Friday, July 30, 2010

Painful truths

Below is my translation of a paper prepared by a friend which was shared with the participants of the first of three diocesan workshops on Catholic Social Teaching. I share it with his permission. The original can be found here on my Spanish language blog.

Honduras’ Original Sin
Collective Intuitions

When we read, think, and talk about the socio-political reality of Honduras in the present moment, we identify the coup d’état, the political and economic crises, rampant corruption, breakdown of the society, popular resistance, etc. We tend to hide the roots of our evils under statistics about children who die of hunger, the macro-economy and monetary investments in numbers, the percentage of persons who are illiterate, the numbers of those killed by bullets or dengue.

We paint the reality of Honduras with these and many more details when we do an analysis of the national problematic. But are these elements enough to understand the contradictory and painful reality of Honduras? Is the coup d’état the problem of present day Honduras? Is the rebellion and insubordination of the national resistance the problem for peaceful living together in Honduras? Are we truly in a political and economic crisis? What are the original sins of Honduras which condemn it without remedy to an adverse destiny?

The problem of Honduras is not the [dengue] mosquito, nor the coup d’état. Much less, poverty or the political crisis.

The original sin of Honduras is the exclusion of the great majorities.

Various structural evils stalk us, as a country. But the origin of the evils of Honduras is named the social, economic, cultural and political exclusion of the vast majorities. A very few persons, who proclaim themselves full citizens, try to impose their vision of the country and their plan for the nation behind the back (without the participation) of the vast majorities, considering them as second class citizens, under the care of the first class citizens. Therefore, Honduras cannot consolidate itself as a country, much less as a nation state.

There has existed, there exists and there will exist in Honduras a disorder [malestar- the opposite of bienestar, well-being] which is economic, political, social, and in terms of identity, etc.; but all these crises are based in and propped up by the crisis of the State and the nation. We could not construct the State, we haven’t succeeded in making a compact as a nation, because we have never dared to take the first step to accomplish this, which is to recognize all of ourselves as equal.

Honduras, a State by the power of the rifle.

The State, according to basic modern political theory is the organization of a group of persons (the society) which recognizes themselves as equals among themselves. It organizes itself to govern itself, and to fulfill the accords (laws) approved by themselves. The purpose of the State is the construction of the Common Good (the integral well-being [bienestar] of every man and woman).

In Honduras, we have never recognized ourselves, among all of us, as equals. Some were and are more equal than others. The contempt and exclusion of the vast majorities (campesinos, indigenous, impoverished, women, workers, illiterate persons, etc.) have been the golden rule throughout the crude history of Honduras. Who founded the Honduran State and who are the heirs of the Honduran State? Whom does the State protect and benefit? Who makes the laws and who are obliged to fulfill them? In Honduras, a few families (ten) were born to command and govern (they are full citizens) and the rest of us are condemned to obey like servants. Therefore, the landlords [patrones] are upset when we demand our right to participate and to decide like full citizens.

In other words, the State never existed, nor does it exist now, for the vast majorities of Hondurans are condemned to exclusion and systematic impoverishment.

The State created by the Honduras elites in 1821 has not been able to consolidate itself throughout the national territory, much less has it been able to establish its authority in all the segments of the dispersed Honduran societies.

And what do the landowners [patrones] do in the face of their inability to establish their authority through the illegitimate (or nonexistent) State over the vast majorities? They renounce political reasoning and return time after time to the brutal use of military and police force to “discipline” the Honduran people.

There does not exist in the history of our country a single government which has not been subject to the military! If you don’t believe me, look up article 272 of the present Political Constitution, the synthesis of the Honduran democracy. The governing elites maintain, for about two centuries, the illusion of a democratic state amid the pretense of ballot boxes and bloody rifles.

The coups d’état never were attacks on Honduras democracy but were slaps on the wrist among the landowners [patrones] in order that they could alternate in power, behind the back of the people. In Honduras there has never been democracy! Really, weren’t the military those who promoted and founded the two political parties (Liberal and National), the real instruments of political and cultural domination?

In Honduras today, the problem is not the coup d’état. The coup is the consequence of the absence of a truly democratic State. Honduras is living through the irreversible tragedy of the terminal crisis of the illusory State whose intent has failed! Therefore the construction of a State with all and for all is urgent. Last year’s coup d’état is only an inevitable consequence of this crisis of the State.

