Reflections: “Open Veins of Latin America”


December 1, 2016

Seven years ago this month, I finished reading Open Veins of Latin America:  Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, by Eduardo Galeano.  This superb 1971 work of investigative journalism is the book that then Venezualan leader Hugo Chavez gave President Barack Obama.

I’ve been keeping journals in one form or another throughout my life.  I chose this seven-year interval to show how events do grow on themselves, and issues never die.  They merely change form.

Now we have the death last week of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who was simpatico with Chavez.  We have the recent ousting of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff by a political coup, which was vehemently protested by the popular electorate.  Social upheaval around the world reflects the troubles in Latin America, yet the strategies used by the power brokers remain the same.

Open Veins reveals how the game has been played and how it continues to be played.  What follows is only a partial set of notes from my reading, but it summarizes the book’s overall message.


            The early part of the book, Open Veins of Latin America, depicts how Spanish conquistadors raped South America of gold and silver in the 1600s.  They enslaved the Incas and other natives to do their dirty work.  Priests soon followed and continued the tyranny, shaming the locals for being un-Christian and forcing them to work in the mines as penance..

The middle pages of Open Veins depict the violence and social repression brought by the foreign money exporters  They used and use local governments to protect heir “investments.”  The same story occurs over and over, under different cloaks, whether cacao, coffee, rubber, cotton, or bananas.

The oligarchies control the land, with the help of government.  Government gets its cut in the form of taxes and job security.  Peasants are paid in subsistence wages if they are lucky.  Monoculture of produce for export displaces food production for locals, and malnutrition is common.

The book shows how prices are manipulated on Wall St., how US surpluses dumped in other countries are “foreign aid” drops prices for local economies, and the peasants are the first to suffer.

I thought about how this book shows the same methods the robber barons used in the book by that name.  Confessions of an Economic Hit Man also comes to mind.  I thought the advantages of TV and the worldwide communication network is exposing the barbarian plunderers like never before.  No wonder the world hates the US, but we learned our methods from the British, who are no more civilized than they were when they were Angles and Saxons.

Their arrogance and ours knows no bounds, apparently, because they and we continue to get away with it. It also provides more evidence for my hypothesis that government and property rights are the problem.  Land can’t be owned, not really, but property rights and government are two sides of the same coin.

Reading Open Veins tells me others are aware of the tactics used by the exploiters and have been writing about them a long time.  Open Veins was first published in 1971, 36 years ago, as many investigative books were.  The clamp down on journalists since then has been subtle, a mere matter of monopolizing news sources and publishers the way United Fruit monopolized the Latin American banana market.

The governments change, but the methods are the same around the world.  Those who claim the land have all the rights, as long as others believe in property rights.

I believe the land claims its people.  I feel claimed by this property and am unconcerned about how I will hold on to it.  It will hold on to me, I figure, because it knows a valuable human sacrifice when it supports one.

In Open Veins, as everywhere, the oppressors succeed by dividing and conquering, by pitting people against each other, controlling food and water sources.

Why, you might wonder.

It is the folly of the testosterone poisoned, I claim.  They think oppression increases profits.  They aren’t free market capitalists, who know oppression is bad for business.  You want to keep your work force strong, healthy and happy, because they will work harder for you out of gratitude.

When you’re an absentee landlord, as so many of the latifundio owners are, it’s easy to pretend ignorance of the injustice perpetrated in your name.  But how much can they enjoy all that ill-gotten wealth, knowing they did nothing to earn it and most live in fear of those they exploit?

In the US, people are TV-educated, at least, and able to get different versions of the exploitation game.  US residents know they are being exploited, but they aren’t sure who’s pulling the strings.

You are, Joe and Josie Taxpayer, as long as you put up with it.

Open Veins  tells other stories of governments colluding with investors, primarily British bankers in the 1850s, to rape and pillage their countries’ natural resources, including their people, all for exports.

Because no one values the contribution of human capital, not even those like Eduardo Galeano, the author, books like Open Veins miss the point.  It correctly implicates foreign investors, governments, and bankers, as well as the established oligarchies in the various Latin American countries, but it blames the dictators rather than the social conventions that allow dictators to grow and flourish.

