Culture is an interesting thing. I spent the majority of the day today with Daniel, the program coordinator, and Alline, a photographer, wandering to several of the schools where Programa Aprendiz, the municipal music education organization I’m interning with, functions. The program is present in 23 schools throughout the city and we managed to visit 3 of them today. Along the way, we had some interesting conversations about various topics but the most interesting to me involved the idea of culture. There have been many questions raised about the priorities of Brazil’s government because of the World Cup. One was which did Brazil value more – soccer or the education of its children?
So often Brazil is criticized for this or that, but one has to remember that relative to many other countries, its fairly new. Well, its modern state is fairly new. Brazil was founded merely for exploration and exploitation, unlike the United States which was founded in search of freedom and rights. The Portuguese often sent its most dishonest and corrupt individuals to Brazil to manage its resources, something that apparently would continue for centuries. When Brazil finally gained independence, there was no a set way to run the government, resulting in lots of political unrest. Brazil was also the last country in the Americas to declare slavery completely illegal (1888, see Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolition_of_slavery_timeline). During the decades my parents were growing up, Brazil was run by the military. As a democracy, Brazil is only 25 or so years old. None of this is meant to justify any of the wrongdoings of the government, but it certainly helps paint a more appropriate backdrop for those on the outside looking in.
Some things that seem so logical for some, simply isn’t for others. Things such as taking care of the precious rainforest will always take a back seat the thousands of poor, starving, and uneducated citizens in Brazil’s political discussions. Then there’s corruption, which opens a whole other kettle of fish. But what works for one country won’t necessarily work in another, meaning that changing Brazil’s government or leadership to be like another country’s won’t solve the problem. It will only lower the fever, not cure the illness.
Culture is something that is developed over a matter of time by the constant encouragement of a habit. Habits done by many people over a long period of time become a culture. Good study habits, an appreciation for music, and overall increased self-confidence in young students are currently not a normal part of Brazilian culture.
A culture of public financial support of arts institutions is also not present in Brazil, where soccer is king. Overall, it seems that Brazil would not be good soil to sow seed. However, the work of Aprendiz and others like them are proving that not to be true, that instead there are individuals thirsty for a change.
“I’ll never live to see the change in culture,” said Daniel, “But I can work to encourage the good habits that will, years later, better the culture and its people.” Reminds me of a story I once heard of an old man planting a tree… (http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/358642/jewish/The-Old-Man-and-the-Fig-Tree.htm).
There is a phrase known by musicians that goes, “Practice makes perfect.” This is incorrect. Practice does not make perfect, it makes it permanent. Practice a bad habit, and it’ll be almost impossible to get rid of. Practice a good habit, and it just might change everything, including a country’s culture.