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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Vandals
Latin American genius Carlos Alberto Montaner on the destructive waves of protest sweeping through Latin America.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Now it is Colombia’s turn.

It happened before in Mexico and Chile. Vandals have destroyed a great part of Santiago de Chile. They went mercilessly against the public transport system. More than two dozen stations were burned to the ground. These actions directly affect the poorest workers and the companies in which they work. They cannot arrive on time to their jobs. It is true that states often clean the rubble quickly, but the outrage against vandals takes a long time to dissipate. Much more than the smoke of the fires.

Indirectly, vandals harm the whole society. The damages inflicted on the public sector mean less services than those already budgeted. Fewer school cafeterias. Less health and education. Less resources for retirees. Less parks and recreation. Less investment. Fewer jobs. Less growth. Perhaps, more taxes to mitigate the damage. There is not a single positive aspect in vandalism, given that society usually takes these attitudes into account at the time of elections. The suicidal leftist parties that sponsor the excesses – leftists like Petro – and the rulers who do not firmly face the vandals, usually pay a high price at the polls.

Interestingly, the original vandals were part of Germanic tribes that entered Iberia at the beginning of the 5th century and left their genetic mark in Galicia and Andalusia. The blue or green-eyed tall, blond and good-looking Spaniards come from that remote lineage. The Vandals’ reputation of destroyers emerged much later. It originated after the sacking of Rome in 455, but it was not until the thirteenth century that ecclesiastical writings coined the sinister equivalence between looters and vandals. However, those vandals, the original ones, acted outside their territory. They didn’t think of destroying their own environment.

Why do these new vandals do it?

Obviously, because they like to burn and destroy what does not belong to them. There is something hypnotic and attractive in the fire. That is why pyromania is a universal phenomenon. Its origin may be political, but the ones that implement it are usually young people who enjoy the adrenaline rush running through their bodies. They are slaves of the neurotransmitters that control our behavior, as the Spanish anthropologist José Antonio Jáuregui explained very well. Especially when we know that the brain does not mature until approximately 25 years of age.

How can we deal with these destructive citizens? In my opinion, with severity and fairness. Maybe modifying the penal codes. It is not enough to ask grandmothers to punish their vandal grandchildren, as requested by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). The society, represented by the State, must do so. How? Perhaps taking the guilty ones before severe courts. If they are minors, making the families pay the expenses of the destruction carried out by these rascals. I think that some Asian peoples have that kind of measures, and they must be imitated.

I remember the case of a Spanish businessman who, upset by the graffiti left on the front wall of his business by a street “artist,” found out where the subject lived, went to his house and painted it with cans of indelible paint. The graffiti artist learned the lesson and never again harmed the premises of the avenger. Incidentally, the annoyed family had to pay hundreds of euros to repaint their home.


It is very important that these reforms of sentences and punishments be carried out. This would avoid, among other anomalies, the rattle of sabers that usually has a very bad ending. Either the criminal law reforms are made by sensible politicians, or they are forcibly made by generals with the initial approval of societies. Then comes the time to cry, but the origin is in the vandals and in the passivity of the governments that tolerate them.

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Vandals @CarlosAMontaner
Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.



 

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