Three (of the many) reasons to question Wonder Woman’s appointment as UN Honorary Ambassador

Back in college, a classmate asked me what I thought of Isabel Preysler. I shrugged my shoulders in response. I mean, for sure the lady’s a fine one but she was simply outside the realm of my consciousness. I asked her why she asked me that and the answer I got was, “Well, seeing that you’re a Filipina you must be very proud that you have that kind of representation here in Spain”. I burst out laughing. And then snorted twice. My classmate looked offended so I tried to save the conversation by saying, “Sure, why not? I mean she’s not a serial killer, so I guess it’s not all bad”. Awkward.

Introduction

One week ago, various online news sites reported that the United Nations (UN) have announced that their new Honorary Ambassador for Gender Equality is Wonder Woman. This might have easily been one of those hoaxes posted in Facebook or re-twitted by a friend. Unfortunately, the news is real. There was even an appointment ceremony held at the UN Headquarters in New York.

This is not the first time the organization has tapped fictional characters to raise awareness on different causes. Winnie the Pooh was appointed Ambassador of Friendship in 1998; Tinkerbell, as Ambassador of Green in 2009 and Angry Bird Red, as Honorary Ambassador for International Day of Happiness in 2016. The relevance of this one, however lies in the fact that gender equality is a complex issue and choosing a pop-culture icon, clearly tied to an economic super-power (Just look at her costume. What country comes to mind? certainly not Puerto Rico!) and with overly sexual image only makes things more difficult.

Several female staff of the UN staged a silent but very visible protest during the ceremony, attended by actresses Gal Gadot (star of the current Wonder Woman movie) and Lynda Carter (who played Wonder Woman in the 1970’s TV series). They stood up, turned their backs, raised their fists and then left halfway through the event. One of the protesters declared, “For something that is this important, you need a woman or a man who can speak, somebody who can travel, somebody who can champion these rights, somebody who is able to have an opinion, somebody that can be interviewed, somebody that can stand up in front of 192 member states and say this is what we would like you to do.”

Granted that honorary ambassadors simply had to be fictional characters (supposedly to be able to reach out to wider audiences such as children and adolescents), has this last appointment been a wise choice?

Without meaning to discredit Wonder Woman and the idea behind her, this post will briefly discuss why the said fictional comic book heroine is not really representative of every woman’s quest for equality.

Reasons to question Wonder Woman’s appointment as Ambassador for Gender Equality

1. Few women could look at Wonder Woman and be convinced that they have the power in them to change their situations for the better.

As an ambassador, she is tasked to raise awareness about the Goal 5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This particular Goal aims to: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. Now, looking at Wonder Woman:

Ver imagen originalImage courtesy of: Wikipedia

Can you honestly say that you can relate with her and that she represents what is empowering to you? If she does, then congratulations! If she does not, then you are part of a larger group of females who feel the same way. Author included. In fact, there are plenty of women who wouldn’t be able to look at the above picture without feeling uncomfortable. So how would Wonder Woman be a voice to those who can’t even tolerate the sight of her?

Considering only her appearance, already an important part of the world’s female population seems to be excluded of her representation: women whose culture and religion do not allow them to dress similarly, girls who feel insecure about their bodies and those who live in societies where slut-shaming is awfully prevalent.

When it comes to the more thoughtful angle, a few arguments come to mind: she’s not a mother, she’s no head of household, she’s not a student, she does not live below the poverty threshold and she certainly does not seem to earn a living from rural livelihood. These are contexts where the majority women can be found immersed in constant battle.

She is bisexual, though. So that’s a point for UN’s decision, against the ten others that are in contra.

Does this not make one wonder: who does she actually represent? The 20-40 something yuppies living in big cities from first-world countries? Not that they don’t have real problems or that their struggles are less important, but they comprise only a small fraction of the entire female population.

2. Appointing Wonder Woman as an Ambassador for Gender Equality diminishes the integrity of the said cause.

Compared to other Honorary Ambassadors, Wonder Woman is officially representing a very sensitive and highly controversial topic: women’s centuries-old demand for equality. With this move, it is safe to say that the UN is currently putting their credibility at risk especially towards feminist groups and any number of young girls who will not be able to identify themselves with this new role model*.

According to the UN’s official announcement, “Wonder Woman’s strength and fight for justice and peace will help to focus the campaign’s attention in… Sharing examples of real life women and girls who are making a difference every day.

Wonder Woman uses super powers to fight crime and bring justice to victims. Although this fact is- hopefully- being used to symbolize women’s empowerment, it actually is an insult (and a big one, at that!) to very real women who struggle every single day to keep their heads and spirits up while making sure to feed their families, keep them safe and to push their children to do good in life.

This is short of a spit on the face to every woman who is consistently being denied of tools (financial and professional, to say the least) to sustain themselves in this very biased world.

The bestowing of this title to the chosen symbol is an utter disrespect for girls and women who expose themselves to everyday risks of being sexually abused with nothing but their screams and their teeth and nails to defend themselves.

The UN must be aware of women’s situations around the planet. Don’t they create thousands of reports about the subject? So why such insensitivity?

