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Jair Bolsonaro Wins Elections in Brazil: While Globalism is Rolled Back, What Does this Mean for Football and What Does it say About the State of Media and Education?

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On the night of 28 October 2018 Jair Bolsonaro won the Brazilian Presidential election, defeating Fernando Haddad with a vote of 55% to 45%. Interestingly, the mainstream press from the BBC to CNN characterized Mr. Bolsonaro as “far-right,” with The Economist–long regarded by this author as a rare example of objective opinion—even calling him “a threat to democracy”. Given this reporting, just what is Mr. Bolsonaro? Is he “far-right”, as the mainstream media seems to think? Or is he just not far-left—a position that, unfortunately—mainstream media in the United States (and indeed all over the world) seem to support, making all others “far” right?

 

It is important to note that the political spectrum is not a linear one, with far-left on one side and far-right on the other. Rather, it is a circular one; being far to either end of the spectrum—right or left—ends with similar anti-democratic and, indeed, fascistic pitfalls. The historical examples of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia would seem to confirm this perspective. And indeed this is why Brazil is such an interesting case in this regard. As I learned in one of my classes just a few weeks ago, there are words written on the Brazilian flag. Those of us who are knowledgeable about the world—and indeed football—likely know that the Brazilian flag is green and yellow with a blue circle. What most of us may not know, however, is that there is a phrase written across that blue circle: Ordem e Progresso.  It is a quote from Auguste Comte, one of the founders of the modern discipline of sociology, which translates to “Order and Progress”. This quote was inspired by Comte’s motto for positivism, which aimed to create a secular basis for morality in the face of the declining significance of religion in the post-enlightenment period. At this time, so it seemed, means-end rationality would replace religion as the “order” of the day; people would not look for guidance from the theocratic, rather they would create their own morality rooted in rational action. For Comte, this positivist philosophy would allow for the development of a discipline called “social physics,” where human actions could be studied and, ultimately, predicted.

 

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Ordem E Progresso. Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Brazil

 

Of course, the fascistic undertones of such an idea are not hard to miss, and indeed may be one of the reasons that many—including the late (and great) scholar Hannah Arendt—abhor the discipline of sociology. After all, who are humans to tell other humans what they must—and must not—do? In effect, it replaces blind faith in religion with blind faith in science. While many assume the two perspectives to be diametrically opposed, the reality is that they are both similar perspectives insofar as they seemingly leave no room for independent human thought and interpretation (indeed, the German Sociologist Jurgen Habermas and French Sociologist Michel Foucault have pointed this out before).

 

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Arendt had No Love For Sociologists. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hannah-Arendt

 

In this context, the reaction to the election of Jair Bolsonaro is made even more interesting. The mainstream (Western) media is up in arms, characterizing Mr. Bolsonaro as “far-right”. Unfortunately, it seems as if much of this rhetoric is rooted in the same kind of social engineering that Auguste Comte may have—unwittingly—encouraged with his own emphasis on “Order and Progress” way back in the 19th Century. These days, it seems that “far-right” is anything that does not conform to dominant ideological trends which view globalization—and its ideological counterpart “globalism”—as an inherently positive development for the world. In fact, anyone who dares question the logic of globalism risks being called intolerant, a bigot, or much worse. The totalitarian undertones of this line of thought are not hard to miss, but it is important to note that this has been a long time in the making. Indeed, as an undergraduate studying International Relations in the United States my Comparative Politics class forced me to read a book on Lula, the former left-wing leader of Brazil who is currently in jail on corruption charges. Like other students of my generation who studied international relations, I was taught to not question the logic of globalization (Indeed, a friend who studied the same topic in Turkey also told me that during his time in the university there was no tolerance for any objection to globalization).

 

While resisting globalization is still a borderline taboo subject—indeed, the fact that traffic to this very blog has fallen since I began to actively question the logic of globalization and globalism is testament to this—there are still those who choose to resist this quasi-totalitarian logic. In fact, many famous Brazilian footballers including Kaka, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho have openly voiced their support for Mr. Bolsonaro. Of course, their actions did not go un-noticed and inews reminds us that “Reports suggest FC Barcelona have distanced themselves from the two former stars [Rivaldo and Ronaldinho], both of whom had been playing in the ‘Barça Legends’ tour.” And here the question must be, what was their crime? Why did they have to be “distanced” from?

