By María Giovis Psychoanalyst, El Psicoanalítico, October 2019
Director of the documentary “Ingeniero White, a town that is being killed”
‘Capitalism poisons the water, the land, and the air, as well as the soul of the people.’ – Eduardo Galeano
Imperialism, current stage that leads us to barbarism.
Permeated and horrified by the news of each day, I begin to write these lines at a time when that barbarism takes on a significant dimension: images of the burning Amazon. The Amazon region is considered the lung of the world for producing 20% of the oxygen on the planet. And it’s not just the Amazon burning; Siberia also burns and “if the jungles of the world are silent, we will stop breathing and only the agony of suffocation will remain.” (1)
But there is more. Every day there is more and cruelty takes on unthinkable dimensions. So we hear that the workers of the Ran-Bat factory, which produces batteries, denounce that they were fired, but not only that, they also denounced that they are poisoned, their bodies have lead. Fired from and poisoned in a chemical factory.
The Metrovías company confirmed, after a year of denying it, that several workers were contaminated with the carcinogenic asbestos in the Buenos Aires subway tunnels.
In the words of Galeano, “capitalism poisons us from all sides.” They poison our daily lives, we live in a society that not only does not shelter, but also expels us from all life worth living. And life deserves to be lived, as the poet Zito Lema says, from the “scandal of love and optimism”: How to survive, if not, the death that surrounds us? Layoffs and more layoffs, fear of dismissal, no money, increasingly precarious working conditions, more people living in the open, pollution everywhere, the poison that kills us in the water, on the ground, in the air, in our working conditions, in the food we eat.
I was deeply impacted by Panic Attack, by Ernesto Ardito. Ardito with his forceful images, goes where the media invades us, penetrates us, misinforms us, shows us the “attack” of the media, interconnectivity, the state of alert in which we live. Ardito puts the accent on panic, on terror. I differentiate fear from panic; fear is part of what is human, panic paralyzes us, leaves us unable to react. Pain, fear, panic, desolation, country pain, are just words to name something of the unspeakable.
Can we think about the relationship between layoffs, job insecurity, job murders, the destruction of education and health, mega-mining, fracking, pesticides, glyphosate, sacrifice zones? Aren’t they the expression of the decadence of capitalism? How does that fierce attack that day after day, year after year, and decade after decade the power of concentrated capital carry forward affect our daily lives? It is the multinationals, who know where in the world they decide the destiny of our country under the shelter of all the governments of the day.
The imperialist stage gives rise to a chronic army of unemployed, that is, of men who will never find work.
In the documentary “Ingeniero White, a town they are killing,” I tried to show the transformation of the town in light of the changes in terms of job destruction, since thousands of workers, mainly with railroads and ports, were left out of the labor circuit. Just one example. In the country, 60,000 railway workers were laid off at the time of the military dictatorship in 1976 and 85,000 under the Peronist government of Carlos Menem at the beginning of the 1990’s. And the questions: How many towns were dismantled? How does the life of a fired worker come to be when they no longer have the possibility of returning to the labor market? How does a child grow seeing a collapsed father? What possibilities do these new generations have of getting a job?
Capitalism worldwide has undergone a change, a change that implies the passage from the stage of industrial capitalism to financial capitalism, to the concentration of capital, and with it, the destruction of the labor force and the destruction of its main productive force advances: “nature”. If you go back and do the genealogy of the politics of finance capital and the imposition of the new conditions, it should go back to the Second World War, but it is not really obvious. In our country, it is explicit and verifiable from 1976.
We can say that from the Frondizi government onward there are expressions of how this stage is progressing, but clearly the dictatorship of ’76 took a leap. It was necessary to defeat all resistance to advance its purposes and with it 30,000 missing comrades. In the words of Galeano: “Can this neoliberal program be imposed on the best organized labor movement in Latin America without paying a price of five corpses a day?” (2)
The 90’s implied a new leap, a clear leap in the advance of barbarism, since they made us believe that we would be better off with everything privatized. They privatized our lands, soils, roads, ports, health, education. Thousands of men and women were left out of the labor circuit, families collapsed, adrift and the fear of unemployment as the axis of labor subjection.
And barbarism ran its path
During 2018 there were more than a thousand new unemployed persons per day. In total, unemployment affects 1,750,000 people (3), but also the number of people whose income is not enough is even higher. León Trotsky explained that unemployment, which reaches 200 million people worldwide according to the World Labor Organization (ILO), is not a temporary phenomenon. It is no longer a question of the industrial reserve army that Marx described, that is, a legion of unemployed destined to guarantee the workforce in the periods of economic growth of capitalism, but we are facing a chronic army of unemployed: capitalism is incapable, even in its growth periods, of guaranteeing work for all. Unemployment has become structural: millions not only have no job but never – as long as capitalism exists – will. Capital has plenty of people, we are plenty enough. Those unemployed also serve capital to lower the wages of the employed and make them work strenuous days more than 8 hours.
