Pablo Neruda, Chilean Poet
It's winter in the United States, and in most places seasonably cold. Perspiration on the brow of Miss Liberty in New York City at 70 degrees last week reminds us that global warming is in our faces, deceptively so, as Big Apple residents gleefully cavorted in Central Park wearing shorts and smugly quipping that the East Coast was somehow cheating Old Man Winter out of his annual freeze-fest.
The Boy Emperor is escalating the war in Iraq in the name of ending it, just as his predecessors of the sixties and seventies told us that the U.S. was "winning the war in Southeast Asia" and that they "had a plan" for victory. Consciously or not, most Americans are weary of war, and even more exhausted economically as rosy financial page forecasts do not compute with the moment-to-moment realities in middle-class households. Hollywood is mirroring the despair with films like "Children Of Men", "Blood Diamond", and "The Good Shepherd". The winter of our ennui is dark, cloudy, and cold.
I have often warned against the soporific of hope, with no apologies to Barack Obama for his best-selling THE AUDACITY OF HOPE. In my 2005 article "Killing Hope, Enlivening Options", I invited readers to abandon the notion of hope which fosters denial and connotes unwarranted optimism, and create instead, myriad options for navigating the daunting challenges of climate chaos, energy depletion, and global economic meltdown. "Hope" tends to infantilize us, pointing to somewhere down the road in a feel-good, never-never land of possibility contingent on someone or something besides one's own efforts, whereas "options" are the adult stuff of the here and now, demanding that we cease relying primarily on the other and attend contemplatively to authentic choices in the moment and beyond.
That being said, I look around in the midst of this particularly gray January and continue to notice the vibrant, intelligent, humane, courageous, and indeed revolutionary choices being made by people in warmer climates to the south. The most colorful and iconoclastic, a guy named Hugo, not only proclaims that the government of the United States is being run by a dry-drunk named "The Devil", but at home, has all but silenced what little opposition remains toward his particular version of the Bolivarian Revolution, and is indefatigably transforming his country one neighborhood at a time.
But not all Latin American leaders share Hugo's flare for the dramatic. Much less is heard of Morales, Lula, Correa, Bachelet, or Ortega. In the first place, most Americans can scarcely locate Venezuela on a map let alone the other nations allying with its president in re-making the Central and South America. Furthermore, little attention is paid to the complexity and profundity of their policies. "The Pink Tide," as mainstream media obtusely names it, implying bandwagon socialist group-think, is unequivocally momentous-historically, politically, economically, and morally. Unlike Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, and Nicaragua are not transforming their societies with petrodollars, but through wealth re-distribution and by breaking the economic stranglehold that the United States has held on their nations through the "credit cartels" of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Are their policies impeccable? Of course not. Nor have they rid their nations of the last vestiges of corporate capitalism and its piratization of resources. As Mark Weisbrot notes in his article "Latin America: The End Of An Era":
Of course, all of these governments are still a long way from coming up with a sustainable, long-term development strategy. This is not necessarily because they don't want one, but mainly because after decades of corrupt rule, as well as the deliberate shrinking of the state's capacity for economic regulation and decision-making they simply don't have the administrative capacity to even make such plans, much less implement them.
The author also notes that it is not only conservatives but the liberal middle as well that is pessimistic about what is happening in Latin America.
Foreign Affairs [the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations] has run three articles since the beginning of the year warning of the dangers of Latin America's left-populist drift, as well as sorry state of U.S.-Latin American relations. The news reports, editorials, and op-ed pages of America's major newspapers mostly carry the same themes.
If one hears at all about events in Latin America, they will most likely be framed by mainstream media in terms of the "good left" and "bad left", depending on how vocal leftist movements in those countries have been in their opposition to the United States, how "market-friendly" they are, or how socialist their orientation is. In any event, we know that the Bush administration is very worried about the re-making of Latin America. And rightfully so--not only will the crumbling of the credit cartel exacerbate, but also the glaring contrast between electoral democracy as it is taking form in Latin America and the extinction of privacy, civil liberties, and clean elections in the U.S. Indeed, the Imperial Bully has much to fear from nations whose past enslavement it engineered, whose torture mechanisms it blessed then turned a blind eye to, whose painstaking grassroots transformation of neighborhoods and communities the Bully capriciously labels "socialist" or "leftist" as its peoples demonstrate with their lives and love that cooperation and re-localization are more powerful than corporate capitalism ever has been or will be.
Laura Carlsen, Director Of the International Relations Center notes in her article "Latin America's Pink Tide":
The great hope of Latin America-and what it has to offer to the world-is a vast collection of vibrant social movements that dare to question everything from their own governments to the way corporations pollute their lands. Sometimes they express themselves in the polls, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they call themselves the "left," and sometimes they call themselves the people or nothing at all. Labels don't matter. What matters is the search for new ways of governing that reduce the inequality, increase real democracy, and end the hunger and poverty.
Call it pink, red, blue, purple, or chartreuse: to get anywhere, social movements will have to display all these colors and more. Whatever its hue though, the tide in Latin America seems to be rising.
I know little of what the world will actually be like in ten years. Miss Liberty will probably be sweating year-round; the American middle class is likely to be twice as squeezed as it is today, and the blood spilled for oil may have filled the oceans. Geopolitics is a crap shoot played by madmen. Climate chaos, wars for resources, the status of the dollar, global pandemics-all are terrifying realities of the not-so distant future. Yet on this bleak January day, I feel the warm breezes of the south blowing across the Empire, and while they may not save the world from itself, a glow of glee fills my chest when I remember that they are a force with which the Bully must reckon.
CAROLYN BAKER, Ph.D. is author of U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn't Tell You. Her website is www.carolynbaker.org where her book may be ordered and she may be contacted.