what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Telling it as it is


To my shame, I first heard of Eduardo Galeano only two years ago when he presented his Open Veins of Latin America – five centuries of the pillage of a Continent to President Obama – and noted that it attracted great ire from commentators. It was my well-read Romanian friend who had read this South American writer years ago (in Ceaucescu's Romania which had an extensive translation of world literature) who has exposed ruthlessly the devastation the USA has wrought on Latin America. Although I now have the book (and 2 others), it seems I am probably missing his most important - Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-glass WorldI say this from a reading of a powerful essay written to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication of its official English translation. Four sketches deal with different aspects of the current economic crisis, each from a different perspective of analysis, and attempts to make use of the vibrant and creative sylistic devices characterising Galeano's works, particularly Upside Down.
Historians of the future, if there shall be any and if they will be honest, are going to wonder and ponder upon how such intelligent and highly educated “knowledge economies”, capable of the finest mathematical-financial wizardry via the fanciest computer technologies, could bestow upon themselves so much avoidable pain, destroying in the process not solely further scores of planetary life support systems, but also man-made social infrastructures that have generated, depending on the country, genuine welfare for up to three or four generations. These future historians will be at pains to conceive of powerful, well-off, democratically elected representatives who listened to foreign bankers, and not to their own citizens, rushing to implement, whenever they could, multilateral agreements on investment robbing their own cabinets of much of their power.
These future historians will probably fail to empathise with and understand such bizarre people, very much like Voltaire, who could not really explain why and how our forefathers were willing to slaughter one another over the correct interpretation of the Holy Trinity. After all, they had never seen it (or them?) and Jesus himself had never said anything clear, if anything, about it (or them?). Not to mention the centuries that humankind spent warring, raping, disemboweling, burning, maiming, chaining, flogging and excommunicating one another because of errors of interpretation.
Yes, the wisdom arising from the ashes of the current crisis is astoundingly similar to the one that caused the crisis. Are you indebted? Take on another loan. The private banking sector has betrayed you? Restore it with public money and run it as before. People are suffering, jobless, and with their tax money siphoned to the creditors that inflated the bubble? Show them tough love and deprive them of further healthcare, education, culture, wages, pensions, childcare, subsidised water and power. The environment is running amok in the free-market environment? The market will fix it; in the meantime, profit will keep being extracted from increased prices in oil, gas, polluting consumer goods, and cancer treatments due to the ecological collapse of the planet.
When the global crisis first hit three years ago, a lot of us thought that the scales would at last fall from people's eyes; and that the incompetences as well as injustices of neo-liberalism were now exposed. In fact such a powerful counter-narrative has been put in place by the global elites and their media to justify the intensification of the neo-liberal agenda that people are utterly confused. We therefore desperately need the style of narrative (and scope of analysis) which Baruchelli gives us in this essay.

My first scything of the long grass around the house this morning - at 07.30 before the sun became too strong. Such satisfying work! And how privileged I am that any mechanical noises I hear (which would be lawnmowers anywhere else) are power saws dealing with wood! Everyone uses the scythe here - and, slowly, I become more adept with it! The morning was spent finding a toilet to replace the 10-year old one which cracked during the winter. Visiting the various shops which cater for the do-it-yourself construction which goes on here reminded me of how utterly useless are the European statistics which don't pick up these transactions. And also draws the contrast with Bulgaria - where so many villages are almost dead. Why is it that Romanians (despite their apparent disrespect for tradition) are actually keeping their villages alive???? The Brits and Russians have been in the Bulgarian property market for the past decade (no foreigners buy here) but their money has not been able to save the Bulgarian villages.

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