Please excuse this humble servant for asking but, was the UN paid by DC Comics to promote a movie that didn’t seem to stand a chance to be a hit at the box office? because the organization have done some pretty amusing things in the past (such as setting a deadline to achieve the Millenium Development Goals). However, as entertaining as this appointment might be for some, FUNNY IT IS NOT.

3. It is not very clear how Wonder Woman would fight discrimination, or what type of discrimination she is going to help eradicate.

Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information Cristina Gallach mentions that, “While we have achieved progress towards gender equality in many parts of the world, women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence. Gender equality is a fundamental human right and a foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world”

Oh, Miss Gallach! Did you not know that the said discrimination stems from deep-seated cultural and social factors in each context? Surely you do! Therefore, you should also know that turning a half-naked woman into a representative to raise awareness towards discrimination of all women is ironic. Because then, men and even our fellow women would say that once again, sex is being used to sell. It doesn’t matter whether an idea or a merchandise is being sold; it’s the means to sell that counts. The irony lies in the fact that women combat the way society objectifies females through sex, and then here comes the UN with this brilliant idea…

Accordingly, Wonder Woman does not seem very real and if she has been designated to set an example, then this just feeds the negative thoughts most women already have that we shall “never be enough”.

Thank you very much, United Nations’ Organization!

Other alternatives

Apparently, Honorary Ambassadors have to be fictional characters. So without much further ado, here are a few suggestions** as to who could very well represent the United Nations’ Goal Number 5 (written in no particular order):

  1. O-Lan, the protagonist’s first wife in “The Good Earth”
  2. Scout Finch from the novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird”
  3. Julie the protagonist of, “Julie and the Wolves” or Karana the protagonist of “Island of the Blue Dolphins”
  4. Ayla the protagonist of “The Clan of the Cave Bear”
  5. Alba from “The House of Spirits”
  6. Úrsula Iguarán from “100 Years of Solitude”
  7. Salome from the almost-forgotten chapter of “Noli Me Tangere” (Elias at Salome)
  8. Gayle and Cookie, protagonists of “Like Sisters on The Homefront”
  9. All of the members of “The Joy Luck Club”
  10. Kit from “The Witch of Blackbird Pond”

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Image courtesy of: Wikipedia

The aforementioned names are also fictional characters, but from novels. They are all strong, smart and spirited women, each of them uniquely gifted and were able to stand up to what they believed was right for them. And is this not the idea behind gender equality? being free to grow, develop and reach our dreams without anyone saying (whether implicitly or explicitly), “You’re just a girl, you can’t do it”; or worse “You’re a girl, you do it!”.

(Besides, thinking about it: wouldn’t it be better to get a fictional heroine from a text which would encourage young girls to read?)

Should there be any specific rules that the ambassador for Goal 5 be a comic book character, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Turn the above mentioned materials into graphic novels.
  2. Ororo Munroe (Storm) from the X-Men

Finally, Missandei from “The Game of Thrones” comes to mind in case a TV-series character is to be handed this title in the future.

Conclusions

On the 21st of October, 2016 the UN Organization appointed Wonder Woman as its new Honorary Ambassador for Gender Equality. At the same time, it also launched a Wonder Woman campaign with the slogan: THINK OF ALL THE WONDERS WE CAN DO.

According to the website, “The campaign is about women and girls everywhere, who are wonder women in their own right, and the men and boys who support their struggle for gender equality, bringing about positive change in their homes, workplace, communities, countries and the world together.”

The problems are: i) Wonder Woman is not representative of women and girls everywhere, ii) more than half of the world’s female population is too engaged in their survival as well as their families’ that they ignore what qualifies as wondrous women; while others may simply be too busy making their way through this male-dominated society, and finally iii) the men and boys will find it hard to genuinely support this cause because its representative’s image distracts them to form other kinds of thoughts.

The fight for gender equality is one that is already long-established. Indeed, one can choose any woman’s biography from any part of the world, from any point in time and there will be a common denominator among all: the fact that each and every one of them had to face male chauvinism every day, and they were left to fight it with whatever weapon they might have in hand (beauty, non-beauty, wit, humor, piety, silence, perseverance, submission, etc…).

Wonder Woman may be inspiring to some. Without any doubt, she may even have paved way to a number of girls and women to take that first step towards changing their unwanted situation. However, she can never represent women and girls everywhere.

There are many other fictional characters who could perfectly fit the honorary title- female protagonists (and antagonists too, why not?) to whom girls and women could relate. Thus, in the light of the novelty and excitement, let us allow our fellowmen and women to have fun naming Wonder Woman as ambassador to inspire the fight for gender equality. However, let us never lose sight of the bigger picture: the desire for a more egalitarian society where all people- men, women and LGBTQ- are treated equally in their homes, workplace, communities, countries and the world together.

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Image courtesy of: https://alifenotgrey.com

*How many girls and women in the whole world actually know of Wonder Woman? It might seem ridiculous, but technological gap is real and could be yawning wide open in many under-developed countries making it difficult to spread this campaign.

