Thursday, June 13, 2013

Chile's 'dirty secret'

In this 2010 audio interview with Canadian journalist Eleanor Wachtel, novelist Alberto Fuguet says that Augusto Pinochet's legacy is that he made the country more 'modern, open, liberal...very liberal.'  He was, 'A gift from our elders who tried to change the country [into Marxism]. They didn't change it, he did.'

The new Chile is one where 'People feel empowered. That they can have a future. They can make their own future, and also be part of the world.' Between Wachtel and Fuguet, it's agreed that's because Pinochet 'de-politicized' the country. Now young people don't even bother to register to vote. They don't want to. Unlike before the military coup when everything was up for grabs politically.

Earlier in the interview Fuguet had described the early 70s in Chile as, like 'a family fight' between members of the Chilean bourgeois; the kids of  lawyers and doctors.  It was definitely not the people, the proletariat, who wanted to make changes, but 'all rich kids'.

With Pinochet being like a step-father who has married your mother.  He comes from somewhere else and decides he has to impose order on the family that has become disorderly. Later commenting, 'The right won and maybe the biggest shock is they're not bad.'

Another amusing observation from Fuguet being that when Pinochet stepped down, a lot of left-wing papers that were good and had done well when Pinochet was available as an enemy, folded after he was gone, as they had nothing to write about anymore. Similarly, a 'new art' came into being.  The old art was political, 'Art was a cause.' After that cause went away, it opened up opportunities for writers of non-political work. 

Which brings us to a critic of Pinochet, Milton Friedman, who in two speeches given in Santiago in March 1973, warned young Chileans about their dictator.  He describes it in Two Lucky People;
I...talked on the fragility of freedom, emphasizing the rareness of free societies...and the role in the destruction of a free society that was played by the emergence of the welfare state. ...that their present difficulties were due almost entirely to the forty-year trend toward collectivism, socialism, and the welfare state, that this was a course which would hurt people not help them, and that it was a course that would lead to coercion rather than freedom....from their reaction [my argument was] obviously almost completely new to them. There was an attitude of shock that pervaded both groups of students at hearing such talk.
Was Pinochet listening to Friedman? 

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