Open Veins alludes to the guano on the coast of Peru, left by centuries of seagulls and pelicans, discovered and plundered in a few short years to replenish nutrient-starved wheat fields in Europe.  The Peruvians destroyed the gull and pelican habitats by overtaking, effectively killing the goose that laid their golden eggs.  Meanwhile, the technique for fixing atmospheric nitrogen was developed, and the guano industry died overnight.

Galeano provides example after example of corruption, revolution, unstable governments all at the mercy of British and American governments and corporations.  Over the centuries the plundered resources have changed, but the methods remain the same.  Gold and later other minerals.  Tin, copper, iron, silver.

I’ve read about the oil in Venezuela and the oil cartel controlled by Rockefeller interests.

No wonder Chavez wanted Obama to read it, and no wonder Obama won’t do it.  But how many other people will?

Americans provide the markets for these treasures, but Americans are insulated from the real costs through price fixing, labor exploitation, and tax advantages.  Gas costs more in some of the producing areas than in the US.  The developed countries, like Britain and the US, control the refineries and the mills, usually locating them at home, where labor is paid multiple what the disenfranchised Latin American labor gets.

America and the world have been suckered into overusing oil to support the oil cartel, and they continue to waste it in the name of quick profits and unacknowledged long term costs.  Galeano notes that oil supplies the war machines, a fact I haven’t seen substantiated anywhere else.

Americans don’t want to see their part in all this.  If they do, they compensate by giving money to charities or support social programs on pseudo-philanthropic entities like the Ronald McDonald’s houses at hospitals.

Open Veins, like The Robber Barons, astounds me with its details, its voluminous research, its insight into the methods used through Latin American history to degrade and oppress people.  While the Spanish and the Catholic Church initiated the devastation, the British institutionalized it, especially when industrialization began.  The industrial centers became black holes for raw materials, including human capital to produce it, but the raw goods never garnered the prices of the finished products, and the Brits conveniently dominated the finished product industry.

The Brits bought and sold Latin American governments, used them to fight each other—such as the Triple Alliance against Paraguay and its leader/dictator, Francisco Solano Lopez, who was dangerously independent, building Paraguay’s internal economy with foreign debt.  The British bankers—Bank of London, Barings, and Rothschild—couldn’t stand it.  They financed Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay to wage war against Paraguay, effectively broke up Paraguay, and bloodied everyone involved, as well as indebting them and ravaging the country, then collected in London from all sides.

I’m amazed at the wealth of detailed information in Open Veins.  It substantiates everything in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man about how the US government and corporations work in foreign countries, all with banker help, of course.  In Open Veins, the International Monetary fund and governments of Latin American countries collude to export money out of the countries under the guise of helping them.  Galeano pegs Wall Street as the center of the vortex, as I have 40 years later.

            Open Veins was powerful.  Galeano ends by saying that more revolution is coming, but he does this without conviction.  He sees the foreign investors and banks as having won the economic wars.  The masses, he believes, are too beaten down to fight back.

Debt is the trap for these countries, as everywhere.  I believe these countries should not feel obligated to honor debt assumed by dictators who were subsequently deposed.  That’s why they were deposed. Governments are not like buildings, tangible assets that can be repossessed.  No.  Governments are paper shells, here today and gone tomorrow, leaving their works like corpses behind.

Governments are primarily economic entities, and this is where Galeano stumbles.  Politically, he needs to blame the corporations, knowing full well the enemy lies within, because the corps couldn’t do their damage if Latin American governments didn’t provide the keys, the prisons, and the armed guards to keep the masses under control.  In 1978 he wrote that his book was banned in several countries.  If he had questioned the validity of the debt assumed by these dictators, and the US/corporate players, he would not have lived to write the 1978 revision.

Of course, as usual, I am the only person on the planet who understands that the debt is illusory.  It is all uncollectible.  It is government who has enslaved the populace, here as well as elsewhere, and the populace will remain slaves as long as they believe they need masters.

Galeano doesn’t question the value of the technology and machinery these countries are acquiring at such great cost.  He has been seduced, like others, into believing this junk represents progress.  He sees this struggle between rich and poor—especially foreign rich—when I see more and more the imbalance between rural and urban.



