Monday, September 22, 2008

Impressions: if we only used what we have

Carla* was in her twenties during the war. She worked as a housekeeper in San Salvador, regularly traveling about 40 miles from her hometown to the capital. Most of the fighting happened in different parts of the country, at yet the war touched everyone in some way. If it wasn’t someone you knew it was someone you worked with who was killed in the war.

On her rides on the bus she would talk to people and the things they would tell her were very interesting. Carla told me of a conversation she had with a man who lived in the mountains. “He said he was native of this land” she said, “but, no one is truly native anymore,” she added already questioning his right to complain.

She continued saying “He said that his land was stolen from him and that they were fighting for their land. I asked him how much land he owned and he said that he had ‘una manzana’. I asked him what he did with it and he said that he couldn’t do anything with so little land. He wanted the government to give him back his land and fix the road to their town.”

She looked doubtful as she said, “I asked him why he didn’t get together with the other people in his town to do something about the road. But, he didn’t want to --you see? He didn’t realize that they could have fixed the road and would have been able to improve their own situation without any help from the government. Instead, he was just complaining for a right I’m not sure was really his.”

On another bus ride Carla met another man with similar circumstances but a different attitude. She told me that he owned a small plot of land and he planted corn and other things on it. Then he was given three chicks that he raised into chickens they were all laying hens. He sold the eggs and saved enough money to buy a calf. He raised the calf and soon had another calf and a milk cow. His wife sold the milk and between all of those things on their small plot of land they found a way of living that was more comfortable than most. Carla said, “I think that most anyone can find a way if they set their mind to it and we don’t need the government to do everything for us.”

Carla said that she read the ‘communist’ literature and did not find it compelling, she was convinced that people should work hard and not expect the government to do everything for them. “That land” she said, “how could they prove that it should belong to them anyway?” It’s more complicated than that. The guerrilla didn’t convince her. “They said things that sounded good” she said with regret, “but, as they spoke about the land and the people they destroyed and stole people’s property. What kind of communism would that be?” Then with the brilliance of a storyteller she concluded, “If only everyone could be like the second man who used the little he had to get ahead.”

*I have not used her real name.

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live the questions now... R.M. Rilke