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How I missed Brazil's revolution

Street protests that turned Brazil upside down for nearly two weeks have forced this journalist to re-think his approach
Last modified: 15 Jul 2013 22:59

As the tear gas canisters careening through the streets of Brazil finally roll to a stop near the curb and the nationwide protests subside, I now find myself reflecting on a simple question: "How did I not see this coming?"

How did I not expect or foresee or envision the most widespread (not to be confused with largest) civil unrest to hit Brazil in my lifetime? How was I taken so off guard?

I don’t critique other journalists work, it’s just not my thing. But I do my own.

And I have always believed the Brazilian youth – those between 15 to 25 year old – are the least reported on aspect of Brazilian society. They have a lot more to say than the space they are given in the mainstream media by journalists like myself.

I never gave enough serious time to simply walking up the street to busy Av. Paulista in Sao Paulo on any given afternoon and talking to the thousands of young men and women walking by with backpacks, skateboards, and iPod buds in their ears.  

To their great credit, they’re the ones who started this revolution, so how did I get so blindsided by it? 

Maybe over the past few years I have spent too much time interviewing ageing engineers building fancy stadiums and big hydroelectric dams, and not enough time interviewing their teenage kids.

Maybe I spent too much time...

Reading emails from FIFA in my Inbox and not enough time reading the Facebook posts of student youth organizations in Porto Alegre. 

Trying to figure out what Eike Batista was thinking, and not enough time listening to what every other Brazilian named Batista was saying.

Waiting in long lines for press credentials outside fancy media tents, and not enough time speaking to the lowly security guard standing outside the gate.

Lots of 'maybes'

Following people from the 40 million strong new middle class to the appliance store as they bought their first flat screen TV, but not enough time then following them to the public hospital when they got sick and had to wait 40 days for a medical exam.

Focusing on the 1% of Brazilians buying condos in Miami, and not enough time on the 99% of everyone else.

In the shantytowns of Rio interviewing drug traffickers, and not enough time interviewing the other 99% of favela residents who clean the hotel rooms and drive the taxis in Copacabana.

Worrying about quarterly growth rates and what they mean, and not enough time analyzing the household budgets of everyone else in Brazil and what they mean.

Wondering what Goldman Sachs considers is the future of Brazil, and not enough time wondering what the 20 year old Brazilian business school student thinks is the future of his or her country.

Focusing on BRICS summits in exotic cities, and not enough time stopping to talk to the guy laying bricks in Brasilia.

Trying to figure out what’s happening with that billions in untapped oil deep off the coastline, and not enough time seeing what is happening right at the surface on the streets of Recife, Brazil.

There are lots of ‘maybes’ to go around here.

I won’t pretend to say I completely understand all aspects of everything that just hit Brazil, and anybody who says they do, probably doesn’t.

But I am sure of one thing:

The street protests that turned Brazil upside down for nearly two weeks - and continue to bubble like lava under the surface - have forced this journalist to re-think his entire approach to what he thought he knew about this complicated country.

If it hasn’t done the same for you, it should.

Follow Gabriel Elizondo on Twitter @elizondogabriel