32 thoughts on “Reflections: “Open Veins of Latin America”

  1. feistyfroggy

    Interestingly I’ve recently been reading things about how/why US suprluses are dumped as “foreign aid” with all that means to the economics of various countries.


    This book is no longer really actual, because now the Chinese are taking over the recent role of the U.S.A. as global acting and controlling government, especially in Africa this the most obvious, And even Donald Trump will not be able to stop this. So on the basar of Tunis you will find not anymore locally manufactured handicrafts from Tunisia, all is now Made in China. The Chinese are also buying marine ports everywhere in the world in order to control international logistics, are on shopping tour in Germany to buy the most inventive enterprises whenever possible and at much other places in the world. I wonder how they finance all this, most probably by making debts … always the same old economic game.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      I contend the strategy is the same, whether the US, Britain or China. China has merely learned from the West how to play the West’s game. The Chinese dupe local governments into assuming enormous debt in the name of the populace. In exchange they get exclusive contracts on things like infrastructure construction. “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” explains how the US does it. Third world leaders buy into it because they get so many perks, as long as the foreign government backs the regime.

  3. Bindu Krishnan

    Katharine, am going to get this book. Your statement about “issues never die. They merely change form” resonates. Infact the colonial powers have done a lot of damage across the world and try to assuage themselves by saying they helped the colonies to “progress”. India paid a heavy price for being the crown jewel in the British empire… they broke our pride and belief in ourselves as a civilisation and left behind a poor country. India has been a rich society and doesn’t know how to be poor. So we behave badly – corruption, filth on the streets and a scarcity mindset that is so terrible.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this book. I am planning to write about Fidel Castro and how we in India saw him :).

    1. katharineotto Post author

      Bindu, thank you. Americans have been so brainwashed that international perspectives are most welcome. I’m glad you appreciate how the “empires” have crushed the people everywhere they have reached. Certainly a few have adapted and adopted foreign values, but those values come at a huge and questionable cost.

      1. Doug's BoomerRants

        Perhaps it is simply the economic variant of “Either lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Like the passage of time, human progress is relentless, and not all progress is good for all humans.

  4. katharineotto Post author

    The “lead, follow, or get out of the way” notion presumes human beings are on a march. I see human growth as more like a plant, from the inside out. The attitude that individuals can’t make a difference stops many people from taking a personal stand in matters of right and wrong. If nothing else, Trump’s win shows individuals can make a difference. In cases of injustice, you usually have the institutions pitted against individuals. The institutions win by convincing the individuals that other individuals are the enemy.

    I’ve been struck lately with how mean-spirited Americans are toward each other, and the profiteers are reaping the spoils. Why, in a country with so much, are we so unhappy? Certainly if we turned out attention to appreciating what we have, we would feel more compassion toward others.

    1. Doug's BoomerRants

      I am taken by what you said.. “Why, in a country with so much, are we so unhappy?” A good reflection to make.
      Maybe this idea that individuals CAN make a difference is not a collective thing but an individual thing. The whole concept of our democracy and subsequently our Constitution is to promote a level of individualism.. freedom to choose. In that respect the individual can make a difference to the level each of us wish to do so. For example, those folks in rural areas where there was previously some great local manufacturing facility (which, btw, re-located there to avoid the higher living expense of the urban areas) which has now left the country… maybe I am being overly simplistic here, but maybe it’s time to find another job.. and move if you have to? Yeah.. ok.. they voted collectively for Trump because no one has been listening to them. But individually why would you stay in an area that is economically depressed like that? That’s a personal choice… not a collective one.

      1. katharineotto Post author

        You raise a lot of points, but the one most pertinent, to me, is the idea of moving. Mass migrations have occurred over and over throughout history, to find water, food, land, or to escape persecution. It’s happening now with the Syrians.

        To suggest residents of factory-abandoned areas move somewhere else presumes factories are necessary to support local populations. Finding different work, as you say, is a better option and renders people less dependent on large business to survive. I don’t have answers for other people. I do suspect Americans need to get priorities straight and think more in terms of “meaningful work” rather than just jobs. I don’t expect Trump to bring much industry back home, and I’m not sure I want him to. Industry–especially capacious industry focused on exports–is filthy and ultimately debilitating for local communities. That’s why they create such a void when they leave.

