Millionaires Control 39% of the World’s Wealth

By Robert Frank

Last year was another good year for millionaires – though their pace of growth is slowing.

According to a new report by Boston Consulting Group out today, the number of millionaire households in the world grew by 12.2% in 2010, to 12.5 million. (BCG defines millionaires as those with $1 million or more in investible assets, excluding homes, luxury goods and ownership in one’s own company).

The U.S. continues to lead the world in millionaires, with 5.2 million millionaire households, followed by Japan with 1.5 million millionaire households, China with 1.1 million and the U.K. with 570,000. Singapore leads the world in “millionaire density,” or the percentage of millionaires, with 15.5% of its population now millionaire households.

The most important trend, however, is the global wealth distribution. According to the report, the world’s millionaires represent 0.9% of the world’s population but control 39% of the world’s wealth, up from 37% in 2009. Their wealth now totals $47.4 trillion in investible wealth, up from $41.8 trillion in 2009.

Those higher up the wealth ladder also gained. Those with $5 million or more, who represent 0.1% of the population, controlled 22% of the world’s wealth, up from 20 percent in 2009.

As you can see from the accompanying chart, millionaires control 29% of North America’s wealth, while millionaires control about 38% of the wealth in the Middle East and Africa. While the chart makes it look like millionaire-wealth in America is more concentrated, we also have far more millionaires, so their wealth is more spread out among the millionaire population.

Still, the data supports a trend we have been seeing for years: the rise of the global, winner-take-all (or most)  economy.

[fuente: WSJ >>]

The Repressed History of the United States

Robert R. Livingston

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La historia reprimida de Estados Unidos (Spanish)

 

The Repressed History of the United States

Revolution, Egalitarianism and Anti-imperialism

By Jorge Majfud

 

Taking advantage of another anniversary of the birth of George Washington, president George W. Bush used the occasion to compare the American Revolution of the 18th century with the war in Iraq.  In passing he recalled that the first president, like the latest, had been “George W.”

The technique of associations is proper to advertising.  In accordance with the latter, a fast food chain promotes itself with thin, happy young people or a mouse like Mickey is identified with the police and the legal order, while the only character from this “natural” world that dresses like a worker, the Wolf, is presented as a criminal.  Direct associations are so effective that they even permit the use of the observation of the conical shadow that the Earth projects on the Moon as proof that the Earth is square.  When the defenders of private enterprise mention the great feat of the businessman who managed to complete a space trip in 2004, they exercise the same dialectical acrobatics.  Is this an example in favor of or against private sector efficacy?  Because neither Sputnik nor any of the flights and missions carried out by NASA since 1950 were anything other than achievements of governmental organization.

But let’s get to the main point.

An implicit reading accepts as a fact that the United States is a conservative country, refractory of all popular revolution, an imperial, capitalist monolith, constructed by its successful class – which is to say, by its upper class – from the top down.  Ergo, those engines of material progress must be conserved here and copied over there in other realities, for good or for bad, in order to provoke the same happy effects.  These implicit understandings have been consolidated within the national borders by the omnipresent apparatuses of private diffusion and simultaneously confirmed outside by their very detractors.

Let’s see just how fallacious this is.

If we re-read history, we will find that the American Revolution (financed in part by the other power, France) was an anti-imperialist and egalitarian revolution.  Not only was it a violent revolution against the empire of the other George, the king of England, against this empire’s theft via foreign exchange designed to finance its own wars, but also against the vertical structures of absolutist, aristocratic and estate-based societies of old Europe.  The United States is born on the basis of a radically revolutionary and progressive ideology.  Its first constitution was the political and institutional materialization of an ideology that well into the 20th century was condemned by European conservatives as a popular subversion, responsible for the annihilation of all noble tradition, for the exercise of a social practice that was identified as the “devil’s work”: democracy.  The humanist radicalism of the first drafts of that foundational document (like the proposal to abolish slavery) did not materialize due to the pragmatism that always represents conservatives.  Despite which, nevertheless signified a novel and revolutionary proclamation which many famous Latin Americans, from José Artigas to Simón Bolívar, attempted to copy and adapt, ever frustrated by the feudal culture that surrounded them.

Let’s situate ourselves in the second half of the 18th century: the principles of Enlightenment thought, the new ideas about the rights of the individual and of the nations were as subversive as the most socialist thought could have been under the Military Junta headed by Videla or as the thought of a republican surviving under Franco’s regime.  Paradoxically, while in Latin America anyone with a book by Marx in their home was being kidnapped, tortured and killed, in the universities of the United States Marxism was one of the most commonly used instruments of study and analysis, even by his detractors.  Those colonels and soldiers who justified their crimes by accusing the dead of being Marxist, had never in their lives read a single book by the German philosopher.  We might recall that none other than Octavio Paz, one of the clearest and most conservative Mexican intellectuals, never ceased to recognize the lucidity of that current of thought.  One of my professors, Caudio Williman, a conservative politician from my country was, at the same time, a scholar of Marxism, when this doctrine and its mere mention were prohibited because it represented a threat to Western tradition, never mind that Marxist thought was a large part of that same tradition.  Obviously, all with the consent and complacency of Big Brother.

