Words and Photos By Vanessa Barbara, Translated By Peter Azen
In February 2008, Senator Mário Couto of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party came down from the podium and threw himself toward his rival, Gilvam Borges of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party. Borges retaliated by pushing him. Before being separated, they vigorously insulted each other: “Your Honor, you are a charlatan!” Couto shouted. “You bum,” replied Borges. On another occasion, Angela Guadagnin of São Paulo’s Workers’ Party carried out, in the middle of the Legislative Assembly, a cheerful jig to celebrate the absolution of corruption charges against a friend. Between the chairs of the plenary congregation, she shook her ass vigorously in the high Brazilian tradition as cameras immortalized the event on public television.
Stuff like this happens with such frequency that I decided to spend a weekend watching a broadcast of the Legislative Assembly Television of the State of São Paulo for 24 hours straight. I kept a diary of the proceedings so that the rest of the world can understand what local politics are like in Brazil. To prepare I took a nice shower, put on my best PJs, and planted myself on the sofa. I switched the television to channel 7 and caught a representative in midspeech: “Within the medium intelligence that God gave me…” Soon the first debate of the night started, and two citizens with shiny shoes explained the trifling details of the agro-economic situation in the city of Jundiaí. Later, defending himself against the popular protests against the installation of a prison in the city, a deputy declared, “This is already surpassed, from the point of view that it is already installed.” It was going to be a very long night.
9:03 PM Within the cozy confines of basement S-46 of the Legislative Assembly, deputy Aldo Demarchi speaks to the television audience, stating that he’s learned a lot “in respect to the respect of citizens’ rights.”
9:16 PM The deputy has just made his third utterance of the elegant phrase “where at” in his proceedings.
9:19 PM “São Paulo is a pearl,” says the deputy, while shaking his golden wristwatch. The host interrupts with a question about the intensive planting of grains in the countryside.
9:25 PM At this point, the debate transitions from factory farming to the person who originally introduced Australia’s eucalyptus seed into Brazil.
9:29 PM Important note: It seems the deputy has a crooked pinkie finger.
9:32 PM A tiring documentary about the Tietê River begins, and for half an hour it focuses on the indigenous people of Brazil and the etymology of the word “Tietê.” At exactly 9:48, I order a pizza. Shortly after, the documentary ends with the desperate sounds of sultry moans.
10:01 PM There’s a debate going on about an inspection vehicle’s environmental inspection. At 10:06 I take my first pee break and make a mental note: “It seems like September.”
10:34 PM The pizza arrives.
10:36 PM An unidentified deputy: “The priority that is the biggest priority excludes the priority that is a smallest priority. This is logic. This is elementary.” The crowd goes insane.
10:57 PM The Legislative Assembly’s president, Barros Munhoz of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, receives some compliments from his colleagues. They call him “comrade” and “an exceptional person.”
11:01 PM “Under God’s protection, we started our work,” says the deputy Célia Leão of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, starting the session that will serve as an homage to an association of people who suffer from Down syndrome. This event will “be important in this respected house of laws as a work of spreading…” I feel slightly nauseated.
11:06 PM The noble deputies begin to substitute the words “visualizing” for “watching” and “to seat” for “sit.” “Literally” is also being used outside of its literal meaning.
11:09 PM The Brazilian national anthem is being played by the Military Police of the State of São Paulo. There is a fatty playing trumpet.
11:11 PM A deputy speaks to those with hearing disabilities. She apologizes because the sign-language interpreter is late. The deaf look confused.
11:13 PM Another compliment is paid to Barros Munhoz: “He is a great leader, a great man, a minister who served as the mayor of Itapira… He can be claimed as a humane person because, deep inside, in his synthesis, he is.”
11:32 PM For the first time the word “maybe” is used. Later they will exclusively use “perhaps.”
11:57 PM The representative of the county of Valinhos waves to the camera. He is wearing a short-sleeved button-up shirt.
