Saturday, March 23, 2019

Déjà Vu: Banana Republic Edition

August 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Lifewriting, Writing Practice

The last time I lived here in Brazil (as opposed to just visiting for a couple of weeks), the country was in the middle of a slow-motion train wreck. This was 1991. Incompetent leadership and corruption had caused inflation to escalate from around 40% per annum in the early 1980s to 40% a MONTH by the early 1990s. Poverty was widespread, and crime, fueled by desperation, was rampant. Kidnappings happened almost daily. My husband’s nephew was held up at gunpoint and his car stolen. Another’s car was stolen from the street to turn up a few days later abandoned on a deserted road with a dead body in the trunk. Tourists were routinely robbed, sometimes by the police. The country was in chaos. I could feel it daily in the sight of extreme poverty on the streets and the sense of danger in the air.

Bronze sculpture of writer Antonio Callado looks out over Leblon beach, RJ

Bronze sculpture of writer Antonio Callado looks out over Leblon beach, RJ

Fast forward 20 years. Brazil has had a remarkable turnaround. There is political stability; economic growth plus social policies to aid the poor have lifted all boats. The mood of the country as a whole is exuberant. We’ve been on sabbatical here for 3 months now and the general optimism and increasing prosperity in all social classes are palpable. Twenty years ago, the maid who worked for my mother-in-law was illiterate and her home was a tiny fume-filled room in a basement garage. Now, my weekly cleaner has a computer and lives in a condominium with playgrounds and safe streets for her son to play in.

But now I look north towards the US and wonder what went wrong, as I watch the country that’s been my home for nearly 20 years caught in banana-republic political chaos over the debt ceiling and economic decline that used to be the province of developing tropical countries.

Being here in Brazil brings a strange déjà vu and at the same time an opportunity to reflect on change: how both Brazil and the US have changed; how I have changed. It’s an opportunity also to notice how I react in the same way now that I did back then to the events around me. And to notice the ways I react differently, for example, to watching the US in decline.

I have long been a disaster news junky. And the recent impasse in the US Congress over the debt ceiling felt like watching another slow-motion train wreck. But here’s what’s new. After two weeks of frantically following economics and politics blogs, desperate for news of a resolution and a rescue, feeling my blood pressure rise ever higher the more I read, I reached a point where I had run out of adrenaline and the inclination to hear any more about this entirely man-made fiasco. I found myself wondering, if there were a blog that gave a more philosophical take on the news headlines, that looked at current events with the eye of wisdom and took the long view, what would it be saying right now? And, is it possible that I could find within myself that long, wise view that I long for in the outside world, find my own comfort and wisdom in the midst of crisis?

Lifewriting allows us a space and a forum to look at the inner events that occur in response to the outer, to notice our own reactions, and reach for our own wisdom. And in that exploration, we find a sense of an inner family, representing the many parts of our personality, that knows how to pull together so that the parts support each other in a shared endeavor that goes far beyond defensiveness. So how will my own internal family pull together, this time around?

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