Cynics and patriots

I often wonder, can cynics be patriots? How does a cynic entertain a patriotic feeling?

Before trying to make my point, I will clarify what by cynic I mean here, since I have chosen that word for lack of a more suitable one. The personality type I have in mind shares some elements of the misanthrope and the asocial too, but is not quite either. If I were to coin a word for what I mean, it would be ‘despiser’. Thus, for the purpose of this article, let us define cynic as “a person who believes the worst about people, or who shows a bitterly or sneeringly contemptuous, negative or pessimistic attitude, as by making scornful, disdainful or derogatory remarks about most others”.

On the other hand, and more importantly for my opening question, there we have the word patriot; though I could as well have said nationalist, a close synonym despite the subtle -yet significant- differences between the two. One can find hundreds of articles out there trying to explain or establish those differences, but that is not the purpose of this post. I will simply copy the dictionary definitions so you know what I am referring to.

A patriot is “a person who vigorously supports his country and its way of life”; alternatively “a person who loves, supports, and defends their country and its interests with devotion”. The word comes from Greek patriotes (fellow-countryman, lineage member); cf. Latin pater (father) and patria (fatherland).

A nationalist is “a person who believes in, is devoted to or advocates nationalism”, which in turn means “a sentiment based on common cultural characteristics that binds a population; a devotion and loyalty to one’s own nation or country; spirit or aspirations common to the whole of a nation; patriotism”. It derives from Latin nation (birth, tribe) < nasci (to be born).

As we can see, both etymologies are quite akin, referring to the notions of birth, lineage, tribe or land. Thus, by mixing up these two words I can pull out the idea to be highlighted and used in this post – that of a patriot (or nationalist) being someone who loves, is devoted to, supports and believes in his nation’s way of life, common cultural characteristics, spirit and aspirations. And it is from this concept that stems the question I have begun the article with: can cynics be actual patriots?; by which I mean: being the skeptics they are, thinking the worst of others, believing only in selfishness as the driving force behind human actions — in which way may cynics feel sincerely and coherently commited to their nation’s habits, culture or spirit?

This question has been bugging me of late while reading or listening to two curiously similar persons (or personas), one Russian and one Spaniard. Let me begin with the latter.

The very talented and controversial Spanish theologist, doctored historian and lawyer César Vidal Manzanares (now USA nationalized and resident) has a popular website and Telegram channel in which, among several other topics, he analyzes world news and sets forth his views on history, religion and geopolitics. Born and raised as a Catholic (like all Spaniards his age), in his teens he joined Jehovah’s Witnesses, which he then left for eventually becoming a Protestant of the Evangelic Church (to this day). Intelligent, a polyglot, extremely cultured, very well informed and lucky possessor of an astonishing memory, he unceasingly and relentlessly attacks and rejects, with utter disdain, centuries-old Spanish monarchy, Catholicism and Catholic Church, Spain’s short-lived republic, Franco’s autarchy and Spain’s present democracy (in short: all of Spanish history since the 7th century up to the present), while at the same time attacking everything he considers to be hostile or detrimental to both his fatherland and fellow-countrymen. And so, when listening to his podcasts, I can’t help wondering: but then, which is the Spanish nation he stands for and allegedy loves?

Since approximately the fall of the Western Roman Empire until the last decades of the past century, Spain has been inseparable from -and arguably the world’s staunchest defender of- Catholicism, which is not only a religion but a culture in its own right. For one and a half millennia Spaniards have been Catholics from head to toe, and even today, despite the accelerating decline of Catholic mores and traditions -let alone churchgoer numbers- that sentiment still plays a big role in Spanish society. Wherever you look at there is a reference to that Church, liturgy, beliefs, festivities, celebrations, names, sayings, expressions, habits, institutions… Spaniards have been breastfed Chatolicism since their cradle, it has run through their veins and been an inescapable part of their upbringing, character, idiosyncrasy, way of life and mentality from time immemorial. And thus, when you scorn Catholicism and, besides that, you also scorn the monarchy (which is as long), plus Franco’s 40 years of autocracy, plus Spain’s contemporary democracy, then you are scorning the Spanish nation altogether, past and present (as per the above definition): its way of life, common cultural characteristics, people’s spirit and aspirations. There is nothing left for you to love, believe in, support or be devoted to as a patriot. With those contempts, then, how can César Vidal be a nationalist of any kind? True: he does not explicitly claim to be one, but then how else can anyone interpret his vows of love, concern and support for Spain and the Spanish folks? What nation does he have in mind? Or is he a pharisee?

