Don’t cross when the light is amber
For the Herald
Recent episodes of growing violence in the country appear as a chance to hit the brakes
May Day was celebrated in striking fashion here — two marches by the left, both calling for unity but from different squares. Meanwhile the right found its voice via the teamster Pablo Moyano who, faced with the prospect of Quilmes town hall expropriating the garbage collection services, prophesied “one, two or three deaths.” He did not utter a single word about his family’s denounced links with the company in charge of these services until now while his father, the dissident CGT boss Hugo Moyano, praised the councillors backing Sergio Massa for rejecting the move while at the same time threatening: “If the government wants war, we teamsters will give them war.”
All this seems in line with a dangerous and growing style of brutality which could be termed “pre-violent.” Which is grave for democracy and rules out any irony because it concerns gestures, rhetoric and attitudes of political irresponsibility which need to be repudiated by the citizenry without any attenuation. When the light is amber, you have to stop and that is why the fools who, instead of slamming on their brakes, press the accelerator must be condemned.
There is brutality of every kind from the apparently trivial to the worst. Among the former, for example, the demolition of almost all the House of Poetry, the house of Evaristo Carriego, despite a court warrant. This case gave rise to a phenomenal ruling by judge Víctor Trionfetti, who ordered the house to be rebuilt and the destroyed or missing objects to be restored with a solid argument — if 90 percent of Warsaw’s historic downtown could be reconstructed just as it was between 1945 and 1953, then a house of 140 square metres can (and must) also be restored. Those lawyers who have read his complete ruling comment that it has 70 pages of marvellous judicial common sense. It would be good if every presidential hopeful, such as this city’s mayor, were to read it. But City Hall appealed the verdict and now it is in an appeals court.
On the other hand, among the most flagrantly dangerous, should be noted the presumed, overblown and foolish debate about bringing back compulsory military service. This prompted the support of three dubious current or former mayors — Jesús Cariglino (now in Massa’s Renewal Front), Mario Ishii (still in the Kirchnerite Victory Front) and Alejandro Granados, now Governor Daniel Scioli’s security minister in Buenos Aires province.
The rejection was generalized, as could not be otherwise. Because it was simply unsustainable, given the history of this country and the circumstances in which Congress eliminated conscription following the murder of Private Omar Carrasco in a Neuquén barracks at the hands of his brutal instructors. It is true that the democratic disciplining of the armed forces in recent years has also exposed the weakness of some social policies and left the youth of each generation unprotected but in every case it is all about reviewing military service and not showmanship. Because no social evil can be corrected by conscription, as was the case years ago, because in this society if the survival of the fittest prevailed, the fittest were always the military.
If the problem is youth (and to some extent it is), the answer is to give them education and horizons in life, starting with decent and legal jobs, not to stigmatize youth in a class-conscious, xenophobic and even racist way.
These are also purely urban phenomena. Apart from the cases of Rosario, Córdoba and Mendoza — the three great centres of the hinterland which go reproducing the worst aspects of Greater Buenos Aires life — the reality of most provinces is different. More than half the country still values and practises an amiable calm and serene conversation, greeting people with a smile and showing various forms of solidarity — their nerves are in check, perhaps thanks to their siestas. It is not a question of idealizing life in what big city folk call “the interior” in the old centralist Unitarist fashion but, of course, it seems true that this cultural abyss exists and grows in times like these.
What should then be done when the crazy traffic and accidents with dozens of victims are generalized and “nationalized” and there is violence of every kind — not only so-called crime but also verbal aggression, jostling and the bad tempers induced by a once credible press which today is ideological, tendentious and mendacious?
There seems no answer other than the patience of democracy — i.e. slowly but consistently advancing in updating the systems of law (hence the urgency of reforming the civil and penal codes, for example) and the always mentioned but now highly urgent integral reform of the judiciary. Because not everything in Argentina should be reduced to criticizing the Executive Branch when there are so many flaws in the Legislative and above all Judicial Branches, the latter rooted in 19th century formalisms with methods and customs which are still Napoleonic, when not antediluvian.
To all these barbarities should be added the violence which is surging in children and adolescents. There are already many, too many cases of bullying with adolescents and children even being killed in a school context.
In the face of the apparent inaction of parents and teachers — many of them presumably distracted by the revived show of Marcelo Tinelli — the future is bleak without behavioural change. That is why when the amber lights flash, gaffes like those of Senator Alfredo de Angelis /PRO-Entre Ríos) proposing to “legislate child labour” are inadmissible. Even his Rural Liaison Board friends and colleagues like Eduardo Buzzi repudiated him while Labour Minister Carlos Tomada explained: “Those under 16 should be in school.”
And on top of all this, more absurdly useless speeding — AFA Football Association’s decision in favour of a 30-team tournament just when violence is winning all the soccer battles and hooligans dominate the club managements and overrun the stadiums in the face of police impotence or complicity. Add to all this the inexplicable tolerance of the courts and the poor performance of thousands of players who only aspire to emigrate to leagues elsewhere in the world and it becomes clear that it is just business — as everything AFA has done for decades has been with the evident indulgence of AFIP tax bureau. It could be Julio Grondona’s last blow to once beautiful Argentine soccer but it is alarming that his idea was unanimously approved, changing the rules of promotion and relegation just to favour a few clubs.
There is no limit to the manual of Argentine brutality.