The Latin American Migration Crisis Was Born Out of Greed and Myths About Race

published on Thursday, September 12, 2019

In Unwanted People, historian Aviva Chomsky’s essays explore the roots of this violent history.

For more than a century, Latin American governments have promoted a model of national development based on land privatization and privileging the interests of foreign investors rather than the rights of workers; policies that in fact promoted economic growth without development. In many cases, this kind of economic growth instead increased inequality and poverty. Democratic or dictatorial governments implemented these policies by hook or by crook, which often forced the people to choose between renouncing their rights or submitting to the brutality of power concretized in armies who served the creole oligarchy in the name of “national security” against foreign invaders. In such armies, often the most deprived individuals were the most zealous and violent guardians of the privileges of others.

This domestic and national economic policy was concretely connected to the interests of international corporations. The social structure in which creole elites of the postcolonial era served the ruling classes mirrored the relationship between the indigenous nobility who served the Spanish crown. In the 20th century, such power lodged itself in traditional commodities-export ruling classes and transnational foreign companies, which were often supported by direct interventions from superpower governments. Despite repeated attempts to prove otherwise, Latin American history cannot be understood without taking into account the history of U.S. interventions, from the Monroe Doctrine (1823) to the dozens of U.S. military interventions in Latin America. The latter includes the annexation of more than half of the Mexican territory in mid-19th century, a long list of military interventions leading to the dramatic establishment of bloody puppet dictators throughout the 20th century, which left hundreds of thousands murdered, and the destruction of democracies such as Guatemala or Chile in the name of freedom and democracy. Large multinational corporations, such as the United Fruit Company in Central America, Pepsi Cola in Chile and Volkswagen in Brazil, motivated or supported many of these coups d’état. The dominant creole classes in turn supported the overthrow of legitimate governments because they stood to gain more from the export business of cheap natural resources than from the internal development of their nations.

The extreme violence that resulted directly from these social inequities generated internal displacements and international migrations, especially to the United States, the world hegemonic economy. Yet many immigrants arrived in a country that denied them the same individual rights that had been withheld from them in their home countries. As Aviva Chomsky illustrates in her new book, Unwanted People: Histories of Race and Displacement in the Americas, the United States’ history of racially motivated class stratification and anti-labor policy dovetailed with the shape that the country’s immigration took in the 1960s.

Unwanted People presents a selection of historian Aviva Chomsky’s writings, which explores the roots of these problems from the concrete perspective of groups who have experienced the effects of this violent history. Chomsky’s work is always incisive and challenging. Each text dismantles modern myths about Latin American immigration, U.S. history, and the labor movement. Specifically, she highlights popular superstitions about immigration that are exacerbated by international reporting and the “master narratives” that have been consolidated by a strategic forgetting, both from U.S. and Latin American perspectives. Chomsky brings these challenges to the dominant narratives of colonial history to bear on topics ranging from the United States’ global and colonial economy to an analysis of the colonial history of Africa in the movie Black Panther.

In “The Logic of Displacement” and “A Central American Drama,” Chomsky analyzes two apparently different realities that are nevertheless connected by their subterranean logics. The historical displacement of Afro-Colombians, she argues, has been caused not only by racism but also by the logic of economic convenience. Chomsky questions the historical explanation of La Violencia in Colombia (initiated with the murder of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948) as a simple dichotomy, “liberal versus conservative,” and reviews the interests of the white Catholic elite of Antioquia over Afro-Colombian regions, rich in natural resources. Thus, in Colombia there is a case similar to that of others on the continent: the internal displacement of rural, indigenous or afro-descendant communities for economic reasons (gold, platinum, wood) is executed “voluntarily” through the purchase of property accompanied by violence inflicted by paramilitary groups, which functioned as an extralegal arm and ally of the armies and the governments of Latin American countries.

Leftist guerrilla groups emerged as a counter to the paramilitary groups that represented the typically conservative right interests of the government. These also served largely as an excuse for military and paramilitary violence. Although it could be argued that the guerrilla groups’ amplification of regional violence also played a role in the displacement of people, Chomsky argues that displacement was not one of their objectives, as it was in the case of paramilitaries, who furthered the interest of the big businesses laying claim to the land and its natural resources. Meanwhile, the impunity of those in power contributed dramatically to the scale of this movement’s violence.

Neoliberal economic policies combined with an increasingly militarized southern United States border had an impact on Central American migration and was the direct result of United States foreign policy.

Internationally, displacement was not always due to direct military actions, but it was always the result of economic forces. The United States increased control of immigration, especially immigration of the displaced poor, as a solution to the increased migration that resulted from years of interventionist foreign policy. The Mexican-American border, which had been permeable for centuries, became a violent wall in 1965, forcing job seekers to avoid returning to their homes in the south as they used to do. This reality was aggravated by the policies and international treaties of the new neoliberal wave of the 1990s, such as NAFTA, which financially ruined the Mexican peasants who could not compete with the subsidized agriculture of the United States. Meanwhile, U.S. conservatives attacked leftist guerrilla and community groups, such as the Zapatistas in southern Mexico, who resisted such policies.

Neoliberal economic policies combined with an increasingly militarized southern United States border had an impact on Central American migration and was the direct result of United States foreign policy. In Chomsky’s words:

“U.S. policies directly led to today’s crises in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Since Washington orchestrated the overthrow of the reformist, democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, it has consistently cultivated repressive military regimes, savagely repressed peasant and popular movements for social change, and imposed economic policies including so-called free trade ones that favor foreign investors and have proven devastating to the rural and urban poor.”

As Chomsky rightly points out in her book They Take Our Jobs! And 20 Other Myths about Immigration (2007), it is no coincidence that when racial discrimination became politically incorrect in the 1960s, it was replaced in the law and in the political and social discourse by national discrimination. This, coupled with the fact that Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants were no longer returning to their countries because of widespread violence, made the new border policies even more dangerous and sometimes deadly for both migrant workers and those fleeing political and social violence, mostly people from the Northern Triangle of Central America.

This sequence of historical events has countless consequences in the present. However, politicians, major media, and U.S. citizens only see the faces of children, men and women speaking a “foreign language” (though, of course, Spanish is older than English in the United States). Political and news discourse represents immigrants as “invading” cities to take advantage of the services and benefits of American democracy, which strips immigration politics of its historicity. It is a false logic that turns workers into idlers, imagines welfare abusers when in fact immigrants sustain the care economy with their labor and their taxes, and sees the victims of neocolonial trade policies as invading criminals. In a recent interview with Aviva Chomsky about the current myths that dominate the social narrative in the United States today, she explains:

“I’d say there are two [myths]: one, that immigrants are criminals, and two, that immigrants come here to take advantage of the United States. In a way, these are connected—by turning immigrants into ‘bad hombres,’ Trump helps to erase history and the disasters that U.S. policy has helped to create in the countries that immigrants are currently fleeing, especially in Central America.”

Unwanted People, a collection of Aviva Chomsky’s writings, approaches complex discussions about race, labor, and immigration in the United States from the more nuanced perspective of a historian. Often conversations about immigration center on the subject of labor, and yet, as Chomsky illustrates in the essays collected in her new book, labor in the United States has its own troubled history. With a focus on New England, and especially Boston, Chomsky connects the history of labor struggles dating back to the 19th century to modern-day discussions about race and immigration. By uncovering hidden histories that challenge the dominant narratives about the working class, Chomsky reveals the importance of discussing racial justice alongside economic justice. Rather than participating in the shrill and polarizing rhetoric of political and media hype, Chomsky invites us to look to the economic and political history that has led up to this point. As Chomsky points out, “Until we are able to acknowledge and understand the past, we will not be able to act in the present for a better future.”

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. It is an adapted excerpt from the foreword by Dr. Sarah Parker and Jorge Majfud to the new book by Aviva Chomsky, Unwanted People (University of Valencia Press, 2019).

 

Dr. Sarah Parker is an associate professor in the English department at Jacksonville University. She holds a PhD in comparative literature from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the author of numerous scholarly articles and book chapters on topics ranging from the history of medicine to French feminist theory.

 

Jorge Majfud

Jorge Majfud is a Uruguayan American writer and an associate professor at Jacksonville University.

 

 

Aviva Chomsky Cover 2

Why the Government’s Hunt for the Migrant Poor Is a Perfect Distraction From the Real Problems of Our Time

Published on Thursday, August 15, 2019 by 

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The powerful old men who rule the world have an existential advantage, which is that they won’t live to see the fruits of their hate and greed.

Immigrants not only don’t vote but likewise their economic power and ability to shape the media narrative are irrelevant. (Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In June of 2019, President Donald Trump announced the scheduling of raids for hunting down illegal immigrants in the 10 biggest cities in the United States, which commenced on July 14. The fact that big cities were selected rather than big farms, which are unable to gather their harvests without illegal immigrants, most probably stems from a phenomenon that I have pointed out before, which is that in the United States, minorities (blacks, Latinos, Asians) are politically underrepresented, not just because illegal immigrants don’t vote but also because the votes from citizens of those groups are worth several times less than a white vote in a low-populated ultraconservative state, all of which calls into question the supposedly democratic nature of the entire political and electoral system, not to mention the economic and financial system: one citizen, one vote.

For historical reasons associated with the marginalization of land ownership and because of present-day necessities, minorities are concentrated in large cities in the service sector. They reside in the most populous states, each of which has as many senators as any sparsely populated state. Since the 19th century, such largely rural states have been conservative bastions. To come up with the same population as California (40 million) or New York (20 million), which are two progressive bastions known for being more receptive to all kinds of immigrants, it’s necessary to add together the populations of more than 10 conservative states (the gigantic state of Alaska has a population of less than 1 million people). Nonetheless, each of these large states possesses only two senators, while a dozen conservative and thinly populated states possess 24. Texas is the inverse exception but not according to its internal dynamics.

An accurate representation of this structural reality must also include, among other characteristics, the fact that so-called populist governments quite often strive to make a big splash with spectacular and symbolic decisions when they might have done the same thing in a more discreet way. Leftist populist movements tend to play this same card with more powerful antagonists, which is what empires of various stripes are. Right-wing populist movements tend to play the same card by attacking and demonizing the governments of poor countries when the latter get the idea of toying with independence, or by going after the most defenseless sectors in a society such as poor immigrants or workers. Immigrants not only don’t vote but likewise their economic power and ability to shape the media narrative are irrelevant.

In the case of right-wing populism, which is an expression of elite interests misleadingly conflated with the frustrations of the working class who are manipulated into directing their vigilante fury at the undesirables below their socioeconomic level, we can at least say that it’s a kind of cowardice raised to an exponential degree. Without even considering that post-humanist fanatics (fanatics are those working-class people who defend elite interests against their own interests, not those elites who simply defend their own interests) tend to wave the diverse and contradictory flag of the cross at the same time they rend their garments and thump their chests while claiming to be the followers of Jesus, a man who preached about indiscriminate love and surrounded himself with marginalized people. He who was crucified alongside two other criminals by the imperial power of the day and the always necessary local collaborators.

Different studies (Derek Epp and Enrico Borghetto) have shown that the greater the social and economic differences separating elites from the working class, the greater the media coverage given to problems related to immigration and crime. This is just as much the case in prominent countries as in peripheral ones, in rich ones as in poor ones. One other characteristic must be added, one that even shows up in papers written by university students. The debate (or perhaps more accurately “social verbalization”) is laid out with its axiom and corollary from the very beginning when it is presented as “the immigration problem” rather than “the challenge” or “the great immigration opportunity.”

