Search This Blog

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Heartbreak In Argentina, A Devastating Setback, And The Search For A Silver Lining

(A John Pilger Documentary - War by Other Means)

(On a personal note, it should be pointed out that one of my former high school classmates in Colombia, the daughter of the former governor of Atlantico (what we call a state here i.e. Arizona) is currently an official at the World Bank located in Washington DC. The World Bank works closely with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which John Pilger refers to in the above documentary, "War By Other Means." These institutions, despite their apparent stand against poverty, are charged with doing just the opposite, keeping nations impoverished and indebted in perpitude).

As an American citizen who’s been oppressed by his own government, I love to see any leader speak out against the dangers of U.S. imperialism, and it’s refreshing to see leaders in Venezuela be outspoken in calling a spade a spade when it comes to our government's aggression. In recent years, the Venezuelan people have showed up in record numbers to support their socialist, leftist government. The United States, with its draconian policies and cut-throat attitude towards Venezuela has played right into the hands of the socialist Bolivarian Revolution there and made it relatively easy for politically savvy leaders to rally unprecedented support for anti-imperialist policies.

In retrospect, it's easy for me to talk about what went wrong in Argentina during the historic election this past Sunday, November 22nd. Geniuses don’t solve problems by waiting for them to happen; they prevent problems by foreseeing them and solving them before disaster strikes. In that regard, I failed the Argentine people and have to be the first to accept my share of the blame. By the same token, those of us who know the truth and care enough about Argentina to do something owe it to them to figure out what went wrong and why. Hopefully, some of these insights will help in that task.

Let me preface what I’m about to say by sending a message to Americans. What you’ve heard and what you are about to hear is not animus towards you. Frankly, I am upset about your support for the oppression of others and lack of support for ideas that have the potential to get our country back on track, but I also understand why you are the way you are, why you're passive in the face of the unprecedented dangers we face. Understanding the reasons why something's the way it is usually brings a measure of serenity to a situation. This is one reason why Albert Einstein talks about understanding problems as the key to ending wars and establishing world peace for the first time in human history. It's hard to solve something we don’t understand and insight can lead reasonable people to make sounder choices while ignorance can do the opposite.

Policy makers with little or no insight, on the other hand, tend to see ever-escalating violence as the one and only solution to conflict. When the only tool you've got is a hammer, every solution tends to look like a nail. So, this isn't hatred towards Americans but, in fact, hostility to those forces that have helped to enslave, both, Americans and Argentines, alike, for decades. I’ve said before that the quickest way to come to the realization if someone is a friend is by finding out if you have the same enemies. Those who’ve followed my posts know this, and only the uninitiated would construe this any other way. 

So, how is it possible that a nation of forty-two million people handed their country back to the same gangsters of capitalism that have been at the heart of their problems for decades? Before I answer that, let's be honest about the fact that Mauricio Macri is a dictator, and Argentina is about to transition from a democracy to a puppet state of the U.S. government and Wall Street. He’s obviously not a traditional dictator, but a dictator in disguise. He recently stated his intentions to strengthen ties with the United States, to undermine the Venezuelan government and try to influence the government of neighboring Brazil. How did this happen in a country that's been exploited by the United States for decades? How could the unthinkable take place in a nation ravaged by the very people they've just allowed back into their kitchen, so to speak?

This is why I referenced the campaign Nicolas Maduro and his socialist allies are running in Venezuela earlier, as a model for leftist governments throughout Latin America and the world. Maduro doesn’t hesitate when it comes to identifying who the enemies of his country are. The truth is useless to any highly-oppressed people if they don’t know it, and this is one area where the Venezuelans have been consistent. As a result, they’ve enjoyed historic support and record turnouts despite having to deal with dropping oil prices that have undercut funding for invaluable programs for the weak and vulnerable. Yet, the Bolivarians haven’t wavered in their support of a beleaguered nation. Despite increased hardships, they’ve continued to reach out to them and renew efforts to make do with less and, as a result, the people have rewarded them with their strong support.

