A frightening story came across the radio waves this week and was later reported by MSNBC:
"Texas governor orders STD vaccine for all girls." Governor Rick Perry had just signed an order making Texas the first of what is likely to be many states to require that school girls be vaccinated against Human Papiloma Virus (HPV), implementing what at first blush appears to be sensible and humane legislation attempting to prevent the spread of the deadly STD. Perry, who usually votes with the conservative Christians who oppose this order, parted company with them, and little research is required in order to understand why given Perry's cozy relationship with Merck, the vaccine's manufacturer. Not only is one of Merck's principal lobbyists Perry's former chief of staff, but his current chief of staff's mother-in-law, state legislator, Dianne White Delisi, is the state director of Women In Government. Add to that a $6,000 political contribution from Merck for Perry's re-election campaign and Merck's generous donations to Women In Government plus a top official from Merck sitting on the Women In Government business council, and all the dots begin to connect.
Suddenly, Mr. Champion Of Family Values, Rick Perry, has dumped the fervent anti-fornicators of the religious right in favor of remaining in bed with Merck. If we didn't know about that liaison, and if the governor's order weren't so draconian, we might be tempted to applaud his concern for the health of young Texas women.
Last week in Chile, on the other hand, President Michelle Bachelet took on the Roman Catholic Church and right-wing opposition there by signing a decree that the morning-after pill be available to girls as young as 14, even as the Constitutional Court of Chile ruled that she could not do so. In the same week, however, Bachelet held a special ceremony in La Moneda, Santiago's presidential palace, celebrating new laws that ensure that working mothers can nurse their children in the workplace, even when there is no daycare center on the premises -- another long-time taboo in Chile's traditionally Catholic, patriarchal milieu. Moreover, Bachelet affirmed that her administration was "guaranteeing that people have the tools to exercise a loving, spiritually strong maternity or paternity, and allowing the bonds between mothers and children to be enriched."
Say that again Michelle! That people have the tools to be good parents? You mean tools like guaranteed daycare for all Chilean children, which you have instituted since you became president in March, 2006? You mean a national healthcare system that is now "looking forward to an unusual surplus of funds for 2008 and is currently evaluating how best to spend the unexpected additional money"? And what about the unprecedented pension plan your administration is implementing which guarantees that no one need retire in poverty and that every person over 60 will have all necessary health care for free? And those generous student loans that can be partially re-paid through community and professional service instead of graduating from college with a life-sentence of debt servitude? And the generous new tax credits and guarantees you are now offering to small businesses?
Well, every North American is waiting with bated breath to find out how you will pay for all of this -- the inveterate mantra of any society locked in the jaws of corporate capitalism -- those two "c" words so antithetical to twenty-first century Chile's other incomprehensibly important "c" word: copper. It was that industry that helped destroy Chile in concert with Augusto Pinochet when the infamous Rothschild-connected Anaconda Copper Company was sucking the life blood out of the nation's economy until it was nationalized in the 1970s by Salvador Allende, one in a long list of reasons for his overthrow by the CIA.
In those days, Michelle Bachelet was a teenager -- what we in the U.S. might call a "military brat" -- moving from one location to another in Chile as a result of her father's position of General in the Chilean Air Force. A socialist and staunch supporter of Allende, Alberto Bachelet was arrested, tortured, and died in prison during the Pinochet coup. Michelle and her mother were also imprisoned and tortured -- something she greatly dislikes talking about -- but an agonizing, terrifying ordeal that profoundly shaped her entire life and helped mould her into the compassionate physician, parent, and now-chief of state, that she has become. Of this she often says, "I haven't had an easy life, but who has?"
