José Mujica: “What exists in the world is a great political crisis…” (Expanded Version) Part One.
Translation by Rawlinsview
August 1, 2013
29 July, 2013
At the start of his visit to your country, the President of Uruguay spoke exclusively with Prensa Latina and the Mesa Redonda [Round Table], on his impressions of Cuba to which he has returned after more than a decade, on the lucidity of Fidel and the human concerns he shares with the leader of the Cuban Revolution, on European apologies to Evo [Morales] and on the Caribbean demand of compensation for slavery and also about the importance of dialogue for peace in Colombia and the entry of Venezuela to MERCOSUR, among other topics.
By Arleen Rodriguez Derivet (Mesa Redonda) and Odalys Troya Flores (PL)
There was a suitcase ready to go in a nearby hallway, prelude to immediate departure and the facilitators of the dialog warning two things: the President is uncomfortable with tumult, so that if we are four we must not appear to be eight by the traditional deployment of technical and audio-visual equipment and there is less than an hour for the interview.
Momentarily he appeared with the simplicity that has become legend, sporting a green guayabera and beige trousers, in tune with the season. After a familiar greeting, no time given to the retouching required by cameras, sitting right away in front of the microphones, staring at us with the eyes of an eagle waiting for questions.
A. R: Mr. President, You said “humanity will come out of prehistoric times the day when the barracks are converted into schools”, in a speech on July 26 in Santiago de Cuba in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks. I wonder if you think it possible that someday the barracks are converted into schools around the world or is it a phrase that inspired you at the Moncada.
President Mujica: At the stage of civilization in which we live the technological and scientific development of modern society brings immeasurable powers to the conduct of war. The potential destructive capacity of contemporary warfare is something that we should confront in terms of the human cost.
One can kill at a distance without seeing, without knowing who is killing us. And this will become every day more intense. We have to realize that the defense of life must reach another scale.
There are about 10 regimes with nuclear power, some are not powers: Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea. At any time you could see a madman who presses the button but then who pays the consequences.
Why also do the major powers retain the nuclear deterrent?
By way of war humankind has become one of the greatest threats to life on the planet. It is not a dupe of religious pacifism, no it is another thing. It is the dimensions of technological and scientific power applied to war in the world today. This is the issue, a political issue that should be discussed everywhere.
And you must become an active pacifist now because man never had such ability to destroy itself and place no value on human life. It is a way of thinking, others may have another.
The strongest word from the cultural point of view to me is self-determination and tolerance. Who has self-determination has to accustom themselves to what is different. Ultimately no wealth is more important than to develop that respect.
Now, those who believe they have the truth revealed and that they have discovered the final paradigm of the evolution of homo sapiens, apart from having a fanatical position, they work in the short term.
Inevitably the world becomes narrower and increasingly globalized, then we have to organize a philosophy and a way of life and set of values that allow us to live with contradictions and that has a base of respect for what is different.
But of course, we come from the legacy of the old national state and the struggle for our respective interests. I do not think that there is in the world an ecological crisis … what is in the world is a political crisis.
Man has unleashed a type of civilization that has no governance. And that’s where we have the problem. Actually ecological problems are the consequence, not the cause. This is our path, at this point I am not flirting, at least I have to have the liberty to say so.
AR: The more these ideas are expressed the closer it seems to what we have always heard from Fidel [Castro]. How was your meeting with Fidel?
President Mujica: Notable, because obviously Fidel is encyclopedic. His old concerns remain reflected in Fidel today.
He is focused on nothing more and nothing less than on the procurement and selection of varieties of high protein green vegetables that could be the basis on which to prepare concentrated rations and reduce grain consumption in animals.
For people who are not into these topics the concern may seem secondary. It has to do with human food because largest consumers of grains are the animals that accompany man.
For example, the Chinese usually have about 700 million pigs a well-bred kilo of pork costs six to seven kilos of feed. They have about 4,500 million chickens, and every kilo of chicken can cost about five kilos of grain feed. This begins to multiply, and I’m just talking about the Chinese.
What he wants to say is that grain consumption in animals that accompany us in life and give us milk etcetera, is a colossal matter. Fidel’s concerns should concern humanity.
