I just opened Open Veins of Latin America. The House of Spirits‘ (Ariel Dorfman is Death and the Maiden‘s (1)) Isabel Allende picks and chooses some great sentences from Eduardo Galeano’s other works and conversations.
"it’s worthwhile to die for things without which it’s not worthwhile to live."
"The tree of life knows that, whatever happens, the warm music spinning around it will never stop. However much death may come, however much blood may flow, the music will dance men and women as long as the air breaths them and the land plows and loves them."
"We live in a world that treats the dead better than the living. We, the living are askers of questions and givers of answers, and we have other grave defects unpardonable by a system that believes death, like money, improves people."
Now there’s some thoughts to help get your priorities straight.
Galeano writes this on page 1 in 1971.
"The more freedom is extended to business, the more prisons have to be built for those who suffer from that business."
That sentence was written 31 years before Arundhati Roy, inspired by ‘neo-liberal’ economics and corporate ‘globalization’ says the same thing, just as poetically, during Come September. (I got my CD of the speech from akpress for the car)
There is a notion gaining credence that the Free Market breaks down national barriers, and that Corporate Globalization’s ultimate destination is a hippie paradise where the heart is the only passport and we all live happily together inside a John Lennon song. ("Imagine there’s no country…") But this is a canard.
What the Free Market undermines is not national sovereignty, but democracy. As the disparity between the rich and poor grows, the hidden fist has its work cut out for it. Multinational corporations on the prowl for "sweetheart deals" that yield enormous profits cannot push through those deals and administer those projects in developing countries without the active connivance of State machinery – the police, the courts, sometimes even the army. Today Corporate Globalization needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, preferably authoritarian governments in poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies. It needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend to dispense justice. It needs nuclear bombs, standing armies, sterner immigration laws, and watchful coastal patrols to make sure that it’s only money, goods, patents, and services that are being globalized – not the free movement of people, not a respect for human rights, not international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons, or greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, or god forbid, justice. It’s as though even a gesture towards international accountability would wreck the whole enterprise.
Meanwhile down at the mall there’s a mid-season sale. Everything’s discounted – oceans, rivers, oil, gene pools, fig wasps, flowers, childhoods, aluminum factories, phone companies, wisdom, wilderness, civil rights, eco-systems, air – all 4,600 million years of evolution. It’s packed, sealed, tagged, valued and available off the rack. (No returns). As for justice – I’m told it’s on offer too. You can get the best that money can buy.
And here’s more on writing. Isabel Allende’s choice Galeano story about the kind thieves with the old man’s treasure box of love letters was cute and subtly subversive too, I think.
"One writes out of a need to communicate and commune with others, to denounce that which gives pain and to share that which gives happiness."
"To narrate is to give oneself: it seems obvious that literature, as an effort to communicate fully, will continue to be blocked… so long as misery and illiteracy exist, and so long as the possessors of power continue to carry on with impunity their policy of collective imbecilization through … the mass media."
"Our effectiveness depends on our capacity to be audacious and astute, clear and appealing. I would hope that we can create a language more fearless and beautiful than that used by conformist writers to greet the twilight."
"The division of labor among nations is that some specialize in winning and others in losing. Our part of the world, known today as Latin America, was precocious: it has specialized in losing ever since those remote times when Renaissance Europeans ventured across the ocean and buried their teeth in the throats of Indian civilizations."
I just hope I can keep up the pace. You get through the Foreward and first two pages and it seems like the first sentence of every paragraph is an important quote to carry around in your mind, like a fruit seed you protect in your cheek for later planting. Then the last sentence of the paragraphs are memorable too, then there’s the one that pops out at you in the body of the paragraph… Who can keep up this pace? Eduardo Galeano.
(1) Ariel Dorfman’s Other Septembers, Many Americas: Selected Provocations has an essay on making the movie Death and the Maiden with Roman Polansky. Until I read that I just thought it must have been Isabel Allende’s work. Roger Ebert is impressed with Sigourney Weaver in Death and the Maiden, she has a range from Arnold Shortwanger and Sylvie Stallone to Art movies. I always thought a line from Arundhati Roy’s Come September speech referred to Ariel Dorfman’s book of Selected Provocations.(back)
Since it is September 11th we’re talking about, perhaps it’s in the fitness of things that we remember what that date means, not only to those who lost their loved ones in America last year, but to those in other parts of the world to whom that date has long held significance. This historical dredging is not offered as an accusation or a provocation. But just to share the grief of history. To thin the mists a little. To say to the citizens of America, in the gentlest, most human way: "Welcome to the World." [Applause]