EspañolHistory has shown that great tyrants have risen not only as a product of profound social, political, or economic crises. Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, the Castro brothers, Chávez, Morales, Maduro — just to name a few — could not have reached and much less maintained their status if within their respective societies there had not been a significant group of citizens with one or more of the following characteristics:
- irrational hatred towards a group of people on the grounds that they represent a certain lifestyle, race, or religion;
- blind worship or adherence to a belief or idea;
- lack of self-esteem and self-confidence in one’s own abilities to survive independently;
- fear-induced submission; mental sloth (laziness that keeps one from analyzing, relating concepts, and making assessments).
While these characteristics go hand in hand, whether by cause or consequence, they all point to an important degree of psychological and emotional immaturity.
The truth is that it’s difficult to imagine a nation of independent adults governed by a tyrant. Independent adults are knowledgeable regarding their rights. They are secure in their abilities to deal with life’s difficulties. They have inquisitive and alert minds capable of identifying fallacies, empty words, and lofty promises.
The Magna Carta, the abolition of slavery, the Glorious Revolution in the United Kingdom, the US Declaration of Independence: they didn’t spring from fear or submission. They surged out of the rebellion of adults who understood the facts and were willing to fight against the authority that other men or the government intended to wield over their lives.
Many will say that we are products of our upbringing and education. Since we cannot choose the ideals our parents and schools present before us as good or bad in our formative years, there is no way to change our outlook.
In the same vein, it is true that Catholic tradition and continental philosophy greatly influence education in Latin America. Individuality, faith in reason, a critical spirit, pride, independence, and ambition are not among the most valued traits here.
However, our fates are not set in stone simply because young minds tend to hold on to what they are taught. We’ll need courage and a dose of rebellion to reconsider outdated premises and ideals. Refusing to do so out of fear of finding errors in our thinking, or because of the comfort of familiarity, only shows mental sluggishness and immaturity.
Accepting truths without question and allowing oneself to be enticed by seductive rhetoric may be permissible in adolescence, but never beyond that.
A shift in policy is the key to get a country to change its submissive ways in the long term. Cultural change is the answer: rewriting the dominant social philosophy and strengthening and empowering citizens.
A free country requires individuals capable of reading between the lines. People who, instead of applauding monuments constructed by the government, see the worthwhile projects that were overlooked in their place.
Rebels who refuse to compulsively relinquish their property to the government; who are outraged at having to open their suitcases for customs agents; who defend, without hesitation, their right to bear arms, consume marijuana, and do business with whomever they want.
A free country requires adults who understand that these rights are all supported by the same principle: liberty.
A free country requires a pride of lions, and not flocks of sheep who will continue to be eaten by the wolves.