Although President Donald Trump lost the election in 2016, he made it to the White House because of an electoral system invented for protecting Southern slaveholding states in the 18th century (today, liberal states like California need twice as many votes as the Southern states they subsidize through taxes to get an electoral vote) and characterized by racist discourse, as in Europe, barely disguised by the eternal and cowardly excuse of legality, which, as I’ve already analyzed previously, has historically been promoted and respected when doing so was convenient for the groups holding power. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is another example: designed to favor Irish immigrants in the late 1980s (the least welcome immigrants throughout the 19th century before becoming “white” in the 20th century), suddenly it was considered absurd and inconvenient when politicians realized the law favors mostly non-white immigrants. Of course, there are a few notable and heroic exceptions to this rule, like the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965; these exceptions and examples of social progress have been always thanks to demonized people fighting for social justice. Racism is neither created nor destroyed. It is only transformed.

The date July 14, 2019, which marked the start of a round of raids on illegal immigrants, is an arbitrary one but is consistent with the fascist psychology that loves untimely and symbolic decisions taken against any specific working-class group that has been demonized as “the others,” such as everyday Jews, everyday Muslims, everyday immigrants. Of course, not just any illegal immigrant but rather the poorest, most desperate and with the darkest skin. The other illegal immigrants, if they are white, go unnoticed. Or if they are white women, they can even become the First Lady in spite of the fact that her parents were (by free choice and because it was required for registering as “mountain climbers”) members of the communist party in some European country. Further proof is that immigrants do the work that the nation’s citizens refuse to do.

Tribalism, the fascist, racist misogynistic horde and disgust for the equal rights of others—all of these will pass away. We don’t know when, but I’m convinced that it’s a global reaction to everything that has been accomplished in this sense, whether how little or how much, in the last few centuries. And it’s an entirely expected pretext for a worsening conflict between those who are increasingly fewer and have increasingly more and those who are increasingly numerous and feel but don’t understand that they are being pushed aside and, in the best-case scenarios, are being turned into docile, grazing consumers. It’s a historic process that cannot be perpetuated, that will explode in an uncontrolled catastrophe nobody wants, not even those at the top who are so accustomed to expanding their zones of influence during each controlled crisis, such as the one that will come in 2020.

The powerful old men who rule the world have an existential advantage, which is that they won’t live to see the fruits of their hate and greed. That’s why they don’t care about anything in the long run, even though they say the exact opposite over and over. This is especially true if they think they’ve managed to buy a penthouse in the kingdom of the Lord by virtue of paying alms and praying five minutes per day with their heads bowed. For them and for the working class, “time is money.” This is a myth that can only be busted by considering that no mountain of gold can buy them additional time. Since they can’t amass time, they instead amass gold while destroying the lives of the weakest and most desperate—of the youngest who far and away have more time than gold. It’s a sin for which they won’t be forgiven.

 

JM, August 2019.

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Immigration, History, Politics, and the Latino Vote

2019 Lectures

 

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IMMIGRATION AND THE LATINO VOTE 

January 30, 2019 4:30 pm McKee 113 

western_carolina_university_logo

WCU Humanities Initiative

WCU welcomes Uruguayan-American scholar and author Jorge Majfud. 

In the first event, Dr. Majfud will join Dr. Benjamin Francis-Fallon (WCU History) in a panel about Immigration and the evolution of the Latino Voting Bloc in the US. 

Join us also the following day, when Dr. Majfud will engage in a dialogue with Dr. Alberto Centeno-Pulido (WCU World Languages) about immigration, racism, and the role of intellectuals in the public sphere as explorers of the human experience.

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For more information, contact Alberto Centeno-Pulido at acentenopulido@wcu.edu

 

 

  

War of the Pigs and tribal politics

Jorge Majfud

Translated by  Fausto Giudice Фаусто Джудиче فاوستو جيوديشي

 

To distract attention from the global assault by 0.1 percent of the world’s population, we have a growing War of the Pig (Diary of the War of the Pig, novel by Bioy Casares, 1969, engL 1972) but extended to the most diverse extremes the Argentine novelist ever imagined: young against old, whites vs.  blacks, Latinos vs.  Anglos, fat vs.  skinny, truckers and miners vs.  university students, beer drinkers vs.  abstainers, vegans vs.  vegetarians and vegetarians vs.  carnivores, feminists of the first wave vs.  Instagram feminists and vs.  men, machistas vs.  feminists, men vs. women, lesbians vs. heteros and heteros vs. gays, Ford drivers vs. Chevrolet drivers, bearded Harley-Davidson bikers vs. beardless professors, third-generation vs. first-generation immigrants, gun lovers and Saturn believers vs. Uranus believers. Good haters vs. bad haters (another untranslatable word defecated in the centre of the world for consumption by the periphery).

At the beginning of this century (still with some optimistic faith in a new form of radical, direct democracy of a “disobedient society” liberated from its great leaders and from the manipulations of the financial aristocracy) we began to publish on the return of “The Mental Frontiers of Tribalism” (2004, tribal, in the European sense of the word, because the “wild tribes” I found in Africa were the most civilized and peaceful people I’ve ever known in my life), about the new “Culture of Hatred” (2006) and about the possible return of Western monsters (“The Slow Suicide of the West”, 2002) such as fascism, arrogance and intolerance towards “the other”. The most recent article “The own opinion and other banalities” (2015), then read as satire, is now a reality: machines can easily opine on everyone based on their consumption habits or on their social, racial position, etc.

But we can still speculate that all that medieval mentality that has been installed in the world can be just a reaction to a major historical movement, deepened in the sixties or, in the worst case, a historical cycle in itself that has come to stay for many years. (I don’t believe that much in the latter. Most likely in a few decades we will be talking about a reaction from those from below. We haven’t crossed the inevitable break line yet and it’s not going to be pleasant for anyone.

The new interactive media have not helped significantly to know the other better (the other individual, the other culture) but, probably, the opposite.

Why? What happened?

Many years ago, with an outside view from within the great power, we were surprised that in the United States one could guess a person’s political affiliation just by looking at her face, seeing her walk, without the need for her to say a word. That apparent absurdity is currently the fashion trend in the world.

We did not foresee that one of the repressed monsters to which we had referred before that moment and which define us as human beings, opposed to altruism, to the search for justice and coexistence, would be strengthened thanks to the same interactive media. I am referring to the blind ego, to the need to feel superior to the rest at any price, to the “Trump syndrome” in everyone as an illusory source of pleasure (not happiness) that only causes more anxiety and frustration.

In other words, it is the politics of the aforementioned tribes (nationalisms) and micro tribes (social bubbles). Many times, bubbles prefabricated by the culture of consumption.

From this atomization of politics and society into tribes, into microbubbles, our global culture has become increasingly toxic, and hatred of the other into one of the common factors that organizes it. Hate and inevitable frustration exacerbated by the struggle for social recognition, by the five-minute fame, by the desire to become viral thanks to some frivolity, by the need for “visibility”, the old word and obsession of USAmerican culture before it was adopted as its own and natural by the rest of the world. (A few months ago, a Uruguayan congresswoman, Graciela Bianchi, not a millennial but an older woman, defended herself in front of an Argentine journalist questioning her statements by saying that she had “a lot of visibility” in her country.)

But since not all individuals can be famous, “influencers” (much less when the individual no longer exists, when it is a flat, standard, repeated entity with minimal variations that each one considers fundamental), the need for individual recognition is projected in a larger group, in the tribe, in the irrational nationalist or racial feelings where the fury for a flag of a country or for the flag of a football club hardly differs but in scale. Thus, if even an individual named Donald Trump, a millionaire who has become president of the most powerful country in the world, needs to humiliate and degrade the rest in order to feel superior, it is not difficult to imagine what goes through the grey muscle of millions of other less fortunate abstainers.

The humanist idea of equality-in-diversity, the paradigm that most recently defined the Modern Era (apart from reason and secularism) and which was an absurd novelty until the 18th century, has suddenly lost much of its prestige.

Although it may seem absurd, people get tired of peace, they get tired of justice, they get tired of solidarity. That is why they need, from time to time, a great conflict, a catastrophe, in order to put aside again “the rage and pride” a la Oriana Fallaci, that toxin of the individual, of the race, of the tribe, of the group in front of  an enemy and to return to worry for the values of justice and the collective survival.

For this reason, certain periods of world peace and solidarity are possible, but humanity itself is doomed to self-destruction, sooner or later. Human nature is not content with discharging its most primitive energies in football stadiums, in presidential elections, but needs to humiliate, rape and kill. If others do it in its name and with a beautiful flag, so much the better.

History will continue to be written in the eternal struggle of power against justice, but moral arrogance, selfishness, individual or collective, will always have the sword of Damocles in their hand. The novel The City of the Moon, published late in 2009, was a clear metaphor for the world that came after this new medievalism in which we are slowly sinking as Calataid sank in the desert sands while its members hated each other in sects that considered themselves the moral reserve of the world.

No, nothing we see now was a surprise of history.

The old tale of corruption

The political narrative that justifies any option as a way to end corruption is as old as politics and as old as narrative. In Latin America, it’s a classic genre. It’s only possible to repeat it generation after generation as if it were a novelty thanks to the short memory of the people.

But this narrative, which only serves to consolidate or restore the power of a certain social class, focuses exclusively on minor corruption, such as when a politician, a senator or a president receives ten thousand or half a million dollars to bestow favors upon a large company. Rarely does a poor man offer half a million dollars to a politician to give him a retirement income of five hundred dollars a month.

He who pays a politician a million dollars to increase his company’s profits is corrupt, and the poor devil who votes for a candidate who buys him the tiles for the roof of his house in skid row is corrupt also.

But those who do not distinguish between the corruption of ambition and the corruption of those who desperately seek to survive are themselves even more corrupt. As the Mexican nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz said at the end of the seventeenth century, before she was crushed for her insubordination by the powers-that-be of that era:

Who is more to blame,

though either should do wrong?

She who sins for pay

or he who pays to sin?

Rarely do accusations of corruption refer to legal corruption. It does not matter if, thanks to a democracy proud of respecting the rules of the game, ten million voters contribute a hundred million dollars to a politician’s campaign and two millionaires contribute only ten million, a tip, to the same candidate. When that politician wins the election, he will have dinner with one of the two groups, and it is not necessary to be a genius to guess which one.

It does not matter if later on those gentlemen get the congress of their respective countries to pass laws that benefit their businesses (tax cuts, deregulation of wages and investments, etc.) because they will not need to violate any law, the law that they themselves wrote, unlike a damned thief who does not rob ten million honest and innocent citizens but rather just two or three poor workers who will only feel anger, rage and humiliation because of the plundering they witness and not because of the robbery they fail to perceive.

In spite of everything, we can still observe even greater corruption, greater than illegal corruption and greater than legal corruption. It is that corruption which lives in the collective unconsciousness of the people and comes from no other source but the persistent corruption of social power that, like a persistent dripping, eats away at rock over the years, over the centuries.

It is the corruption that lives in the same people who suffer from it, in that tired man with chapped hands or another worn down one with university degrees, in that suffering woman with dark circles under her eyes or in that other lady with a stuck-up nose. It is that same corruption that goes to bed and gets up with each of them, every day, to reproduce in the rest of their family and their friends, like the flu, like Ebola.

It is not simply the corruption of a few individuals who accept easy money for the mysterious shortcuts of the law.

No, it is not just the corruption of those in power, but instead that invisible corruption that lives as a virus feeding off the frustration of those who seek to put an end to corruption with old methods that have themselves proven to be corrupt.

