The Illogic of Extremes

Transposing emblem by Andrea da Silva Escandell

I live in my little Uruguay, a small country between two giants: Argentina and Brazil.

It may seem like we are just an extension of Argentina (like another province) as we share the same language and the same “lenguaje rioplatense”, which means a special intonation, pronunciation and lexical meaning of words. We also share historical roots – as both countries were colonized by Spain in the XV century, But, nonetheless, the cultures of Uruguay and Argentina as well as “idiosyncrasies” in particular have given rise to substantial differences. 

Argentinians are known to be proud, self-assured, self-centered people, while Uruguayans are more humble. We usually speak in a low tone of voice, while Argentinians tend to shout. In a way, our neighbors are known to be somewhat violent and warriors: they fight in the street, they have strong arguments about politics or sports and like being noticed by the rest. On the other hand, we, Uruguayans, prefer discussion to argument, prefer talking to shouting, like exchanging ideas.

In recent years, we have seen a wave of violence sweep over our neighbors. As a reaction to this increase in violent crime in Argentina, the majority of the population chose a more traditional political option, which promised to put the country in order, giving more security to ordinary people who were complaining.  This old-fashioned political option brought exactly the opposite of what they had promised: High taxes were imposed on labor, basic goods, and the average price of goods quadrupled; workers lost important rights, while minorities completely lost their voice. And child labor was even approved in some provinces! But, still, hunger has spread, along with discontent, despair and rage. 

The consequence of this is general discontent in the population, as salaries did not rise commensurately and food became more expensive. The gap between the rich and poor grew, dividing society, although for now, not between violent and peaceful people, but owners of companies and employees.

In Uruguay, violent crime has also increased. Most people are discontent as they feel that the atmosphere of the quiet peaceful country has changed, and we are not able to walk freely in the street as we did some years ago.  Authorities are expected to take stricter measures and to approve laws that protect the community in a better way. Furthermore, high prices, especially for basic needs such as food, services and transport, give people reason to complain.

On the other hand, Uruguay is one of the first countries to have legalized the use of marihuana and has approved same-sex marriage, laws that give women the option to have an abortion covered by their health insurance, free health services for workers and their families, public hospitals that have the best doctors and high-quality service, laws that protect minorities (blacks, trans and others) and allow them to find public sector jobs and receive good public education.

The question is, why are people in so many countries around the globe, like America or Brazil, and in this case Argentina, attracted to such extreme ideas? What are people really thinking when they vote? Are they really using their rational minds? Are they analyzing the different options? What goes on in the mind of a person who prefers a speaker that shouts lies and has no respect for human beings and shows no moral values? Are people listening and analyzing the speech?

What is the reason that a common laborer chooses a person who is against their rights? It seems strange. Do voters not see that the aim of this new wave of moral rulers is to earn more money only to be distributed among the rich? Have they thought for a while about the minorities that are being left unprotected, unsafe? I’m talking about the black community, the homosexuals and trans, small indigenous groups, etc.

Instead of seeing an evolution in rights, humanity is walking backwards, losing the rights we had won after many years and years of fighting for them. Voters are not using their logical mind, or humanity is going back 60 years. I am shocked by the lack of tolerance, by the rise of polarization and extreme ways of thinking that generate more and more violence.

I am 47, in my teens, I used to participate in street demonstrations supporting more rights for workers, for women having equal access to a job and studies, for minorities to be accepted and respected, and for environmental protection. I wished the world would become a better place.

Today, apparently people have lost their ability to think independently and are being pulled and pushed by the media, especially social media, which manage their feelings without analyzing concepts or ideas, without seeing that they are being driven by political and economic interests that are behind them, and unaware that millions are invested in fake profiles that participate in facebook groups, twitter, etc.

Sadly, I am witnessing regression in people’s mentality, in moral and human values. And apparently in a vast majority of the population that supports these polarized, extreme ideas, because they are the ones raising more votes. Hopefully, my people, when they come to vote next time, will be able to use their rational minds and not get caught up in this extended wave of extreme political thinking. Hopefully, they will choose an option that will take the country one step forward, creating an environment in which everyone has more and better rights.