“My dear brothers, never forget, when you hear the progress of enlightenment vaunted, that the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist!” ~Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1857)
My wife and I are safe, and the worst we’ve experienced is inconvenience when the Metro (Santiago’s subway system) was shut down for several days and when lines were long outside heavily guarded supermarkets.
Daily demonstrations continue, some involving over a million people. There continue to be disruptions. Fires continue to be started and acts of vandalism continue to be aimed at corporate-owned markets and public facilities. These have done millions of dollars worth of damage. A Metro station had to be closed again a couple of days ago. There have been unconscionable acts on both sides. Also a couple of days ago a police officer was filmed tear-gassing a protester for no discernible reason (she was not being violent as far as I could tell). As of this writing there have been 20 confirmed deaths, many in fires. Santiago’s downtown air is borderline unbreathable.
Some would like to see Chilean President Sebastian Piñera forced to step down. They deeply resent his billionaire status. They would like nothing better than to see this government fail. This would accomplish nothing. It would leave Chile worse off. Bringing down a government is much easier, after all, than building something better.
President Piñera merits praise for owning this situation: listening, taking charge, and beginning the job of instituting reforms. He has rescinded rate hikes on the Metro, raised the minimum wage, and started restructuring the deeply resented private pension system (which has been the subject of vocal protests before). He has called for the repeal of a scheduled price hike of electricity and shortened the work week from 45 to 40 hours. He has replaced his entire cabinet.
So far this has failed to quell the unrest. But positive, constructive change never happens overnight. As days pass, our prayers are that cooler heads will prevail.
This episode has revealed deep structural problems in Chile. The country has swallowed the red pill, one might say, and awakened from its neoliberal “real Matrix.”
While again this is an ongoing situation, and my information could change, I’ve been able to identify three distinct groups involved in the events that blew up in our faces on Friday, October 18.
Despite initial acts of lawbreaking, once assembled, the main body of protesters has consisted of large numbers of university students and workers, many of them middle class. They’ve been loud, but overall, peaceful. They’ve communicated specific demands to the government.
Then there were hooligans who always come out in times like these: smashing, looting, burning. Members of the first group were filmed stopping the hooligans from looting stores or throwing rocks at police, some of whom sympathized with the protests.
We even saw a handful of yellow vests, donned as if in solidarity with the largely middle class movement in France against policies traceable to a wealthy and powerful elite that drove people into the streets through sheer refusal to listen to their concerns.
Chile’s economy has been subject to elite domination since before the end of Augustus Pinochet’s military autocracy. The results generated prosperity. Following reconstruction of the economy by the Chicago Boys, this became the wealthiest country in South America. And politically, the most stable.
In the “real Matrix” these results were described under such monikers as the Chilean miracle.
But in the “desert of the real,” it’s been a mixed bag.
For the benefits of prosperity have not been equally shared. Prices have recently risen across the board as the Chilean peso has been devalued. The reasons are structural. Elitist neoliberalism works for a time, but as it builds infrastructure and generates prosperity it further concentrates wealth in the hands of its elites, who grow increasingly corrupt and unresponsive. The system starts to lose credibility. Chileans are not stupid. They know when they are being ripped off. Eventually any people will take matters into their own hands. This is risky, of course. Such efforts can be hijacked.
The third of the groups I mentioned is a minority of outright Communists. There has long been a Communist presence in Chile, as in Latin America generally. Pinochet did everything he could to try to rid the country of this presence. Ultimately, though, Communism survived underground here and elsewhere. Known Communists fled Chile during those years but returned little by little after Pinochet stepped down and civilian rule was restored. Despite the hatred rained down on the Pinochet government by global mainstream media outlets and academics continuing to this day, I’ve encountered no reasons for thinking life was intolerably bad under Pinochet unless you were a Communist or openly sympathetic to Communism.
And now, I’ve no reason to believe the vast majority of protesters are Communists or want anything to do with Communism. Their problems are mundane: paying rent or for utilities, or purchasing the education they’ve been told all their lives is a ticket into the middle class. Or being forced to participate in a private pension system that pays out a pittance.
