Mayta: “Are we afraid of being equal?”


Bolivia's Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta argues that an equal world amongst nations and people is possible only when we end the relations of polarity.

We are not the masters of creation. Nor are we the owners of this planet. As long as we continue thinking that our existence is nourished by power over others – other species, other human beings – we will follow a path that leads to nothingness, to oblivion. Nothing will be safe when the oceans flood cities or wipe away islands that today still shelter biodiversity and cultures –  human and animal – that are key to the vital balance of the Earth. Hunger and heat will not only kill people around the world, they will eliminate wisdom and agricultural capabilities that took dozens of generations to develop. Life systems that have evolved throughout the centuries will vanish, irreparably impoverishing humanity.

In this prelude of death, no one should try to impose their will on others, much less bind the future of our descendants to a nuclear conflict that could possibly lead to our extinction faster than climate change. Polarity – an exercise of political power in all its variants – strains regions and small nations that cannot always resist the impositions of the centers of political and economic power of our times.

For little over a century, we have lived bound to the designs of governments, dictators and formal democracies in their constant effort to dominate our world for different reasons. Economic tensions and the destruction of war – products of different drives for hegemony in our world – contribute to build the current catastrophic scenario we are living in. We already live in a state of permanent, general war, which affects both prosperous cities such as Berlin, and the thousands of human beings who lose hope and have to cross deserts and seas in search of shelter and bread for their families.  

No state should have power over others. Neither military nor political-economic. The power of the state should be a constant flow from the people to the officials that they granted the "mandate" to, not a reflection of elite ambitions determined to focus on producing what they call "wealth". 

Whether by democratic or less ambiguous means, the politics of this century should be moving in a different direction. After decades of death and poisoning of our common home, it is evident that the various types of global political power lack solutions to the problems they have created.


Until a few decades ago, we lived through the sterile tension of the Cold War and the bipolarity that emerged from World War II. At that time, the shadow of global destruction did not stop the world powers from acting as they did in their zeal to maintain and extend their "spheres of influence". Only recently have the siren songs of multipolarity been heard from our small regions – which is nothing more than a new way of dividing up domination, not a solution that allows life to flourish. The dramatic migrations taking place in Africa and the Middle East are proof of this. In the cracks of these ideological divisions of the planet, children, women and young men perish daily, seeking to escape hunger and other effects of the great global battles.

Small countries like Bolivia are trapped by the forces in conflict, which break social projects and collective yearnings. That is why we should advocate for the end of polarity, discarding ideals that have not helped us to preserve anything and, rather, survive on the exploitation of everything around them.

As the language of the land says: we do not want overseers, we do not need them. And we know well what the exercise of geopolitics does, we as humanity live it and die by it. The horror of World War II, justified as the fight for a supposed "space for living" and a discourse of racial supremacy, is not far away in our history. Geopolitics is like that, it justifies the same horror in Vietnam as in Grenada or Bosnia, war or any political and economic aggression ends the hopes of millions. It is time to say enough to the invasions, to the embargoes, to the senseless blockades. Instead of dividing the world according to the powers that be and their already decadent conceptions of the world, we should value fraternity – a legacy of so many sacred texts, from our ancestors in many corners of the Earth to the French Revolution. Let us be equal then, not in the violent abstraction of votes and money, but in mutual respect and real affection for those who are different from us.

Multilateral organizations of states should guarantee that no government or military faction attacks another group of human beings, regardless of their size, their form of government or their economic capacity. But it is difficult when there are decision-making bodies such as the United Nations Security Council, in which five countries can veto resolutions or delineate the forms of political-military relations of our entire planet, without asking the others what we need or, even worse, what we want. We must end the abuses that arise from the capability to inflict destructive power. Both their immediate destructive power and the scale of human impact of their secondary consequences, which render them unjustifiable.

If all this means that we will have to lay down and destroy all weapons, so be it. Perhaps in that way it will become more evident that we do not have to "defend" ourselves by attacking or protecting ourselves from enemies thousands of miles away from us. The past holds the accumulated bodies of the dead, the enslaved, and the devastated lands that could still provide sustenance to disarmament, to the negation of all power that subjugates nations and countries every day. 

It must also be clear that political balance is not achieved at any level by smearing others. Criminalizing the opponent is perhaps one of the most harmful actions that can exist: accusations do not equate a corrupt politician with another of the same ilk but of a different stripe. Our crimes cannot be the salvation of our opponents.

Clearly, wiping the slate clean with bipolarity or multipolarity will not turn all of today's states into peers, equality is no longer the order of the day. It is a beginning. The history of previous centuries demonstrates that all the great powers of today's world owe a debt to us, the youngest and poorest countries. They are what they are thanks to us – we who were never given the possibility of refusing to be colonized and suffering the plundering that still harms us today.

Paying this debt is important to put an end to that burden of domination they call polarity. Learning from the liberating power of respect can be a task for new generations, which would leave behind the dread inspired by those who are not like us, those who think or feel and dream differently. Perhaps this way we will not only stop plunder or exploitation, but also begin to redistribute wealth or compensate the old subjects for the ambition of their masters.

That is why we need to rethink everything. We are perhaps the only life form that can reflect on our purpose on this planet. But considering ourselves as superior does not give us the right to consume everything, or to exercise dominion over anything or anyone. We still do not know what we are here for, we do not know why we exist. So a different world – dreamt of and fought for by so many during the most recent centuries – cannot arise from power over others or the threat of their destruction.

It is true that our possibilities of being have broadened, although perhaps not as much as they could. Equal marriage and collective rights – over territories or cultures – are good examples of the fact that our possibilities of coexistence and creation can extend as far as we want them to. In other words, we are no longer the species that tolerates brutal segregation for no reason, although in places like Palestine it is still a daily phenomenon. We can grow and mature without a doubt, but we need to stop thinking of ourselves as owners, masters, lords of creation while we suffocate the planet. It is no longer possible to wait for the leaders and guides that our species requires to reach that myth called "progress": it is  unthinkable to achieve it from any political persuasion today.

Such absolute concepts like "justice" are rather relative or non-existent ideals. However, the fact that justice is a non-existent abstraction does not allow anyone to commit crimes or to abuse their neighbors. We have to abandon the principle that in the "polarity" of the present the blame always lies with the other.

This time of constant emergencies and unprecedented wars continues to be one of high contrasts. While one portion of humanity is concerned about how to spend their time and the most advanced technologies, 2.4 billion poor people continue to cook with firewood and many more still depend on wildlife for their survival. Plastic already affects all life systems on our planet; our little ones are already suckling plastic milk from their young mothers.

We have to be equal again – whether in the center of Europe or in the impoverished savannahs of the African continent – if we want to save ourselves and let life flow. We have to abandon that Cartesian image of a powerful machine that produces everything for our benefit. The risk is to life itself, not just to an unequal and still, fortunately, heterogeneous humanity.

Perhaps by containing ambition and putting an end to relations of polarity (either with one or two or many poles of political domination), we can begin to dream of a different world than the one we have. So, we must leave polarity and its inherent inequalities of all kinds behind. We will work calmly, together, on relations that include us all, that educate us to understand and appreciate all that is human. Perhaps that is the true meaning of "United Nations" and the basis of a new way of relating in times of danger. Then, we will be able to see on the horizon a possible world in which we will all have a place to create and live together.

Or  are we so afraid of being equal once and for all?

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Rogelio Mayta Mayta is the Foreign Minister of Bolivia

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