As regards to the other persona I said, the Russian one, he is an even more puzzling case. The man, who stays anonymous, fancies to go by the initials R.S. (maybe his real ones?), to which he assigns whimsical and changing names. Let us call him Russlan Smirnov. His biography being unknown to most, I am only acquainted with his claimed Russian descent and what his writings distil: his character, abilities and opinions. Hence I could say he is an exacerbated duplicate of César Vidal: even more intelligent and talented, equally cultured and skeptical, more bitter, same staggering memory, more contemptuous and verbally aggressive, way more cynical, allegedly agnostic, Russlan claims to be a true Russian patriot. With a derision and bile the like of which is hard to find anywhere else, in his Substack blog he unwaveringly sneers at and insults the whole of humankind, not sparing Russians and even mistreating them worse. To him, except for the oligarchic class, ruling elites and their secret agents, most other humans are gullible idiots, retarded (one of his favourite adjectives), a herd of low-IQ fools, his fellow-ethnics being no exception at all. And one of the traits he most ridicules Russians for is their religious beliefs, credulity and superstiton.

Now, I have found that ethnic Russians tend to be, indeed, quite credulous (at least spiritually) and superstitious. And for all I know, this has been so for many centuries and even in pagan times. One just needs to read Russian classics or watch old Russian or Soviet films to realize this; or, nowadays, travel around the country and look how Orthodox Church is ubiquitous, its beliefs partout, people attending to mass tenfold more than in the West, icons and candles in their homes’ krasniy ugol. Even during the very atheistic Soviet times millions of Slavs secretly held to their Orthodox beliefs and practices. And then their superstitions: the venerated bread, sitting on the suitcase before a trip, the loaf atop a vodka glass for the dead, plus others I do not remember now. As with Spain and Catholicism, one could say the slavic nation is Orthodox from head to toe. Russians’ idiosyncrasy (leaving aside, of course, the increasing Muslim population) is intimately linked to that credo. Yet, Russlan sneers at all what his fellow-ethnics have been for the last millennium: he despises the tsarist times with their submissive serf souls, Orthodox Church, Christian beliefs, superstition, credulity, the Revolution, the Soviet times and of course Putin’s Westernised Russia. This is why, then again, I wonder: with that contempt for his nation’s customs, culture and spirit, what is the Russia Russlan devotes his supposed nationalism to? What is left that he loves, supports and defends? What sort of patriot is that? Or is he?

Hopefully I have made my point intelligible.

Personally, I have nothing against cynicism. I believe it is a legitimate and justifiable attitude in life, since most people are indeed selfish and half of them stupid. To some extent, I might even consider myself as one. But there is -besides bitterness- a good deal of misanthropy in cynicism, of unsociability, and certainly there is scorn towards humankind: towards all of it, including one’s own kin, tribe, lineage, fellow-countrymen, nation… patria. And we can hardly love what we disdain. This is why I do not clearly visualize in which way cynicism is compatible with patriotism or nationalism. Perchance those cynics who see themselves as loving and supporting their nation, the likes of César Vidal and Russlan Smirnov, are either hypocrites or, simply, self-delusive individuals.

