As the World Cup draws closer, Brazil is once again in the international spotlight. There's some debate about whether the media is being too hard on the country with overly negative coverage, and if foreigners are going overboard with scrutiny. But the country's biggest critics are its own residents, with many critical of the games and a small, vocal minority aiming to protest the event.
When Brazil was chosen to host the games back in 2007, it was a different time. The country was starting a new rise on the world stage, Lula was president, huge oil stores had recently been discovered, and the economy was taking off. There was a heady feeling that Brazil was coming into its own, and the World Cup was a coming-out party, a chance to show off the country's status. Now, a Forbes columnist wrote yesterday that the mega-event has become "the worst publicity stunt in history."
But maybe in this sense, Brazil has become a victim of its own success.
With more people joining the middle class and improving their standard of living, more people are demanding a better quality of life. Democracy is alive and well as people aren't afraid to criticize the government or to speak out against perceived injustices. Digital inclusion has meant a steadily rising number of Brazilians online, making ideas and protest plans and complaints flow faster.
This doesn't mean that all Brazilians oppose the World Cup outright. A new Ipsos poll found that around one-third of Brazilians simply don't care about the games at all. There's a sense of less excitement than during past World Cups, despite being the hosts.
One thing Brazilians often care about, though, is outsiders' criticisms. Being in the spotlight and coming under international scrutiny has dredged up sentiments of self-doubt and in some cases, of an inferiority complex. One recent Datafolha survey showed that three-quarters of paulistanos, residents of the country's largest city, don't think Brazil is prepared to host the games, and 43 percent oppose the World Cup being held in their country.
A Tumblr was created last week called "Only in Brazil," featuring laments by Brazilians that certain bad things only happen in Brazil. Each complaint is compared to a real-life example of the same thing happening in another country. "Imagine what they'll say about us abroad during the Cup," the blog's subtitle reads. Journalist Priscila Silva took to Medium this week to point out this same issue, arguing that Brazil's problems aren't necessarily unique and that this kind of mentality is defeatist. The headline reads: "The problem isn't Brazil. It's you."
Now that there's less excitement about Brazil's economy and its role abroad, maybe the country won't make the splash leaders were hoping for. But perhaps Brazilians' discontent and even disinterest proves just how far the country has actually come--that a soccer-crazed nation wouldn't be utterly spellbound by bread and circuses. With only two weeks left before the games kick off, time will tell.
Image: Gustavo Gomes/Flickr.