On November 16th, 2023, Carlos J. Rangel participated in an event sponsored by Istituto Bruno Leoni, in Milan, Italy, to officially launch a new edition of "From Noble Savage to Noble Revolutionary: Myths and Realities in Latin America" (The Latin Americans: Their Love Hate Relationship with the United States"). The event was led by Alberto Mingardi, Director of the institute, and included as panelists Drs. Carmine Pinto, Serena Sileoni and Loris Zanata. 

This is a transcript, edited for readability and clarity, of Carlos J. Rangel's presentation:

Drawing: G. T. Aveledo C.

Auguri a tutti e buonasera. Mi dispiace non poter articolare il mio discorso stasera in italiano. Molti anni fa ho studiato nella Università per Stranieri  alla preziosa Perugia, ma a causa della mancanza di pratica, le mie competenze oggi non sono sufficienti per poter parlare con voi questa sera nella vostra bellissima lingua. Allora…

I will talk with you in English. But, before I do talk about Carlos Rangel, I want to thank you, the audience here, throughout the country and the world, for joining us in the launch of a new Italian language edition of my father’s book, “From Noble Savage to Noble Revolutionary: Myths and Realities in Latin America.”  

I wish to thank Dr. Filippo Cavazzoni, Editorial Director of Bruno Leoni Institute Libri, and whose initiative to publish this work has brought us here tonight. Many thanks are owed to the translator and my liaison at IBL Libri for this project, Carlos di Bonifacio, as well as to Maria Lucioni Diemoz, and to all others who worked on making this book possible, including, of course, the craft and art of Nicola Giacobbo and Timothy Wilkinson, and the energy behind making this event work as close as possible to clockwork, Veronica Cancelliere. We equally are all grateful to the Bruno Leoni Institute and its Director General, Dr. Alberto Mingardi, for their work in promoting free markets and liberal ideas throughout Europe.  Of course, special thanks to my fellow presenters tonight, Dr. Loris Zanatta, writer of a new introduction to this edition, and Drs. Carmine Pinto and Serena Sileoni.

In 2016 the late Russ Dallen participated in a forum I organized in Miami together with Florida International University, CEDICE Libertad, a liberal think tank similar to Istituto Bruno Leoni in Caracas, Venezuela, and of which, by the way, Carlos Rangel was a founding member, the Interamerican Institute for Democracy (IID, Miami), VENAMÉRICA, and a few other sponsors including The Latin American Herald Tribune, whose owner and director was Russ Dallen. The occasion was the 40th anniversary of the first edition of this book we are talking about tonight. 

Russ had lived many years in Venezuela where he had been owner and director of the main local English language paper, The Daily Journal. While living there he picked up a book everyone told him he should read to better understand the country he was in. But Russ was very surprised to discover that this highly recommended book was the same book that had influenced him in his college days in New York and which had contributed to his interest in understanding the region. You see, the book’s title in English was not “From Noble Savage to Noble Revolutionary: Myths and Realities in Latin America.” The title of the English language edition first published in 1977 and in its second, revised edition in 1987, was “The Latin Americans: Their Love-Hate Relationship with the United States,” leading to Russ’ understandable confusion.

My own experience is that authors have control of the content of their book, but not necessarily of its marketing. I did ask my father at the time about why the title was so different, especially given the fact that in all other languages into which the book was translated, Italian, Portuguese, French and German, the title of the book had remained the same. He told me it had been an editorial decision by the New York publishing house, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. At that time, it seemed to me that he was not particularly happy about that renaming decision. Upon further reflection, I may have been mistaken in my impression, or I am wrong in my recollection. E possibile che io sia sbagliato.

Russ told his audience in Miami of mostly exiled Venezuelans and Cubans that he was going to deliver his remarks in English. He said Carlos Rangel had been pegged and pigeonholed in the U.S. as part of the exotic “Latin American Studies” universe, and not as what he really was: a key contributor to mainstream liberal thinking. Russ wanted, in whichever way he could, to broadcast the notion that Rangel’s ideas were not only relevant to Latin America, but to anyone with a fundamental interest in liberal democracy. That Rangel was not just an odd voice from a small country in a strange land mostly known by its commodities and political turmoil; that he was a significant world-class contributor to the ideas of freedom and liberty. Russ even brought cameras to the event to make sure that readers and subscribers to the Tribune would see and listen to his presentation.  And here I am now, delivering remarks in English about a book written in Spanish nearly fifty years ago and first published in French, to an Italian audience in Milan.

Of course, life and ideas are complicated, so I agree and disagree at the same time with Russ, and I am empathetic to my father’s cryptic reaction to my question. That is because this book is multidimensional, and each rereading finds us exploring various ones, such as Rangel’s thoughts on Simon Bolivar, the Latin American hero; a factual analysis of Allende’s Chile; or the cold war’s hegemonic clash in the region. But its two major dimensions are reflected in those two seemingly disparate titles.

