Bolivian Sociology 101: The conservative nature of the doctrines of decolonization

El Dia published this incredibly in-depth analysis of how the indigenous people in Bolivia continue to be played by people who claim to be protectors of mother earth, the socialists of the 21st century and protectors of the coca…

The conservative nature of the doctrines of decolonization

El DiaTo understand the theories of decolonization, very popular now in the Latin American area and especially in the Andes, it is useful to refer to a text by the Mexican historian Adolfo Gilly, who captures the essence of the de-colonizying doctrines and manages to reconstruct the widespread feeling of the indigenous population of the Andean area which has not been favoured by the development of recent decades. This author describes the conflict between the desire for dignity and recognition, which still prevails at the bosom of the Ecuadorian, Peruvian and Bolivian indigenous communities, and the difficulties of their satisfaction in an environment that is modernizing rapidly, i.e. that it evolves according to the parameters of the others, of Western civilization.

At the same time Adolfo Gilly shows us the powerful belief now widespread through the work of the intellectual “indianistas” [people who like/support indigenous people] and indigenous people ─ about the collective, immutable essences to the passage of time, that determine the most intimate and valuable indigenous communities, essences that are not rationally explicit but evoked with great emotion, as if this were enough to guess them correctly and fix them in the collective memory of the Andean population. These essences are manifested in the elements of sociability, folklore and mysticism (music, food, family structure, links with the landscape, myths about the links between the men and the universe), which, according to Gilly and many current authors, form the core of the Andean collective identity and its upper ontological dignity. It is an evocation which makes rebirth a time and a world, and for this purpose must have an a-priori elemental empathy with this universe, that may not be understood by a rational analysis a-posteriori. To understand this should take a stand for it, for its inhabitants, their hopes and their sorrows. Only revolutionaries, through its ethics of immediate solidarity and fraternity, can discover that people’s mentality. This doctrinal principle entails, however, the danger of that understanding, should also cover the functions of forgiveness and to justify.

Adolfo Gilly has ventured into one of the major themes of the Latin American social sciences. Indigenous peoples constitute a dilated segment of the population, and are the victims of hatred and violence of mestizos and whites, but have also been humiliated ─ or feel so ─ in recent centuries as the losers of a historical evolution, which, as it is known, is now based in Western science and technology. The indigenous peoples in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, for example, want to be recognized in equal conditions and dignity for others, the modernized, but these latter, supported earlier by the political power and scientific and technical progress of modernity, today are immersed in normative values and socio-political concerns that make them relatively indifferent to the great indigenous themes.

The crux of the matter is complex because of an additional element: indigenous cultures in the Andean sphere in general lacked the capacity for self-criticism, the impulse to question their own history, their traditions and their mentality. It is here where the perceived resistance to the whole disillusionment process based on genuine learning, the rejection of a purpose of disenchantment with regard to one’s own, the opposition to consider other points of view that are not prevalent, i.e.: the conventional and routine, those who have affection and with the love of the people. Ideologuers of decolonization, as Adolfo Gilly, are not willing to see the problematic aspects in the systems’ civilization which deployed the natives in the new world and that survive in the peasant communities of the Andean region, systems that have not generated human rights, modernity and its obvious advantages in everyday life. On the other hand, these ideologuers now promote the conception that communal ancestral forms of organization and the now-called direct democracy represent higher forms of social life.

And then this current of thought resorted to a simplified historical development view: the Indians would do well to start a deep hatred to the representatives of the internal colonialism, to landowners, the State managed by whites and mestizos, foreigners, would that hatred, said Gilly, be sacred, invigorating, a way to own fortress of self-affirmation to oneself. The willingness to sacrifice that is born of that hatred would constitute a kind of historic sacrifice, which would be the people, love for the poor and marginalized. Compensation for the lost dignity unfolds, however, as the attainment of symbolic acts and almost esoteric gestures of very little practical relevance, although it can be argued that the alien to this offended culture cannot understand the scope and the true significance of these acts and gestures. Anyway: struck by the disparity between the intensity of the collective feeling of historical vindication and compensation, on one hand, and the modesty of the symbolic goods that would create such satisfaction, on the other. Adolfo Gilly concluded that hatred and willingness to sacrifice of the humiliated “thrive on the image of the oppressed forebears and not the ideal of the free descendants”. This concept advocates finally and after the restoration of social order before the arrival of the Spaniards, order regarded as exemplary, because it would correspond to a primordial golden age of material abundance and the permanent brotherhood and optimum, as in numerous classical utopías. This return would mean in praxi to rewrite history and deny their tangible results. In addition: this glorification of past eras conceals the geekiness contemporary of a good part of the Andean population and especially of its populist leaders, who never abandon the comforts of Western technology.

People like Adolfo Gilly build up their names on air-castles and do not realize how damaging they can be to a society. Bolivia was no South Africa’s apartheid and our people evolved towards a Bolivian nationality. Now, and by the hand of coca-growers, convicted terrorists and Cuban/Venezuelan ideologuers, are destroying our country, are turning Bolivia into the South American Somalia.

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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