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The power of semantics in minds shaping


One of the things we, in our consensus-fabrication team, feel most proud of is our skill in manipulating semantics and the vocabulary in order to confound, mislead, condition and ultimately shape people’s minds, thoughts, opinions and attitudes. The strategy is to use the huge potential of language for modifying the audience’s ideas, introducing new ones, as well as profiling people’s perception of reality. We do this in several ways, like by coining new terms, adscribing other meanings to existing words, replacing or displacing concepts, semantic substitution, etc. Though these are very old techniques, nowdays most of this manipuative language comes from our think-tanks, even if not seldom some or other of the many thousands of local and small-scale activist workshops worldwide come up with a new gem of their own discovery that we promptly feed to the policy propagandists so they arrange its widespreading via mainstream/social media and the policy enforcers’ public addresses. Needless to say, this is closely connected with political correctness: first we present the public with whichever new product from our laboratories by flooding the media with it, then we convince people that the old term or any opposing idea (usually better but too crudely representing reality) is offensive, derogatory, insolidary, etc, and therefore socially incorrect to express, shameful to think or feel. Continue reading

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Noise and the decadence of man

‘Noise is a torture to intellectual people’


In many animal species, including Homo sapiens, males need to attract the females’ attention in order to have a chance of passing on their genes to future generations. This is a fact of life. No attention-seeking –> no pussy –> no descendancy.

Along life evolution, for achieving this goal those species have developed a variety of technics, associated in some way or other with ‘good quality’ genes and higher probability of guaranteeing survival for the progeny: lustrous plumage or fur, garish antlers, loud and melodious trill, outstanding skills, plain physical strength, etc.

As to humans, when culture and civilization begun interferring in evolution both the function and the manifestations of those genetically hard-coded patterns underwent subtle changes: on the one hand, some splashy behaviours or features no longer had a connection with the ability to engender -and provide for- healthy offspring, whereas on the other hand some specimens begun developing a psychological (i.e., not purely biological) need for catching everybody else’s attention not solely -or at all in some cases- for the purpose of getting laid. Lastly, as societies ‘progressed’ and begun worshipping knowledge, education or intelligence while at the same time presumedly condemning violence, often the males’ showiness became less apparent, more subtle. And this, I guess, has been overall the state of affairs in human societies for the past few centuries or millennia: every other man trying to stand out from the crowd to the best of his means, displaying whatever he thinks attractive enough to grant him the damsels’ favours (and by the way: ethics have never been a priority, since those idyllic beings called women do not care excessively for the means their men resort to to bring food home; which is the reason why criminals have wives and lovers like any other man, when not more; but I digress).

So, from the richest and handsomest to the ugliest and poorest of men, all did their best, and even the very humblest peasant or villager tried to prove they could shoe a mule or grow potatoes better than the neighbour. And to some extent things still work the same way, except that the said patterns are very rapidly changing as sex gets increasingly detached from procreation, thus becoming increasingly cheaper: since for a variety of reasons men are no longer seen as ‘providers’ by women, the ‘requirement standards’ decrease correspondingly: females can full consequence-free mate with the most hopeless of males. Certainly, despite ‘social evolution’ (isn’t that an oxymoron?), human biology has not changed a iota, and therefore men still have the instinct to draw women’s attention, but as female & offspring survival is much less dependant on a man’s skills, worth or health, less is expected from him, having therefore no big incentive to strive harder. This to some extent implies a decadence of the species.

Hence, we might try to determine the degeneracy status of a given civilization by measuring the average usefulness of its men, for which a good indicator might be to observe what is the best that its most incompetent men are able to do. And this is how we arrive to noise: among the inmeasurable panoply of flashy or striking conducts a man can adopt to catch the public’s eye, noise is arguably the very easiest, as it stands within the grasp of even the clumsiest and dumbest of hominids: no ability, aptitude, gift, flair, knowledge or effort whatsoever is required: suffice to get your car/bike’s muffler removed or turn your amplifier full blast and, lo and behold!, the whole neighbourhood is looking at you. With a cheap 200 Watt loudspeaker or a simple de-muffled 50 c.c. moped you suddenly become tenfold more noteworthy than the smartest or richest man in town, and for all I know this might grant you some extra pussy, for nobody would persistently behave that way if it did not pay off. This is the level our civilization has reached.

(Mark that in this text I am not referring to noise pollution, which is an unwanted–and certainly disgusting–consequence of nowadays’ lifestyle and social activity, but to deliberate loud noise with the specific–though often subconscious–aim of attracting attention.)

