It’s always embarrassing to watch Americans reduce human affairs to a handful of particular assumptions based on their own culture wars and then apply them to the rest of the world. Such has been the case with – unbelievably – Chile’s Feb. 27 earthquake.
It started with a ridiculous Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that the low earthquake death toll owed itself to the miracle of Chicago-school economic theory as implemented by Pinochet. This argument should be ignored, or at best, laughed off. Do not feed the trolls.
Instead, it has caused an earnest and vociferous reaction from the other team, which, using common sense, historical knowledge, and actual data, makes a pretty good case for the Chicago school having nothing to do with it.
Still, it’s exhausting. The same Cold War characters have been having the same binary good/evil arguments in the United States for half a century now. This wasn’t an accurate way of understanding the world during the Cold War, and it’s not an accurate model for understanding history now.
The thing is, the world does not exist according to the prevailing intellectual currents in the United States of America. Chile is a whole country, full of people who do things and have thoughts and organize themselves into groups for the accomplishing of particular goals. They have history which, though at times influenced by U.S. intervention, is their own.
Whether or not the Chileans got ideas from the United States, or were pressured by the United States, or were defended by people on the left from the United States, is irrelevant to the way Chile is today. The relevant part is how Chile reacted to those pressures and influences, and in that sense, the Chileans are the masters of their own destiny. They built their own country, the richest in the region, and they’ll rebuild it.
Americans – babyboomers, in particular – are accustomed to a world that revolves around them. Increasingly, it doesn’t. Better get used to it.