The Spanish Conquest of the American continent was an undeniably imperialist enterprise, carried out by priests and military men, by the loyal servants of Emperor-King Carlos I.  The first goal of its leaders was the extraction of wealth from the subjugated territories and peoples in order to sustain an aristocratic society and in order to finance its endless imperial wars.  For many of the priests, the goal was the expansion of religion and the ecclesiastical dominance of the Catholic Church.  For the soldiers and adventurers, it was the opportunity to make themselves rich and then return to Europe and buy themselves a title of the nobility that would give them prestige and save them from the curse of labor.  The Spanish conquistadors crossed the territory of what today is the United States and left it behind not only because they did not find mineral wealth there but because the indigenous population was scarce.  It made more sense to occupy Mexico and Perú.

The first Northamerican colonizers were not free of material ambitions nor were they above the despoiling of native peoples, often recurring to the more subtle conquest through land purchase.  Nevertheless, not a minority, they were dispossessed people who fled from the oppressions and absolutisms – religious and of the state – of the societies that resisted change: many migratory movements were motivated by the new dreams of collectivist utopias.  For the majority, to colonize meant to appropriate a small portion of land in order to work it and put down one’s roots there.  From the beginning, this distribution was infinitely more egalitarian than that which was produced in the South.  In Hispanic America, an iron willed economic monopoly was imposed and a stratified and semifeudal society was reproduced, where the boss, the strongman or the landed elite had at their disposal extensions of land as vast as any province in Europe.  Only the southern states of the United States could compare to the social, moral and economic system of Brazil or of the Caribbean, but we know that this system – although not its moral values – was defeated in the War of Secession (1861-1865) by the northern representatives of the century to come.

Within the Latin American fiefdoms the indigenous and African peoples and immigrant workers remained trapped, condemned to exploitation and to working someone else’s land for someone else’s benefit.  Nothing less egalitarian, nothing less revolutionary, nothing less imperialist than this old system which would serve in turn the new empires.  It should not seem strange, therefore, that in Latin American there would persist so many “dangerous subversives” who demanded agrarian reforms (recall the two Mexican revolutions, separated by a century), revolutionary movements of every kind who all called themselves movements of liberation, intellectuals who in their overwhelming majority positioned themselves on the left of the political spectrum because power was rooted in the dominant, conservative classes of a vertical order that favored private interests and defended these with every resource at hand: the Army, the Church, the State, the media of the press, public moral instruction, etc.

One cannot say that the United States emerged as a capitalist country while Latin American suffered the curse of a socialist ideology, or anything of the kind.  No, quite the contrary.  This fact is forgotten due to later history and the interests that dominate economic power in the present.  The rapid development of the United States was not based on economic liberalism nor on capitalist speculation.  It was based on the greater equality of its citizens which was expressed as ideology in the country’s founding and as politics in some of the country’s more democratic institutions, on the law and not on the unpredictable and uncontestable will of the Viceroy, of the Censor, or of the caudillo.  That is to say, democratic egalitarianism made possible and multiplied the development of a nation freed from monopolies and bureaucratic arbitrariness; rebelliously opposed to spoliation by the empire of the moment.  The United States did not become a world power through having been an empire, instead it became an empire through its great initial development.

The result might be paradoxical, but we cannot deny that the initial engine was precisely those values that today are held in contempt or attributed to the failure of other nations: the liberation of the people through an anti-imperialist revolution, the egalitarianism of its ideology, in its practice of workshops, from its foundational economy to the more recent technical revolutions like Microsoft or Hewlett Packard.  All values that are coherent with the humanistic wave initiated centuries before.

 

Translated by Bruce Campbell

 

Fear of Freedom: On the Left and the Right

Edward Said

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El miedo a la libertad, Sobre izquierdas y derechas (Spanish)

 

Fear of Freedom: On the Left and the Right

 

Jorge Majfud

 

Generally, an historical phenomenon is naturalized thanks to an absence of memory (hence the political value of neutrality and forgetting). Obviously not always for political reasons: it was once assumed that a nerve originating from the heart ended in one of the fingers of the left hand, which is why the wedding ring is worn there today. A man takes his bride to the altar with the left arm because centuries ago other grooms had to keep the right arm free in order to grasp the sword aimed at skewering the enemy. Carriages drove down the left side of the road: the driver’s right hand took up the weapon needed to defend himself against other drivers. For political reasons, revolutionary France and North America chose to drive on the other side and Napoleon confirmed it, not because he was revolutionary but because he was left-handed. Greeting with the right-handed handshake or handwave was able to signify the same thing: it was a friendly way of verifying that one was not armed.

Despite the fact that the right hand signified violence, symbolically it was associated with all of the virtues. The knight who alone or with other nobles crossed the countryside of Europe and the Middle East valued his right hand for many reasons, among which was its identification with defense. In a violent world, the right served for self-defense, and therefore possessed a value superior to the left hand and to reason. There was no argument about the fact that the right served to defend against other right hands in a culture of violence. In the same way, armies are justified even today for the defense of the homeland and of honor and not for assaults on other homelands and other honors. Right, righteous, rights, rightwing, righthand man, have come to be synonyous with virtue while the left is identified with the sinister (from the Latin sinister, meaning “on the left” or “unlucky”).  Culture nourished the superstition that a left-handed man was a partner of Evil and school children’s left hand was tied down and they were forced to write with their right hand.

