5 min read
Big Brother, Big Bother: A Changing System in Chile and Its Implications
Rafael Cuchacovich

In today's agitated political environment in Chile, fueled by the rapid polarization of ideas, division of classes and resentment, we find an increasing trend towards discontent with current political and economic establishments which has given fuel to populist ideas and movements. To understand this socio-economic tension, we must consider the evolution of Chile from the years of radical communism where land expropriation was a common practice, to the period of military government where companies were re-privatized and the subsequent transition to democracy. The current situation is the result of a growing resentment coming from a general feeling that capitalism was not chosen but imposed upon them by the military government of General Pinochet. Although this may be true, Chile’s capitalism has created economic progress that enabled it to stand out as one of the region's most developed and advanced economies

The major problems began when a small group of politically motivated students initiated a movement whose central purpose was to blame the government for the lack of quality in public education. This movement touched a larger cord of socio-economic grievances of people who took to the streets to protest the inequality created by the neoliberal order. At this point, a new constitution is to be written that would seek to fundamentally restructure Chile and the popular mood of Chileans still bends toward political outsiders. Despite the fact that their discontent with the government was justified, these developments threaten to upend the neoliberal model entirely without comprehending the benefits it has bestowed to Chilean society. 

It is clear that there is no flawless economic or political system, and when a group centers its efforts in bringing down a system, instead of fixing the issues through reasonable discussion, no positive change can occur. Instead, the feelings of anger and hate that spawn these movements are strongly related to an underlying historical resentment, which in the case of Chile, originates from the times of colonial oppression. Through this destructive political agenda and in an attempt to trigger and grow resentment, topics such as inequality became common weapons against the neoliberal model, a model that had reduced poverty from over 36% to 8.6% - Chile") in Chile only from 2000 to 2017 and created more social mobility than any country in the region had ever experienced. But these advances had been long forgotten in the race to discredit the system and replace the government with a small group of frustrated students, motivated by personal ambitions, hatred and resentment, who were able to disarm the whole system and convince the masses to rewrite the rules in a way that the people naively believed would be for their benefit. However, history has proven that such promises to end corrupt governments throughout South and Central America end up creating governments that are more controlled by a small political elite that fixates on growing government through awarding special group privileges rather than actually fixing the system. We have seen this phenomena happen over and over again in countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Argentina. 

Unfortunately this trend has been spreading at uncontrollable rates throughout the South American continent, from Colombia, to Chile and Peru. South America has become an extremely unstable region once again, while illusions and promises that the continent would someday host developed societies and economies fade away in the eyes of a disappointed world. Such cycles serve to remind us about the nature of people and the importance of developing a strong culture that aims towards progress and individual responsibility and the inevitable reality that new generations forget about history and unless structural cultural changes occur, they will fall into the same trap as their grandparents did and pay the same or even a worse price. Although it's unfortunate to watch the region fall in such an abrupt way, historically, the southern hemisphere of the American continent has always been perceived as unstable and politically volatile area, therefore the world is unsurprised when it witnesses its collapse. What is unusual, is that in the past three years, we have seen this trend growing in the northern countries, with the US and Canada becoming more and more unstable through policies such as reducing police authority, excessive fiscal spending, language regulation and excessive gender legislation

Irrespective of the way each government applies populist policies, the pattern always follows the same result, a larger government that takes over more roles and stronger involvement in citizens´ personal lives by taking responsibility away, in exchange for an easier life in the short term, but an unavoidable loss of freedom in the long term. Eventually the concentration of power arrives to a point where citizens fully depend on the government to meet their needs, an inflection point that allows the political elites to reveal their true intentions, to exercise full authority over the country's resources in benefit of their own personal ambitions. In absolute daze the citizens experience a betrayal that is too late to overturn, without realizing that throughout the whole process of providing temporary relief from the burden of their personal responsibilities, it was simply taking the power away from their hands to finally use it against their interests. 

Such political patterns are no surprise to the seasoned human race nor their devastating consequences, thus the true question is why do societies keep repeating proven paths to disaster and even within the same time period when neighboring societies within the same regions are experiencing such calamities. The pattern begins with promises, then providing some aid to the people and becoming their main source of support to finally exercising full control over the people to the extent they have no more choice but to meet the demands of the ruling elite in order to survive. 

The answer to this question has to do with the blinding tendency that are characteristic of emotions and the birth of new generations that turn their backs to history in hopes that “this time will be different”. However, the true reason has to do with the challenge of dealing with the responsibilities that freedom carries. 

In this way the issue becomes a matter of individual responsibilities and the choice whether one as an individual must accept and bear the consequences of the decisions we make for our lives or pass that responsibility to a third party (the government) hoping they will do a better job than us, which is naturally impossible. This has two implications, one physical and one psychological. On the physical aspect, if we delegate this responsibility to a third party, we would be allowing another entity to do with our lives as they please as they would be in complete control. Regarding psychological consequences, giving responsibility away inevitably creates fundamental dependency, and so dependency, limits our freedom. When we individuals feel powerless, they begin to blame the external factors that affect their lives as it is no longer up to them to change their circumstances, therefore expecting their patron “Big Brother” to solve their difficulties, giving a gateway to the next political elite that will certainly promise to solve the totality of difficulties (which of course are never and will ever be the government) to amass power and control the nation's resources. 

This phenomenon can be seen by analyzing Chilean political history once again. During the period of 1970-1973, after a decade of gradual expropriations under the slogan of “agrarian reform” and an expanding government taking larger roles in the distribution of resources, an abrupt surge in corruption came forth as power began to concentrate around the political elites of the communist party. While regular citizens had to wait in line for endless hours in the heat of the day and cold of the night to get a kilogram of flour or liter of milk, a new market was born to serve the political elites and other affluent actors, the black market. At some point the black market reached greater trade volumes than the regulated market for certain products. The appearance of black markets was inevitable as corruption grew within the system and governmental distribution channels for basic goods became too inefficient to serve the totality of the population, especially when the population had to manage with the leftovers after serving privileged communist related organizations. 

Ironically, communism becomes just an excuse for aspiring politicians to amass power while the population starves to death as it has been happening in Venezuela for the past decade.On this note, we can conclude that societies and citizens must always protect their freedom by all means through the full acceptance of responsibility for their personal wellbeing and avoid falling into the trap of relying on “Big Brother" as an omnipotent entity that will take care of their needs. As such it's crucial to always remember what governments truly are, they are not omnipresent and omnipotent entities, they simply are mere groups of people that must work towards a specific goal; to serve the citizens and therefore every public official is inherently a servant of the people.

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