left with the 'rotten currency'.

'We are not educated for public spaces, and the currency is a public space', defines the anthropologist. Inflation seemed to be an insoluble problem, as is the case today with impunity. But it was overcome - and measures of economic rationality were introduced that universalized the norm. 'Everyone was subject to the Fiscal Responsibility Law, because the example came from above.'

Gustavo Franco, president of the Central Bank in the FHC government, was in the audience of 50 guests, and revealed that DaMatta's thesis on inequality against the currency, exposed in the 1993 book Conta de Mentiroso - the year before the introduction of the real -, it served as a 'reflection' for the economic team: 'The example from above is fundamental to ordering the way in which it is transgressed or not, whether the State is the first to print paper and transfer the cost to the poor.'

In most cases, the example above has been corrosive. 'The State is rascal', summarizes José Murilo de Carvalho. 'Charges fees and never returns them (on services).' The growing tax burden and declining public services have contributed to 'legitimize' illegality, in the form of tax evasion and informality, points out political scientist Bolívar Lamounier. On the other hand, Carvalho recalls the example of consumers who saved electricity during the 2000 blackout crisis. 'It is not a fatality', says the historian. 'There is a solution.' The thread, he and the other participants believe, is access to justice. For citizens to develop 'loyalty to the law'.