Monday, June 12, 2023


In a few months my forthcoming book "Myths of Our Humanity: Tales from Forever for Today" will be available to the general public. While as the title indicates, the book is intended to have a broader attention span than ephemeral current events, I hope insights into our daily grind can be gleamed from the following advance-copy passages from the Afterword, which seem particularly relevant at this political moment in the U.S.:  


Some time ago I was invited to participate in a political consultancy team working for a presidential candidate in a Latin American country. As is often the case in the region, a broad spectrum of liberal democracy leaning political organizations were pitted against a broad spectrum of populists labeling themselves (or accusing their opponents) of being "nationalists," socialists," or other such names to that effect, depending on the political base they were seeking to sway. It was clear to us, once again, that while populists base their standard story on an easily conveyed narrative of "facts" deeply rooted in emotion with a scant sprinkling of reason, liberal democratic forces typically struggle to convey complex ideas rooted in reason with a light sprinkling of emotion,

This is not only the case in Latin America. It is a normal human tendency to aspire simple order and control rather than complex messiness and uncertainty. Strongmen (not always men) can use the institutions of democracy to achieve and keep political power with a promise to end the uncertainty and restore order. Over the last twenty years we have seen a great illiberal wave sweeping across the globe, a likely reaction to that font of messiness and uncertainty which is democratic liberalism, and which had its peak in the early 90’s —Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History” era.

In a previous book I have written about the power of populism, with its own seductive narrative: the promise to redress a heterogeneity of grievances, gathered under a mantle of general malaise, with simple ideas, catchy slogans, and strong, almost iconic symbols, colors and even garments. [1] As a counter narrative, I argued, the promises liberalism can make are attractive when articulated: individual dignity, equal and fair treatment under the law, equal opportunity, and protection of private property--promises which one way or another are often made by all candidates during democratic election campaigns while enjoying local foods, kissing babies, and loving mom and dad.

In that same book, I propose to define liberty as a condition under which a human being has the opportunity to fulfill his or her own potential as such. Liberty is at the essence of free will; it is the ideological core of liberal democracy. In the present book I juxtapose through its collection of "vignettes" liberty against its rival: authoritarianism -- a condition under which human beings survive and thrive dependent on the opportunistic whims of a regime whose ideological core is that power is rightfully and legitimately concentrated in its leader. 

Left and right ideology is purposefully clouded by their adherents as a means tu sustain their political survival and self-preservation. The ideological basis of these factions and their ultimate goals can be traced back to the French Revolution era, where the so-called left championed rights to opportunity, in all its possible manifestations, while the so-called right championed property rights, again, with all its possible implications. A true liberal democracy system seeks to balance the rights of opportunity and those of property to achieve the best possible outcomes for society. In other words, for democracy to exist and thrive, so must the political alternance and permanent creative churn of left and right. 

But the pursuit for ultimate political self-preservation, i.e., achieving and maintaining power at all costs, will lead to other outcomes. Right and left partisans may prefer to heat up antagonistic rhetoric, each faction accusing the other of being the anti-democratic one, the one that "will destroy our country and our values as we know and love them," with the corollary that to protect the essence of the nation the opponents (and eventual dissidents) must be silenced, canceled, eliminated... Polarization ensues, extremism gains ground, and positive social outcomes diminish. ...

It is important to point out that when a subset of these opposing factions engages in truly antidemocratic behavior using their power to subvert norms and institutions, [2] and even incurring in political violence, such behavior is sometimes resisted (heroically) by their own associates and peers instead of (treasonously) collaborated with. But the labels of treason, loyalty, cowardice and bravery are results dependent and, as such, and as they relate to societal transformation, are explored in the fifth vignette, "Petrified." In this manner ... the intention of the book is to explore what makes that messy institutional mechanism we call democracy tick and stick, and the roots it may have in our enduring ancient and familiar tales.          

            [1] "Populism, or the collective blindness which leads people to the abyss," in La Venezuela imposible: Cronicas y reflexiones sobre democracia y libertad (2017), Alexandria Publishing House, Miami, FL.

            [2] For example, by members of the Polish Law and Justice party in 2015, subverting constitutional and political norms to drive democratic institutions and society to the extreme right, or by the Morena coalition trying to do the same in Mexico towards the extreme left in 2022.


This book is a major project I have been working o for several years now hoping it will be of useful interest. It will be published simultaneously in English and Spanish.  



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