Daily Archives: April 25, 2013

Bolivian sociopolitical conundrum: indigenous doctrines, decolonization?!

H. C. F. Mansilla superbly describes our lives, from El Dia:

Decolonization and the sanctity of hatred

HCF MansillaThe doctrines of decolonization in the Andean area see themselves as theoretical frameworks, basically progressives and leftists, consecrated at the same time to the socialist thought and the revitalization of a communitarianism humanist immersed in pre-Hispanic indigenous traditions. It’s a double task: rescue the pre-Columbian cultural heritages and to reaffirm, from that foundation, an anti-imperialist and anti-Western, position in accordance with the current struggles of Latin American Peoples against the multiple influences of “imperialism”. No one doubts the legitimacy of these positions. Decolonizing doctrines able to partially reconstruct the general feeling of the indigenous population of the Andes that has not been favoured by the modernizing development in recent decades. There emerges the conflict between the desire for dignity and recognition, prevailing certainly still in the bosom of especially Bolivian and Andean indigenous communities, and the difficulties of their satisfaction in an environment that is updated rapidly, i.e. that it evolves according to the parameters of the others, of Western civilization.

Indigenous Peoples constitute a dilated segment of the population of the Andean region, and they have been the victims of indifference and contempt on the part of mestizos and whites, but have also been humiliated ─or feel like that─ in the past centuries as the handicapped of the historical evolution. The latter is now based in Western science and technology and on some accomplishments of modernity, such as human rights, free access to information, the formation of an autonomous consciousness and education based on rational principles. These factors have not been contributions outputs of the Aboriginal civilizations of the new world. Indians in Bolivia, for example, want to be recognized in equal conditions and dignity by the others, the modernized, but the latter, formerly being supported by the political power and scientific and technical advances in modernity, today are immersed in normative values and socio-political concerns that make them relatively indifferent to the major indigenous issues.

Like all human works, the doctrines of decolonization are not above rational criticism. During the analysis of these conceptions, the first weaknesses arise. Most of the decolonizing conceptions and the radical doctrines of the indianism resort to a simplified vision of the historical development: the social organization prior to the arrival of the Spaniards is seen in idyllic tones as the ideal model of human development, free from all forms of exploitation and alienation. And it is this sweetened vision that is very popular because the indigenous cultures in the Andean sphere in general lack the capacity for self-criticism, the impulse to question its own history, its traditions and its mentality.

Instead the ideologists of decolonization promoted (1) conception that communal ancestral forms of organization and direct democracy would represent higher forms of social life, and (2) an anti-plural and anti-liberal collective mentality which, in turn, encourages the emergence and survival of populist regimes with clear authoritarian smack. In Bolivia and Ecuador the regimes of the time happen to be conservative, despite the doctrine of radical change, which explains in part its strong roots in population sectors with low educational level and income.

From the outset some ideologists of decolonization, as Fausto Reynaga, have argued that Indians would do well to start a deep hatred to the representatives of the internal colonialism, landowners, to the managed state by the white and mestizo, foreigners, since that hatred would be sacred, life-giving, a way of strength from self-affirmation to oneself. As stated the Argentine-Mexican historian Adolfo Gilly, one of the most illustrious representatives of these flows, the will of historic sacrifice that comes from that hatred is a kind of love to the people, to the poor and marginalized.

Compensation for the lost dignity unfolds, however, as the attainment of symbolic acts and gestures almost esoteric of little practical relevance, although it can be argued that this offended culture cannot be understand by other people, the scope and the true significance of these acts and gestures. Anyway: striking disproportion between the intensity of the collective sense of historical vindication and compensation, on one side, and the modesty of the symbolic goods that would create such satisfaction, on the other. Hatred and the willingness to sacrifice of the humiliated, said Adolfo Gilly, “feed the image of the oppressed ancestors, not the ideal of the free descendants”. This concept advocates at the end and after the restoration of social order before the arrival of the Spaniards, order considered as exemplary, because it would correspond to a primordial golden age of material abundance and the permanent brotherhood and optimum, and numerous classical utopias.

In the background is a powerful belief ─ now widely diffused through the work of decolonizing intellectuals ─ about collective essences, when the passage of time, that determine the most intimate and valuable indigenous communities, essences that are not made explicit rationally, but evoked with great emotion, as if it were enough to guess them correctly and fix it in the collective of the Andean population memory. These essences are manifested in the elements of sociability, folklore and mysticism (music, food, family structure, linkages with the landscape, the myths about the links between man and the universe), comprising, according to Gilly and many current authors, the core of Andean collective identity and its upper ontological dignity. It is an evocation which makes reborn time and a world, and this must be an elemental a priori empathy with that universe, which can not be comprehended by a rational a posteriori analysis. Only revolutionaries, through its ethics of immediate solidarity and fraternity, can venture into this popular mindset.

The vast majority of the population’s everyday existence has not been affected by the doctrinal efforts in favor of a political and cultural decolonization. Almost all citizens of the Andean countries continue lush within the long-standing trend that mimics modern Western civilization in the fields of the economy, consumption and the technique. The sanctity of the hatred that proclaim some decolonizing intellectuals, still unaffects, luckily, everyday life.

* Philosopher and writer


I encourage to read the Spanish version as his prose and composition is superb!