Of course irritating noise has been easy since the times of tam-tam, but back then this tool served a valuable tribal or social purpose. Only recently (in historical terms), for the last several decades, gratuitous noise began getting more popular and replacing other infinitely more commendable and creditable achievements. I lack the skills (or the motivation) for writing an essay on The history of noise, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it all begun with rock music or any such pesumedly ‘social protest’ movement or activity. Anyway, whatever its origin, I stay convinced that the incidence or regularity of uncalled-for annoying noise is a symptom, and a measurement, of a society’s decadence status in general, and of the degradation of male specimens in particular. No wonder Schopenhauer deemed noise to be a torture to intellectual persons.

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Did the Kremlin take revenge on Prigozhin?

I really doubt governments engage in emotional behaviour like vengeance, since governments have by definition no emotions: they are usually ready to do whatever might be in their best interest, but vengeance serves no practical purpose whatsoever except that of satisfying someone’s desire to requite for a perceived affront. Thus, I am not sure how likely would it be for the Kremlin to assassinate Prigozhin out of revenge.

The meaning of vengeance

Vengeance (or revenge) is the act of inflicting harm or humiliation in return for an injury or other offence received. Definitions vary slightly depending on the dictionary, but most of them stress the elements of offence, humiliation, unforgiveness, resentment…, all of which are subjective and highly emotional. Thus, what would be the main purpose of revenge? Ultimately, to retaliate with moral damage for moral damage; to make the offender feel as bad as the offended has felt. This spiritual harm comes often alongside material injury, but this is not a requirement and might even not be the norm. When the harm is purely material, the victim usually does not feel a personal affront and is more inclined to seek justice instead, or in some cases retaliation, but not revenge, which is a deeper personal feeling. An offence can come hand in hand with material disservice when this is done to us out of bad will or animosity, but this is precisely the characteristic element that will trigger our wish for revenge: the moral insult, rather than the material loss itself. Still, many affronts do not involve material harm. Prigozhin, for instance, slandered Shoigu while causing him no physical or material injury whatsoever, and thus the latter (but not the Kremlin!) may have felt the desire to avenge the reviling.

Also, for the purpose of this exposition, I need to establish a sui generis distinction of my own coinage regarding the difference between vengeance and retaliation. I believe both concepts, though similar, are different in essence. Although they share a “retributory” and an “exemplary” component, I understand retaliation as having an unemotional, rather “educating” or “punishing” aim whereas vengeance serves emotional requital, and generally can only be taken by the offended. (Not seldom revenge is done on behalf of someone else, as is the case of feuds for instance, but that is because the avenger feels, out of closeness with the victim, the insult as personally inflicted on him too. As a matter of fact, very often in vendettas someone is slain in order to harm not so much him, but his family.)

And one last important idea: the vindictive mind needs the offender to know–or guess at the very least–that revenge is being taken on him. Killing or harming him without he ever getting to realize who did it and why does not serve the aim of vengeance and will therefore not fully satisfy the avenger. Not in vain it is said that “revenge is a dish to be served cold”. We vindictive minds need our wrongdoer to morally suffer in payment for whatever he did to us, so he “regrets” having done it and “learns the lesson”; otherwise our action will not quite be a vengeance, but rather a “frustration reliever” or the result of momentary wrath.

All of this is to say that, supposing the Kremlin is behind Prigozhin’s murder, it is not likely it was done out of revenge stricto sensu, for “the Kremlin” as an institution cannot take offence. If we want to blame the institution for the crime, it would be good we explained what practical goal might have been wanted to achieve with it. Alternatively, if we want to adduce vengeance, then we should point to a person, not an institution: Shoigu or Putin, for instance, rather than “the Kremlin” as such. Both things at the same time–a vindictive Kremlin–cannot be.

The Kremlin did it

As to the first option (a guilty Kremlin), whatever might the non-personal, purely political or practical reasons be to kill Prigozhin, it is for those who make such claim to provide a realistic explanation, some credible thesis. Pure antipathy towards Putin or the “spook state” does not convince me. I myself can think of a few possibilities, but only so far as making the questions, not giving the answers.

