Editorial, Settle this

Photo from a SUNTRACS Twitter feed, electronically altered by The Panama News.

Everything grinding to a halt has its
pluses and minuses, but it can’t last

World inflation, that’s beyond the Panamanian government’s control. Actors in the national market place accumulating and abusing monopolistic powers to jack up prices, that the government could control and decided not to. The COVID epidemic? Not the Panamanian government’s fault, but again it bungled the economic response and allowed a predatory political caste to take advantage. An economy in shambles? About THAT a UN agency, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, says that we are farther away from getting back to 2019 levels of per capita Gross Domestic Product than our Latin American neighbors tend to be and that’s mainly about the greed and snobbery of those who hold the most power in this society. Those way below that level who have participated in the ongoing crime wave have mostly hurt those near them, who can afford it the least.

The politicians are keeping up their steady stream of grotesque displays. If it’s the usual radicals who were early to say “STOP!!!” they are far from the only ones. Organized labor is united about this, for sure, but so are the professional associations. You have some yahoos in the business groups calling for an iron fist with the protests, but most business groups and all responsible business leaders are calling for calm and recognizing that the people blocking the roads have been provoked.

It may get worse before it gets better. The legal tools to deal in the short term with the immediate problems exist in the current constitution. However, the politicians have maxed out the national credit card so the resource that we need are not available to do the ordinary things.

So many foreigners here are bewildered and angry at the inconvenience. There are still too many Panamanians looking for foreign intervention — international financial institutions dropping manna from heaven, the gringos coming to Panama’s rescue, or maybe the Chinese.

Panamanians will save Panama. This indignant shutdown is just a start. But it has been a necessary start. It would be nice to have an orderly transition, but from top to bottom in Panamanian society there are maleantes who would impede that in favor of their perceived personal advantages.

We need to talk. And to listen. But to the worst of the politicians and their backers, Panama needs to TELL. Calmly but firmly. We can look to Panamanian history to see some things that have worked and some things that have not.

A cabildo abierto? A coup? A constituent assembly? A confessional and correction of bad habits? Maybe a combination of things?

On the whole, Panama is a poorly educated country. However, even our most ignorant citizens don’t tend to be stupid. There is great wisdom out and about here, which surely trumps what anyone looking on from Washington might want to dictate. Forget the zero-sum competition games, and the big words that most people don’t understand as power tools. Let Panama settle its problems by the whole society talking it out, vetting the ideas good and bad, considering our circumstances and dismissing the pompous, making it clear to those who have been on top what the rest of us will and will not accept, and getting back to work on popularly agreed terms. 

As according to the meaning of the last verse of Panama’s national anthem:

Forward with pick and shovel
to work without further delay
and we will be thus prestigious and orderly
in this fertile land that Columbus saw


Tarzan's girl
Jane Goodall explores a wetland with a friend. Photo by William Waterway.

Lasting change is a series of compromises. And compromise is all right, as long your values don’t change.

Jane Goodall

Bear in mind…

Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and the spirit of the animal descends into the earth? I have seen that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will come after him?

Ecclesiastes 3:21

Happiness is a simple, frugal heart.

Nikos Kazantzakis

Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge. We must key into those feelings and begin to extrapolate from them, examine them for new ways of understanding our experiences. This is how new visions begin, how we begin to posit a new future nourished by the past.

Audre Lorde


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