Home thoughts from Uruguay
By Dave Truman
Contributing writer for End the Lie
Last year was the first time that I came to this country. Nestled between the two South American giants of Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is often overlooked by gringo travelers,who, if they do come here at all, rarely venture beyond Montevideo, or the plush resort towns of its eastern coast.
When I came here in 2011, my first sight of the country was when I crossed the bridge on foot that marks its northern frontier from Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul. I was welcomed by a single border policeman, who shook my hand enthusiastically.
Hmm, I thought, that’s not the sort of welcome you get when you cross the border into Britain or the US these days. Maybe this country is going to be different?
There is something reassuringly old-fashioned about the rural hinterland that makes up most of the land-mass of Uruguay. I don’t mean that in a patronizing way at all. I had grown up in northern England of the 1960s, a period of rapid change, when everything “old fashioned” had been swept away by the advance of a pristine plastic modernity. The problem was, of course, that the plastic soon faded and cracked.
From the perspective of the twenty-first century, what was once seen as inviolably modern, now looks jaded and is as worn out as the promises our politicians made at the time about the “white heat of technology” transforming our lives. In fact, it wasn’t the physical surroundings so much as the disruption and dismantling of our communities that brought about the most fundamental transformation for us.
Those changes are now in their terminal stages in my northern home country. Here, in rural Uruguay, for now at least, that is most certainly not the case. Walk along any street in Durazno, Artigas, Tacuarembó, or any one of a dozen other Uruguayan rural towns and you will be hard put to find a McDonald’s, a Walmart, or Starbucks anywhere. What you will find predominantly are family businesses, run by local people, participating in a local economy.
What is more, Uruguayans are fiercely proud of their regional identities, differences and traditions. Yesterday, I listened to Alejandra, who works in the hospedaje where I was staying, speak passionately to me about being from Durazno, and about how each of the country’s rural provinces has its own cuisine, traditions and customs. The Government in Montevideo has been very keen to support regional cultural initiatives.
This is something that is hardly the case in England, where the London-centric (if not obsessed) BBC for example, simply ignores any story that concerns or features northern English culture or people. In Britain, multi-culturalism is acceptable as long as its parameters are set by the elites in London. It goes without saying that those same elites are pursuing a globalist agenda.
It would be wrong to think that Uruguay is some kind of Utopia; it is a real country and it has very real problems. Wages here for most people are very low, and the cost of living is comparable to that in England for many things. Last Sunday (December 2nd) one of the country’s principal newspapers, El Pais, reported the findings of a recent Government survey, warning that over a third of a million lower middle-class Uruguayans were at serious risk of falling into poverty.
Casino workers are picketing the up-market gambling houses in the millionaire’s resort of Punta del Este and government workers are going on strike en masse, half a day at a time. Although the country’s economy has benefited from its proximity to the economic power-house of Brazil, the financial collapse in Europe has had a negative impact on the country too.
During the boom years in Spain, many Uruguayans emigrated there to earn relatively high wages. They found doing so easy, not just on the grounds of the affinities of language, but also because Spanish government had adopted a laissez faire attitude towards immigration from Latin America, both legal and otherwise. Nowadays, many Uruguayans are returning home, partly through the encouragement of their own Government, but mainly because the Spanish economy is on the verge of collapse.
However, they have not found life in Uruguay easy. Many of them have to take more than one job, just to be able to pay the rent and put food on the table. Such complaints from members of the Uruguayan diaspora, on returning to their homeland, have provoked criticism from none other than the country’s president, José Mujica, who has said that they have become too accustomed to living in rich countries. His statement is something of an embellishment when used to describe the state of Spain in 2012, I think.
President Mujica may be partly forgiven for his views on the plight of those returning from Spain in that he comes from Basque and Italian stock who immigrated to Uruguay to escape the extreme poverty of southern Europe. (Isn’t it interesting how history repeats itself?).
In today’s globalist family of politicians, Mujica cuts an interesting figure. He is a former Tupamaros guerilla, who spent long periods in prison and on the run during the ’60s and ’70s. Nowadays, his left-of-centre politics are rather more pragmatic than in his
Castro-inspired Tupamaros years and he has put some noticeably clear political waters between himself and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, for example.
He has been described by some as an anti-politician, who shuns the trappings and perks that come with the office.
My first sight of him was on television, when he had been meeting the Argentine President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. In contrast to the carefully coiffured and presented Ms Kirchner, whose every move and gesture seemed to have been choreographed for the benefit of the cameras, he looked as if he had been picked at random from the streets of Buenos Aires or Montevideo – not exactly disheveled, but certainly not at home in his rather ill-fitting blue suit. He is said to donate some 90% of his presidential salary to help the poor and to support independent small businesses in his country; and he still runs a small farm on the outskirts of Montevideo growing flowers.
I thought of the left in Britain today. How incongruous Mujica would be, were he to find himself amongst the higher echelons of the current British Labor Party. They would probably tolerate him, but ensure that his exposure to the media was minimized and “managed”. After all, they could not deny his political credentials (from their avowedly left-of-center perspective), but they would have no conception at all of the forces that have come to shape Mujica’s political character.
Today’s Labor Party leader, Ed Miliband, is typical of the center-left elite in Britain today. The son of a London School of Economics Marxist academic, Miliband cut his teeth in the playpen of student politics in Oxford, before working as a researcher in television and then for the Labor Party. He is reportedly a millionaire. At no point in his life has he left the sheltered world that has been carefully crafted for him. Where Mujica spent his younger years on the run from a brutal right-wing military dictatorship, Miliband made his political name by winning fairer rents for students at Britain’s elite Oxford University.
The fact of the matter is that Mujica is an anachronism in today’s politics in that he comes from an era when political convictions existed and ideologies really did clash. For most of today’s leaders, whether of the so-called “left” or “right”, (or is it center-left and center-right?) personal and political convictions matter not a jot. In reality, they are part of an elite that has been carefully cultivated to create the illusion that ordinary people can hold sway over major political issues. It matters not whether a particular politician or government is of the “right” or the “left” in the current scenario in Western countries. The same agenda is being enacted whatever the rhetoric employed by politicians. I remember distinctly the former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown – a politician of the “left” – telling us all how the banks were “too big to fail”, his selling off all of our gold and pronouncing how the present era would bring in a “New World Order.”
The tragedy of this situation is that many of those in Britain who identify with the left turn a blind eye to the real agenda that these people are following and they are too willing to believe the bogus justifications of their leaders for things they would not otherwise tolerate.
They cannot see that these people are following a script that others have written for them – and they are being handsomely rewarded for doing so in the process. (It was not just the Orwellian irony of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s being given the role of Middle East Peace Envoy that escaped the British left, but more significantly that he was given a lucrative part-time job of “Advisor” to JP Morgan).
It is the increasing awareness of that script in my native Britain – regardless of which party is in power – that has caused me to visit Uruguay for the second time.
I am so out of tune with the current state of the United Kingdom that I am seriously thinking of immigrating here: to a country where there are no CCTV cameras on the streets and where liberty is still held in high esteem.
I may be deluding myself, of course, but life does seem a lot better on this continent at the moment. I just hope that, if I do decide to settle here, I will not be denounced for being too accustomed to living in a rich country.
Edited by End the Lie
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