ponderous ponderings

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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I had a great political discussion with Carla, quien es de Santiago de Chile.  She studies some sort of environmental policy degree here at UBA (Universidad de Buenos Aires).  Somehow the topic came up, and she asked me whether I liked or disliked Bush, to which I responded “ni uno ni el otro.”  I told her that while I don’t think he’s the devil reincarnate who masks his true intensions with layers of lies, I whole-heartedly disagree with his foreign policy.  I told her that I know its necessary that all heads of state (for that matter, all federal employees) look out first and foremost for their nation (just as is required of all employees of a company), but that I don’t think this requirement removes moral responsibility from how we treat the rest of the world.  For me personally, the interests of the US do not supersede those of the world.  Carla was like-minded in her evaluation of the US style of pursuing national interests and subsequent trumping of the world.  But she did disagree with me on one point, for her, Bush really is the devil reincarnate, o por lo menos un gran demoño (in more or less words).  I felt that we shared a mutual connection in the purpose of our studies and goal of having a career that benefits the world as a whole (que lástima que esa chica linda tiene un novio!).

[Later addendum] Perhaps it is not even so much that US trumps the world in pursuit of its interests (I'm not saying whether it has or it hasn't), but that our official National Security Strategy document, available to everyone in the world via internet, clearly spells out to each organism that inhabits this earth that he or she or it matters less than our national interests, will be disregarded or pushed aside in pursuit of our goals.  THAT is what ticks off the world.  Even if we HAVE to follow this sort of policy, do we have to spell it out so clearly for everyone that we don't give a flip about them?  I'm just talking basic human relationships here (and hence the problem, individuals can be altruistic, but not states?) - aren't we making a recipe to piss of the world?  Turning our nation-state girlfriends into ex's?

We also talked about the irony of Michele Bachelet’s “socialist” designation.  After telling me that nothing in Chile is publicly owned, I asked what the heck makes South America’s only female president AND her predecessor “socialist.”  She said that she’s been asking the same question.  Apparently Lula da Silva over in Brazil is socialist as well, which I didn’t know.  If you squint and rotate to just the right angle, you can glimpse Brazilian socialism (let’s call it “sosha-light”).  It makes me laugh to compare Mussolini’s socialism to today’s avowed socialists.

This was the first political conversation I’ve had with someone while in Buenos Aires, and it was very interesting to hear Carla’s point of view.  Though mostly what I would expect from anyone outside the states (or inside for that matter), especially in South America, it is important to get a personal feel for how outsiders view your country.

[Later addendum] I just remembered something else that Carla and I talked about - the current crappy situation between the global north and south.  Or rather, the crappy situation for the global south.  Her knowingly impossible dream would be for all countries to adhere to the same economic policy, and that it be a policy that minds the positions and interests of other states, instead of trying to gain the most for itself.  If only.  As an example of what can happen even if countries all follow the same policy, I talked about Menem’s implementation of the liberal prescription that was to be taken as no less than God’s truth with official approval by the countries and organizations that control the system, the prescription that led Argentina into the crash of 2001 after Menem’s exit.  The end of our discussion amounted to an acknowledgement of problems in the international system, principally between the global north and south, that we don’t have answers now, but that once I’m president of the US, and she is president of Chile, vamos a cambiar el mundo!

Someone once told me that Capitalism is so gloriously touted because it gives moral justification for naturally greedy man.  In a new level of introspection, I recently discovered a tendency that causes me to support the idea that I want more to be right, not the one which I have objectively chosen based on pro’s and con’s.  This is a very important discovery, and I can see where I have used it much throughout my life, especially recently when evaluating (and usually vehemently supporting and defending) idealist ideology.  I look forward to any personal conclusions, decisions, or realizations I encounter while looking at the world through a clearer glass.

So... remember how, in my last blog entry, I told you that I saw my friend Sarah from Spanish class here?  Well, I went running today con mis amigas Vicky y Diuliana (quien querían caminar más que correr), y I ran into my friend Juaquin from Tech!  Isn’t that just ridiculous?  Here I am, running on the streets of Buenos Aires, and find myself face to face with a friend from back home!  Que loco.  Apparently he is here with his brother just visiting the city (his family is originally from El Salvador).  I got his email and hotel phone number, and we’re gonna go out later in the week, pretty sweet huh?

