(ca,en)Galeano - article

Luis Prat (prat@chem.ucsb.edu)
Tue, 17 Jun 1997 11:42:12 -0700

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by Eduardo Galeano

translation by Luis

The consumer society offers fleetingness. Things, people; things made to last die no sooner they're made, and everyday there are more people thrown in the trash heap as soon as they are born. The abandoned children on the streets of Colombia, formerly called urchins and now disposables are marked for death. The numerous nobodies, those out of place, are "economically inviable" in technospeak. The laws of the market throw them out due to the superabundance of cheap labor. The North of the world generates garbage in astonishing quantities. The South generates outcasts. What is the destiny of this excess humanity? The system invites them to disappear, it tells them: "You do not exist".

What does the North do with its inmense amount of trash, poisonous to nature and to people? It sends it to the vast spaces of the South and the East, by the hand of its bankers, who demand freedom for garbage in exchange of credit, and by the hand of its governments, who offer bribes.

The 24 developed countries that comprise the Organization for the Economic Development of the Third World produce 98% of the poisonous waste in the planet. They cooperate in the development by giving away to the Third World their radioactive shit and other toxic wastes that they don't know where else to put. They prohibit the importation of contaminants, but spread them freely all over the poor countries. They do with garbage the same they do with the pesticides and chemical fertilizers forbidden at home: the export them under different brand names.

In the kingdom of the ephemeral, everything becomes scrap metal so that as soon as the demand, the debts and the profits increase, products become instantly scarce, just like images shot like machine gun fire out of the TV set, like the fashions and the idols launched on the market by the publicity industry.

The South, garbage dump of the North, does everything in its power to become its caricature. But the consumer society - tell me how much you consume and I'll tell you how much you're worth - invites you to a party forbidden to 80% of humanity. Flashy bubbles that crash against the high walls of reality. The little nature left in the world, battered and on the verge of exhaustion, will not be able to support the frenzy of the universal supermarket, and after all, the great mayority of people consume little, very little or nothing out of necessity, in order to guarantee the equilibrium of the world's economy by means of cheap labor and products at discount prices. In a world unified by money, modernization throws out a lot more people than it integrates.

For a very large number of latinamerican children and youth, the invitation to consume is an invitation to crime. Television makes your mouth water and the police kicks you off the table. The system denies that which it offers, and there's no valium to put that longing to sleep nor prozac capable of stopping that torment. Social struggle is printed on the political and syndical pages.

The world at the end of the century travels with more shipwrecks than passengers, and technocrats denounce the "excess population" in the South, where the ignorant masses do not know what else to do but violate the sixth commandment day and night. "Excess population" in Brazil, whwre there are 17 inhabitants per square kilometer, or in Colombia, with 29? Holland has over 400 inhabitants per square kilometer and no dutch dies of hunger, but in Brazil and Colombia, a handful of predators keep all the bread and all the fish.

There are more outcast children everyday who, as certain experts suspect, "are born with a tendency to crime and prostitution". They comprise the most dangerous sector of the "excess population". The child as public enemy, the antisocial conduct of minors in America is the recurrent topic at the Pan-American Congress for Children since 1993.

At the turn of the century, english scientist Cyril Burt proposed to eliminate the super poor by "impeding the propagation of their species". At the end of the century the Pentagon announces the renovation of its arsenal, to adapt them to the wars of the future, which will have as targets street mutinies and lootings, and in some latinamerican cities, such as Santiago de Chile, there are already TV cameras to keep the streets under surveillance.

The system wages war against the poor it manufactures, and the poorest of the poor are treated as if they were toxic waste. But the South may not export to the North this dangerous surplus which multiplies day by day. There's no way to impede "the propagation of their species", although according to the Archbishop of Sao Paolo, five children are murdered everyday in the streets of the cities of Brazil, and according to the organization Justicia y Paz, a good portion of the 40 disposables that are assassinated every month in Colombia are children.

Neither can it keep them hidden, although the disposables do not exist in official reality: the outcast village with the fastest growth rate in Buenos Aires is called Hidden City, and lost cities is the name of the neighborhoods of tin and cardboard that flourish in the gullies and trash dumps around Mexico City's suburbs.

Not too long ago, the colombian disposables emerged from under the stones and got together to scream out. The protest exploded when it became known that paramilitary squads, those "groups for social cleansing" killed poor people to sell the bodies to anatomy students at the Universidad Libre de Barranquilla.

Then Buenaventura Vidal, a storyteller, told the true story of Creation. In front of those puked out by the system, Buenaventura told the story of how god had leftover pieces of everything he created. While out of his hand were born the sun and the moon, time, the seas and the forests, god would throw in a chasm the leftovers, but god became distracted and forgot about man and woman, who waited at the bottom of the chasm, longing to exist. And in front of the children of garbage, Buenaventura told of how woman and man had no choice but to make themselves, and they created themselves out of god's waste. And that's why we, born out of garbage, have still a little bit of day and night, a little bit of earth, a little bit of water and a little bit of wind.

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