The Tenth Day
The tenth day dawns nebulous, low lying clouds blanketing the mountains, hiding the more fortunate lower lying cities in this normally paradisiacal range of the Andes, accentuating our irony. The tenth day without water for this city of almost half a million souls, many now wisely fled while others hang on trying to maintain traces of normalcy and seeking silver linings: perhaps solidarity, a greater understanding of nature and of the importance of protecting her, and perhaps, even some limits on impunity and corruption.
Authorities no longer play at promising an imminent return of our water, they don’t even seem to be prioritizing it all that much. Caution is the byword, and patience (for us), and thanks for our understanding of which there is virtually none; at least not in a positive sense. What we understand is that as usual inefficiency, corruption and impunity are likely to prevail. A conference set for Monday has been cancelled; its topic was “Why do Colombians Always Accept Everything”. Again ironic, “take it on the chin” is more accurate. I came back to Colombia after half a century away trying to understand the frustrating puzzle that is Colombia: how can a country so rich in everything: resources, strategic location, an intelligent and hardworking populace, do so poorly, so poorly that its people are fleeing into a diaspora of their own? I thought perhaps I might be in a position to help remedy whatever ailed it. What I’ve been able to do is to verify, if still not understand, the problem.
Identifying the problem is not that difficult, it doesn’t really try to hide, it just seeks, all too successfully, to anesthetize. As in so many other places the problem is corruption and impunity, both of which breed incompetence and inefficiency. Sadly, in Colombia, even the corruption is inefficient making it much more dangerous. The people know it, students are enraged by it, professors rant about it, but the inefficiency infects them too. An illustration this week: professors and students at my university are urging a protest vote in departmental (state) and local elections scheduled for tomorrow (blank votes or non-participation in the elections) which will almost assuredly return the party responsible for the current crisis to power, perhaps the only way that could be accomplished, and of course, that party, which also controls the national presidency and congress, kind of likes the idea. Emotion, rather than being a force for positive change is being perverted through a combination of villainy and ineptitude into a force for stagnation, assuring the survival of corruption, impunity and inefficiency. In meme theory I guess one would say that Colombia is stricken by a metastasizing cancer.
This country is so incredibly beautiful, its people so striking: physically, culturally, emotionally and spiritually, that it seems impossible that a savior won’t somehow arise. That seems to be what too many people are waiting for not understanding that the savior they seek can only be themselves, freed of internal and external shackles. But how?
The only answer I can see is slow and tedious, as are so many real answers; change can only come one heart at a time, and it’s only possible if we can somehow avoid surrendering to the entropy that draws away our energies, urging us to just relax and enjoy all the good things we can.
A sad, sad day, this tenth day without water in the city in the sky.
 © Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2011; all rights reserved