About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Evergreen(card) State

Washington's famously conservative East Side (the area east of the Cascades) is reaping the fruit of campaigns to remove undocumented workers from the state. Recent ICE raids have had a chilling effect on the number of workers in the state for apple picking, and at the end of October signs abounded from Wenatchee to Yakima begging for workers - at $10 an hour. When few were forthcoming, pickers called on prison labor - which cost pickers $22 per hour (after the cost of security, etc.). Sow the wind... .

Force, Manda Bala, and Chile

Aside from the upheaval of moving and changing jobs, I've also been distracted from blogging by some long exchanges on Face Book with "friends" in that medium. In one recent exchange a computer programmer from Iowa informed me that all taxation is forced, but that force is justified for security, like police, jails, and the army, but not for "forced" charity. Enter the protests in Chile.

As students in Chile are agitating for the continued funding of education, that nation is getting a taste of what you get when you don't provide education for your population: chaos in the streets. Right now, Chile is "lucky" to experience that in the form of protests, but if the "reforms" to education in Chile take place that transfer some universities to the private sector and make an education beyond the reach of Chile's poorest, the unrest in the streets will be crime, not protest. Enter Manda Bala.

The 2007 documentary from Jason Kohn portrays the kidnapping industry of Sao Paulo laid on top of the corruption of one of Brazil's most powerful politicians - Jader Barbalho. In this case, Barbalho's preying on the poor by stealing funding for programs has fueled the poverty that drives the poor to prey on the wealthy. The wealthy, in turn, are willing to spend millions on security to keep themselves safe, but not the programs and innovations in society that would keep the kidnappers from preying on the they, the wealthy. What a cycle of life. Enter the United States and that computer programmer from Iowa.

There is yet another reason the United States needs to look south to their neighbors: has the investment in so-called "justified" force changed Brazil? Are the changes laid out by Pinera in Chile going to provide a long-term benefit for the nation? As we slowly privatize our education system in the United States - for that is what we are doing as we cut off funding and force students into usurious deals with the banks - are we going to see more economic freedom, or are we simply going to see the jails swell? Considering how U.S. minorities have been denied access to education and experience disproportionate jailing, I think we do have something to fear - in both the short and long term.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Collective Memory

Historians are guardians of our collective memory - something like keepers of the flame of identity. Why, then, are academic historians so frowned on by society in general? I suppose that our contrarian projects (and nature, at times) makes it look less like we are keeping flames and more like we are peeing on the fire.