I’m not sure you’ve heard of “OPM.” But, here’s the thing: as you all know, I run a bi-national family, and I have to be fluent in American parlance or I wouldn’t be able to talk to my children, not to mention their father, who gets occasionally mad at my “broken English.”
(To my first time English-speaking readers, my husband Alan demands an explanation: They are not my children, only his.)
Ok. In Brazil, everyone knows what OPM is (well, if they don’t, they feel it), even more than in the U.S., where it has to be pre-approved by Congress and all. Major setback, right? Check Obama’s unending hassle, if you doubt.
Anyway, enough beating around the bush. “OPM” is the acronym for “Other People’s Money.” Basically, it goes up someone else’s ass, or empties someone else’s wallet, the pain is the same. As in, up ours, if you know what I mean. And so Brazil gets FUBAR.
This week, my hair stood on end; our Lady President’s approval ratings are finally going down. How many scandals does it take to build a defeat? But I could barely relax. Retired politicians keep coming back to haunt us, worse than zombies. Honestly, even the “Walking Dead” would be better.
It’s like my mom used to say: between shit and crap…
Oops. Sorry. I got a potty mouth today, but it’s for good reason. I’ve been feeling, and I mean, really feeling it in my skin, that there’s a dark cloud of angst over the heads of Brazilians who think. Even those who don’t think that much, for lack of habit or culture, feel crushed by their own status quo and don’t know whom to blame.
This week, for instance, I had the following conversation with Ivete, my “left hand” (she does everything I don’t, mainly housekeeping):
“Ivete, have you noticed how upset everyone seems? Not even when President Collor swindled us out of all our cash people were unhappy like that.”
Of course, she does not remember Collor, who, by historical irony, paved the way for Lula and his “party of laborers”, PT. She was still a child back then and her family, deep down in the backwoods of Minas Gerais, wouldn’t have had $50 reais in their savings account. Putz, it wasn’t reais back then, was it? It was fifty… what? Moment. I’ll look it up. Be right back.
Unlike now, perhaps because we were under a different magnitude of media onslaught, we optimistically believed that “they knew what they were doing,” if you know what I mean, an illusion that protected us from the harsh truth and only came to light much later, with the caras-pintadas and the president’s beautiful impeachment, a unanimous moment of national pride. In fact, if I recall correctly, it was, by all means, a legit soap opera, with its own gardens of Babylon, cocaine, brain cancer, crimes of passion and all, damn, it’s a hard-knock life, being a Brazilian.
“Nah, Dona Noga. Did you know that, even after all those street riots, they are raising public transport fares anyway?”
“Yeah. Well. People forget too easily, Ivete. The other day, I went to the drugstore and they didn’t have the meds I needed. The guy at the counter told me it was because prices are about to go up. Unbelievable.”
“It’s all that bitch Dilma’s fault. There’s no way I’ll ever vote for her again.”
“Hey, that’s good. Maybe if she loses things will get better, you know… every four years we get a chance for change. We need to use this well, or we’re so screwed. Another four miserable years.”
“That’s true. I hope Lula comes back so we can vote for him.”
Gulp. In my mind, while she’s standing there, I’m furiously rending my garments. Kicking myself. Kicking and screaming inside.
“To no avail,” I blurted out. I’ve been so stressed lately that, in the middle of all this inanity, this dialogue of the deaf, or blind, I switched to English while speaking to her. Go figure.
This story, in fact, would be better named “I Hate Brazil,” as so many have been shouting lately. But my hatred of Brazil doesn’t last. It does not stand the test of a beautiful sunny morning or of a toucan perched on my tree’s canopy. It’s something like when I hate Alan, when I hate him so much it hurts, but it goes away when he touches my chest as we wake, to check if I’m alive and show me he’s alive as well.
Hello, Brazil, I’m still alive. And this, too, shall pass.
So, changing the subject completely: Alan and I were talking — always Alan, how could I live without him — about the reason why all media seems to be focusing more and more on human misery, something based, at first, on the idea that it might lighten our own. And then I punned, in English, figure that. After all, intelligence is much appreciated chez nous, and it might one day save the dregs of this marriage: OPM, “Other People’s Misery.”
Thing is, no matter in what language, taking one OPM for another can only result in contagious hatred, which has been poisoning us all. It just goes back to our everyday suffering and, suddenly, it’s not other people’s money; it is our own. It’s not other people’s pain; it is our own. That’s when hope loses out to gloom, we feel like assholes or in deep shit, tiff in drerd; either way, it’s where we’re at.
Something to think about. Tchau.