Salvador Allende was elected President of Chile in 1970 with about a third of the popular vote. Though lionized in places like U of C Berkeley, his popularity never did improve in Chile. Alas, a prophet is never honoured in his own country.

Chile had no rail system, so when the truckers went on strike, the country was paralyzed. The subsequent coup, spearheaded by Augusto Pinochet, may have been sponsored by the American CIA – talking heads remain divided on that score – but the regime was destined to fall anyhow. But what surprised us all at the time was the brutality and thoroughness of the takeover. At the Casa Rosada, Allende himself went down fighting. But not unlike in Cambodia-turned-Kampuchea, the Chilean military drew no distinction between being educated and being on the left. So anyone educated enough to be so conflated and who could escape the country, did so with all possible dispatch. 

Some eighteen months later the Pinochet regime found that it desperately needed the country’s doctors and dentists and engineers back. And many of these people, having left family and backyard gardens behind, desperately wanted to go back. Brokering these returns was, as I recall, a tricky business. But I’m nothing if not tricky.

The lion’s share of the doctors and dentists and engineers in Afghanistan today have been trained as doctors and dentists and engineers over the past twenty years by the occupier. So the conflation of collaborator and educated is not much of a conflation at all. Qua erstwhile collaborators these people desperately want to get out of the country. And in fact the Taliban would be happy to see them go were it not that these people are all that stand between the continuing smartness of their smart phones and a return to 14th Century squalor. So the Taliban is caught between a rock and a hard place. Kill the collaborators and die of appendicitis or just let bygones be bygones.

This dialectic between ideology and crass material self-interest is precisely what played out in Santiago in 1975, and now again in Kabul. In the end a polity finds an equilibrium it can live with. But that’s small consolation for the families of those shot or hung or beheaded in those first mindless hours of victory.  

Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy

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1 reply

  1. This post and your last one instruct us as to how cold and bitter blow the winds of change.


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