  • Did Wagner’s command pose a threat to Russia’s government? If so, what particular threat? The likelihood of a new mutiny, for instance? Might be, but how probable was that? Prigozhin and Utkin tried their luck and for whatever reason gave up, or simply failed, as a result of which Wagner troops are supposedly no longer in Russia. How could they try again a coup from abroad and succeed this time? Hard to imagine.
  • Did the Kremlin want to behead Wagner in order to “seize” the PMC and use it at their will? This might be a good one; however, if those fighters feel the slightest loyalty to their deceased bosses I would not bet on them to now happily work for the latter’s murderers. If this was the goal, a fair trial would have made better sense and been more effective. In any case, and oddly enough, I have not seen this argument put forward by the Kremlin blamers.
  • Did the Kremlin seek plain retaliation -not revenge– against those who dared march on Moscow, with the aim of forewarning whomever thinks of doing something similar in the future? Plausible version, and some pundits’ favourite; but then why Prigozhin and Utkin weren’t simply arrested after their mutiny, judged and sentenced? This would surely be infinitely more exemplary than an unclaimed murder. Some argue that Russia is simply too weak, disastrous and crooked a state to deal out justice like any decent and strong state would; and maybe they are right. But still, by not even tacitly admitting authorship, the presumed “warning” objective would not be particularly well achieved, since potential perpetrators of future rebellions, not being sure this was a punishment, might therefore not be sufficiently dissuaded from trying their luck. On the other hand, even the clumsiest, dumbest, weakest and crookedest government should not have much difficulty in getting Wagner’s command fairly judged, sentenced and condemned for the riot, since from a legal point of view the charges were simple and undeniable.

In any case, let us assume the action was plotted and carried out by the said impersonal author for any of the above reasons (or others I am unable to guess). Why would the Kremlin do it in such an embarrassing and unprofessional way, for people and governments to suspect them of having murderously beheaded Wagner (plus a handful of other totally innocent Russians)? They had many, far better and infinitely more discreet ways of killing the rioters (Africa being possibly the optimal scenario) than by a noteworthy plane crash right in the middle of the BRICS summit, compromising Russia’s “morality” when and where it is trying to present itself as the world’s moral superpower. Moreover, in fact, during the last days of his life Prigozhin was somehow doing Russia a service, since his businesses in Africa couldn’t but be generally perceived as a sort of “assistance” for some African countries on the part of Moscow, which is always helpful for the oligarchs. Would they get rid of him when he was being useful?

The Lukashenko objection

Another possible objection to the Kremlin’s authorship is that Putin would have now forced Lukashenko to come out and make some statements he probably wasn’t very excited about making as a way of “safety disavow”. By -presumedly- killing Wagner’s command that way, it was reasonable to assume many people would point at Moscow as the main suspect, and thus, for keeping rumblings away, Luka feels now the need to declare that Prigozhin had not asked him for any security guarantees when he cut the deal between Wagner and the Kremlin. There was no need to risk compromising and upsetting Lukashenko, whose support Putin needs so badly no matter how much (as per some pundits) he is hated by Russia’s liberal oligarchs.

Of course Luka’s words can be interpreted as proof of the Kremlin’s authorship: “Why else would he say that Prigozhin’s safety was not his responsibility?”, would the argument go. “Does this not evidence that Lukashenko is blaming the Kremlin?” But this would be a flawy syllogism. In good logic, Luka’s words prove nothing except the fact that he is protecting himself against the possibility of Putin being behind those deaths.

Exactly two months after the mutiny

I have also read people pointing out the date in which the murder took place as proof of its retaliatory nature, because Wagner’s mutiny had happened exactly two months earlier, on June 23rd. But this makes little sense to me, because how could the Kremlin convince the Wagner command to get on board that plane precisely that day to suit its evil design? Perhaps a trap was set for Prigozhin and Utkin, but what if they did not fall in it? Would have the Kremlin waited for the next 23rd to set another trap? I do not say it is impossible, but such a requirement (to kill him on a 23rd) renders the assassination a lot more difficult, and anyway to what end? For whom would the “message” be?

It was revenge

As to vengeance, in principle I can only think of two people in the Kremlin who might have felt personally offended by Prigozhin: the Ministry of Defence (for the insults directed at him, by his now victim, in the videos published during the battle for Bakhmut) and the President himself (for the treacherous mutiny that questioned his authority). According to my understanding of the word “revenge” as an emotional matter, unrelated with state affairs, I will stick to personal offences. Whose revenge exactly? Putin’s or Shoigu’s?