Because corruption is not only when someone gives or receives illicit money, but also when someone hates the poor because they receive alms from the state.

Because corruption is not only when a politician gives a basket of food to a poor man in exchange for his vote, but also when those who do not go hungry accuse those poor people of being corrupt and lazy, as if lazy people did not exist in the privileged classes.

Because corruption is not only when a poor loafer gets a politician or the state to give him alms to devote himself to his miserable vices (cheap wine instead of Jameson Irish whiskey), but also when those in power are convinced and convince others that their privileges were won by them alone and by means of the purest, most finely distilled, most just law, while the poor (those who clean their bathrooms and buy their little mirrors) live off the intolerable sacrifice of the rich, something that only a general or a businessman with an iron fist can put an end to.

Because corruption is when a poor devil supports a candidate who promises to punish other poor devils, who are the only devils that the poor resentful devil knows, because he has crossed paths with them in the street, in bars and at work.

Because corruption is when a mulatto like Domingo Sarmiento or Antonio Hamilton Martins Mourão is ashamed of the blacks in his family and feels infinite hatred for other blacks.

Because corruption is when a self-declared chosen one of God, someone who confuses the fanatical interpretation of his pastor with the multiple texts of a Bible, someone who goes every Sunday to the church to pray to the God of Love, and when he goes outside he throws some coins to the poor. And the next day he marches against the same rights of different people, like gays, lesbians and transgendered people, and does it in the name of morality and of the son of God, Jesus. Yes, the same Jesus who had a thousand opportunities to condemn those same different and immoral people, and never did so, but rather did the exact opposite.

Because corruption is supporting candidates who promise violence as a way to eliminate violence.

Because corruption is believing and fanatically repeating that the military dictatorships that have ravaged Latin America since the nineteenth century and practiced all possible variations on corruption may themselves ever be able to put an end to corruption.

Because corruption is to hate and at the same time accuse everyone else of harboring hatred.

Because corruption is a part of culture and even in the hearts of society’s most honest individuals.

Because the worst corruption is not the kind that makes off with a million dollars but rather the kind that stops our ears to the shrieking cries of history and won’t let us hear them until it is too late.

JM, October 2018.

The old tale of corruption

The political narrative that justifies any option as a way to end corruption is as old as politics and as old as narrative. In Latin America, it’s a classic genre. It’s only possible to repeat it generation after generation as if it were a novelty thanks to the short memory of the people.

But this narrative, which only serves to consolidate or restore the power of a certain social class, focuses exclusively on minor corruption, such as when a politician, a senator or a president receives ten thousand or half a million dollars to bestow favors upon a large company. Rarely does a poor man offer half a million dollars to a politician to give him a retirement income of five hundred dollars a month.

He who pays a politician a million dollars to increase his company’s profits is corrupt, and the poor devil who votes for a candidate who buys him the tiles for the roof of his house in skid row is corrupt also.

But those who do not distinguish between the corruption of ambition and the corruption of those who desperately seek to survive are themselves even more corrupt. As the Mexican nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz said at the end of the seventeenth century, before she was crushed for her insubordination by the powers-that-be of that era:

Who is more to blame,

though either should do wrong?

She who sins for pay

or he who pays to sin?

Rarely do accusations of corruption refer to legal corruption. It does not matter if, thanks to a democracy proud of respecting the rules of the game, ten million voters contribute a hundred million dollars to a politician’s campaign and two millionaires contribute only ten million, a tip, to the same candidate. When that politician wins the election, he will have dinner with one of the two groups, and it is not necessary to be a genius to guess which one.

It does not matter if later on those gentlemen get the congress of their respective countries to pass laws that benefit their businesses (tax cuts, deregulation of wages and investments, etc.) because they will not need to violate any law, the law that they themselves wrote, unlike a damned thief who does not rob ten million honest and innocent citizens but rather just two or three poor workers who will only feel anger, rage and humiliation because of the plundering they witness and not because of the robbery they fail to perceive.

In spite of everything, we can still observe even greater corruption, greater than illegal corruption and greater than legal corruption. It is that corruption which lives in the collective unconsciousness of the people and comes from no other source but the persistent corruption of social power that, like a persistent dripping, eats away at rock over the years, over the centuries.

It is the corruption that lives in the same people who suffer from it, in that tired man with chapped hands or another worn down one with university degrees, in that suffering woman with dark circles under her eyes or in that other lady with a stuck-up nose. It is that same corruption that goes to bed and gets up with each of them, every day, to reproduce in the rest of their family and their friends, like the flu, like Ebola.

It is not simply the corruption of a few individuals who accept easy money for the mysterious shortcuts of the law.

No, it is not just the corruption of those in power, but instead that invisible corruption that lives as a virus feeding off the frustration of those who seek to put an end to corruption with old methods that have themselves proven to be corrupt.

Because corruption is not only when someone gives or receives illicit money, but also when someone hates the poor because they receive alms from the state.

Because corruption is not only when a politician gives a basket of food to a poor man in exchange for his vote, but also when those who do not go hungry accuse those poor people of being corrupt and lazy, as if lazy people did not exist in the privileged classes.

Because corruption is not only when a poor loafer gets a politician or the state to give him alms to devote himself to his miserable vices (cheap wine instead of Jameson Irish whiskey), but also when those in power are convinced and convince others that their privileges were won by them alone and by means of the purest, most finely distilled, most just law, while the poor (those who clean their bathrooms and buy their little mirrors) live off the intolerable sacrifice of the rich, something that only a general or a businessman with an iron fist can put an end to.

Because corruption is when a poor devil supports a candidate who promises to punish other poor devils, who are the only devils that the poor resentful devil knows, because he has crossed paths with them in the street, in bars and at work.

Because corruption is when a mulatto like Domingo Sarmiento or Antonio Hamilton Martins Mourão is ashamed of the blacks in his family and feels infinite hatred for other blacks.

Because corruption is when a self-declared chosen one of God, someone who confuses the fanatical interpretation of his pastor with the multiple texts of a Bible, someone who goes every Sunday to the church to pray to the God of Love, and when he goes outside he throws some coins to the poor. And the next day he marches against the same rights of different people, like gays, lesbians and transgendered people, and does it in the name of morality and of the son of God, Jesus. Yes, the same Jesus who had a thousand opportunities to condemn those same different and immoral people, and never did so, but rather did the exact opposite.

Because corruption is supporting candidates who promise violence as a way to eliminate violence.

Because corruption is believing and fanatically repeating that the military dictatorships that have ravaged Latin America since the nineteenth century and practiced all possible variations on corruption may themselves ever be able to put an end to corruption.

Because corruption is to hate and at the same time accuse everyone else of harboring hatred.

Because corruption is a part of culture and even in the hearts of society’s most honest individuals.

Because the worst corruption is not the kind that makes off with a million dollars but rather the kind that stops our ears to the shrieking cries of history and won’t let us hear them until it is too late.

Brazil: The Eternal Country of the Future Trapped in Its Colonial Past

Days before the elections in Brazil, a young Brazilian approached me and said, “God willing, Bolsonaro to win. He is a military man and will end corruption.” I did not want to answer. I esteem this boy as a good person, maybe too young to be anything else. But these two brief sentences summed up several volumes of Latin American history to its present.

Beginning with the obvious: if there were governments and corrupt regimes on the continent, those were the military regimes. First, because every dictatorship is corrupt by definition, and second, because direct robberies were always massive, by denouncing the disappearances, then only to reappear by floating in a river with evidence of torture. It would suffice to mention the most recent investigation into the fortune of General Pinochet, a military leader who accumulated several million dollars in salary as an unelected president, without mention of such details as the thousands killed and many more persecuted during his rule. There were shams of decorated honors for assuming “moral reserve” and for the “bastion of courage” by owning weapons financed by the people’s work, only to later be threatened by their own armies in “bringing order,” by garrison and cemeteries. That same barbaric culture of innumerable generals, soldiers, and scoundrels boasting to be “macho” and valiant fighters, never won or went to any war against other armies, but dedicated themselves to serving the rural oligarchy by terrorizing and threatening their own people. In the coining of a neologism, millions of thugs are now hidden within their new condition of digital cowangry.

This military mentality applied to civil practice and domestic life (deviates from any raison d’être of an army) is a Latin American tradition born prior to the Cold War and long before the new republics were born and consolidated with corruption, deep in hypocritical racism. This is especially true in Brazil, the last country in the continent to abolish slavery. Even Captain Bolsonaro’s vice presidential candidate, General Mourão, a mulatto man like most of his compatriots, is pleased that his grandson contributes to the “branqueamento da raça (whitening of the race).” Have any of us ever crossed paths with this kind of deep racial and social disregard for 90 percent of their own family? The same historical problems permeate in other regions that stand out for their brutality in Central America and the Caribbean.

The second, and less obvious, is the appeal to God. In the same way that the United States replaced Great Britain in its consolidation of Spanish colonial verticality, the Protestant churches did the same with those ultraconservative societies (limitless landowners and silent masses of obedient poor), which had been shaped by the previous hierarchy of the Catholic church. It took some Protestant sects like the Pentecostals and others at least a century more than the dollar and the cannons. The phenomenon probably started in the Sixties and Seventies: those innocent, presumably apolitical, gentlemen, who went door to door talking about God, should have a clear political translation. The paradoxical effect of Christian love (that radical love of Jesus, a rebel who was surrounded by poor and marginal people of all kinds, who did not believe in the chances of the rich reaching heaven, and did not recommend taking the sword but turning the other cheek, who broke several biblical laws such as the obligation to kill adulteresses with stones, who was executed as a political criminal) ended up leading to the hatred of gays and the poor, in the desire to fix everything with shots. Such is the case of medieval candidates like Captain Jair Messias Bolsonaro and many others throughout Latin America, who are supported by a strong and decisive evangelical vote. These people in a trance are watered in sweat and hysterical cries and say they “speak in tongues,” but just speak their disjointed language of political and social hatred in blind fanaticism that God prefers them with a gun in their hands rather than peaceably fighting for justice, respect for the different, and against arbitrary powers.

In the midst of the euphoric golden decade of progressive governments, such as Lula’s, we note two mistakes: naive optimism and the dangers of corruption, and the ramifications of a domino effect because corruption was not a creation of any government, but instead a mark of identity of the Brazilian culture. To name just one more case, this is also the state of affairs in neighboring Argentina.

We must add to all this that the traditional social narrators of a more rancid and powerful Latin America can be found in Maduro’s Venezuela where the equally pathetic opposition is never mentioned. As the example, this is the perfect excuse to continue terrorizing about something that almost all the countries of the continent have lived with since the colony: poverty, economic crises, dispossession, impunity, civil and military violence. So it is Venezuela that is exemplifying Brazilian propaganda and not the Brazil of Lula that took 30 million out of poverty, the one with super entrepreneurs, the one of “Deus é brasileiro (God is Brazilian),” the Brazil that was going away to eat the world and had passed the GDP of U.K.

 It was the perfect alibi: for others to believe that corruption did not have 200 years of brutal exercise but had been created by the last five to 10 years of a pair of leftist governments. On the contrary, these governments were an ideological exception within a deeply conservative, racist, classist, and sexist continent. Everything that now finds resonance from Europe to Latin America, to the United States, abandons the ideals of Enlightenment and plunges neurotically into a new Middle Ages.

We still don’t know whether this medieval reaction of the traditional forces in power is just that; a reaction, or a long historical tendency of several generations that began in the Eighties and stumbled 15 years ago.

