" The More We Learn, The More We Realize Just How Little We Know, And How Much There Is Still To Be Learned " I come from the dramatic, revolutionary, albeit violent, yet 'magical' 60s. Opinionated and challenging, I write about current events, geopolitics, globalization, history, music, mainly classic rock, philosophy, pop culture, politics, religion, sociology, and anything else that defines the person which I am. 60s Child

Location: Miami, Florida, United States

I belong to a special generation, the 'Baby Boomer Generation', all 70 million of us. Mine is the countercultural, culture-changing, music-influenced, society-altering, rebellious, and revolutionary generation which grew up during the dramatic and violent, while in many ways exciting and 'magical' 1960s. After all these years, I still feel totally identified with the 60s, as that decade defines me. Although I was both a participating and observing member of the 'flower generation', I am a conservative in my political and sociological principles. As much as I appreciated the freedom and radical liberalism of the 60s, I nevertheless did not support the anti-war movement. I am also Roman Catholic, and teach catechism. AS I CONSIDER THE MUSIC OF THE 60s AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE CULTURE, AND CONSIDERING THAT EVEN AFTER 40 YEARS IT RETAINS ITS POWERFUL ALLURE, I WISH TO SHARE SOME OF MY 60s FAVORITE GROUPS: ANIMALS, B.BOYS, BEATLES, B.GEES, B.S.&T, CHICAGO, CREAM, C.C.R., C.S.N.&Y, E.L.O., E.L.P., 4 SEASONS, G.F.R., J.HENDRIX, KINKS, LED ZEP, MAMAS & PAPAS, M.BLUES, R.STONES, R.ORBISON, S.& G., WHO, YARDBIRDS EMAIL: A60sCHILDMAILBOX@aol.com

Friday, September 23, 2005


" The More We Learn,
The More We Realize Just How Little We Know,
And How Much There Is Still To Be Learned" __________________________________________________________________


You may ask any typical citizen in any Latin American nation why it is that their country has existed in an eternal quagmire of misery, poverty and overall cultural, industrial and technological backwardness, and the first thing they will tell you is that it has all been the fault of the 'Gringos', or as we know them here, the Americans.

Being on the short end of the economic spectrum, they blame Capitalism, American style for their woes and inability to improve their economic lot.

Foremost, of course is Cuba. Fidel Castro has ruled Cuba for 46 years and during each and everyone of those years, he has blamed the U.S. for his country's continuos economic disaster. No-matter than in 1959, before Castro overthrew the regime of Fulgencio Batista, Cuba enjoyed the highest living standard of all Latin American nations, it had a thriving and growing middle class, and the Cuban 'Peso' was considered on par with the U.S. dollar. As a matter of fact, Cubans used to purchase their everyday goods using both Dollars and Pesos as if they were one and the same, as mens' pockets carried both quarters and 'pesetas' as much as their billfolds would carry Dollars and Pesos.

Fidel has all along blamed the U.S. economic embargo of the island for the sad state of his economy. I often wonder how arrogant could we all be to believe that withdrawing American trade from Cuba would lead it to economic failure and widespread hunger on the island. We Americans are an economic superpower, but we definitelly are not THE ONLY economic power on the face of the earth. Do we actually believe that Cuba could not have switched its trading reliance from the U.S. to other industrialized nations, such as Canada, Japan or Europe?

But it serves Castro very well to blame the U.S. for all of his shortcomings. The best thing that could have ever happened to his revolution has precicely been the U.S. economic embargo, without which he might have not lasted in power ten years at the most, as the failure of his Communist economic model, (a la U.S.S.R. and other Iron Curtain nations), would have exploded right on his face, exposing the sorry incompetence of his economic policies, thus forcing him out of power.

But the U.S. has always been the scapegoat of every Latin American nation looking for a culprit for their chronic domestic problems.

In almost all of Latin America the same perceptions abound, to a greater or lesser degree. They are usually repeated in university classrooms, read in the newspapers and spoken by many politicians and even religious leaders.

Reality, moreover, seems to confirm such perceptions. If half of the population of Latin America is miserable and lives in mud and tin shacks, in societies organized as self-described capitalist democracies, it is natural that a good many people think that the model doesn't work. That is why neither populism nor antidemocratic attitudes fade away. Why defend what apparently has failed?
In Latin America, both the market economy and democracy are misunderstood. For a country to create wealth and surpluses on a permanent basis, the right to create private enterprises and own property is not enough.

Nor does the existence of periodic elections and parliaments guarantee the proper functioning of institutions. In Ecuador and Bolivia, the people vote and the legislators meet, but the republican structure -- the three powers that balance each other and act as counterweights -- is not capable of maintaining order and guaranteeing the citizens' peace and security.

Sometimes there is even the impression that the conflicting concurrence of these three powers becomes a major obstacle to tranquil coexistence in those countries.