At the same time, as Saussure would observe, there is no reason for a sign to have any necessary relationship with its signified. The fact that the Jacobins and Girondins would sit on one side or the other of the National Assembly of revolutionary France was merely circumstantial.

What is not accidental is the creation of semantic fields (the establishment of ideolexicons) in the struggle for social power.

Twenty or thirty years ago in the Southern Cone declaring oneself a leftist was enough to send you to prison or lose your life in a torture session. Nearly the majority of citizens and almost all the media took pains – in different ways – to identify themselves with the right. Being on the right was not only politically correct but, also, a requirement for survival.

The valorization of this ideolexicon has changed dramatically. This is demonstrated by a recent trial taking place in Uruguay. Búsqueda, a well-known weekly magazine, has taken to court a senator of the republic, José Korzeniak, because he characterized the publication as “on the right.” If this attitude were generalized, we would have to say that censorship no longer extends from political power toward the communication media, as before, but from the media toward the politicians in power. Which would be an interesting historical rarity.

The trial represents another rarity. The judge in the case had to call different witnesses to define what is on the right and what is on the left. It is assumed that the judicial process must resolve a philosophical problem that has never been closed or resolved. Dialectical exercise is completely healthy, but the form and place are proving to be surrealist at the very least.

I suppose that if it is demonstrated that Búsqueda is not on the right the senator will lose the trial, but if the opposite is demonstrated, he would be absolved of his crime. Nonetheless, another problem arises here. Is freedom of expression a crime now? What does it matter if Búsqueda is on the right or on the left as far as the law is concerned? Why should it be considered an insult or a civil crime to be on the right? Is not all opposition to the government on the right, and who knows if the government itself as well from some more radical point of view?

We will dispense with pretensions of independence, of neutrality or of objectivity, because those superstitions have already been demolished by thinkers like Edward Said. Nothing in culture is neutral, even though the will to objectivity might be a utopian virtue which we should not renounce. Part of intellectual honesty consists of recognizing that our own point of view is human and not necessarily the point of view of God. Historically political neutrality is prescribed only when it works in favor of a status quo, since every social order implies a network of political values imposed through the violence of their alleged neutrality.

Whether the senator is on the left or on the right, whether this or that daily paper is on the left or the right, that is up to each citizen to judge. The only thing that every citizen should demand of the law, of justice, is that it respect and protect their right to whatever opinion they like and their right to do so in any medium. In an open society, censorship should only result from reason or the strength of arguments. If a social consensus were possible about theme X, this should be derived from the most complete freedom of expression and not from any authority’s imposition of force or from the fear of “crime of opinion.”

Is it that we Uruguayans, who are so proud of our democratic tradition, are still not able to overcome the mental parameters of the dictatorship? Why such fear of freedom?

In many of our countries, trials for reasons of “honor” are still common. The stamp of the duel to the death – heritage of the violent knights of the Middle Ages – projects its image onto an anachronistic mentality. Like the famous “honor of weapons,” a paradoxical ideolexicon, if such a thing exists, since there is nothing less appropriate to a demonstration of honor than instruments of death.

Someone might argue that if Juan insults me that stains my honor. Nonetheless, even in that extreme, in an open society I would have the same right to respond to the hypothetical offense using the same means. But the very idea that someone can offend another person by recourse to insult is a flawed construction: anyone who insults gratuitously insults his own intelligence. If we knew how to develop a culture of freedom and uproot the implicit fear of debate and dissidence, the insult would be an undesired option just as it is today to assault each other in a ridiculous weapons duel. For the same reason, we would stop confusing criticisms with personal affront.

I can understand that defense of the crime might be considered a crime in itself, but we still have not been able to demonstrate clearly that naming someone or an organ of the press with the title “on the right” is a defense for the crime. First, because being on the right does not lead necessarily (directly or deliberately) to theft or criminality. Second, because we know people who honestly believe that being on the right is a virtue and not an insulting defect. Third, because nobody is safe from acts and opinions on the right.

 

Translated by Bruce Campbell

 

 

 

The Fragments of the Latin American Union

This political cartoon (attributed to Benjamin...

Image via Wikipedia

Los fragmentos de la desunión latinoamericana (Spanish)

The Past Hurts But Does Not Condemn

The Fragments of the Latin American Union

Jorge Majfud

Lincoln University

1.

In Latin America, in the absence of a social revolution at the moment of national independence there were plenty of rebellions and political revolts. Less frequently these were popular rebellions and almost never were they ideological revolutions that shook the traditional structures, as was the case with the North American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Cuban Revolution. Instead, internal struggles abounded, before and after the birth of the new Republics.

