They can burn books, destroy libraries, forbid languages, ban beliefs, delete past times,
draw new present times, order future actions, torture and execute people...
But they still don´t know how to kill the intangible and bright
bodies of ideas, dreams and hopes.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Worse than being blind is not to want to see

Worse than being blind is not to want to see

By Sara Plaza

Probably you will become aware of it in the following lines, but I want to advise you anyway: I am a bit angry while I am writing them.

Today is one of those lazy Sunday mornings in which the world awakes later than me, for I get up very early every day of the week. There are still a few puddles in the street and on a number of flat roofs that we can see from our balcony, which seem silent remains of the summer storm that made the sky shudder last night in this part of the world that lies to south of the South and always looks at the North. For those who walk in this area still do it following the routes that were traced out by the conquerors that went back home with all that were able to steal from these parts. In this sense, we will never have the potholes of route number 40 repaired (the route that goes through La Patagonia, whose potholes were cleverly sidestepped by that traveling salesman who picked up my backpack and me in Esquel [1], when I took the four volumes of "La Patagonia rebelde" [2] in my hands and decided, three years ago, to follow the footprints of those men who, at the beginning of the last century, rose up to defend their employments against Lieutenant Colonel H. Benigno Varela troops) but we will soon be able to get on a high speed train between Buenos Aires and Córdoba, something like a modern Camino Real (highway) that, who knows, might have a stop in Potosí in the near future.

This great sense of indignation that I feel today is related with the one felt a couple of months ago while reading an article written by Norman Gall, where, in two lines, he explained "[t]he improvement in transports allows poor people to travel long distances to emigrate, to pay someone a visit or to do business" [3]. Sometimes I ask myself what it is that analysts analyze and which is the basis that allows them to reach their conclusions, for I do not know how they can be so distant from ordinary people's opinions and reality. I ask myself whether those professionals will not be inventing a reality that suits their numbers and percentages, whether they will not have much more imagination than the ones labeled as utopians or/and dreamers. One cannot avoid continue asking him/herself similar questions when s/he finds "little dialectical jewels" such as the words written by Spanish Foreign Affairs and Cooperation minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, who, after finishing a tour around Africa, stated one month ago:

No doubt, Africa is a continent full of problems, but above all it is a continent that is alive. Every day its inhabitants have to pass a thousand and one tests to survive. Most of them do it with a big and sincere smile, which reflects in those hairs in ringlets, in those magnetized eyes and in those elegant bodies that unleash their rhythm when the music begins. That movement spreads into the whole continent: a continent that wishes to come across happiness. Everything is conditioned to this search. That inner strength explains the high level of sacrifice and suffering in most of the citizens. [4]

After reading those lines I keep on asking myself whether Foreign Affairs ministers visiting the interior of a continent will not have to wear a certain type of glasses through which they perceive a reality that has nothing to do with the reality in which its people really and truly live. I ask myself how they come to know whether or not those smile that they see through the windows of their armor–plated cars are sincere, how they can state in such an irresponsible way that millions of hungry and sick people surrounded by poverty and never ending wars, start dancing as soon as music begins. I ask myself how they can conclude that sacrifice and suffering are the driving force that will help people to find happiness...

Luckily, that very same day, I came across Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina's opinion about the film "Four months, three weeks, two days", which, in my view, was much more true–to–life than those comments made by the two "authoritative" sources that I have just mentioned above:

... I went in depth into my perception of those two women swept away by misfortune and fear, saved by a sort of fraternity made of innocence and courage, made of a rare women's alloy of fragility and fortitude. I went with them through the sordid night of a tyranny, and neither was it necessary to see uniforms nor to listen to political declarations in order to feel the cold of the despotic surveillance in the back of your neck and, on your shoulders, the entire grief and sorrow of a regime, which greatest cruelty seems to be its desolate duration. There are lives that are fulminated by the surgical brutality of executors: others, the majority, continue degrading through the years by diary dose of submission and conformity, deteriorating as buildings badly erected and old cars that are still in use, wearing out and getting dirty as painted paper on the walls of rooms that nobody cares for. [5]

I cannot stop asking myself and trying to find a few answers, to seek them at least, while I keep on moving forward on a bus, sailing through the pages of a book or a diary, talking with people around me, writing to those who are far away... So I get angry when I discover answers that are completely unsatisfactory as the ones provided by Mr. Gall or Mr. Moratinos. I am not talking about true or false answers, I speak of the sort of answers that allow me to keep on investigating, making inquiries, learning, criticizing. Regretfully, the explanations offered by those men are so superficial that nobody can take them seriously. Nothing can be built from them, much less valid reasons or valuable knowledge. What worries me the most is the fact that their answers become the basis for new cooperation and development projects. For on grounds so weak I cannot see how the children of people living in countries and continents with deep wounds as those still bleeding in Latin America, Africa or Rumania will be able to build their present and think about their future.

[1] It is an important city placed at the foot of the Andes in the Argentinean province of Chubut.

[2] This impressive work was written by Argentinean writer and lecturer Osvaldo Bayer.

[3] Norman Gall is managing director at the World Economy Fernand Braudel Institute of Sao Paulo. His words belong to the article "El olvidado progreso de América Latina" (The forgotten progress of Latin America), published in the international edition of EL PAÍS, Saturday 19th of January, 2008.

[4] From the article "Una mirada a África" (One look at Africa), published in the international edition of EL PAÍS, Saturday 9th of February, 2008.

[5] From the article "Regreso al cine" (Back to the cinema), published in the international edition of EL PAÍS, Saturday 9th of February, 2008.