NYT Opinion Piece on Nicaragua
Sometimes it is easy to miss something because you are blinded by your own political bias. This opinion piece which was published on the NYT web site on 7 March 2013, however, doesn't even seem that political -- it just makes no sense. The author, Thomas L. Friedman has written other pieces on other issues and other countries. I skimmed a couple. They don't seem to make much sense either but I admit I know far less about some of the nations he talks about.
I am going to embed my questions/comments within the article in bold. The original piece appears here and is titled The Rise of Popularism in Nicaragua.
Yesterday's news from Nicaragua is truly historic, and it raises questions about whether there might just be light at the end of the tunnel. This was published in 7 March. Did something happen on 6 March (last Wednesday)? Or is this just a reference to something in the past? It is impossible not to be tantalized by the potential of these events to change the course of Nicaragua's history. What's important, however, is that we focus on what this means to the citizens themselves. The current administration seems too caught up in dissecting the macro-level situation to pay attention to how their people are doing. Just call it missing the tables for the wood. Generally, I think the current administration gets too involved at the micro-level. The exception is when it needs to play games to meet externally-mandated requirements such as inflation levels acceptable to the IMF.
When thinking about the recent problems, Which recent problems? it's important to remember three things: One, people don't behave like computer programs, so attempts to treat them as such are going to come across as foreign. Have I missed something where the Nicaraguan government is modeling Nicaragua's future? Computer programs never suddenly blow themselves up. Actually, they do. Two, Nicaragua has spent decades torn by civil war and ethnic hatred, so a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. Let's skip the civil war item as we have discussed the external influences involved all too many times here. But, ethnic hatred? One of the most positive things I see in Nicaragua is a lack of ethnic hatred. While there are always exceptions, I have been impressed with acceptance of people here regardless of color, sexual orientation, religion, ... When I first got here I lived next door to an ex-contra in a otherwise Sandinista neighborhood. No issues and no issue with "the Gringo". And three, hope is an extraordinarily powerful idea: If ethnic conflict is Nicaragua's glass ceiling, then hope is certainly its flowerpot.
When I was in Nicaragua last week, I was amazed by the people's basic desire for a stable life, and that tells me two things. It tells me that the citizens of Nicaragua have no shortage of human capital, and that is a good beginning to grow from. Second, it tells me that people in Nicaragua are just like people anywhere else on this flat earth of ours. It tells me that the people are sick of being the victim of "external politics". They want to set their own direction.
So what should we do about the chaos in Nicaragua? ? Well, it's easier to start with what we should not do. We should not let seemingly endless frustrations cause the people of Nicaragua to doubt their chance at progress. We? This is about as convoluted as you can get in a sentence. Is he saying that "we" need to take some action to "help" Nicaraguans see they have a chance at progress? Beyond that, we need to be careful to nurture the seeds of democratic ideals. The opportunity is there, but I worry that the path to moderation is so poorly marked that Nicaragua will have to move down it very slowly. I think this is talking about some sort of gradual intervention. How about letting Nicaragua/Nicaraguans decide what to do? And of course Managua needs to feel like it is part of the process. While using the word "Washington" to refer to the US national government is quite common, I have never before seen Managua used as a reference to the Nicaraguan central government. Beyond that, with the exception of some national issues (such as immigration), I see a lot of issues being addressed locally. That sometimes means locals/local governments asking the national government for some specific help but I see much less "national control" in Nicaragua than in, for example, the US.
Speaking with a young student from the small Palestinian community here, I asked him if there was any message that he wanted me to carry back home with me. He pondered for a second, and then smiled and said, ahim bin tal, which is a local saying that means roughly, "A bad penny always turns up." While there may be a small Palestinian community in Nicaragua, this makes me think that maybe he just put the wrong names (Nicaragua and Managua) on this editorial).
I don't know what Nicaragua will be like a few years from now, but I do know that it will remain true to its cultural heritage, even if it looks very different from the country we see now. If there is all this "ethnic hatred" he refers to, is that part of Nicaragua's cultural heritage? I know this because, through all the disorder, the people still haven't lost sight of their dreams. Disorder? Looking at the Poll on the left side of the page as I write this, 73% of the people feel Nicaragua is moving in the right direction. In the time I have lived here I have seen lots of infrastructure improved and other changes to make Nicaragua a better place. While there are "issues" with some of the changes, disorder is certainly not a word I would use.