Prigozhin’s plea was against the corrupt generals responsible for the alleged ammunition shortages, and his recorded broadsides were never addressed to Putin. The rebellion, however, was quite another matter and directly threatened the President’s position; but still, did it constitute a personal insult to him that begged for vengeance, or rather a crime that deserved official or unofficial punishment? Besides, I am not sure whether Putin has the character, the resolve or even the authority enough to order a vindictive Red Code that would, besides, mean undeserved death for a few other persons unrelated with Wagner. His detractors constantly portray him as a girly, yellow and spineless guy almost devoid of any real power and brainwashed by liberal ideas — one of which happens to be morals. For all I know and perceive, he does not strike me as the kind of guy who would of his own accord and twisted revengeful mind have devised that operation.

With regards to Shoigu, he is certainly the number one person in the world with the best and most “legitimate” motivation for taking personal revenge on Prigozhin; but had he wanted to, there were better, more exemplary and adequate opportunities of doing it back then and there, when those insulting videos were being published, rather than waiting for a chance that might have never come. And even if he did not dare do it then (maybe thinking that Prigozhin enjoyed Putin’s favour, or that Wagner was still necessary to finish taking Bakhmut), what better opportunity than the march on Moscow to satisfy his resentment? Take the guy, throw him in a gulag jail and let him die there like a rat. That’d be a revenge!

Anyhow, whether the avenger was Putin or Shoigu, vindictive minds (at least the machiavelic, sophisticated ones) want their victim -as I said- to be aware that he is being returned the harm or the humiliation previously inflicted by him, for otherwise the revenge is meaningless. Every time in my younger days I felt like murdering my offenders (ideally scot free, of course) I stopped at the thought that, alas!, if I killed them without first letting them know it was me, there would be no requital at all. It would not be a proper vengeance, but plain distasteful and purposeless butchery, like hunting rabbits. Eventually, I came to realize that any revenge comme il faut needs for the victim to be aware not only of who is causing him pain, but also the reason why. So, what parody of a vengeance would Putin or Shoigu be performing were they to blow up Prigozhin’s flight without giving him time to realize what was going on? If they did it for revenge, well, certainly Prigozhin died without any remorse or regret for the affronts inflicted on his executioners, and ultimately without punishment, since dead people do not suffer.

Wrapping up

To sum up, I have the impression that straightaway blaming the Kremlin (for the beheading of Wagner PMC) without further evidence or a sound argument is slothful, and actually the analysts from whom I have read such instinctive take are bitter Kremlin despisers, seemingly more inspired by spite than backed by cool-headed reasoning. In the haste for vilifying Russia’s rulers (who probably deserve the whipping) one may easily overlook or minimize the several objections that can be made to such thesis; most of all taking into account that the mandatory question (qui prodest) yields in this case a list headed not by the Kremlin, Putin or Shoigu, but by other two or three suspects (France and USA at least) which would benefit sensibly more than Russia from those deaths; and also taking into account that Prigozhin/Wagner were not short of enemies who might as likely have planned and carried out the attack.

With all of this I am by no means stating that neither the Russian government nor any of its individual members are behind Prigozhin’s plane crash. Their authorship holds of course a credible theory, but perhaps not the most plausible one. I would simply like to see thesis that take into account all the possible objections and are better backed than by venomous contempt.

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Manco You-punky and the mannequins

For its fair quality-price ratio, the Brasa Viva is arguably the most popular grillroom in Moquegua’s capital city (we are in Peru). Its online rating is high and, unsurprisingly, it is usually full during eating peak hours, despite its fast-food style approach: with a limited range of dishes, quick service and an “order, eat (in or away), pay and leave” philosophy. Your order is taken as soon as you’ve made up your mind and, in little over five minutes, you are already enjoying your meal. But since there are not many tables (and rather small, at that) and many Moqueguanos like to go there for dinner, especially in the afternoon there is often at the door a line of customers waiting for others to finish. Continue reading

