Thursday, July 27, 2006

Political Swinging in Nicaragua

An article by Andrés Pérez Baltodano appeared in the Opinions section of El Nuevo Diario today. In it he quotes Jaime Morales Carazo’s acceptance speech from when Morales became the official vice-presidential candidate for the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN). Morales has long been a member of the right-wing Liberal Party and was one of the principle advisors for the ex-president Dr. Arnoldo Aleman, currently under house-arrest after being convicted for corruption. In his speech, Morales explains his new political vision:

I confess with an open and modern mentality that I do not locate myself – not to the right, nor to the left, nor to the centre – because I have been convinced by a long process of real deeds that to generate economic progress and social advancement for all, with reconciliation, stability and peace, the pendulum of times and movements of societies and history oscillates from the right to the left, necessarily passing through the centre. It does not stay in the extremes nor immobilize itself in middle. Were it that way, time would not be dynamic.

So now will the FSLN, Nicaragua’s traditional left, spend its time ‘swinging’ from right to left with it’s new ex-right vice-presidential candidate?

Morales: a Political Swinger?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rain in Waslala

After a month of rain, the northern road to Siuna has become impassible. The current problem is a hill just leaving Waslala that has become a mud bath. Vehicles can neither go up or down. Everyone – old, young, pregnant, sick, rich or poor – have to trudge and slip about a kilometer up and down the hill, carrying sacks or paying the young boys that gather around to carry them. The road south to the capital is still passable, but there are several parts that are in bad shape and if it continues to rain will also be impassible.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Death and life

Water drips to the songs of frogs and distant dogs, quiet, after the violent drums of unrestrained torrents of water falling upon the zinc roof.

Both harsh and soft, brutal fury and gentle beauty.

Life is everywhere, but last night a young nurse died,

because her blood tests came out wrong

(We are not even sure that the place she had her tests done has a trained lab tech)

because the local hospital has no blood bank

(Even if they did, we are spending more time without electricity than with it as the newly privatized electricity company, the government and consumers' rights organizations fight and oil prices soar to the rhythm of bombs in the Middle-East and capitalist growth)

because the new ambulance is broken and being repaired

(After years of fighting to get an ambulance, we received two and now both need repairs. The National Constitution states that access to health care is a right, however the spending on health per capita keeps on going down as the governments of turn promote private health care.)

because the road to Matagalpa is in such bad condition that it takes four hours to cover the 116 km to the nearest hospital that does have conditions,

because later the doctors did not risk a blood transfusion without tests, and by that time there was no electricity.

She was twenty-one years old, and her daughter, husband, parents and friends grieve on the other side of Nicaragua.

Symbolic Interactionism

I have been trying to get my head around microsociology. One of the branches, Symbolic Interactionism looks at the interaction between the internal thoughts and emotions (symbols) of a person and his or her social conduct. It breaks away from the mechanistic ideas of Structural Functionalism and Structural Marxism which see people acting according to social norms laid out by the social structures to which they belong. It centers on the idea of “self” continually formed by both social and auto interaction. When we interact with others, before we act we always have a quick ‘conversation’ with ourselves in which we interpret the situation, the possible actions and the possible reactions. When we act, the other person tries to interpret the significance that we are giving to the symbols we are using to communicate (words, actions, movements, etc), analyzes the possible reactions, and our reactions to his or her reactions, and then responds, and we immediately interpret their response and adjust what it is that we are doing.

It claims to recognize the importance of social structures (roles, status, institutions, society) but sees them as an interlaced continuum of interactions

The methodology used analyze the interior course of action is the following:

  1. Look for the interior experience that is behind the conduct.
  2. Understand the values, visions, significations and definitions that the individual applies to the situations in which he or she acts, and to him or herself.
  3. Clarify how the imaginative processes work.
  4. The explication comes from empirical data that emerge from the process through which the individual describes his or her world from within and at the same time defines his or her own objective reality.

It is a flexible exploration, a direct naturalist examination of the social world. It uses direct observation, interviews, listens to conversations, radio, and television and revises life histories, letters and public archives. Instead of definitive concepts, it uses sensibilizing concepts that simply suggest where to orient the search.

Okay ... I can understand the importance of trying to understand the person to person mechanics of how we create and reproduce the social reality in which we live; however if we only focus on day to day interactions of individuals, then power relations, the state, structures of domination, multinationals, poverty and imperialism all disappear into an interior conversation we have with ourselves based upon our valuations and interpretations of the symbols that others communicate to us. It just feels empty …

International politics: an interior conversation with myself, or an external social structure?