June 20, 2013
Cristina and the spirit world
New cult has president as priestess, Néstor in role of Zeus
On one memorable occasion a few years back, Cristina treated a bevy of philosophers to a lecture in which she expressed her preference for the thoughts of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel over those of Martin Heidegger, to her mind an “elitist”, unlike his predecessor who was, she told us, far more “inclusive”. Fortunately for those who find Hegel’s prose hard going, whether in the original German or in translation, and are bemused by the often gnomic utterances of Heidegger, a man who believed that “making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy”, since then Cristina has moved on. Encouraged by her youthful admirers, she now takes her inspiration from comic books.
Though traces of her enthusiasm for Teutonic divagations into the nature of being and such matters can still be detected, she now goes on about “the collective hero”, who by a stroke of luck just happens to be the shade of her late husband Néstor Kirchner. Néstor, transformed post mortem into “the Nestornaut”, an updated version of The Eternaut, a well-known comic strip, may have gone into another dimension, but he continues to watch over us. The only person who can actually see, or at least hear or, perhaps, feel him is Cristina when a gust of wind touches her face and something tells her that she is not alone. As far as her devoted followers are concerned, that is more than enough: Néstor lives on.
Cristina and the Cámpora kids, as she fondly calls them, are by no means the first Peronists to take a lively interest in the occult. Juan Domingo Perón’s valet and Isa-belita’s mentor, José López Rega, was a renowned warlock. López Rega’s attempt to enrich the general’s eclectic doctrines, or “truths” as the faithful call them, with a spot of spiritualism failed, largely because he made himself unpopular by organizing death squads, but his example has not deterred the current government from trying to go one better.
Unlike Venezuela’s boss Hugo Chávez, who with characteristic modesty says he is the inventor of “21st century Socialism”, Cristina and her devotees seem determined to found something far more portentous: a new religious cult with her as its high priestess and Néstor, presumably, in the role of Zeus. This smacks of paganism, so it would not be surprising if Roman Catholic dignitaries started issuing warnings about the dire theological dangers awaiting those who take such games too seriously, but as these days nobody takes much notice of them, such efforts would have little effect. In any case, to the understandable alarm of opposition politicians, few of whom are capable of offering anything equally tempting, La Cámpora missionaries are busily preaching the Nestornaut gospel in the countries’ prisons, secondary schools and kindergartens.
All this is a bit odd, but while the Peronists are more prone than most to attribute divine qualities to their leaders, they are by no means unique. In North Korea, Kim Il-sung is still the official president even though he departed this life in 1994. When Barack Obama was making himself at home in the White House, some well-known North American journalists of a progressive bent pronounced him “a sort of god” who, in the words of one of them, stood “above the country, above, above the world”. For Obama himself, that must have been gratifying, but to his credit he did not permit the US government to set about turning jailbirds and schoolchildren, and anyone else who might prove susceptible, into believers in the personality cult his supporters appeared to have in mind. Of course, they may be waiting for him to die before being admitted into the pantheon alongside such popular deities as Superman, Batman and the rest, but that is unlikely to happen for many years to come.
In any event, in the US most people tend to be pedantic when it comes to changing the Constitution in order to prolong the reign of a president, even one as godlike as Obama. In Argentina, they are broader minded. They dream of an “eternal Cristina”, the local counterpart of the “eternal president” of North Korea, and are prepared to do their utmost to change the rules limiting her to two consecutive terms in the Pink House.
They are unlikely to succeed. For a variety of reasons, the main one being probably that the economy, managed as it is by a bunch of ham-handed eccentrics, is liable to seize up at any moment, but also including the antics of the youth wing she has attached to her private movement and the greedy habits of people associated with her government, Cristina’s popularity is in free fall.
Unless the constitutional reforms her supporters would like to see rammed through prove to be even more drastic that the ones they have hinted at, and as a result of their endeavours Argentina becomes an absolute monarchy, in order to keep her job after December 2015 the president would have to win the next election. Given the disarray in which the gaggle of opposition parties find themselves, that remains a distinct possibility, but as things stand it seems far more likely that by then Cristina, and the comic-book cultists who surround her, will be about as popular as were Carlos Menem and his cronies after ruling the roost for the best part of a decade. Should that prove to be the case, even having the Nestornaut hovering above her like a tutelary spirit would not be enough to save her.