**Sadly, I have not read any Arabic literature to be able to cite an example from the said context.

-The  End-

Sources:

  1. “Is Wonder Woman qualified to be a UN Ambassador?”, BBC US & Canada, available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-37734623
  2. “Wonder Woman announced as UN ambassador amid staff protest”, The Guardian, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/21/wonder-woman-un-ambassador-staff-protest
  3. “Wonder Woman appointed UN honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls”, UN News Center, available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55367#.WA5e4SSGnfY
  4. “Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, available at: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/gender-equality/
  5. “Stand Up for the Empowerment of Women and Girls Everywhere”, Wonder Woman Campaign webpage, availabe at: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wonderwoman/

Quién lleva a quién pa’ que se acabe la vaina?*

*Título inspirado por la letra del vallenato “Gota Fría”

Sin querer juzgar la decisión de la mayoría, sin querer imponer ideas que pertenecen a una persona que no vive esa realidad ardiente y delicada… Ojalá me perdonen en el caso de haber ofendido sus sentimientos.

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Imagen por cortesía de: http://kaosenlared.net

Parte 1: Opiniones, sentimientos e ideas…

Dado el hecho de que no fue tarea fácil la de recopilar declaraciones sobre este tema tan delicado, quisiera agradecer a las siguientes personas que han tomado el tiempo de reflexionar y expresar sus opiniones para ser además publicadas en este espacio:

Edith Ximena Peña Hidalgo de Madrid, España

Mercedes Sánchez de Bogotá, Colombia

Paola Medina de Istanbul, Turquía

Mil gracias, estimadas señoras! les deseo todo lo mejor y espero que pronto podamos brindar juntas el comienzo de una nueva historia para su linda Colombia.

¿Qué sentimientos ha generado a usted la noticia del acuerdo del cese de fuego?

“Alegría y sorpresa, tantos años de conflicto y procesos fallidos anteriores marcaban un escenario muy difícil. Lograr un acuerdo firme era prácticamente impensable a pesar de los avances logrados en el proceso. Las FARC no han sido un interlocutor confiable y la habilidad de los negociadores y los países garantes ha sido fundamental para llegar a un hecho histórico que me alegra y me hace sentir mayor esperanza en el futuro de Colombia.” (Edith Ximena Peña Hidalgo, 32 años, Economista INJUVE, Madrid)

“Esperanza, por vivir en una Colombia en paz, situación que nunca he conocido; Alegría, por pensar que puedo vivir en un país tranquilo; Temor, por la posible traición de las células que queden de la guerrilla y por los otros grupos (paramilitares, delincuencia común, narcotraficantes) que no han firmado (ni firmarán) un acuerdo de paz; Desconfianza, con la reinserción de guerrilleros en la sociedad.” (Mercedes Sánchez, +50 años, en la búsqueda de empleo, Bogotá)

“Alegría, esperanza, reconciliación y ansiedad.” (Paola Medina, 32 años, Profesora de Idiomas, Istanbul)

“Me ha generado alivio de saber que los acuerdos de paz se siguen teniendo en cuenta como un camino viable para resolver el conflicto armado en Colombia. Me ha generado confusion ver al ex-presidente Uribe, a quién tanto llegué a admirar en una época, hacer campaña para bloquear los acuerdos de paz.” (Anónimo, 25 años, Doctorante en Robótica, Villejuif (Francia))

¿Cómo piensa usted que se debe iniciar el proceso de reconciliación entre los FARC y las víctimas (y sus familias) de la violencia?

“El marco legal, las estructuras institucionales deben reforzarse para garantizar el cumplimiento de los acuerdos a través de programas como el de restitución de tierras, el desminado, la verdad, justicia y reparación integral. Llevará muchos años y recursos lograr este proceso en el que las FARC debe participar activamente y cumplir sus compromisos. Además, más allá de los recursos materiales es necesario un proceso de perdón y reconciliación en el que todos los colombianos estemos involucrados, luchar contra la política de odio, venganza y marginación. Se debe lograr una verdadera reinserción de los ex-combatientes de las FARC.” (Edith Ximena Peña Hidalgo)

Con un reconocimiento real por parte dela FARC, de los crímenes cometidos y un perdón a las familias de las víctimas. También con un castigo ‘negociado’ de acuerdo con los crímenes cometidos.” (Mercedes Sánchez)

“En primera instancia, la reconciliación debe ser asumida primeramente por la oposicion, aquella liderada por el expresidente Uribe quien queriendo ser protagonista juega un papel antagónico desde el principio del proceso de paz y en segundo lugar debe ser promovida por los mismos líderes que menosprecian los acuerdos, eliminando discursos guerreristas donde no hay lugar para política.” (Paola Medina)

Ver imagen original

Imagen por cortesía de: https://etnicografica.wordpress.com

¿Cuénteme brevemente qué cosas espera que pasen a partir de ahora?

“El proceso será largo y complicado, en primer lugar se debe hacer efectiva la entrega de armas y la desmovilización total, aunque ya hay disidentes que quedarán al margen del proceso. La refrendación de los acuerdos en el plebiscito será el marco para que los colombianos aprueben el acuerdo en votación.

Paralelamente a lo anterior, que ya está en marcha, el gobierno debe recuperar las zonas ocupadas por las FARC y abandonadas históricamente por el Estado, eso requiere un plan de inversión y fortalecimiento institucional que llevará años e ingentes recursos humanos y económicos.