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The Hispanic peculiarity

It is any given midday of the mild winter in Torata, a small village in the mountains of Peru. A large group of schoolkids, dressed in blue and white, appear around a corner of the main square under the direction of several adults (presumably teachers) and, with a naiveté as touching as it is unfortunate, set about doing a kind of performance consisting of various acts not necessarily related to each other. In one of them, a handful of boys walk with backs bent as if under the weight of slavery (presumably inflicted by some fearsome dictator or – who knows? – by the Spanish conquistadors themselves) while four or five others behind mercilessly lash them with their make-believe whips, drawing groans of pain from the poor mistreated devils. In the next act, a group of girls (mark the sexist message) parade to the very reasonable–albeit listless and unconvinced–cry of: “We want freedom, long live democracy!“; from which one would infer that there is neither of both in Peru (which, ironically, is true in every corner of the world) or that however much of them there may be in this country has been brought by these young Incas and their protests, thus no longer suffering some tremendously authoritarian – and most probably heteropatriarchal – repression. Continue reading

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Torata and the mining canon

Torata is a village of around 2,000 inhabitants, located on the valley of its namesake river, some 2,300 metres above sea level and 20 miles upstream from the town of Moquegua; in the heart, therefore, of the Western Andean Range, whose peaks are the gate to the Peruvian altiplano, which some 250 miles farther to the northwest is finally walled by the Eastern Range, or the Andes proper as we know them from illustrations and films. Behind these, but many thousand foot lower, lies the immense Amazonian basin.

As the traveller approaches the village, on one of the many hills along the winding road he will read, in huge letters made of whitewashed heaped stones, this text: “TORATA CRECE GRACIAS AL CANON MINERO” (Torata grows thanks to the mining canon); which immediately provokes in me two somehow mutually inseparable reflections: a) What for needs Torata to grow?, and b) Does it mean that, in the name and in exchange for the sacrosanct growth, its inhabitants must rejoice for the mining industry to gradually pollute their valley until denuding it of the very charm precisely thanks to which Torata is still such an idyllic place to live? Rhetorical questions, obviously. Continue reading

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On Western ‘sanctions’

Royalty Free Sanctions Pictures, Images and Stock Photos - iStock


So, what is a sanction? Depending on the dictionary, this word may be defined as:

Action by one or more states toward another state calculated to force it to comply with legal obligations.

Or as:

A coercive measure, especially one taken by one or more states against another guilty of violating international law.

But we did not need to resort to the dictionary to understand that the word sanction implies the existence of at least two subjects, the sanctioner (A) and the sanctioned (B), plus an object (C): a law or rule to which A and B are submitted by virtue of whatever previous and legitimate pact, be this explicit (a contract, a mutual agreement) or implicit (the Law in general, the ‘social contract’, the family, etc). Thus, in order for A to impose sanctions on B we absolutely need, at the very least, four elements: 1st), that both subjects acknowledge to be mutually bound to C; 2nd), that C stablishes the authority of either part (or of A towards B) to punish the other in case of breach; 3rd), that B has effectively broken the pact and is guilty according to C (or to complementary and mutually accepted rules); and 4th), that the sanction corresponding to the breach is either provided in C or may be legitimately established in accordance to complementary and mutually accepted rules.

Hence it follows that the so-called ‘economic sanctions’ imposed by the West on the Russian Federation (RF) on occasion of the latter’s Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine cannot properly be called sanctions, for even if three of the above elements were met in this case (which I do not know), the fact is that no one whose authority on such matter be mutually acknowledged by both the West and the RF has so far declared the latter guilty of by its SMO violating international law or legal obligations. Thus, the West has no more right to impose unilateral sanctions on Russia than Russia has on the West. Either those sanctions are illegitimate, or they cannot be called sanctions at all, which is what I think.

Indeed, when I am angry with the shop tender down the street because he is not behaving according to my wishes, and then I stop buying stuff from him, I am not sanctioning him: I am retaliating in order to coerce him to comply with my desires. And the same goes for the case in study: Western ‘economic sanctions’ on Russia are, actually, economic reprisals, also known as blackmail; and that is how anyone concerned with the truth should properly call them.

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