10 years ago I read the following New Year’s eve 2007 editorial in the Mexico City newspaper, Reforma, by the Mexican novelist and essayist, Carlos Fuentes. Had he lived to 2017 I think he’d be shocked by the answer the Americans have come up with to his question.
New Year, New Era?
By Carlos Fuentes – published on the opinion page of the Mexico City Newspaper “Reforma” Monday December 31, 2007 – translated from the Spanish by Rob Snyder and Margarita Lado Contreras
It’s in the air. It’s in our heads. We all intuit it. One epoch ends. Another, new, begins. Juan Jose Bremer tells of foundational moments of modernity. The Peace of Westfalia (1648) put an end to the wars of religion, consecrated the principle of Cuius Regio Eius Religio (the sovereign determines the faith) and consolidated the idea of the national state. The North American Revolution of Independence (1776) and the French Revolution (1789) proclaim the universality of human rights. North America would need a civil war to end slavery and the French Revolution would know the terror and the Bonapartism before Europe would arrive at a new agreement in the Congress of Vienna (1815) that intends to restore the old monarchical order but that cannot detain the social rise of the middle class and the burguesia, the real winners of the French Revolution.
The nineteenth century peace is interrupted only by the franco-prussian war (1870-1871) and at the end, by the First World War (1914-1918) that leads to the feeble Treaty of the Conference of Versailles (1919), origin of an ephemeral peace that at the same time leads to the Second World War (1939-1945) and to the foundational act that has ruled us for half a century: the creation of the United Nations in San Francisco (1945). Work of two illustrious North American presidents (Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman), the UN has known successes and failures, stumbles and abstentions, but the peace between the atomic powers has been maintained half a century, through the peripheral perversions (Checoslovaquia y Santo Domingo, Polonia y Panamá). Only the Cuban missile crisis endangered the edifice, but Kennedy and Jruschov stopped at the edge of the abyss.
The interim of George W. Bush obeys a false reading of history. While the White House grasped an illusion of unilateral triumph after the collapse of the Soviet adversary, in the real world other centers of power formed, with a degree of autonomy (and interrelation) that are creating a new global reality. China, India, Europe, Russia, Japan, Brazil, are today central actors, that advance as much on their own energy as they do on the dissipation of North American power in foreign adventure failures (Irak), or in confused internal priorities (immigration, taxes, health, education).
But if today there appears a new global constellation without the prevalent dominion of only one country, what appears also is a new agenda for the 21st century.
What issues today are most important? The survival of the planet. Global Warming. The brutal inequalities between the first and third world, between the few who have much and the many who have little. The persistence of illiteracy. The unnecessary sickness and poverty in a world of our own resources. The abrupt descent in world reserves of food, and the consequent increase in the cost of nutrition: from 9% to 40% last year. The status of the liberation of women. The right to information. The liberation of human resources. The pace of the technological revolution. The primacy of the right over the fact. The reform of international organizations to give new legality to a new reality.
I stop and I keep short. I refer to the reader the little book presented by Juan Ramon de la Fuente, Voices of Iberoamerica, in which Fernando Enrique Cardoso, Felipe González, Enrique Iglesias, Ricardo Lagos y Julio Sanguinetti give precise account of the actual status of “the disequality, the democracy, the legality, the security, the governability, civilization, culture, knowledge, education” (Hector Aguilar Camin in the prologue). The virtue of the book is that in reference to the actual situation, it proposes solutions but, in the end, stops at the edge of a question that is an abyss: Would we have the capacity and the will not just to try solutions, but to accept mysteries, questions still not formulated, transformations that can surprise and surpass us, leaving behind terrible simplistic ideaology, Manichean in foundation, that gives us two simple solutions to a complex reality: neoliberal capitalism or populist paleomarxism?
In a brilliant article of recent publication, the Mexican researcher Sergio Aguayo gives us the following recommendation: “Do not search for precedents for what is happening today. There are none. Neither is there certitude about the future. There persist only the necessities and the search for solutions” in a globalized world.
Still we do not know the name of this world now being born. But the Middle Ages were not known as the Middle Ages until the Italian humanists of the Renaissance (that yes knew to be named) gave it this name. What will it be called one day, the new rapid civilization, informational, technical, unjust, that is born before our eyes? No, still we can not name it. Yes, we can interrogate it.
America’s answer? A continuation and amplification of US singularity: more America, more war, more death, more starvation, more chaos, more domination, more evil. More wasteland, more ruin. And on and on. Read Barrett’s article for the overview and the detail.
America, What are You?
I’ve been to other countries, about 27 or so. Each seems to have something, some kind of self interest, some kind of self-awareness. It’s ordinary to have it. They all have it. Here are some Russians on plane from Berlin to Moscow. They have it: video
All countries have this.
One is exceptional.
Doesn’t have it.
It has something else instead.
Read the brilliant article of Gregory Barrett, what the Russians didn’t do; what we’ve done, and do, instead. The indispensable, the exceptional nation, whose people can’t sing a song. A nation of exceptional war-mongering douchecans who can’t hold a tune.
America, What are you?
You know what? Who cares?