Independence: Another Name For Dignity — Eduardo Galeano

Independence Is Another Name for Dignity

published in Upside Down World, covering activism and politics in Latin America

Written by Eduardo Galeano, Translation by Lisa Boscov-Ellen
Thursday, 10 March 2011 21:38
Source: La Jornada

I want to dedicate this tribute to the living memory of two people named Carlos: Carlos Lenkersdorf and Carlos Monsiváis, very dear friends who are no longer, but remain.

I begin by saying thank you: Thank you, Marcelo, for this gift, this joy. I say thank you in my own name and also in the name of the many Southerners who will never forget their gratitude to Mexico, the country of their exile, refuge of the persecuted in the years of filth and fear of our military dictatorships.

And I want to emphasize that Mexico deserves, for that and for many other reasons, all of our solidarity, now that this dear land is a victim of the hypocrisy of the global narco-system, where some stick their nose and others provide the corpses, and some declare a war and others receive the bullets.

This generous act honors me because of who it comes from. Mexico City is at the forefront of the fight for human rights, in a broad range that spans from sexual diversity to the right to breathe, which already seemed to be lost.

And I’m very honored to receive this gift, because it is very much about challenge: in our countries complete independence is still, for the most part, a job to be done, one that brings us together every day.

In the city of Quito, on the day after independence, an anonymous hand wrote on a wall: Last day of despotism and first of the same.

And in Bogotá, shortly after, Antonio Nariño warned that the patriotic uprising was becoming a masquerade, and that independence was in the hands of gentlemen of much starch and many buttons, and wrote: We have changed masters.

And the Chilean Santiago Arcos attested from jail:

The poor have enjoyed glorious independence as much as the horses that charged against the king’s troops in Chacabuco and Maipú.

All of our nations were born in lies. Independence abandoned those who put their lives at risk fighting for it; and the women, the illiterate, the poor, the indigenous and the blacks were not invited to the party. I suggest taking a look at our first Constitutions, which give legal prestige to this mutilation. The Constitutions granted the right of citizenship to the few who could buy it. The others continued to be invisible.

Simón Rodríguez had a reputation for being crazy and so he was called: The madman. He said crazy things, such as:

-We are independent, but we are not free. The wisdom of Europe and the prosperity of the United States are, in our America, two enemies of freedom of thought. Our America must not slavishly imitate, but rather be original.

And also:

We teach children to be inquisitive, so that they will become accustomed to obeying reason: not authority like the feebleminded, or custom like fools. He who does not know, anyone can deceive. He who does not have, anyone can buy.

Don Simón said crazy things and did crazy things. There in the early eighteen twenties, his schools mixed boys and girls, poor and rich, indigenous and whites, and also joined head and hands, because they taught to read and add and also to work with wood and earth. Latin sacristy was not heard in their classrooms and they defied the tradition of contempt for manual labor. The experiment did not last long. A clamor of outraged voices demanded the expulsion of this satyr that had come to corrupt the youth, and Marshal Sucre, president of the country we now call Bolivia, demanded his resignation.

From then on, he traveled on the back of a mule, making a pilgrimage along the coasts of the Pacific and across the Andes, founding schools and asking intolerable questions to those newly in power:

You, who imitate everything that comes from Europe and the United States, why do you not imitate originality, which is most important?

This old vagabond, bald, ugly and potbellied, the most courageous and lovable of the thinkers of the Americas, was more alone every day, and he died alone.

At eighty years old, he wrote:

I wanted to make the earth a paradise for all. I made it a hell for myself.

Simón Rodríguez was a loser. According to the value scale of this world, which venerates success and does not forgive failure, men like him do not deserve to be remembered.

But does not Don Simón live on in the energy of dignity that today travels our America from north to south? How many speak through his mouth, although they may not know it, like that Molière character who spoke in prose but did not know he spoke in prose?

Does not Don Simón continue to teach us, a century and a half after his death, that independence is another name for dignity? It is true that the colonial legacy still weighs, and weighs heavily, that it applauds copy and curses creation and admires, as Don Simón denounced, the virtues of the monkey and the parrot. But it is also true that it is increasingly young people who feel that fear is a humiliating and boring prison, and dare to think freely with their own minds, to feel with their own hearts and to walk with their own legs.

I do not believe in God, but I do believe in the human miracle of resurrection. Because perhaps they were wrong, those mourners who refused to believe in the death of Emiliano Zapata, and thought that he had gone to Arabia on a white horse, but they were only wrong regarding the map. Because the view is that Zapata remains alive, though not so far, not in the sands of the East: he goes riding through here, just nearby, wanting justice and creating it.

And note what happened with another loser, José Artigas, the man who made the first agrarian reform in America, before Lincoln and before Zapata.

