The Fear of Silence
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 18th December, 2010
One of the most striking things about Brazil for an outsider is the people’s love of noise. Only the poshest restaurants are places where one can have a gentle conversation. Everywhere else, people shout, laugh, fool around and compete with the ever present television. Just about every medium-range eatery or snack-bar has several televisions hanging from the wall, playing football matches or soap operas, the latter watched intermitently but with great intensity briefly by the customers. Even the long-distance buses have videos, as if the countryside or towns through which one passes are insufficient entertainment. Then there is the music, of course, blaring from cars, people’s portable sound systems and juke-boxes. Though this cacophony and joie de vivre are elements of Brazil’s particular charm, I can’t help but notice how superficial it all is. Few people read a newspaper, let alone a book (though it’s true both are expensive luxuries for the bulk of the population). From an early age, people seem to go around in noisy groups, either of family or friends. It’s almost as if they have a fear of silence, of extended periods of quiet reflection. Even a fear of being alone.