For the second round in Brazil, the coalition against Bolsonaro has already launched the slogan: “Juntos pelo Brasil do diálogo e do respeito (Together for Brazil for dialogue and respect).” This motto only goes to show that those who oppose Bolsonaro in Brazil, like those who oppose Trump in the United States, do not understand the new cowangry mentality. The cowangry need to know that there is someone else (not them) who is going to return women to the kitchens, gays to their closets, blacks to work on the plantations, and poor to the industries, that someone is going to throw a bomb in some favela (“dead the dog, dead to the rage”). Someone will torture all who think differently (especially poor blacks, teachers, journalists, feminists, critics, educated people without titles, and other dangerous subversives with foreign ideas, all in the name of God) and in that way, someone will punish and exterminate all those miserable people solely responsible for the personal frustrations of the cowangry

 

JM, October 2018

 

Psychopolitics of the scarecrow

Jorge Majfud 

Translated by  Fausto Giudice Фаусто Джудиче فاوستو جيوديشي

 

President Donald Trump has just announced that, to answer the endless list of books that criticize him (especially books written by his former friends and trusted men, who by now are almost all of them), the White House will publish “a real book”. Obviously, he won’t write it, although, in our time, it wouldn’t be absurd for a person who never reads books to publish a book.

Nor is it a coincidence that his Twitter account (which is the main medium where the president of the world’s biggest power announces the decisions that will affect the rest of the world and where he expresses his mood according to the time of day) is @realDonaldTrump, while obsessively repeating that the rest of the world is fake. The world is fake, except me, who is real.

The psychological pattern is consistent and reveals a dark inverse feeling, similar to that of the homophobia of some men who get excited looking at images of men (according to laboratory tests), similar to the consumption, by a majority of women, of pornography where violence is exerted against women (according to the latest Big Data analysis), or the strict and puritanical public celibacy of rapist priests.

Nor could it be a coincidence that, in its etymology and in some of its archaic uses, the word trump means fake, false, invention, the noise produced by the elephant (don’t forget that the elephant is the symbol of the Republican party) with its trunk, a kind of fart or thrombotic noise without content, or a childish act. Of course, the latter could be an over-interpretation, since we are talking about an individual and not an entire linguistic tradition where the patterns leave little room for doubt. At least that the boy Donald has had some information about his wonderful surname, as much as his own children’s readings.

Nor should it be a coincidence that his youngest son is called Baron Trump, exactly like the character in the children’s novels that Ingersoll Lockwood wrote in the late 19th century about a German character (his father was a German illegal immigrant) called Baron Trump. The character, in addition to initiating his adventures in Russia, being a rowdy and fond of insulting each individual who came across him along the way, boasts of his own intelligence.

Too many coincidences, such as winning the lottery four times.

Nor is it a coincidence that it was Trump who made the term “fake news” fashionable. By action or omission, the big media have always manipulated reality, at least since the nineteenth century (we have already stopped on the case of Edward Bernays and many others) but power always finds a way to dispel doubts by mocking its own methods when they reach a point of maximum suspicion. In 1996, the narrative voice of my first novel said something with which I agree: “There is no better strategy against a true rumor than to invent a false rumor that pretends to confirm it”. The logic of the designed distraction is the same (although, in this case, I understand that it is not intentional but part of the inevitable Darwinian nature of power): it invents a visible enemy of power, that resembles true power and that is in such a way that even the very critics of power end up defending the means of power. In simpler words: design a good scarecrow, distract; call the fake real and the real fake.

This logic is tragically confirmed today: the mass media have always been real in their news and fake in the created reality. By the form and by the selection of real facts, they have always manipulated and continue to manipulate reality, even though they now seem to be the champions of the people, of the peoples, of truth and justice. But for a fake president, a ridiculous person like a scarecrow, someone who became president of the most powerful country in the world with fewer votes than his adversary, thanks to an electoral system inherited from the times of slavery, with a medieval discourse, makes decent and reasonable people take sides on the contrary, that is, by defending the traditional means of real power, now “under attack,” those very people who until not long ago defended, supported or, at least, never criticized criminal actions like the Iraq war or like so many other secret invasions and plots everywhere. With honorable and courageous exceptions, it goes without saying, because in every flock there are black sheep.

Power doesn’t even need to think to be great. It is part of its nature.

When someone obsessively calls himself “real” and everything else “fake,” it is because he is obsessively trying to hide a painfully contrary feeling: a repressed consciousness of not being “real,” of being “fake,” of being Trump. Otherwise, there is no need for a consistently obsessive habit. But Trump is just a scarecrow of power. Pathetic, a dangerous amplifier of popular fears and traumas, yes, but not much more than that.

To the traditional powers (the owners of the decisive capital, of the finances, of the business of war and the peace of the cemeteries, of the physical and moral exploitation of those from below), all that confusion, all that perfect inversion of roles comes as a ring to the finger. As if there were a Darwinian logic in the staging and narrative of the power that permanently adapts to survive. Even placing a scarecrow in the power of the world’s greatest power so that crows and seagulls alike remain stressed with an artefact that insists it is the only real thing in a fake world.

 

Courtesy of Tlaxcala
Source: https://majfud.org/2018/09/11/la-psicopolitica-del-espantapajaros/
Publication date of original article: 11/09/2018
URL of this page : http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=24055

Do we really owe modernity to capitalism?

The narrature of capitalism

 

One of the claims that the apologists of capitalism most repeat and last question is that which has been the system that has created the most wealth and progress in history. We owe you the Internet, the planes, YouTube, the computers from which we write and all the medical advancement and social and individual freedoms we can find today. Capitalism is not the worst or the least criminal of the systems that have existed, but this arrogant interpretation is also a kidnapping that ignorance makes history.

In absolute terms, capitalism is the period (not the system) that has produced more wealth in history. This truth would be enough if we do not consider it as misleading as when in the 1990s a Uruguayan minister boasted that his government had sold more mobile phones than in the rest of the country’s history.

The arrival of man on the moon was not a simple consequence of capitalism. To begin with, neither public nor private universities are, in their foundations, capitalist enterprises (except for a few examples, such as the Trump University fiasco). NASA was also never a private but a state-owned enterprise and was further developed through the hiring of more than a thousand German engineers, including Wernher von Braun, who had experimented and perfected rocket technology in Hitler’s laboratories. Invested fortunes (certainly, with some economic and moral aid from the great American companies). Everything, money and planning, were state. The Soviet Union, especially under the command of a dictator like Stalin, won the space race by putting for the first time in history the first satellite, the first dog and even the first man in orbit twelve years before Apollo 11 and just forty years after the revolution that turned a backward, rural country like Russia into a military and industrial power in a few decades. None of this is understood as capitalist.

Of course, the Soviet system was responsible for many moral sins. Crimes. But it is not the moral deficiencies that distinguished bureaucratic communism from capitalism. Capitalism is only associated with democracies and human rights by a narrative, repetitive and overwhelming (theorized by the Friedman and practiced by the Pinochets), but history shows that it can coexist perfectly with a liberal democracy; With the genocidal Latin American dictatorships that preceded the excuse of the war against communism; With communist governments like China or Vietnam; With racist systems such as South Africa; With destructive empires of democracies and millions of people in Asia, Africa and Latin America, as in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were England, Belgium, the United States, France, etc.

The arrival on the Moon as the creation of the Internet and the computers that are attributed to capitalism were basically (and, in cases, only) government projects, not companies like Apple or Microsoft. None of the scientists who worked on such revolutionary technological programs did it as an entrepreneur or seeking to become rich. In fact, many of them were ideologically anti-capitalist, such as Einstein, etc. Most were salaried teachers, not the now revered entrepreneurs.
To this reality must be added other facts and a basic concept: none of this emerged from scratch in the nineteenth century or the twentieth century. Atomic energy and bombs are direct daughters of Albert Einstein’s speculations and imaginary experiments, followed by other wage geniuses. The arrival of man on the Moon would have been impossible without basic concepts such as Newton’s Third Law. Neither Einstein nor Newton had developed their wonderful superior mathematics (none of them due to capitalism) without a plethora of mathematical discoveries introduced by other cultures centuries earlier. Does anyone imagine infinitesimal calculus without the concept of zero, without Arabic numerals and without algebra (al-jabr ), to name a few?

The algorithms used by computers and internet systems were not created by a capitalist or in any capitalist period but centuries ago. Conceptually it was developed in Baghdad, the capital of the sciences, by a Muslim mathematician of Persian origin in the ninth century called, precisely, Al-Juarismi. According to Oriana Fallaci, that culture gave nothing to the sciences (ironically, capitalism is born in the Muslim world and the Christian world develops it).

Neither the Phoenician alphabet, nor commerce, nor republics, nor democracies arose in the capitalist period but tens of centuries before. Not even the printing press in its different German or Chinese versions, an invention more revolutionary than Google, were thanks to capitalism. Neither gunpowder, nor money, nor checks, nor freedom of expression.

Although Marx and Edison are the consequence of capitalism, no great scientific revolution of the Renaissance and Modern Age (Averroes, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Einstein, Turing, Hawking) owed that system. Wild capitalism produced a lot of capital and many Donad Trump, but very few geniuses.

Not to mention more practical discoveries, such as the lever, screw or hydrostatic of Archimedes, discovered 2300 years ago. Or the IX century compass, one of the most transcendent discoveries in the history of mankind, by far more transcendent than any smartphone. Or the wheel, which has been used in the East for six thousand years and has not yet gone out of style.
Of course between the invention of the wheel and the invention of the compass passed several centuries. But the so vaunted “vertiginous progress” of the capitalist period is nothing new. Except for periods of catastrophe such as the Black Death during the fourteenth century, mankind has been accelerating the emergence of new technologies and resources available to a growing part of the population, such as the different agricultural revolutions. It is not necessary to be a genius to realize that this acceleration is due to the accumulation of knowledge and intellectual freedom.
In Europe, money and capitalism meant social progress before the static feudal order of the Middle Ages. But soon they became the engine of colonial genocides and then a new form of feudalism, like that of the twenty-first century, with a financial aristocracy (a handful of families accumulate most of the wealth in rich and poor countries), with dukes and political counts and villains and demobilized vassals.

Capitalism capitalized (and capitalists sequestered) centuries of social, scientific, and technological progress. For that reason, and being the dominant global system, it was able to produce more wealth than previous systems.

Capitalism is not the system of some countries. It is the hegemonic system of the world. Its problems can be mitigated, its myths can be dismantled, but it cannot be eliminated until it enters its crisis or decline like feudalism. Until it is replaced by another system. That in case there is a planet or humanity. Because capitalism is also the only system that has put the human species on the brink of global catastrophe.

 

JM, July 2017

Rebelión has published this article with the author’s permission under a Creative Commons license , respecting its freedom to publish it in other sources.

http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=21088

 

Capotean Interview

by Toni Montesinos (originally published in Spanish here >>)

 

In 1972, Truman Capote published an original text that became the autobiography that has never been written. He titled it “Self-portrait” (in The Dogs Bark, 1973), and in it he gave himself with cunning and brilliance. Those questions that serve to proclaim his frustrations, desires, and customs, now, extracted, for the most part, form the following “Capotean interview”, with which they devote themselves to the other side, that of life, of Jorge Majfud. 

 

If you had to live in one place, never being able to leave it, which one would you choose?

In reality, that place exists: it is childhood. Now, if it were to be a physical, particular place, I think it would be that huge tree on my grandparents’ farm where I could see my loved ones who are no longer there and, somehow, those who were not there yet.

Do you prefer animals over people?

Sometimes. It does not depend on what animals but on what people.

Are you cruel?