Las FARC empezarán su transformación en partido político para participar en las próximas elecciones y los disidentes seguirán en facciones pequeñas o en la delincuencia común, haciendo necesario que las fuerzas del Estado sigan combatiéndolas (a menor escala de lo que sucede ahora). El pueblo colombiano irá transitando a una realidad sin violencia que abrirá las puertas a un futuro mejor.” (Edith Ximena Peña Hidalgo)

“Que no haya más secuestros ni extorsiones. Que no haya más coches blindados ni patrullas acompañándolos, por las calles de las ciudades, intimidando a todo aquel que se cruce por su camino, por parte de los mafiosos y empleados del gobierno que abusan de las medidas de seguridad. Andan en coches blindados y con patrullas (pagados con los impuestos de los ciudadanos) para su cuidado personal. Esto último aplica para funcionarios del gobierno.

Que podamos viajar por las carreteras con tranquilidad. A mediano plazo, saber que hay guerrilleros insertados en la vida cotidiana.” (Mercedes Sánchez)

Qué gane el SI, que la oposición se una unidad nacional para la construcción e implementación de la paz, que el otro grupo subversivo ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional) siga el ejemplo y se una también por el país y se sumen al dialogo para que de igual forma cese el conflicto con ellos. Y que haya justicia para los gobernantes que de una y otra forma incentivaron y promulgaron con sus discursos y o acciones, a la guerra, à la usurpación de las tierras de los campesinos y que sean ellos los más favorecidos de todo el proceso puesto que han sido las víctimas  principales del conflicto .” (Paola Medina)

Parte 2: Pensamientos de un espectador expectante

I

Ciertas preguntas he de hacer

sin el afán de juzgar.

Solamente intento comprender

las razones y las causas;

y escuchar tanto los motivos

como las dudas.

¿Qué vecino no sueña

con una convivencia pacífica?

¿Por qué un “NO” a la búsqueda

de una nueva vía?

de una nueva vida?

de un nuevo mañana?

II

Pero es triste ver que

quienes ganan y quienes pierden

sean los mismos,

los de siempre.

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Imagen por cortesía de: http://reclutamientoforzado1.blogspot.fr/

Parte 3: Reflexión

Nota del autor: Es cierto es que 1) Nunca he vivido más de 4 meses en Colombia y solamente conocí una parte de Bogotá, una parte de Cundinamarca y una parte de Boyacá cuando estuve allí. Y esos sitios, los he conocido como turista. 2) Nunca he vivido una situación de conflicto y, 3) Nunca he perdido a un ser querido a causa de una situación de conflicto.

Por lo tanto, admito que cuanto más leo sobre este asunto, más preguntas me surgen. Y es esta la razón por la que me limitaré a contar mis impresiones personales, al igual que las dudas que he conseguido formular.

“¿Apoya usted el acuerdo final para la terminación del conflicto y la construcción de una paz estable y duradera? Esa fue la pregunta con la que se encontraron los Colombianos en las urnas el pasado día 2 de Octubre de este año.

Ese mismo día, el periódico español El País cuenta que, “El plebiscito de este domingo ha obtenido unos resultados sorprendentes según las encuestas previas: el 50,21% de los votos ha rechazado la paz, y el 49,78% se ha decantado por el ‘sí’. El 60% de la abstención en la votación…”

¿Deberíamos interpretar que el voto del “NO” estaba expresando la disconformidad al Acuerdo?

Entonces, ¿podemos suponer que la mayoría de las personas que han votado el “No” verdaderamente ha leído el Acuerdo?

***

Hace 3 días, empecé a leer el “Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de una Paz Estable y Duradera” (en adelante, el Acuerdo). Por la primera vez desde mi lectura de “Los Tres Mosqueteros”, he vuelto a sentir una emoción extraordinaria por un texto. La única diferencia es que esa última es una novela ficticia mientras que la primera es un documento con un efecto tremendo sobre las vidas reales de personas existentes y por existir. Ni qué decir, el homenaje que significaría su implementación hacia los que ya dejaron este mundo, al haberse visto aprisionados en un conflicto que lleva más de medio siglo atosigando a Colombia.

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Imagen por cortesía de: https://periodistarural.wordpress.com

La primera impresión que tuve fue de puro agrado. Se debe a que el texto es sorprendentemente claro, sencillo y fácil de comprender. Me refiero a que los que se encargaron de redactarlo se preocuparon realmente para que no se requiera una formación especial ni una educación demasiada elevada para poder comprender el contenido del texto. Además, todos los puntos mencionados en las declaraciones en la Parte 2 se pueden ver tratados dentro del mismo. (Cierto es que echo en falta el Capítulo 3.3; simplemente, no aparece y estoy actualmente en la búsqueda activa de esas páginas.)