        What the media dubs Trump’s “isolationism” is to me an attempt to focus on building from within instead of shipping goods, money, resources, and American culture to the rest of the world. The import-export industries are way overgrown. We are exporting money as well as natural resources (like oil), and jobs, depleting ourselves in the process. Think pipelines. What long-term benefits do the pipelines confer on local economies?

      2. Doug's BoomerRants

        I think it’s already been openly discussed that globalization does indeed work for the majority of nations prepared to embrace it. I should qualify that by submitting that there are many different globalization levels.. economic, of course, is the big one and topic of the current public discourse thanks to Trump. But there is also cultural, social, yada yada. Personally I think the introduction of globalization should have a balance, especially economically. It has indeed led to our current growth as a country but it’s been at the expense of traditional manufacturing jobs and heavy industry. Hence all the bitching from the rust belt states with “We want life the way it used to be… a union life.” Yeah.. ok… and it would be nice to still drive a car you can repair in your back yard and not have to take it to the local computer repair shop just to know why it’s not working, too, but it ain’t gonna happen. If those jobs are brought back to the States the companies will adapt using technology instead of traditional manpower anyway. Admittedly, the country has done a poor job trying to assimilate displaced workers into new industries but I have to think most don’t want to go back to any sort of school to learn a new occupation. Don’t even get me started on unions.

        Regarding pipelines… the entire bugaboo about pipelines is nothing but the fear that one will spring a leak and immediately contaminate the entire country. Given the number of gallons shipped by sea and land, and existing pipelines, there’s not been that many accidents. There are ways to assure minimal damage and detect leaks quickly. Companies surely don’t want to just sit and let their profits soak into some aquifer. But, accidents can happen (and just a personal sidebar… we already have a lot of pipelines in this country (crude and natural gas) and we are totally vulnerable to terrorist attack anywhere along the gazillion of miles of pipe… but no one ever talks of that).
        As far as long term effects to local economies… depends over what land the pipes go.

  5. navasolanature

    Sounds a fascinating book and I’ve recently being reading one on the history of Portugal and its influence on the world through its early navigators and the beginning of world trade and trade wars.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      Interesting. Adam Smith’s classic “Wealth of Nations” refers to Portugal’s sudden wealth from the gold mines in South America. Portugal, as a sea-faring country, was a big player in the 1700s, when the import-export frenzy mushroomed.

  6. katharineotto Post author

    Boomer Rants, Globalization works in many ways, such as world-wide awakening, but never forget your neighbor is the one with the chainsaw when a hurricane wreaks havoc. Neighbors come first when the big boom hits, and oil fuels war machines. I only say this because they are making Savannah a target, should our enemies ever gang up on us. That’s why I’ve voted to close Hunter Army Airfield ASAP, and convert it into a medical and living facility for veterans (and their families). In fact, I think all taxpayers should have free access to VA hospitals around the nation. We are the victims of America’s empire.

  7. Doug (

    (I’m BoomerRants.. but that blog is on an extended hiatus. This is my new blog.)
    Actually, in a recent local debate (amongst friends) I did indeed speculate the idea of Bernie’s concept of universal health care and just opening up all the VA hospitals to augment the public surge (although I was purley speculating on the concept). Our population is just growing too large… and with the advent of aging Boomers and down the line the Millennials… more and more of the population is going to need health care. There is also going to be a need, as population grows, to handle the inevitable pandemics and epidemics that are going to hit us and quickly exhaust and overrun immediate health care.
    Regarding your idea to re-invent former military installations… I made that argument after Katrina. AGAIN, as population grows so will the devastation from once-recoverable natural disasters, like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, some terrorist setting off a nuke… the list is endless. We should use the old installations as fully equipped and supplied assembly areas and rapid-response distribution points (as many include airfields and landing areas).

    1. katharineotto Post author

      Thanks for the thoughtful response. I checked your new site and saw no easy way to follow. The problem with health care in America is that lawyers are practicing medicine. They should be sued individually and collectively for medical malpractice. That would allow America to look into stock and bond investments, to see how much the lobbyists profit by health care legislation.

      I would recommend putting patients first, because every situation is different. Let the patients choose their own doctors, and heal America from the ground up.

