Casilla 623 Sucre, Bolivia 1 January 2017
I woke up the morning after the big election, padded into the yoga room, lay down on the mat, and suddenly remembering the importance of the day, turned on the radio to the best and most professional news station, Radio Panamericana. It was 6:30 a.m., and the news had just begun. The familiar and always even voice announced, “The new president of the United States is”… here he paused for waaay too long--and then audibly gasped… “Donald Trump.”
Yes, mis paisan@s up north, the world gasped with you.
I then pioneered a new form of the grand old eastern practice: Sob Yoga. I sobbed for the whole session and then sobbed for the rest of the day.
A pimple long festering below the skin has burst into a runny eruption and, as many of you have said, proclaims a crazed rendition of the demise of everything we have given our lives to imagine, fight for, and build. The remembrance of all that is archetypal to human community and psyche; the wild imaginings of what could be; the daring acts to bring these to fruition; the steps forward even when we thought they were co-opted or just plain not enough—we can suddenly see what it is we did accomplish (A LOT!) simply because its many manifestations now promise to be erased.
My fellow travelers from secessionist efforts claim that what has happened, and is happening around the world, springs from the alienation, overwhelm, and loss of identity that globalization, computerization, and instant-everything have wrought and that the rise of right-wing movements in Europe, Brexit, and Trump´s victory reflect this discontent. I stand with them on this point; these new/old populist movements openly state a desire to return to smaller units than corporate/WTO governance allows, and by their very extremeness, they are revitalizing the push in California and Vermont to secede from the U.S. And yet too, what we see here is also an uprising without popular self-knowledge or consciousness of its own origins or purpose, without ample analysis, without collective understanding of whither it goeth. Its eruption therefore opens the way not to a return to manageable human communities and renewed identity--but to conscious manipulation by immoral powers and popular “satisfaction” via the same kind of emotional relief that mobs of medieval peasants got from cheering on hangings in the village square.
In other words: YES to a return to small-is-beautiful, sustainable, in-place communities; but NO to the flailing, blinded urges that co-opt such a vision with their emphasis on individualism, racism, sexism, corporate elites dominating all human affairs, poisoned food, land, water, and air; the ruination of Mother Earth, etc.
The number one theme I have heard from you all in the United States is, “What Do I Do Now? How Can I Be Most Effective?” We shall see what you come up with.
Meanwhile, here in Bolivia, things look grim as well. The government is fighting tooth and nail for its declared goal of hegemony (read: the elimination of all opposition) for the next 500 years—with our current president in the throne of power for that same time span.
For the past seven years, I have watched freedom of the press be stolen in ways as diverse as new governmental laws that determine which media get to survive and which get squeezed out; buy-outs of some 500 outlets of media and their formation into mouth pieces for state propaganda; trumping up charges against the brave journalists who dare to offer even democratically-motivated critique--throwing them into small windowless rooms without even making those charges, inducing many to flee across borders; a Black List of “offending” sources with accompanying verbal or legal attacks against specific journalists, newspapers, TV and radio stations; the release of a film calling the press a ”Cartel of Lies;” etc.
I recently asked some highly-informed political-scientist types if the prez and vice actually believe what they affirm in their accusations—or if they are consciously concocting lies, the bulk of which consist of projecting their own acts and qualities onto others. The answer came quick and to-the-point: they know they are lying. Think: narcissist getting too close to the original and very much unresolved experience of annihilation that caused such compensation and grandiosity in the first place. Tooth and nail it is, here in the grand theater called Bolivia.
Recently the crash in Colombia of a Bolivian airline´s plane for lack of fuel (!)--as well as suspected links of the Bolivian government to drug trafficking via the same airline--caused the instant wipe-out of a popular Brazilian soccer team. For the first time I was able to imagine that this pained and ever-more-obvious march toward fascism might actually end via popular discontent. Not that it is the wildest of events we have witnessed—believe me, we HAVE seen wilder!--but that it has provided what we might think of as the last straw, the moment the ice melts, the frog jumping out of the boiling pot.