Am I criticizing Cristina for not doing the same as Venezuelans? Yes and no. No, because I think there is much to be said for taking responsibility for your problems and not blaming others. In that regard, Cristina’s tight-lipped approach to criticizing yankee imperialism has been highly commendable. On the other hand, a battered housewife shouldn’t remain silent and wait for the next episode of violence to occur. You want to get help as soon as possible. So, I think it's important for socialist governments to get the word out they’re being attacked in ways that aren’t always evident to their unsuspecting citizens.

The average Latin American doesn’t seem to be aware that large amounts of money and resources are going into undermining their democracies while the United States, no longer a viable democracy, itself, tries to keep them under its mafiosi-style dominion while, hypocritically, portraying itself as a sage-like protector of 'freedom and democracy' to the world. Front organizations, like USAID, are pivotal in this process of funneling money into Latin American right-wing resistance movements designed to keep their rich oligarchies in power and not allow genuine democracy to take hold.

If people don’t know who their enemies are, they are likely to blame the very people who are trying to help them, and this had much to do with Daniel Scioli’s inability to win the Argentine presidency. The people chose a center-right, U.S.-backed puppet over someone who intended to strive towards their eventual sovereignty because they aren’t aware of the ways the U.S. is working towards their ongoing debt peonage. It all takes place away from the limelight, and without a leader to keep them focused on U.S. aggression, the people naturally blamed the Good Samaritan, not the real enemy.

Where does the difference between Venezuela and Argentina lie? Why does socialism in Venezuela enjoy massive support while a leftist government that worked tirelessly on behalf of its people get the boot? There's many reasons, but one of the key ones is that Venezuelan leaders are not shy about pointing out who their sworn enemies are. Nicolas Maduro, Diosdado Cabello and others are consistently in the news talking about unseen attacks being waged against them and their people and one of the most striking things I’ve learned about Argentina is just how little insight the people there have into the true nature of their problems.

Americans are the same way, and it helps us to understand why people lack the knowledge to successfully resolve their problems. Despite what you might think, it’s not an accident that things are what they are. This is happening by design as unseen forces working against human progress have set out to undermine us all in the pursuit of untold wealth and power. These forces work behind the scenes, night and day, to foster dissent and sow human misery for the sake of accumulating unlimited wealth and power for themselves. The name of the game is greed, and to not recognize its effect on us is to run the risk of remaining enslaved for the rest of our lives, unable to find the closure we seek which fundamentally boils down to a need for social and economic justice.

Mauricio Macri didn’t have to run an exceptional campaign to win the Argentine presidency. Despite numerous mistakes during the debate leading up to Election Day, the country practically fell into his lap. All he really had to do was avoid any really catastrophic blunders and collect his paycheck at the end of the day, and that paycheck was the Argentine presidency.

Macri isn’t a classic dictator. That is, he realizes that the Argentine people can no longer be ruled by blunt force as do U.S. policymakers who are, in one way or another, influencing his decisions behind the scenes. This strategy is similar to the one that’s been implemented in the United States for decades. Policymakers and ruling elites understand that too many gains have been made in recent years, and Argentines, like Americans, can’t be ruled by ruthless dictators. The question becomes how do you control a population if you can’t systematically rule it by force, and the answer is that you have to control what people think and feel. Argentine democracy temporarily got placed on life support until further notice this past Sunday because the people didn’t know the truth. They’ve been kept in the dark, and their media has a lot to do with that.

What conditions make it possible for a population of forty-two million people to remain uninformed about the true origins of their problems? The biggest part of the answer is simple to understand, and Albert Einstein pointed it out so eloquently in a handful of words years ago.