So so, like everyone else. Frequently, truth is a form of cruelty and one must decide if it is worth it. Other times, one is cruel only through ignorance or petty passions, such as annoyance or frustration.

Do you have lots of friends?

I have a few friends sure and many friends maybe.

What characteristics do you look for in your friends?

I do not look for anything in particular. Each one is different and friendship, like love, is something that happens without any logic.

Do your friends usually disappoint you?

Yes, like any other kind of human being. But I worry much more about disappointing them.

Are you a sincere person?

I do not think anyone can answer that question sincerely. More than sincere, I try to be honest. 

How do you prefer to spend your free time?

Reading a book that does not kill my time. Talking to someone who does not kill me over time. 

What are you afraid of the most?

The suffering of my loved ones.

What scandalizes you, if there is anything that scandalizes you?

At my age almost nothing scandalizes me. I am disgusted with hypocrisy, the scandal of a kiss and the tolerance of violence, the death of a single child under smart bombs, the oppression of entire peoples, the Lies of Mass Destruction. 

If you had not decided to be a writer, to lead a creative life, what would you have done?

If I were not a writer walking or washing dishes would be a lot less interesting. I don’t know, I have done many different things in my life. Maybe I would have been a physicist. I was always attracted to Theory of Relativity.

Do you practice any type of physical exercise?

If walking on the beach is an exercise …

Can you cook?

No, but I try almost every day.

If Reader’s Digest commissioned you to write one of those articles on “an unforgettable character,” who would you choose?

I would not know who to write about. We are all forgettable.

What is the most hopeful word in any language?

“Sorry”.

And the most dangerous?

“Patriotism.”

Have you ever wanted to kill someone?

Never, even as a child, despite having seen so many people die and kill themselves.

What are your political leanings?

I always resisted all temptations, which were not few, to associate with a political party. The parties split, divide in very arbitrary ways. They are a necessary evil, like the monolineal simplification of left and right. Now, among all the simplifications I prefer the less used up and down and take sides for those below. 

If you could be something else, what would you like to be?

Someone who could abolish pain and death.

What are your main addictions?

Read, drink two beers, travel to the past, imagine what will come, people’s timeless smile … I do not know, so many things. In short, life.

And your virtues?

I hope that I have some, although who knows if this has any importance.

Imagine that you are drowning. What images, within the classical scheme, would pass through your head?

The water, I suppose.

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

Not rapists: just abused*

EnglishFrench

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

 

Mr. President Trump:

Throughout the centuries, long before your mother arrived from Scotland, long before your grandparents arrived from Germany and had a lot of success in the hotel and brothel business in New York, the Mexicans had their families here and they had already named all of the Western states, rivers, valleys, mountains, and cities. The Californian architecture and the Texan cowboy, symbols of the “authentic American” are nothing more than the result of the hybridity—like everything else—of the new Anglo-Saxon culture with the long since established Mexican one. Can you imagine one of the founding fathers coming face-to-face with a cowboy?

When your mother arrived to this country in the 1930s, half a million Mexicans were deported. The majority of them were American citizens but they were very unlucky when the frustration nationwide, because of the Great Depression, got them speaking Chicano. They were blamed for the Depression since their faces looked as foreign as they could be.

Your idea that the Mexicans that come here are rapists, criminals, and invaders it’s nothing new and it couldn’t be farther from the truth. In this country’s prisons, you will find that immigrants—both legal and illegal—are underrepresented. Immigrants in American prisons make up only one-fourth of what would be the total percentage of the immigrant population in the United States.  In case you still don’t understand: the statistics say that “wetbacks” are four or five times less likely to commit a crime than your own beautiful children are, Mr. Trump. Where immigration dominates, the crime rate drops and prejudice and racism increase.

These people were seen as foreigners and rapists (you aren’t the first person to know this) since the United States took possession (it’s best to say it this way so we don’t offend anyone) of half the Mexican territory in the middle of the 19th century. And as those people that were already there didn’t stop speaking such an uncivilized language such as Spanish and refused to change their skin color, were persecuted, deported or simply murdered, accused of being bandits, rapists, and foreign invaders. The real Zorro was dark skinned and didn’t fight against any Mexican despotism (as Johnston McCully depicted the story in order to be able to sell it to Hollywood) but instead he fought against the Anglo-Saxon invaders who took his land. Dark skinned and rebellious like Jesus, even though you see this Nazarene man always depicted as blonde haired with blue eyes and rather docile in the holy paintings. The hegemonic powers of that age that crucified him had obvious political reasons for doing so. And they continued crucifying him three centuries later when the Christians stopped being illegal immigrants and were persecuted so much that they hid in the catacombs. Eventually, they became the official persecutors when they took power.

Fortunately, Mr. Donald, the European immigrants, like your parents and wife, didn’t look like foreigners. Of course, if your mother had arrived forty years before, then maybe she would have been confused with an Irishwoman. Those people certainly did look like invaders. Besides being Catholics, they had hair just like yours, red and curly, something that offended the local white people, and by white people I mean those that, at one time, had been discriminated against by their Polish, Russian or Italian accents. But fortunately, immigrants learn quickly. As González Prada wrote more than a century ago, when an individual rises above the level of his social group he usually becomes its worst enemy.

This is what you and many other people demand, of course: that the immigrants should assimilate to this culture, instead of just integrate into it. But, which culture is that exactly?

In a truly open and democratic society, no one ought to forget who is to be accepted or, as I understand it, the virtuous thing to do must involve integration and not assimilation. Assimilation is violence. In many societies, it’s a requirement, especially in all of the societies where fascism survives in one way or another. 

Mr. President, the creativity that you see among the businessmen and women in this country is admirable even though its importance is exaggerated and many negative aspects are forgotten: It wasn’t businessmen who promoted democracy in Latin American but rather, they did just the opposite. Various successful American businesses promoted bloody Coups d’état and supported a long list of bloody dictators.

It was businessmen like Henry Ford, who made interesting contributions to the industry, but it’s often forgotten that, like many other businessmen, Ford was an Anti-Semitist who collaborated with Hitler. While the US denied refuge to persecuted Jews in Germany—as they now deny it to Muslims today for almost the same reasons—Alcoa and Texaco worked together with the fascist regimes of that time period.

It wasn’t businessmen who developed new technology and science but amateur inventors or salaried professors instead; from the foundation of this country to the invention of the Internet, continuing with Einstein and finally, the arrival of the first man on the moon. Not to mention, the basis of the sciences—which were shaped by those horrible and uncivilized Arabs centuries before—from the numbers that we use to Algebra to algorithms and many other sciences and philosophies that are part of Western civilization today, continuing with the Europeans in the 17th century. None of these men were businessmen, of course.

It wasn’t businessmen who achieved, through resistance and popular activism, almost all the progress with the civil rights that are now known today in this country, when at the time they were demonized as dangerous revolutionists and anti-Americans.

Mr. President Trump, I know you have been all your life too busy making money, so you don’t know this simple evidence: a country is not a business, it’s not a company. As an employer, you can hire and fire as many employees as you wish, for the simple reason that there was a State that gave an education to those people before and there will be a State later on that will be responsible for them when they are fired, with social welfare services —or with the police, as a worst case scenario.

An employer doesn’t know how to resolve any of these externalities. He’s only concerned about his own success that he will later confuse it with the success of the whole country and sell it in that same way because that is what a businessman does best: selling. Call it what you want.

You always boast about being immensely rich. I admire you for your bravery. But, if we consider what you have done starting with what you received from your parents and grandparents—money aside—it could be said that almost any businessman, any worker in this country that has started from nothing—and in many cases incurring enormous amounts of debt from his educational costs—is much more successful than you.

The Turk Hamdi Ulukaya was a poor immigrant when he founded the yogurt company Chobani a few years ago, which is now valued at two billion dollars. That type of story is very common in a country as great as this one, without a doubt. But this creative businessman had the decency to recognize that he didn’t do all of this by himself. That it would have been impossible without his employees and having been in as free of a country as this one. And actually, recently, he donated 10 percent of the company’s stocks to his employees.

In Mexico, there are similar examples to yours. But better ones. The most well-known example is Carlos Slim, the son of Lebanese immigrants, who took advantage of the economic crisis at the time—as any man with money would—now has eleven times your fortune.

Mr. President Trump, democracy has its own Achilles tendons. It’s not the critics, as any fascist society normally considers them—it’s the demagogues. The ones that beat their nationalistic breast in order to abuse the power of their own nations.

Twenty-five centuries ago, the first democratic example, Athens, took pride in welcoming foreigners; this wasn’t her weakness—nor political or moral. Athens had slaves just like your country had for a couple of democratic centuries, and in a way it continued this disgrace with undocumented workers. Athens had its demagogues too: for example, Anytus, a successful businessman who convinced the rest of society, very democratically, so that they would put the thinking mind of their age to death. Socrates’ downfall was questioning everything too much, for believing too little in the gods of Athens and for ruining its youth with doubts.

Of course, almost no one remembers Anytus today and the same thing will happen to you. At least you can double your bet and turn into one of the figures just like we’ve seen in European history of the 20th century with your exacerbated nationalism and your hatred for those people who looked like foreigners without even being so. You will always find followers—because that is also part of the political game—and right now, we don’t have a better system.

 

Jorge Majfud

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/57dc39fee4b0d5920b5b2aac?timestamp=1474051083758

 

 

 

 

10 George Orwell Quotes that Predicted Life in 2014

 Jorge Majfud’s books at Amazon>>

George Orwell ranks among the most profound social critics of the modern era. Some of his quotations, more than a half a century old, show the depth of understanding an enlightened mind can have about the future.

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

Though many in the modern age have the will to bury their head in the sand when it comes to political matters, nobody can only concern themselves with the proverbial pebble in their shoe. If one is successful in avoiding politics, at some point the effects of the political decisions they abstained from participating in will reach their front door. More often than not, by that time the person has already lost whatever whisper of a voice the government has allowed them.

“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”

Examining the nightly news in the run up to almost any military intervention will find scores of talking heads crying for blood to flow in the streets of some city the name of which they just learned to pronounce. Once the bullets start flying, those that clamored for war will still be safely on set bringing you up-to-the-minute coverage of the carnage while their stock in Raytheon climbs.

“War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.”

It’s pretty self-explanatory and while it may be hard to swallow, it’s certainly true. All it takes is a quick look at who benefited from the recent wars waged by the United States to see Orwell’s quip take life.

“The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.”

My most prized books are a collection of history books from around the world. I have an Iraqi book that recounts the glory of Saddam Hussein’s victory over the United States in 1991. I have books from three different nations claiming that one of their citizens was the first to fly. As some of the most powerful nations in the world agree to let certain facts be “forgotten,” the trend will only get worse. History is written by the victor, and the victor will never be asked if he told the truth.

“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Even without commentary, the reader is probably picturing Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning. The revolutions of the future will not be fought with bullets and explosives, but with little bits of data traveling around the world destroying the false narratives with which governments shackle their citizens.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

Make no mistake about it; if an article does not anger someone, it is nothing more than a public relations piece. Most of what passes for news today is little more than an official sounding advertisement for a product, service, or belief.

“In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer…”

In every conflict, it is not the side that can inflict the most damage, but the side that can sustain the most damage that ultimately prevails. History is full of situations in which a military “won the battles but lost the war.”

“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

Haditha. Panjwai. Maywand District. Mahmudiyah. These names probably don’t ring a bell, but it is almost a certainty that the reader is aware of the brutality that occurred in Benghazi. The main difference is that in the first four incidents, those committing the acts of brutality were wearing an American flag on their shoulder.

“Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.”

Everyday there is a new form of censorship or a new method of forcing people into self-censorship, and the people shrug it off because it only relates to a small minority. By the time the people realize their ability to express disapproval has been completely restricted, it may be too late. That brings us to Orwell’s most haunting quote.

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”

Once the people are indoctrinated with nationalistic beliefs, and the infrastructure to protect them from some constantly-changing and ever-expanding definition of an enemy is in place, there is no ability for the people to regain liberty. By the time all of the pieces are in place, not only is opportunity to regain freedom lost, but the will to achieve freedom has also evaporated. The reader will truly love Big Brother.

Republished from  TheAntiMedia.org under a Creative Commons license. Written by Justin King.

El pasado siempre vuelve

 

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What good is culture?

What Good Is Culture, Anyway?

Spanish: “¿Para qué sirve la cultura?”

It is understandable that in times of crisis, all sectors of a society suffer budget cuts and reduced profits. It is not totally comprehensible, but it is easy to understand that the first casualty of these cuts is culture. We accept that if we do not read a book, or if we deprive ourselves of a classic film, we will not be as bad off as if we stopped eating or dressing. While in the short term this is true, in the long term it is a very dangerous trap. 
In what sense? Take for example the practice of “sunset” rules.  These were known to the legislators of ancient Rome and preferred by the great political strategists, the parasites of democratic systems: establish a law or a rule, such as tax cuts for investors with specific expiration date, which makes it appear temporary. Usually that date falls in an election year, which means that no one will propose a tax increase and the law will likely be extended again. However now it has the advantage of being consolidated within the political discourse and the social narrative.

The problem of what is superfluous and what is not becomes multiplied when we pass from individual to public life; from a time measured in days or weeks to a social time measured in years; or to an historical time measured in decades. 
The men and women who access governments all around the world always use the dreams and hopes of their voters, then justify their unpopular government decisions not as dreamers but indeed the opposite: they repeat, they have real responsibilities (but with whom?); they are pragmatic people and those who disagree are dreamers; delusional, irresponsible street protesters that have nothing productive to do.

Therefore, the weapons of these pragmatic people is to point at the weakest flank of any government: first culture, then education. Actually, there are countless more useless items than culture and education, such as large sections of the administration itself. Nevertheless, we obviously need a strong administration when we do not have enough education or we have a precarious and primitive culture. This is true both in the so-called developed world and in the never-named underworld as well. 
It is natural that in times of economic crisis, culture is the first victim of these snipers, since it usually is even in good times: for example, to strip or strangle public programs such as state television channels, radio, symphony orchestras, stimulus to the various arts, to thought, to the humanities in general, and science in particular.

Why? It is argued and easily accepted that it is not fair, for example, that a private TV program on the sexual weaknesses of some entertainment producer or the entire industry of popular entertainment  must cope on its own, while other programs that have a small audience, like a series about the First World War or about Hemingway novels, unfairly receive government support. That is money from the rest of the population that does not look or is interested these cultural programs . It’s not fair, they argue, that a government could favor Don Quixote to Harry Potter, Leonard Cohen to Lady Gaga, or Tennessee Williams to Big Brother, and so on and so forth.

That is what is eloquently called free competition, which is nothing more than the tyranny of the market forces on the rest of human life. In fact, the central argument, explicit or sweetened, is that culture must also submit to the same rules to which we all are subjected, we all who that are dedicated to “more productive” activities (as if the productivity activities in consumer societies were not, in fact, a tiny minority.) If we do a study to identify those items actually “productive” or essential to human life, we probably will not reach ten percent of all the economic activity revolving around us.

Now, I understand that leaving culture in the hands of the market forces would be like leaving agriculture in the hands of the laws of meteorology and microbiology. Nobody can say that excessive rains, drought, locust invasions, worms, pests, and parasites are less natural phenomena than the always elusive and suspicious “invisible hand” of the market. If we were to abandon agriculture to its own fate, we would perish of hunger. Just like this, we need to understand that if we abandon culture to the hands of the market forces, we would perish from barbarism.

Jorge Majfud

Jacksonville University

Eduardo Galeano

Eduardo Galeano

“The Hoariest of Latin American Conspiracy Theorists”

 

Although I would say that the article “The Land of Too Many Summits” by Christopher Sabatini (Foreign Affairs, April 12, 2012) is right on some points, it nonetheless fails to give little more than unproved opinions on other matters — or as Karl Popper would say, certain statements lack the “refutability” condition of any scientific statement — and is inaccurate in terms of its overall meaning.

For years I have argued that Latin American victimhood and the habit of blaming “the Empire” for everything that is wrong is a way to avoid taking responsibility for one’s own destiny. Mr. Sabatini is probably right in the central point of his article: “If the number of summits were a measure of the quality of diplomacy, Latin America would be a utopia of harmony, cooperation, and understanding.” However, Latin American leaders continue to practice antiquated traditions founded upon an opposing ideology: a certain cult of personality, the love for perpetual leadership positions, the abuse of grandiloquent words and promises, and the sluggishness of concrete and pragmatic actions and reforms, all of which are highly ironic features of governments that consider themselves “progressive.” Regardless, not all that long ago, when conservative dictatorships or marionette governments in some banana republic or another manifested such regressive characteristics, it didn’t seem to bother the leaders of the world’s wealthiest populations all that much.  

On some other basic points, Sabatini demonstrates factual inaccuracies. For example, when he states that Eduardo Galeano “wrote the classic screed against the developed world’s exploitation and the region’s victimhood, Open Veins of Latin America, read by every undergraduate student of Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s,” he forgets — I cannot assume any kind of intellectual dishonesty since I don’t know much about him, but neither can I accuse him of ignorance, since he has followed “Latin American politics for a living” — that at that time Latin America was not the magic-realist land of colorful communist dictators (with the exception of Cuba) as many Anglo readers frequently assume, but rather the land of brutal, conservative, right-wing military dictatorships with a very long history.

Therefore — anyone can logically infer the true facts — that famous book was broadly forbidden in that continent at that time. Of course, in and of itself, the widespread prohibition against it made the publication even more popular year after year. But such popularity did not primarily stem from the book’s portrayal of the self-victimization of an entire continent — which I am not going to totally deny — but was more in response to Galeano’s frank representation of another reality, not the false imaginings of certain horrible conspiracy theorists, but rather the reality created throughout Latin American history by other hallucinating people, some of whom became intoxicated by their access to power, although they themselves did not actually wield it in the formal sense.

Therefore, if Eduardo Galeano — a writer, not a powerful CEO, a commander in chief of some army, another drunken president, nor the leader of some obscure sect or lobby — is “the hoariest of Latin American conspiracy theorists,” then who or what is and was the de facto hoariest of Latin American conspirators? Forget the fact that Galeano is completely bald and try to answer that question.

Regrettably, it has become commonplace for the mass media and other supporters of the status-quo to ridicule one of the most courageous and skillful writers in postmodern history, and to even label him an idiot. However, if Eduardo Galeano was wrong in his arguments — no one can say he was wrong in his means, because his means have always been words, not weapons or money — at least he was wrong on behalf of the right side, since he chose to side with the weak, the voiceless and the nobodies, those who never profit from power, and consequently, we may argue, always suffer at its hands.

He did not pick white or black pieces from the chessboard, but instead chose to side with the pawns, which historically fought in wars organized by the aristocracy from the rearguard (kings, queens, knights, and bishops). Upon the conclusion of battle, that same aristocracy always received the honors and conquered lands, while the pawns were forever the first to die.

Thus has it been in modern wars. With the ridiculous but traditional exception of some prince playing at war, real soldiers are mostly from middle and lower classes. Although a few people have real money and everyone has real blood, as a general rule, only poor people contribute to wars with their blood, whereas only rich people contribute to wars with their money — not so hard to do when one always has abundant material means, and even less difficult when such a monetary contribution is always an interest-bearing investment, whether in terms of actual financial gain or perceived moral rectitude, both of which may well be considered as two sides of the same coin.

Is it mere coincidence that the economically powerful, the politicians in office, the big media owners and a variety of seemingly official self-appointed spokespersons for the status quo are the ones who continuously repeat the same tired litany about the glory of heroism and patriotism? It can hardly be a matter of chance, considering that such individuals have a clear need to maintain high morale among those who are actually going to spill their own blood upon the sacrificial altar of war, and have an equally evident motive for demoralizing to the greatest extent possible those skeptics or critics such as Eduardo Galeano who cross the line, and who never buy those jewels of the Crown.

 

Jorge Majfud

 The International Political Review >>

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Another conservative paradox

FDRoosevelt

FDRoosevelt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Politicians who are the champions of private businesses as the only motor of the American (or any) economy and the best social organizers (forget F.D. Roosevelt, the 4 term “socialist” president who saved and refunded the country) always blame the government for not doing better in the economy. That is why they want to take the government over. So, why do they never blame private business when they permanently fail to be successful enough.

 

Another conservative paradox

Recently released: US GDP grew 1,5 % in the second quarter, the 12th growth in a row after G.W. Bush historic recession. From a narrow “econometric” point of view, it is not that bad, if we consider all the crises, deep recessions and slow dawns around the word.

However, what is quite interesting is that the right-wing politicians are happy with this seeming “Obama’s failure”. Well, they say, Mitt Romney will do it better. The politicians who are the champions of private businesses as the only engine of the American (or any) economy and as the best social organizers (forget F.D. Roosevelt, the 4 term “socialist” president who saved and refunded the country) always blame the government for not doing better in the economy. That is why they want to take the government over. So, why do they never blame private business when they permanently fail to be successful enough. Perhaps they know that even the most successful cases have been subsidized by the government (that is, by taxpayers) as IBM, Microsoft, etc. (who did actually invest in computer research for decades?), and now GM, etc?

So, guys, if the economy is not doing better, perhaps you have to blame billionaire private business, bank inefficiency and corruption, corporate greed, some crazy speculators, and so on and so forth… at least once in history. Are they ideologically untouchable? Are they responsible only when thing are ok? We know that the governments are always bad. But based on facts, private empires are much more populist and responsible for almost every social chaos than the government that is just preventing the population to do something that the big guys wouldn’t like to experience.

The patriotism of the rich

(en) John Boehner and President Bush in Troy, ...