And indeed, a journalistic explosion has erupted! I gasp at the courage of these clear-headed folk with their piercing analyses that speckle the op ed pages, blast from the radio, and jam the social media! Also those who have been elected to political office to, yes, bring about the touted “change process” but in a democratic manner. Raul Peñaranda. Lupe Cajías. Marcelo Gonzales Yaksic. Juan Carlos Salazar. Felix Patzi. Soledad Chapeton. Luis Revilla. Phew! In fact, I would love to interview some of these social communicators and actors who have stepped up to the plate. I want to talk with them about their courage and do a piece on that. But alas, as a foreigner I am among the most vulnerable, so I cannot. Making that decision was hard; in the U.S. I never once felt fear to write my opinion. I am silent now. Or I write things about other countries that have obvious parallels here. Such as the ten steps toward fascism that Naomi Wolf has written about, but applied to European right-wing movements. Or the encampment at Standing Rock with its plain echoes of the same issues here, but without mentioning that. (It is possible that I am already on the pre-Black List due to some articles I wrote a few years ago when I assumed a role of telling leftists/progressives/greens in the U.S. that the altiplano prez is not the Great Hope many projected onto him.)
Meanwhile, life remains rich at Calle Dalence 794.
Am putting the last editorial touches on my novel, currently titled Las relaciones de objetos or Object Relations (still subject to change). I met with my editor at Editorial 3600 in La Paz. Luis Sanabria. He is 29 years old and the winner of a national literary prize. I got to reread the thing for the first time in years as I wrote it in 2010-2012, and from one page to the next I actually did not know what was going to happen next. The amazing thing is that when I wrote it, I also did not know from one moment to the next what was going to happen next: I wrote as the Jungian Intuitive that I am, just following along, inventing by the seat of my pants. There was no story board, no overall plan--yet miraculously all the threads came together.
I have also enjoyed my new role at the Journal of Wild Culture that comes out of England, where it has been deemed that I am now right-hand woman to Canadian founder Whitney Smith, officially (self)designated Editor-on-the-Lam. It´s a fascinating magazine dedicated to culture, politics, and experience challenging accepted society and corporate culture. Sound like it´s up your alley? I think so. One of the things I have done is bring in fresh writers, artists, photographers, and the like. So if you´re inspired to contribute, let us know! You can write to me or to Whitney via www.wildculture.com.
Meanwhile, my relationship with Marco, the Guatemalan anthropologist, only gets richer. He loves to cook and throw lunch/dinner events, while the conscious making of a social life has always been my weak point. So, many a good time has been had at his little rented adobe surrounded by dusty peach trees and birds that come to partake of a small patch of nature in the middle of the city.
He is a believer in doing as much as possible according to the world he would like to live in. Ergo: no cookbook, no TV, no radio, no watch, no wifi, only the hokiest of cell phones, bare walls, used clothes, borrowed furniture, local branches for tea (instead of tea from China and England), food directly from the campesinos, etc. Best of all are our conversations that span from Latin American politics (emphasis on Bolivia) and life philosophy to some new fruit that has come into season, what we are writing, and cultural difference. When I first met him, he claimed that he would never learn or speak English, being that it is the language of the invader/exploiter. As time went on, though, it was revealed that he knows quite a few words and can concoct a rudimentary sentence (usually accompanied by much cackling and self-effacement). So I set out to teach him some phrases. So far I have chosen mostly slang, quirky punctuations, and street language—like “by the seat-of-one´s-pants,” “health-food freak,” “dig it, maaaan ,” “at the drop of a hat,” “…DAMN!” (with an emphasis on the perfect pause that precedes; my teacher on this: Carl Anthony).
So goes this first report of 2017 from the altiplano. I wish us all good tidings as we re-re-re-enter this latest call for yet-another lunge toward human dignity and planetary survival.
“Music helps to chase away the demons.”
Fotografía: Jan Saudek
Fotografía: Jan Saudek