November 12, 2007

Yum yum, pig's bum, cabbage and potatoes!

I've been in Buenos Aires now more than a few seasons. I've been in Latin America a few years.

Every once in a while I ask myself why? The locals always ask too. "So where are you from?", Answer: "Astoundingly rich, cold, island no-one has ever been to, but everyone thinks must be beautiful." Follow on question, "What are you doing here?" Answer: obscure political Masters on South American integration project that few people understand (even here). Their identity cards say MERCOSUR but ask them to name the four member countries. Short conversation.

So what's the story, morning glory? What the hell am I doing here so far from "Home"?

I do feel isolated, like a postmodern fossil looking through a video screen at a horror movie. The movie consists of flickering images of a world rapidly being destroyed by billions of barrels of that black fossilised juice we call oil. I'm in a disconnect, not quite part of this species: just sharing their beds. Party on, burn the planet, It is all about progress and growth! We sit distracted by our religions, our kids, our cars and our air-conditioning units, and our bad economics.

Nobody seems to give a flying fuck. It is the USA of the 60's & the 90's, Ireland of the zeros. Pack those credit cards: "Let's go shopping!"

Sometimes (rarely I admit) but sometimes, I'm reminded that South América has an indigenous few who recognize their connection to our Earth. Many of those through whose veins flow the blood of the Inca still make annual offerings to their "pachamama" even here in town. They go out and plant corn seeds.

In Buenos Aires this is really not understood. It perplexes the park workers who complain (over maté) to their white-skinned co-workers about their Andean neighbours wondering how to dispose of the corn plants that sprout up everywhere fertilized by dog piss.

Precious few, but some, still realise we are part of 'madre tierra' (mother earth). Every day we suck from this great tit of a planet, albeit via long-distance refrigerated trucks, distributed through supermarket chains, lost in massive suburban carparks, gorging ourselves on fertilized transgenic soy-milk. What is the fertilizer made from, what powers the truck, the ships, the refrigerators?

These endless seas of soy-plants cover this land that for most of the last few million years were rainforests or Pampa plains. For the next 20 years they will be soybean fields, then they'll spend another 100,000 as new deserts. We will be gone, a failed species that somehow lost touch with the fact that they were just another animal. One that thought Themselves smart because they had learned how to type, to trade shares, to drive cars, to find God.

Do they care here in Buenos Aires? Hell no! Why do you think I feel like a post modern fossil?

Shortages, floods, population growth and bio-fuels have pushed the price of commodities through the roof! South America is boom city! Get in on the game, trade soy, sell real-estate to foreigners, teach Spanish or tango classes for euro and party on. Soon you can buy a new car, move to the new gated suburbs with the infrequent bus routes (for the maid-servants only).

Over there in a place called Asia millions of fat and happy piglets snarf their short lives away under halogen lamps just waiting for the soy boats to come to their factory farms. Little do they know they are busy processing that soy into animal protein till they end up a plate of sweet and sour pork in a land that used to be much less populated and mostly vegetarian.

Yum yum, pig's bum, cabbage and potatoes!

But wait, it's not all bad right? Some soy destined to become biodiesel, the new hope destined to empty the stomachs of the poor to fill the tanks of those "green-never-mud-splashed" range rovers powering their way down asphalt motorways to the hypermarkets, to circling for parking, and load up on overpriced food from those giant smoky-cold fridges that seem to go on forever. Just like humans, they go on forever.

So what am I doing here?

Don't know really.

What are you doing there?

Posted by Tony Phillips at November 12, 2007 02:13 AM

Hey Tony!!!

I am asking myself lots of questions too...

Bio-fuelled by those facts some random people feed me while I weasel around in my soon too small think-tank, fattening up on wisdom.

Just got back from Patagonia where I met Ernesto Maggiori, a historian based in Comodoro (he has a few books out on the History of Patagonia).

He just finished his research on German immigration in Patagonia and came up with the following interesting facts: German immigration in Patagonia was systematically sabotaged by the English who were using Patagonia in a colony-like manner, producing wool and lanolene which is used for weapons production.

Whilst the German settlers arrived with equipment and knowledge, the English only brought what they needed to take what they needed. Until today, they neither pay tax nor export tax, which means that they, as well as all the other foreign "investors" bleed the country to death as they only take, never give. This was fortified by the likes of Menem, who, with his urge to "privatise", gave all country-owned production in the hands of foreign "investors" who did all but not invest.

So whilst we "First World" dwellers who found a home here -- lost in space between worlds -- struggle to understand our role in the global monopoly (we do not want to play this obnoxious game so all we do is watch in awe), there are many others who have no doubts. All they want is to make money, may it be in the most scrupolous ways ever or by simply doing what we do best. Making business. Teaching English certainly isn't. You hardly get by. It's better to say goodbye to the luxury we are used to. It's the only way.

So, where to draw the line? Is it foreign investors driving up property prices so the locals cannot affort to live in their attractive neighborhoods anymore? Is it eating meat and driving an SUV? Flying home once a year?