 

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Former Barcelona Star Rivaldo Voices His Support on Social Media. Image Courtesy Of: https://inews.co.uk/sport/football/brazil-footballers-jair-bolsonaro-ronaldinho-rivaldo-kaka-lucas-moura/

 

While Mr. Bolsonaro is not the most politically correct of individuals—indeed he has made comments critical of homosexuals—and has been compared to Donald Trump (perhaps the biggest political insult in this day and age), the fact remains that globalism under Lula did not work for Brazil. Like other globalist leaders, Lula privatized many of Brazil’s state owned businesses (like Petrobras, the previously state-owned oil company) in order to gain favor with international business at the expense of his own country’s independence. Ironically, he vowed from prison to undo the sales of state assets if re-eelected. Indeed, the very fact that he is now in prison on corruption charges goes to show just how broken—and corrupt—the system of globalization and globalism really is.

 

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Comparisons with Donald Trump Defined the Latest Election in Brazil. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/29/bolsonarianos-take-to-the-streets-in-awe-of-new-law-and-order

 

Closer to the topic of this blog—football—Lula’s track record isn’t much better. Indeed, he was the one who cleaned out Brazil’s shanty-towns (favelas) ahead of the World Cup and Olympics, displacing many of his country’s poorest citizens by using military force. Indeed, the corruption endemic in Lula’s administration was closely tied to sport, and it is even claimed  that one of the stadiums built for the 2014 World Cup was actually a “gift” for himself. Lula even had a good relationship with the former President of the United States—and fellow globalist—Barack Obama, whom he gifted a jersey (!) from the Brazilian national team.

 

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If This is How the “Left” Deals With Social Problems, Perhaps a Change is in Order? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-26809732

 

Given this history of corruption and cruelty towards the poorest of Brazil’s citizens, it is not surprising that Lula is now in jail. But what is surprising is that the mainstream media still persists in ignoring these facts while actively trying to de-legitimize his successor Mr. Bolsonaro. While, as I have said, Mr. Bolsonaro is not perfect by any means, the disastrous track record of the Brazilian left—which has sold the country out in the name of a type of imperialism couched in the rhetoric of globalism—should be enough to suggest that a change in leadership was well in order. (Indeed, many Brazilians were quite pleased with the result). Hopefully, Brazilians—like others around the world—can soon begin to take back their country and finally reject the disastrous ideology of corrupt and exploitative globalism for good.

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The Chapecoense Plane Crash As Collective Effervescence: The Response of the Football World Shows the Human Side of Football In The Face Of An Inhumane Industrial Football (and Extreme Capitalism)

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A Tragic Disaster That May Have Lasting Consequences. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38152105

 

Monday’s tragic air crash, which killed 71 of 77 passengers, has grabbed the world’s attention. Since football is the global game, it has allowed us all—as football fans—to have a rare moment of “collective effervescence”, a sociological concept defined by Emile Durkheim as an event that can bring people together by unifying a group. In this case, the group is—quite literally—global society. The outpouring of support from all walks of society, regardless of nationality, has been refreshing to see in a world that is becoming more and more fragmented. But some speculations as to the cause of the crash are worrisome, as they reveal a systemic failure where the desire to make a profit was put above the duty to preserve human life.

The introduction to Routledge’s Soccer and Disaster, a book I have used in my own research, explains this kind of mourning:

The links between sport, social identity and community have been a central focus of much sport sociology and history, and these links have often been thrown into sharp focus at the time of air crashes and other incidents that have resulted in the untimely deaths of football players and managers. The deep, emotional connections that football supporters have with ‘their’ teams ensure that when tragedies befall team players and other club representatives, fans often feel an acute sense of shared loss. In the wake of many of the air crashes that have blighted football, supporters and wider communities have gone into deep mourning, expressing their connection to those that have died (Darby, Johnes, and Mellor, 2005: 3).

