Curtain Raiser

Buried By the Mud, Colltalers

The year is still new but the news have surely changed little. 2018 is on track to be history’s fourth hottest, and the Yemen carnage, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Syria’s hell-for-all but Bashar al-Assad, are still going strong. Talk, as usual, remains cheap.
The Trump-induced government shutdown is on hold for now, though, and so is the U.K.’s mind-boggling Brexit wreck, and that’s probably good. But an environmental tragedy in Brazil, and a coup in Venezuela, will maintain world tensions steadily simmering.
As Russia and China warned the U.S. that an intervention in Venezuela won’t be tolerated, it now also feels like we’re back to Cold War geopolitical games: ‘don’t touch my back and I won’t touch yours.’ Using the same playbook, the ‘triumvirate of bigotry’ (ops), Trump, John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo, is already preparing a fresh conflict to divert focus at home and seize the narrative abroad.
No one expects a numeral change to automatically trigger a new direction to the world. Just as thoughts and prayers won’t make anyone more deserving of some ‘divine grace,’ than those who, without a thought, dive straight into the void to try saving a life.
One thing is understanding that every new day hits the ground running, though, and it’s up to us to turn it into a rewarding spin. Another is to come back from an almost drowning jump into the sea, only to be hit hard by tons of water from a massive wave.
We’re humans and need breathing breaks, or we don’t survive. It’s crucial to be aware of what’s going on around us, but let’s not lose sight of the horizon and its possibilities. Even die-hard pessimists have their moment of clarity, and confidence in the future.
It’s during these rare instants that we realize the amazing people who are now sharing the trenches with us. The U.S.’ youngest representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ebullient in her quest for a big change in American politics, is certainly among them. And so is Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist, who’s become a seasoned champion for climate change awareness.
That’s the same arena where the Maldives’ former president, Mohamed Nasheed, has been battling for years. And, on the other side of the age spectrum, there’s also the brilliant linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, speaking truth to power for several decades now.
There are good news about the race to beat Trump in 2020, too: most candidates jumping in are women, empowered by a huge demographics with potential to do way more than breaking the glass ceiling. And there are many scientists, inventors, and even

artists, committed to save the planet, or at least to make it more socially just. They’re our allies and inspire us to always do more.
For we do need to do more. A just released Oxfam report, for instance, shows income inequality fast becoming downright obscene: 26 individuals own the same as 3.8 billion people, half the world population; 1% own 82% of all wealth generated in 2018; and every day, the increasing billionaires among us become $2.5 billion richer, while 1.3 billion starves earning less than $1.25 a day.
We have the examples of people doing more than their share to fight these twins scourges of our age, climate change and social inequality, and we’ve got plenty of reasons to act now to save the earth. But there’s much to be done, other than applaud their efforts and call them heroes. We must find ways to do our part, small or big, in this fight. Talk will always be cheap; actions won’t.
That’s our challenge: in the anonymity of our lives, to be as vital as those who do it the world’s stage. The end result benefits us all, but negligence will hurt us first. So much for the dream of an equitable world, if only too few of us will move a muscle towards it.
When Brazil’s Bento Rodrigues dam suffered a catastrophic failure, in 2015, it destroyed the Mariana village and killed 19 people, buried by its toxic mud. But Samarco, the joint venture of iron ore giant Vale and BHP Billiton, that operates the dam, was hardly charged with the crimes, and none of their executives went to jail. The disaster was then Brazil’s worst, but maybe not for long.
That’s because last Friday, Vale did it again: a dam it operated collapsed in Brumadinho, in the same Minas Gerais state, and with more than 200 missing, it’s likely to beat the Mariana record. Whereas that generated a 2.1 billion cubic feet wave of mud, and 22 cubic feet of iron waste spilled into Rio Doce, the lethal tide this time, while early for estimates, is expected to reach 19 cities.
The disaster closes one of the messiest first-month governments in recent history, even considering Trump’s term so far. Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right populist Brazilians elected to lead them on a quest to end ‘corruption and crime,’ is already up to his neck with just such allegations. That includes his son, also a politician, who’s being connected to a crime organization, and now, this.
The tragedy will split headlines with the other major South American news: the conspiracy to remove from office second-term president Nicolás Maduro, led by the U.S. and with support from Bolsonaro, and other newly-minted pseudo-democracies in the world.
It’d be, of course, an abject attempt at regime change, the kind executed many times before, as in the bloody Chilean 9/11 in 1973, and the Honduras 2009 coup (see, Central American Caravan, Asylum Seekers), both U.S.-led and with staggering human costs.
Here’s to the two ‘cradle of democratic freedom and civil rights,’ Russia and China, at least according to one V. Putin and some Xi Jinping, to do the risky job of scarring the bejesus of American hawks into stopping this madness. And to Brumadinho volunteers, who along fire fighters, are showing up to help. Most of all, here’s to those dedicated to rid the world of authoritarian regimes.
That they all get outlawed, and replaced by a majority rule, who wants peace, a healthy planet, and a socially just civilization to live and prosper. Unlike one of nature’s most beautiful creatures, the Monarch Butterfly, we still have a fighting chance to avoid extinction. Or rather, if we can’t make ourselves worthy enough to live, then good riddance to us too. It’s good to be back. Cheers WC


One thought on “Curtain Raiser

  1. Buried by toxic waste and mud again!

    Liked by 1 person

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