Eduardo Galeano makes me weep. He writes about the brutality of the world and of exploiters, and even as you rage, you cannot help but feel a stabbing sort of feeling in the regions of the heart: he is a powerful writer, a true poet and thank all whatever gods there may be that he has chosen to be a voice against injustice.
I am currently reading ‘Upside Down’ and in it he describes our world as it is in stark contrast to what it should be if justice were a reality and money was not idolized. He weaves statistics and data with images that never leave your memory, and the shock and outrage is even greater because the figures are out in the world and the exploiters remain out large despite the massive and unspeakable crimes these numbers represent.
I’ve only finished the first two chapters and already I have shed tears and there was that old and somewhat loved feeling of tiny but excruciating pain. The breadth and scope of humanity described and one must weep at how we continue to destroy ourselves by destroying others or letting others destroy us. Beneath the horror and sadness over such unnameable tragedy, one is led to rage, and afterwards to dream: there is a better world than this, and it will be one day be born.
In the first chapter, he writes about children denied their childhood, the harshness of poverty and want cutting painfully their journeys between the cradle and the grave. He describes the differences between children of parents with wealth and children who have nothing, not even their parents because they’re been sold to slavery or prostitution. These children have lives that mean very little more than garbage to a heartless and selfish system. They are forced to work to survive and their small hands are wounded, their weak backs broken and their young lungs shriveled in mineshafts, sweatshops, plantations.
He describes children lucky enough to have childhoods, but these years of innocence were wasted in front of the television and they enter adulthood, doing drugs, waiting for the next big thrill, useless endeavors, empty goals. These children born to wealth and opulence also live ignorant and in fear of reality: protected behind glass and steel and blinded by consumer goods and empty pursuits, they deny everything else that disturbs their comfort.
Galeano condemns the World Bank, the International Monitory Fund (IMF) and the imperialist US government for the endless torment suffered by the world’s children. The atrocities committed in the name of capital, the brutalities of wars unleashed to protect the comfort of the few; the hypocrisy of kindness and compassion of multinationals and transnationals and their humanitarian projects. All of this ensures that millions upon millions of children will never experience childhood as it should be: in innocence, in joy, sheltered in communities where their parents are not victims of myriad forms of injustice themselves (unemployment, poor working conditions, almost invisible wages, absent benefits if they’re workers; add landlessness, homelessness, militarization if they are peasants).
*In Mexico, the Philippines, Lagos, children scavenge in reeking mountains of garbage for metal, glass, plastic
*In the Congo they’re sent to mine diamonds
*They take the place of moles and canaries in the mines of Peru, testing the air, and when their lungs give out, they end up in unmarked graves
*They work in plantations in Columbia, Tanzania, Guatemala, Honduras and get poisoned by pesticides
In the streets of Manila and Quezon City and surrounding metropolitan areas, children in rags and bare, muddy and calloused feet dodge cars, buses and jeeps to wash and during traffic stops beg for alms, offer to wash windshields. In Davao, they are shot like dogs in the streets by policemen.
In this upside down world, the future is being smothered, maimed and killed.
The second chapter is about injustice and the hypocrisy, cold cruelty and lies of the ruling classes peddled through pop culture and the mainstream media.
TV commercials, magazines, movies and tv shows offer images of brightness and color, enjoyment and endless laughter, but even as everyone can watch and see and hear, not everyone is allowed to genuinely experience: most are denied the right to be ‘beautiful’ (with the standard of beauty being set by the rulers), to be healthy, to never starve, to never fear cold weather or floods or killing heat, to not abhor the police and the military (the supposed protectors of peace and democracy). There is equality (because the offer of ‘happiness’ is made to everyone), but the injustice is made even greater by the so-called social equality (because not everyone can partake: a cone of french fries to many is already a luxury; let us not speak of new clothes or shoes, not even of cures for tuberculosis, pneumonia, or cancer).
Billions die of human rights violations (to be denied food, shelter, the means to improve one’s self and to escape sickness and diseases are human rights violations) because in a world ruled by capital, wealth is never innocent, and its twin is injustice.
There is also injustice on how the poor are deliberately and systematically blinded, rendered mute and deaf about history. One must learn from history or risk victimization; but people are fed stories and lies and propaganda masquerading as the truth about how it is in their best interest to stay still even when the bullets fly and the innocent are killed. Daily those who try to rip open the dark blanket of lies and treacherous compromise (the conservatives, the rightists, the enemies of the true Left), they are villified, slandered, libeled, abducted, killed. History is constantly reworked and rewritten until it barely escapes being fiction; or it is written by monsters so they recast themselves as saviors and saints.
In this upside down world, to speak the truth is to risk ridicule and death.
I will write more of Upside down as I go through the chapters. The struggle to reclaim human dignity unites all oppressed peoples all over the world; and the war against injustice and death wrought by imperialism (globalization, neoliberalism – call it what you want, it still means death to humanity) is what what must be won if we are to know what it is to be truly free.