You aren’t a Communist simply because you criticize corporate practices and demand reforms. You aren’t even a Communist if you take to the streets.
Were there Communists behind some of the hooliganism: agents of chaos, trying to control some of the protests? It’s not impossible! Such people should be taken into custody if they can be identified and prosecuted under Chilean law.
If President Piñera leads the way to genuine reforms and disruptions continue, then of course this militates in favor of the view that they come from outside Chile.
Have trained infiltrators entered the country from Venezuela and Cuba? I’ve no decisive evidence one way or the other, but again, it’s not impossible. The plain truth is, when nations open their borders for whatever reason, they expose themselves to danger. Europeans have seen this with the colonies of unassimilable Muslims that have made mayhem in the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and elsewhere.
Chile opened its borders during Michelle Bachelet’s second presidency (2014 – 18). Piñera has not closed them. Tens of thousands of immigrants have entered Chile, most from Haiti and Venezuela. Most came here wanting only better lives than they had back home. Many are skilled and wanted to work. The situation is not analogous to Europe. Venezuelans speak Spanish and can assimilate into Chilean culture.
It is always a few, though, who spoil things for the rest.
There’s a larger picture here, of course. Much larger.
While doing research I became aware of disturbances elsewhere in Latin America, e.g., Ecuador. The new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, is a Trump-like figure who is as disliked by the same globalist / leftist elements that dislike President Trump and are worsening potentially explosive divisions up home that are far more dangerous to the world than anything happening in Chile.
What is going on? It’s a question many are asking. Many have written of the unrest and anger that has characterized the ‘10s and grown exponentially, not just here or in the U.S. but in Europe, India, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.
Is it globalist elitism versus “populist” nationalism? There’s surely something to that. I argued long ago that “Trumpism” is larger than Trump. But I don’t think that’s the whole story.
Some characterize what is going on as a rising clash between arrogant “haves” and resentful “have-nots.”
Closer, perhaps, but that’s not quite it, either. So simple a dichotomy does not explain the waves of unrest that have torn at Hong Kong this year. People in what has been one of the wealthiest city-states in that part of the world are resistant to being integrated under Beijing.
The Chinese government, moreover, clearly aspires to global domination in the face of a slowly fading U.S. Its leadership makes no pretenses of “liberalism” in any form.
There’s something darker afoot, and without wanting to go the route of dispensational eschatology, it’s easy to wonder if things aren’t building towards a confrontation of Biblical proportions. Or perhaps the Real Confrontation is here, because it has always been going on.
Christians know what I am talking about.
Turn with me to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Chapter 6. Verses 10-18 (New King James Version):
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day…. Stand, therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the firey darts of the wicked one.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
If you believe Scripture, Paul is telling you what the Real Confrontation is, and what we need to know about it — peering not just behind the curtain at worldly powers but behind that still-deeper curtain hiding the spiritual war that’s been waged from time immemorable.
The Real Confrontation is between Godly forces and Satanic ones. It is spiritual, and has been going on since the angel Lucifer decided he wanted to be like God, wanted to be God, rebelled, and was cast out (Isaiah 14:12-15). According to Scripture he has manifested himself in worldly leaders (Ezekiel 28:2, 12-19).
To those who hold to the strange belief that God might exist, but not a “personal devil,” I must observe with Baudelaire, and many others since, that Satan’s biggest trick, and temporary triumph in the modern world, really has been convincing that world he doesn’t exist, that belief in him is crazy, that he’s a boogieman, something priests made up to keep parishioners in line, and whose name pastors and deacons and parents invoke to scare children or those with childish minds.
He’s not referred to as the Father of Lies (John 8:44) and the Deceiver (cf. Rev. 12:9) for no reason at all!
