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Sunday Readings: 14 December 2008

14 December 2008

Life (such as it is):

Despite what many believe, Costa Rica isn’t all that different from anywhere else in Latin America, as a Canadian family discovered to their chagrin:

(“A Shakedown With A Smile” Beating the Boom):

There are two things that are proving inevitable in Costa Rica — sunburn and corruption.

The first can be soothed but there is little that can be done to quell the fury of being shaken down by the cops.

In the four months we’ve lived in this Central American country
we’ve heard countless tales from other expats about the chronic problem
of corruption and theft.

We listened with some skepticism and aside from the odd ripoff by a
taxi driver never once experienced the kind of problems people spoke
of. I might not have actually believed that police and other public
officials still readily accepted bribes had it not actually occurred.

Stuck behind a slow-moving truck through the mountains, we relented
to the growing cacophony of horns behind us and grabbed an opportunity
to pass, crossing over a double yellow line. Of course, passing when
there’s the double yellow means the same thing here as it does back
home (that is if you do it and manage to avoid a head-on crash) and it
just so happened that a pair of traffic officers were waiting at the
bottom of the hill.


“Xeni” writes from rural Guatemala in “The Seditionist” about the reaction of her Mayan neighbors to the amazing election in the United States:

… despite many years visiting their homes and sharing their difficult
life experiences, we were surprised by their reaction to the Obama
election. It was of great symbolic importance. That sudden jolt of
aspiration felt around the world? It struck here. Hard. It meant hope.
It meant a renewed belief in change, for a people who have survived
natural disasters, racism, and 36 years of civil war that many describe
as the Mayan genocide. If a black man can enter the Casa Blanca, they are saying, maybe a Mayan person can one day become president of Guatemala. Maybe we will live to see a true democracy here,
the thinking goes—a government that represents the rights of
Guatemala’s First People, instead of representing their destruction.

… and the pursuit of happiness

Sarah van Gelder and Doug Pibel wonder if life for all of might not be better as a result of the U.S. economic melt-down (Yes! Magazine, posted in Alternet)

Somehow, in the exuberance of the economic bubbles
of the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, we lost track of something. Money exists
to serve us as a tool, not the other way around. Our lives and society
do not have to be turned over to the rulers of high finance and their
hired representatives in Washington, D.C. We the people can reject the
economic orthodoxy that has served us so poorly, and rebuild our
economy on a different foundation.

sort of society do we want to rebuild? What will expand our life,
liberty, and pursuit of happiness without diminishing the chances for
other people, now and in the future, to have the same?

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