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Standing firm

All of his neighbors had sold out their children as far as Lajos was concerned. The loggers had visited and waved money in their faces, and the downfall happened alarmingly quick from there. In mere months, the land surrounding his own was devoid of any timber, which had been replaced by cattle, following the rapid evolution of so much of his home country. Everything had seemingly been flipped on its head since he had moved there as a boy forty years before.

The government program of relocating people by giving them land around the rainforest in the 1970s and 80s had uprooted his family from Sao Paulo when he was eleven. Introverted by nature, Lajos was initially excited by the prospect of starting anew, as he had few friends in his ghetto and wouldn’t miss the ones he had. But his father was not an innate farmer, and the first several years were arduous. Only once he recognized that his son possessed more talent at tending the crops and ceded considerable decision making did things begin to turn around.

Similarly, most neighbors who resettled at the same time suffered, some outright failing and moving back to the cities. Those who stayed endured many tenuous years alongside Lajos’ family, but eked out a living long enough to rebalance themselves suitably, if not always comfortably, to their new routines. Lajos had even offered advice to several of them in the spirit of community. He was proud of his and their achievements, and longed to pass on the fruits of his labor and knowledge to his son and daughter one day.

All of that began to change in the most recent decade at a breathtaking clip. As the loggers pushed inland further and further, their avarice became increasingly palatable to his fellow citizens. As did the government’s. As did his neighbors’, to the shock of Lajos. He could admit to himself that his initial surprise was naive in retrospect, but their greed angered him deeply and he made no secret of it. After struggling for so long, they traded decades of labor for the first offer to come along. He seethed at their betrayal.

The temptation to agree to the payouts was understandable, of course. No one was living the high life there. Escape hatches from poverty are amongst the most difficult to resist. But Lajos had spoken to them before the contract signings and knew they were aware of what the agreements meant. Income inequality was decimating not just their country, but the world, spiraling out of control with exponential speed. All of their children would suffer more, and for what? A few more real that would surely be buried in the avalanche of total sellout to global corporations.

Everything was stacked in the rich’s favor. He wept for the future, knowing full well his son may take the same path as soon as the deed changed hands, but Lajos was resolute. Resistance seemed feeble in the face of a tidal wave of capitalism, yet relenting was morally cheap. His neighbors knew it, even agreed with him, and had caved all the same. Lajos refused. Integrity and the future were all anyone had left, and to franchise either was to squander the match.

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