The Revolution Inside

From Latin American Odyssey, to a profound investigation of the Bolivarian revolution. Hugo Chavez says: Socialism or Death! Leftists rejoice, and Capitalists squeal. But what do the people of Venezuela think about all of this?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

No Place Like Home

Well, as you can see from that last post, late in October, I've been encountering some moral and ethical difficulties in doing this work. And I think it's only correct to talk a little bit about that.

You see, if you get what I'm saying in that last post, there is no way for a US citizen to come down to "Latin America" without flexing oodles of privilege. And this takes a lot of forms. The ease of crossing borders is one of them, one that I appreciate in a much different way when moving with a Bolivian national. They let me right through, but him - they treat him with suspicion. And maybe you can't blame them. When was the last time a Bolivian national without a suit was in Belize? It just doesn't happen. And yet, there's certainly a way of thinking about it that suggests he has far more right to cross that border than I do.

A more subtle form is the inexorable, brainwashing flood of images of White Beauty. Every ad, every magazine... every image available reinforces a euro/gringa standard of beauty. Women in the US will understand the power of popular imagery to undercut women's perception of themselves and their worth. But here, not only do we have the same standard of unrealistic beauty, they don't even look like they come from your country. I don't know.. if you ask me, it's not even subtle. It's outright browbeating: you are not smart. you are not beautiful. you will never be worthy.


graffiti on a wall in Santiago Ixcuintla, Nayarit, Mexico

I could say a lot more about how the cards are stacked in my favor - your favor - but I've been doing that a lot, and there's something to explain before I start talking about what's been going on in this project, the people we've met, what we've discovered in Central America.

> Many readers will find that a journey through Latin America sounds exciting. And many of you will have the resources to mount one - or perhaps you already have. But you see, if I tell the stories in a way that romanticizes our experience, you'll want to come down here and see it for yourself. But what I hear over and over again is:

Haven't you seen enough? Go home and change the policies of your country!

And then, I'll be responsible for more vacationing gringos coming down and haplessly reinforcing their privilege, only to go back home and support the system that makes all this glorious inequality possible.

You want facts? Soon, there will be facts. There are plenty of facts for everyone. You can even have seconds. But while you're waiting, try Eduardo Galeano's "The Open Veins of Latin America".

You want photos? Well, we have them. But photos are presenting even a bigger ethical challenge, because they don't tell the whole story, and well, it just feels wrong to photograph starving kids. Yes, it can and has been effective in changing opinions. I mean, our gov't won't allow us to see Iraq caskets.. they know that images will change hearts and minds. But there is a price to pay for those images. It's different for us to photograph a dead US soldier's casket than a starving child.

Now, obviously it's true, that the answer can't be to continue allowing US citizens to remain unaware. We're one of the most unaware countries ever, especially given the resources we have available. What I'm questioning is whether writing this blog and creating stories for community radio is the best way to develop systemic change.

And so, what you see here and hear from us in the future, will reflect this deep uncertainty. And you can help alleviate it, by organizing in your community. Now.

2 Comments:

At 11:51 PM, Anonymous steev said...

Having recently become a repeated traveller in latin america, I know what you mean. especially the white beauty thing. man is that annoying and unsubtle!

but hey, you went down to be a media activist, you should follow through. otherwise, yeah, go home now. but i think you should be posting photos, and audio too.

you have to outweigh the "flexing of privelege" enough to make it worthwhile. and you can do that right now by giving out some great media that illustrates your points. give us some latin american billboards with blonde blue-eyed supermodels.

here's an example i shot in Santiago de Chile in February 2004, complete with grafitti response.

 
At 1:13 PM, Blogger Angstrom said...

Thanks for the example, steev. you´re right - i have a responsibility to either follow up with what we´ve collected, or go home.

that decision will be made very soon.

 

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