Bosnian writer Zlata Filipovic was one of the main guests of the 20th International Book Biennial, taken place in Sao Paulo this month. She became recognized after launching “Zlata Diary”, which I’ve mentioned about it before here. Throughout 1991 to 1993, she reported her dreadful daily life under the Siege of Sarajevo. From the description of the first bombshell to the period of starvation, it is painful to observe the aspirations of an innocent child colliding with unreasonable military choices. It scares me just to think of myself discontinuing third grade in order to run away from snipers, being imprisoned 24/7 in a dirty cellar, unprovided of Math classes and dance practices. I’ve got more impressed by Zlata’s narrative than Anne Frank’s; for the silly reason that she was my peer. In 1991, I was enjoying my first trip to Disney, filling up my Hello Kitty bag with a dozen of Barbie dolls. After reading the book, I felt bad and guilty for that.
Last Friday, a Brazilian TV channel broadcasted Zlata giving a moving speech regarding the tough situation of children in the country. She highlighted the importance of every civilian to be aware of the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights. After her feverous discourse, it seemed that the TV presenter wasn’t touched enough as me. “Bla…bla…bla… As if anyone in Brazil will ever give a damn about Human Rights”, she said.
Holy Jesus! I’ve never seen someone pronouncing such sharpened words on TV. It is good to notice that at least we have freedom of speech. The lady has completed: “Every time I see a fire from my flat window in Rio, I’m not sure if it is wood or someone being burnt.” The other guest added: “It’s been 15 years since I started driving to the food shop situated one block from where I live. It is too dangerous to walk.” The debate was on. Do Brazilians live under an undeclared war?
It was not necessary more than 2 seconds for me to answer the question. As the debate had given a short break for commercials and I quickly changed to the news channel, I paid attention to a horrible headline: a 16 year-old thief killed an 82 year-old lady that same day. He shot the women in the head after asking her to squat and give him her purse. She couldn’t move down, as she suffered from rheumatism. So he pulled the trigger.
Then I realized that taking news as reference is going a bit further to confirm that I have ever lived at a cellar in the shape of a country. Now I’m back to my hometown, Fortaleza: a city of 2 million people situated at the Northeast of Brazil, framed with wonderful natural beaches and clogged by Italians looking for sexual adventures. My flat is placed 30 seconds from an incredible white sandy beach, covered by a blue shallow sea. And do you know why I never go there? It is too dangerous. As I’m warming up for a run at the beach sidewalk, my dad advised me: don’t take your Ipod with you; you’re going to look “kidnappable”. I’ve bought a nice camera in the UK and was longing to take lovely pictures from the fish men and boats. I haven’t. I’m going to be robbed if I do this. Why the hell our president keep saying that Brazilian economy is improving, that people’s purchase power is increasing, if we simply cannot make use of what we buy?
Another little secret: I have never driven a car without carefully lock all the doors and windows. Forty seconds on the red light it is an eternity. It is the favourite instant for the bad guys to rob you. I’ve been threatened with a knife once. A skinny boy was shouting on my years, demanding my radio. Luckily, the traffic light became green and I crazily pull the accelerator pedals and cried, thinking that if he was carrying a gun, I wasn’t been conscious at that moment.
And who will forget the August 13th of 2006? The day the PCC, the most active criminal organization in the territory, decided to set fire to hundred of buses around Sao Paulo and throw Molotov cocktails on to bank agencies and shop windows? I received an email from my Creative Director asking: “Please, everyone must go home as soon as possible. And be careful.” I drove back home watching the people frightened, struggling to commute and be safe at home. At evening, Sao Paulo was like a desert. There was not a single shop or restaurant opened. Everyone was at their sofas watching a video à là Bin Laden showing the leader of the PCC announcing he would only bring the attacks to an end if the police stop torture his partners inside the prisons.
It is just like Zlata’s war. And we don’t even have Red Cross, Humanitarian Aid and ONU interventions. An undeclared war it is tricky, cause you are never aware of when a catastrophe can happen.
I wish I had started to write diary. But to be honest, no one would ever have persistence to read a war history that it is never going to end.