How much pain and uncertainty can a country withstand? Until when - and at what price - will Brazil continue to wander aimlessly through the most devastating health, economic and political crisis of our time? In what sort of a nation do we want to live, and by what values? We are victims of coronavirus and also of indifference; we are approaching half a million deaths of mothers, fathers, children, friends and loved ones. The Federal government played down the pandemic, condemned the practice of isolation and the use of masks, promoted ineffective drugs, refused vaccines, and ignored the mourning of families.
As a consequence, today there is a lack of vaccines, a lack of medicines, of equipment, of hospital beds, of doctors and even oxygen. The health of the Nation was sacrificed for the economy. Life lost its value. And for what? Today, in addition to the dead, we have 27 million people in extreme poverty, 14,8 million unemployed, and 19 million people starving, nearly twice the population of Portugal. More than half of all Brazilians are living under the threat of hunger. Our country has one of the highest levels of social inequality in the world. The government has failed us both in health and the economy. And they have simply shrugged. For two years now, we, professionals working in the area of Arts & Culture, have been under attack by the very people that created this desperate scenario.
The Federal government wants to shut us up: they don’t recognise us and don’t want our voices to be heard. They dictate a single narrative, shaped for their own followers, and not in the broader interests of the country. They are waging a cultural war. They are trying to censor us, defame us and intimidate us. Driven by revenge, they are preventing us access to the resources destined for the Arts that are guaranteed in law. Many of us don't even use tax incentives, but today a large part of our industry, with no other source of income, need these to survive. Because of this dismantling operation, many productions have been paralysed, and thousands of people are now out of work. But we haven’t given up. We will never give up.
With the pandemic raging out of control, Brazil has become a hotbed for coronavirus variants, and meanwhile the government is provoking diplomatic stand-offs, is breaking deforestation records in the Amazon, is trying to tax the sale of books, and is facilitating the purchase of guns. Our indigenous peoples are being persecuted and massacred. Our black population, for centuries subjected to precarious work conditions, poor housing and low income, now rank lowest in terms of health and participation in the economy. Even amidst all this hunger and disease, we have to tolerate a security policy that calls for extermination as one of its tactics. Our nation has become a pariah.
Fearful of what we have become, the world has closed its borders to us. But we beg you not to close your eyes to our plight. Badly governed by people who despise life, preach conflict and turn their backs on mourning, we will not remain silent. We request the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the Supreme Federal Court, the National Congress, the Brazilian Bar Association, amongst others: to protect life, to protect democracy and to protect tolerance. We need the Government of Brazil to fulfil their duty to prevent all this death, and to help those who suffer from illness, hunger and abandonment. We need vaccines and an effective policy to fight the pandemic. And we need to punish those who are responsible for this genocide.
Before the pandemic, there were six million Brazilians working in Arts & Culture producing films, plays, books, dances and circuses, television series, soap operas, concerts, records, exhibitions and debates. We were the first industry to stop work because of the pandemic. And we will be the last industry to resume our activities. A UNESCO survey shows that the impact of the pandemic on Arts & Culture has been brutal. More than 70% of workers in concert halls, theaters and circuses completely lost their income in the first few months of the pandemic. But they didn’t sit back and do nothing.
Even without a stage, we used the internet to bring art and culture, emotion and reflection, mental health and entertainment to everyone in their homes. And we mobilized ourselves to collect donations. Our industry accounted for 3% of Brazil's GDP before the pandemic. But we represent much more than a simple percentage. From the comedies that give us the lightness of spirit to carry on, to the dramas that help us process the pain; from the music that becomes the soundtrack of our life, to the books that sleep by our bedside, Art and Culture will always be with us in the most memorable moments. These things all help to build our national identity, and define what makes us Brazilians, unique. Embracing a diversity of views, because this is where our richness lies. Culture does not belong to any government, any party or any ideology. It is part of the life of each one of us, it is our soul and it exists in the air that we need to breathe.
In these dark times that we are going through, fighting against death in a country in which one bargains for life, we, the artists, producers, technicians and other professionals from the music industry, from theater, circus and dance, cinema and TV, visual arts and from literature, we are hand in hand with all Brazilians in shouting for the defence of life and democracy, shouting for the full exercise of freedom of expression for the press, shouting for respect for science and the right to education, shouting for the preservation of nature. Echo our cry. In the name of what is still human in us.