Wednesday, August 10

Political superstitions

George Washington’s death was especially painful. At all times he found himself cared for by three doctors, but not only could they not do anything to prevent his condition, but, in fact, it was they themselves who brought about that end. For treat –It is to say– a simple throat infection, which was all the ailment that the unfortunate man presented, they applied up to three bleedings, extracting almost four liters of blood. Washington himself encouraged them to do so, as he firmly believed in the effectiveness of the procedure. He was 68 years old and perfectly healthy. The day before, he had been inspecting his Mont Vernon plantation. He died on December 14, 1799, bled and suffocated in an agony that lasted for ten hours.

The indents are a perfect example of superstitions, beliefs whose foundation and efficacy, although completely unprovable, are not in doubt due to the sole inertia of tradition. There are considerably innocuous superstitions, like the one that claims that going under a ladder brings bad luck. And there are others, like that of the indents, which are disastrous. From time immemorial it was thought that the blood did not circulate, but remained stagnant in the body. Before all kinds of ailments, it was prescribed to draw blood, assuming that either she was sick or that there was an excess of it in the body. The procedure was atrocious: not only did it not help at all, but in many cases it resulted in death. In addition, the surgeons / barbers in charge of applying them did not disinfect the blades – they were completely unaware of the existence of microorganisms – so they spread infectious diseases from sick to sick. An absurdity.

In the same way that bloodletting is a sanitary superstition, certain types of beliefs can rightly be considered political superstitions. One especially widespread is that of the death penalty. There are millions of people who still think that the death penalty works to end crime. But you just have to look at the data: what works to end crime is economic equality, justice in social relations and progress. The more advanced a society is, the less crime it harbors. That is why the countries with the death penalty are the most backward and, at the same time, those with the highest crime rates and are the most dangerous. Probably the only exception to this evidence is – for complex cultural reasons – the United States.

Another glaring political superstition especially widespread is that of “humanitarian invasions.” I say “invasions” and not “interventions”, a euphemism in which we should not fall: when a foreign army enters another country and takes control, the correct name is that, the other is propaganda. To invade a country militarily “for its own good” is like drawing blood from a person “to improve their health”: an aberration. But, as with indentations, there are millions of people who believe in the procedure.

Joe Biden has now stated that the motive for the invasion of Afghanistan was “to prevent a terrorist attack on the American homeland.” It is highly debatable. That was certainly one of the reasons, but not the main reason. In October 2001, when the United States bombed Kabul, the psychological drive that drove them was none other than revenge. Almost 3,000 people had died in the 9/11 attacks and they had to “do something.” Invading Afghanistan was as reasonable as drawing blood from a sick person, but emotionally it eased the brutal feeling of unease and disorientation into which the country had plunged. The rest – helping Afghans, building democracy, saving women – were subterfuges. The feeling of unanimity that set the country on fire – dissent was tantamount to betraying – also spread abroad: the allies were drawn into the abyss. Had she been alive, Hannah Arendt would have reminded us of the dangers of with me or against me and the extremely dangerous affinity that ties unanimity to totalitarianism. They would have been especially lucid pages.

But let’s leave the philosophy and go to the efficiency. 2,996 people died in the Twin Towers. In revenge – or “in response,” if you prefer the euphemism – the United States invaded Afghanistan. On the ever-crazed and thirsty altar of wounded pride, no less than 2,451 dead soldiers and two billion dollars have been left. Among the allies the dead have been 1,144, including 102 Spaniards. The injured are more than 20,000. The massacre suffered by the Afghan people – so innocent in all this, it should be remembered, like each and every one of the victims of the Twin Towers – is much greater: there are between 170 and 240,000 casualties, including 50,000 civilians. The displaced are 1.2 million. The number of wounded I suppose is astronomical. The desolation in which the country has been plunged for 20 years, unspeakable. All in vain.

Other “humanitarian” invasions have yielded the same result: Iraq, a disaster. Libya, a disaster. As a perfect metaphor for the despair and nonsense that accompany certain political superstitions, it appears that among American soldiers in Afghanistan there have been more deaths from suicide than from military attacks. What madness without a name, what horror without consolation. And we will still hear, not too long from now, that it is necessary to invade this or that country for “humanitarian” reasons. When that time comes, remember Washington’s death.