  8. Jean-Jacques @ Gypsy Café

    Katharine, thank you for this extensive overview – I must get the book, now that I am in Latin/South America, it would seem like a must-read to understand the history of all the upheavals on this continent. Having been born in Africa – much of the same thing was and has been going on there too – it’s always about the resources. One of your commentators made a good point about China moving in everywhere in a similar way – although they seem to approach it differently – they don’t support violence and conflict and creating divisions – from what I can see, but rather rely on internal support – as local governments allowing them to get at the resources and markets.

    To me, at the core of the matter seems to always be internal corruption – perhaps now more than ever. Although, of course weak countries have no real defence when the big nations with military and economic might want to move in. But, what I have noticed since being in South America, is that the people themselves here (the populations), for the most part seem to have become thoroughly globalised. In both Argentina and Brazil the majority of the population supported the change of governments from politically “old-left” governments to parties on the right – these parties on the right here in South Anerica very much resemble the parties on the “new-left” in the West.

    It has been explained to me that people have (had) become so fed-up with the corruption of the old leftist governments that they just wanted change – at almost any costs. I’m not entirely convinced though, from my observation it would seem that it is the “progressiveness” of the West that people want and all the goodies that come with it – the sense of unlimited freedom and being modern and advanced and liberal – all the things that are essentially part and parcel (packaged with) global consumerism. The old leftist governments in Argentina and Brazil like those of Kristima Kurchner and Dilma Roussef were not popular in the West, while the populations in those countries have become Westernised through globalization and the internet – and so they rejected their out-of-fashion governments for ones that would bring them into the popular International fold. Being independent or autonomous does not hold so much appeal any more – not like it did – their is a willingness now to conform to international standards set be the West – or so it seems from where I’m sitting. ** I could be completely wrong of course. **

    Something else – and this is particularly the case in Brazil and South Africa – is a very deep level of corruption amongst not only politicians, but within large sections of society itself – and due to that nations like these are basically up for sale, because there are enough people in all sectors of society and private and public sectors that are prepare to sell out their country for personal advantage. There are currently huge scandals surrounding issues like these ongoing in both South Africa (more or less completely un-reported in the West) and in Brazil – reasonably well know of.

    I think nationalism and patriotism has very much disappeared in many places around the globe as the spread of global consumerism as a culture has removed to a large extent those sentiments.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      JJ, You’ve covered a lot of ground, and maybe I can supplement your thoughts with some of mine. It seems that international corporations have no national loyalties, so in that sense “globalization” recognizes no national borders. The corporations, then, exist outside government jurisdiction and can play different governments against each other. I agree that it’s about resources, including cheap labor. It’s also about avoiding regulations, such as US factories moving to China, where environmental laws weren’t so strict.

      Another tactic is for outside investors to lend money to troubled governments and exact favors in return. “The Creature from Jekyll Island” and “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” both address the strategy of seducing governments into debt in order to control them. A country in debt is not a free country. It is at the mercy of the “investors,” such as bond holders who can topple elected leaders at whim.

      The masses, seduced by the illusion that the American way is superior, naturally aspire to similar conditions. No one admits that the US continues to spend way beyond its means, and is heavily invested in subjugating other countries to service US greed.

      National loyalties are also being undermined by massive dislocations of people, with refugees escaping war and land grabs by corporations or governments (for infrastructure, like dams), for instance. Corruption is probably a built in component of delegated power (meaning power with no personal risk).

      No matter where it happens, people are still people, with rather typical human behavior. Deprivation and fear make people do things a well fed person may never do. I sense the control-freaks are the most afraid of anyone, because they are losing their grip, can’t make the masses work and pay taxes to support the “investors,” and everyone feels stalemated.

      1. Jean-Jacques @ Gypsy Café

        Thank you for explaining and adding further, Katharine, you clearly have a deep understanding of all the issues. There’s not much to add – I will look into the resources you mentioned. I read Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything” a while back which gave good insight into the corruption within the environmental movements themselves (it seems that not sector or area in society has not become corrupted.)