Dicho esto, sería interesante saber cuál ha sido el empeño del Gobierno Colombiano para concienciar al pueblo de la importancia de acceder y leer dicho Acuerdo. Al mismo tiempo y en paralelo, habría que ver cuánto esfuerzo ha ejercido la ciudadanía para acceder y leerlo. Basta con una visita a la página web Oficial del Acuerdo de Paz, para comprobar que la administración actual no ha escatimado ni en técnica ni en talento para hacer que dicha iniciativa sea aún más comprensible y que esté al alcance de todos. Pero, ¿cuál ha sido el alcance real de todo ese esfuerzo? ¿Ha llegado esa información a las comunidades más vulnerables y apartadas del país?

De igual manera, fue conmovedor descubrir lo integrador que es cada capítulo y cada punto que conciernen tanto a los ciudadanos como a los antiguos miembros de las FARC-EP (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia- Ejército del Pueblo) que han pactado retornar a la vida civil. No solo mencionaba hombres, mujeres, niños, niñas y personas de edad avanzada. Igualmente consideraba las diferentes etnias, las situaciones geográficas, las distintas orientaciones sexuales así como las disimilitudes en sus necesidades, vulnerabilidades y sus potenciales contribuciones a la sociedad.

Sobre todo, el lector tiene la sensación de que se le otorga una consideración especial a las mujeres y niñas cuando se habla de la necesidad de protección de la ciudadanía, cuando mencionan iniciativas sobre la concesión de tierras, o algo tan sencillo como asegurar el acceso a servicios de salud para comunidades marginadas.

Por esta razón, cabe preguntar: ¿Cuantos de los que habitan en zonas rurales/marginadas/de alto riesgo han conseguido expresar su voto en las urnas? De la misma manera, ¿cuántas personas consideradas las más vulnerables en Colombia pudieron participar en las votaciones?

Lo siguiente que salta a la vista es que en más de una ocasión, se aludía en la posibilidad de revisar y en casos necesarios, de modificar las normas vigentes para ajustarse a la nueva realidad tras la firma del Acuerdo.

Entonces, al ponerse en el lugar de los votantes del “No”: ¿sería posible que ellos sintieran inseguridad al ver que podían haber aún más cambios de lo previsto? ¿y que esos cambios inesperados tengan que ver con lo que ya conocen y a lo que ya están acostumbrados? ¿y finalmente, que teman que dichos cambios les perjudique a ellos mientras que beneficie “demasiado” a los que creen que no son merecedores de “tanto” (comprensión, consideración, PERDÓN…)?

El Acuerdo es ambicioso pero esperanzador. Y como cualquier proyecto de esta magnitud, no hay duda de que se necesitarían montones de recursos (dinero, tiempo, esfuerzo y sobre todo voluntad!) para poder llevarlo a cabo. Luego es lógico que se quiera averiguar, ¿cómo se financiarían las acciones que corresponden a los acuerdos particulares, para comenzar a sentar las bases de una paz estable y duradera? (El Acuerdo menciona la posibilidad de aceptar ayuda internacional, tanto técnica como financiera para llevar a cabo dichas acciones.)

Sin querer analizar el Acuerdo en detalle, solamente me queda por preguntar ¿de qué manera participaría el pueblo Colombiano a la hora de llevar a la justicia y después, condenar y sancionar a las personas políticas vinculadas a organizaciones criminales?

Ahora que el mundo entero ya conoce la voluntad de los votantes, muchos se rascan la cabeza, preguntándose por las razones que han motivado los que elijieron el “No”. Pero vistas las cifras de dicha votación, en mi humilde opinión más que preguntar por qué ganó el “No”, quizás es incluso más importante saber por qué hubo un 63% de abstención.

No es cosa baladí, ya que en la parte introductoria del Acuerdo, se menciona que:

“La participación ciudadana es el fundamento de todos los acuerdos que constituyen el Acuerdo Final. Participación en general de la sociedad en la construcción de la paz y participación en particular en la planeación, la ejecución y el seguimiento a los planes y programas en los territorios, que es además una garantía de transparencia.

Además, la participación y el diálogo entre los diferentes sectores de la sociedad contribuyen a la construcción de confianza y a la promoción de una cultura de tolerancia, respeto y convivencia en general, que es un objetivo de todos los acuerdos. Décadas de conflicto han abierto brechas de desconfianza al interior de la sociedad, en especial en los territorios más afectados por el conflicto. Para romper esas barreras se requiere abrir espacios para la participación ciudadana más variada y espacios que promuevan el reconocimiento de las víctimas, el reconocimiento y establecimiento de responsabilidades, y en general, el reconocimiento por parte de toda la sociedad de lo ocurrido y de la necesidad de aprovechar la oportunidad de la paz.”

– Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de una Paz Estable y Duradera, Introducción, párrafos 7 y 8, páginas 4-5

Un artículo de la BBC cita la falta de consciencia de la ciudadanía en la efectividad de las votaciones para lograr cambios en la sociedad. Donde los comentarios más frecuentes son del tipo, “Mi voto no vale para nada.”

Otra razón mencionada por el mismo artículo era el poco tiempo que tenía el pueblo Colombiano para asimilar el Acuerdo.