Honduras, a State without a nation

Okay, now. The absence of a legitimate and sovereign State brings with it the absence of the Honduran nation. Nation (the political community) and State (the political community legally organized) in political theory are two sides of the same coin. The nation creates and legitimizes the State and the State consolidates and defends the nation.

In Honduras, the State (now in crisis) exists without a nation (because it did not come into being through the legitimate and genuine will of the people) and the vast majorities who live in the territory of the country survive without the State – condemned to the rule of the revolver and the rifle.

In the schools, the churches and the barracks we are ingrained with hymns, flags, fútbol [soccer], coins, heroes, etc., but why don’t these symbols succeed in shaping the sense of belonging to a political community (the Honduran nation) in the collective character [idiosyncrasy]? Is it not because in these lands different peoples live together (with their distinct histories, dreams, grandeurs, and hopes) without meeting and recognizing themselves as such, with each other? In civic education, citizenship values such as liberty, equality, solidarity, justice, respect, etc., are instilled. But these principles do not move from being mere theoretical discussions, because in Honduras, a very few are more equal, more recognized, more free, and more respected that many others.

Toward a Honduras of everyone, with everyone, and for everyone

In the face of the systemic crisis of the Honduran State and in the face of the social disintegration in the country, violence emerges and is imposed as the only way to resolve conflicts. In the measure that these and other crises again break out, the country at this point not only suffers a lack of national identity but also the figure of authority is weakening. The rich and the impoverished – we are on the road to our destruction. The value of life is reduced to the economic value of a bullet.

In these conditions, our survival instinct summons us to dream of a Honduras of everyone, with everyone, and for everyone. In this sorrowful reality, we are threatened with striking out on a path for the long haul that we cannot turn back from, a process of momentous transformations.

The exclusion and the contempt for the vast majorities, which together generate the galloping crisis of the state and social disintegration, justify exceedingly in Honduras a constituent process, sovereign and participative, to initiate the process of refunding the country with the active participation of everyone. This is what other Latin American countries are doing, countries that have failed in their intent of consolidating a nation State which excludes the vast majorities.

This process relies on the commitment of every one of us. To become informed, to organize ourselves, to generate proposals in the face of the Constituent Assembly, as raw materials for a new Political Constitution constitute our essential task. It is true that a new constitutional text will not resolve immediately the pressing effects of the system of exclusion and discrimination which we have become accustomed to, but it will be a significant and momentous step in the process of national reencounter which is pressing in this moment.

The pending agendas for this constituent process are: the ownership and management of all the natural resources of the country, land redistribution, national sovereignty, the transition from a representative and exclusionary democracy to a participative democracy, the demilitarization of the Honduran democracy, the roles of the armed forces and the national police, the diversification of the national economy, the democratization of the judicial system, the recognition and guarantee of new fundamental rights of the person, the indigenous, and Mother Earth.

We, public and private institutions, churches, non-governmental organizations, and other groups, have the moral and civic obligation to accompany this process. To do this we have two urgent tasks: to strengthen the social movements which are demanding and pushing forward the constituent process and to facilitate meeting spaces for generating and forming [constructing] concrete proposals for the Constituent Assembly.

We ought to accompany these process from the hamlets, villages, municipalities, departments, and regions. The formation of these proposal for the new Honduras have to be from the bottom up. We ought to form inter-institutional and interchurch platforms. Campesinos, citizens, workers, intellectuals, professionals, indigenous peoples, women – all of us have to pull together alliances to take up the arduous path toward the New Honduras which is inclusive and participative.

If we take up our mission to accompany this historic process, we will be handing on to those who come after us an inheritance of a country redeemed of its original sin. If not, we will continue to suffer the curse of the myth of Sisyphus, submerged in the depths (Honduras) of an adverse destiny. Thus, God – Father and Mother of Life – will relentlessly reprimand us: “Cain, Cain, what have you done with your brother Abel. The cry of his blood has reached me.”


Mary said...

Powerful, John! Thanks for posting. May God continue to work within you and those you serve to bring more justice and peace to our world,

Border Explorer said...

Increasingly I'm seeing the poor being left out of life in the United States, too. Honduras is not the only one suffering from this original sin. Very powerful piece!