“You can cut all
the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.”
Pablo Neruda, Chilean Poet
winter in the United States, and in most places seasonably cold.
Perspiration on the brow of Miss Liberty in New York City at 70
degrees last week reminds us that global warming is in our faces,
deceptively so, as Big Apple residents gleefully cavorted in Central
Park wearing shorts and smugly quipping that the East Coast was
somehow cheating Old Man Winter out of his annual freeze-fest.
The Boy Emperor is escalating the war in Iraq in the name of ending
it, just as his predecessors of the sixties and seventies told us that
the U.S. was "winning the war in Southeast Asia" and that they "had a
plan" for victory. Consciously or not, most Americans are weary of
war, and even more exhausted economically as rosy financial page
forecasts do not compute with the moment-to-moment realities in
middle-class households. Hollywood is mirroring the despair with films
like Children Of Men, Blood Diamond, and The Good
Shepherd. The winter of our ennui is dark, cloudy, and cold.
I have often warned against the soporific of hope, with no apologies
to Barack Obama for his best-selling The Audacity of Hope. In
my 2005 article "Killing
Hope, Enlivening Options," I invited readers to abandon the
notion of hope which fosters denial and connotes unwarranted optimism,
and create instead, myriad options for navigating the daunting
challenges of climate chaos, energy depletion, and global economic
meltdown. "Hope" tends to infantilize us, pointing to somewhere down
the road in a feel-good, never-never land of possibility contingent on
someone or something besides one's own efforts, whereas "options" are
the adult stuff of the here and now, demanding that we cease relying
primarily on the other and attend contemplatively to authentic choices
in the moment and beyond.
That being said, I look around in the midst of this particularly gray
January and continue to notice the vibrant, intelligent, humane,
courageous, and indeed revolutionary choices being made by people in
warmer climates to the south. The most colorful and iconoclastic, a
guy named Hugo, not only proclaims that the government of the United
States is being run by a falling-down drunk named "The Devil", but at
home, has all but silenced what little opposition remains toward his
particular version of the Bolivarian Revolution, and is
indefatigably transforming his country one neighborhood at
But not all Latin American leaders share Hugo's flare for the
dramatic. Much less is heard of Morales, Lula, Correa, Bachelet, or
Ortega. In the first place, most Americans can scarcely locate
Venezuela on a map let alone the other nations allying with its
president in re-making Central and South America. Furthermore, little
attention is paid to the complexity and profundity of their policies.
"The Pink Tide," as mainstream media obtusely names it, implying
bandwagon socialist group-think, is unequivocally momentous --
historically, politically, economically, and morally. Unlike
Venezuela, the countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile,
Argentina, and Nicaragua are not transforming their societies with
petrodollars, but through wealth redistribution and by breaking the
economic stranglehold that the United States has held on their nations
through the "credit cartels" of the International Monetary Fund and
the World Bank.
Are their policies impeccable? Of course not. Nor have they rid their
nations of the last vestiges of corporate capitalism and its
piratization of resources. As Mark Weisbrot notes in his article "Latin
America: The End Of An Era":
Of course, all of these governments are still a long way from coming
up with a sustainable, long-term development strategy. This is not
necessarily because they don't want one, but mainly because -- after
decades of corrupt rule, as well as the deliberate shrinking of the
state's capacity for economic regulation and decision-making -- they
simply don't have the administrative capacity to even make such plans,
much less implement them.
also notes that it is not only conservatives but the
liberal middle as well that is pessimistic about what is happening in
Foreign Affairs [the journal of the Council on Foreign
Relations] has run three articles since the beginning of the year
warning of the dangers of Latin America's left-populist drift, as well
as sorry state of U.S.-Latin American relations. The news reports,
editorials, and op-ed pages of America's major newspapers mostly carry
the same themes.
If one hears at all about
events in Latin America, they will most likely be framed by mainstream
media in terms of the "good left" and "bad left," depending on how
vocal leftist movements in those countries have been in their
opposition to the United States, how "market-friendly" they are, or
how socialist their orientation is. In any event, we know that the
Bush administration is very worried about the re-making of Latin
America. And rightfully so -- not only will the crumbling of the
credit cartel exacerbate, but also the glaring contrast between
electoral democracy as it is taking form in Latin America and t! he
extinction of privacy, civil liberties, and clean elections in the
U.S. Indeed, the Imperial Bully has much to fear from nations whose
past enslavement it engineered, whose torture mechanisms it blessed
then turned a blind eye to, whose painstaking grassroots
transformation of neighborhoods and communities the Bully capriciously
labels "socialist" or "leftist" as its peoples demonstrate with their
lives and love that cooperation and re-localization are more powerful
than corporate capitalism ever has been or will be.
Laura Carlsen, Director Of the
International Relations Center notes in her article "Latin
America's Pink Tide":
The great hope of Latin America-and what it has to offer to the
world-is a vast collection of vibrant social movements that dare to
question everything from their own governments to the way corporations
pollute their lands. Sometimes they express themselves in the polls,
sometimes they don't. Sometimes they call themselves the "left," and
sometimes they call themselves the people or nothing at all. Labels
don't matter. What matters is the search for new ways of governing
that reduce the inequality, increase real democracy, and end the
hunger and poverty.
Call it pink, red, blue, purple, or chartreuse: to get anywhere,
social movements will have to display all these colors and more.
Whatever its hue though, the tide in Latin America seems to be rising.
I know little of what the world will actually be like in ten years.
Miss Liberty will probably be sweating year-round; the American middle
class is likely to be twice as squeezed as it is today, and the blood
spilled for oil may have filled the oceans. Geopolitics is a crap
shoot played by madmen. Climate chaos, wars for resources, the status
of the dollar, global pandemics -- all are terrifying realities of the
not-so distant future. Yet on this bleak January day, I feel the warm
breezes of the south blowing across the Empire, and while they may not
save the world from itself, a glow of glee fills my chest when I
remember that they are a force with which the Bully must reckon.
Ph.D. is author of
U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook! Didn’t Tell
You. Her website
www.carolynbaker.org, where her book may be ordered and she
may be contacted.