Además, la meteorología parece que también ejerció un peso significativo, ya que los que habitan en la zona del Caribe fueron devastados por el huracán Matthew y no pudieron acudir a las urnas…

A mi modo de ver, habría que sumar a todas esas razones el hecho de que a lo largo de la historia de la democracia, muchos ya han sido los temas convertidos en lemas electorales y armas de politiqueo. En esos casos, los políticos parece que solo se preocupaban de si un éxito o un hito histórico se quedaría o no asociado con sus partidos. Y entonces, los medios de comunicación se llenan de discursos, entrevistas y declaraciones que poco a poco van asemejándose a una telenovela más que a una agenda seria al servicio del pueblo. Como consecuencia, el mismo pueblo se harta y se convence de que al votar estaría votando por, o mejor dicho, apoyando a un partido político.

Este es el peligro que se presenta cuando los políticos se apropian o tienen la intención de apropiarse de los buenos resultados de la implementación de sus plataformas/propuestas/promesas. Pués no es así. De hecho, el éxito de cualquier programa socio-político se debe a la participación del pueblo, y no a quiénes lo ha ideado porque el “idear” ya forma parte de sus descripciones laborales. Por lo tanto, el éxito de cualquier programa socio-político pertenece al pueblo. (Lamentablemente en los últimos años, está siendo más frecuente la cosecha de fracasos por parte de muchos ciudadanos.)

Últimamente, y en todo el mundo, los políticos han convertido el servicio público en un concurso para saber quién de entre ellos y sus rivales han hecho más (no necesariamente mejor) para el pueblo. Lo que debería ser una parte pequeña de la tarea de los políticos, lo que debería servirles para el marketing de sus partidos ahora se ha transformado en su razón de ser. No se puede negar que esto fatiga a cualquier ciudadano. Ese mismo ciudadano haría bien en expresar su cansancio.

En un entorno democrático se considera el ser “follonero” como un comportamiento normal y frecuentemente el motivo del jaleo es para quejarse. Cuanto más alboroto (entiéndanme, que sea del tipo pacífico y sin violencia), más ruido y más expresiones de descontento, mejor. Son síntomas de una democracia sana, viva, activa. En el momento que reina el silencio es cuando uno debería empezar a preocuparse.

En el caso de Colombia, es importante prestar atención tanto a los que estuvieron conformes, como a los que se opusieron al Acuerdo. Esa es la única manera de acercar posturas y llegar a una resolución. Pero sería muchísimo más interesante sacar lecciones a partir de lo que la prensa internacional ha llamado “la apatía electoral”.

 

-Fin-

Fuentes:

  1. “Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de una Paz Estable y Duradera”, disponible en: https://www.mesadeconversaciones.com.co/sites/default/files/24_08_2016acuerdofinalfinalfinal-1472094587.pdf
  2. Página web Oficial del Acuerdo de Paz entre Gobierno de Colombia y FARC: http://www.acuerdodepaz.gov.co/
  3. “Así han sido los resultados del plebiscito en Colombia”, disponible en: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2016/10/02/colombia/1475372741_072614.html

  4. “¿Qué proponen los que votaron por el no en el plebiscito?”, por CNN Español, disponible en: http://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2016/10/03/que-proponen-los-que-votaron-por-el-no-en-el-plebiscito/
  5. “Las razones por las que el ‘No’ se impuso en el plebiscito en Colombia”, por Boris Miranda, disponible en: http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-37537629

  6. “Qué dice de Colombia que haya habido 62% de abstención en el histórico plebiscito por el proceso de paz”, Redacción BBC Mundo, disponible en: http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-37539590

  7. “¿Es tendenciosa la pregunta del plebiscito en Colombia sobre los acuerdos de paz con las FARC?”, por Natalio Cosoy, disponible en: http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-37239265

Chomsky’s quote on Neoliberal Democracy- a reflection

“Neoliberal democracy. Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless.

In sum, neoliberalism is the immediate and foremost enemy of genuine participatory democracy, not just in the United States but across the planet, and will be for the foreseeable future.”

-Noam Chomsky

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Image courtesy of: http://institutomz.com

I finally found time and space to write about this quotation by Professor Noam Chomsky. I was supposed to have done this sooner but three things happened and they’ve prevented me from complying with the scheduled pipeline of posts:

  1. I was waiting (in vain) for any type of reaction from any type of person about this quotation. I wanted to know whether they could relate to it, whether reading it made them stop to think about their lifestyle, or whether they thought I was simply going nuts… As you might’ve guessed, I did not get any response. Not one “Like”, not one “Huh”, niente. So I did what I usually do when in a situation of no-data: I started people watching (and sometimes, unintentionally eavesdropping). More specifically, I started to closely observe people when they exit different stores (bakery, grocery, shopping mall, cafés, restaurants, bookshops, cinema, theater, concert hall, gym, cooking lessons, etc…). Luckily, I live in a quartier with varied shops and services so it was easier. What’s more, Paris has been generous with the “non-rainy” weather so it was a perfect time for me to walk my son and do my semi-research.
  2. Chomsky is not easy to read. Chomsky is not easy to read. Chomsky is NOT easy to read.
  3. The life of an 11-month old baby happened every single day.

Below is a rough description of what I found out; rough because information was gathered only through observation, and rough as well due to the short time I dedicated doing such people-watching activity. I do not claim to write universal truths. Rather, I claim to document some conclusions I gathered from the dispersed and even random observations that sometimes presented a pattern.