Most of the Argentine people, though not starving, are struggling. Despite Nestor and Cristina’s best intentions, the country remains troubled by hard times, and economic strangulation by foreign powers makes up a large part of the problem. Both, Nestor and Cristina deserve praise for keeping their country from cominng apart for twelve years. It's a nation that went through five leaders in a period of just two weeks before he ever came into power. This was an amazing victory for them and their country that can’t be overstated, and Mauricio Macri wouldn’t have a country to turn over to its arch enemies today if it wasn't for the tireless efforts of both. But, in the end, their hard work wasn’t enough to prevent an impatient, restless nation from falling into the hands of someone who is going to try to upend much of the progress that was made in recent years once he takes office.

Argentines don’t have much in the way of patience, and it isn’t hard to understand why. When people aren’t exactly sure where their next meal is going to come from, how their bills are going to get paid, how they’re going to educate their children etc., it’s easy to understand why their attitudes are the way they are. They want answers, and they want them now, as in parachute-landed on the dining room table before breakfast the next morning. The concept of ‘delayed gratification’ can be hard to grasp.

Look no further than the U.S.-backed juntas of the mid-seventies and early eighties and the thousands of disappearances to understand the reasons why. They’re tired of disappointment, and what you saw on Sunday was a classic knee-jerk reaction to the decades of frustration they’ve endured at the hands of some terrible leaders whose betrayal is enough to boggle the mind of people like myself and others for whom selling out was never an option.

(Operation Condor)

When you live hand to mouth you don’t have much time to analyze the reasons why things are the way they are. You just react and tend to oversimplify everything. Obviously, Argentines don’t want to support someone who doesn’t have their best interests in mind, but that doesn’t help them if they don’t know who their real enemies are, and a smooth-talking Macri in expensive business suits and ties presented them with a powerful elixir, a magic potion of lies and betrayal that intoxicated Argentines and poisoned them with a lack of relevant information. Remember, the lie of omission is still a lie and can be just as dangerous as intentionally misrepresenting the facts.

Actually, Argentines proved to be so misinformed and disinformed that Macri didn’t even really have to lie. He came right out and said he was going to pursue closer ties with the United States, and about the only thing he didn’t say was that he was going to be handing the country back over to a criminal world order for more sadistic exploitation by predatory capitalists. It’s sad, but Argentines are, in large part, clueless, like Americans. Gangster capitalism is having its way with us, and we don’t know we're getting screwed.

In the case of some Americans, they’re too fat and happy to give a damn but, in the case of most Argentines, they’ve been too deprived of the basic elements necessary for a good life to understand why they’ve suffered so much all this time. And they don’t know their own history, a huge part of the problem that can't be stressed enough. Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. One of the goals of the Argentine educational system of the future should be focusing on history as a core requisite for all Argentine students. And that history must be focused on the needs of the masses as opposed to the rich and the powerful. History must always be written from the perspective of the poor and not the rich. There are many reasons for this, but the most obvious one has to do with fostering the common good of almost all of the citizenry as opposed to just a few. 

One of the basic elements necessary for a good life is self-awareness, knowing the cause of things that might destroy your quality of life and how to solve them. Useful information is vital to that effort, and Argentines are dying from a lack of it. It’s sad and true, nonetheless. The most important battlefields of the 21st century are in the minds and hearts of people all over the world. That is, they won't take place on a physical plane but on a mental plane inside the human mind. Those who are able to control what we think and feel will prevail but may bring about the destruction of the species in the process. That depends on who wins the war and fate.

Although I’m not an expert in economics, I do understand enough about to know that Third World countries, like Argentina, have been targets of U.S.-led ‘globalization’ efforts for decades, also known as neoliberalism. This economic model is designed to keep impoverished nations poor and perpetually indebted to vulture capitalists. Poor countries are obligated to pay a significant portion of their wealth just to pay off the interest on debts which are intended to be never-ending. If you’ve ever been trapped in a mountain of credit card debt, you understand how this works except that, in the case of poor countries, there’s no bankruptcy court to bail them out. They pay, and pay, and pay until they collapse or take to the streets in open rebellion as we saw during Argentina's artificially-imposed debt crisis in 2001.

