“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.