I wanna go home, take off this uniform and leave the show
I am a researcher from an ordinary public university in South Brazil. For many of you who follow the news, this simple information speaks for itself. For those who are not familiar with our situation, please read on.
I had always dreamed of becoming a scientist and teaching at a university; I couldn’t imagine another profession half as important or fulfilling. My dream came true in 2011, during the fat years when the public universities were enjoying funding — due to a huge program that the government had created to improve and expand universities. For the first time in Brazilian history, the university was made more accessible and low-income students from all over the country were encouraged to pursue a diploma. Unfortunately, science and research did not receive the same attention.
Funding opportunities for researchers in Brazil are scarce and it is hard to find institutes or universities with technology and infrastructure that make cutting-edge research possible. This means that my colleagues and I do research with the minimum of everything, except strength of purpose. That, thankfully, we researchers have in abundance. Strength of purpose and will to help make the world a better place. We regularly share and work in small labs that contain the minimum – sometimes just a bench with a few microscopes, a lab scale, and a germination chamber—and we invest our own money to buy consumables or a piece of equipment that we need.
Amongst teaching and supervising undergraduate and graduate students, participating in long work meetings to decide when the next meeting is going to be, being part of commissions related neither to teaching nor research… amongst all that, we write our manuscript. Oh, but when that manuscript is finally published, we see that all that sweat, blood and tears were worth it. It is the birth of a long-awaited child; it might be that nobody else cherishes this child and they may even bully it. A lot. But that is our child and we are proud of it.
Then, Bolsonaro comes. His team stresses that public universities are places where people only smoke marijuana and create chaos and that teachers’ salaries are far too high. Then, money for education and research dwindles, and there is talk about reducing our salaries. And the worst part is that the population thinks that he is right, that we are good for nothing.
Now, we are in the middle of a pandemic. Researchers and health workers are superheroes— but not for our government. Thousands of scholarships were extinguished and there is talk about reducing our salary again. People do not trust in our judgement and opinion, based on years and years of study, and prefer to listen to somebody saying that COVID-19 is "just the flu" that will kill only old people "who would die anyway."
I feel numb. I feel enraged. I feel guilty. I feel powerless. I feel useless. I feel like screaming.
Author’s note: The title of this story has been inspired by the Pink Floyd song “Stop” from their album “The Wall.”
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