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Monday, May 4, 2009

Bolsa familia and its unexpected results

One of the good effects of Bolsa Familia (BOAsa fumMEElia), besides helping the poor, was to get the impoverished in big cities like São Paulo to go back to their places of origin, and keep people in the disadvantaged regions from coming to São Paulo. Immigration is good, it can bring plenty of diversity and options to a country, but if it is uncontrolled, it can generate lots of problems, unemployment and crime among them.

How can a state deal with an inordinate rise in its population every single year?

Before Lula, migration from the poverty-stricken regions of Brazil into São Paulo was staggering. Now things have changed. Lots of people in here are going back to their places of origin, thanks to Bolsa Familia. I belong to a family of internal migrants since my parents came from the Northeast, my mom from Pernambuco and my daddy from Paraiba. “Paraiba masculina, mulher macho, sim senhor” (paraEEba maskooLEEna, moolyEH mAHshoo, SING sing-Yoh) (Paraiba is for macho man, even women are macho”. So goes a song.

I like it here in Sao Paulo. Even though my parents came from the Northeast, I’ve never set foot there. I intend to travel around there someday; people say the beaches are great, I digress.

Anyway, migration to the South has been so common that we call Mineiros (miNAYrooz) (people born in Minas Gerais (MEEnaz zheddEYEZ), “Baianos cansados”, tired Baianos, Baiano (buyUNG-noo) is a person born in Bahia. Since Minas Gerais is midway between Sao Paulo and Bahia, the expression was coined. I guess Cariocas (Rio de Janeiro-born) are baianos cansados, too, but they love the beach, so they took a different route. Joking aside, the fact is this internal migration is good as long as it is not totally uncontrolled.

At any rate, I don’t believe everybody should embrace the capitalist ideal. Capitalism is good, consumerism is good, they force humans to evolve, but I know people can live without it, just look at the Indians in the Amazon and the aborigines in many places. They don’t starve, they have fulfilling lives, they enjoy themselves as much as a person with plenty of material things. And they can’t miss what they never had.

Capitalism makes you think if you don’t have a lot of stuff, you are poor and suffering. But that’s not true; I know plenty of slum dwellers who are very happy and lots of rich people who are always unhappy. Many people are not ambitious, so let them lead their simple lives. We don’t need to keep increasing the number of consumers exponentially, and Bolsa Familia is helping control this influx. Hooray for that! Let the ambitious keep coming, not people who are coming because of starvation. But I guess the ambitious could stay there and move it up as well, or down, depending on whether you think defining yourself as a big consumer is a good thing. I love consuming, but I was brainwashed by society as well, I'm just another victim, even though I do believe capitalism can bring advances like no other system, but the price you pay for that is constant worry.

So worry and consume, or don’t worry and be happy, whatever makes your world go round.

Author: Joe da Silva

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