“This was truly a senseless loss of life. It unfortunately brings to light the number of murders yearly in Brazil, officially documented at over 50,000 with many thousands more going unreported. Lack of education, poverty, and drugs don’t make for a good mix and make life challenging in this country, one of the most beautiful and scariest places I’ve been.”
A few weeks ago, an off-duty cop killed a great surfer. According to the forensic death report, two shots fired were enough to take his life. One bullet went through Ricardo’s body, between the thorax and the abdomen, from the left to right. It perforated his spleen, pancreas, liver and intestine, while the second bullet lodged in the fifth vertebra in the lower back. After a day and four surgeries, Ricardo Dos Santos died due to loss of blood.
Technically, the bullets were the cause of death. But the person responsible for this senseless and tragic loss of life was a drunken cop who felt the need to shoot a man in the back. He has been arrested and will go to trial, but who knows what kind of justice he will receive. History has shown that cops, on duty or not, have been above the law for a long time.
However, the problem lies much deeper. As Kelly Slater pointed out very well, Brazil is one the most beautiful places on earth, but is also one of the scariest.
We desperately need a radical social improvement. In 2013, people took to the streets to shout out for change. For the first time in Brazil’s history, a massive movement, made by the people and for the people, demanded better education, a better health system, free transportation, and most importantly, the end of the militarization of the police.
It was June 20th when more than 5 million people made their voices heard in more than 120 cities in Brazil. Some small cities had more than 70 percent of the population demonstrating. Rio de Janeiro itself had around 1.5 million people protesting in one main streets of the city.
Ricardo Dos Santos wrote a letter one year before his tragic death. In it, he pointed out that Guarda do Embaú needed to act in order to make it clean, safe and organized again. He tried to calling on his neighbors and friends to do something. The answer to his call was “it is too dangerous – some of us can get shot and killed.”
How many of us have fought the system by leaving it? The city is not for us. It is too dam crazy and too damn crowded. But city problems have a way of knocking at everybody’s doors if you are in our village. Social and ecological problems are hiding in the backyard.
Do we have to wait for one more senseless loss of our dear friends? Do we have to wait for one more chunk of land to be lost to big real estate developers? Do we have wait for the greed of capitalists to destroy what is yet untouched by them? When are we going to realize it? I hope we do before is too late.
So I say to you my fellow surfers: it is time to get involved. I know surfers. Many of us paint with a rebellious brush.
In a true democracy, citizens can question and amend government initiatives. Ricardo’s death probably would not have happened if the voices of the people were heard. The police in Brazil abuse their power, and it needs to stop.
If the government had taken the concerns of the minorities surround the city’s social development, things might have been different. Instead of protecting the minorities, they are trying to eradicate them. People here have lost their land and culture, while others are persecuted because they are against the government. Public schools and hospitals are torn down to build parking lots, and residents are having their homes destroyed for greed. The media in Brazil is too frightened to expose the deep-seated problems. There are deep ties between big media, big corporations, and the government. The system is broken.
Surfers realize they need to stand up and fight for a better world. Take Dustin Barca, for example–he’s taken the Hawaiian’s fight against Monsanto and GMO’s to a global playing field. Poison is in their food, sea, air, and soil.
June 20th was an expression of the people of Brazil’s need for change. We need more of that. We can’t stop fighting. Professional surfers joined that demonstration, but we don’t only need to be in the streets to show that we desperately need social improvement. Professional surfers are blessed with global visibility. They are heroes and role models for many. Many in the professional surfing community paddled out to say goodbye to Ricardinho. But really, how many will take it one step further?
So I have an idea for the Brazilian pros: The next time you win a contest, don’t take your Brazilian flag to stage. Everybody already knows you are Brazilian. Don’t worry about that. Nationalism is not good at all–it generates violence. We are the people of the ocean, just one great bunch that rides waves. Take a black flag, instead, to show that you will not forget the lives that are taken by cops all over the world. Show that is not only about our dearest friend Ricardo Dos Santos. It is about democracy. It is about not being heard. It is about corporate media lying to us. It is about protecting the earth and all of its inhabitants. It is about giving the decisions of our society to the people. It is about creating a world that has less poverty and more freedom.
Ricardinho would like it.