A Catholic American Reflection on Rio

Elias Crim, one of the speakers at the Creatio Conference in Rio, has a wonderful reflection on the city and his experience for WYD. Check it out here, and make sure to browse the online oasis Solidarity Hall for articles, opinion pieces and reflections. For more articles by Elias, see his page here. Below, a section of his Rio article:

But the favelas strike me as operating on the same loose principles of civil action that often apply when dealing with Rio officialdom: everything is a conversation in which both parties have a certain amount of latitude. When students (and others) erupted several weeks ago over higher public transit fares, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff hosted a public roundtable conversation that included several students and during which she cheerfully offered to look at making changes to the Brazilian constitution. I have a hard time imagining any such conversation in the U.S.

A possible metaphor for this flexible, humane attitude is the way Brazilians drive. Whereas Americans are accustomed to staying each within our own lanes of traffic, drivers in Rio must contend with older streets without clearly marked lanes and they are comfortable speeding along with no more than two feet or so of distance between vehicles.

The system seems to work because everyone, pedestrians included, holds to the same standard of alertness and instinctive caution. In narrow city streets, that is, well-marked lanes are less necessary if everyone rises to the community standard of head’s-up motoring.

I must end this post soon before I lapse into the same kind of effusive reaction over Brazil that I recall having many years ago when I first saw Italy. If you want to visit a communal society, head for this place. If this doesn’t sound too odd, it has, I think, made me a much better Catholic.

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