John Boehner and President Bush

US Politics and Economics: the patriotism of the rich

Almost nowhere in the world do the rich emigrate. They rarely form part of the armies that they send off to wars, and that they then cover with honours and applause, and they curse the state that sucks their blood. When the economy is doing well, they demand tax cuts to maintain prosperity, and when things do badly they demand that the accursed state bail them out–with tax money, of course.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, the US middle classes have been worried about the deficit and unemployment, both inherited from the Republican government of George W. Bush. Within this party, the splinter known as the Tea Party has risen with such force as to dominate the discourse, but which could put paid to the Republican Party’s chances to win an election, which in principle would seem in their favor. Their banner is the Reagan-Thatcher ideology and opposition to any tax increases. They assure us that it is wrong to penalize the successful, the rich, with taxes, since it is the rich who create jobs when the riches trickle down from above. In a debate in 2008, Obama noted that those who propose this theory (or rather, this ideology) learned when the crisis struck, that when one waits for the riches to trickle down in droplets, the pain rises up from the bottom.
Contemporary data – to go no further – contradicts the “trickle down” theory which was brought to extremes by the last Republican government, since (1) the avarice of those on top has no limits, it is infinite, and (2) unemployment has not decreased in the last few years, on the contrary it has risen.
Even though the 700.000 jobs that were lost every month a couple of years ago has not continued, the creation of new jobs is extremely weak (between 15.000 and 250.000 monthly; a healthy rhythm to bring down the 9.2 per cent of unemployment would require 300.000 new jobs every month).
On the other hand, during the last year productivity has increased in much larger proportions, and above all, the profit levels of the big companies. Each week one can read in the specialized press the results of a financial, industrial or service giant that has increased profits by 30, 50 or 60 per cent, as something perfectly normal, even routine. Any of these percentages come to several billion dollars. This even includes the once fallen motor industries of Detroit. Without going into details as to how the middle classes, through the State, have financed the rescue of these giants, without an election and under the threat that if this were not done, worse things would happen.
Since the 1980s, wealth continues to accumulate at the top while unemployment, since 2009, continues at historical levels. Studies have demonstrated that the gap between rich and poor (Bureau of Economic Analysis), characteristic of Latin American economies, has grown significantly under the trickle down ideology.
Long before the crisis of 2008, when there was still a surplus inherited from the Clinton administration, the Republicans managed to lower taxes for the richest sectors of the economy, among others the oil companies. This period of grace is to end this year and was extended by Obama under pressure from the Republicans, shortly after the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives. At that time Obama was strongly criticized from within his own party for granting concessions to the Republicans without gaining anything in return.
Nevertheless, in recent weeks the positions have polarized. In one of the last meetings with Republicans Obama, who never loses his cool, stood up to them with the threat: “don’t try me.”
In face of negotiations to increase the debt limit (a normal practice in the United States and in many other countries; the Bush administration had done this seven times) the Republicans continue to attempt to suspend and eliminate various social programmes even as they deny any rise in taxes to the richest citizens (in many cases, billionaires).
On their part, the Democrats and President Obama oppose the reduction of social services and demand an increase in taxes for the very wealthy. I have heard a few millionaires asking why they shouldn’t pay more taxes when it is they who have more to contribute when the country needs it. When the country from the middle on down is in need, we might point out. But apparently these millionaires are not the ones who lobby the legislatures of the rich countries.
In any event, in spite of all this Republican mise-en-scène, I have no doubt that before the second of August Congress will vote to raise the debt limit. Why? Because this is good for the gods of Wall Street. Not because there are unemployed workers or soldiers without legs hoping for help from the State that sent them to the front in exchange for some speeches and a few medals.
– Jorge Majfud, Jacksonville University
(ALAI Amlatina, 18/07/2011. Translation: Jordan Bishop).

Osama and the Dangers of Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision

Osama y los peligros de la perspectiva cónica (Spanish)

Osama and the Dangers of Tunnel Vision

Without meaning to do so, in 1690 the famous Mexican poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz demonstrated, with her life and death, that a person can be terribly censured by means of the publication of her own texts. Something similar could be said for the censorship of the media. It isn’t necessary to silence someone in order to censure her. Nobody prohibits a fan from yelling in a stadium filled with people, but neither is anyone, or hardly anyone, going to listen to her. If she had something important to say or yell out, it would be the same or practically the same situation as for someone who has been gagged in a silent room. 

Something similar happens with regard to the importance of every global event. In this century, it is almost impossible to have a twentieth-century-styled dictatorship, let’s say an absolute dictatorship led by some general in some banana republic or a great country like the United States or the Soviet Union where there were different ideas about freedom of expression; in one, the State owned the truth and the news; in the other, the millionaires and the operators of the great media chains were the owners of almost all freedom of expression. 

With the arrival and practical installation of the Digital Age, those models of censorship also became obsolete, but censorship itself did not. Individuals demanded and in many cases obtained a certain level of participation in the discussion of the important topics of the day.  Except that now they seem like that soccer fan who yells out in the middle of a roar-filled stadium. Her voice and her virtual words are lost in oceans of other voices and other words. From time to time, almost always because of some kind of relevant frivolity such as the ability to lick your own elbow or owing to the unique distinction of writing the worst song in the world or coming up with the best conspiracy theory (impossible to either prove or disprove), some people get a sudden and fleeting taste of the fifteen minutes of fame that Andy Warhol used to talk about. I have always suspected that conspiracy theories are created and promoted by those who are supposedly implicated by them. As one of my characters in the novel Memorias de un desaparecido (Memoirs of a Missing Person, 1996) says, “There is no better strategy against a true rumor than to invent yet another false one that claims to confirm it.”

But of course, this theory about a “conspiracy factory” nonetheless still belongs to the same genre of conspiracy theories. The mechanism and the deception are based upon a premise: Among every one thousand conspiracy theories, one is, or must be, true.

Once theory X has entered the public discourse, it cannot be suppressed. The best thing to do is to make it disappear in a sea of superficially similar absurdities.

For now, let’s put aside the matter of whether or not there is a group, government or agency responsible for manipulating perspectives worldwide (which is the same thing as manipulating reality itself). We’ll assume that our common reality is a collective creation that we all participate in, like a macro-culture, like a civilization or like a supernatural system that tends to receive different names, some of them quite shopworn.

Instead, we can concentrate on the facts. For example, one fact is that, just like at any other period in history, “we are the good guys and they are the bad guys,” which justifies our brutal course of action or explains why we are victims of the system in question.

But if we return to the specific matter of censorship (one of the main instruments of any dominant power), we will see that in our time a possible form of it, highly and devastatingly effective, has remained: the promotion of “what’s important.”

One quick and recent example is the death or assassination of Osama bin Laden. I must admit that, like other writers, I did not decline to respond to radio interviews broadcast from several countries and even in various languages. In every case, this was more as a gesture of goodwill than as an expression of personal conviction. However, this time I refrained from writing on the topic.

In my modest opinion, it appears that once more the mechanism of contemporary censorship has been employed — the excess of discussion, and the passion with which differing sides dispute the truth regarding a topic, have robbed us of the ability to concentrate on other topics. Above all, these factors keep us from appreciating how much more important certain topics are than others. It’s as if someone or something decided what is important and what is not, like someone or something deciding what style or what color of clothing must be worn during a particular season.

For example, there was no means of communication by which journalists, readers and interested persons of all types, skin colors and nationalities might, over a period of weeks, passionately debate the legitimacy of bin Laden’s execution. Of course, everything can and should be taken into account. But even though this kind of debate is legitimate, it becomes tragic on a global scale when we observe that the focus of attention has determined and defined what is important. However, does it matter whether or not a harmful character (fictitious or real) such as bin Laden was properly or improperly executed, when the undeniable facts are not even mentioned: the murder of children and other innocent persons as customary collateral damages?   

In the case of bin Laden’s execution, at least this time the United States proceeded in truly surgical fashion, as has been falsely proclaimed on other occasions. The lives of the children who dwelt in the house were obviously safeguarded beyond the moment of what was for them a traumatic experience. Beyond the fact that this option was necessarily strategic rather than humanitarian, let us not forget that only a few years or months ago, the standard decision was to bomb the objective without concern for “collateral damages,” that is, without attaching any importance to the presence of innocent persons, quite often children. This tragedy has been so common throughout contemporary history that the affected authorities have done little more than demand better explanations for ever more horrible atrocities before tossing them into the dustbin of our collective forgetfulness.

To avoid taking this topic too far, it would be enough to mention the recent NATO bombing of Libyan dictator (or whatever you want to call him) Muammar Qaddafi. As a consequence of this bombing, the “objective” did not die. The so-called surgical operation killed — assassinated — several people, among them Qaddafi’s son and three of his grandchildren. But whether or not you can believe it, these children had names and ages: Saif, 2 years;Carthage, 3 years; Mastura, 4 months. Even worse, they are not the exception — they are the rule. 

Who remembers their names? Who cares?

There are no relativisms in this: a child is an innocent being regardless of circumstances, identity, religion, ideology or any action committed by her parents. A child is always — always — innocent, and is such without any qualifiers, no matter how much they may cause us, their parents, to lose patience with them time and time again.

If the police forces of any of our civilized countries were to toss a bomb into the house of the worst murderer or worst rapist of all, and by doing so kill three children, there would surely be a popular outcry in that country. If the government had given the order for such a procedure, it would surely fall in less than twenty-four hours and the persons responsible would be brought before meticulous courts of law.

But since the same thing was done to children belonging to supposedly barbarous, savage and backwards peoples, then the action is simply converted into “collateral damage,” and those who carried it out are valued as responsible and valiant leaders who defend civilization, freedom, and most definitely the lives of the innocent.   

And in order to keep this discussion from taking priority over all other discussions, somebody or something decides that what is really important is to have a discussion about the manner in which an individual was executed, or the legitimacy of his execution — an individual whose actions, it is supposed, had sufficiently merited the way he met his end.

Jorge Majfud

May 11, 2011

JacksonvilleUniversity

Translated by Dr. Joe Goldstein

Washington University Political Review (USA)

The Age of Barbaria

Bronze_coin_of_Pontius_Pilate_Jerusalem_mint_2...

Bronze coin of Pontius Pilate

La Era de Barbaria (Spanish)

The Age of Barbaria

Annual trips back to the year 33 began in the Age of Barbaria. That year was selected because, according to surveys, Christ’s crucifixion drew the attention of most Westerners, and this social sector was important for economic reasons since trips to the past weren’t organized, much less financed, by the government of any country (as had once happened with the first trips into space) but by a private company. The financial group that made the marvel of traveling through time possible was called Axa. Acting at the request of the High Chief of Technology, who suggested infinite profits through “tourism services,” Axa transported groups of thirty people each to the year 33 in order to witness the death of the Nazarene, much as the tourist commoners did long ago when at each equinox they would gather at the foot of the pyramid of Chitchen-Itzá to witness the formation of the serpent from the shadows cast down by the pyramid upon itself.

The greatest inconvenience encountered by Axa was the limited number of tourists who were able to attend the event at one time, thus hampering the millions in profit expected by the investors. For this reason the group maximum was gradually raised to forty-five, at the risk of attracting the attention of the ancient residents of Jerusalem. That figure has been maintained at the request of one of the company’s principal stockholders, who argued, reasonably, that the conservation of that historic deed in its original state was the basis for the trips, and that if each group produced alterations to the facts, it could result in an abandonment of general interest in carrying out this kind of travel.

Over time it has been proven that each historical alteration of the facts, no matter how small, is nearly impossible to repair. Such damage occurs whenever one of the travelers fails to respect the rules and attempts to take away some memento of the place. The most well-known was the case of Adam Parker who, with incredible dexterity, was able to cut out a triangular piece of the Nazarene’s red tunic, probably at the moment the latter collapsed from fatigue. The theft did not signify any change in the holy scriptures, but it served to make Parker rich and famous, since the tiny piece of canvas came to be worth a fortune, and more than a few of the travelers who have since taken on the trouble and expense of going back thousands of years have done so to see where the Nazarene is missing “Parker’s Triangle.”

A few have posed objections to this kind of travel, which, they insist, will end up destroying history in ways beyond our notice. In effect, it has: for each change introduced on any given day, infinite changes are derived from it, century after century, gradually diluting or multiplying its effects. In order to notice a minimal change in the year 33 it would be useless to turn to the holy scriptures, because all of the editions, equally, would reflect the blow and completely forget the original facts. There might be a possibility of tracing each change by projecting other trips to years just prior to the Age of Barbaria, but nobody would be interested in such a project and there would be no way of financing it.

The discussion about whether history should remain as it is or can be legitimately modified also no longer matters. But the latter is, in any case, dangerous, since it is impossible to foresee the resulting changes that would be produced by any particular alteration. We know that any change might not be catastrophic for the human species, but could potentially be catastrophic for individuals: we might not be the ones who are alive now, but someone else instead.