Perhaps the only positive to result from this unfortunate disaster is that the outpouring of support—for a South American air disaster—has come from all over the football world, showing that a tragedy in the global South is recognized in the global North; the economic and cultural lines that divide the world have been transcended by this horrific accident. Again, Routledge’s Soccer and Disaster notes how this has not always been the case:

Images of some crowd disasters, such as Hillsborough (1989) where 96 Liverpool fans died, were broadcast around the globe and have become lodged in the game’s public history; yet others that took place outside the western world, like the Lima tragedy in 1964 or the disaster in Buenos Aires four years later, are remembered far less widely beyond those immediately affected (Darby, Johnes, and Mellor, 2005: 2).

Below, we see how truly international the response has been, encompassing both the local and the global. Brazil’s famous Corinthians Tweeted their condolences while also encouraging “all clubs [to] unite and pray for people’s lives”:

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/29/football/chapecoense-forca-chape-neymar-social-media/index.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

 

As Chapecoense’s fans prayed in the churches of their home town, their rivals in Colombia also sent messages of condolence. Atletico Nacional called for Chapecoense to be named champions of the Copa Sudamericana, the cup they had been traveling to play for, while fellow Colombian side Millonarios also sent a message:

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38151694

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/29/football/chapecoense-forca-chape-neymar-social-media/index.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

 

Throughout South America similar feelings poured in. Both the Argentine FA and Mexican FA sent similar messages while flags flew at half mast outside the South American Football Confederation’s headquarters in Paraguay:

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/29/football/chapecoense-forca-chape-neymar-social-media/index.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38151694

 

In Europe too, the support has been steady. In England Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney all sent messages. Liverpool fans, perhaps due to their own experience with collective trauma, commemorated the Chapecoense disaster during a match:

 

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38151694

 

In Spain, Real Madrid held a collective minute of silence ahead of a training session while Barcelona and Sevilla both sent condolences as well. Individually, former Sevilla coach Unai Emery and Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas also Tweeted their support:

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38151694

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/29/football/chapecoense-forca-chape-neymar-social-media/index.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

 

Elsewhere in Europe there was support from Portugal’s Benfica (who played the last match with Italy’s FC Torino before the Superga disaster in 1949), from top German sides Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Bayer Leverkusen, and Turkish side Galatasaray.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/29/football/chapecoense-forca-chape-neymar-social-media/index.html

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

 

Even the new Wembley Stadium, the epitome of football’s extreme capitalism and erasure of the past, lit the arch in Chapecoense’s colors. So what does this kind of unprecedented international support for Chapecoense mean? To me it shows the transnational force that football really is, an opportunity to create some sort of meaningful connection in an increasingly fragmented world that has continually pressured local and national voices into silence.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38151694

 

But there is also another side that shows the effect of this transnational extreme capitalism. After news broke that the plane may have run out of fuel, fans were understandably angry. Part of the reason is that like any other part of culture, sports is not separate from the political; as the Guardian reports:

The tragedy came at the end of what has been a horrendous year for Brazil, as bad news and political upheaval followed tragedy. An epidemic of the Zika virus has been blamed for an outbreak of the birth defect microcephaly, but nobody understands why it is concentrated in Brazil’s poorer north-east. Economists are struggling to understand why South America’s biggest economy refuses to grow out of its worst recession in a century.

Public life has been darkened by a sprawling bribery and kickbacks scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras that has led to the jailing of dozens of politicians, executives and intermediaries. The scandal helped drive the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in August – though she was never accused of graft – and allegations now threaten her successor and former vice-president, Michel Temer.

The Chapecoense air disaster might become an introspective event for Brazilian society, much like the 1987 Alianza Lima disaster was for Peru (also see Panfichi and Vich in Soccer and Disaster). One very readable story on the Economist’s blog gives us a few clues as to why this disaster connects capitalism, sports, and society. Focusing on reports that the plane ran out of fuel, the Economist focuses on why? The plane was scheduled to stop in northern Bolivia for fuel but never did, and “According to O Globo, a Brazilian news outlet, the first leg of the journey from São Paulo to Santa Cruz de la Sierra was delayed by around one hour. That meant that the refuelling stop in Cobija was not possible, as the airport there shuts down at night. So, the pilot opted to fly directly from Santa Cruz de la Sierra to Medellín”.