I talked with a girl (I can’t remember her name for the life of me, darn it) who studies English at the USAL (where I my classes are) and is interested in being a translator.  I asked her opinions about the current spat between Uruguay and Argentina over the construction of papeleras (paper mills) on the river that separates the two countries.  Though the mills will be on the Uruguayan side, they could significantly pollute the Argentine side of the river.  Argentina filed a (formal?) complaint at an EU-Latin America summit in Vienna.  My friend believed that Uruguay was in the right in this case.  She said that the government and the students and the town and greenpeace (who had one really hot member - a Carnaval beauty queen - interrupt a meeting about the Papeleras by stripping down to a bikini and holding up a sign - "No a las papeleras, si a la vida” - LOL)  would not give a flip if it was being built on the Argentine side.  She (more or less) explained that it boils down to pride (and if you wanted to give them more credit - a question of violation of state’s sovereign boundaries, if the damage spills over to the Argentine side).  She also said that Argentine’s just really like to protest, which I can definitely agree with and attest to, especially while reading about Argentina’s history and, even more so, following its current news and happenings.  The English paper here - the Herald - casually mentions strikes that close down buildings, etc.  I remember talking with another woman as well about the transportation strikes and how people deal with those frequent occurrences.  She said that la gente are used to it - used to waking up some mornings not being able to make it to work.

[Later Addendum]  I asked my roommate Mauricio (Ecuador, 30) his thoughts about the Uruguay-Argentina Papeleras conflict:  he more or less said that he couldn’t decide black or white which country was “in the right.”  For ecological reasons, he believed Argentina is correct, but as far as having the “right” to create the Papeleras on the river, he felt that it was definitely within Uruguay’s national sovereignty to build them.  I tend to disagree with that second diagnosis.  To me, for Uruguay to have the “right,” it would need to take extra precautions to ensure that pollution would not affect Argnetina’s side of the river; and then also have a back-up plan of what to do if (more likely, when) the pollution managed to affect the other side - not only clean-up measures, but also possibly monetary compensation; or maybe Argentina should opt for a share of the profits from the start and allow a specific, quantifiable amount of pollution on its side of the river.

"Kirchner stood with Cabinet officials and many of Argentina's governors and accused Uruguay of violating their treaty over the use of the Uruguay River. He demanded that Uruguay suspend construction of the mills until a third and independent study is done of their environmental impact."

"Until Tuesday, and for much of the last year, some in the crowd had been blocking Route 136, which leads from Gualeguaychu to Uruguay. Along with similar protests elsewhere in Argentina, the Gualeguaychu roadblock kept crews from delivering construction supplies to the plants."

"At a total cost of more than $1.7 billion, the paper mills represent the largest foreign investment in Uruguay's history. They are seen as a crucial source of jobs for the depressed region around Fray Bentos, with 2,000 people already employed to build the plant run by the Finnish conglomerate Metsa-Botnia Oy. Spain's Grupo Empresarial ENCE is building the other, smaller mill"

[Later Addendum]  Another very important facet of this issue to look at - perhaps the most important in the long run - is the role of the two companies investing to create the Papeleras, companies from Spain and Finland.  The mills are too polluting to use in Europe, so the move them to Latin America.  For some reason, this is ringing a bell... (should we go back to the (ex-)girlfriend analogy?  What else would get a boyfriend dumped (and arrested)).

Some of this will be repeated in my other “class-only” blog, but I wanted to get it out today before I forgot any of it, thanks for reading!  :)

Everyday my eyes are opened more to the fantastic differences that make us distinct but at the same time am shown so clearly and vividly the strands that connect us all, the similarities that go overlooked yet bind us together stronger than any differences could ever push us apart - commonalities that make one forget to what nation he belongs to and to what ideology he clings.

Love you guys!  -Derek

PS - "Loose lips sink ships” anybody?  I need an explanation.

coair says:
Posted on: May 22, 2006
X_Drive says:
Loose Lips Sinks Ships....
This was advise given to GIs on what to say and what not to say when writing home, carrying on a conversation, or if captured during WWII.
Posted on: May 20, 2006
UniverseRunr55 says:
oh i forgot to mention. Para las empanadas mas maravillosas del mundo, coma en Solo Empandas :)

why do 3rd world countries get treated as the dumping grounds of "richer" countries! the more we stress the differences between the global north and global south, i think the more we allow it to be a part of life as opposed to an idea of change.

the protesting in Argentina is quite funny, after you get over the whole ridiculosity and how annoying it can be to wake up one day and not be able to withdraw cash from an ATM when the ATM bankers protested (like we experienced in the 1st week we were there in BA). Protesting really is a part of life. Its like the portenos are just so unsatisfied with their life that protesting is the new "social order" with their government being so corrupt sometime.
Posted on: May 18, 2006
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