Nearly two centuries ago, he was defeated and condemned to solitude and exile. In recent years, the military dictatorship of Uruguay built him a grand mausoleum, trying to lock him in a marble jail. But when the dictatorship tried to decorate the monument with some of his phrases, they found none that were not subversive. Now the mausoleum has dates and names of battles, without any phrases. Involuntary tribute, involuntary confession: Artigas is not mute, Artigas is still dangerous.

A funny thing: with so many alive who talk without speaking, in our lands there are dead who speak silently.

Blessed are the losers, because they committed the insolence of loving their land, and risked their lives for it. But it is known that patriotism is the honorable privilege of dominant countries: only those in charge have the right to be patriotic. In contrast, the dominated countries, condemned to perpetual obedience, cannot exercise patriotism, on pain of being called populists, demagogues, delirious: our patriotism is considered a plague, a dangerous plague, and the masters of the world, who test our democracy, have the bad habit of averting this threat with blood and fire.

Blessed are the losers, because they refused to repeat history and tried to change it.

Blessed are the losers, and cursed are those who confuse the world with a racetrack, and hurtling toward the peak of success they climb, kissing up and spitting down. Blessed are the indignant and cursed are the undeserving.

Cursed is the successful dictatorship of fear, which compels us to believe that reality is untouchable and that solidarity is a fatal disease, because the neighbor is always a threat and never a promise.

Blessed is the embrace, and cursed is the elbow.

Yes, but…So many losers, no?

When some journalist asks me if I’m an optimist, I answer, sincerely:

Sometimes. It depends on the moment.

Full time optimists always seemed rather inhumane to me.

I think that disappointment is a human right, and in a way it is also proof that we are human, because we would not suffer disappointment if we did not have breath.

It is undeniable that the reality is not very encouraging, the fucked up habit of rewarding those who squeeze their neighbors dry and exterminate the earth, water, and air. And yet, the most exciting adventures in the transformation of reality tend to stop half-way, or get lost or disappear, and often end badly.

It is undeniable, I say, but one should also ask: When these lovely collective experiences end badly, do they really end? There’s nothing to be done, are we left just to resign ourselves and accept the world as it is, as if it were destiny? A few years ago the theory of the end of history became fashionable. More than one swallowed that toad, though common sense shows us, with powerful simplicity, that history is born anew each morning.

The best part of this matter of living is life’s ability to surprise. Who could have foreseen that the Arab countries would live this hurricane of liberty that they are now living? Who would have believed that Tahrir Square would give the world this lesson in democracy? Who would have believed what the boy, planted in the square for days and nights, now believes: “Nobody is going to lie to us anymore”?

When all is said and done, when history says goodbye, or seems to say it, it is saying to us, or at least whispering: until later, until a little later, see you later.

And I say goodbye to you, now, it’s already time, as history has taught me, saying thank you, saying to you: until later, until a little later, see you later.

Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan writer and journalist, is the author of “The Open Veins of Latin America,” “Memory of Fire,” and “Soccer in Sun and Shadow.”


United We Bargain, Divided We Beg. Why I Don’t Believe There Is A Shortage of Bux

Well, perhaps this is one answer to that question, graphically displayed, from the Daily Kos (there is a video link at the and too):

The Must See Chart (This Is What Class War Looks Like)

by greywolfe359

This will be a very short diary.  I just wanted to get this chart out there.  I originally received it as a post by the Facebook group “The Christian Left.”  This chart puts the class war in simple, visual terms.  On the left you have the “shared sacrifices” and “painful cuts” that the Republicans claim we must make to get our fiscal house in order.  On the right, you can plainly see WHY these cuts are “necessary.”  The reason?  Because we already gave away all that money to America’s wealthiest individuals and corporations.

This just mirrors what we’re seeing in Wisconsin, where Governor Walker (R-Koch) claims that ordinary public sector workers need to fork over at least $137 million to save the budget.  Problem is, he just gave away $117 million in tax breaks for his corporate pals.  This is out and out class warfare.  The big corporations in America have decided that they can get even richer by raiding the public treasury.  It’s time for the middle class to stand up and defend itself!

And it’s good to see that an aggressive Middle-Class Defense is already under way in Wisconsin.  Following the chart is my video tribute to those courageous men and women who have woken up, smelled the coffee, and started to roll!

Original link to the image, provided by The Christian Left, was to here.

United we bargain, divided we beg.  There is power in unified action by the people.  Roll on, Wisconsin.  Keep inspiring the rest of us to stand up and defend ourselves!

Click Here for a video of union and other demonstration highlights.

Guild Complex Presents Palabra Pura: One Poet, One Poem Event

One Poet/One Poem Event with past Palabra Pura Readers and 2011 Curators
Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Time: 7:30pm
Cost: Free
Location: La Bruquena, 2726 W. Division

Celebrating the past and looking toward the future, this cavalcade of readers will be a mix of past writers from PP’s six-year history and the dream team of guest curators creating this year’s exciting season. And it’s all happening at PP’s brand new venue, Humboldt Park’s La Bruquena. So come grab some food/drink, reminisce on past palabras and get a preview of what’s to come.

