The high and the mighty continue this month to stalk my characters. Now that the Buenos Aires-born Pope Francis has left Bolivia and Paraguay, President Obama has made his way to the land of his ancestry, which also happens to be the setting for Strange Gods, my fourth novel. I have to tell you, I am loving this!
The POTUS is getting a great reception in the land of his forebears. If I had a wish for him, it would be to be able to go to the places I went when I was there last August. He deserves a break from the slings and arrows of his job. He needs to watch the elephants mommies nursing their babies.
So do I, as you are about to see. I am feeling my cranky side grumbling in the background as I type. Here’s why.
The Prez made a pointed reference to corruption in his speech to the Kenyan people. I could not agree with him more about the hatefulness, the destructiveness of corruption on the part of politicians and businessmen. It is the height of selfishness. It harms only the innocent and benefits only the guilty. I despise it. Wherever it thrives poor people will not.
But I also have had it up to my neck hearing the sanctimonious diatribes about corruption from the holier than thou whose ancestors spent a lot of their time, and earned a lot of their wealth, sowing its seeds. (Needles to say I am not talking about Obama here.)
|PLEASE notice this is about perceptions. It does not|
include a question about the way the people near the
top of the chart behaved when they invaded the countries
at the bottom of the chart.
My ire about this subject began to reach continental proportions as the Northern European ire over Greece got splashed across the world media. “We are tired,” a friend reported his Scandinavian friends complaining, “of people wanting a handout. Their country is rife with corruption. We want them to pay their debts.” No admission was given that the poor of Greece will suffer while the corrupt sail off in their yachts. In fact, as far as I can see, the EU powerbase does not care how many people are starving, how many young lives are ruined, as long as they get “their” money back.
Just about everywhere one goes, one hears a lot of distain from the well-off for all those corrupt, darker-skinned folks south of Alps all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope. In my hemisphere, it’s from the Alamo all the way down to Tierra Del Fuego. I have heard a lot of this same drivel within the Italy: The northerners “tired” of the meridianali, blaming them for their poverty.
But where did this susceptibility toward corruption come from? Is it a genetic propensity linked somehow how to skin color?
As it happens, I have spent the past couple of decades researching the history of Latin America and Africa and most recently, Sicily. Here is what I know. None of these places were sinks of depravity before more powerful and technologically advance people invaded their borders, destroyed their indigenous cultures, and grabbed whatever they could get to make themselves rich. Almost invariably, the technological superiority involved ways of killing people. And almost without exception the invaders came from the north.
The Brits, for example, found many clever ways to impoverish the African tribal people and then turned the word “beggar” into a pejorative when describing them. Hey, Jack, they weren’t beggars before you got there.
And by the way, Jack, do want to give back the “Elgin Marbles” so the Greeks can use them to pay down their debt?
A small sample of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum
The scene of the crime when they were stolen
The cleverest beggars imitate their outsider overlords—they grab whatever wealth they can. They see getting rich as the only way to a satisfying life. Usually they take the lucre under the table.
President Obama is trying to help the people of Africa find ways to develop their legitimate economies. I pray his efforts succeed. I do not pray that the self-satisfied people of the north will stop calling the Africans (or the Greeks, or the Italians, or the Spanish) nasty names, and labeling them all as corrupt. People have been praying for that for centuries. God is not listening to those prayers. The powerful may be right when they tell themselves that God is on their side.
Maybe the Pope can change God’s mind. I sure hope so.
Annamaria - Monday