A half century later, in 1866, the Ecuadorian Juan Montalvo would make a dramatic diagnosis: “freedom and fatherland in Latin America are the sheep’s clothing with which the wolf disguises himself.” When the republics were not at war they enjoyed the peace of the oppressors. Even though slavery had been abolished in the new republics, it existed de facto and was almost as brutal as in the giant to the north. Class violence was also racial violence: the indigenous continued to be marginalized and exploited. “This has been the peace of the jail cell,” conclued Montalvo. The indian, deformed by this physical and moral violence, would receive the most brutal physical punishments but “when they give him the whip, trembling on the ground, he gets up thanking his tormenter: May God reward you, sir.” Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican Eligenio M. Hostos in 1870 would already lament that “there is still no South American Confederation.” On the contrary, he only saw disunion and new empires oppressing and threatening: “An empire [Germany] can still move deliberately against Mexico! Another empire [Great Britain/Brazil] can still wreck Paraguay with impunity!”

But the monolithic admiration for central Europe, like that of Sarmiento, also begins to fall apart at the end of the 19th century: “Europe is no happier, and has nothing to throw in our face with regard to calamities and misfortunes” (Montalvo). “The most civilized nations—Montalvo continues—, those whose intelligence has reached the sky itself and whose practices walk in step with morality, do not renounce war: their breasts are always burning, their jealous hearts leap with the drive for extermination.” The Paraguay massacre results from muscular reasoning within the continent, and another American empire of the period is no exception to this way of seeing: “Brazil trades in human flesh, buying and selling slaves, in order to bow to its adversary and provide its share of the rationale.” The old accusation of imperial Spain is now launched against the other colonialist forces of the period. France and England – and by extension Germany and Russia – are seen as hypocrites in their discourse: “the one has armies for subjugating the world, and only in this way believes in peace; the other extends itself over the seas, takes control of the straits, dominates the most important fortresses on earth, and only in this way believes in peace.” In 1883, he also points out the ethical contradictions of the United States, “where the customs counteract the laws; where the latter call the blacks to the Senate, and the former drive them out of the restaurants.” (Montalvo himself avoids passing through the United States on his trip to Europe out of “fear of being treated like a Brazilian, and that resentment might instill hatred in my breast,” since “in the most democratic country in the world it is necessary to be thoroughly blonde in order to be a legitimate person.”)

Nonetheless, even though practice always tends to contradict ethical principles—it is not by accident that the most basic moral laws are always prohibitions—the unstoppable wave of humanist utopia continued to be imposed step by step, like the principal of union in equality, or the “fusion of the races in one civilization.” The same Iberoamerican history is understood in this universal process “to unite all the races in labor, in liberty, in equality and in justice.” When the union is achieved, “then the continent will be called Colombia” (Hostos). For José Martí as well, history was directed inevitably toward union. In “La América” (1883) he foresaw a “new accommodation of the national forces of the world, always in movement, and now accelerated, the necessary and majestic grouping of all the members of the American national family.” From the utopia of the union of nations, project of European humanism, it comes to be a Latin American commonplace: the fusion of the races in a kind of perfect mestizaje. The empires of Europe and the United States rejected for such a project, the New World would be “the oven where all the races must be melted, where they are being melted” (Hostos). In 1891, an optimistic Martí writes in New York that in Cuba “there is no race hatred because there are no races” even though this more of an aspiration than a reality. During the period advertisements were still published in the daily newspapers selling slaves alongside horses and other domesticated animals.

In any case, this relationship between oppressors and oppressed can not be reduced to Europeans and Amerindians. The indigenous people of the Andes, for example, also had spent their days scratching at the earth in search of gold to pay tribute to those sent by the Inca and numerous Mesoamerican tribes had to suffer the oppression of an empire like the Aztec. During most of the life of the Iberoamerican republics, the abuse of class, race and sex was part of the organization of society. International logic is reproduced in the domestic dynamic. To put it in the words of the Bolivian Alcides Arguedas in 1909, “when a boss has two or more pongos [unsalaried worker], he keeps one and rents out the others, as if it were simply a matter of a horse or a dog, with the small difference that the dog and the horse are lodged in a wood hut or in a stable and both are fed; the pongo is left to sleep in the doorway and to feed on scraps.” Meanwhile the soldiers would take the indians by the hair and beating them with their sabres carry them off to clean the barracks or would steal their sheep in order to maintain an army troop as it passed through. In the face of these realities, utopian humanists seemed like frauds. Frantz Tamayo, in 1910 declares, “imagine for a moment the Roman empire or the British empire having national altruism as it foundation and as its ideal. […] Altuism! Truth! Justice! Who practices these with Bolivia? Speak of altruism in England, the country of wise conquest, and in the United States, the country of the voracious monopolies!” According to Angel Rama (1982), modernization was also exercised principally “through a rigid hierarchical system.” That is to say, it was a process similar to that of the Conquest and the Independence. In order to legitimate the system, “an aristocratic pattern was applied which has been the most vigorous shaper of Latin American cultures throughout their history.”

Was our history really any different from these calamities during the military dictatorships of the end of the 20th century? Now, does this mean that we are condemned by a past that repeats itself periodically as if it were the a novelty each time?

2.

