A History both Volatile and Spectacular

Trip Start Jun 16, 2006
Trip End Aug 15, 2006

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Flag of Chile  ,
Friday, July 21, 2006

History was written by assasins. Historians argue over the details, the hows and whys, and the economic reasons for social revolutions. But you get the point. Those who survive live to tell the tale. We`re familiar with these cases:

--Salvador Allende is the popularly elected president of Chile. The CIA supports a coup which deposes Allende and installs General Pinochet as dictator. He goes on to stage a dirty war, and 30 years later, justice is still not adequately metted for his crimes.

--The Incan Emperor Atahualpa is captured and killed by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. This is the defining moment in the evolution of the Americas. It begins the persecution of indigenous cultures for the next 500 years. The true first nations peoples.

--American slavery exsists for nearly 300 years. It isn`t outlawed until a tall man with a vision prosecutes a war, that, at its core, is a war about economics. To this very day, we still haven`t found a place for African Americans in the United States.

I`m thinking about all these things as I`m lying in a park in central Santiago. It`s sunny and warm and I need a nap. I ended up walking through a strange neighborhood in what looks to be like a burgeoning Chinatown and Red Light District. I smile. Santiago may have some character after all. In this Chinatown, I eat bad Chinese food again and I need to sleep it off. In may nap, I`m thinking about history--given the conversation I had with the Chilean students yesterday and their begging for money.

How do we correct the sins of the past? Who`s fault is it? Who`s job is it to fix it? The governments? The people? Can it be fixed?

The scholar Jared Diamond answers why Pizarro captured Atahualpa: Guns, Germs, and Steel. The author of Gods Go Begging turns the algorithm on its head by positing a world in which the Americas had conquered Europe instead of vice versa: Mexicans would be running NASA and would be in space.

But this is all in the past and erroneous. I`m in Chile now and not Argentina. I`m somewhere new and novel. I start to think in the present:

Currently, the scholar Sam Huntington sees a world divided. We`ve got fractured nations and Mexicans tearing apart the fabric of the U.S he says. Currently, the President George W. Bush sees a world united in the fight against terror. We`ve got an alliance of nations commited to fighting radical Islam he says.

In the meantime, Israel is bombing Beirut. Israel is fighting Hezbullah. A volatile but spectacular world I say.

I`m wondering how I`m going to make my mark on the 21st Century. But I`ve got my rejection letter from the U.S. Department of State. There won`t be another Foreign Service examination for me this year. I won`t be granted an interview. I`ll take the test for a 3rd time next year. Maybe I`ll try the Public Diplomacy career track instead of Political Economy.

I`m thinking this as I`m having an excellent dinner in an upbeat part of Santiago. This is clearly where the rich go to dine. This is one of the several trendy night spots that I have encountered. This is a lively/trendy restaurant/bar. Hip. I`m having grilled salmon with green rice (weird, I know) and a glass of the house white wine. This is where the young professionals go. They`re playing progressive house/techno music, but it is a little more mellow than the clubs. I enjoy myself.

This all made possible by my credit card. This all made possible by globalization. Is that such a bad thing?--I ask myself. We protest WTO trade talks in Seatle, Miami, and Ecuador, and I wonder if it truly beneficial. We cry foul at IMF structural adjustment policies and I wonder if it is truly effective. Should the IMF set the conditions on the loans, or should the debtors?

Globalization lets me reach your eyes and ears. Globalization lets me flood your inbox with incessant emails. Globalization lets me pay for my dinner. Credit transactions saved my life. I`d be starving and sin casa, sin techo, if I didn`t have this thing. Tomorrow I`m getting my Fedex packaged debit card so I can be liquid again. Then I`m headed for the north.

I`m thinking about these things, and I`m drunk in Santiago. I`m in love with my credit card, and I`m in love with the sound of my own voice.

Today, I`m in one of my weird moods, and I`m thinking about history, Santiago, South America and globalization. I`m writing all of this after I`ve had a glass of wine and a pisco sour. A volatile but spectaular combination.
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