Satan has always traded on half-truths. Yes, injustices are very real. No one can say otherwise. We can make small fixes here and there. But that said, we could also make a list of our attempts to organize ourselves politically and socioeconomically on a large scale and document the reasons each one has eventually destabilized and collapsed. We seem unable to devise systems that don’t screw somebody!
Satan would have us continue to believe we can fix everything ourselves, pursuing the same kinds of power strategies the arrogant few have always pursued.
The conflicts we’ve seen and lived through are just brief chapters in this long, ongoing saga, which if we trust Biblical testimony, predates recorded history.
In all probability, a civilization of global scope existed before the event Genesis describes as the Great Flood. We aren’t told much about that civilization, except that “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
Later, in a future cycle, men tried to build a “Tower of Babel”: another aspiring global order that would reach towards heaven (Genesis 11:1-9).
That, too, ended badly!
One might get the impression that it is not God’s will that human beings organize themselves into a single world order, old or new!
But behind-the-scenes powers, dating at least to the 1770s but doubtless existing before, have been scheming and plotting to do so all along. Communism was just the most visible outgrowth of this idea. Communism as Marx first used the term was a literal End of History, a final Utopian state in which all social and economic divisions had been erased, in which there was no private property and hence nothing for people to fight over. Marx, as have many others, worked under the dangerous assumption that human nature was entirely malleable — a product of its socioeconomic environment. And of the Enlightenment premise that we can improve ourselves indefinitely, building our own Tower of Babel by our own efforts. Some call this modernity.
Neoliberal capitalism commits essentially the same error! Its advocates fancied themselves standing at the End of History after Soviet-style Communism collapsed — even more so, when China was integrated into the global trade system a few years later. It has enjoyed many of the successes any form of capitalism does, unleashing productivity and raising living standards everywhere it goes.
But not for all or even most of its participants, and therein lies the weakness that eventually tears it down.
Neoliberalism is essentially a secular materialist philosophy holding that all human beings the world over are just self-interested utility-maximizers or ought to be. They both can and should “reinvent themselves” as their lives and cultures are integrated into a single global marketplace oriented around pleasure, consumption, and disposability.
The worst thing that happened to capitalism was its alignment, over time, with the materialist worldview that dominated industrial civilization by the early 1900s, relegating the Christian worldview to the sidelines of irrelevance in the world of wheeling and dealing and pleasure-seeking.
Pundits have struggled to explain the alienation permeating modernity, evident in its art, its literature, its philosophy, its music; in the epidemics of drug use (legal and illegal); in the suicide rate and in practices ranging from wars of choice to abortion that manifest the cheap disposability of human life. How to contain these has been an ongoing challenge. How to keep the majority “plugged in,” i.e., tranquilized in acceptable ways, to keep them working and consuming.
No system that ignores our highest aspirations for meaning, which are just reflections of our need for God, is going to work indefinitely. All will veer off course and slowly destabilize as the wealthy and powerful few come to see all those outside their enclaves as an anonymous mass, herds of cattle with human DNA. Sooner or later, the more conscious members of that mass always grow restless. Some may self-destruct, but others will lead rebellions. They will challenge dominant narratives.
Especially when they get their hands on something with the potential of the Internet!
But while the Internet will bring all manner of information to their fingertips, it will not give them direction in fighting a war that is spiritual, not material. Peoples who have fought for revolutions on the material level have, after all, usually ended up worse off, as orgies of violence ended with brutal dictatorships. Visible example: France 1789. History discloses numerous others.
Satan loves such results! They leave many innocent and well-meaning people with a sense that this is a world of injustice and horror, of violence and despair! And that surely a loving God wouldn’t permit such things! Satan hates God, remember! He will do everything in his power to drive a wedge between humanity and God, and even between Christians and God if he can!
The Real Confrontation is between forces aligned with God and godly virtues and values — an enduring order of morality and justice not explicable in material terms — and forces aligned with Satan and the satanic rebellion, which promises heaven on Earth but instead delivers strife, division, demoralization, destruction, chaos, war, and finally death in the Biblical sense of eternal separation from God (“for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom. 6:23).
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