Let us respond with a different problem. The popular psychoanalytic tradition of the 20th century made us believe that the individual is always, in some way and in some degree, hostage to a past. Less rooted in popular consciousness, the French existentialists reacted by proposing that in reality we are condemned to be free. That is, in each moment we have to choose, there is no other way. In my opinion, both dimensions are possible in a human being: on the one hand we are conditioned by a past but not determined by it. But if we pay paranoid tribute to that past believing that all of our present and our future is owed to those traumas, we are reproducing a cultural illness: “I am unhappy because my parents are to blame.” Or, “I can’t be happy because my husband oppressed me.” But where is the sense of freedom and of responsibility? Why is it not better to say that “I have not been happy or I have these problems because, above all, I myself have not taken responsibility for my problems”? Thus arises the idea of the passive victim and instead of fighting in a principled way against evils like machismo one turns to the crutch in order to justify why this woman or that other one has been unhappy. “Am I sick? The fault is with the machismo of this society.” Etc.

Perhaps it goes without saying that being human is neither only biology nor only psychology: we are constructed by a history, the history of humanity that creates us as subjects. The individual—the nation—can recognize the influence of context and of their history and at the same time their own freedom as potential which, no matter how minimal and conditioned it might be, is capable of radically changing the course of a life. Which is to say, an individual, a nation that would reject outright any representation of itself as a victim, as a potted plant or as a flag that waves in the wind.

Translated by Bruce Campbell

Ο δεκάλογος κατά του ανθρωπισμού

Painting "Humanism and the Technology"

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Diez azotes contra el humanismo (Spanish)

Monthly Review
MR II

Ο δεκάλογος κατά του ανθρωπισμού

Translated by Eleni Alexopoulou

του ΧΟΡΧΕ ΜΑΧΦΟΥΝΤ*
Χόρχε Μαχφούντ
Τεύχος Νο 30
Αρχική Δημοσίευση: MRZine, 6 Μαρτίου 2007

Μετάφραση: Νίκος Παπαπολύζος

Μια δευτερεύουσα παράδοση στη συντηρητική σκέψη είναι ο ορισμός του διαλεκτικού αντιπάλου ως πνευματικά ανεπαρκούς και ηθικά επιλήψιμου. Καθώς αυτό ποτέ δεν συγκροτεί επιχείρημα, το ξέσπασμα συγκαλύπτεται από κάποια ανακόλουθη και ταυτολογική συλλογιστική, ίδιον της μεταμοντέρνας σκέψης στην πολιτική προπαγάνδα. Δεν είναι τυχαίο που στη Λατινική Αμερική άλλοι συγγραφείς αναπαράγουν το παράδειγμα των ΗΠΑ με βιβλία όπως το Manual del perfecto idiota latinoamericano [Εγχειρίδιο για τον τέλειο Λατινοαμερικανό ηλίθιο] (1996) ή καταρτίζοντας λίστες σχετικά με τους «Los diez estúpidos más estúpidos de América Latina» [Οι δέκα πιο βλάκες από τους βλάκες της Λατινικής Αμερικής]. Λίστες που συνήθως έχουν στην κορυφή τον φίλο μας, τον φοίνικα Εντουάρδο Γκαλεάνο, ο οποίος απαντά με αβρή αδιαφορία• τον έχουν σκοτώσει τόσες πολλές φορές που έχει συνηθίσει να ξαναγεννιέται.

Κατά κανόνα, οι λίστες των δέκα βλακωδέστερων ανθρώπων στις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες τείνουν να φιλοξενούν στην κορυφή διανοούμενους. Η εξήγηση για αυτή την ιδιοτυπία δόθηκε κάμποσο καιρό πριν από έναν αξιωματικό του στρατού της τελευταίας αργεντινής δικτατορίας (1976–1983), ο οποίος παραπονέθηκε στις τηλεοπτικές κάμερες για τους διαδηλωτές που έκαναν πορεία στους δρόμους του Μπουένος Άιρες: «Δεν υποπτεύομαι τους εργαζόμενους, γιατί είναι πάντα απασχολημένοι με τη δουλειά τους. Υποπτεύομαι τους φοιτητές γιατί, έχοντας τόσο πολύ ελεύθερο χρόνο, τον καταναλώνουν στη σκέψη. Και όπως γνωρίζετε, κε δημοσιογράφε, η υπερβολική σκέψη είναι επικίνδυνη». Κάτι που ήταν συνεπές προς το προηγούμενο εγχείρημα του στρατηγού Ονγκανία[1] (1966–1970): την εκδίωξη όλων των διανοουμένων ώστε να λυθούν τα προβλήματα της Αργεντινής.

Σχετικά πρόσφατα, ο Νταγκ Χάγκιν, στο διάσημο τηλεοπτικό πρόγραμμα Dave’s Top Ten, παρασκεύασε τη δική του λίστα των Δέκα Πιο Βλακωδών Αριστερών Ιδεωδών. Αν προσπαθήσουμε να δούμε το πρόβλημα χωρίς την απλούστευση που προσφέρει η πολιτική ετικέτα, θα αντιληφθούμε ότι κάθε κατηγορία ενάντια στους λεγόμενους αριστερούς των ΗΠΑ στην πραγματικότητα αποτελεί επίθεση σε διάφορες ανθρωπιστικές αρχές.

