Distance creates an insurmountable gulf between what you feel in Chile and what you can feel from abroad. Here, so far away, what envelops us – me and other Chileans – is a feeling of deep helplessness. The impotence of not being able to be part of this process, of not being able to hurt it in the same way. However, in a stubborn and constant way one tries to grasp the pain experienced by others, that is empathy acting in the service of understanding. Similarly, if those who in Chile these days are doing politics between four walls, acted in a less selfish way, that is, more empathetic, perhaps they would better outline the causes of the problem, the origin of the pain.
But it seems that empathy conflicts with that origin. For that origin is the implementation of a system of rules by force or, in language accessible to neoliberals, an accession contract imposed by a monopoly on its consumers in a market with perfectly inelastic demand. The great trick of the contract, establish that we will all be subject equally to the law (even the monopoly). On that basis, an economic system was then developed in which privatisation became the greatest value, and therefore also individuality. The world behind closed doors. Taken to the extreme, the experience of life itself as a phenomenon of isolation. No neighbor. Where everyone is worth it on their own. We ended up trapped in ghettos. We dug our own trap.
But so, despite the isolation, despite the gross socio-economic inequalities, to the extent that we still believe that we voluntarily subscribed to a social pact (it was a plebiscite, yes, but at rifle point), social conflict was channeled within the margins set by that pact. As a result, the deprivation of fundamental rights in dictatorship, as well as the absence of redistributive policies that ensured the equal opportunities promised in the 1990s, has always been a battle sustained in a statement of petitions, with issuers and determined recipients.
But this time it’s different. It’s a report and anarchic outburst. If it were a process, it is the tearing of the muscles that contour the system. It’s the violence of childbirth. It’s fighting to reach the surface, just before you die of suffocation. This is not about rich and poor. The origin is deeper. My hypothesis is that social peace was actually destroyed because the collective conviction that we are not – and never – were equal before the law was achieved. In other words, we realized that there were first- and second-class citizens, no longer because of circumstantial issues attributable to the economic sphere, but in their own right.
What led to that conviction? The infamous, repeated and blaming impunity with which the big shots and their children have been treated, of political and economic power. This impunity overcame the existence of two countries, one for which we must submit to the law, and one for whom they should not submit to the law. That impunity, then, showed that there was never a social pact. There was only one elite group that made up reality to make it look unified (in the form of an illegitimate document written in 1980 they called the Constitution), but knowing that in the backroom they consolidated a different society, a group of privilege, something like the rightful heirs of the prerogatives of the once aristocrat and colonizer. The distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children, despite being abolished (against the will of the UDI), remained in the social structure.
When the fraud was bare, the streets exploded rampant. No route but goal: to return to the original equality. Either we’re part of the same order, or we’re part of the chaos. Something like, «If the president gets away with it, we all have the right to be equally unpunished.» And in the face of chaos: false astonishment, and then offering old-fashioned solutions, that is, under the logic that the system is legitimate and adjusts from within. In good indeed, try to cover the sun with one finger. But it has become clear that the end of order on the streets demands more, calls for the end of the order that governs us. Declaring a state of emergency is undoubtedly the greatest proof of that. He confirms that the conflict managed to escape the edges. The deconstruction has been completed. Now a tabula rasa, which he demands to reinvent.
But how to do it, from where? There is not a single solution, but a first duty. Those in power must renounce the haughty gaze of those who hold the privilege. No fear. If they do, they’re not going to lose the usefulness they’ve gained for decades. And they’re not going to jail, they weren’t anymore. However, this renunciation can only be the result of the deep conviction that we are all equal before the law. That’s where we need to repair. And for that, empathy is required. This basic affection for human coexistence (collected as a principle in various wisdoms, and as a Christian commandment in the you will love your neighbour as yourself) is the genesis of the republic. Which allows us to see in the other an equal, and from that equality, to found common life.
If the social phenomenon is observed and felt from there and not from a box, perhaps those who govern will be able to perceive that the deepest origin of the crisis is the absence of a legitimate social pact. They may then be willing, perhaps even want to, to give in to the need switching to the social structural that once prevailed by force. What a great opportunity to make history!
Giving in means at least three things. First, be available to radically abolish their prerogatives; secondly, to be available to dismantle the neoliberal system that protects these prerogatives (not only is it a bad economic system, above all it is illegitimate); and third, to call on all citizens of the country to reinvent the social contract. To rewrite it, based on who we really are: a family of half-breeds and natives, inhabiting the same territory. Nothing more, nothing less. All equally beautiful and equally ugly. All equally good. Everyone, hopefully at the height of the days and months that lie ahead, who know and smell of pain, but above all to a firm yearning.
The content poured into this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of El Mostrador.