Friday, September 23, 2016

El Desengaño Anti-Populista

On balance it probably would have been better if Gloria Álvarez had screeched ‘this shitty country’ or even ‘our shitty country’ as opposed to ‘your shitty country’. 

Maybe the slip occurred because she has been promoting her book in Argentina, where there just might be something in the air that tends to inflate one’s pelotas. But she claims it happened a while back. 

Slighting the patria is the big red button in all of Latin America and she should have been aware of this before calling the journalist; along with the intuition that most hacks tend to record phone calls and then sit around polishing these little gems.

But it isn’t really the affront to the hemisphere’s hyptertrophied patriotism that bothered me when I listened to La Glow’s invective. It was the barely-concealed threat at the end, which suggested to me that she is possibly more part of the problem than the solution. 

The possession of multiple faces is very much a national trait. At the very least, most Chapines appear to have a public face plus a more private brincón persona, which sometimes escapes into the public sphere. (Viz. current Presidente). 

In my own experience people who state 'You don't know who you are dealing with / No sabés con quien te metés! really ought to have framed this as a question for themselves in the first instance. 

On at least one occasion someone I know very well, but who was at the time unaware that they were addressing me online, has invoked a whole host of largely imaginary wing-men, including AK wielding narcos who were supposedly going to come and fuck me up, tout suite. 

The irony here is that Crazyglorita's use of huevos is indicative of how the term has become a euphemism in this region for an often pathetic display of power by the otherwise powerless. So, in the context of El Engaño Populista, the question one obviously faces is what happens when these individuals actually achieve some sort of power?

And whilst you might need the common touch to win votes here, on the other hand, sacando lo corriente can end up being a longish-term handicap.  (Viz. current Presidente; again.) 

Up until this SoundCloud leak, the worst that could be said of Gloria was that her tirades were full of rather too obvious redactions, as if her cherished ideology were wielding an unconscious black marker pen. 

Yes, she tended to 'parrot' the sage pronouncements of her intellectual idols such as Hayek, but I was always loath myself to parrot the 'Crazy Lorita' put down, because I detected a nastier, more dismissive edge to its use on social media in Guatemala. There's an all too obvious tendency to respond to her polemics with barely-concealed sexism or class-chippery. (Even this blog post is not entirely free of it.)

I come from an academic tradition which abhors dogma in all forms, and this has left me with the abiding impression that ideologies should be sternly interrogated and then, if necessary, rubbished. 

However, another lesson I learned as an historian was that bias and loudly ground axes are everywhere, and that the truth isn't something that can be said to exist apart from all these partial sources; it is something one has to try to piece together from them. 

Buscandoasyd accuses Gloria of being manca, but one-armedness is surely the abiding characteristic of those on the Left that her public positions most discomfit. 

Yes, somewhat ironically, there is a degree of populist rhetoric within her critiques of Latin American populismo, but maybe this is just a consequence of her attempt to do something a tad unusual: address, from the right, the widest possible audience with a quirky, vernacular, on-the-verge-of-popular touch. 

Yet she is not, as far as I can tell, attempting to use the politics of resentment to snatch power. What she might be accused of doing however, like many of her apparent opponents on the Left, is using hostile language that, whilst appearing to be directed at those on the opposite extreme of the political spectrum, actually serves to undermine the centre. 

We see this in the manner with which Latin American lefties deploy the term neoliberalismo for example. Meanwhile, Gloria Álvarez's support for Gary Johnson in the US election is 'deplorable', as HRC might say, because voting for third parties in America has been compared to sending out a prayer, something which Gloria would no doubt disapprove of. It also has the potential to skew the result towards more unpleasant agendas. 

Anyway, in spite of the fact that Gloria has been rather publicly found out using palabras soeces - rather like the possibly Crazy Lorita that was supposed to sing Alabaré, Alabaré and instead mouthed Que perra es mi amiga - I do still think she can perform a public service as an often lone voice here against the notion that political change (e.g. a redistribution of state power) can deliver a full package of solutions. 

I constantly aver that the deeper problems of this nation are cultural not political. What the country surely needs is not to much to dismiss Gloria's 'propaganda’ outright, but to develop a citizenry that can see through it in such a way that they can find their way through - intellectually - to the middle way on their own, at least when necessary. 

So, hard though it might be for me to admit, in some ways we might actually need the partiality of unmistakeable dogmatists. 

And here in Latin America it is especially handy when the right appears to be offering its own alternative to leftist universalism, instead of adopting a position which keeps its head below the parapet or seems otherwise grounded solely in vested interests and selfishness.

Unfortunately however, Gloria appears to have wound up in much same situation as this bird...

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