Journalists who have an opinion regularly receive expressions of encouragement and approval for what we write or say. Of course, most of the time these are expressions of support, but sometimes we are also criticised for what we say. In connection with my previous column, a kind reader reproached me for not proposing solutions to the ills we denounce, which led me to reply that this is the job of politicians and not of those of us whose mission it is to be “a diligent, incorruptible and passionate witness to the truth”, as the prominent Argentine deontologist Tomás Eloy Martínez put it.
It is true that it is apparently easy to criticise without offering solutions, but this is not always the case. Moreover, each criticism usually hints at or derives many proposals for countries and governments to take up and implement. The press fulfils the complex purpose of conveying what it sees, hears and feels. It is not always easy to detach oneself from one’s affections in order to reprove those in power, and it is risky to do so in certain circumstances!
The prominent journalist Julian Assange has for years been defending himself against a hateful and relentless persecution by the US government that seeks to condemn him to prison for exposing the misdeeds of the White House and its secret services. He simply dedicated himself to uncovering the horrors hidden by the imperial power and we can already see the enormous cost that his commendable daring has paid. In our country the same thing has happened several times and persecution has not only been exercised by the different dictatorships in our history.
The worst thing we could give Gabriel Boric’s government would be a very long deadline to fulfil his electoral promises, as well as accepting that his mistakes are only an expression of the youth or inexperience of his collaborators. A month into his mandate, the country already fears, unfortunately, that many of its demands will be postponed or left by the wayside. For example, with regard to ending the AFPs, guaranteeing quality health and education for all, and fulfilling another extensive set of demands so often voiced in the social mobilisations. Many are concerned at this stage that there are those in his cabinet who are reluctant to overcome the neoliberal model and, for no reason, are still willing to legislate in favour of a tax on the richest, nationalise our fundamental wealth and urgently improve pensions for retirees, as well as the miserable salaries received by more than half the population.
In a laudable decision, the new President has instructed that no one in the executive branch should be allowed to earn more than six million pesos. At the same time, however, he has announced that the minimum wage will be adjusted to 400,000 pesos, to be implemented in stages. All this in a sea of social discontent due to unleashed inflation, which especially affects such essential products as bread, electricity and fuel.
It is true that former governors or parliamentarians still in office receive considerably higher sums than the six million that Boric proposes as a ceiling, but it is still a disgrace that the minimum wage can continue to represent more than 15 or 20 times less than what the supposed representatives of the people earn. Could it be said that proposals like that represent a fundamental change or a glimmer of a transformative or egalitarian solution, or a task that even comes close to that of the senator who proposed that during Michelle Bachetet’s government the neoliberal economy be put through a backhoe?
When a journalist such as this writer is urged to be patient, to give the new authorities time, it seems that many have already forgotten that more than 30 years ago the Roman Pontiff cried out in Chile that the poor could not wait. A position that was in many cases already stated by the Chilean Episcopate before the highest authority of the Catholic Church visited us.
Why should it be up to journalists to offer solutions to such blatant and evident inequality, when we voted for and elected those who offered us the most lucid and pertinent promises? Certainly, we cannot remain silent in the face of the cynical pretense of blaming the Russian-Ukrainian war for the ills of our unequal economy, as if we had not lived permanently with wars in the world. Something as absurd as deducing that the withdrawal of pension funds is responsible for the increase in prices. As if speculative businessmen had no responsibility for collusion and abuses.
It should not surprise us so much that, according to a well-known pollster, we are currently among the 10 unhappiest countries on earth. Those of us who have known many members of the current administration closely, and had several of them as colleagues and even as students at university, I think we should encourage a critical and “keen observer” attitude to what they do and intend to do. Moreover, we have seen several of them speak out in support of the demands of the people and their social organisations. It would be a matter of reviewing, for example, the images of those marches that led us to the Social Outburst of 2019 to see how their yearnings and commitments are fading.
The friendship and common past with the current authorities demand even more of us opinion journalists willing to honour our ideas and trajectories. Otherwise, they could have seen us knocking on the doors of La Moneda and the parties to demand jobs, as not a few bearers of the same professional cardboard.
As Tomás Eloy Martínez himself pointed out, certainly “journalism is not simply a way of life; it is a way of looking at life”.