An Educational Visit

Santiago, Chile

“We’re all in this together”

I have struggled to make something meaningful from a city I didn’t want to experience for more than 2 days. So I educated myself on the history and current state of Chile. While on the wait-list to get my visa registered, and feeling ill from the double-whammy of vaccines, I did some research on the crime rates in Santiago, the economy of Chile, the history of the military coup, and all 10 climatic regions of the longest country in the world.

In a bid to use our time in a meaningful way, we did some sight-seeing. The journey was liberating, first we walked to Plaza de Armas, a central square with statues and stately buildings. On the way, we stopped into a fancy mall to get something to eat. Although the restaurant assigned us an English speaking waitress I decided to make my order in Spanish. Then it was onto the Metro to visit the Museum of Memory and Human Rights.

Our walk through the museum was sobering. Images of people fighting political corruption and oppression covered almost every wall. Behind glass cases were handicrafts of prisoners in concentration camps. Interviews from political prisoners describe the tortures they endured. One video is so disturbing one man leaves the room and as he passes us he says in Spanish that it is too depressing for him to watch any longer. The picture-frames of people still missing since the military regime ended are displayed in a feature wall that is three-stories tall, their families are still searching for their bones. The exhibits continue to detail the protests and massive social movements that will over the decade of the 1980’s restore democratic power and freedom of expression to the people. The museum was too much for me also, I only made it half way before I had to leave. The atrocities and violations that occurred to the people of Chile was simply too heavy for me to reflect on. And so we left.

At home, I continued to learn about the economic growth of Chile and it’s progress to become a developed country. With the implementation of free-trade agreements, rising GDP, and generous social support policies, it would seem that Chile is not only bringing it’s people out of poverty, but working hard to keep it that way. This nation is following the rest of the developed world, and trying to become like the country I just came from — Australia. It is my opinion that they look at us with rose tinted glasses. Believing we have the solutions to all the developing world’s problems. But we have problems of our own that they overlook. That we overlook, too. A rich economy undoubtedly brings convenience, security, and stability to the home. But it is not worth dying for. I understand this is a strong statement to make. But we are on the verge of global environmental collapse and a mass extinction event that will kill many more humans than any war.

I truly hope that Chile doesn’t pull it’s people out of poverty and into the developed world without the foresight to steer away from the problems capitalism and materialism creates. I hope they will see the globally ubiquitous problem of our struggling environment and install solutions within their developing nation to become a different kind of world leader — one that isn’t so narrowly focused on economics. Our intelligence may have given us power over the elements but we are still at the whim of our emotions. Perhaps that is why capitalist society ignores the success of those who are striving for emotional wellbeing. Because feeling good about oneself is a state that even the penniless and uneducated can attain. It is the competitive greed and corporate rivalry that is a threat to our happiness and the future of all life. As we start seeing the person across the street as a foe we lose sight of the camaraderie and equality that comes from realising — “We’re all in this together”. What we do now will shape the future for those who will inherit the Earth long after our lives have passed. There will soon come a time when all the corporate and political power in the world cannot save us from the environmental destruction of today, even though these systems can make us feel insignificant with their cold efficiency. It is important not to lose sight of the power one compassionate individual has in a species so ignorantly reliant on emotion and empathy. When we undervalue these characteristics we leave ourselves vulnerable to the false importance of economic success and we generate culture that judges you based on how well you fit the mould instead of encouraging your individuality. I truly hope you, the individual reading this, feels loveable at your core for everything that makes you unique.

~ Sam

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