It all seemed so straightforward back when the posturing and rhetoric of the Clash and the Sex Pistols ostensibly provided all the answers and the soundtrack to rebellion. Literary greats such as Proudhon, Ionesco and others were effervescent and challenging and made for colorful political and linguistic debates. Such debate is no longer de rigeur in the U.K., but is still thankfully, very much in play here in Colombia.
There is no issue with political participation in Colombia as is the case elsewhere. Fortunately there is vibrant and pronounced deliberation here, but all the same, I worry for 2014 and the presidential election as the Santos-Vargas Lleras juggernaut gathers momentum.
Much talk is made of the voto en blanco (a defiance vote, so to speak), and if this does result in being the most charismatic challenge to our Bogotano technocrats then we are in trouble. The Colombian electorate is not suffering from apathy as some might suggest, there is clearly something more sinister than insouciance and it’s a simmering (and often undisguised) fury at the ruling political class.
Maybe we should employ Proudhonian theory and remind the angry young men out there that a revolution implies a social transformation without the use of violence. But, I understand the frustration. They are disenfranchised and unrepresented. Can you imagine President Juan Manuel Santos borrowing from the academic and former Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s electoral playbook when he once suggested that a politician needed to step up and look each and every voter in the eye?
When was the last time that a Colombian politician inspired you?
There is a gaping political disconnect between young and old, rural and urban and what is becoming increasingly evident is that Colombia is no longer – or arguably never was – a unified country. Quite simply we share the same borders and inhabit a country of disparate communities loosely tethered together by a legislative authority accountable only to the whimsy and comings and goings in Bogotá.
Imagine you are a voter in the far off coastal town of Aracataca, Magdalena. Aracataca possesses a couple of disproportionately famous sons and most recently an adopted Dutch one. As a foreigner Tim Buendia (nee Aan’t Goor) could never vote, but he could cast in his lot and make an economic gamble on the touristic future of his New World home. Due to the self-interest of local politicians Tim has had to close his business after a few short years and move on to pastures new. Aracataca remains the same.
The townsfolk want and need him to stay if only to continue to pull their town from a macondian slumber. Yet, despite Tim’s best efforts, it is almost as if the clock is being turned back to 2010 to the period before his arrival. Yet again the promises made by those running for office in Aracataca are that he or she will push through the necessary efforts to ensure the provision of running water to the town. And the people vote, whether it is through obligation, the threat of violent reprisals or a war-weary desire to believe that this process may actually yield something. Designs are submitted, concrete is poured to great fanfare and then works remain paralyzed. Tim was a high profile campaigner for Aracataca, routinely in the press and always ready to provide a sound bite. Now, his infectious energy will be focused elsewhere and this is detrimental to Aracataca and Colombia as a whole. This regrettable situation is sadly too repetitive.
Since voters are not taken seriously in Aracataca, and I would venture, as is the case across the country by the glut of self-important political families, then who can blame a general voter disengagement and rage towards the actual system? The voto en blanco starts to look quite enticing, but only if it could bring about change rather than a continuation of the same, which is what will inevitably happen if Santos and Vargas Lleras are given an unhindered run.
My argument therefore continues. Colombia requires an overhaul of her politicians. Rather than employ the anarchy of Proudhon let’s deconstruct the political system just as play-write Eugene Ionesco did with language. We’re already halfway there since the promises are meaningless, bordering on the absurd and now, they need to be redefined.
Just as Tim Buendia was attempting to implement a social transformation and greater transparency in Aracataca, so must voters in Colombia. Ask questions of your politicians and demand answers. The walls of these ivory towers must be brought down, but, just as Proudhon suggested, not with violence and war but with economic mutualism and social interdependency. Can we appeal for a more altruistic and less narcissistic political class to make themselves known this year, not just in pre-election promises but also in resulting actions?