10. Περιβαλλοντισμός.

Σύμφωνα με τον συγγραφέα, οι αριστεροί δεν σταματούν σε ένα λογικό επίπεδο προστασίας του περιβάλλοντος.

Προφανώς ο ορισμός του τι είναι ή δεν είναι λογικό εξαρτάται από τα οικονομικά συμφέροντα της στιγμής. Όπως κάθε συντηρητικός, ασπάζεται την ιδέα ότι η θεωρία της παγκόσμιας υπερθέρμανσης είναι μόνο μια θεωρία, όπως η θεωρία της εξέλιξης: δεν υπάρχουν αποδείξεις ότι ο Θεός δεν δημιούργησε τους σκελετούς των δεινοσαύρων και των άλλων ειδών και μετά τους σκόρπισε τριγύρω, απλά για να συγχύσει τους επιστήμονες και να δοκιμάσει την πίστη τους. Η συντηρητική νοοτροπία, ηρωικά αμετακίνητη, αδυνατεί να φανταστεί ότι οι ωκεανοί μπορεί να υπόκεινται στην εξέλιξη, πέρα από ένα λογικό επίπεδο.

9. Για να μεγαλώσεις ένα παιδί χρειάζεσαι μια κοινότητα.

Ο συγγραφέας το αρνείται: το πρόβλημα είναι ότι οι αριστεροί πάντοτε σκέφτονταν συλλογικά. Εφόσον δεν πιστεύουν στον ατομικισμό, θεωρούν ότι η εκπαίδευση των παιδιών πρέπει να λαμβάνει χώρα μέσα στην κοινωνία.

Αντιθέτως, η αντιδραστική σκέψη πιστεύει περισσότερο στη μονάδα, στον κοινωνικό αυτισμό, παρά στον ύποπτο ανθρωπισμό. Κατά το σκεπτικό μεσαιωνικού αριστοκράτη, ένας πλούσιος άνθρωπος μπορεί να είναι πλούσιος εν μέσω εξαθλίωσης, ένα παιδί μπορεί να γίνει ηθικός άνθρωπος και να εισέλθει στον παράδεισο χωρίς να μολυνθεί από τις αμαρτίες της κοινωνίας. Η κοινωνία, οι μάζες, χρησιμεύουν μόνο για να επιτρέψουν στον ηθικό άνθρωπο να επιδείξει τη συμπόνια του δωρίζοντας στους έχοντες ανάγκη αυτά που του περίσσεψαν – αφαιρώντας τα από τους φόρους του.

8. Τα παιδιά δεν μπορούν να χειριστούν το στρες. Εξού και δεν πρέπει να τα διορθώνουν οι δάσκαλοι με κόκκινο μελάνι, ή δεν πρέπει να έρχονται αντιμέτωπα με τις ωμότητες της ιστορίας.

Ο συγγραφέας σωστά παρατηρεί ότι το να δουν κάτι δυσάρεστο ως νήπια προετοιμάζει τα παιδιά για ένα κόσμο που δεν είναι ευχάριστος. Παρ’ όλα αυτά, κάποιοι συμπονετικοί συντηρητικοί υπερβάλλουν λίγο όταν ντύνουν τα παιδιά τους με στρατιωτικές στολές και τους δίνουν παιχνίδια που, αν και ρίχνουν μόνο ακτίνες λέιζερ, μοιάζουν πάρα πολύ με όπλα ακτίνων λέιζερ που ρίχνουν άλλου είδους βλήματα σε παρόμοιους στόχους (και σε μαύρους ανθρώπους).
7. Ο ανταγωνισμός είναι κακός.

Για τον συγγραφέα, όχι: το γεγονός ότι κάποιοι κερδίζουν σημαίνει ότι άλλοι χάνουν, όμως αυτή η δυναμική μάς οδηγεί στη μεγαλοσύνη.

Δεν εξηγεί κατά πόσο υφίσταται εδώ το «λογικό όριο» για το οποίο μίλησε πριν, ή κατά πόσο αναφέρεται στη μισητή ιστορία της εξέλιξης, που θέλει τον ισχυρότερο να επιβιώνει στον πρωτόγονο κόσμο. Ούτε και ξεκαθαρίζει σε ποια μεγαλοσύνη αναφέρεται – σε αυτή του σκλάβου στην ευημερούσα βαμβακοφυτεία ή στο μέγεθος της φυτείας; Δεν λαμβάνει υπόψη, φυσικά, κανένα είδος κοινωνίας που να βασίζεται στην αλληλεγγύη, να έχει απελευθερωθεί από τη νεύρωση του ανταγωνισμού.

6. Η υγεία είναι δικαίωμα του πολίτη.

Όχι για τον συγγραφέα: η υγεία αποτελεί προσωπική ευθύνη.

