Black Cars

They’re all the rage in Manaus. You have to have a black car, otherwise you may as well lie down in the middle of the road and get run over by one. Outside the illustrious establishment wherein I write, is a long line of shiny new black cars abandoned carefully in the driveway by their rich owners (of course we know they’re rich, because they have black cars). Size matters too, of course – the preference is a large 4×4 – and the make should be something you can’t buy without importing it especially; but when it boils down to it, as long as it’s black you’re OK.

And speaking of boiling it down, this is, of course, exactly what a black car will try to do to its occupants in 40 degrees of sunshine. In fact the obvious colour to go for is white, to reflect all that nasty heat and light. The problem is that this is the colour of the dreaded taxi. All taxis are white. It’s a tradition dating back to when Brazil got its first batch of Volkswagen Beetles (the Fusca). And no-one wants people to think they’re a taxi driver, now, do they?

I don’t suppose any of these rich and beautiful people have ever stopped to consider the reason taxi drivers have cornered the market in white, or ever thought it might be BECAUSE IT’S THE RIGHT COLOUR FOR THE CLIMATE. No. And why would they change even if they had the wit to consider this? Because they have the money to fuel their gas-guzzling, air-conditioned black tanks. And if their cars are black, everyone knows this. In fact everyone knows that they are so stinking rich they have no need to concern themselves with money. And so it is with the rest of Brazilian society, where madness is a sure sign of money. Why design something that’s efficient, effective and economical when it just doesn’t matter? Build your house with a flat roof, paint it black, put plate glass windows in it and let it face the afternoon sun – because it doesn’t matter: just turn up the aircon and to Hell with it. And why demand efficiency from others when you can happily pay for their inefficiency? See – it just doesn’t matter!

Meanwhile, the disenfranchised majority, who would probably be quite grateful for something in Brazil that was efficient, effective and economical, can go whistle. They don’t have enough money between them to influence the market, so the market carries on building, manufacturing, importing and distributing (hopelessly inefficiently) any old tat, because the rich don’t care about it.
Of course I have to admit we have plate glass windows and a black car. And I have to admit that we’re paying through the nose to get our container out of the port in the usual inefficient, and ineffective way (7 weeks and counting now). But that’s Brazil, innit though but…?

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