Predatory capitalists see us as commodities, and they rape the natural environment in pursuit of wealth, just like they exploit human capital as humans are a product you buy, sell and trade. Thus, countries are being raped for their natural resources as well. Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, recently pointed out that the world will never know economic justice or peace, for that matter, until countries are able to own and control their own resources, and he’s right. Resource crime and financial crime are two of the many faces of the modern international extortion racket headed by the United States and its corporate overlords.

The worst part of it is that it’s the poor people of the earth who are obligated to pay the costs of these artificially-imposed debts, not the rich and powerful. The end result is misery stacked on top of even greater misery as the multitudes of poor and dispossessed are forced to shoulder the burden for the rich and powerful. Thus, those who owe everything to the societies from whence they came are obligated to pay little back to help those to whom they owe everything. Those with the least pay the most, while those with the most get even richer by profiting from their misery. The U.S., with the help of various international financial institutions, like the World Bank, IMF, WTO etc., has become a global mob boss that uses extortion and economic strangulation to keep poor countries in permanent servitude and, like Americans, pay the costs of their own enslavement.

You might be wondering why the U.S. doesn’t just send in the military to places like South America and the Caribbean. It never really did this in a major way. Usually, token violence sufficed and, once U.S.-controlled dictators were installed, countries could be run by way of proxies, like Macri and the Argentine elites who control the means of production. But the military situation is a little bit different these days.

Most U.S. military might is tied up in controlling the oil fields of the Middle East where most of the world’s known oil reserves are located, and the county controlling the spigot has an upper hand on those who are dependent on that oil to run their economies with. Without oil, no economy can run smoothly. With serious blunders in Afghanistan and Iraq, costing trillions of dollars in untold damage to the U.S. economy, not to mention the loss of thosands of American lives and, perhaps, over a million Middle Eastern lives, our brand of imperialism is on the decline, now, although still near the peak of its destructiveness because it spends so much on militarism and so little on what matters most to people.

Our country has been weakened by the aggressive stance our leaders have taken in their quest for global domination while most Americans remain oblivious to their true intentions. Nationalists have an amazing knack for not even noticing our own crimes while being highly in tune to the crimes of our enemies. We don’t actually have any natural enemies, and the reasons why are not unrelated to the reasons why Argentines are suffering. Suffice it to say that the tentacles of U.S. imperialism are receding as our outreach is slowly fading. This, for those who are unfamiliar with history, is the way all empires have declined and died throughout history. They, first, expand outward until exhaustion of their ability to go further and, then, decline, gradually, until they collapse under their own weight or are plundered by outside invaders who have often turned out to be those they’ve oppressed.

The U.S. doesn’t have to worry about invasion. With peaceful neighbors to the north and south and separated from the rest of the world by two major oceans, it has, in modern times, been spared the pain that Europeans have endured when aggressive leaders failed to win the wars they started. Americans don’t know and, barring a nuclear catastrophe, will probably never know what it’s like to have its cities reduced to rubble by foreign invaders. One could make the argument that this would have been a character-building process for us but, for better or for worse, we will probably never arrive at such an inglorious fate and the wisdom it might produce. That doesn’t mean we’re not in for major trouble if human civilization collapses around our ears.

We know what it’s like to wage war but, with the exception of a tiny minority that's always fought wars for us, few of us know what the wrath of those we’ve oppressed for more than two centuries would feel like. If such were the case, today, many of our leaders would have already been hung or, otherwise, executed for war crimes and crimes against humanity by invaders whom we’ve oppressed and beaten down for decades.

But the short answer to the question of why we don’t use military force to get our way in Latin America is because our use of military force is no longer universally accepted there, and even U.S. backed dictators are becoming a thing of the past as Latin Americans are deciding who their leaders will be with more and more frequency. The new way of doing business is to find a proxy who dresses well to do our bidding without the use of force, people like Mauricio Macri, a sweet-smelling, smooth-talking dictator with the feel of a democratic leader more than hat of a demagogue. It remains to be seen whether or not he will be successful at trying to finesse Argentine people into believing he's solving their problems and not creating them.

