Tuesday, April 15, 2003

I've been bashing the Vanguardia steadily for the last year and two months, and today they're at it again with Baghdad Bob Fisk and Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro. They're saying just what you think they're saying, so I won't bother with any of the details thereof. We do, however, have an article by groovy Catalan economist Xavier Sala i Martin titled "The hard part is providing solutions". Sala i Martin teaches both at the Pompeu Fabra here and at Columbia in New York, and when he's not doing that, he volunteers his time as an economics advisor to Third World governments. Just so y'all know that there are a few people here who have their heads screwed on straight around here, this is today's column. I wish Sala i Martin would write more often.

The other day I was at the university when I heard two students planning future mobiliations against the war. "I just had a brilliant idea," one said. "First you stand with your legs apart, and I'll kick you real hard in the nuts. Then I'll stand with my legs apart, and you kick me real hard in the nuts. That'll show those American imperialists." "Fantastic," the other said."For sure the Catalan university rectors will consider that our behavior is 'educational and enriching'."

No. I'm kidding. I made up that conversation. but it came to my mind when I saw that the students were demonstrating by blocking streets and highways. When you get down to it, if it's true that 91% of the population is against the war, the poor citizens who get stuck in their cars due to the demonstrations are, with all probability,against the war too.

Something similar is the story with the nocturnal "pot-bangings", which awaken our neighbors' (they're against the war, too) babies, or the boycott of "American" products like McDonalds, which they do not realize is a franchise system with Catalan owners who, in their turn, buy meat, lettuce, and potatoes from Catalan producers--who, of course, are against the war too. They buy thousands of Cokes and pour them out in the streets (as if the producer cares what you do with the product after you buy it) and so add to the profits of the company, whose proprietors are certainly in favor of the war. The attempt to pressure George W. Bush by hurting those who are against and benefiting those who are in favor of the war is just as peculiar as that of the two students practicing mutual testicular aggression.

Another curious aspect is that everybody is protesting against something: against the war, against the (conservative governing) People's Party, against representative democracy. Well, taking advantage of the trend toward saying what one is opposed to, here's my list: I am against the war because I do not like it when governments use the power we citizens give them to kill innocent people. Of course, for the same reason, I am against bloody-handed dictators like Saddam, who murder and torture their own people. The problem is that, as far as I know, no one has come up with a peaceful method of kicking Saddam out of power (the sanctions and the UN inspections were nothing more than a bad joke), which leads me to wonder whether the war and the following elimination of the dictator are going to end up causing more or less suffering than the status quo.

In addition to being against the war and against Saddam, I am against the absurd idea that a war is only 'legitimate' or 'legal' if the Security Council of the UN authorizes it. We all know that the members of this Council act because of obscure interests or use their vote to gain economic favors that have nothing to do with ethics: does anyone really believe that Chirac was in search of peace and not the protection of his petroleum contracts with Saddam? Does anyone really believe that the war would have been more 'legitimate' if the US, and not France, had managed to buy (I repeat, buy) the votes of Cameroon, Guinea, or Angola?

I am also against the people who organize demonstrations against the war in Iraq and ignore other much bloodier conflicts like those in Congo, Rwanda-Burundi, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia-Eritrea, or Ivory Coast, conflicts which, I might add, did not have UN approval. The selective irritation of the organizers reveals anti-American hate difficult to reconciliate with true pacifism.

I am against the political use of the genuine pacificm of the citizenry. The speeches by some leaders accusing one another of being Nazis or Hitlerian are not worthy of a civilized country like ours. I am also against the leaders who stir up anti-Americanism in Europe and anti-Europeanism (especially against the French) in the US in order to scratch out a few miserable votes. Terrorism is a common problem that all Westerners face and when politicians campaign on fomenting divisions, the real winners are the terrorists.

And I am against the witchhunts that have been unleashed in all of Spain against those people who disagree with the majority. the high priests of pacifism have awarded themselves a supposed moral superiority and dedicate themselves to chasing down everyone who does not agree with them. Some go as far as insults and aggression (though, I must say, I applaud those students who acted as 'human shields' to protect other people or buildings against the violence of the more delinquent*). But even if there is no violence, I am against the criminalization of disagreeing voices, as small a minority as they might be. Not long ago, in these pages I denounced the persecution that sectors linked to the People's Party fomented against Marta Ferrusola's and Heribert Barrera's statements about immigration. With the same emphasis today, I am against the physical and verbal persecution that the offices and the members of the People's Party are the objects of.

You see: all of us, including myself, have our list of things we are against. Criticizing, saying no, and being against are all very easy. The hard thing is finding solutions.

* Sala i Martin is referring to an episode when a group of pacifist protestors placed their bodies between a group of rioters and a government building that was being attacked a week or two ago here in Barcelona. We applauded them here at Iberian Notes, as did some of our readers, as being true pacifists with a sense of ethics who put their bodies where their mouths were. I just bet they were from a Catholic pacifists' group--those guys don't riot, and they know what they believe in, unlike the high school kids, whom it would be just as easy to whip up into a pro-war frenzy with real, pitiless propaganda, or the SocioCommunists, who are mere opportunists.

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