We have a new decision ad portas, this time for the approval or rejection of a proposal for a new Constitution drafted by a group of 154 people (there were 155 but one left because he lied about his health condition, an aspect that was critical for his campaign). The group was democratically elected, gender parity was enforced and a number of seats were reserved for indigenous peoples.
We now have a draft that has been discussed and each of its articles elected by at least 2/3 of the constituents, thus generating the constitutional document drafted by the most people in the history of Chile. It is now up to us as a country, through a massive and compulsory vote, to decide whether to approve or reject this work carried out over the last year. Great decision, great importance, great significance and with important effects of the decision taken.
The vote is by secret ballot and each of us will have to have our say, but how free are we to do so? Can we really have the independence of our past to decide? The current Constitution, dictated in 1980 by a limited group of people, contained many limitations for its modification, which is why it has been difficult in these 40 years to incorporate fundamental modifications in it, those made in 2015 were able to undo some totalitarian aspects that it contained until that date, but where other elements still remain that could be improved and for which there were never enough votes to make those changes. It is from there that we came to carry out this process of changes that we are facing today.
The text that is now being proposed to the country is one that has been drawn up with a maximalist criterion, in other words, a Constitution that aims to define details and occupy some spaces that some would have preferred to be generated by a law and not go into that detail in the Constitution. But this is a matter of style and does not denote the quality of a Constitution, it is a long and detailed proposal.
What has more to do with the freedom to decide, in my view, is how we can have a fresh optic through which we see this draft. Before reading it, there are prejudices and animosities that settle in everyone’s mind. In this year we have seen from the beginning, long before the process even started, that people and political sectors were already publicly indicating their position before the draft had even been drawn up, so that they were already in a position of approval or rejection. And then there is our history, the caricatures that this new constitution will be the installation of a communist regime where all freedoms will be lost and the omnipotent presence of the state and the bureaucratic official in all day-to-day decisions. On the other side, the need to do away with the Pinochet constitution that has subjected us for decades to the most complete social catastrophe and suppression of all kinds of social rights that have led to the generation of poverty and evils that exist today.
Obviously both extremes are a parody and an exaggeration that only feeds the atmosphere of extreme polarisation that we have seen and experienced for some years now. They have tried to convince us on the one hand that the people are ignorant and violent, that they don’t know what they are saying or that they are easily convinced of idiocies. Life will be destroyed with the approval of the new Constitution and we continue to sow the bad news for investors about the possibilities that their capital will have for their investments in Chile. A low blow and a self-goal to achieve growth and economic stability in an extremely complex period worldwide. All the world’s economies are in a difficult situation, inflation levels that we had already left behind for a good part of the world and on the verge of a global recession that threatens to deprive a vast sector of the world’s population of even minimal food security. Food security that is, for a vast section of the world’s population.
We have to make a binary decision, I approve or reject, yet our minds receive messages that if the opponent wins it will be a disaster. The country will suffer and sink if the opposite option wins. A dichotomous country.
While I think about these things I walk around my city, Santiago de Chile, in the oldest sector, near the city centre, the west in the Brasil neighbourhood, houses that speak of the age of Santiago, its resilience in spite of earthquakes, this is the city I remember as a child, not the big glass towers of the eastern sector, but small houses of 2 or 3 floors, small windows, solid with cement curves, on the floor, cobblestone pavement and in some streets remains of the tram rails that existed until the middle of the 20th century. Today this part of the city is also full of graffiti, rubbish on the streets, rude phrases on the walls dirtying the colours that I imagine every neighbour tries to maintain, strange signs, a city in degradation, unattractive, reflections of a new society of survivors that has settled over that historic centre that has seen so much effort to bring us to where we are.
The city I grew up in was a small city compared to what it is today, a safe and friendly city, perhaps poorer but more humane. So, my great wish and hope is that as a society we will regain the spaces of humanity we have lost, that respect for the other human next door will once again become the norm, and regardless of whether that person is rich or poor, I trust that they have a good heart and want the best for everyone. Right now, as I am stopped at a red light, I find myself looking from side to side watching out for someone jumping through my window to take my vehicle or trying to get in and take something I have. They have sown fear in us, this cannot be like this. To paraphrase my friend Luis Lebert, “where the days of friendship have gone, where is the beautiful thing we went to sow”.
I miss my friendly and simple country, where smiles and not suspicion or hurtful language are the norm today. Individualism has done us wrong, we did not understand the lesson, individual effort is vital and necessary, but not just to save myself, but to be able to help others, to have more energy and FORCE to support others, that should be the spirit of a people, of an entire country. Chile is a country of solidarity and kindness, conceptually, its inhabitants need to remember this and cultivate it.
I return to my essential doubt: are we free to choose? Can we disarm the concepts we have in our minds of left and right and vote freely for the option that we think has more positive things for us than the other? It is impossible to like or dislike everything that is presented to us, that’s just the way it is. It is therefore a matter of weighing, weighing and in that internal mental balance and in the freest mental space, voting calmly and peacefully for that option that best represents us and leads us towards a better society, more conscious and where work, peace and goodwill reign over pessimism and despair. And then, as soon as possible, let us recover the civic, friendly and constructive space that every society requires to live in peace, let us recover the cities, their public spaces and the rural environment for the people of peace and love that exist in our homeland, who I undoubtedly think are a great majority.