There is a leaf vegetable containing much protein. In my climate, I am from a temperate climate, there is an old plant of Arabic origin, alfalfa, alfalfa means good plant, it has a composition of calcium and protein that has higher nutritional values than corn, for example.
So what involves Fidel is not crazy, he is passionate, experimenting. Some do not understand this. They say quirky and old. No no. These are sensible concerns of a man preoccupied with human affairs.
And this by the way is a lesson for young people who feel bored at times. In life you have to find content, content must be sought under the circumstances. And I think Fidel is an example of how an old age can be transformed into a very useful thing.
AR: In other words, in Rio +20 his speech seemed to be loaded with the same angst that tormented him (Fidel Castro) 20 years earlier in the same Rio. I mean how the market is pushing humanity to a dead end, to the abyss.
President Mujica: If the economy does not grow we have a tragedy. For the economy to grow we have to encourage consumption, to encourage consumption now ‘we must innovate’. Old things are often presented in a new form to exploit the desire for variety and curiosity that humans carry inside, always looking around for something different.
Then this exploitation is massed with a very strong propaganda system that is the engine of permanent and systematic development of increased consumption at times unresponsive because it is not precisely increasing basic material goods that have to do with survival, but instead increasing a superfluous consumer cloud. Then we distort the material means to address consumption that is really fundamental to human life.
Not everything we consume has the same importance, but also we have been deformed, the things we do: the lamps have to be short lived, the cellphone needs to be renewed every four months and so on.
Everything has to be used and discarded permanently, and so mountains of garbage pile up with which we know not what to do, then we have a barbaric problem and when we throw away all that crap we are wasting human energy and material resources, and then we complain that we attacked nature because we have assembled a civilization based on waste.
I, like Fidel, thought this to be a consequence of capitalism. At this point I think it’s more than that, obviously is a consequence of the workings capitalism, but it is a model of civilization.
Many years ago I went to the old Soviet Union, to Lomonosov, and I wore a nylon jacket that had just come out, I’m talking about the 50s. It was an unbearable thing, but it was a novelty and the poor Soviet students saw it wanted to trade for it.
The magic of merchandise is distinct. And the masses are powerless before it and go like flies to the light. We are in danger from this subliminal culture.
There has been more than 100 years of Coca Cola propaganda, the propaganda never tires. It renews its methods and goes on and on.
The contradiction is that in the civilization that we have assembled, we must be more cruel, It is not just capitalism, it is the model of civilization that we have built and in which we all find ourselves.
I am among those who think that culture has importance, directed culture, and I think he said it’s easier to make material change than to make cultural change.
And I’m not advocating that we return to the caves or a primitive society, no, not that, It is to leave behind of the foolishness, that’s another story. Quit the nonsense.
AR: On July 26th Europe Caricom demanded from Europe compensation for slavery and in recent days Europe apologized to Evo Morales. What comments you do you have on these two stories?
President Mujica: The second, Evo Morales, is a picture of what we are capable of achieving the Latin American people if we have the intelligence and courage to walk together, which requires accepting the diversity we have within. Be less judges between ourselves and show much more solidarity.
Undoubtedly the apologies would never have been granted to Evo if it were only Bolivia doing the asking, but it was generalized.
I am very happy because it was what I thought from the outset, they had screwed up and the only thing left was to openly accept it and say “we were wrong” and they [the EU] did.
I welcomed it because there is a reward and recognition when we make decisions together.
Latin Americans never walked so close. Never. I do not know if it is the settling of old struggles that have created a kind of social soil fertility which now appears at this juncture expressed with governments that are of one flag, some more left wing, some more to the center, others of the center-left others may be categorized as more to the right nonetheless we and agree on certain decisions.
Thankfully we are humble and not dogmatic, not sectarian, when there are differences we do not rub our positions in each other’s snouts. We give each other credit we are specific with each other, because together we are strong, and in this world, unfortunately, conditions in the international arena favor the strong.
The other, that of the Caribbean, is a just cause… and the Africans when claiming the hundreds of millions they stole, I think that the West can never repay the debt they have, but to recognize it …
Some time ago I was in a country, New Zealand, their current generations have understood clearly the debt they have with Maori, they are confronting it.
It’s happening in the world today, there are places where the white man is compensating the descendants of victims exploited by their previous generations, New Zealand is a case, and you have to raise the issue.
Part one, produced in two installments.