El periódico Honduras Weekly no aceptó que se publicara este artículo hace un año. A ver si lo leen y me dicen cuál es el improperio.
Welcome to the Country Fair
León Leiva Gallardo
The other night as I pondered about how negatively my country is perceived abroad, a series of images, names, and historical events came to mind as a mode of defense. (I often succumb to a sort of infantile regression when I’m taunted by bullies of all sorts.) You see, readers, my home may be the smallest and most humble of homes, but I still regard it as the most special place in the world. Sometimes one must insist on such child-like stands because, after all, they do reflect the most sincere response the admonitions of those who think themselves all-knowing and yet fail to grasp the concepts of cultural relativism, and—God forbid!—won’t dare subscribe to the concepts of foreign domination and exploitation.
In the beginning of The Charter House of Parma, the French novelist Stendhal affords intriguing observations about the attitudes that the French and the Italians have towards the poor. He notes that the French see poverty as ridiculous and of bad taste, whereas the Italians, he seems to imply, have a better acceptance of misery and actually feel compassion for the less fortunate. My inclination would be to agree with Stendhal and, following the same line of thought, I would add that the English and Americans think that poverty is a social disease, and most likely a spiritual chancre, as a result of falling out of God’s grace. (Think Calvinism.) The Spaniards and Latin Americans in general, I would say, have the same attitude as the Italians. It is easy to understand why. Centuries of Catholicism propagating the idea of a suffering god have endowed us “southerners” with a soft spot for the disenfranchised; something that, by the way, does not mean that we are more egalitarian.
But of course these are all generalizations and stereotypes. Let us pursue them further. What then do Hondurans think of the poor? The expected attitude would be one of compassion and understanding, yet, if I may add, this will only be found among the soft of heart.
Most Hondurans who are in the position to have an opinion on the subject would think that the poor are lazy, that the ignorant are brutes, and that the rebels are criminals. This is more than a stereotype. You can ask any wealthy businessman, young professional, or woman of a “good family name”, and you will receive the same answer. Try it. If you run into someone who thinks otherwise then you have encountered a very rare species called the clase pensante
(the thinking class). The thinking class will follow up with the aforementioned concepts of foreign domination and exploitation, and will eventually hit you on the face with the most expected next blow, European domination and exploitation and finally, the horror!, American domination and exploitation. And that is not polite at all. Let us not offend the sensibilities of our closest foreign patrons. Honduras is still for sale. Some of the cheapest products of Honduran poverty are congressmen and congresswomen: Cheaper than a mule, the infamous citation still reads.
In such state of affairs, we will continue to be bullied and laughed at. Foreign attitudes will not change as long as there are people who would rather wait for the next drop of money to fall from the pyramid-trickle of corruption (the trickle-down theory of Reaganomics) than to adopt the defense mode of the thinking class.
The other cheap products of Honduran poverty are talent and intelligentsia. You see, it takes more than thinking to be part of the thinking class. It takes a little compassion too. And I would rather use the term empathy, but I want to avoid using psychological terms, lest they contaminate our mode of understanding. Poverty is not a social or psychological disease; it is a historical reality, an ongoing history of relations of power. Our only mode of defense for now is education. Honduras will continue to be poor for the rest of the century as a result of the enemies within, those who sell themselves cheaper than a mule; and our enemies without will never have any respect for us so long as we have these merchants of poverty. How dare we criticize the likes of William Walker, Zemurray, and/or Negroponte, who meant to perpetuate our misery, when we have government officials, businessmen, religious leaders, and lawyers who sell themselves cheaper than a mule.
In comparison to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, the United States has had to use very little force to impose its pauperized version of democracy upon Honduras. I guess the thinking class is too small and weak. I insist that the only one way out of this situation is education.
Perhaps if we continue to enlist thinkers rather than merchants into our ranks and files, perhaps, the people in power (and the people under) will begin to feel embarrassed about their backwardness and our foreign patrons will stop thinking that we are ridiculous, sickly, and indecent. But to speak of education is not enough. Panaceas have proven to be useless, annoying reiterations that sound more like whining. When corruption is no longer a mere modus operandi
of a few in the machinery of the State and becomes a modus vivendi
of a larger population of trickle-down conformists, then the time has come for the thinking class to take things into their own hands.
Now, I suspect that Honduras is reaching a critical point, and the coming elections should prove to be quite a top-rated show. The charade, of course, leaves us with the nauseous sentiment of the absurd, of having to pretend that we do not exist because the fair is about to begin. The country fair, where the best breeds of mules will be picked out and placed on display, shall prove to be the most "affordable" elections since the 80’s. The grand finale will consist on the blinded citizens pinning the best mule’s ass with their idiotic certificates of approval.