Destruction of education and public health
I remember, while teaching at that time, having read at the end of the 70’s a report written by the well-known Domingo Cavallo, who at that time was leading the Mediterranean Foundation, in which he outlined the steps and stages of how to destroy public education.
Since, if there is an army of unemployed people … why do the powerful need workers to go to school? If unemployment has become structural and millions do not have a job and will not have it – as long as capitalism exists – … why would the powerful spend on education and public health?
In the stage of industrial capitalism, workers who could read were needed: the worker who could read and write, could read the instructions and use a machine, educated workers were needed, but in the stage of decadence it is an excessive expense. And health is also an expense: why education and health for the exiles of all life? Death is better for the exiles, neither health nor education, neither the public school nor the public hospital.
The teachers of the Federal Capital have been denouncing from the schools for a long time that the food rations of the school canteens have lowered their quality:
“… the Buenos Aires government authorized to replace ingredients with cheaper ones” and the concessionaires can lower costs at the expense of food quality “they can exchange a quarter of a chicken for a medallion, a banana for a mandarin, a tomato for a carrot “ (4)
Mega-mining / Vaca Muerta / Fracking / Clearing / Soy / Agribusiness / Glyphosate are the names or the face of barbarism. What do we eat when we eat? Who are we poisoned? Who are the exiles of all life? Do the managers of these companies with their families live next to the oil wells where fracking is used, next to a fumigated town or a Petrochemical Pole?
The first time I heard the sociologist Maristella Svampa talk about sacrifice zones, I was speechless and even more when she added: “White Engineer, sacrifice zone”. Sacrificial zones, as we read. Sacrificed, sacrificed lives, poisoned, all kinds of diseases, and there in their struggle, we can remember Fabián Tomasy, teacher Ana Zabaloy, poisoned with pesticides who raised their voices, their shouts, who denounced political complicity and poisoning in mass because thousands are dying. With amazement and indignation, we listened to the words of Alberto Fernández, current candidate for president, describing as “excessive” the ruling of a judge from Entre Ríos that limits glyphosate fumigation to one kilometer of rural schools.
In our country, these multinationals, which have a first and last name, to say just a few, Monsanto / Bayer, Dow Chemical, Chevron, the Barrick mining company are the ones that impose the forms of exploitation of nature. Could they do it in their home countries? Are the same standards that they have to comply with here as those in their countries of origin? They advance with mega-mining, with fracking. They impose their conditions, the multinationals decide the destiny of millions of human beings, under the protection of all the governments of the day.
Megamining / fracking / Sacrifice zones
From the South Petroleum Observatory they say: “The most important unconventional hydrocarbon reservoir in Argentina, called Vaca Muerta, will be exploited with a technique that has been traveling from country to country in a spiral of controversy. In parts of Europe it has been banned, in the US it accumulates criticism and in our country activist groups have already formed that seek to prevent its consolidation. In the middle, the State signed a multi-million dollar association contract with Chevron ”(5) YPF-Chevron Agreement, 2013, Cristina Kirchner government.
We all know the persecution of native peoples. Indigenous communities have been driven from their lands for many years, but recently the attack has been fierce. Can we understand the persecution of native peoples because they want their ancestral lands for mega-mining? The Mapuches in the Neuquén area are a hindrance to multinationals. Although there is no precise data, there is talk of more than 100 murders of natives since the 90’s. In that decade an important struggle began by these communities that have seen how these multinationals advance in their territories and pollute land and rivers . The concentrated power wants them dead. And there are the natives in a struggle for subsistence, for life, for the rivers, for the Pachamama, for the land.
The provinces fumigated, Zones of sacrifice
Clearance / pesticides / soy / glyphosate and a large area of land where they decided to plant soybeans and for higher yields sprayed with pesticides. They poison us with total impunity. How important is it to these multinationals that there is a fumigated, contaminated and poisoned population? They burn forests, clear trees, plant soybeans, monoculture and with the use of glyphosate, they poison with pesticides.
