Stop me if you've heard this one: a single incident in my country led to mass protests that were brutally repressed by police, resulting in even angrier protests and rioting, which in turn resulted in even more repression. Nope, I'm not in the U.S., I live in Chile and I'm writing to you from the year 2019 (yeah, our internet sucks).
It's not a coincidence that what happened in Chile last year is happening in the U.S. today, and no, it's not because this was all orchestrated by Russian meme farms or reptilians or (((George Soros))). The indefensible way cops in both countries have acted is astoundingly similar, from deliberately shooting at journalists (U.S., Chile) and aiming rubber bullets at people's faces ...
... to covering their badges so they can't be held accountable for all of the above (gotta say Chilean cops are far more creative, though).
It's also disheartening to see that, like in Chile, the U.S. media practically ignores the multiple and massive peaceful protests unless cops start gassing people and instigating violence until (*gasp!*) they turn violent. On the upside, I'm pleased to report that both movements are supported by Batmen (U.S., Chile) and stupid, sexy Spider-Men.
But these are superficial similarities, and they're only symptoms of social ills shared by both countries (note: if you say one social ill is "liking superheroes" I will ban you from my DC Comics Geocities webring). You don't go out to set fire to an Arby's in the middle of a pandemic if things are going just swell in your life. You don't try to destroy a society that's providing you with dignity and stability -- you know, the whole purpose of society.
Chile's protests started after a 30 peso subway fare hike, but a common saying here goes "It's not the 30 pesos, it's the 30 years" (since a CIA-backed dictatorship pushed us into a system rife with inequality and institutionalized injustice). On paper, Chile is one of the wealthiest and most "successful" countries in Latin America, but that's not very useful to the great majority of people who have to go into perpetual debt just to, like, exist. Sure, our poverty and unemployment stats look nice, but they don't mean shit when a huge number of Chileans are one accident away from living in a trash can like El Chavo.
Does that sound familiar? The U.S., despite being a lot wealthier, still has way too many people living precariously, especially in historically screwed-over communities. As explained by philosopher Boots Riley in this Twitter thread, this is not a bug but a feature. The system depends on keeping people desperate enough to work shitty jobs for shitty money, but no one cares what this does to their psyche or their interest in preserving the status quo the luckiest among us value so much. Unrelated musical break!
One of the things that precipitated Chile's upheaval was the growing distrust in our institutions following brazen displays of corruption from all major political parties, our military, and our police (who were caught stealing over $35 million from public funds). There's a sense that those in positions of authority are getting away with some outrageous shit while us peasants can end up in jail for using the wrong salad fork. I probably don't need to tell you that Americans are equally fed up with the publicly-funded ghouls residing on both sides of the aisle while millions of people are running out of food.
Additionally, it sure doesn't help that both countries have an increasingly militarized police that seems trained to treat you like an enemy soldier. And now they don't even have to look for an excuse to flex all that military gear they have laying around, which is basically useless except for making regular citizens resent you.
When you add all of the above to the stress of knowing that you have a greater chance of being murdered by police due to the color of your skin, that leaves a whole lot of people in not the greatest of mental states. Every time a George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Philando Castille or Samuel Dubose or Freddie Grey or Eric Harris or Eric Garner or oh God there's so many is killed by a cop, that delegitimizes the institution a bit more and makes citizens less likely to respect them when shit goes down. And shit is going down.
If it wasn't George Floyd's death, it would have been something else. This was always going to happen. And if the powers that be manage to squash the protests by whatever means (repression, division, a giant squid in the middle of Manhattan) without bothering to address the underlying causes, it will happen again, and ten times as bad. If you convince yourself this is all caused by Antifa or Russia, it will blow up in your face. Take care, friends. And wear your masks when you're out there, dammit.
Maxwell Yezpitelok still lives in Chile, and his internet really does suck. Fuck you VTR.
Top Photo: Hungryogrephotos/Wikimedia Commons