Thank you for your understanding, dear reader.

I have decided to slice Chomsky’s quotation in different parts and present my corresponding reflections about them. You may proceed to “Conclusions” should the whole text be too tedious for you. I do hope to have tickled your brain.

“Neoliberal Democracy”

Neoliberalism (noun): a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors from the public sector to the private sector. It suggests that governments must limit subsidies, make reforms to tax law in order to expand the tax base, reduce deficit spending, limit protectionism and open markets up to trade. It also seeks to abolish fixed exchange rates, back deregulation, permit private property, and privatize businesses run by the state (Investopedia).

Democracy (noun): Form of government where a constitution guarantees basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections and independent courts of law.

In other words, in this environment it would seem that the chosen leaders of states limit their economic participation to being of service to the market which eventually results to the benefit of the capital (as opposed to their sworn oath to serve the people).

Consider how fast governments react when faced with a financial crisis, as opposed to situations when they have to manage a humanitarian disaster… For instance, how long did it take “Brussels” to rescue national banks during the debt crisis, and how long did it take the same institution to disburse aid in countries which received and hosted refugees?

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Image courtesy of: http://themarketsoul.com

Thus, these first two words- neoliberal democracy- seem to be referring to democracy designed to serve the market, and ultimately the capital. It is where citizens choose (or denounce) their leaders, who in turn pledge to serve them (or are ousted from their post) but whose allegiance is highly questionable due to the interests they fiercely protect once they hold office.

“Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls”

The heart of Chomsky’s quotation is based on the wide-spreading habit of consumerism: there comes a point where consumers lose their humanity trying to keep up with certain standards of living promoted by reality shows, celebrities and glossy magazines, to name a few influencers. Communities are slowly being dispersed as individuals (even when they are in the company of friends or family) scout shopping malls, online stores or traditional shops to acquire and accumulate… only to realize that what they bought only a week ago is of “no use”, “fashionable”, “à la mode“, “cool” anymore, making them want to acquire and accumulate some more. Likewise, think about how in most cases the items people buy not only go quickly out of fashion, but they also require OTHER products for their maintenance and protection. The same goes for the wide range of services offered for such ends.

Apparently, this neoliberal-flavored democracy makes sure that private consumption is highly encouraged; as it is proving to be a very effective tool to energize (or recharge!) markets and satisfy capital (ists). (Financialization is of course THE tool, but that subject belongs to a separate post.)

Notice how progress is usually equated to abundance- simplified by mechanisms such as credit cards and periodical payments that encourage fast-paced and immediate consumerism practically anywhere in the globe. An important part of the immense middle-classes subscribe to this behaviour.

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Image courtesy of: http://www.capsweb.org

Try to honestly look at the society you live in and evaluate whether individuals are convinced of this mentality. It’s easy to see how, when elevated at a national level, this psychology could lead to the conclusion that accumulation of material objects is the most important indicator of advancement in the society: the more goods and services one can get hold of, more successful is the person!

Therefore, as it is only natural for people to aim for progress and betterment of their lives (and of their households), they will catch up on this trend and enter the vicious cycle of acquisition, accumulation, isolation, desperation… But this is getting ahead of the topic.

“The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless”

When giving in the urge to consume (read: to buy), people usually feel an immediate burst of happiness. Suddenly, the touch of the latest mobile phone, the feel of a new shirt or the shiny glare of a jewelry excites the heart. It gives the similar euphoric sensation of having reached a mountain top, or having passed an exam- SUCCESS. Yet, unlike the more lasting satisfaction of overcoming a tough challenge, the contentment one receives from buying lasts only a very little while. After the feeling is gone, people are once again defeated by the longing to buy some more (after all, there are not many people who would climb the same mountain peak twice in one month or who would request to do the same test just for the thrill of it).

This cycle would go on and without noticing, the buyers become trapped in their own bubble of possessions and accumulation that they find it hard to see outside of it. And so it goes: branching out but never seeming to stop, forming layers of veil around the consumers’ eyes, blinding them further. This inevitably results in isolation and eventually, in desperation.

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Image courtesy of: https://daily-dose-of-art.com

An exception could be made for those who consume culture (meaning: those who buy AND make use of books, magazines, board games). The same could be observed for people who acquire services related to entertainment, health and well-being: they seem to at least be more in contact with society (social media included). Without exactly entering in their psyche to draw conclusions on how they feel, people who consume culture at least do not seem too disengaged from society. Rationally speaking: they would be aware of current political, social and economic happenings around, about and beyond. They are able to form opinions, share them and perhaps learn (if they are open-minded enough) from others who have opposing ideas and experiences. This is a participatory activity. This is engagement. This is empowering.

With regards to demoralization, it’s not easy to directly blame it to an individual’s lack of social engagement. For it cannot be denied that there exists a risk of demoralization both in being socially detached as well as being too attached to a cause.

As for powerlessness: further reading on Chomsky is necessary to know what he means with being “powerful” or “powerless”. Because: who among the normal, everyday Joes, Janes, Josés, Abduls, Rajahs, Pierres, Célines, Paolos, Ciaras, Zhangs, Tangs, manongs and manangs truly feel powerful in relation to their societal ranking?