12:22 AM The Democrat João Barbosa philosophizes: “If we could do more, then that’s how we would do it.”
12:29 AM During a deposition, the board’s president is surprised when her cell phone rings. She pretends that nothing happened and hides the phone under the table. It appears that she was sending a text message to a friend.
1:00 AM A debate about vitamin supplements, steroids, and doping begins.
1:22 AM “My problem is the gout,” confesses a deputy. I have no idea what he’s talking about.
1:52 AM “For example, when I eat an egg I get tired,” says the program’s host, who seems engrossed in the current theme.
2:00 AM An interesting debate about biofuels stirs me briefly from my half-conscious state, even though the prologue of the speaker is too long. He begins: “Ten thousand years ago, the man was a mere collector.” Then he outlines the history of the Industrial Revolution.
2:19 AM The interviewee takes approximately 11 minutes to answer a single question.
3:00 AM My eyelids start to droop as a debate begins about the relative law that deals with the lack of schools.
6:13 AM I pass out and awake three and a half hours later, just in time to watch a documentary about forests, cane plantations, and biodiversity.
1:22 PM (the following day) Whoops, I fall asleep again for about seven hours and wake up to a debate about low-income housing. “Listen, sirs… What a low thing! I wasn’t satisfied, Mr. Councilman, in its importance to me…”
1:55 PM Councilman Jooji Hato of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party stands up to veto a bill about the transportation of passengers in motorcycles, which, according to him, increases the amount of homicides in greater São Paulo. He is obsessed.
2:11 PM The councilman and singer Agnaldo Timóteo of the Party of the Republic gets excited while protesting the recent leak of humiliating images of the politicians in the chamber to the media. “The councilmen were exposed in a twisted and cowardly manner,” he explains. Later he loses his train of thought and declares that the Brazilian military dictatorship “only existed for those who were terrorists, those who killed.” Timóteo declares that journalists are a “bunch of bums” and leaves in a fury.
2:57 PM Voting begins for the current batch of proposed laws. They include the creation of an instructional card about mouth health for students in public schools, obligatory boxes of sweets in public buildings, priority for disabled people in bus corridors, and other miscellaneous bullshit. I decide to iron some clothes.
3:30 to 4:15 PM During this period, I become inexplicably catatonic and unresponsive to external stimuli.
4:18 PM I recover after a massive ingestion of chocolate.
4:25 PM It begins to rain and I pray for a blackout.
5:07 PM Macena won’t shut up. “This is what’s missing in this project: a project,” he concludes.
5:40 PM There are only ten councilmen interested in Macena’s ranting, and all of them talk until they reach the minimum of two hours of discussion on this subject. Another councilman yawns.
6:04 PM When everything seems lost, councilman Jamil Murad of the Communist Party of Brazil starts his argument by saying that the city is 455 years old and that he still remembers its fourth centennial. It was the same year that his team won the soccer championship.
6:34 PM The council decides to change the name of the Parliamentary Commission of Questioning of Pedophilia to the Parliamentary Commission of Questioning of Pedophilia and the Fight Against Sexual Violence in the City of São Paulo.
7:01 PM The president of some commission discusses the maintenance of a soccer field in the city.
7:36 PM Jooji Hato is once again defending the veto concerning motorcycle passengers. He dreams of a city where the students don’t go to school with guns, you can go anywhere without being molested, and the son of the governor won’t get robbed.
7:42 PM A parliament member is offended by his obligation to publish his bills on the internet.
7:46 PM Wadih Mutran of the Progressive Party says that he is not obliged to publish his bills online. “Who is going to correct the internet? What is the judicial value of this?”
8:00 PM With God’s help, my work is done.
8:01 PM I kiss the living-room floor and turn off the TV. I will probably be calling the neighbors “Your Honor” for weeks and plan to proceed with the execution of the dinner, which, by regimental question and order and with the protection of God and the president of this respected house of laws, was appreciated in bovine form.
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