But back to that "c" word. In the same week that Bachelet invited a group of working mothers and children to La Moneda to celebrate the new "laws that protect families," she stood in the middle of a CODELCO mining site in the Valparaiso Region of Chile and proclaimed one week after Goldman Sachs at the Davos world economic summit begged to buy CODELCO: "The good news is that CODELCO is attractive for people who have lots of money. The bad news for them is that we are not going to sell it, because CODELCO is going to remain a State-owned company." So while her counterpart in Venezuela is busy nationalizing the petroleum industry, Bachelet is zealously guarding that precious orange mineral that finances government policy based on authentic, rather than ecclesiastically-designed family values, and in her socialist system, as with that of Chavez, Morales, and Correa, natural resources are being used on behalf of the citizenry, not to fatten the coffers of corporate capitalism in cahoots with the state.
Also noteworthy is that at the same time that the heterosexual lifestyle is being supported in Chile, so, increasingly, is that of the gay and lesbian community. While Chile is still a traditional, patriarchal society strongly influenced by the Catholic Church, acceptance of its gay community is growing. In fact, Chile's Ministry Of National Property has given the Movement For Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH), an abandoned government building for its headquarters, and the organization will be able to use the space for the next five years. For the $12,500 of restoration work that will be required before the building is usable, the government granted MOVILH a government subsidy. While this kind of support is not equivalent to the legalization of gay and lesbian marriages, we need only ask: When was the last time the most liberal U.S. presidential administration in the nation's history demonstrated even this much support of the gay community?
In Chile and overall in Latin American countries, most medications are available without a prescription, over the counter, and are moderately-priced. For this reason, the pharmaceutical industry does not influence the economies or cultures of those nations to the extent that it does in the U.S. Thus, there is little doubt that Bachelet's insistence on making the morning-after pill available to young Chilean girls has nothing to do with her personal or political connections with big pharma, but everything to do with a world view informed by being a parent, a physician, and a socialist.
Bachelet herself proudly proclaims her agnosticism and is notorious for having had a child out of wedlock, yet she was still democratically elected the first female president of Chile. Her anguish, her struggle, and her commitment to Chile have cultivated within her at a cellular level, a quality of family values that pious pontifications by clerical moralists cannot begin to approach.
It's important to remember that Michelle Bachelet is not Hugo Chavez. While both leaders concur politically, their styles are different. Where Bachelet needs to toughen her stance is with the transnational corporation Barrick, which is mining gold on the border between Argentina and Chile and exploiting land and water in the process. A mutual treaty between Argentina and Chile makes this possible, and activists of both countries are demanding that Bachelet and Argentina's centrist-socialist President Kirchner suspend the treaty and Barrick's presence in the region. One of the realities of the so-called "Pink Tide" of Latin America's move to the left is that these neo-socialist countries are rejecting Tapeworm Economics.
Every day I receive e-mail from folks who want me to write about certain topics, i.e., the bloated Pentagon budget, the Iraq War, Plamegate, and many more topics, but all of those issues, important as each of them is individually, are symptomatic of Tapeworm Economics and serve to perpetuate it, and no one has elucidated the Tapeworm better than Catherine Austin Fitts both at the Solari website and at its companion site Dunwalke. I strongly recommend studying these sites because when one comprehends the Tapeworm, so many other pieces of the puzzle suddenly fall into place.
Chile is exemplifying the kind of society that can be created when the needs of the citizenry dictate that the entire infrastructure of a nation is constructed and organized around meeting those needs and not around the needs of corporations. It is not a utopia, and poverty, corruption, and a conservative opposition to socialist policies remain obstacles to the fullest realization of human rights and social justice.
Nevertheless, what Bachelet has accomplished in eleven months is not only stunning but awe-inspiring as we in the U.S. navigate the grinding, gray empire in whose belly we reside, otherwise known as "The Tapeworm" -- mean-spirited, niggardly, and "focusing on the family" -- not your family or mine, but a family that flourishes only by attacking the values of every other family that is unlike it and in so doing, belies its contempt for the heart and soul of the entire human family.
Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. is author of a forthcoming book, Coming Out from Christian Fundamentalism: Affirming Life, Love and The Sacred. Her recent book, U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook! Didnít Tell You, is available at her website: www.carolynbaker.org.
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