The World’s Poorest President,
The Two Nedas & a Rogue McAfee
What happens when we skip a few days, and neglect to publish our daily stories? We get our files full of them, that’s what happens. So, you can just imagine what we’ve got in store, after a two weeks-plus stretch that included a major storm and a presidential election.
In the end, it’s all about people and their incredible tales. Jose Mojica, leader of four million Uruguayans, for instance, had $1,800 to his name in 2010. Millions of Iranians think Neda Soltani was killed in a public rally. And anti-virus mogul John McAfee is being sought for murder.
From the poignant, to the Kafkaesque, to the deeply disturbing, we’d be hard pressed to find commonality on these stories. That task we must leave to you, reader, to chew it up at your own discretion. In fact, they’re like what the cat would drag down to your door, after a night on the prowl.
Many of you may thank the cat and get rid of the carcasses. Others, however, may wish they had personally experienced some of the action, even if only as a fly on the wall. They may even get inspired to go out today and make their own lives count. One will never know. Short of that, you’ll do just fine reflecting about them, and chewing up some of that commonality.
After all, look at that beautiful antique children’s park toy, the Jane’s Carousel, that illustrates this post. It’s spent decades in some dusty storage space, and nothing ever seemed to happen to it. Then, after a 30-year restoration effort, it looked shiny and ready for another century of entertaining those young at heart.
But alas, it was not to last. Down hard came the storm to almost rip it out of its moorings. It got thrown and bounced a few times, and wound up eerily floating on a pool of dirty water. It survived, however, and that’s great news. Now how that relates to the stories you’re about to read, we sincerely haven’t the faintest idea. Again, we’re leaving it all to you to figure it out. Happy Friday.
PRESIDENT MUJICA & HIS BEETLE
By any measure, José Mujica‘s 77 years of life have been remarkable, if nothing else, for having survived the death squads roaming the jungles of South America in the 1960s and 1970s. His past as a political activist resembles that of other leaders of the region, such as Brazil’s President Dilmar Rousseff, and Chile’s former president Michelle Bachelet.
Even more remarkable was what happened between being shot six times and having spent 14 years in jail, as a Tupamaro ‘guerillero,’ and his election as President of Uruguay in 2009: unlike pretty much all other former leftist Latin American leaders, Mujica’s managed to remain poor, even after becoming the most important person of his country.
BBC’s Vladmir Hernandez reports that in 2010, ‘his annual personal wealth declaration – mandatory for officials in Uruguay – was $1,800,’ the value of his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. Even when ‘he added half of his wife’s assets – land, tractors and a house – reaching $215,000,’ his income was less than a third of his predecessor, also a former political activist, Tabare Vasquez.
And just so to make some of you utterly ashamed of your HDTV, Hernandez writes also that ‘Mujica donates about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000, to charity.’ Now, one can say anything about his abilities as a president, which ultimately, is how he’s going to be judged by history. But so far, he’s set a pretty daunting example as a person.
THE PICTURE OF NEDA SOLTANI
Back in 2009, another remarkable (albeit extremely sad) thing happened halfway around the world: during a rally protesting Iranian politics, 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan was shot in the heart and killed. Images of the shooting went viral on the Internet, in what was ghastly described as ‘the most widely witnessed death in human history.’
The apolitical student met her assassin’s bullet when she went to the street protests along with friends. Her killer was never identified but it’s believed that he or she was part of one the government-sanctioned paramilitary vigilant groups. Neda’s murder became so threatening to the Iranian Ayatollahs that her family was banned from holding a public memorial service and her grave has been desecrated.
Similarly-named Neda Soltani was a 32-year-old English teacher at a university, who’d hardly watched the news that fateful day in Teheran. But unbeknownst to her, by the time she got home at night, her picture had already circulated the world, as that of the murdered student with a similar name.
Despite all efforts, she was hopeless to convince the Iranian and world press to correct their mistake. After a few days, the government began to visit her, suspicious in that psycho-paranoid characteristics of authoritarian regimes, that even if only her name had some similarity to the situation, she may have been guilty of something.
And just like that, she began to lose things: her job, her friends, and finally, her nerve to remain in Iran and contribute in any way to her homeland. She managed to flee and lives now in the U.S. But apart from her personal safety, which obviously may have gotten a boost since she’s left, she’s lost something much more important: her own identity.
Even now, when one searches those unfortunate, and ultimately cruel and senseless, events of June of 2009, it’s her face that pops up, not Neda Agha-Soltan’s. That may even be a small consolation to the dead girl’s family, but is nothing short of tragic to Neda Soltani, who’s still struggling to set her record straight and get on with her life.
THE MOGUL WHO WENT MAD
Until 2009, the name McAfee was still considered arguably one of the most reliable anti-virus computer software available in the market. Perhaps hackers got better. Viruses became more sophisticated. Computers improved. Or the competition got clever. It’s hard to tell, but the fact is, the name’s become synonymous with a quickly fading time when anti-virus programs still worked.
In perspective, though, there may be another reason why McAfee’s unraveled so quickly: its creator, John McAfee, may have developed a few personal mind virus of his own. In fact, since he moved to what’s called ‘Pirate’s Paradise,’ the Caribbean island of Belize, his behavior grew steadily erratic, and people closed to him began to avoid his calls.
Ostensibly, McAfee, the man, not the software, went into a personal journey of self-discovery, that quickly mutated into a downward spiral of sex, drugs, and we wouldn’t add rock’n’roll here. It’s definitely something else, maybe a kind of malaise known to affect bored millionaires, who seem to peak too early, and tend to dive, head first, into their most intimate nightmares.
In what many who know him were almost expecting, the Belize police is now seeking McAfee for questioning, in the apparent murder of Gregory Faull, a neighbor and a fellow American, found dead, execution-style, with a bullet-hole in the back of his brain. According to unconfirmed reports, the two had a long-standing quarrel that may have ended badly.
McAfee’s history does him no favors. Against him, there are suspicious of possessing a clandestine lab, where he was allegedly developing meth-like designer drugs. He’s even been linked to an anonymous poster at an online drug community, who’s discussed at length drug making and trade. The combination of these kind of substances with guns, the bodyguards, and sex parties can be explosive indeed.
He’s expected to turn himself in, albeit no one know when and under what circumstances. As any rich high-achiever such as McAfee, he’s given to bouts of unpredictability and paranoia towards what’s ‘expected’ from him. We could pile on here with the vagaries of wealth and shallowness of mind, the dangers of paradisiacal settings and lots of time in one’s hands, but that wouldn’t be our style.
For, despite its potentially spectacular fall from the heights of achievement down to the gutter of criminality and mental illness, McAfee’s story is not really that original. Or even envy-inducing. Mujica takes the cake on that department. As for the empathy bone, the story of the two Nedas has more to it than the rogue software designer. Which, at this point, may as well be all that he hopes to be remember for.