I can hear the earnest bullhorns across the cornfields calling to the people of Marquina to join the countrywide manifestaciones/demonstrations this Friday. Already the cities of Cochabamba, La Paz, and Oruro are shut down by bloqueos/roadblocks. I’d go out there with my radio equipment right now — but public transport is on strike and if I attempt to travel down the mountain in my Jeep, it’ll be pummeled with rocks for setting tire tread to concrete.
The issues are the intertwining of out-of-reach prices of milk, sugar, meat, vegetables, fruit, and grains; growing edginess about the cost of gasoline resulting from the Christmas fiasco in which President Evo Morales raised the price by 80 percent (but, after massive resistance, reversed himself) – all up against a government jetting around in a multi-million-dollar luxury Falcon, making high-tech industrial deals with China, Brazil, Iran, South Korea, Argentina, India, and on.
Meanwhile, the rest of the planet is in a parallel state of freak-out. Iraq. Algeria. Arizona. Afghanistan. The Arctic. Egypt. Indonesia. Tunisia. Tijuana. Morocco. Mexico City. The circle of chairs at your neighborhood A.A./N.A./E.A. meeting. The crack house down the block. The couch of your local psychiatrist.
Call it World Freak-Out I, II, III, ad nauseam: the upshot of centuries of expansion, exploitation, empire, and eco-disaster. And these inevitably set in motion dynamics whose inoperability can only be addressed by techno-fix-upon-techno-fix-upon-techno-fix — until the earth and the human heart can hold no more.
Increasingly across this troubled globe, people are realizing something sad and important: although the mechanisms of city/department/nation-state/world-agency government supposedly provide the means by which solutions are rallied, they are inadequate — and as dysfunctional as the conundrum they seek to untangle.
To quote ecologist Stephanie Mills, “The front has lengthened, almost to infinity” – and is more convoluted than what government can ever hope to legislate. Irony abounds as the problems spring from the very structures in which human survival takes place, and for this no facile way out exists. History tells us that as soon as an effort to break out is ventured, the iron clench of power a la imperialism/corporate globalization asserts its will.
Take Bolivia, the flagship of hope in 2005 for the social-movement-fueled election of its first indigenous president in 500+ years. Despite its triumphant exclamations of “Our job is to finish the work of Che Guevara” and “¡Planeta o Muerte!” the government has found no substitute for full-tilt plunge into extractive-industrial-information-military development.
And take President Barack Obama, for whom so many worked and then wept in joy. Wars are proffered, the borders are slammed shut, environmental protections are loosened, children’s health services are cut, state employee pensions are raided, etc.
Germany’s Green Party had it right back in the 1980’s: “We’re not left, and we’re not right” – for the source of relentless expansion, injustice, and oppression is far greater than what can be handled by parties, elections, or “democracy.” Rather the source is the behemoth social philosopher Lewis Mumford so astutely labeled “the Megamachine. And it just keeps on keepin’ on.”
To my mind, one must never shrink from the Good Fight, not for a second, and I’ll be out there on Friday with my radio gear. But it could also be time to hold tight, call upon our most profound wisdoms – and practice (to paraphrase liberation psychologist Nancy Caro Hollander’s Love in a Time of Hate) love in a time of freak-out.
CHELLIS GLENDINNING is the author of five books, including When Technology Wounds and the award-winning Off the Map: An Expedition Deep into Empire and the Global Economy. She is Writer-in-Residence at Asociación Jakaña in Cochabamba. She can be reached through her website.