Problems of Vision Create Division

(Complex with 1,176 apartments in Rio)

According to a story in O Globo today, no less than 121 construction sites have popped up in Rio recently, many of them, no doubt, set to be large complexes such as the one in the photo above. In effect, this is what Rio will look like in the somewhat near future. No, I’m not talking about the contrast we see here, but the upper half of the photo only (go ahead, feel free to use your hand to cover up the bottom half). Back when I lived in Rio, which feels like ages ago, in 2005-2006, I witnessed scenes like this all the time and from my obviously non-realtor point of view, I wondered, why is there such a contrast and not a compromise?

The answer lies somewhere between a Gabriel O Pensador song and an episode of Cidade dos Homens, although I forget which exactly. The rich delegate themselves to create their own ‘prisons’ (gated communities, etc) while the poor are relegated to ‘prisons’ made for them (favelas, etc). The rich are allowed to wear ankle-bracelets while the poor are seemingly sentenced to life in confinement. There’s a parallel with the idea of the Prisoner’s dilemma, an important element of game theory mathematics. Game theory led to the continued armament of both sides in the Cold War because neither side knew how many weapons the other had, so by both parties having more and more weapons, they created a deterrent. In this sense, a section of the poor (in the eyes of the rich) are armed with guns while the rich are armed with high walls, bulletproof cars, etc. In terms of the Prisoner’s dilemma, one could say that both sides are being philosophically interrogated by society at large. The only difference is when both defect (blame each other), the rich have a monopoly, as it were, on the ‘get out of jail free’ cards.

Will the beautiful panoramic views and sunsets no longer be seen by those who live on the hillsides and instead, by those that can afford it (in a high-rise apt. complex)? Will Rio become the next Brasília in terms of the poor living far away in satellite cities? Are more ‘prison’ walls the only forseeable solution to the growing problem, a problem of vision (de visão) that creates division (divisão)? It’s obvious that these questions are being addressed already, each side with its own answers, but when will the day come when they decide on them together? I’m tempted to say ‘only time will tell’ but it’s my personal belief that time does nothing, it’s what you do with that time that counts. The passage of time merely removes the matter of importance from the center of your mind’s attention. In the minds of the rich, I’m sure they are satisfied enough that they never really need to turn around to be reminded of the favelas. The favela residents, on the other hand, will be reminded of their exclusion no matter which way they face.

More Info

Prisoner’s dilemma
Rio’s Landscape & the Construction Boom
– O Globo (in PT)
Realty Price In Rio Increase 76%
Hottest Properties in Brazil
Building Walls Doesn’t Mend Fences
Rio’s Beaches – Where the Sun Won’t Shine
Rio Na Cabeça – O Globo’s Guide to Public Works in Rio (in PT)


2 thoughts on “Problems of Vision Create Division

  1. It is truly sad to watch this happen. I’ve been here since you left and sure enough, at least all of Barra and most of the nearby suburbs are being painted with this vision: an immature miraj of comfort and security favored by those that unfortunately don;t know any better. Only zona sul will be spared and thus, the favela views should be protected too. Barra is completely lost to the condo theme-parks.

    • Yeah, when I mentioned in the post that I used to see it all the time, I was refering to Barra and it was happening in Recreio also. I’m hoping some day to buy some property in Rio state so I hope not all the land is taken up when I get there.

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