Over the past few days my social media avenues have been bottlenecked with news and commentary on the protests in Brazil calling for an impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, even for a military overthrow of the current administration. Much of the commentary expressing frustration with the PT and with President Rousseff is coming in the form of derisive language pointed at PT supporters, Petistas, they call them. Commentors, and even a news outlet or two, have suggested in varying levels of vehemence, disrespect, and slander that Petistas only support the Workers Party because they are lazy and complacent on the government dole, they block streets with their protest on workdays making it harder for the honest working people to get to work, they are bribed to come to their demonstration with bread and money. If there is a take away from this cycle of protests it is that the PT did not invent corruption–in fact the brazilian government does little better than enrich the already powerful–but it is becoming more difficult for corrupt politicians to hide and evade consequences. I’m certain the battle is not won, corruption and graft will take decades to route out. But progress is being made, that much is evident. Another lesson here is that crippling inequality by race and income–and this comes much more from the commentary than the news–is still alive and well. Those citizens who live in the comfort and security of mainstream society, of the middle and upper classes, have a difficult time understanding and sympathizing with the many who live at the margins.
As always when I run into evidence of this disconnection, I recall the faces and hands of the working poor that I’ve met and loved over the years–people who in no way fit the lazy, shiftless stereotypes perpetuated in these media comments, in the media itself, and perhaps in mass consciousness. The following are images that I feel express the hardworking nature of the people reviled as government saps.