On Old Walls, New Despair

Ana Luisa Nogueira started out looking for love. More and more, she found hate. Not hate, exactly, although that’s a word she sometimes uses for it. Sorrow. Anger. A broken faith in a future with much to offer. About four years ago, as a weekend hobby, she began wandering Lisbon to photograph the clusters of hearts and proclamations of ardor, the endearing graffiti of romance, that she saw on the city’s buildings. But about two years ago, on those same buildings, she noticed new images and messages sprouting. Some raged at Portuguese government, which had saddled the country with debt. Some railed at Germany, which held the cards and the purse strings. Some were just scrawled wails of grief. As Europe’s financial crisis deepened and Portugal reeled, Lisbon’s walls talked. “Abandon all hope, you who still believe in me,” they said, in Portuguese. “Portugal died. R.I.P.” That epitaph was long gone by earlier this month, when I joined Nogueira, 37, for one of her walks. But we found other writings, including several with the same blunt refrain of hopelessness. “You will never own a house in your life,” it said. Except it said this with an unprintable adjective before “your life.” It said this with vitriol and heartache. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Portugal was a very different place, riding high on the promise of European Union, optimistic. So, to varying degrees, were Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy. Today they’re enduring a magnitude of sacrifice, uncertainty and anxiety that trumps what America is going through, not to belittle our hurt, and that serves as a warning and lesson. What happens when the gap between what people thought lay ahead of them and what they now confront is allowed to widen as quickly and as much as it has in these countries? How do they adjust? “They commit suicide in the public square,” said my friend Paulo Côrte-Real, an economics professor in Lisbon, over dinner here. He was referring to international headlines about a 77-year-old man who had recently shot himself in front of the Greek Parliament and to “suicide by economic crisis,” a phrase that several European newspapers now use. A story about rise of such deaths happened to appear in The Times the day after our dinner. Maybe they flirt with far-right parties that scapegoat minorities and bemoan modernism and globalism. There have been reports and evidence of this in Greece, Hungary, even France. Maybe they take to the streets, loudly and repeatedly, as in Spain. Or maybe they flee. Seemingly any young college graduate you talk to in Portugal, where the unemployment rate is 15% overall but significantly higher for young people, and where wages and benefits have plummeted, tells you about similarly well-educated peers who have moved, with their skills and their ambitions, elsewhere, leaving Portugal poorer in an additional way. “The Netherlands, Germany, England, Canada, the U.S., Brazil, Angola, Denmark,” said Joana Pacheco, 26, when I asked her to name places her friends had gone. When I asked her how many of her friends she was talking about, she answered, “All of them” (…..)

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/bruni-on-old-walls-new-despair.html?hp

Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

One Response to On Old Walls, New Despair

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The Portuguese should consider themselves the luck ones. First,
    the small population of Portugal is declining year after year. No urgent need of creating too many jobs for young people. Second, the Portuguese can emigrate and work LEGALLY in any 27 neighboring EU countries. They can make a decent wage, send their kids to school and NOT live in fear of being deported. Sorrow. Anger. A broken faith in a future with much to offer is for millions of men and women from Latin America, Asia and Africa forced to immigrate ILLEGALLY to the EU. Being forced to work for slavery wages, their kids not attending school and under constant fear of being deported. The Portuguese are having a field trip.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/bruni-on-old-walls-new-despair.html?hp

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