The book IS about the dysfunctional relationship between Latin America and the United States. The book searches for an answer to a key question posited in its introduction: why did two regions which started their path towards development, so to speak, at the same time turn out so different? Why is it, in Rangel’s words, that…

“If we propose to characterize the almost five centuries of Latin-American history in the most succinct manner, leaving behind analyses, anecdotes, controversies, and inferences, the most certain, true and all-encompassing fact that can be said about the history of Latin America, is that, up until today, it has been the history of a failure.” (author’s italics).

Rangel endeavors to understand this vexing question, to understand why a region which had thriving cities and established universities long before any struggling refugee pilgrims settled in the largely inhospitable regions to the north is now undoubtedly behind that region by any reasonable measure of progress and wellbeing that can be objectively quantified. A failure. This is the dimension of the book that focuses on that Love-Hate Relationship of the Latin Americans with the United States.

The other dimension of the book, the one that Russ wanted to broadcast, is the answer that Rangel proposes to that vexing question; and that answer is the embrace of liberal democracy, the anti-myth. The key difference between the two regions is this: the United States embraced liberal democracy as an ideal of governance for most of its 400 years of history and 250 as an independent nation, while Latin America has not done so during most of its own 500 years and 200 as an independent region. The difference resides between embracing leadership renewal and wealth creation as an economic model and living with entrenched leadership and wealth distribution as the driving economic model.

To build his case, Rangel explores the mythology that created an idea of Latin America which has nothing to do with its realities; the mythology which has led to that cleavage in the development of the hemisphere. Myths that feed notions of misguided nationalism, central control, and strongman rule as the best way to fulfill the destiny of nations.  The antithesis of liberal democracy.

[Writers of the introductions to the book] Dr. Loris Zanatta, present here tonight, my recently passed friend Carlos Alberto Montaner, Jean Francois Revel, whom I never met, and many, many others have the absolute right to vent and be frustrated by the relentless failure of the region and its coddling of ideologies and leaders egregiously leading their nations to poverty and ruin.  But the myth of the Noble Revolutionary is powerfully embedded in Latin America’s psyche; its roots are intertwined with those of the plundering conquest and the evangelizing missions, core objectives radically dissimilar to the objectives of the settlers to the north, settlers focused on the struggle to make a living. Those roots have brought forth authoritarians always promising to restore order and renew the people’s lot in life, relieve them of that struggle, continuously taking advantage of that myth, sometimes from the left, sometimes from the right.

Demagogues and populists throughout the world latch onto any ideology of redemption, be it Marxism, Christianity, Islam, or others, seeking to make their nation into a fundamentalist state modeled after their ideology; and often that promise of redemption is used to satisfy long held grievances by fueling their so-called revolutions. Preferably a “permanent” revolution.

Rangel alerts us to the origin of the idea of permanent revolution and cynical political bargains when he refers us to the scribbled margin notes on Lenin’s personal copy of Clausewitz. Lenin formulated the permanence of revolution in May 1917, a few months before the October revolution and almost a year before the infamous Brest-Litovsk peace treaty. Lenin’s speech that May, known as “On War and Revolution,” expanded on Clausewitz’s famous dictum on politics and war, and is a close cousin to Marx’s own directive, laid out in his Manifesto, to manipulate the “useful idiots” of the bourgeoisie for “the workers” to succeed in class struggle. Lenin essentially proposes within this speech fostering internal and external conflict and mistrust as political tools to maintain mythical “revolutionary” governments in power. Institutionalized revolutions that cling to power by all means: fraud, oppression, repression. Rangel expands on this idea in his second book, “Third World Ideology.”

Not just by happenstance is the book we are talking about tonight, read in this dimension, subtitled “Myths and Realities in Latin America.”  While Jean Francois Revel in his introduction points out that Europe has been the greatest creator of myths about Latin America, the underlying myth of Paradise Lost and Found drives not only a distorted view of what Latin America was and is but, truly, what democracy is anywhere. This dimension of the book is universal. The book’s primary and first name, “From Noble Savage to Noble Revolutionary” directly refers us to the archetypal myth of paradise lost, the constant valley of tears we trod through daily, and our aspiration of Paradise, of Heaven on Earth.  The “Golden Age,” longed for in times of the Renaissance, Shangri-La, the land of the Amazons, the Garden of Eden, the innocence robbed from us by the serpent, all these illusions, they all belong and are part of this myth. The myth of a distant land discovered by daring explorers, and described by Montaigne in 1580, as Rangel cites him, like…

“…a country of so exceeding pleasant and temperate situation that… it is very rare to see a sick body amongst them… Their language is a kind of pleasant speech [with] some affinities to Greek terminations…”

Montaigne refers to the inhabitants of this heavenly land as savages, but not in the sense of Huxley, a savage rebel claiming his rights to be an individual with liberty and freedom, against oppressive intrusion and control; no, Montaigne clearly says that he uses the term savage as it is used when referring to wild fruits or flowers, unspoiled by civilization. He laments that such untainted paradise will be ruined by the Europeans. He even uses rhetorical gymnastics to justify reports of cannibalism among these “savages.”