Σε αυτό το επιχείρημα αρέσκονται όσοι αρνούνται την ανάγκη για καθολικό σύστημα υγείας, αλλά την ίδια στιγμή δεν προτείνουν ιδιωτικοποίηση της αστυνομίας και ακόμη περισσότερο του στρατού. Κανείς δεν πληρώνει την αστυνομία μόλις καλέσει το 100, κάτι που είναι λογικό. Αν κάποιος μας επιτεθεί και μας πυροβολήσει στο κεφάλι, δεν θα πληρώσουμε τίποτα για τη σύλληψή του, όμως αν είμαστε φτωχοί, και θέλουμε οι γιατροί να μας σώσουν τη ζωή, θα καταλήξουμε χρεοκοπημένοι. Συμπεραίνει κανείς ότι, σύμφωνα με αυτή τη λογική, ένας κλέφτης που ληστεύει ένα σπίτι αντιπροσωπεύει μια κοινωνική ασθένεια, αλλά μια επιδημία δεν είναι τίποτα περισσότερο από ένα μάτσο ανεύθυνα άτομα που δεν επηρεάζουν την υπόλοιπη κοινωνία. Ποτέ βεβαίως δεν λαμβάνεται υπόψη ότι η συλλογική αλληλεγγύη είναι μια από τις υψηλότερες μορφές ατομικής ευθύνης.

5. Ο πλούτος είναι βδέλυγμα.

Σύμφωνα με τον συγγραφέα, οι αριστεροί θέλουν να ποινικοποιήσουν την επιτυχία των πλουσίων και να τους επιβάλουν φόρους, ούτως ώστε να δώσουν τον πλούτο τους στην ομοσπονδιακή κυβέρνηση για να τον χρησιμοποιήσει ανεύθυνα, βοηθώντας αυτούς που δεν είναι τόσο επιτυχημένοι.

Με άλλα λόγια, οι εργαζόμενοι οφείλουν το καθημερινό ψωμί τους στους πλούσιους. Το να κερδίζεις τα προς το ζην με τον ιδρώτα του προσώπου σου είναι η τιμωρία σου από αυτούς τους επιτυχημένους ανθρώπους που δεν έχουν ανάγκη να εργαστούν. Υπάρχει λόγος που η σωματική ομορφιά έχει ιστορικά συσχετιστεί με τις μεταβαλλόμενες, αλλά πάντοτε νωχελικές, συνήθειες της αριστοκρατίας. Υπάρχει λόγος που στον ευτυχισμένο κόσμο του Ουώλτ Ντίσνεϋ δεν υπάρχουν εργαζόμενοι. Η ευτυχία είναι κρυμμένη σε κάποιο σεντούκι με χρυσά νομίσματα. Για τον ίδιο λόγο, είναι αναγκαίο να μην χαραμίζονται λεφτά από φόρους στην εκπαίδευση και την υγεία. Τα εκατομμύρια που ξοδεύονται σε στρατούς ανά τον κόσμο δεν μας προβληματίζουν επειδή αποτελούν μέρος των επενδύσεων που τα κράτη κάνουν με υπευθυνότητα, για να διατηρήσουν την επιτυχία των πλουσίων και το όνειρο των φτωχών για δόξα.

4. Υπάρχει αχαλίνωτος ρατσισμός που θα διορθωθεί μόνο με την ανεκτικότητα.

Όχι: οι αριστεροί βλέπουν τις φυλετικές σχέσεις μέσα από το πρίσμα του πεσιμισμού. Όμως το θέμα της φυλής δεν απασχολεί τους περισσότερους από εμάς, απασχολεί μόνον εκείνους.

Σαν να λέμε δηλαδή, όπως με το εφεύρημα της παγκόσμιας υπερθέρμανσης, ότι αν ένας συντηρητικός δεν έχει στο μυαλό του κάτι ή κάποιον, αυτό το κάτι ή ο κάποιος δεν υπάρχουν. Οι Δε Λας Κάσας, Λίνκολν και Μάρτιν Λούθερ Κινγκ πολέμησαν ενάντια στο ρατσισμό γιατί ήταν αδαείς. Αν οι ανθρωπιστές σταματούσαν να σκέφτονται τον κόσμο θα ήμασταν ευτυχέστεροι, επειδή ο πόνος των άλλων δεν θα υπήρχε, ούτε θα υπήρχαν άκαρδοι ληστές που κλέβουν από τους συμπονετικούς πλούσιους.

3. Έκτρωση.

Για να αποφύγουν την προσωπική ευθύνη, οι αριστεροί υποστηρίζουν την ιδέα της φόνευσης του αγέννητου.

Ο μαζικός φόνος των ήδη γεννημένων αποτελεί επίσης μέρος της ατομικής ευθύνης, σύμφωνα με την τηλεοπτικά μεταδιδόμενη δεξιά σκέψη, αν και κάποιες φορές αποκαλείται ηρωισμός και πατριωτισμός. Μόνο όταν ωφελεί το σπίτι μας. Αν κάνουμε λάθος που καταπιέζουμε ένα λαό, αποφεύγουμε την ευθύνη μιλώντας για την έκτρωση. Ένα διπλό ηθικό παζάρι, βασισμένο σε ηθική δύο μέτρων και δύο σταθμών.

2. Τα όπλα είναι φαύλα.

