by Eduardo Galeano
Half of the population of Brazil lives in poverty or in extreme poverty,
yet Lula's country is the world's second market for Montblanc fountain
pens, and the ninth largest buyer of Ferraris. Armani shops in Sao Paulo
sell more than in New York.
Allende's executioner, Pinochet,
paid homage to his victim every time he spoke of the "Chilean miracle."
Pinochet never confessed it, nor has it been mentioned by the democratic
rulers who came after him, when the "miracle" became the "model"--but
what would happen to Chile if its copper were not Chilean? The copper
industry--the central roof beam of the Chilean economy--was nationalized
by Allende, never to be privatized again.
Our Indians were born in
the American continent, not in India. Turkeys and corn are also American,
despite the name the English language has given this bird, and the fact
that corn is called "Turkish grain" [granoturco] in Italian.
The World Bank praises the
privatization of public health in Zambia: "It is a model for the
rest of Africa. There are no more waiting lines at hospitals."
The Zambian Post daily completes the idea: "There are no more waiting
lines at hospitals because now people die at home."
Four years ago, journalist
Richard Swift arrived in the fields of western Ghana, were cheap cocoa
is harvested to be shipped to Switzerland. The journalist carried some
chocolate bars in his backpack. The native harvesters had never tasted
chocolate before. They loved it.
Rich countries, which subsidize
their agriculture at the tune of millions of dollars per day, forbid
agricultural subsidies in the poor countries. A record harvest by the
Mississippi river floods the world cotton markets and causes prices
to collapse. A similar harvest near the Niger river pays so little the
corn is not even worth picking.
The cows of the North earn
twice as much as the peasants of the South. The subsidies received by
each cow in Europe and the United States double the average salary earned
by peasants in the poor countries for a whole year of work.
Producers from the South
go to the world markets in disunity, while sellers from the North impose
monopoly prices. Since the World Coffee Organization disappeared, ending
production quotas, the price of coffee has hit rock bottom, and lately
it's been worse than ever: in Central America, those who sow coffee
reap hunger. But the price one pays for drinking it hasn't dropped at
Charlemagne, founder of the
first great European library, was illiterate.
Joshua Slocum, the first
man to sail solo around the globe, did not know how to swim.
The world contains as many
hungry people as obese. The hungry eat garbage from garbage cans; the
obese eat garbage from McDonald's.
Progress causes bloating.
Rarotonga is the most prosperous of the Cook islands, in the South Pacific.
It has amazing economic growth rates. But even more amazing is the growth
of obesity among its youth. Forty years ago, eleven out of 100 of them
were fat. Now all of them are fat.
Ever since China opened up
to the so called "market economy," its traditional menu of
rice and vegetables has been speedily overtaken by hamburgers. The Chinese
Government had no choice but to declare war on obesity, which is now
a national epidemic. The advertising campaign publicizes the example
of Liang Shun, a young man who lost 115 kg (253 lbs) last year.
The best-known line attributed
to Don Quixote ("They are barking, Sancho; it's a sign that we
are moving") does not appear at all in Cervantes' novel. Humphrey
Bogart does not say the most famous line ("Play it again, Sam")
attributed to him in the movie Casablanca.
Contrary to what is commonly
believed, Ali Baba was not the leader of the 40 thieves, but their enemy;
and Frankenstein was not the monster, but its inventor.
On first thought it seems
incomprehensible, and on second thought as well: in the places where
progress has progressed the most, people work the longest hours. The
illness caused by too much work leads to death. It is called karoshi
in Japanese. Now the Japanese are adding yet another word to the dictionary
of technological civilization: karojsatsu is the name given to suicides
caused by hyperactivity, an increasingly frequent occurrence.
In May of 1998, France reduced
the work week from 39 to 35 hours. Not only did such a measure prove
effective against unemployment, but it also provided a rare instance
of sanity in a world that has got a screw loose--or several, or all
of them. For what is the use of machines if they can't reduce the amount
of time humans spend at work? But the Socialists lost the elections
and things in France went back to normal, so a law that had been dictated
by common sense is already on its way out.
Technology produces cubic-shaped
watermelons, featherless chickens, and a lifeless labor force. In a
few hospitals in the United States robots already take on some nursing
tasks. According to the Washington Post, robots work 24 hours a day,
but they cannot make decisions because they lack common sense--an unwitting
portrait of the ideal worker in the world to come.
According to the Gospel,
Christ was born during the reign of king Herod. Since Herod died in
4 BC, Christ was born at least four years before himself.
Christmas Eve is celebrated
in many countries with thundering salvos. Silent night; holy night!
The sound of the fireworks drives dogs insane and deafens women and
men of good will.
The swastika, which the Nazis
identified with war and death, had been a symbol of life in Mesopotamia,
India and America.
When George W. Bush suggested
that forests be cut down in order to end forest fires, he was misunderstood.
The President seemed a bit more incoherent than usual, but he was being
consistent with his ideas. These are his holy remedies: to cure a headache,
we shall behead the sufferer; to save the people of Iraq, we will bomb
it to a pulp.
Our world is a great paradox
that turns around in the universe. At the rate we are going, the owners
of the planet will soon outlaw hunger and thirst in order to forestall
shortages of food and water.