Another chilean social movement takes off: privatization of water

Sooner or later this was bound to happen in Chile: A large scale protest that doesn’t want privatization of water to go any further. What’s interesting is how the current situation is associated to so many other economic activities and social movements.

Cases such as Penta-gate case; SQM case; over-explotation of forest resources; education reforms;  salmon fishing scandal; are all excesses or examples of over-exploitation in different production sectors in Chile. But how connected or linked are these events? Are they separate and isolated events, or do they form part of a wider picture that can be explained systemically? It’s not a minor question, for how we regard inequality or exploitation, as a secondary issue or a central part of how we explain things, changes how we agree upon an issue and produce policy. It’s also relevant to understand why, in a context considered as the “economic miracle“, we have an increasing number of social movements associated to the different sectors of production in Chile. This in a context that should have by bow solved its differences and disparities through the trickle down process of economic growth (1973-2015). The fact is, we do need to stop romanticizing about the Chile’s peaceful economic outcome and be sincere about the state of human rights, power, classism, discrimination, exploitation, poverty and elitism this country.

When we look at how these cases come together (or assemble), it is possible to appreciate a level of structural coherence. Most of the articles you will read regarding these cases suggest 3 common elements: the financial system; a State’s closed door decision-making process; and a business-government elite. A fourth element that explains how we have come to foster this policy culture is past decisions, or historic context is crucial to understand the cases’ relations; particularly to the changes and perpetuation of the neo-liberal system. Asking how link-able inequality is among these cases in Chile could perfectly end up in an article or book. apart from those already produced in Chile which already attempt an exploration of the Chilean capitalism. But due to time I can brush very lightly through a few thoughts. Nevertheless, topics such as how different systems effectively are form part of a same thing (systemic forms of exploitation for example) is better covered in post-structuralism or post-Marxist literature. Rather than ignoring or hiding this literature, as it happens too often in Chile, it’s time to place it as a relevant part of our debate of what explains these social movements in Chile. there are so many was in which such an approahc, one which places emphasis in the kinds of social relations that economic activities produce, is swept away form what we should include as debatable. Indeed, the depth of any reform depends in how we relate several events. And how we agree upon what should debated, of course.

Once in democracy, it seems that basing our policies on an “open debate” among different positions of society is not guaranteed. It is not even guaranteed in the UK or in the EU. And the result is instead a kind of politics that “bursts” once excesses are not tolerated any more. A kind of politics that does not guarantee a better outcome when agreeing on reforms. this should not be confused to the lack of faith to a social movement to manage a change for the better. But I just don’t believe we have to become “active citizens” once issues are almost unsolvable. Indeed, I still find it hard to come to terms, for example, how much democracy was fought for during the 80’s. And the fact that many of the people that died in the recent rain disasters in the north of Chile, could have been avoided. We don’t seem to be capable of making decision-makers or institutions accountable. A few are grilled, but no systemic or structural changes are visible. When structural changes tale place, these are adapted along the way to ameliorate their depth, specially after an intervention on one of our elites. Which suggests issues such as power asymmetries and inequality are far form a central part of the debate. Or stop the disappearance of native cultures we have in Chile. Or the excessive manipulation of media information. Or the narrow minded transport agenda that structures our country.  And all of these multiple dimensions or issues that shape our lives do say something about our state of democracy.


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