“In sum, neoliberalism is the immediate and foremost enemy of genuine participatory democracy…”

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Image courtesy of: http://bcrw.barnard.edu

It should not be a surprise for the professor/activist to conclude that neoliberalism merely gives an illusion of freedom. Indeed it facilitates access to goods, services and even to opportunities! but in reality, it traps citizens into a cycle of constant buying and accumulating.

To quote a part of another post from this blog:

Georg Simmel used fashion as a fantastic example to explain my point: “The elite initiates a fashion and, when the mass imitates it in an effort to obliterate the external distinctions of class, abandons it for a newer mode- a process that quickens with the increase of wealth.”

Notice how the middle-class have lately become quite busy purchasing the now-accessible goods and services (most of the times with the now more-accessible credit) which make them feel like they’ve reached a higher echelon in society- cars, properties, branded clothing, lavish celebrations, vacations overseas, and so on… All the while consuming, they don’t seem to notice how the economic gap is actually widening, not slowly diminishing. Something inside me says that this phenomenon has been successful in somehow placating conflicts that could possibly stem from the common people.

Why not take the system “by the horns” and turn it to favor the majority? People can start consuming more culture, health and/or well-being to improve their personal growth and at the same time stimulate participation in the immediate and more global community.

As long as democracy is the scenery, the people still hold a slight (if not marginal; if not illusionary?) “power” over deciding the fate of the societies they thrive in. As long as freedom of choice, speech and expression are not yet punishable by law, people still have the chance to play this game and win something from it.

“…not just in the United States but across the planet, and will be for the foreseeable future”

For a long time now, the United States has always been considered as a model for success, crediting a democractic system that boosts opportunities. And if democracy has been painted as the ideal situation to flourish, then it is only normal for the rest of the world to look up to its greatest champion (?). It is only befitting if other societies applied what the Americans are doing to enjoy that kind of freedom (with opportunities, of course).

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Image courtesy of: http://www.wakingtimes.com

Therefore, it should not be a shock if people are all around are being converted into hasty, impulse purchasers and that communities have been replaced by shopping malls, cafés, Apple stores, internet fora discussing about Pokemon Go tips, and so forth. Observe how ads try to convince buyers that patronizing such and such product is liberating (think of a perfume brand), or it makes one a responsible parent (think of a tire brand), encouraging socializing (think of dating websites), empowering (think of an energy drink), etc… It does seem that purchasing is a very important manner with which to enjoy the freedom a democratic system offers.

Only lately (and perhaps this is because of the ease with which information is accessed- thanks to technology!) Scandinavian countries are redefining what an “ideal situation” is, to include wealth redistribution when referring to progress. This results in a society with the habit of making decisions for the common good. For example, the citizens willingly pay higher taxes (which means less disposable money for consumption) in exchange for benefits that their family and others could enjoy. Of course, the Nordic Model is not without challenges and controversy. Still, it is worth mentioning and hopefully also of emulating.

Chomsky might have had a vision when he pronounced the last part of his statement. Evidence is just around the corner. Thankfully, nothing is permanent and information keeps flowing, just like power politics. So even if it will take time to materialize, this humble blogger is defying the professor’s prognosis by predicting that there will be societies to challenge the current world order and new generations will resist conforming to the numbing comforts of neoliberalism. The phenomenon will not be totally global, but resistance will prevail and it will traverse frontiers and eras.

Conclusions

Within a neoliberal democratic environment, citizens supposedly feel powerful as they “hold” the keys of their future. They vote for their leaders, express their discontent and can even denounce the same leaders they once trusted. However, the said leaders propel the citizens to slowly but surely succumb to the comforts offered by consumption, as they limit their economic participation to guaranteeing smooth markets and satisfied capital (ists). Eventually, the need to keep filling the void in people’s lives through purchasing plus the requirement to maintain, repair, protect and care for their acquired possessions begin to bait them in a vicious cylce that engages their time, and their interests until they lose such time and interest for others- for the society. In this case, their power to shape the future of their societies become limited to protecting their own interests without regards to how their neighbors are faring. They become isolated in their constant need to possess and to amass.

However, consumerism may take different forms; there exist other types of goods and services to buy and enjoy. By supporting products that enrich ones’ perspectives and encourage ones’ interest for diverse cultures, ideas and experiences, the citizens who were once trapped in their own “comfortable” world could gain exposure. They could have the chance to share, live and win something from this game designed to benefit only a few.

If this trend is to be supported by the new breed, if it continues and is spread throughout borders and generations, then genuine participatory democracy can be enjoyed by more and within a longer period of time.

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Image courtesy of: http://tecnologia-educativa-alma.blogspot.fr

 Sources:

  1. “Market Democracy in a Neoliberal Order: Doctrines and Reality” by Noam Chomsky, available at: https://chomsky.info/199711__/
  2. “How I see Economic Inequality, Part 1”, by Karessa Ramos, available at: https://colorfulifesite.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/how-i-see-economic-inequality-1/
  3. Investopedia
  4. Author’s notes