Competing for Meanings

22.06.2020 - Buenos Aires, Argentina - Mariano Quiroga

This post is also available in: Spanish, French, Italian

Competing for Meanings
(Image by Pedro Mata / Fotomovimiento)

“We cannot now try to censor our past “. With these words the UK prime minister Boris Johnson warned the authorities of the 130 districts, who had decided to check and remove the monuments to people related to slavery.

In Bristol, protesters threw into the water the memorial of Edward Colston, a 17th Century slave trader and Member of Parliament. However, not only UK has seen its statues removed: also in the US almost no Christopher Columbus managed to survive. These attacks occurred in Belgium too, a small nation that controlled vast regions in Africa, and were directed against those who made the country rich and prosperous thanks to human trafficking.

And there is more. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, with her usual readiness is trying to make these actions a part of the election campaign in favour of the Democratic Party. It was she who initiated the request of impeachment against Donald Trump, without however reaching the necessary votes to remove the hotel tycoon from the presidency. Pelosi proposed to remove from the Hall of Congress 11 statues of confederates who defended slavery.

The statue to the founder of Boy Scouts, Robert Baden Powell, was defended and protected from possible attacks by some tens of white people who wanted to prevent it to be removed because he was considered racist, homophobic and related to the Nazi Party.

It is estimated that under the rule of Leopold II, the Belgian Crown brutally killed from 10 to 15 million people in Congo, which makes defending his memorial difficult. Over ten thousand protesters gathered this week in Brussels and painted on the statue of the king a big writing that says “forgiveness”.

The homicide by asphyxia of George Floyd caused the Government of Minneapolis to dismantle the police department and  unleashes a flood of investigation on hate crimes all over the country. The multitude of victims of African descent who had been riddled, suffocated, electrocuted and beaten to death by policemen made the front page of the most important national newspapers and newscasts. Or better, of just a half of them, whereas the other half tries to create a connection between all the demonstrations of social protests and the global speculator George Soros, who has allegedly financed these organizations.

The world that has been built until now is falling apart, this is unquestionable. There is a total lack of trust in institutions all over the planet. Democracies are not democracies anymore, the communities stopped fighting and individualism became a cry of freedom, no matter for what or against who. The barriers that contained these phenomena are now destroyed and some of the monsters of the last decades are now trying to capitalize this uncertainty.

As not only the global precepts of vileness are being destroyed, but also the values of the universality or the United Nations, of the international solidarity and of the mutual collaboration are being forgotten. When the world is in commotion, instead of expanding to reach deeper and more lasting agreements, it shrinks in defense of increasingly partial, specific and disconnected interests.

None of these phenomena has yet reached its full extent and this will not surely happen in this way. But these are trends of struggle that again for meanings. For this reason, a dictatorial government such as the Bolivian one lead by Jeannine Añez carries out an attack against all the values of the plurinationality and tries to recolonize the country through biblical precepts and the denial of the cultures of the ancestors. That is why Jair Bolsonaro defines himself “the Messiah”, allows the “hunt of indigenous people” and is against the scientific thinking. It is also in this way that the reinterpretation of history allows Hitler’s and Franco’s supporters to impose their own political programs in Germany and Spain.

We must stay alert because the beheading of the “normal” pre-pandemic world does not guarantee a humanist progress. Symbols, reason and meanings are being questioned, and so is the future. There are no goods and evils, this is the basis of history, but let’s not end up in the area where everything becomes relative, because the orientation of thoughts and actions can represent an evolution or not. In this dilemma there is no margin of error.

Translated from Italian by Laura Vimercati (previously translated from Spanish by Emanuele di Donato)

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