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April 11, 2011



I had recently commented to a Brazilian friend over the phone: how the Brazilian magazines and famous people are posing/ talking / looking like Americans. People in the cities too, with all the consumerism you mention and addiction to fast foods. On the other side, I get suprised when I discover in blogs and sites related to expats living in Brazil that more and more Americans are delighted with pagode, axe...
Note: I think the term "epidemic" for the incresing number of obese people is ridiculous. As if you can do nothing in order to avoid this disease. So if I sit near an obese person am I going to get fat as well ? Totally depicable this term used by the media lately.

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Um pouco de "brasileirização" poderia fazer bem aos EUA. Um pouco mais de welfare state, por exemplo, para os EUA voltarem a decolar, como decolaram no pós-guerra :-)



This "Americanization" thingie is not a Brazilian trend; it's a global trend. Consumption is on the up all over the developing world, specially in Latin America and East Asia, and is more of a problem in China than in Brazil, as the following link reports: http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2011/04/11/imf-is-this-the-kind-of-credit-boom-that-inevitably-ends-with-a-bust/

In contrast to RioGringa, I don't see in Brazil either this national soul-searching caused by the Realengo massacre nor hubris, specially on the part of public officials. On the subject of the consumer boom, for example, the federal government has shown that it is acutely aware of bubble risks. Since last year, Brazil has been taking a number of measures to rein in credit: interest rates hike; increased bank reserves; and news taxes on consumer loans. Prior to the 2008 credit bust, the US, by contrast, did NOTHING to wane consumption or credit growth. That Brazil is still experiencing difficulties in this respect, again, isn't due to local structural vulnerabilities - or "hubris" - but to global trends: trends to which US policies such as QEs contributed in no small degree. On the subject of fiscal excesses, Brazil has shown - again, in contrast to the US - that it has a sober grasp of its own limitations - so much so, that it has planned budget cuts and contained wage growth even though last year's budget deficit was modest.

When it comes to social-economic changes, it's hard to see how US blind self-confidence - the same self-confidence that time and again drags it to wars, and then to defeats - is becoming a Brazilian thing. Though last year the central government promoted a spectacle of national self-admiration, this was more due to temporary situations - an election year marked by a 15-year low in unemployment levels - that don't correspond to long-term trends in the country.

Rio Gringa

@RFS - Agreed that consumerism is a global trend, but when it comes to China, there a lot of other cultural differences, whereas I think Brazil and the US have much more similar cultures.

I don't think the credit issue has anything to do with the soul-searching in relation to the Realengo massacre - they're two completely separate things. Although, my friend Henrique has a similar view about not worrying about a bubble (Right Henrique?)

Blind self-confidence, I think, can come in different forms. I think the Olympics/World Cup/pre-sal are creating it to some extent, but it's far healthier than say, blind self-confidence from carrying out a war.


I didn't say that consumerism has anything to do with the Realengo disaster. I said that I don't see any evidence of either national soul-searching caused by that event, or yet hubris.

From the press I don't see hubris either - either related to economic growth, the Olympics, the Cup, anything. In fact, press coverage of those subjects is far from sunny. I don't know if you've noticed it, but the BR press is very good in finding the dark side of just about everything. From my acquaintances I don't get that feeling either. This creates a good deal of dissonance because what I see in my countrymen is that they've not changed. The old, and sometimes irrational, complexo de vira-lata, the tendency to idealize everything foreign, to reject everything national, is still very much alive. And from I can see in foreign coverage (including by this blog) of my country, the gringos are very good at exploiting this. It is very hard to speak of hubris when I actually feel Brazilians should stop flogging themselves so much.


This post brings up more questions than it does answers but at this point in time I think that's a good thing. Two other American trends I've noticed: the rise of the "I'll pencil you in on my agenda" mentality in social interaction amongst the middle/upper classes, and the fact that many of these people go biweekly to see therapists.

Anyway, I'd like to draw everyone's attention to two interesting pieces of writing I picked up while in Rio for Carnaval last month.

The first is called "Brasil-Estados Unidos: desencontros e afinidades" by Monica Hirst.


It is part of a charming, multi-colored line of purse-size books found at Fundação Getulio Vargas' Botafogo campus bookstore. These books touched on topics ranging from "The economics of tourism in the Favelas" to "The Brics and the Global Order" and all shared the delightful motto "Clareza e competência num so livro." Basically they were cute little pocket guides that put intellectual content at your fingertips for 17 reais a piece.

The second is the March 2011 edition of the Revista de Historia da Biblioteca Nacional. They ran a really cool cover story comparing everything from the historical roots of slavery to pop culture Brazil to the United States, entitled "Estados Unidos: Somos tão diferentes?" Here's a link to the edition. The cover has a really cool design of Uncle Sam behind a U.S. flag with Brazil's colors.


Anyway, I wish I had more time to ponder the answers to the questions and points you posed. Nevertheless, I just think it's great that people are discussing!

Side Note: FGV's book store seemed like the highest caliber store I've seen in Rio to date, even better than Livraria da Travessa. I saw many popular U.S. books (one example being Freakonomics) translated in to Portuguese, as well as many great Brazilian works.

Rio Gringa

@RFS, I agree that certain mentalities haven't changed much, and like I mentioned in the original post, the hubris trend I've seen is more relegated to high level officials (government and to some extent business, but much more so government). But eventually, there's a chance it may trickle down, or at least take some shape of "yay for us" nationalism in 2014 and 2016 (assuming things go ok). In the meantime, I think there's room (and reason) for some more pride or patriotic confidence.

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