1. To allay the anger or agitation of
2. To restore to a tranquil state
3. To reduce to a submissive state
Why did the government of Rio de Janeiro use this word? They were trying to allay the doubts and fears of the Brazilian upper and middle classes, which was their target audience. This word was specifically chosen by the same genre of spin geniuses who came up with such gems as “climate change” and “the death tax”. All of these phrases share the same purpose: to conjure an idea in the mind of the listener that is more positive or negative, depending on the objectives of the word doctors, than the original phrase.
I would argue that the idea that was initially inside the minds of those planning the first pacification in the community of Dona Marta, in 2008, was more closely aligned with the image that is associated with the word “occupy”. I am not talking about this word in the sense that is used by the “occupy wall street” movement or when it is used to talk about the “illegal occupation” of Iraq, both of which are used to also conjure up emotional responses on the part of the listener. I am talking about a military occupation that is intended to replace a pre-existing form of government with a new one that represents the government.
Why is the government of Rio de Janeiro trying to allay the fears of the Brazilian middle and upper classes? Ever since the drug gangs took political control over the informal communities known as Favelas, the middle and upper classes of Rio have been deathly afraid of what goes on here. Due to the fact that their have been areas of the city that have been literally under a different political structure, petty criminals have had a place to stay completely untouched by the law. They live in the stateless favelas and go out into richer parts of the city to steal. I want to reiterate that these people represent an extremely small minority of the population residing in the favela.
The fact that there are havens for petty criminals to rob the richer populations of the city has caused incredible tension between the middle/upper classes and the lower income residents of the favela. The richer areas of Rio are full of apartment complexes and houses, the vast majority of which have guards (who ironically live in the favelas) and large gates. Banks are full of large and intimidating guards who carry shotguns. Understandably, with Rio’s high petty crime rates, the middle/upper classes feel besieged in their own homes. They have countless stories about how their aunt’s friend or uncle’s coworker was robbed in the most dreadful way possible. They eat up movies, such as Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite), which depicts an honest and hardworking elite BOPE officer who leads his squad into the favelas to eliminate the murderous traffickers, who are depicted as vermin deserving a violent death.
It is this target audience that the word pacify is marketed towards. The word pacify conjures up images of the peace after a turbulent storm. You do not imagine people cowering in fear of a pacifying force. It does not have the same negative connotations of occupy, invade, or conquer, which brings to mind images of death, destruction, and struggle. The word pacify gives the middle/upper classes of Rio a clean conscience when analyzing what is going on inside there own city. To pacify is to do something positive, to return to the ideal state of peace. For favelas such as Complexo Alemao and its 400,000 residents who are under a military “occupation”, the situation is definitely not one of peace and won’t be until the drug trade magically stops or Brazilian government gets real about its drug policy.
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