A Guest Blog from Paul Baker, ex-hermit monk from the UK, who has lived 20 years plus in Nicaragua as a singer-songwriter and activist.
82% approval overall! While a few US presidents have achieved similar ratings in their sainted afterlife (Lincoln, Washington, the two Roosevelts and Jefferson) none has even come close during his (so far!) time in office. Yet here in Nicaragua we have President Daniel Ortega standing thus tall, having grown in popularity and approval year on year since the FSLN returned to government in 2006. Colleagues within the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), similarly long-serving presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia (58%) and Rafael Correa of Ecuador (59.5%), also show consistent levels of support way above the dreams of most Northern Powers politicians. And even the most recent member of ALBA, El Salvador’s Sánchez Cerén currently stands at 48%, despite having inherited crippling gang violence, often coalesced around criminals who picked up their vicious skills from US mentors on the streets of Los Angeles, California.
Yet, despite such overwhelming acceptance by the vast majority of Nicaraguans, the USA, first among equals in the self-proclaimed ‘Mother of Democracy’ stakes, continues to attempt to undermine the Sandinista government at every turn, just as they do all and any peoples’ governments and movements daring to gain ground here in the South (Honduras, Venezuela, Brasil)
To one still trying to shake off the ‘White Man’s Burden’ of the late unlamented British Empire, the hypocritical dogmas of pre-digested democracy still exert a visceral hold, just as the sex-obsessed mandates of the Christian churches continue to interfere with the joys of the bedroom and the reproductive rights of countless millions across the globe. With the resultant deprivation and imposed poverty still gnawingly present even in Sandinista Nicaragua, I’m consequently baffled by the open warmth and generosity people here show foreigners, even from the gringo US. Quite spontaneously. Indeed, when I recently underwent surgery here, not only were all costs covered by the Presidency, but humble people from our marginalized barrio scraping by on their princely one or two dollars a day stood in line to donate their very blood – a classic manifestation of the generosity of spirit that underpins the people’s creative and unconquerable resistance to the bullies of Washington, London, Brussels, and their correlative ‘regimes’, a generosity so far removed from our careful ‘charity’.
Now this is where I start to get mad! It’s justice, not charity of course, and regimes not ‘regimes’. Why the quotation marks? After living with so many friends and now relatives who’ve suffered so many tragedies in their own flesh: Margarita and Gabriel, Giovanna and Carlos, exiled to Edinburgh, who sang us their constant sorrow born of Nixon/Kissinger/Pinochet’s ghastly Chile; the Salvadoran families I lived with, tortured by death squads rampant even in Los Angeles; the post-traumatic stress imposed on my own ex-guerrillera wife, Fátima, who lives pursued by shadows and swallowed by nightmares even here in newly-vibrant Nicaragua, ‘charity’ should simply be erased from the dictionary and ‘regime’ should surely write itself regime, without hesitation or reserve. For, by all the tin pot criteria the Great Hypocrisies foist onto those they determine their latest straw-enemies, not only is it perfectly clear that those imperial governments are indeed regimes and far from genuine democracies, but also that they clearly stand in desperate need of ‘regime change’. After all, any society that manifests a continuing determination to prolong its centuries-old extortion/ravaging of the peoples and resources of the Global South simply to sustain its otherwise unsustainable way of life surely ranks as global terrorist. And the correlative fact that that very way of life is fecklessly poisoning an entire planet surely merits terrorist regime – no ambiguity, no parentheses.
Yet when I pointed out Ortega’s extraordinary popularity (and indeed the opposition’s extraordinarily dismal collective 5.4% approval rating) in response to a recent British Guardian newspaper article claiming that the FSLN government is suppressing the opposition, the woolly liberal chattering classes descended on me in a whirling vituperation of vultures. One person in particular I remember claimed that my splendid-sounding statistics were merely a government-generated smokescreen designed to bamboozle their people and naïve gringos into believing that nothing is rotten in the state of Nicaragua. I retorted that the figures actually came from a private polling company – M&R Associates, by no means pro-Sandinista; and asked why aren’t the obvious reasons for Ortega’s popularity the free health care and education, the Zero Hunger, Zero Usury and Houses for the People programs, the new roads and the flowering of people’s parks, filled with laughter, life and free internet(!)?
