This morning Colombia metaphorically walked through a door towards a more peaceful, more just and more equitable society. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Army of the People, colloquially referred to as the FARC, have exchanged their weaponry for normalized participation in the country’s social, civic and political processes. Only a step but a giant step towards the country so many hope for, a country that will really prove to be “the beacon on the hill” towards which people everywhere can look for inspiration, a role its former owner seems to have forsaken.
The initial giant step on a very long road towards justice, equality, equity and common welfare took place a short while ago when very complex and comprehensive accords touching not just the end of an armed conflict but a roadmap seeking to correct past social and economic errors was ratified by the insurgents and the Colombian government. But skeptics claimed that it was only cosmetic and doomed to failure; that the insurgents would never live up to it; that Colombians were too divided; that too many would never forgive. Yesterday, the 27th day of June in 2017, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Army of the People, did their part. While for varied reasons including the intransigency and bad faith of some, the unhealable wounds of others and the cynicism of too many the Colombian State has not advanced in its promises and obligations quite as well as hoped for, its leadership and many, many of its people have exceeded expectations.
The greatest danger now facing the Colombian People is the threat that what ought to bring them together may in fact divide them. Those who for varied reasons opposed the current accords, albeit not always the quest for peace, find themselves ostracized by those for whom such quest was transcendent, and they in turn return such sentiments. That must be overcome somehow, a prospect in some ways as daunting as the quest for peace itself. And it must be overcome in a loving, understanding and forgiving fashion. Winning and placing blame lack all relevance, the common welfare is what matters, and the future; there is nothing we can do to avoid the past.
Polarization has infected the entire world. Truth in too many places has become an irrelevancy, a mere impediment to be overcome in the quest to attain selfish goals and grasp power that infects too many. Deprecation, insults and calumny more and more become the rules rather than the exception. It affects us all, Colombia not excluded. But if Colombians can heal ourselves, forgiving but remembering; looking within ourselves to discard those elements that seek to blind us to our own faults and responsibilities and in that blindness prevent us from engaging in the permanent tasks that face us in our quests for social, economic and political justice, in our quest to attain the common welfare and to pursue both our individual and collective happiness, to attain our self-realization, then all our tomorrows will be much brighter and our progeny will justly bless us.
The process towards the long road to peace and equity has perhaps opened as many wounds as it has healed. The quest to place blame for the centuries of conflict and mayhem and murder and destruction that have characterized too much of Colombia’s history is futile and counterproductive. We all need to forgive and move on, to face our future both internally and as a part of an international community where unfortunately chaos and injustice reign. There is so much to do, so much to overcome, but as the Chinese proverb states, the longest journey starts with but a single step, and in Colombia, we’ve taken that.
The world desperately needs positive examples but perhaps with the exception of tiny Iceland, they’ve been all too hard to come by. The United States of America, which for centuries has proclaimed its exceptionalism and love of liberty and democracy is in the midst of a suicidal attempt at internal fratricide and external genocide, leading too many, perhaps prematurely, to conclude that it has reached its zenith and is now on a path towards inevitable decline. The quest for international political, economic and military hegemony has tarnished the United States of America rather than polished it. But people everywhere can learn both from its many mistakes and from its brilliant accomplishments. For too long, as in the case of virtually all the countries in the Western Hemisphere, Colombia has played the role of an insecure younger brother, following and obeying, ignoring its own best interests and paths. That is unhealthy for all concerned and needs to change, not in a negative fashion seeking to place blame and demand reparations but rather in a mutually constructive fashion putting all relevant aspects in a productive context.
Perhaps we in Colombia as well as our brothers and sisters to the North and our brothers and sisters everywhere need to return to the paths that seemed clear to George Washington as he bid farewell to the country he’d helped found and which he’d served as president: to avoid partisanship internally and divisive alliances externally and to concentrate on creative rather than on destructive activities.
Lately almost all purported news has seemed not only bad but awful: hysterically divisive hyperbole endlessly repeated.
Yesterday Colombia showed us all everywhere that in the midst of very powerful forces seeking to herd us away from hope we the People can still prevail.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved
Guillermo Calvo Mahé is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia. Until recently he chaired the Political Science, Government and International Relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science, law, international legal studies and translation studies and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.