The most radical religious groups find themselves on opposing sides. Barbaria’s information services have recently discovered that a group of Evangelicals belonging to the True Church of God in Sao Pablo, will make a trip to the year 33. Thanks to the charity of its faithful, the group has managed to gather together the sum of several million charged by Axa per ticket. What no one has yet been able to confirm are the group’s intentions. It’s been said they will blow up Golgotha and set fire to Jerusalem at the moment of the Crucifixion, so that we thus arrive at the greatly anticipated End Times. All of history would disappear; the whole world, including the Jews, would recognize their error and would turn to Christianity in the year 33. The entire world would live in the Kingdom of God, just as described in the Gospels.

Others dispute this as conspiracy theory, or they question how the travelers could witness the Crucifixion without trying to prevent it. The theological answer is obvious, which is why those least interested in preventing the martyrdom of the Messiah are his own followers. But for the rest, who are the majority, Axa has decreed its own ethical rules: “In the same manner in which we do not prevent the death of the slave between the claws of a lion when we travel to Africa, neither must we prevent the apparent injustices that are committed with the Nazarene. Our moral duty is to conserve nature and history as they are.” The crucifixion is the common heritage of humanity, but, above all, its rights have been acquired totally by Axa.

In fact, the changes will be increasingly inevitable. After six years of trips to the year 33, one can see, at the foot of the cross, bottle caps and magic marker graffiti on the main beam, some of which pray: “I have faith in my lord,” and others just limit themselves to the name of who was there, along with the date of departure, so that future generations of travelers will remember them. Of course, the company also began to yield in the face of pressure from dissatisfied clients, leading to a radical improvement in services. For example, Barbaria just sent a technical representative to the year 26 to request the production of five thousand cubic meters of asphalt and to negotiate with Pontius Pilate the construction of a more comfortable corridor for the Via Dolorosa, which will make less tiresome the travelers’ route and, besides, would be a gesture of compassion for the Nazarene, who more than once broke his feet on stones that he failed to see in his path. It has been calculated that the improvement won’t mean changes in the holy scriptures, since there is no special concern demonstrated there for the urbanism of the city.

With these measures, Axa hopes to shelter itself from the storm of complaints it has received due to alleged inadequacies in service, having to confront recently very costly lawsuits brought by clients who have spent a fortune and have returned unsatisfied. The cause of these complaints is not always the intense heat of Jerusalem, or the congestion in which the city is entrapped on the day of the Crucifixion. Above all the cause is the unsatisfied expectations of the travelers. The company defends itself by saying that the holy scriptures weren’t written under its quality control, but instead are only historical documents and, therefore, are exaggerated. There where the Nazarene really dies, instead of a deep and horrifying night, the sky is barely darkened by an excessive concentration of clouds, and nothing more. The Catholics have declared that this fact, like all those referenced in the Gospels, should be understood in its symbolic meaning and not merely descriptively. But most people were satisfied neither by Axa’s response nor by that of Pope John XXV, who came out in defense of the multinational corporation, thanks to which people can now be closer to God.

Translated by Bruce Campbell

The Humanist (USA)

Ron Paul and Right-Wing Anarchy

Ron Paul et l’anarchisme de droite (French)

Ron Paul y el anarquismo de derecha (Spanish)

Special Reports

Ron Paul and Right-Wing Anarchy

by Jorge Majfud

Scandalized by the misery that he had found in the poorer classes of the powerful French nation, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Madison, informing him that this was the consequence of the “unequal division of property.” France’s wealth, thought Jefferson, was concentrated in very few hands, which caused the masses be unemployed and forced them to beg. He also recognized that “the equal distribution of property is impracticable,” but acknowledged that marked differences led to misery. If one wanted to preserve the utopian project for liberty in America, no longer for reasons of justice only, it was urgently necessary to insure that the laws would divide the properties obtained through inheritance so that they might be equally distributed among descendants (Bailyn 2003, 57). Thus, in 1776 Jefferson abolished the laws in his state that priveleged inheritors, and established that all adult persons who did not possess 50 acres of land would receive them from the state, since “the land belongs to the living, not the dead” (58).

Jefferson once expressed his belief that if he had to choose between a government without newspapers and newspapers without a government, he would choose the latter. Like the majority of his founding peers, he was famous for other libertarian ideas, for his moderate anarquism, and for an assortment of other contradictions.

Ron Paul: Carrying Jefferson’s torch in a hostile environment?

Maybe nowadays Ron Paul is a type of postmodern incarnation of that president and erudite philosopher. Perhaps for that same reason he has been displaced by Sarah Palin as representing the definition of what it means to be a supposedly good conservative. In addition to being a medical doctor, a representative for Texas, and one of the historic leaders of the Libertarian movement, Paul is probably the true founder of the non-existent Tea Party.

If anything has differentiated neoconservative Republicans from liberal Democrats during the last few decades, it has been the former’s strong international interventionism with messianic influences or its tendency to legislate against homosexual marriage. On the other hand, if anything has characterized the strong criticism and legislative practice of Ron Paul, it has been his proposal to eliminate the central bank of the United States, his opposition to the meddling of the state in the matter of defining what is or should be a marriage, and his opposition to all kinds of interventionism in the affairs of other nations.

A good example of this was the Republican Party debate in Miami in December of 2007. While the rest of the candidates dedicated themselves to repeating prefabricated sentences that set off rounds of applause and stoked the enthusiasm of Miami’s Hispanic community, Ron Paul did not lose the opportunity to repeat his discomforting convictions.

In response to a question from María Elena Salinas about how to deal with the president of Venezuela, Ron Paul simply answered that he was in favor of having a dialogue with Chavez and with Cuba. Of course, the boos echoed throughout the venue. Without waiting for the audience to calm down, he came back with: “But let me tell you why, why we have problems in Central and South America — because we’ve been involved in their internal affairs for a long time, we’ve gotten involved in their business. We created the Chavezes of this world, we’ve created the Castros of this world by interfering and creating chaos in their countries and they’ve responded by taking out their elected leaders…”

The boos ended with the Texan’s argumentative line, until they asked him again about the war in Iraq: “We didn’t have a reason to get involved there, we didn’t declare war […] I have a different point of view because I respect the Constitution and I listen to the founding fathers, who told us to stay out of the internal affairs of other nations.”

In matters of its internal politics, the Libertarian movement shares various points with the neoconservatives, for example, the idea that inequalities are a consequence of freedom among different individuals with different skills and interests. Hence, the idea of “wealth distribution” is understood by Ron Paul’s followers as an arbitrary act of social injustice. For other neocons, it is simply an outcome of the ideological indoctrination of socialists like Obama. Subsequently, they never lose the opportunity to point out all of the books by Karl Marx that Obama studied, apparently with a passionate interest, at Columbia University, and all of the “Socialist Scholars Conference” meetings that he attended (Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism, Stanley Kurtz). Nonetheless, according to the perspective of the libertarians, all of this would fall within the rights of anyone, such as smoking marijuana, as long as one doesn’t try to impose it upon everyone else, which in a president would be at the very least a difficult proposition.

The sacred cow of neoconservative North Americans is liberty (since according to them liberalism is a bad word), as if it had to do with an exalted concept separate from reality. In order to attain it, it would be enough to do away with or reduce everything called state and government, with the exception of the military. Hence, the strong inclination of some people for keeping guns in the hands of individuals, so that they can be used against meddling government power, whether their own or that of others.

Fanatics for total liberty either do not consider or minimize the fact that in order to be free, a certain amount of power is needed. According to Jefferson and Che Guevara, money was only a necessary evil, an outcome of corruption in society and a frequent instrument of robbery. However, in our time (the Greeks in the era of Pericles already knew this), power stems from money. It is enough, then, to have more money in order to be — in social rather than existential terms — freer than a worker who cannot make use of the same degree of liberty to educate his children or to have free time for encouraging his own personal development and intellectual creativity.

At the other extreme, in a large part of Latin America, these days the sacred cow is the “redistribution of wealth” by means of the state. The fact that production can also be poorly distributed is often not considered or is frequently minimized. In this case, the cultural parameters are crucial — there are individuals and groups who create and work for everyone else and who therefore cry out because of the injustice of not getting the benefits that they would deserve if social justice existed. Which is as if a liar were to hide behind a truth in order to safeguard and perpetuate his vices. According to this position, any merit is only the outcome of an oppressive system that doesn’t even allow the idle to put their idleness behind them. So, idleness and robbery are explained by the economic structure and the culture of oppression, which keep entire groups shrouded in ignorance. Which up to a certain point is not untrue. However, it is insufficient for demonstrating the inexistence of perpetual bums and others who are barely equipped for physical or intellectual work. In any case, there should not be redistribution of wealth if there is not first redistribution of production, which would partly be a redistribution of the desire to study, work and take on responsibility for something.

These days, states are necessary evils for protecting the equality of liberty. But at the same time they are the main instrument, as those revolutionary Americans believed, for protecting the privileges of the most powerful and for feeding the moral vices of the weakest.

Jorge Majfud, Jacksonville University.

Washington University Political Review >> Washington University.

http://www.wupr.org/?p=3185

Translated by Dr. Joe Goldstein, Georgia Southern University.

What good is literature? (II)

Julio Cortázar

Image by Nney via Flickr

¿Para qué sirve la literatura? (II) (Spanish)

À quoi sert la littérature ? (French)

What good is literature? (II)

Every so often a politician, a bureaucrat or a smart investor decides to strangulate the humanities with a cut in education, some culture ministry or simply downloading the full force of the market over the busy factories of prefabricated sensitivities.

Much more sincere are the gravediggers who look at our eyes, and with bitterness or simple resentment, throw in our faces their convictions as if they were a single question: What good is literature?

Some wield this kind of philosophical question, not as an analytical instrument but as a mechanical shovel, to slowly widen a tomb full of living corpses.

The gravediggers are old acquaintances. They live or pretend to live, but they are always clinging to the throne of time. Up or down there they go repeating with voices of the dead utilitarian superstitions about needs and progress.

To respond about the uselessness of literature depends on what you comprehend to be useful and not on the literature itself. How useful is the epitaph, the tombstone carved, a reconciliation, sex with love, farewell, tears, laughter, coffee? How useful is football, television programs, photographs that are traded on social networks, racing horses, whiskey, diamonds, thirty pieces of Judas and the repentance?

There are very few who seriously wonder what good is football or the greed of Madoff. There are but a few people (or have not had enough time) that question or wonder, “What good is literature?” Soccer and football are at best, naïve. They have frequently been accomplices of puppeteers and gravediggers.

Literature, if it has not been an accomplice of puppeteers, has just been literature. Its critics do not refer to the respectable business of bestsellers or of prefabricated emotions. No one has ever asked so insistently, “what good is good business?” Critics of literature, deep down, are not concerned with this type of literature. They are concerned with something else. They worry about literature.

The best Olympic athletes have shown us how much the human body may withstand. Formula One racers as well, although borrowing some tricks. The same as the astronauts who put their first steps on the moon, the shovel that builds also destroys.

The same way, the great writers throughout history have shown how far and deep the human experience, (what really matters, what really exist) the vertigo of the highest and deepest ideas and emotions, can go.

For gravediggers only the shovel is useful. For the living dead too.

For others who have not forgotten their status as human beings who dare to go beyond the narrow confines of his own primitive individual experience, for condemned who roam the mass graves but have regained the passion and dignity of human beings, for them it is literature. ∎