I read recently a note that denounced that “… in the Garrahan Hospital as in the Italian Hospital, both in Buenos Aires, 55% of the children and adults hospitalized with skin cancer, leukemia or malformations come from Entre Ríos, the province most contaminated with pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides in the country, precisely in the Urdinarrain district, where the glyphosate concentration found is among the highest in the world ”. And it continues: “The specialists also explained that the most common types of cancer diagnosed in children from 0 to 14 years old are leukemias, followed by brain tumors and other tumors of the central nervous system and kidney tumors.” (6)
Sacrifice zones or all of Argentina already sacrificed?
Can we think that every day that passes we have more sacrifice areas? Or already an Argentina as a sacrifice zone? Getting used to pollution has its costs, we get sick and they kill us. They contaminate us with pesticides, they poison us with heavy metals, polluted rivers, the earth that screams from the bowels. Workers are exposed to contaminants directly during long and dangerous working hours. Heavy metals like copper, lead, arsenic, mercury that we absorb for years, silent and deadly poisoning. We eat contaminated products.
The country hurts
Many of us remember Silvia Bleichmar’s book with that appropriate title “Country Pain”.
The country hurts. How does the daily life of the exiles of all life happen? Without work or in precarious working conditions, low wages, increasingly poor living conditions, they have impoverished us, they have devastated the environment, and they are pushing most of the new generations towards the hell of precariousness, impotence, frustration, isolation, loneliness, and depression.
Wilhem Reich, a German psychoanalyst, takes the debates on subjectivity and politics into psychoanalytic society in the 20’s of the last century and the question that was asked at that time was what type of subject capitalism produces. Reich said that no system of domination can be sustained over time if it does not create the subjective structures capable of supporting and reproducing that domination.
In 1933, in the midst of the rise of fascism in Germany, in his well-known book Mass Psychology of Fascism, he told psychoanalysts: “What needs to be explained is not that the hungry steal or that the exploited go on strike, but why the majority of the hungry do not steal and why the majority of the exploited do not go on strike ”.
And, along these lines, it is imperative to insist that in the face of the conditions we live in, in the face of the barbarism that surrounds us on all sides, we must mostly go out to say: Enough, Enough to this barbarism! And denounce what are the mechanisms that the powerful are putting into play so that isolation, loneliness, violence in relationships, abuse, cruelty advance every day. Also, say clearly how they try to make us believe that it is an individual responsibility to be fired, or that we naturalize the deplorable working conditions.
The economic crisis exacerbates domestic violence, breaks down ties, transferring economic violence from capital, impotence and frustration to those closest to them, also victims of the absence and complicity of their union organizations; that is, the ability to reveal the social and collective problem that hides behind individual misery. Trade union organizations delivered “to big capital”, as we see in Chubut the oil union at the service of big capital and hitting the teachers in their historic struggle.
We must come out of the isolation to which they lead us and break the belief that the conditions in which we live are the product of individual failure.
We live in a time of massive pathologies, such as panic attacks, depression, anxiety. We live in the era of “save yourself”. Workers have to compete among themselves, unbridled competition in the face of fear of unemployment, fear of job loss and acceptance of increasingly poor working conditions. Being precarious at work implies being precarious in life and that life is especially that of young people, who are the ones who have to take the worst jobs, live off work, risk their lives in the Rappi or Globo, without social work, with the fear of being unemployed at any moment.
Let the pain turn into anger, let the anger turn into an organization and a fight, to bring forth ourselves together with thousands of others willing to struggle, to fight, to say Enough!
Concentrated capital advances, multinationals decide the fate of millions of human beings. Transnational companies with highly concentrated capital. Multinationals that loot, destroy, pollute and kill under the protection and shelter of the different governments of the day. We have no alternative: it is the fight for life, ours and that of the new generations or we will suffer. It is to get out of our isolation and find in the collective dimension the way to say Enough!, since we are suffering because they leave us without territory, without water, without air and without life. Fight and as Zito Lema says “from the scandal of love and optimism”. Down with capitalism that kills us!
Featured photo: Banksy blows up the bridges between the market and the museum
(1) Canelas, Valeria. “Gritos desde la selva: el sonido de la vergüenza humana”. https://muywaso.com/los-gritos-de-la-selva-o-el-sonido-de-la-verguenza-humana/
(2) Galeano, Eduardo. Días y noches de amor y guerra. Siglo XXI, Buenos Aires, 2010.
(3) Ismael Bermúdez. https://www.clarin.com/economia/economia/desocupacion-cerro-2018-750-000-desocupados_0_TBwe71yI3.html
(4) Micheletto Karina. Comedores escolares: el gobierno porteño autorizó a reemplazar ingredientes por otros más baratos. Página 12. Septiembre 2019. https://www.pagina12.com.ar/216225-comedores-escolares-el-gobierno-porteno-autorizo-a-reemplaza