Digressions on 24/3 and the “Big Men”

by Leandro Wallace

The following opinion piece emerged from a small talk in one of our EnGender! meetings. The real force behind me typing this lines are my strong twitter following that responded to my poll last week (Thank you all three of you for engaging!).

The powder was provided by that small talk referenced before, which involved an exchange of perspectives and examples on different political situations and the reemergence, and use, of “powerful” man politics. That talk stayed rumbling in my mind for a couple of days. The spark then was provided by the date 24/3, which in Argentina happens to be El Día Nacional de la Memoria por la Verdad y la Justicia. A remembrance day, as it marks the start of the last civic-military dictatorship in the country, which lasted until 10/12 of 1983. It would be a dishonor to all the work that has been put into researching and bringing to light the atrocities that occurred during those years and all those who enabled, to try and summarize them in a few words. If you are interested in learning more I would recommend googling Nunca Más, Madres de Plaza de Mayo, and you will also find plenty of academic work related to the topic.

Even with all the hard work put into it, there is a lot of negating and dancing around what really happened. That is where the connection with our in-house talk touched with my thoughts. There have been many one man or big man figures in world politics these past years. Many of them fueled by similar power stands and discourses that those prompted by the military government: intolerance, nationalism, foreign and national enemies, and so on. However similar they all appear to be, they are, of course, not the same. They have their own historical developments and circumstances. However, they have some things in common.

They are never alone. The last dictatorship in Argentina called themselves the Junta Militar, to symbolize the participation of all the branches of the armed forces (this responds to a historical development coming from previous illegal military governments. You can search for the conflict between “azules” and “colorados”). They all, also, have backup; supporters; people and enterprises (run by real people), who make money off of what is happening. Basically, allies in all of the national political and economic branches. Add to those, their international allies, money providers or enablers. In the case of Argentina, for example, it is no secret the involvement of the USA in promoting and financing part of many of the coup’s, including the last one.

The same happens to those “big men” in politics today. They are not alone. They provide ideological and political comfort to their supporters or allies. These people are easier to spot. They are usually vocal and express similar ideas in public. The other support group comes from economic enterprises or individuals, that profit from the actions of this “one men politics”. Some of these are not as clear-cut to differentiate as those that are vocal. Many times they convey a different ideological or social position, and even try to antagonize them. All the while, making a profit from the conditions provided by this “big men”. Going back to the Argentinian case as an example, the Junta government, while persecuting the “subversive elements” of the so called “international communist threat”, was engaged in economic trading with the Soviet Union.

At the same time, regional support and exchange can and will happen. The Plan Condor was carefully coordinated by the military governments of Argentina, Chile and Brazil. We must always ask who surround these, so called, powerful men, and how are they holding on to power. Most of the times those responsible are behind the curtains both on a national and international level. It is those connections and hidden allies that we must push to the light and mark them as responsible. Hold them accountable for whatever profit or benefit they have encounter from the death and suffering of others.

There is a reason why the dictatorships in Argentina are referenced as civic and military. There were individuals involved in promoting and reproducing the repression and subjugation of the whole society. The civic elements refer to the economic and political allies that we have been referring. They helped establish a new type of economy, and benefited for it. Once the dictatorship ended, they hid in plain sight, because society had been shaken, by them, to its core.

Circumstances right now can give these types of characters the opportunity to have access to power. With campaigns of disinformation, restructuring of geopolitical positions (both with the US coming back into the arena and China moving to occupy a predominant position) and the fights for a proper distribution and access to vaccines, can create the sorts of opportunities for a wannabe “big man” to emerge. Both at a national and regional level.

As I am trying to put forward with this opinion piece. These opportunities are not grasped by a single man. There are groups, associations, that are paying attention to all this, in order to get their cut. It is there, by the movement and the waves created by them, where the individual, themselves, may take the advantage. But we can be vigilant, because those groups need to fight openly, before having the possibility of pushing for that certain individual to take over. Our job is to fight back those power groups when they show up. At the same time, it is not the first time in the last 30-40 years that the sort of situation has happened. But the pandemic may open more than one way for more, so called, leaders to emerge.

We must continue to be vigilant. It is tiring and exhausting, even more so with a pandemic still hanging over our heads, but it is going to be much more difficult once they take power

I don’t intend to create a comprehensive analysis of the situation or do a comparative study of the present with Latin-American dictatorships of the last century. Neither do I ignore that many of the structures that I reference are part of neocolonial networks. But it is not only in the peripheries that this sort of arrangements happen. Far from it!

I do hope to have shared a couple of thoughts and red lights that pop in my head when reading or listening to world events. The best example of such a red light, I can provide right now, is reading how the new military government in Myanmar was being called Junta as well. It does set off some of the alarms, that and the killing of people that show actively their opposition to an unwanted government.

The best way to stay on top of these possibilities is to pay attention and discuss what is going on. Another way is circulating the news of what is happening so it doesn’t get covered by some boat stuck in the sand or the latest “they said” event. Because that’s the deal, those who benefit from these situations do like to cover their tracks and don’t like to be asked questions. We must take care of each other, because if we don’t it is easier to create confusion and individualism. In turn, it may open the door to these people.

Addenda:

It has been a month since I put my ideas down, and much of what has given me red lights have continued, with little to none attention. One thing has grown more preoccupying: the inability to come to an international consensus on whether vaccines should be distributed accordingly. The fact that central countries are trying to supply themselves is not surprising, the fact that they continue to use colonial strategies should not be a surprise either. Somehow, I am still at awe that these ways of acting can be so freely used without any repercussion, only few voices have been raised and mainly experts that have unraveled the patterns from past occurrences. Like I said before in this piece, the type of circumstances in which a “big man” can come to power, is just like the geopolitics we are having right now. I pledge to the citizens of the so called central countries to not yield to the rhetoric of safe yourselves and you will be fine. That is not at all true. If the whole planet does not heal from the virus, you ARE vulnerable, you ARE in danger, and, most importantly, if you do not speak up, the cycle will continue.

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