By Juan Carlos Flórez, SEMANA, July 3, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
“No Violence” is not only the most effective way to renew the relationship between the society and those who govern. It also contains a powerful moral strength.
The citizen insurrection that has befallen Colombia has validated with a vengeance a fistful of reality, that the government, as it’s constituted right now, does not have the least capacity to respond to the grievances that are demanding substantive reforms and not a mere make-up operation, not an injection of botox whose effects will disappear pretty quickly. It can’t hide the ruin of its institutions, riddled with inefficiency, cronyism, malfeasance, and brazen assault on public resources.
If what remains of the ruling class is even minimally aware of the social and political debacle that is creeping up on us, it will have to be tackled in the next administration, because, so far, this one has not done it. It will take major surgery to pass from a gangrenous government to one that has the drive and the diligence to carry out the changes without which the worst predictions about our country will take place.
The garrote is the only thing the current political regime in Colombia has left to confront the growing demands of our society. Legitimate violence that is regulated legally is an exceptional instrument for democratic governments. Here the citizens’ protests demonstrated that government violence is more and more illegitimate, an immense danger for any society that aspires to be democratic. The massacre that took place during the weeks of the Strike, most of its victims attributed to agents of the government, would have required the government to be held to account before the parliament in a democratic regime. Nothing like that took place here, because a Congress, addicted to the goodies with which the President keeps them in a state of complete submission, stage-managed one of the most shameful pages in its history of permanent silence and bent knees, while the bloody violence mowed people down in the streets of our cities. And instead, they made the Armed Forces pick up the pieces, which the politicians had been incapable of doing.
If our country needs one urgent change, it’s the change to a government that refuses to use uncontrolled violence against its citizens. Conceiving violence as the first resort to keep the citizens in subjection is what has converted our country into an infamous slaughterhouse. While education was able to overcome the sinister axiom of “spare the rod and spoil the child”, those who usurp the rights of the majority and mortgage the government’s control believe, as did the plantation owners in the 19th century, that they are entitled to the gallows, the knife, and the first night, that they have to keep the people quiet with as much violence as possible.
Forgetting history is extremely dangerous. More than two centuries ago, there was the insurrection of the Communeros (The Commoners) who, choking under the colonial yoke, rose up to defend their rights. A duplicitous Viceroy’s government cheated and murdered their leaders in a despicable way. The colonized society learned the hard way, and at the next opportunity they didn’t beat around the bush. They went straight away to demand their independence from the inept and distant Spanish mother country. So they are playing with fire here if they don’t understand the profound degree of citizen disaffection with this regime. There’s time for the reforms, but it’s becoming less and less.
We need a ruling class that practices “No Violence” against its own people. That applies not just to those who are steering the State at one particular time. “No Violence” also contains a powerful moral strength, something that is so lacking that here that it puts us in circumstances where almost everything that is related to public issues is seen as criminal.