You are right. "What are we doing here?" is the right thing to ask. I tell you what: we are looking at ourselves, outside the system, questioning what is going on. With ourselves. With our culture. With our countries, in relation to the rest of our world. Disproportionate is all I can say and see. I am willing to give it all up and end up with rotten teeth and a withered face trapped in the "Second World", if this contribution to stop this madness makes it any better. Symbolically, it may.

Our rich country fellow citizens should, if they would, take a step back. There cannot be growth at the cost of nothing. If you want to solidly grow without another man bleeding for it, so maybe it's time to rethink in what a solidly wealthy bubble we all live in Europe. For everything we accumulate in our bored dissatisfaction with our world, someone else suffers. It is like that. It always has been. Time to wake up and rethink. Marry a Third world citizen to share; adopt a corn plant in your neighbor hood. Get yer hands dirty. Get to know the rest of the world. And try to understand the mechanisms.

Maybe this is why we are here. Don't doubt what you are doing. Enjoy the fact you can have a look behind the scenes. Only a few are happy to do exactly that!

Peace and Respect
Tha Kat!

P.S. I want mate!!! But I am stuck in casa, working. Wanna pop around here maybe? Emilio fills the air with the most joyous rhythms...

Posted by: Kat at November 12, 2007 02:15 PM


Posted by: ... at November 12, 2007 06:59 PM

If there was a purpose to this mess of want and panic we call a life, I must have missed the memo. If you got one, forward it to me, but you can't blame the species for it's failure to recognize it's own impact, or to misapply it's oversimplified judgements of good and bad. We are what we are. Marvel at it or seethe, it doesn't matter. We are merely a shell for our DNA, a vessel for protein, a walking parasite feeding ourselves on the deaths of others. Are we overdoing it? Are we too proud of our own abilities to make an impact to know the difference between a disaster and a success? Maybe. But at least we know how to party. I'm destined to die: that's the curse of being born. Humanity's curse is that it will go extinct, and in the end is a comet better than a self-imposed change in the climate? Tough call.

I am not endorsing the comet, but sometimes, given the choice between another hour of driving and another half-hour of AC, I can't condemn either because I know that it's a zero-sum game. We explode in a million flashes or we flicker away slowly.

Don't get me wrong. In the great horror movie of our times, I'm doing my best to bolster the barricade. I don't want the zombies eating my brain any sooner than they have to. But when they ultimately do break through it, which they will, I won't make a great misery of it. I've accepted my fate, and I'm doing my best to make the most of my sentence until it happens. I think we all are. A day, a month, a year, several maybe. But before another century flips past, I'll be long gone. Just about all of us will.

Posted by: Mitch at November 12, 2007 08:28 PM

Well this is all on a very grand scale here.

I've been pondering a simple choice today. To drive my child to a better preschool that I love dearly but is 6 miles further away. There's another decent preschool just 1 mile from me. That equals another 24 miles per day of additional driving which is almost a gallon of gas in my car.

And we all do these things everyday with a hundred little decisions that most never consider. What quality of life are we willing to sacrafice? What will I give (take, use up) for my child?

Posted by: Christina at November 13, 2007 05:10 AM

From zombies eating dead mitch's brains to pre-school transportation and bad Englishmen in Patagonia.

What a terrible lot we all are, I am goig to try not to fly this Christmas even if it means losing my green card (again) :)

I say send the kid to public school but within cycling distance :) It is what they did to me and that aspect didn't hurt :)


Posted by: ME at November 16, 2007 01:56 AM

Hey Tones

Took a while to get around to reading this, the hamster powered electricity generator has been playing up & I couldn't get enough power going to turn on the PC, hang on, he's slowing dow.....

...Faster you hairy little bastard, FASTER!!!!

I suppose the fact that I motorbike as opposed to drive a 4 X 4 is a wee bit green, I couldn't do my job by public transport, the destinations are too remote & in some cases there are no trains/buses.

I buy on average 20 litres of petrol a week to do 450 km. Isa has a car, bio diesel and does the same or thereabouts. But apart from that we're tremendously wasteful, TV, PC, Video, DVD, DVDR, Cable, Mobile phone (X2) on charge, laptop likewise, an overheated apartment, consumers of clothes & in the kitchen a dishwasher, w.machine, microwave & electric oven all from Frances nuclear power stations, which we are told, don't pollute, good eh?

I like Mitchs post above, I'd be in favour of the comet personally but a plague's as good as a rest.

Burn baby burn, when am I going to get my turn?

Posted by: Brendan at November 18, 2007 06:10 PM

Where is that chipper young Irishman I met in California who used to drive big ass American cars that slurped fuel voraciously who told me, so they burn up fuel? This is American, fuel is cheap, that's what they're for! The Comet Caliente, the Corvair, the big ass Ford I've forgotten the model name of that you could lie across the front seat without touching head or toe to the door panels... I miss the indescretions of youth...

Posted by: Wendy at November 19, 2007 10:59 AM