June 22, 2005

What is Being Said on the Boli-Blogsphere

MABB © ®

Doing a periodic round of Bolivian Blogs I found myself cought in an interesting discussion going on in one of the blogs. The blog in question is the cleverly named, Blog from Bolivia, authored by Jim Schulz.

Much like many other people, Jim is desperately trying to understand Bolivia by actually living there, and through his writing make all people interested in this odd Andean country understand it too. In one of his posts, Jim describes his version of Bolivia. In his oppinion, there are three Bolivias: The powerful, the poor and the "I just want to work".

But, the point is not the post, rather the interesting discussion going on on his comments section, which by the way, (the comments section) was finally added to the blog a short time ago.

The discussion is the typical debate between poor vs. rich, powerful vs. weak, abuser vs. exploted, imperialist vs. socialist, etc., etc., etc. These are all too simple ways of looking at the problems Bolivia as a country is going through. That is why the following comment just jumped at me, not because I find it right in its entirety, but because its main point (as I see it) is to tell us not to look at Bolivia's problems in a simple way.

Granted simplification serves the purpose of making a complex problem understandable, but in this case I think it does more disservice than anything else.

Here is the comment and very well expressed:

Come on Jim. You've just got to open your mind a little bit.

I really think that too many people here continue to view Bolivia through the prism of their own politics.

You keep breaking down Bolivia into the "elite" vs. "the movement".

What is the movement? You continue to romanticize this one group of workers and the poor as "the movement" and hold them up as sort of the most legitimate and representative of Bolivians.

You continue to take all the events in Bolivia and understand them through that lens.

Are a large number of Bolivians systematically marginalized from voting?

When Bolivians have voted for "alternative candidates" have they been excluded from occupying their roles or kept from power?

Democracy is not always effective, but usually this occurs when the majority impose on the minority. If the "movement" represents the majority in Bolivia, why don't "movement" candidates poll better?

If Bolivians are not marginalized from the polls and the voting process, to what extent does gaining power through "whatever means necessary" devalue and delegitimize democrcy?

Given that Bolivians have been living in a democracy for a couple of decades now, why haven't "movement" candidates ever done well?

If the majority of Bolivians vote for to what extent does "the movement" undermine the rights of other Bolivians who have voted for a specific candidate or political leaning?

If the “Movement” represents certain ethnic and regional groups, to what extent can they rightfully be portrayed as “the people” of Bolivia?

Is it constructive to talk as if wealth or whiteness are necessarily indicators of corruption and abusiveness?

When I talk to Bolivians who are "upper class" or "white" I tend to harp ceaslessly about the existence of racism in Bolivia, about their responsibility to create a fairer system.

But just as it is important for the "elites" in Bolivia to open their mind and see the world as it is, and not as they wish it where, it is our responsibility here to question whether or not our understanding of the process in Bolivia is really correct or just a convenient way of supporting the politics and worldview that is most exciting and wonderful to us.

The commentor's name is Andrew T.