Monday, December 14, 2009

Amassing a fortune: Chile, Conquistadores & Afghans

Writing all that stuff about the 2009 Chilean presidential elections a few days ago has plum worn me out -- and now I can´t think of anything else to write about here in Santiago that would be even half as exciting. But my hotel has free internet so I feel like I gotta write about something. I know! I can write about how freaking WARM it is down here. I knew I had a reason for coming. It´s 85 degrees. Perfect.

I went to the main cathedral in Santiago today -- and somehow that reminded me of the war on Afghanistan. The cathedral was built by conquistadores after their war on the local Indios. It´s the same principle. You go to war. You amass a fortune. You spend your fortune on grandiose things. The conquistadores had money coming out of their ears and built this GLORIOUS cathedral -- but they built it on the blood and the bones of the poor slobs that they had conquered.

Is the amassing of fabulous wealth worth all the pain that it costs? Do the victors really have the right-of-way? And do they really get away scot-free?

What ever DID become of the conquistadores?

"Okay, Jane you are really wandering off base on this one...." As usual. But look at it this way. The conquistadores came here and occupied Chile. The occupation was profitable. The Bush-Obama administration has occupied Afghanistan -- and that occupation is profitable too. But exactly who profits? In the case of Afghanistan, it is clearly the weapons manufacturers who have been amassing fortunes (It surely isn´t me -- or the poor Afghans. Or the rest of America either).

According to an article in AlterNet, the average American like you and me is really hurting financially right now. "Can you imagine an America without a strong middle class? If you can, would it still be America as we know it? Today, one in five Americans is unemployed, underemployed or just plain out of work. One in nine families can't make the minimum payment on their credit cards. One in eight mortgages is in default or foreclosure. One in eight Americans is on food stamps. More than 120,000 families are filing for bankruptcy every month. The economic crisis has wiped more than $5 trillion from pensions and savings, has left family balance sheets upside down, and threatens to put ten million homeowners out on the street."

And have the weapons manufacturers, like the conquistadores, used their wealth to build cathedrals too? Get cracking, you guys! I want to see some bell towers and stained glass produced really soon -- or at least a mosque as nice as Al Aqsa or the Dome of the Rock..

Meanwhile back in old-time Santiago, the conquistadores had obviously been living high on the hog -- if judging by their cathedral is any rule of thumb.

And in Afghanistan? Like the Indios in the old days in Chile, most Afghans today are the poorest of the poor. And if the Bush-Obama administration really wanted to put an end to the Afghan occupation, it would simply spend its billions on improving the conditions of the Afghans instead of spending it on weapons.

I really enjoyed visiting the cathedral in Santiago. And a whole bunch of Chilean Indios died to build it. And if they want to stop being hypocritical in Afghanistan, the weapons manufacturers should start building cathedrals there too because they appear to be the conquistadores of today.

PS: Here´s a video of the inside of the Santiago cathedral. Sorry it came out so dark but you couldn´t use flash.

And here´s a video of election night at the Pinera headquarters.

PPS: Tomorrow I am hopefully going up to Valparaiso for the day. It´s a UNESCO world heritage site. That should be nice.