Monday, September 16, 2013

A Snake that Only Bites Those Who Are Barefoot

A quote from Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano on a wall in Ayacucho, Peru.  (Photo by Nancy Bauer)
Justice is like a snake; It only bites those who are barefoot   

Someone in the city of Ayacucho in the highlands of Peru quoted the Uruguayan poet, essayist and journalist Eduardo Galeano on the walls of the city square known as Plaza de Armas. Nancy Bauer, an anti-poverty advocate happened to be in that community during her recent trip to Peru to visit projects sponsored by the international organization CARE.  So she snapped a photograph of the wall.

(Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador, by the way, also used this quote in one of his social commentaries).

So what does Galeano mean with this saying?

In an essay written in 2009 in the blog Atrevete a Ver la Verdad...Para Reflexionar, Para Pensar (Dare to See the Truth in Order to Reflect to Think), the Uruguayan author criticized the global system of laws, which readily punishes the poor and allows the wealthy to violate international principles with impunity.
Según la revista Foreign Policy, Somalia es el lugar más peligroso de todos. Pero, ¿quiénes son los piratas? ¿Los muertos de hambre que asaltan barcos o los especuladores de Wall Street, que llevan años asaltando el mundo y ahora reciben multimillonarias recompensas por sus afanes?

¿Por qué el mundo premia a quienes lo desvalijan?
¿Por qué la justicia es ciega de un solo ojo? Wal Mart, la empresa más poderosa de todas, prohíbe los sindicatos. McDonald’s, también. ¿Por qué estas empresas violan, con delincuente impunidad, la ley internacional? ¿Será porque en el mundo de nuestro tiempo el trabajo vale menos que la basura y menos todavía valen los derechos de los trabajadores? ¿Quiénes son los justos y quiénes los injustos? Si la justicia internacional de veras existe, ¿por qué nunca juzga a los poderosos?
According to Foreign Policy magazine, Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world. Who are the pirates? Are they those who are dying of hunger who rob banks or are they the speculators of Wall Street, who for many years have robbed the world and are now receiving millions of dollars in recompense for their actions. 

Why is it that the world rewards those who cause it harm?
Why is justice blind in one eye? Wal Mart, the most powerful company in the world forbids the creation of unions. The same goes for McDonald's.  Why do these companies violate international laws with criminal impunity? Is because work is less valuable than trash in our contemporary world, and because the rights of workers are worth even less? Who are the just and the unjust? If international justice really does exist, why does it judge the powerful the least?

Read Galeano's full essay in Spanish

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