      2. katharineotto Post author

        JJ, I thought of you in reading “Crisis Among the Palms” in the Summer, 2017 issue of “Earth Island Journal.” This periodical is a recent find. The “Palms” story shows how the corporate-government-eco-labor-rape strategy works. More important, it tells how managers of large retirement funds, like the California public Employees Retirement System, invest in these corporations, so individuals may never know how their retirement money is used to fund these travesties. The corporations use local police to keep the locals in line, as you indicated in one of your comments. It gives examples in Liberia, Guatemala, and Indonesia. I may write a whole blog about this article, since it’s so meaty.

  9. Jean-Jacques @ Gypsy Café

    Katharine, thank you for making me aware of “Earth Island Journal” – I found it online and I found the article too – will read it in the next few days.
    For interest sake – here is an article that, to an extent provides for a glimpse on the ground of realities currently in South Africa. A lot as happened there during the last couple of years and unfortunately the country has moved very far away from Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation vision. The country is basically in shock due to this – although a lot is starting to come now. I would say the main reasons for there being no reporting on the South African situation (or condition) is because of political correctness – and this is a problem worldwide almost everywhere – where only certain ethnicities are considered to be capable of racism. Also, it must be quite awkward for the supporters of the dismantling of the old regime in S. Africa to see it turn back into the same system, just reversed (with some slight adjustments) – however – this time no call for sanctions of course…. but rather simply no reporting on it:

    1. katharineotto Post author

      JJ, I read the article, but as you probably know, I don’t have much background. I gather whites are now the despised minority, at least partly because they still hold most of the land and power. Gupta sounds like an Indian name. If so, where do they stand in the polarization?

      I guess South Africa is not a place a white person should visit anytime soon.

      1. Jean-Jacques @ Gypsy Café

        Katharine, in short – whites in South Africa hold much less power than before. Whites still hold most of the farmland and property, however most of the land belongs to the government. To understand South Africa one must learn some of its history . essentially or comes down to demographics. On arrival in South Africa in the 1650’s the Dutch (and later the French in the 1780’s) found the the country sparsely populated especially in the south, so the majority of land was unoccupied. As the settlers trekked across the mountains in search of water and better farmland they came across tribes inland – much further up north. In most cases they bartered for land where necessary – for example cattle or horses for land, etc. Not many people are aware of this, so they assume “the whites went to SA and stole the land” or something to that effect. It is however true that when the English (British) arrived in Natal (East Coast), they simply annexed a lot of land from the Boers (Dutch and French) as well as from the Zulus and other tribes. In the meantime there was an African demographic explosion and the black population multiplied several fold, while the white population remained the same. Whites used to be more than 25% of the population – now only about 8%. This huge population growth had to do with large families, of course, but with the country being developed and medical infrastructure installed (clinics, etc) infant mortality and infectious diseases, etc plummeted, which made such a demographic explosion possible. It was only later that apartheid was installed – and to an extent the old order to try and contain the effects of the demographic explosion or urban areas.
        So, there’s much more to it than general knowledge on the subject. Today the “race cad” (as we call it over there) is being played as a (very effective) political tool to deflect attention away from the failures of the present administration there. After 23 years of democracy, apartheid is now being blamed for everything more than ever – in the meantime the entire country has been downgraded by ratings agencies, education has not been developed (in fact thousands of schools have been closed), not one new university has been built, political unrest everywhere, infrastructure crumbling, etc. It’s easy to blame it all on whites – particularity because they all suffer from white guilt. It’s difficult to live there as a white person, because no matter how poor you are – you will always be considered “born privileged” – no matter how hard you have worked to achieve success for yourself or your family, you will always be considered to have gotten everything easy. And whatever you have achieved or gained – you must share it, because that is your duty (!). Anyway long story. After Nelson Mandela passed away things have changed for the worst and what the news article says is not exaggerated.

        I could recommend a read of the Wikipedia Page on South African history – it provides for a broad overview, which is essential for some context. However – as I said before – the demographic explosion has exacerbated problems hugely – and instead of acknowledging this or perhaps taking that into account – it’s all blamed on history. That’s besides the out of control corruption and foreign involvement. Yes, the Guptas is an Indian family who is accused of having “captured the state”. There is a leaked e-mail scandal currently ongoing which proves it all to be true – and much worse than people thought. Another scandal is the using of a PR firm abroad to deliberately stoke racial tensions in the country and divide the people. Incredible really that things could go so badly wrong – Mandela’s legacy all but wiped out in 5 years.