Yet, his policies will still mean more violence, a different kind of violence called passive violence. Passive violence is the kind that comes with massive deprivation, denial of the basic ingredients to be happy and to have a good quality of life. This form of violence can do what military might use to do in the past without resorting to violence. But you can only pull off such a thing if you’ve got control of the thought processes of a nation. Thus, control of a population these days must be achieved with more finesse rather than strength. That’s how propaganda works, and Americans have come a long way at perfecting this craft since the Creel Commission was formed around the time World War I was getting under way.

(Committee on Public Information)

As terrible as all this sounds, the good news is there will be increased opportunities for subjugated peoples, worldwide, to carry out protests and rebel against their Western-backed oppressors. It means less of a hands-on approach by imperialist forces and a weakening of the U.S. grip on much of the world as we see the strength and vitality of imperialism wane in the face of a slowly collapsing, overstretched empire.

Once Mauricio Macri’s policies are given a full chance to fail—and they will —the people of Argentina are likely to take advantage of this weakness by taking to the streets, again, like they did in 2001—and probably with a vengeance. Nestor and Cristina’s legacy (a large part of it) is that they were actually capable of turning over Argentina to the likes of Macri. Had it not been for them, Argentina might still be in turmoil today, and the tranquility that exists is largely attributable to their efforts to make peace possible, a huge success story from my point of view.

Yet, we know that twelve years of peace and a long list of works to help the vulnerable and fortify the nation didn’t do enough to get Cristina’s hand-picked successor, Daniel Scioli, elected into office. More importantly, the many benefits that Scioli had in mind won’t be realized for now, and many of the advances made by Nestor and Cristina could be reversed and upended as the country takes a step backwards. How long it will be until the country wakes up and realizes it’s been had by gangster capitalists, again, is hard to tell, but I’m guessing that it won't be long given Argentine’s restless, fiery nature. It’s one thing to achieve power and another thing to hold onto it.

Macri will have to prove to Argentines that he’s making their lives better and that he’s keeping him is a better option than replacing him with someone else. As I said, the concept of delayed gratification is a hard one for Argentines to wrap their heads around. Quite understandably, they want a better life for themselves and their families and they want it now. A prospective college student understands that, in order to make more money over the course of a lifetime, she needs to go to college for a few years, earn a degree and, then, reap the rewards of a higher income over the course of her lifetime. That’s the concept of delayed gratification in a nutshell although one could argue this strategy isn’t what it used to be. Argentines, desperate to feel good about themselves through instant gratification, took out the equivalent of a payday loan and must, now, pay the price for it.

It seemed like Cristina was rolling out a new program or christening something new for her people every day, but it wasn’t enough to keep the people locked into her progressive vision of the country's future. It looks like, in the eyes of Argentines, all of this just managed to maintain the peace for twelve years, a feat in and of itself, but not enough to keep an anxious and demanding citizenry from parting ways with her vision of Argentina's future.

I thought, probably as she did, that there would be more loyalty to her, but I was wrong. Clearly, the juices were bubbling underneath the surface, and this is where people like me failed to use polls to figure out what was going on in the hearts and minds of the people. There was obviously much more unrest simmering below than we understood there to be and, thus, were overly confident. Daniel Scioli was handily defeated by an opponent who represents more suffering for Argentines, as if the last fifty years hasn’t been enough. Leftist governments in the future will have to be aware of this if they intend to stay in power long enough to implement policies that have any real hope of changing the quality of life for Argentines over the long-term.

Getting the right kind of information out to people is quintessential if we want to save humans from mass extinction. The problem, simply put, is that most of the mediums of communication throughout the world are owned by the rich and powerful and, thus, become instruments of the rich and powerful to maintain their advantage over us. They use many tactics to keep people uninformed like distraction, tabling necessary debates and keeping our minds focused on made-up ones, lying by omission, or just flat-out lying and, generally, willfully failing in their stated mission to foster the common good in their primary and publicly downplayed pursuit of the almighty dollar.

