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The Meridia Manifesto

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

The undersigned, university professors from different Latin American countries and participants in the First Latin American Colloquium on Interpretive Systemology carried out in M?rida Venezuela (October 1-4, 2001), consider of primal importance to let know systems thinkers in particular and the public in general, the following reflections on the current world crisis.

In the last four days, participants in the Colloquium have presented their research projects on and debated about a number of Latin American organizational and institutional problems related to: education, justice, social welfare, community organizations, poverty, technology and society, cultural diversity in peasant communities, managerial technologies and organizational phenomena.

Beyond the obvious underlying and connecting theme ?the systems approach as applied to institutional problems-another theme emerged that gathered our thought and reflections in this Colloquium. It has become clear at the end of our meetings that a crucial problem unfolded by our research is the growing devastation brought about by several anti-cultural forms that high modernity (or postmodernity) has made possible.

These anti-cultural forms -which are present in such areas as the ontological ground of technology, the media, the lack of an authentic education, organizational phenomena, neo-liberalism, and in the strong sway that the market and the instrumental rationality of our time holds over our lives- pose a serious threat to the basic cultural practices (proper of a culture in “good condition”) of nursing, raising and caring.

The violent devastation of cultural soils that we are experiencing in the present, as the result of the widespread of these anti-cultural forms, is leading to a meaningless world; a world under the serious threat of various forms of nihilism and violence; a world subjected to a deep and growing process of desolation.

A clear manifestation of this process is the response given by the governments of so called “developed world”, led by the United States, to the tragic events that took place in New York and Washington last September 11.

In this context, and bearing in mind the anti-cultural phenomena previously mentioned, the undersigned systems thinkers want to make public the following manifesto:
The Merida Manifesto

1. We add our name to the large list of peoples that condemn the terrorist attack which regrettably took the lives of thousands of human beings last September 11. It is a defining feature of our humanity to be able to empathize with other fellow humans (i.e. to have the ability to put oneself in the position of other human being) and thus experience something close to the grief and sorrow they may be undergoing in the United States. Nonetheless, we must also add our name to two other lists. These, unlike the first are, perhaps, much shorter.

2. We join the short list of those who clearly and strongly condemn the international behaviour of the United States government and other imperialist states in the last century and the beginnings of the twenty first. As a matter of fact, such unjustified behaviour has been, directly or indirectly, the cause of the death of millions of children and innocent people in general. We do not have to go too far in this history of State violence to see its real proportions. Just recall the criminal behaviour of the United States government at the end of the Second World War when the murder of hundreds of thousands of people in Nagasaki and Hiroshima was perpetrated. Examples of similar behaviour in Latin America abound. We recall for instance the death of more than seven thousand people in Panam? as a result of the illegal military invasion carried out by the USA army to capture General Noriega, a man that had previously worked very closely with the CIA. Let us recall also the bloody dictatorships set up by the USA government in Chile and Argentina during the seventies and eighties. Another example of the criminal foreign policy of USA is the long embargo this government has led against Iraq and which has resulted in the death of more than five hundred thousand Iraqi children. These examples are but a few of the many outrages and great injustices perpetrated by the USA government around the world, the proof of which are nowadays even provided by the CIA itself! It is clear then, that such a State violence -which is conducted with the active involvement of other governments such as Britain- is breeding violence all over the world. This is not to say that we justify in any way the violent events that took place in New York and Washington last September 11. However, we equally disapprove the violent and murderous response of the USA government against the people of Afghanistan (regretfully with the support of the majority of world governments). Therefore, we must add our name to a third list.

3. This list is formed by those people who reject and condemn the brutal retaliation carried out by the USA government -joined in this irrational and inhuman task by its allies- as a response to the aforementioned events of September 11. It is brutal because it rallies a coalition of the most powerful armies of the world to bombard Afghanistan, one of the poorest, most ravaged war-torn nations of the earth. Millions of Afghans are fleeing their country at this very moment, seeking refuge and starving in the process. The response is brutal also because as one can see from declarations of the White House and other government officials, they reveal a flagrant contradiction of the most cherished principles and ideals which constitute the legitimating foundation of the power of a modern democratic State, as the governments of the USA and their allies are supposed to represent. These ideals are none other than those of justice, democracy and freedom!

According to those principles, these governments led by the USA should seek and bring to justice, to a fair trial in an international court of justice, those who committed the murderous attacks of September 11. However, in order to accomplish this task, they ought not launch a war to massacre innocent people, as they are doing it right now, and risk the lives of millions more (including those of their own people) who inevitably will be dragged into this war.

We must also denounce the unfair and quite disproportionate significance given to the terrorist attack of September 11 by comparison with many other terrorist acts carried out around the world -many of them performed by the US government. Let us imagine this attack had been launched against Bolivia, Nicaragua or Iraq rather than to the USA. It is not hard to see that the response of the developed nations and their friends would have been completely different. Another example of such unfairness is the fact that on September 11, the very same day of the terrorist attack -and something similar can be said of any other day- according to statistics offered by international organizations, thousands of children died of starvation in so called underdeveloped countries, in some cases as the direct result of economic policies enforced by the USA government through the IMF and the World Bank. Should not we regret with equal sorrow the unjustified dead of these human beings? Yet there were neither special 24 hour editions of CNN for several days lamenting this tragedy nor marches in several cities showing their solidarity with the families of the victims, much less a minute of silence in Wall Street for them. How come? Why the billions of dollars being spent in the bloody revenge of the USA government against Afghanistan and other countries are not destined to feed and take care of millions of starving children in this world? Is it not here, in such a great unbalances, the key to find a peaceful solution to world terrorism?

We hope these reflections will make clear why we add our names to three lists which most people would consider incompatible. Their common thread is their underlying notion of justice and the perhaps more and more uncommon ability nowadays to empathize with the grief and suffering of other human beings, regardless of whether they are US citizens, Colombians or Chinese, or whether they are Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or simply atheists.

Jorge D?vila (Venezuela),
Jos? Daniel Cabrera (Colombia),
Rams?s Fuenmayor (Venezuela),
Lilia G?lvez (Colombia),
Eduardo Ibarra (M?xico),
Jorge Ishizawa (Per?),
Bruno Jerardino (Chile),
Edmundo Leiva (Chile),
Hern?n L?pez Garay (Venezuela),
Hugo Marroqu?n (Per?),
Alejandro Ochoa (Venezuela),
Mar?a Teresa Santander (Chile),
Ricardo Sotaquir? (Colombia),
Roldan T. Su?rez (Venezuela),
Miriam Villarreal (Venezuela).

Professors from different Latin American universities and speakers in the First Latin American Colloquium on Interpretive Systemology, M?rida, October, 2001

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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