And here’s where I get really mad! Instead of, “Well, I must admit that sounds pretty impressive,” or “Oh, I wonder why the Guardian didn’t cover any of that?’, my interlocutor simply slithered away into the usual convenient speciousness we all employ when we refuse to confront the basic, profoundly inconvenient, truth: our tragic liberal penchant for pulling the wool over our own eyes because deep down we know we’re fundamentally complicit in that planet-destroying Northern regime; that our Lattes and Mocha Javas are de facto more valuable to us than the lives of the Nicaraguan coffee-pickers’ children; that, in short, we’re condemning ourselves, our children and our planet to the stealthy death of a thousand parentheses.
Ask yourself, where now are the millions of us who marched so fervently to protest the illegal war in Iraq? Where the hardy souls of Occupy Wall Street? Where now our countless numbers who gasped at the simple shining bravery of that lone figure standing before those thundering tanks, poised ready in Tiananmen Square? Or our limitless choked-back sobs at the sight of little Aylan Kurdi washed up lifeless on Turkey’s cold beach – all alone, lonely, so lonely in his tiny death?
Well, mostly back in Starbucks or similar along with the betrayed Bern-feelers, lamenting the fact that nothing, or at least so very little, ever changes. On the face of it, fair enough – people’s movements take time to build, don’t they? (and Starbucks has to open yet another 25 stores!) Stone on stone, wave upon wave, demonstration on demonstration? Well, yes; but just two things: one, it’s up to us, folks, there is no-one else. Don’t wait for leaders, especially not bought-and-paid-for politicians. And two, we are already out of time. We. Are. Already. Out. Of. Time.
So, what are we to do? I remember a trick question we novice monks were asked: “What would you do, Brother Paul, if you heard on good authority that the world will end tomorrow?” “Drop everything, Father, and pray like the very dickens!” Wrong, baby! The sneakily correct answer is of course to continue doing exactly what you’re already doing, since our whole lives were supposedly already entirely committed to the Lord. So, as activists, first we realize – make real – the fact that it now is truly up to us, all of us, individually and collectively to take that next step, whatever it is, wherever we are, 24/7/365. That there are no handy dei ex machina, no-one else, no more comforting parentheses to wrap around ourselves. Then, we have to start with us. For example, I’ve been trying to spark a Declare INTER-Dependence movement since the turn of the bloody century. So far, so pathetic: it’s still just me and the cats. (But do take a look, who knows? It might just hit the spot for you too.) That’s my step one. Number two is one last deathly parenthesis I’m determined to slay come what may – one that any one of us could also throttle so handily, starting right this minute. After all, who doesn’t want to get fitter, be healthier, lose weight, save money, contribute hugely to saving the planet – all from the comfort of her/his own home? It’s not another tricky monk question, just hard scientific fact. For, just as it’s increasingly obvious that global warming is already beginning to wipe tiny nations off the face of the Earth, besides flooding much of Bangladesh, New York, London, Boston and New Orleans, it’s also completely common knowledge that the meat industry contributes as much or even more than the automobile industry to greenhouse gases, and certainly consumes far more land, water and perfectly nourishing plant protein. So, why am I a lapsed vegan, feebly attempting to clamber back aboard the wagon yet again? Because, despite the fact that there are wonderful fully-vegan meals easily available and the ‘Ah, but vegans have a hard time finding vitamin this and trace element that’ myth has long been debunked, “I simply can’t live without my meat!” ‘Won’t’ is the word of course, to hell with ‘can’t’. Pitiful. Infantile. Tragic. For this simple refusal to do something so entirely achievable means that the 6th Great Extinction continues to gather pace, and all of us to slither inexorably and together ever closer to the all-encompassing abyss. Whatever your next step is, folks, it really is up to you, me, the cats and all of us together. Godot took the last bus out, and Truman picked up his buck and went home. Now, unsheathed reality: the bloody Planet stops here!
1. New Ranking of US Presidents Puts Lincoln 1, Obama 18, Kennedy Judged Most Overrated.
2.Venezuela- A look Back on the Nicaraguan War, et passim
3.Nicaragua Supresses Opposition to Ensure One- Party Election
4. Gobierno con alta calificación positiva en última encuesta de la serie SISMO de MyR | nacional y región centroamericana
5. Which is Worse for the Planet: Beef or Cars?
6.How Humans are Driving the Sixth Mass Extinction