Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rushdie in Central America

I'm feeling my years (strange thing to say for a 28 year old). I took out Salman Rushdie's 'The jaguar smile' the other day, and am nearly finished reading it. The book is an account of a trip Rushdie made to Nicaragua during the Contra-Sandinista battles of the mid-80s and of the people he met and the things he learned. He paints a vibrant picture of the turmoil and conflict of this tormented yet unabashedly proud country. I was only six or seven when the whole mess came to light, so I've had to rely on the history books for more information about it (hence my feeling my years so keenly). I had heard about the Iran-Contra scandal, with Oliver North, the CIA, and the late prez. Reagan from MAD magazine and other reliable media sources, so I had a clear enough picture of what had gone on, but Rushdie was actually there during the worst of it, so his picture is a little clearer than mine.
The locals were usually more on the Sandinista side, as the tons of anti-Contra graffiti proclaimed. Reagan and the CIA were reviled from every side and by every voice. There was (and probably still is) an insiduous thread of Americanism slithering in through the radio and on some signs (Coca-Cola's presence was everywhere). Whatever corruption there was, it was all blamed on the Contras and on America. Such is the way things are. Hypocrisy knows no borders, neither does corruption. All countries have them, and they reside in every soul, so I'm not singling anyone out here. Politics is not my bag (and I'm glad for it), and now I'm going to blast politics and its vicious circles and games. I could apply this to any country, but Nicaragua provided Rushdie the spark, so I'll use it as the example.
I recently discussed multinationals in one of my posts, and it looks like I'm back to the topic again. For starters, multinationals, no matter how they're reviled at home, are loved by other countries. They give people good, well-paying jobs. For the regular dude walking down a street in Nicaragua, the local multinational is a godsend. Perhaps the only way this dude can feed his family. He does the job well, likes what he's doing, and gets paid better for it than anywhere else in the country. Then someone back home starts screaming that the government out there is corrupt, the US imposes heavy sanctions, and the multinational has no choice but to close up shop and move on, thus depriving that dude of his livelihood. Poverty is on the rise, and the screamers back home howl that these countries need food, but the US won't send it because of the sanctions.
All governments have some level of corruption. How long would it take the US to howl if someone successfully imposed sanctions on it? It's just as corrupt as the next country, but its hands seemingly stay clean. If folks in the US are complaining about the economy now, imagine how much people would complain if what happens everyday to Nicaragua happened in the US? Frightening thing to consider, but it could happen someday. Okay, I'm done with my soapbox. BYE.

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