No money for elaborate Carnival

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Why there is little for Brazil to celebrate

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 9, 2016

There were no flowery floats, high-tempo samba music, or scantily clad performers this year. For Brazilians, the cancelation of the world-famous, multi-day, nationwide street festival known as Carnival must have felt as though someone pulled the plug on Christmas.

The announcement that many Brazilian cities would be putting a hold on the celebration, which traditionally ends on Ash Wednesday, must have been disappointing, but not completely surprising. It seemed like an easy decision; after all, when you are sick and broke, the last thing you would want to do is invite everybody over for a party, right?

Brazil is currently caught in one of the worst recessions in decades. With declining tax revenues and the Zika outbreak, over 40 towns and cities have decided to spend the money annually spent on the parade on resources such as new ambulances. Nobody can deny the value of medical services, but with approximately eight per cent of all employment in the country based around tourism and travel—nearly the same amount as unemployment—the absence of Carnival will undoubtedly take another big bite out of Brazil’s fast-shrinking gross domestic product.

Around the world, Brazil has a particular image: party host. In the past few years, Brazil had won bids to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. This led to liberal spending from the government, with the World Cup alone costing an estimated $14 billion. That’s a lot of ambulances. See, what ended up happening was that the country priced itself so high that only wealthy tourists can afford the luxury—and Brazil makes sure tourist are wealthy with their travel visa qualification process.

Now, it’s not the World Cup or Olympics that are causing Brazil’s economic downfall. There are a number of reasons, including corrupted political parties and energy companies, inflation in commodities, and the fact that the economy of China, one of their leading exporters, is also slowing down.

What’s happening with Brazil is something every country can learn from—heck, it’s something every person can learn from.

It seemed like yesterday Brazil was touted as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Not only did its continent ride on its back, but the world as well. The spotlight was on Brazil, and at a time when any wise government would have taken a step back and assessed the whole situation, the Brazilian government did not. It turned to greed rather than insurance. Instead of solving problems close to home—poverty, crime, employment—it, like a drunken frat boy, took one drink after another until he needed a friend to call his parents to drive him home.

The Brazilian power rose too high, they partied too hard, and they got too greedy. Now, they have to forgo a traditional event that their own citizens cherish. It’s sad to see such a rapid fall from grace, but I guess that’s often how a hangover feels. One moment you are on top of the world, booming. The next, you are waking up with the realization that your economy is now a bust.

There is a time to celebrate, and there is a time to pay it forward and invest within. There needs to be a balance. To keep partying, you’ll need to stay healthy—and wealthy. I love Brazil, and I hope I get to celebrate there again soon.

The Report Card: Holiday ins and outs


By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 28, 2014

Holidays are significant. We look forward to them for various reasons. Perhaps they bring family and friends together, perhaps they ignite a sense of tradition, or maybe we just enjoy dressing up and getting drunk. Whatever your reasons are for celebrating a holiday, remember that beneath the rambunctious fun, there is a greater purpose than merely closing shop and getting trashed.

Pass: Unofficial holidays

Unofficial holidays are quickly becoming a trend in North American culture. There is a novelty to it unlike Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or Thanksgiving. Unofficial holidays break the monotony of the year and give us something unique to look forward to. With the help of technology and social networks, holiday implementers can come up with a reason to celebrate and execute it. With little to no effort, they can sent out invitations, spread the news, and host a holiday that hasn’t existed before.

January 21 is National Hug Day, January 25 is Opposite Day, March 14 is Pi Day, April 20 is Cannabis Day, September 5 is International Bacon Day, and September 19 is International Talk like a Pirate Day. There are many more and I’m not exactly sure what they all entail, but we have the opportunity to create new traditions and be inventive with how we spend our time.

So often days, weeks, months, and even years blend together into a blurry life, but with unofficial holidays making eventful marks and breaking us out of our daily routines, we can create new memories—ones that have us covered in make-up for the annual Zombie Walk or taking our dog to work on June 20 for Take Your Dog to Work Day. Now, those are memories, unlike getting wasted at a random bar.

Fail: Drinking holidays

It’s a bit of a shame seeing some respectable holidays turn into an excuse to get drunk. St. Patrick’s Day, a day to celebrate the independence of the Irish people, is now a day where bars serve green beer. Cinco de Mayo, a day that commemorates the freedom and democracy after the American Civil War is just another alcohol-filled fiesta. Finally there is my old favourite, Halloween: it used to be a chance to dress up and get candy, but now it’s just an opportunity for bars and clubs to jack up their cover charges or to make it impossible to get in because the lineup wraps around the block, and Lord knows I’m not waiting in the cold dressed in my Miley Cyrus/wrecking ball costume.

It has become customary to stock up on booze for New Year’s Eve and other statutory holidays because the provincial liquor stores will be closed the next day and getting wasted is, well, important and expected. So, what does it really say about our society that the days we consider significant are also the days that we make regrettable choices?

I think having fun is important, but anticipating a day just to binge drink doesn’t foster a healthy life. Let’s not forget what holidays are really about. It’s rest, not indulgence.