If all this sounds somehow familiar it’s because it is also the Marxist myth. Karl Marx in 1875, in his Critique of Gotha, tells us that when communism finally prevails, at the end of history and of class struggle, we will all live in a place where it will be “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” There was a time in the past, described by more contemporary Marxists such as Heinz Dieterich Steffan, the prophet of 21st Century Socialism writing in 2003, there was a time, says Dieterich, in which no money existed, property, or selfishness. All this happiness, they tell us, will return when communism finally prevails throughout the whole world. It is then that the lion shall lay with the lamb.

This is a popular myth. It has been used, told and retold in many ways by intellectualistic social philosophers, novelists, movies, religious leaders, and politicians alike. Today we see it at the core of many a “Make Our Nation Great Again” movement that so many populists embrace; authoritarian leaders and politicians that claim to be the ones who will deliver us to a paradise on earth, a reign of the worthy and deserving that will last one thousand years, or until they die—whichever comes first.

This is a universal myth. Rangel uses the history of Latin America, in contrast to that of the United States, to demonstrate the toxic nature of this myth and how in fact the structured messiness of democracy, limited government and free markets delivers greater prosperity and wellbeing to society through its constant renewal and what Schumpeter called creative destruction. An outcome contrasted to that unattainable paradise promised by autocracy, repressive government, and command economies, with their underlying arbitrary nature used to support an entrenched ruling elite and its cronies. Liberal democracy has reliably provided and sustained better outcomes for society than the multiple variations of autocratic rule that we see around the world.

But Rangel had no illusions about the fact that too often a promised situation of perceived order and rules is preferred by many over an actual situation of overt messiness, which is what democracy is in practice, after all. That is why democracy is always in danger and needs to be permanently defended from that illusion of order promised by autocracy; and Rangel did so. Throughout his public life, in every opportunity that he had or was granted, that is what he did, defend democracy; His personal mission was to help us see and distinguish authoritarians, their myths, their lies, and their false promises. That is because he lived in a time where, for those who wanted to see, the need to defend democracy was clear.  And yet, today we hear…

“Democracy is in danger.” “Is democracy dying?” “Democracy is under attack.” These and similar statements are commonplace nowadays. I was recently invited to attend an event called “The Death of Democracy.” I am sure that many of you have been invited to many such an event or have read a recent book based on this dire prognostication.  Did Rangel fail in his mission or are we witnessing another case of the boy that cried wolf? Will we be deaf to the real dangers facing democracy? Are we already deaf? The problem is, you know, that the wolf is always real. Democracy by its very own nature, because of what it is, is always under attack. Always.

The life and times of Carlos Rangel were complicated, but there are no simple times. Perhaps in that Lost Paradise. Perhaps that ancient Chinese curse about interesting times is perennial. In his lifetime, as I recount in one of the previous introductions included in this edition, he witnessed attacks on democracy from its many enemies. His life and those times made Carlos Rangel an advocate, defender, and fighter for liberal democracy. He wrote this book because he wanted us to recognize autocrats and their lies, and to reject them; because he believed we could do better, we could all do better. His book is not just a reflection of his time, but a perspective into our own time and what we want to be. As he says in those words I read before, when he succinctly characterizes the history of Latin America as a failure, he says: “...up until today.” “…fino ai nostri giorni.”  Deliberate words, emphasized in italics, written within a carefully crafted statement. That was his legacy, that’s in this book.

This book, Carlos Rangel’s subsequent works and his life itself, are a stand for democracy. Detractors of democracy there are many, defenders not so much. Such is the nature of democracy itself, and the case for it has to be made over and over again. That millennial paradise myth permanently at odds with its anti-myth, democracy, permeates us all, our culture, our books, and, for sure, many political parties which claim they will restore national pride and moral values. It was Carlos Rangel’s time to defend democracy then. It is our time to do so now.

This book in its new edition in Italian is available right here, right now, and on Amazon. All of Carlos Rangel major published works will soon be available in Spanish in print from Fundación para el Progreso, in Chile, and are currently available on-line from CEDICE Libertad, Venezuela. If I ever get the time and resources, I will publish a new English language translation.  It is unfortunate that that same lack of time and resources has not allowed the gathering, editing and compilation of more material, languishing unpublished, in Rangel’s home in Caracas. Even his perhaps misguided, perhaps brilliant attempts at fiction. We’ll never know.

Thanks to you all and buona sera.

No hay comentarios.:

Publicar un comentario


La violencia política es un instrumento cuyo resultado genera resentimientos, incertidumbre e inestabilidad en una nación. El éxito de su ap...