Many great human events carry high doses of suspense. The smooth birth of a new being, the longed-for arrival of a saving rain, the arrival to a new continent or the Moon itself. The suspense that we Chileans are living makes us hold our breath, fear the worst, react violently, lose perspective and good humour easily.
By Gonzalo Perez Benavides
That is how important what is to come is; nothing is guaranteed.
The decisive thing, then, is to raise our perspective. The subterranean emotions that surface in maximum tension today have been dormant for a long, long time. But recently they were finally unleashed, unforeseen and uncontrollable, in the explosive spring of 2019. From morning to night, the apparent placidity of the citizenry turned into an indignant demand for justice and change, for urgent transformation of almost everything public. An outburst of unprecedented intensity, a social earthquake with aftershocks shaking the ground every day.
It was a frightening outburst of violence, with so many victims, and so much destruction of common spaces. But it was also an enthusiastic opening up of new freedoms. Along with the war and the hatred that some still stubbornly maintained, the demonstrations became a carnival. That summer, thousands of Chileans let go of their inhibitions and filled the avenues, lightly clad, making music, dancing, ecology, feminism; much more celebrating the shared joy than persisting in the initial indignation. Chile woke up, was the favourite slogan. This fantastic transformative energy culminated on 8 March, Women’s Day, which was commemorated in every city by millions of Chilean women who were happy to be women, and who did not allow any violence in their celebration.
Then came the pandemic and confinement; we moved into a very different, introspective stage of the process.
Meanwhile, extraordinary things kept happening to us. The threat posed by the gigantic destructive power of the outbreak triggered a miracle: politicians had to agree on a way out of an impossible situation. It was agreed to accommodate social demands by drafting a new constitution. New, new, because the agreement included two novelties that turned out to be world premieres: absolute parity and the inclusion of the original peoples.
In the initial plebiscite, 80% of enthusiastic Chileans ratified this decision.
Then came the election of the constituents, which was like a slap in the face of the old powers. Almost no representatives of the traditional political parties were elected. Their already evident corruption and disconnection with the people was rejected out of hand.
Instead, we elected a majority of young professionals from all parts of Chile, transparent young men and women, passionate about serving the common good and helping to build a new country, just, respectful of its land and its people, supportive and happy. Boys and girls of the same formidable generation that is governing us, a generation of destiny to which this decisive mission corresponds.
Every building begins with a blueprint; the constitution is the national blueprint.
Among the constituents were some honourable representatives of my generation, such as Patricia Politzer and Agustín Squella, who also suspended their personal lives for a whole year, giving themselves the exhausting late nights and daily hard times that the historic epic demanded.
That it was hard-fought, it was. Hard fought. There were, as became clear along the way, constituents who were there only to sabotage, armed to the teeth to prevent anything being passed. Others, so extreme in their idealism that they could not practice democracy, which requires permanent agreement, negotiation, flexibility to find consensus. And, outside, sensationalist – or downright bad faith – media and social networks, painting debates and votes as if they were laughable spectacle. One hero of this epic uproar was John Smok, the Convention’s secretary general, not an elected constituent, but an official of the legislative branch who, undaunted, sacrificed his time and his peace of mind to bring order and formality to the feat.
After the first few weeks of pure discourse, declarations of principles and attacks on the other side, the constituents began to take on the transcendental task that had called them together: to draw up the democratic game, to make the ethical guidelines of the future legislation explicit, welcoming social demands.
And they achieved the impossible. From mistrust, they moved step by step towards acceptance of the other, and from there to understanding, harmony and agreement. Almost all the articles were finally voted by majorities of 75%, much more than the required 2/3 (66%). Clearly, a consensus on the common good prevailed in each case. Our freely elected representatives have chosen for us rules of the game that are irrefutably for the good of all, and the result is extraordinary.
The result is extraordinary. Would we want a new constitution that truly guarantees equal opportunities for every human being in the nation, without any discrimination whatsoever? There it is. A Magna Carta with genuine care for the Earth, nature and its creatures, mindful of the threat of climate change? A genuine decentralisation, allowing each region of the country, with its diverse natural and cultural characteristics, to take on its own unique and non-transferable challenges? There it is, and with a brilliant solution: a health, education and pension system that are not consumer goods to be traded but the rights of all citizens?
By the way, for all this design for a new humanity to become real in our lives is a long way off. A blueprint is not the finished building! It has first to go through the long and difficult process of becoming operational, pragmatic, timely laws. But first things first, and that is a Constitution: the social contract that a nation establishes on the basis of a democratic agreement. A contract that determines the rules of the game for legislating, creating institutions, handing over responsibilities and power, always with the purpose of managing the common good. And our New Constitution, perfectible of course, decreed as it was by the urgency of social peace brought about by the outbreak, does exactly that. It establishes for Chile a Social Rule of Law, an inspired social project, profoundly ethical, but so attuned that it presents viable ways of resolving the multiple crises. Very long-term paths, it is true, like everything social, but realistic, feasible, that can solve without haste but truly the most serious national problems of today, ranging from how to heal the hopelessness and rage of millions of young people in the cities to how to rescue our wonderful, privileged natural environment; from how to activate the economic growth stagnant for 15 years – with the confidence born of social pacification – to the growing violence in Araucanía. Social peace was the aim of this founding essay, and indeed, there is all that is needed.
If the collective look was clean and perceptive, without prejudice, mistrust, fear or past traumas, we would approve the Constitution unanimously. And we would gratefully celebrate those who gave a whole year of their lives to talk, discuss, resist, give in as much as necessary and reach the balanced and inclusive agreements they reached, agreements that are essential to achieve approval as high as 75%. The fruit confirms this. There is no extremism, exaggeration, extravagance or nonsense of any kind in the letter of the Constitution. Private property, the right to inheritance, freedom of education and worship are explicitly respected. No one is going to take anything away from you, sir; no one is going to bring a Mapuche or Haitian family into your home, madam.
But, as we have seen so much, fear prevents us from seeing, and defends its blindness with attacks, lies and brainwashing. Today, a trauma of precisely 50 years ago is reactivated for many, when the idealistic fervour of that time was truthfully expressed in the expropriation of land and factories, an extreme action that brought as an unthinkable boomerang – violence attracts violence – terrible consequences. But if we shake off our inherited fears, we will see that these ghosts do not threaten the New Constitution. Moreover, without fear, we realise that not approving it is to push the crisis forward, to prolong the inevitable process by perpetuating the same uncertainty, the same suspense that has stalled growth and that feeds the dangerous social volcano of discontent, ready to erupt again and worse.
The text itself seems to be the work of one of those Scandinavian nations with high social peace scores in international rankings, and not of a small third world country. Its quality and relevance has attracted attention everywhere. A group of the world’s most prestigious economists -Piketty included- celebrated the Chilean Convention and -textual- “the visionary document it has produced to ensure sustainable growth and shared prosperity for Chile”.
I have no doubt that the New Constitution is one of the inspired solutions we are receiving from the Cosmos to activate our leap into the consciousness of love. Article 67, for example, declares, straight to the heart: “The State recognises spirituality as an essential element of the human being”. This unprecedented consciousness animates each of its articles.
For all these reasons, I endorse the New Constitution with all my being! I am moved to be Chilean, to be living so soon, here and now, the dawning of the New Humanity…