This being the Information Age makes it hard for leftist governments to serve their people without being misunderstood by those with a different agenda for the poor. Right-leaning governments serve the rich and powerful but do everything they can to keep supporters from knowing that because it stands to reason that a large part of their support must come from the poor and middle-classes. It’s a massive con game that's working well in many parts of the world.

Leftist governments tend to pride themselves on inclusion, as opposed to exclusion, social and economic justice for all. With the media outlets firmly controlled by the powerful, it becomes difficult to get the truth out to people, and this is another reason why we failed. Clearly, to elect a leader like Macri means that Latins are so fed up they will go with the first flim-flam man who comes along offering them hope for the change they seek, hope that realist leaders are leery about promises for fear of misleading them into a mistaken belief that immediate relief for everyone is at hand.

Change is a process, not an event; it must be hard to tell deserving people that lasting changes are going to take a while to take effect. Cristina had Argentina on a path that led to a better life and was making significant changes to Argentine society, but five hundred years of exploitation can hardly be undone in twelve years, and this played right into the hands of Mauricio Macri. His election provides us with a keen understanding of how this works. The fact that a population is fed up can be good or bad depending on a number of factors. Not that human suffering is ever desirable to a decent life, but sometimes a hunger for change can be harnessed to do good things when good comes out of it.

Noam Chomsky had a quote where he talked about public funding of the media in the United States. The idea is that you can publicly subsidize it and get some or most of it out of the hands of corporations. We saw the importance of public television during the U.S.-backed coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002 when supporters of Hugo Chavez and many of his officials were working frantically to get the one public television station back on the air after a coup orchestrated by the corporate-run media in that country had sabotaged it.

While Chavez was being held on an island in the Caribbean, they were desperately trying to get the news out that a coup attempt was taking place. In the end, they were able to reestablish the service in time to inform Venezuelans of what was happening. Ninety-five percent of Venezuela’s media is privately owned, so you can imagine what getting this station back on the air meant to their movement as the corporate-run media had achieved a blackout of news coverage on what was really happening as self-anointed leaders went about creating an illegitimate government to replace the democratically-elected government of Chavez.

As we saw, the people of Caracas took to the streets en masse, caught up with the coup plotters at the presidential palace and, from outside the gates, demanded the return of Chavez who had almost been killed by his captors during the attempt to overthrow him. It was a harrowing moment in Venezuela's struggle for social and economic justice, and the one remaining public broadcasting station was at the center of a frantic effort to convert tragedy into triumph and succeeded. This is why the importance of transitioning media control away from the private sector to public hands is paramount in the quest to get the truth out to people, but humans will continue to labor in darkness as long as the rich and powerful decide what information gets shared and what doesn't.

(The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Inside the Coup)

Rafael Correa recently took on such a task in Ecuador, no small job seeing that wealth and power is at the heart of media ownership and the system is firmly entrenched around the world, a global system based on profit-driven capitalism, a revolutionary force in itself. The basic idea that advocates of global socialism are pushing for is a transition away from a toxic, competition-based system over to socialism, a need-based system that has always provided an answer to the destructive character flaws that industrial capitalism has always ingrained in us since it replaced feudalism about two-hundred and fifty years ago. A rudimentary kind of capitalism began around five hundred years ago, but capitalism really took off in a major way in the mid-18th century, and what we have in place today is the latest version of capitalism often described as globalization or imperialism, a term I like to use.

In conclusion, I say with a great deal of sincerity that I hope it won’t be long before Mauricio Macri finds himself, after being booted out of Olivos, flat on his ass and the call for Cristina’s return is made by an appreciative, clear-eyed Argentine populace that has awakened to a truer picture of itself, its relationship to the world, and is ready to fulfill its destiny as a key participant in a global revolution that highlights the salvation of humanity as its primary aim.

(A Documentary by Naomi Klein - The Shock Doctrine)