Appearing at Palabra Pura kick-off:

Eduardo Arocho

Beatriz Badikian

Roger Bonair-Agard

Cristina Correa

Carlos Cumpián*

Rafael Franco-Steeves*

Jorge Frisancho

Juana Goergen*

Gregorio Gomez

Irasema González

David Hernández*

Leon Leiva Gallardo

Miguel López Lemus

Olivia Maciel

Elizabeth Marino

Carmen Alicia Murguía

Bernardo Navia

Yolanda Nieves*

Raul Niño

Jennifer Patiño

Coya Paz

Xenia Ruiz

Jacob Saenz

Luis Tubens

Luis Humberto Valadez*

Febronio Zataraín

Journal Of Ordinary Thought: Plenty Of Napkins

[Earlier this month we posted an announcement of the release party for the current Journal of Ordinary Thought.  The title of this issue of the Journal, I Always Like Plenty Of Napkins, comes from the poem included below.]

And, from our next issue of the Journal of Ordinary Thought, “I Always Like Plenty of Napkins: JOT Writers on Food,” an excerpt:

Ramiro Rodriguez
St. Leonard’s House workgroup

The three people that I would like to
have dinner with are Salma Hayek,
my friend Daliq Tapia, who is in Abu
Dhabi right now, and Eva Mendez. It
would be a dream date!

First, they will sit me down, bringing
me a glass of water and plenty of napkins.
I always like plenty of napkins.

Then each of them will ask me what
I’d like to eat. So, I pick my most
favorite dish for my favorite person: I
tell Daliq to make a torta de carne
asada. I tell her to put her love,
trust, and confidence in the torta.

Then, I tell Salma to make me a salad
with plenty of cheese. I tell her to
put her admiration and affection in
the salad.

Lastly, I tell Eva to make me a cheesecake.
I tell her to put her compassion
and devotion in the cheesecake.

[The reading will be held Tuesday, March 15.  Click here for details]

Luis Rodriguez Reads Poetry Hull House Wednesday, March 16

March 16

5:30 PM Reception
6:00 PM Reading

Residents’ Dining Hall
800 South Halsted Street


Co-sponsored with The Poetry Foundation

Join us on March 16 for a special reading by activist and award-winning writer and poet,
Luis Rodriguez.

For the first time, Luis will recite a new poem commissioned by the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum for the Alternative Labeling Project, a new series that transgresses and challenges the way we think about objects and artifacts and the extraordinary stories they tell.

We are thrilled to be co-sponsoring this event with the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. Hull-House and the Poetry Foundation have a long history that begins with Harriet Monroe–American editor, scholar, literary critic, poet and patron of the arts–who founded Poetry magazine in 1912. Monroe lived as a resident at Hull-House for a short time, where she connected with Jane Addams and became one of Addams’ primary readers and literary peers. The two women also belonged to the Society of Midland Authors, an elite literary circle, which included important modern writers like Clarence Darrow, Hamlin Garland, Carl Sandburg, and Lorado Taft.

Luis J. Rodriguez is one of the leading Chicano writers in the country, with 14 published books in poetry, memoir, fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature. His poetry has won the Poetry Center Book Award, the PEN Josephine Miles Literary Award, and the Paterson Poetry Book Prize, among other accolades. Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., his 1993 memoir of gang life, has sold more than 300,000 copies; it received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award and a Chicago Sun-Times Book Award, and was designated a New York Times Notable Book. His latest poetry collection, My Nature Is Hunger: New & Selected Poems, appeared in 2005 from Curbstone Press/Rattle Editions. Rodriguez helped found Chicago’s Guild Complex, Tia Chucha Press, and Rock A Mole Productions, which organizes arts festivals in Los Angeles. He is renowned for his work in gang intervention.

Can a common museum label—so often the omniscient voice that provides factual evidence that identifies artifacts and objects in a museum’s collection—sensually engage us, inspire revolution and reform, or provide pleasure and comfort?

Can a museum label be a poem, an essay, or piece of music?

The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum asks these questions in its new series of Alternative Labels that presents diverse voices and encourages visitors to view history from a fresh perspective.

We invited Luis Rodriguez, one of the country’s leading Chicano writers, the International Contemporary Ensemble, a vibrant, cutting-edge new music ensemble, and Terri Kapsalis, a writer and performer, to choose artifacts from our collection and compose labels that challenge and provoke. For the final part in the series, visitors will be invited to exercise their voices and participate by creating their own alternative label for an object in our collection.

These labels, non-traditional in format and presentation, will be placed throughout the museum over the next few months to provide alternative encounters that will introduce visitors in fresh ways to the extraordinary history of the Hull-House Settlement.

Co-sponsored with The Poetry Foundation