      2. katharineotto Post author

        JJ, thanks for your response. Your explanation deserves a broader audience, so I hope you will consider writing it up for your blog or WB.

        It provides yet another example of the “divide and conquer” strategy that stokes racial or cultural tensions in order to control all sides. Where do these people get off? I have no desire to own or control so don’t understand what drives others, unless it’s a desperate insecurity. In astrology, conflict and cooperation are two sides of the same coin (Libra, the scales). If cooperation were the norm, everyone could benefit.

      3. Jean-Jacques @ Gypsy Café

        Katherine, thanks for your reply! I somehow missed this one – WP doesn’t always alert me that I have received follow-up comments (and I was so caught up, hadn’t checked it for a while).

        I will give it some thought – I saw a reply of Autumn (on an older post) to another S. African author on WB who didn’t get a lot of replies to a post, where she said that South African politics are probably not that interesting to American readers…
        (Perhaps some truth in it).

        I could make effort and write something in a way to capture people’s attention – but I have also noticed that there’s some resistance on the part of WB readers having to read a lot of criticism of their country – or of the West in general.

        My general approach is the Jungian one (I’m not really a political writer in the direct sense), so perhaps in a roundabout way I will get to the South African issues. However, considering that these matters are not being reported abroad, I may just write something.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      JJ, Good idea. I suspect US inhabitants would be more interested in South African issues if they understood the politics better. From a know-nothing point of view, I liken the sudden change from apartheid dumped a lot of unprepared people on the streets, maybe in a similar way to the abolition of slavery in the US. In our case, all those slaves at least had housing and food until they were “freed”, but they were illiterate, with no skills, and thrust into a hostile and suspicious world. People like that are easily exploited, and they do what they must to survive.

      You probably already know Stone-Eater Friedl (sp?) is from South Africa and planning to return there at the end of this year. I’m sure he, at least, would be interested in seeing your perspective on WriterBeat. I would be happy to comment.

      If you do post the above comment to WB, it would help to remind people about Nelson Mandela and what he stood for. I only have a vague memory, myself, so others probably do, too.

      1. Jean-Jacques @ Gypsy Café

        Katherine, ok I will think about it – the thing is that due to the complexity and also due to people in the USA not knowing so much about it could result in having to spend quite a long time in the comments section explaining and clarifying – potentially for it all to be forgotten soon after (it is very far away after all).

        The problem as I see it, comes down to this: with freedom comes responsibility and hard work. It is one thing to wage a huge protracted revolution and basically overthrow a government by force (which is what it came down to – with the assistance of international sanctions) while it is quite another to then have to take responsibility for running a highly complex and sophisticated economy (job creation, etc) and everything else that a modern democracy entails and requires to function.

        In the USA the same government continued to operate, but without slavery, but the USA was not handed over to the slaves after the slaves overthrew the government.

        However , apartheid was not slavery, it was a racial segregation and classification system. There were African universities in South Africa, even under apartheid. The black middle classes today are well educated and affluent and a huge transfer of wealth has taken place. Yet, the country is descending into chaos, because basically it is being “asset-stripped”. Rotten with corruption. While the majority of working class black people remain poor and uneducated – and it is still blamed on apartheid.

        OK, will give it a thought and perhaps publish in a week or two – can I link to the original comment here on your blog if I do?

      2. katharineotto Post author

        JJ, I’ll be happy to help this idea along any way I can, including a link. While reading your latest response, I was thinking it, too, could be used in any post you made, or we could even write a co-post in a kind of dialogue format. Autumn might go for it. By answering my questions, you may be answering those of lots of other people, and it would be more fun to write. While South Africa has its own flavor, the human rights abuses are universal, and so are the strategies used.

  10. Jean-Jacques @ Gypsy Café

    Thank you Katterine. great idea! – I am going to publish this discussion more or less unedited (i have just added a few bits and pieces to make sure I am being fair and balanced) – I will just remove the parts where we discuss publishing it on WriterBeat. This makes it more raw and natural – let’s see what comes from it / how it develops!


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