Out of Desperation By Firas M. Saab
345-102-MQ WORLD VIEWS Section 02736 Saturday, May 5, 2012
In most of the developed countries, the majority of people can easily meet their basic physical/survival needs that they tend to take them for granted. In the documentary Favela Rising, the producers Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary present the viewer with the rare opportunity of witnessing the misery bestowed upon the people of a favela (slum) in Rio de Janeiro by the drug cartels on one hand and by the corrupt law enforcement on the other. They do so through the narration of the incredibly inspiring story of Anderson SĂĄ, the heart behind the group called Afroreggae. Anderson like most kids in his favela was exposed to allot of violence growing up. He witnessed the first murder at the age of 10 through the fingers of his mother who was trying to cover his face to prevent him from seeing such a scene. He then got involved with the drug cartel that occupied his favela which was also â€œnormalâ€? for people living there. As one of the kids interviewed says in the first section of the documentary, in the favela, the only way to get wealth and status is to be involved with the drug cartels. The people who are, he says, are the ones who get all the girls, the fancy clothes and the expensive motorcycles and that people like himself (who are not involved) are ignored. In addition, in the favelas, there are no activities or events that give people the sense of involvement and belonging. As time passed, Anderson got more involved in the cartel as he started to undertake more dangerous tasks until one day, he was informed that his innocent brother had died during one of the raids which the law enforcement were undertaking. This is one of the first pieces of evidence which informs the viewer as to which extent the law enforcement is corrupted. They nonchalantly threw a grenade into a bar killing or badly injuring everyone there. At that 1
point, Anderson’s mother thought that that event would drag Anderson even deeper into the cartel. Nevertheless, out of desperation, and through what they now call the Shiva effect, Anderson started the Afroreggae group. Living a good life in a favela is extremely difficult if not impossible for several reasons which are well presented in the documentary. In order to have a good life, most philosophers and psychologists would agree that first; one must fulfill certain physical needs. These needs consist of a sufficient supply of food, water and cloths to keep warm. As one can clearly see, these basic needs are hardly met at the favelas in Rio. In addition to the basic survival needs, in order to live a good life, one must have a certain amount of safety. As Anderson Sá states at the beginning of the documentary: “While children who lived outside the community went to sleep rocked by lullabies, we slept rocked by the sound of gunshots, by the sound of people screaming and by the sound of violence”. Through the above, one can clearly see how favelas strip the sense of safety from anyone within their boundaries due to the ongoing conflict between the drug cartels and the corrupted law enforcement. Also, one needs a sense of belonging and purpose in the community in which one is surrounded. Sadly, the only activity present to the people in these areas to join is the drug cartels; and by doing so, due to the eminent danger in these cartels, one chops one’s life expectancy down to the age of 23 as Anderson Sá states in a conversation with a young kid who believed that joining the cartel was “cool”. In other words, in order to have a sense of belonging within their community, one must sacrifice safety, which is a more basic and fundamental need to living a good life. Given the above, one naturally reaches the conclusion that it is 2
extremely difficult to live a good life in a favela. Thankfully, Anderson, like a phoenix, was capable to rise again through the ashes of corruption, violence and death grace to the Shiva effect. Shiva, he explains, is the goddess of destruction and transformation. In other words, instead of looking at himself as a victim of the circumstances, he decided to use the destruction as a source of motivation in order to lead the long due transformation. Anderson realized that he, as well as the community, lacked a nonviolent and artistic way to vent their stress and frustrations. That’s when he started to write down lyrics for reggae songs to “blow off some steam”. As Jose Junior, a founding member of the Afroreggae who also watched his family and loved ones die as victims of violence, says: “Everything began to work out the moment we created AfroReggae”. Even though at first, it was tough for the group to support its members due to the lack of funding, it kept growing and gaining momentum. As it did, they started teaching kids how to play music like the drums or the berimbau and performing arts like dancing. The group provided the kids of the favela with an alternative option, one that does not involve drugs and violence. Eventually, the group started holding free concerts for the community where an ironic incident occurred. One of the members of the cartel walks up to Anderson and expresses his gratitude; He says that thanks to AfroRaggae, his younger brother was capable of having a more or less acceptable childhood away from violence. Throughout the documentary, the viewer comes across many important virtues presented through the experiences in which the group withstands. Most prominent of which is courage. At one point, Anderson was wrongly accused of violating and taking 3
hostage members of the cartel. So the leader of the cartel, along with hundreds of members marched towards the location where Anderson was, along with several AfroReggae members, with the intention of killing him. Although Anderson had the opportunity to run away, backed by his friends, he courageously decides to remain in his position and clear the false rumors that were spread even though he knew that there was an extremely high chance that he might die in the process. Further in the documentary, an extremely emotional event occurs as Anderson falls while he enjoyed a hobby which he said liberates him and relives his day to day stress; surfing. Through this event, he had to face his biggest fear; the fear of immobility. Even though he did not have the funds to undertake the surgery necessary to restore his motor abilities, what one may view as karma took place. The doctor who was looking over him states that he was raised to help anyone who needs help regardless of whether or not they can pay. Also a mysterious woman who he has never met before walks into the hospital room and tells him that the god of the ocean has gave Anderson the victory. Shortly thereafter, with what seems like a mirical, Anderson recovers from his fall without any immobility. And after a period of recovery, he goes back to performing and inspiring people in the favelas of Brazil as well as in other countries around the world. At that point, one can definitely see how thanks to AfroReggae, the people of the favelas now have a tremendously higher chance of living a good life. First, the amount of violence decreased which gives people the essential element of physical security. It also provided them with an honorable way of releasing their stress and frustrations in 4
addition to the sense of fulfillment that comes along with artistic mastery. Also, they can connect with others in a healthy artistic environment which allows people to feel evolved in society.