17 September 2005

"We Have To Change First"

The Jenius has never posted on a weekend before. But thanks to my esteemed colleague, José Rodríguez, who sent me a sobering e-mail two days ago, a weekend post is necessary.

Translated from Spanish, this essay, anonymously written, is either inflammatory or depressing. Maybe both. There is an abundance of Truth here and those of Us who refuse to acknowledge it are without a doubt the ones thoroughly skewered in its words.

The general belief is that Rafael Henández Colón was no good, the same as Pedro Roselló (sic) and Sila Calderón. Now it’s said that Aníbal Acevedo Vilá is no good. And whoever comes after Aníbal will be no good either.

That’s why I’m beginning to suspect that the problem isn’t how corrupt and how big a thief Roselló (sic) was, or how autocratic Sila was. The problem is us. Us as a NATION. Us as the raw material of a country.

Because I belong to a country where becoming rich overnight is a virtue more appreciated than forming a family based on values and respect for others.

I belong to a country where, sadly, newspapers can never be sold like they are sold in other countries, that is, by placing some boxes on the sidewalks where one pays for one newspaper AND TAKES ONLY ONE NEWSPAPER AND LEAVES THE REST IN THE BOX.

I belong to a country where “PRIVATE BUSINESSES” are the “personal office supply stores” of their dishonest employees, blithely taking home paper, pencils, pens, markers and everything needed for their children’s projects, amongst other things.

I belong to a country where the people feel triumphant if they can steal cable TV by hooking up to their neighbor’s; where the people lie without shame to pay less in taxes or no taxes at all. I belong to a country where not being on time is a habit. Where company executives do not develop their human resources. Where there is very little interest in ecology, where people throw garbage in the streets and then blame the government for not keeping the sewer system clean. Where we steal power and water services and complain about how expensive they are.

Where there is no culture of reading and there is neither political, historical and economic conscience nor memory. Where our legislators work two days a year (and collect for the rest of the year like CEOs) to approve bills that only sink those that have nothing, screw those that have little and benefit just a handful of people.

I belong to a country where driver’s licenses, car inspections and medical certificates can be bought without any sort of test. A country where an elderly person, a woman with a child in her arms or a disabled person can get on a bus and people already seated pretend not see them so as not to give up their seat.

A country where cars have priority over pedestrians, even on the sidewalk. A country full of faults, but intent on lambasting its government. “The more I call Roselló or Aníbal a rat, the better I am as a person, though just yesterday I cheated on my math test or work schedule."

"The more I yell 'Autocrat!' at Aníbal, the more Puerto Rican I am."

No. No. No. Goddammit. That’s enough.

As the Raw Material of a country, we have many good things but we are far from being the men and women that our country needs. These defects, the constant cheating and undermining, the small-scale dishonesty that grows and evolves to become scandals, that lack of humanity, more that Romero, Hernández, Roselló (sic), Calderón or Acevedo is what has us in such dire straits, because these people have been nothing more and nothing less than OUR GOVERNORS. Born here, not anywhere else.

I’m sorry, because even if Acevedo resigns today, the next governor would have to continue working with the same defective raw material, that as a nation, we are. And he or she won’t be able to do a thing. I have no guarantee that anybody can do a better job, but while no one points out a way to eradicate the vices and flaws we have as a nation, no governor can be any good.

Do we need to bring in a dictator, to force us to obey the law by force or under a cloud of fear?

What we need is something else. Something more than critics and amateur political analysts. And while that “solution” doesn’t emerge from the bottom up, the top down, from the center, the sides or wherever, we’ll be equally damned, equally stuck…equally screwed.

We love being Puerto Rican. But when that Puerto Rican-ness becomes an obstacle to the possibility of our development as a Nation, then something has to be done.

We can’t afford to light the saints a candle to see if they’ll send us a Messiah. We have to change, for a new governor with the same Puerto Ricans won’t be able to do anything. It’s very clear: we have to change first.

The Jenius Has Quoted.


KW said...

If we are to believe President Abraham Lincoln, then we need look no farther than his great speech after the battle of Gettysburg to realize the essence of this post. Quoting from his immortal words, we live in a: "...government OF the people, BY the people, FOR the people..." http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm

I lived near Gettysburg in Maryland, and I have walked those grounds, and the grounds of Anteitam, and of Harpers Ferry. Our challenge is to believe. We have to believe, even in the face of the everything, that we can make a difference. That just one person is enough, just one act, just one more time we have to reach out. Our challenge is to block out the potential impact of the negativity that surrounds us. We have to block it out, until usch time when we rage against the system with our money, our effort, our time, our voice, and our vote. Most everyone I have ever talked to, tell me that Luis Ferrer was well respected after he was Govenor. Didn't he have to govern these very same Puerto Ricans? Have we changed so much since then?

One thing that I read in an interview with Don Luis after he diead, was the thing that made him most sad in his later years was the sense that Puerto Ricans had lost their voice. I've struggled with this since I read it, and I share it when I can. On the one hand I understand what he meant, but on the other I see people protesting, striking, and marching ALL THE TIME. So what did he mean? And how do we reclaim that voice? I wish I knew.

Anonymous said...

I know I know *jumping up and down*

The truth lays in the text of your comment and Gil's post. Your voice?

You must claim it first.

I got that pathetic diatribe via email the other day, and my only response was:

"Ah, sigh, all such fine thoughts, and not a soul to claim them as their own.

The real problem is cowardice from which the author of this piece suffers along with his pueblo."

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, Mr. James, but you seem to be forgetting that it is never important who can claim the copyright to such fime thoughts, but the mere essence of them and everything they imply; for a life spent in the pursuit of principles shall always be richer that that spent in the pursuit of attention or personalities...