Well, now I understand what Thorstein Veblen meant when he wrote that serious research makes two questions grow where only one grew before. Gwen and I returned yesterday from 5 weeks traveling in Mexico and South America. Whether from information overload or a brain starved of oxygen after breathing thin air of the high Andes, I’m tired.
And, frankly, I have more questions about South America than I had before setting foot on that continent. If you want to understand a new land completely, keep your trip short because the longer you stay, the more you will realize the depth of your ignorance about a place. If all goes well though, one might gain insights to direct further studies. We have certainly returned with a desire to learn more about the magnificent lands visited, particularly Bolivia where we spent much time.
I don’t know if schools have changed today but, when I was a student, South America was little beyond an ignored shape on the world map. Sure, we talked briefly about Spanish Conquests and 19th century Latin American wars of independence. But, the great indigenous civilizations of pre-Columbian times were barely dealt with and we certainly never looked critically at 20th century crimes against humanity perpetuated in the name of economic exploitation.
There are interesting developments percolating in today’s South America. Under current indigenous President Evo Morales, the Plurinational State of Bolivia is an advanced experiment in social justice and reconciliation. It is not perfect, nor is ultimate success assured but Canada and our giant neighbor to the south could be doing far more to enhance democratic reforms and economic development. In fact, American hands have been stained with South American blood while Canada has been blind and mute about these abuses.
Before this trip, I had grown interested in Bolivian resistance to neoliberal hegemony imposed by international financial institutions. Perhaps, this resistance was best symbolized by the 2000 Cochabamba Water Wars. But, now I see the real story in Bolivia relates to harmonization of the country’s numerous cultures. Including unimaginable horrors such as eight millions dead in the silver mines of Potosi’s Cerro Rico hill, genocide and foreign exploitation have been facts of Bolivian life since the Spanish destroyed the Inca Empire in the 16th century.
If Canada aspires to be a leader in multicultural development, it should be applauding and actively supporting the government of Evo Morales, which is trying to integrate many indigenous cultures into a democratic state. Only a few years ago, apartheid was rampant in Bolivia with aboriginals denied entry to centers of major cities. However, Canada does not even maintain a full time ambassador in the South American nation. The chief representative for our beggared foreign service must fly in from Peru if a senior level meeting is desired. Ambarrassing, don’t you think?
After this lengthy travel break, Northern Insights will continue as before, with news and commentary about political affairs in British Columbia. I invite you to also read Vecinos del Sur, a new blog that will examine people, places and culture of South America. We’ll be telling many stories that we found compelling during our travels and we have promises of contributions from a few new friends and acquaintances.
In the past five weeks, I’ve kept up with much of the news in British Columbia although it appears little has changed. BC Liberals still hope they can ignore the reality of a leadership that is distrusted and despised. Since Campbell, Hansen and the other public parasites have invariably proven to be liars, their promise to be directed by an HST vote in 2011 and their expected promises to lower the HST tax rate will leave us amused and unconvinced.
The Basi Virk BC Rail Corruption trial may have done its maximum damage already. Only Liberal spin doctors will argue that the Emperor’s new clothes are splendid. The bare bottoms of Campbell and his greedy co-conspirators are fully revealed. The Liberals hope their hired gun, the not-special Prosecutor, will quietly plea bargain the case out of court but a smell of corruption would remain, covering particularly the Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.