Theoretically, Switzerland and Paraguay both subscribe to the same economic and political models, but those models work very well in Switzerland and very badly in Paraguay. The problem, then, is not in the theoretical model but in the way that it's applied.

Or worse yet, and this is my firm belief, the mind-set of Latinos has never been, nor will it ever be up to par with that of the industrialized world, like the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Europe. It is a mindset that has been inbread into the collective psyche of the Latinos and has been carried over from generation to generation for over 200 years.

North and South America were colonized at the same time, some 430 years ago or so. However, North America was colonized by a different breed of Europeans than Latin America was. The Europeans that colonized and also emigrated to the U.S. came from 'enlightened' countries, countries where democracy was already in its infancy and growing fast, countries were people respected the rule of law, and countries were people were used to working hard for a living.
Without going into details, since we embarrasingly know them too well, the same could not be said of those who colonized and emigrated to Latin America.

Further, and this may get me into trouble, but I strongly believe it: For better or for worse, the Europeans who colonized and emigrated into North America did not interbreed either with the slaves, nor with the native American indians. Those who colonized Latin America did interbreed with the slaves and with the natives.

I am not saying that one race is better than the other. What I am saying is that the European culture, know-how and work ethic were passed on to their American children, grandchildren and so forth, whereas in Latin America such mindset was vastly 'diluted' as different mentalities and attitudes meshed with one another.

Case in point: The U.S. gained its independence in the late 1700s, remained unified as one nation and at once became a world economic and industrial power, besides being a champion of democracy.

Latin America gained its independence at about the same time, the colonies became fractured and from the very start the new nations lived through one political crisis after another. The great Simon Bolivar tried to unify the colonies into one great nation, and greed and corruption gave way to its breakup, Bolivar having the distinction of being the first Latin American leader of many to follow, to be deposed. And the Spaniards, in contrast to the English, did not establish enduring economic entities in its colonies, leaving behind a pseudo-feudal system. In other words, Latin America upon its independence from Spain automatically gained 'Third World' status, while its neighbor to the north, the U.S. was on an equal economic and intellectual level with Europe.
I am Hispanic and it pains me to admit this, but it is the undeniable truth.

Going back to the comparison between modern Switzerland and modern Paraguay: In Switzerland, the rule of law is reliable, politicians and citizens obey the law, people have the right to reasonably fair trials, universities teach and carry out research, enterprises grow and invest, labor unions don't press absurd demands and diverse ethnic communities -- though they don't necessarily love each other deeply -- don't aim to demolish the state. It has been thus for a long time (at least since 1848), which has provided sustained Swiss growth and the rewarding certainty that tomorrow will always be better than today.

In Paraguay, instead . . . but why repeat what we all know? A third world outpost.
How do we ensure that the happy combination of market and democracy will eventually produce in Latin America the same fruit that it has produced in countries such as Holland, Denmark, Ireland and even modern Spain and Portugal?

The answer may lie in the Chilean experience, or the Spanish experience after Franco's death. It all begins with forging a clear consensus within the largest segment of the sensible ruling class, to the right and left of the political span.
consensus involves an agreement based on the preservation of the four basic pillars of the system, just as they exist in the most successful nations on the planet:

• Respect for the rule of law
• Democracy as a method to make collective decisions (that cannot violate individual rights).
• Private property and market (instead of statism and planning).
• An opening to the exterior, for the purpose of interrelating decisively with the First World in the fields of finance, technology and trade.

I will add one fifth element: The end of corruption as a normal, and tolerated way of doing business, both in the public and private sectors.
You may say, "Hold on, there is a degree of corruption right here in the U.S.!" And I will reply that yes, there is a degree of corruption here in this nation, but not as much greed, as though money may exchange hands, things do get done, roads are built, schools are built, the nation forges forward. In Latin America corruption money goes into pockets and into off-shore bank accounts, where in this country corruption money remains within the economy and thus gets spent on goods and services. That in itself is quite a difference. And again, it goes back to the theory of the different cultures and mindsets that separates the U.S. from Latin America.

I am afraid that I think the way I do now after having lived here for 40 years and after having studied within the American system, so the culture has rubbed off on me. Had I remained in Latin America, I am sure that I would be expressing myself quite differently, like blaming the Gringos for all of my problems.
60s Child


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Blogger Marcy said...

Definitely hear you on the corruption part... Corruption and bribery among leaders kills efficiency and progress, and that's just not gonna help anyone very much.

I don't know enough latin american history to firmly back up facts, but I am curious about one thing-- the Chilean economy was in shambles in 1973 and by the 1990's it was one of the fastest growing economies of south america. This happened under a strict dictatorship, a far cry from your pillar of democracy as a path towards national economic success. Sure, it has kept up that successful economy since then with a democratic government, but it was not democracy that got it started to begin with. How does this fit into your argument?

(and please don't take this the wrong way I am not trying to prove you wrong or pick fights, I am genuinely and innocently curious.)

7:49 PM  

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