My HeyDay

Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful

Epilogue... After a Trip to the Tropics

All the human hopes condensed in a hundred faces. Maybe all men got one big soul everybody's a part of; all faces are the same man. The smartest person I have ever met said once to me that "life is better measure by experiences -and friends- than by time", and I could say that it has been the case this month. I barely remember the distant day when I left Washington, bringing lots of hope and anxiety as my luggage. Four weeks later, I just can say that there is another world, and I have been there. The emotional implication with the people of these two small countries has been far more intense than anything I could experience in my last three years in the US. I know that. I guess that dreams, like anguish, bring people together. And suffering equals everybody. How did we lose all the good that was given us? Let it slip away. Scattered careless... But I learned a few things in my time here:

Be Empathic: I come back convinced about that indisputable truth. That we are nothing if we only care about ourselves, self-focused and just developing a earthly shrine dedicated to our ego. Popularity, professional success, beauty, all those things are meaningless temporary achievements that nobody will care about in few years. Wrong fights. Et in Arcadia ego... We really are not ourselves until we don't come in touch, empathically, with the world we live in.

Care about Democracy: I also bring along a dozen of doubts and "research questions" around our basic idea of Democracy. Political Science still desperately needs to come back to the fundamentals and redefine the concept. Robert Dahl, a pope in Political Science and a good old Yale professor, was always very sad because of our constant struggle to just agree about this basic definition. But the fact is that when we come to places like Honduras and El Salvador, and we observe the workings of their political systems, formally a democracy, one misses so many pieces that would funnel representation from the citizens to the government, that it's hard to accept this sort of liberal democracy in the general definition. Politicians struggle to survive in power here, in a constant fight between elites, but just for the sake of gaining the grace of the economically powerful establishment. Nonetheless, you would note that either Europe or the US are not so different. Only, from time to time, as it was the case of El Salvador this month, a powerful grass-roots movement allied with economic turbulences can break the pattern and bring some hope. Even if it remains to be seen how long-lasting this change in the rules of the game is going to be until the new elite is co-opted. But in a regular democracy, real alternation should be the rule and not the exception. Those who do not see the dangers in a democracy with a very unbalanced representation are just blind. Even Machiavelli would acknowledge that. The Prince should not just exert fear, but also love, in his fellow subjects, and he has to avoid the monopolistic rule of any special group. The Prince, in our present time, is us, the voters, the People.

Worry about Development: My optimism and pessimism about Development and development professionals grew in parallel in this trip. I still observe, and suffer, what I call the "bureaucracies of development", those international and national agencies blahbling the development jargon we are used to and caring, mainly, about procedures. Becoming the Kafkian nightmares they were not meant to be, due to the high expectations all we put on them. But the hope is that a myriad, million-strong army of community organizers, teachers, healthcare trainers, Jesuits!, volunteers and especially, that [still] small elite of development professionals -hey, Pax!- who want to transform the way this work is performed to a more complete, jargon-free, human-based, multi-disciplinary and efficient discipline. They just can succeed at some point.

Hunt Friends: Someone said that when you gain a friend, you find a treasure. There is something magical in connecting with another person, enjoying his/her conversation, sense of humor, views of the world, and stories from the past. It's like two trains running at the same speed and coming from different tracks, and at some magical point those tracks become parallel pathways and both trains have time to spend together in their trip. Friends come and go this way, but many of them, those who shared that deep connection with us, inexorably become a share of our memories and soul. And said that, traveling alone is a great way to meet people and make some random, few good friends. There is something exotic in being a foreigner which other people find enticing, and they are naturally open to conversation. One day, I remember, I was in the balcony of a café in Jewel Key looking at the sea, and this old woman, Shannon, came next to me. We started talking about how would life look like in this narrow, overpopulated key, and five minutes later I was telling her my deepest existential anxieties and dreams, my life cross-roads and tough choices. And, fifteen minutes later we were sharing a table for lunch and sharing a drink. Is it not magical?

I came here with lots of questions and I found some few, but enriching answers. First, one should move his steps towards the future not basing his decisions on fear, but on pursuing the things that enlighten you and make you happy. Also, you are never alone if you decide not to be. Loneliness is a personal choice, afterall. Somehow, it is the refusal to open your self to the other. And many people, even if constantly accompanied, are indeed very alone in this world. And the last and most important one, Flor de Caña is still the best rum in the Caribbean. Period. No discussion about that.


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