This article first appeared in La Tercera on November 11, 2019.
After this great social outburst, I have started to reflect on how we got to this point and I think it is important to go to the bottom of the matter to find the reasons that led us to this moment, especially if we want to change and not return to the same point in 30 years.
Some have indicated that the big culprits are the politicians, others have blamed the companies, others have blamed Maduro, and some have even blamed aliens, but the answer that comes to my mind is only one, the culprit is individualism.
Surely, since before I was born an ultra-individualistic society has been cultivated, where the only thing that seems to matter is personal success, and unfortunately, in many cases, at any cost.
In this process, we have experienced cases such as the irregular financing of politics, in which some of our democratically elected representatives were capable of doing anything to reach power. In addition, we saw our Armed Forces and Carabineros commit the biggest frauds of recent times, originating from the highest levels, and discrediting institutions that for years were a bastion in Chile; we saw how a major retail company unilaterally repaid loans, in full view and patience of everyone, committing one of the biggest frauds in Chilean history; We saw how industries of basic goods such as pharmacies, laboratories, chicken and toilet paper colluded to fix prices; even this week we saw how the Undersecretary of National Assets bought affiliations to his political party at the expense of State assets. Just as we have these cases of a high public connotation of individualism, we have thousands of unknown cases, either of people or companies, who stopped caring about their customers, their suppliers, their employees, their community. Likewise, politicians who stopped thinking about the welfare of their voters are more concerned about their interests.
Today, after more than two weeks in which citizens have been taking to the streets asking for a better Chile, we continue to see the worst face of individualism, with thousands of stores not only looted but set on fire, without thinking about the people who work, shop or even live there. It is the bad face of this phenomenon, which is only concerned with showing its discontent through the destruction. We can see individualism again with the burning of the subways, where thousands of people were left with longer commutes and travel times, perhaps for more than a year. The individualism of those who do not condemn the violence, because they do not want to discredit their image and we could continue listing thousands of cases of selfishness that pass through our eyes.
In this way, we continue not to listen to each other, we continue to think about getting to each other first. What’s more, last week I spent more than an hour at an intersection with the traffic light cut off, making it impossible to move forward, since everyone wanted to pass first. The solution to that little problem was simple, stop thinking only of individual interest and think of the whole to organize an orderly way in which we could all pass.
Greeting people or not looking at your cell phone when they are talking to you are basic manners, but they represent the respect we should have for others and that we seem to forget in favor of our impulses. The dignity that is so much demanded in the streets starts from this basis and requires leaving individualism behind so that as a society as a whole, we can be better off.
Individualism will not be easy to change and it must start from each one of us. We must stop looking at everything from our balcony and think of a more integral and just society, with the common good as its ultimate goal.
By Susana Sierra