Οι αριστεροί μισούν τα όπλα και μισούν όσους θέλουν να αυτοπροστατευθούν. Σε αντίθεση, οι αριστεροί πιστεύουν ότι αυτή την προστασία θα έπρεπε να την παρέχει το κράτος. Και πάλι, δεν θέλουν να αναλάβουν ευθύνη για τον εαυτό τους.

Σαν να λέμε, οι βιαιοπραγούντες, οι ανήλικοι συμμορίτες, οι μαθητές που πυροβολούν στα λύκεια, οι έμποροι ναρκωτικών και οι λοιποί γκάγκστερ ασκούν το δικαίωμά τους να υπερασπίζονται το συμφέρον τους, το ατομικό και επιχειρηματικό. Κανείς άλλωστε δεν αμφισβητεί το κράτος και δεν πιστεύει στη δική του ευθύνη περισσότερο από αυτούς. Εξυπακούεται λοιπόν ότι οι στρατοί, σύμφωνα με το παραπάνω σκεπτικό, αποτελούν το βασικό στοιχείο της υπεύθυνης άμυνας που διεξάγεται από το ανεύθυνο κράτος.

1. Ο κατευνασμός του κακού εξασφαλίζει την ειρήνη.

Οι αριστεροί πάντοτε θέλησαν να κατευνάσουν τους Ναζί, τους δικτάτορες και τους τρομοκράτες.

Η σοφία του συγγραφέα δεν φτάνει στο σημείο να λάβει υπόψη ότι πολλοί αριστεροί ήταν συνειδητά υπέρ της βίας, και ως παράδειγμα θα αρκούσε να θυμηθούμε τον Ερνέστο Τσε Γκεβάρα – μολονότι αντιπροσωπεύει τη βία του σκλάβου μάλλον, παρά του αφέντη. Είναι αλήθεια, οι συντηρητικοί δεν έχουν κατευνάσει δικτάτορες: στη Λατινική Αμερική τουλάχιστον, τους εξέθρεψαν. Στην τελική, οι δικτάτορες υπήρξαν πάντοτε φίλοι των όπλων και μάλιστα έκλειναν πολύ καλές συμφωνίες στο όνομα της ασφάλειας. Οι Ναζί, οι δικτάτορες και οι τρομοκράτες κάθε είδους, έτσι όπως ρέπουν προς την ιδεολογική υπεραπλούστευση, θα συμφωνούσαν επίσης με το τελευταίο κομμάτι στη συλλογιστική της λίστας: «Οι αριστεροί δεν καταλαβαίνουν ότι κάποιες φορές η βία είναι η μόνη λύση. Το Κακό υπάρχει και πρέπει να εξαρθρωθεί». Και, τέλος: «Θα το σκοτώσουμε [το Κακό], ή αυτό θα σκοτώσει εμάς, είναι τόσο απλό. Θα σκοτώσουμε το Κακό, ή το Κακό θα σκοτώσει εμάς. Το μόνο πράγμα που είναι πιο απλουστευτικό από αυτό είναι η αριστερή σκέψη».

Άμπρα κατάμπρα!

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* Ο Χόρχε Μαχφούντ γεννήθηκε στο Τακουαρεμπό της Ουρουγουάης το 1969. Διδάσκει λατινοαμερικανική λογοτεχνία στο Πανεπιστήμιο της Τζώρτζια. Έχει επισκεφτεί περισσότερες από σαράντα χώρες, και οι ταξιδιωτικές του εντυπώσεις περιλήφθηκαν στα μυθιστορήματα και τα δοκίμιά του. Έχει εκδώσει, μεταξύ άλλων, τα μυθιστορήματα Hacia qué patrias del silencio (memorias de un desaparecido) (1996), La reina de América (2002) και Perdona nuestros pecados (2007), καθώς και τα δοκίμια Crítica de la pasión pura (1998). Έργα του έχουν μεταφραστεί στα αγγλικά και τα πορτογαλικά. Ιστορίες και άρθρα του έχουν κυκλοφορήσει σε διάφορες εφημερίδες και περιοδικά όπως οι El País και La República του Μοντεβιδέο, Página/12 του Μπουένος Άιρες, Milenio του Μεξικού καθώς και τα Rebelión και Hispanic Culture Review του Πανεπιστημίου George Mason. Είναι ιδρυτής και εκδότης του περιοδικού SigloXXI – reflexiones sobre nuestro tiempo, και τακτικός συνεργάτης της εβδομαδιαίας έκδοσης της República, Bitácora.

[1] Στις 29 Ιουλίου 1966, κατόπιν διαταγών του δικτάτορα μόλις από την προηγουμένη Juan Carlos Onganía, η αστυνομία εισέβαλε στο Πανεπιστήμιο του Μπουένος Άιρες, ξυλοκόπησε και συνέλαβε τους ενάντιους στη δικτατορία φοιτητές και καθηγητές, και κατέστρεψε εργαστήρια και βιβλιοθήκες. Η πανεπιστημιακή αυτονομία καταλύθηκε και πάρα πολλοί καθηγητές απολύθηκαν ή αυτοεξορίστηκαν. Το περιστατικό είναι γνωστό ως «νύχτα των κλομπ» (La Noche de los Bastones Largos). (Σ.τ.Ε.)