The Economist further explains that the range of the plane was less than the distance between the airports of São Paulo and Medellín;

The range of the plane model, a British AVRO RJ-85 jet, is 2,965km with a full tank of fuel, according to JACDEC, an air-safety website. That is less than the distance between the two airports. Global civil-aviation regulations state that any plane flying internationally must carry enough fuel to make it to an alternate airport, and enough to fly for 30 minutes after that. And yet somehow, the plane was on course to arrive safely. Mr Quiroga had requested for priority to land with air-traffic control, but he was rebuffed: another plane had a fuel leak and needed to land first. Only after that, when the jet had already begun to descend, did he declare an emergency.

It is not clear how or why the last-minute change in flight plan was approved. According to El Deber, a Bolivian newspaper, airport officials in Santa Cruz de la Sierra raised several questions about it. Mr Quiroga reportedly made various verbal guarantees that the plane had enough fuel for the trip.

This is macabre news indeed, and the Economist further uncovers things I have not seen in the main-stream (state) media:

Other considerations may have been on the pilot’s mind. Mr Quiroga was a co-owner of Lamia airlines. As such he had a unique set of incentives in this situation. Postponing a chartered flight in a time-sensitive industry is not good for business. Once in the air, telling officials that the plane is running out of fuel is less than desirable: the penalty for any firm being caught flouting regulations is huge. It is too early to say whether such factors played a part in his decision-making.

It is also unclear why a top-tier football team was flying to a major sporting event with an airline like Lamia in the first place. The firm was founded in 2009 in Mérida, a small city in western Venezuela. Last year Lamia Bolivia, a separate business entity, was set up. The airline claims to specialise in chartered flights, particularly for football teams. The only functioning plane it has ever owned is the 17-year-old jet that crashed into the muddy Colombian mountainside.

The players of Chapecoense were not the only footballers to fly with Lamia. Few airlines provide chartered flights in Latin America, and none does it cheaper. “A flight that another company charges you $100,000 for, Lamia offered for $60,000,” an industry insider told La Nacion, an Argentine newspaper. Among Lamia’s customers were Atletico Nacional, Chapecoense’s would-be opponents in Medellín, and Argentina’s national football team. The squad’s luminaries, including Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest player of all time, boarded the doomed Lamia plane just two weeks before the crash, flying from Buenos Aires to Belo Horizonte for a World Cup qualifier.

The influence of extreme capitalism—through industrial football, in this case—is not hard to see and it is tragic given the importance of the Chapecoense team to its community. After all, football should be about the community and not money. The pilot did not want to hurt the business he owned—since the bottom line was more important than human life—and therefore chose not to report the gravity of the situation. This—if true—is just personal greed. As for the Chapecoense team choosing to fly with Lamia? This, again, can be chalked up to economics. A savings of $40,000, as reported above, is significant for a team that has to make money in the world of industrial football. Do I think that cutting corners on air travel—to save money for the club at the expense of human life—is acceptable? Of course not, it is reprehensible! But do I understand how it could happen? Unfortunately, in the era of industrial football (and extreme capitalism), where money is one of the few guiding “principles” humanity has left, then I do understand why a team can make such a choice resulting in this kind of heinous tragedy.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and even leads me to believe that Ronaldinho’s offer to play for the club is just a publicity stunt to get him back into football. I hope he proves me wrong, but in the era of industrial football nothing will surprise me. I hope that this collective effervescence can spawn a new resistance to industrial football, but given the results of Hillsborough—which only increased the rationalization of stadiums in the name of “safety” that served to increase the accumulation of capital, I am not so sure. As Darby, Johnes, and Mellor explain:

It took the 1989 disaster at Hillsborough for the country’s [England’s] top stadia to be totally overhauled. The move to all-seater grounds in the English game’s top two divisions may have been underpinned as much by the desire to eradicate hooliganism as it was to ensure the safety of fans but it had a radical impact on not only the game’s built environment but also the whole culture of fandom. Ticket prices escalated and leading stadia became more sanitized, maybe even quieter (Darby, Johnes, and Mellor, 2005: 5).

I hope Brazilian and world football take a lesson from this tragic event and put a stop to the trend where money is coming to be valued over human lives. I stand in solidarity with the Chapecoense club and mourn this (seemingly) preventable disaster.

Rest In Peace.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38152105