Week 11-Black and White Thinking over the Course of the Dirty Wars

While reading this week I was reminded and saddened by how little the pursuit of truth really affects the way human beings interact. The shocking violence of the Terror is based on violently conflicting beliefs. The worst violence occurs in situations when opposing camps have no interest in seeking out a middle ground. Dawson pointed out that he believes the biggest tragedy Peru faced during its dirty war was the obliteration of the middle ground, I’d have to agree. Our convictions can be based on a variety of sources and dubious or not they guide our steps. This is so important to understand when considering why many Latin Americans did not show more resistance towards authoritarianism. I think it was important to reiterate the catholic perception of the left. Especially Marxist leftists were seen by many Latin Americans as devilish. These people were so opposed to their faith and way of life that their children, religions and moral societies were in grave danger. Such high stakes can make a less than ideal state seem preferable. In the same vein it is important to understand the perception the Iquichanos had of outsiders. Mario Vargas Llosa does a really beautiful job of outlining the importance of belief in his article. It does not justify violence or murder but it allows for understanding. Understanding paves pathways to reconciliation. The horrible mutilation of the bodies was an especially repulsive part of the murders, the explanation that these mutilations were ritualistic forms of self preservation allow an unsettling glimpse into the mindset of the Iquichanos. Vargas Llosa also points out how perhaps the most disturbing part of the Iquichanos perceiving foreign journalists as evil devils was that it was not the most unreasonable understanding they could have had. For the peasants and indigenous communities of Peru gratuitous violence from essentially all the warring factions was to be expected. Violence breeds violence. This is why much of the time the least helpful first step of reconciliation is to assign blame. As an overarching theme encompassing all individual violent incidents is desperation. In writings from this time and other texts coming out of regions in crisis I have noticed the repetition of the phrase “the only way”. Many extreme leftists in Latin America believed class warfare was the “only way” to a fair society. This is alluded to in El Diaro’s interview with Chairman Gonzalo. Many fascist governments seen in this period were backed my individuals who felt authoritarian control was the “only way” to prevent the destruction of society by the evil left. I fundamentally disagree with this way of thinking, I think it is very rare and likely impossible that there is only ever one way of doing things. I believe the road to peace and progress is built on common ground.

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One Response to Week 11-Black and White Thinking over the Course of the Dirty Wars

  1. Linda

    Hi Isabel, I think you did a great job of analysing how people’s conflicting beliefs can divide society up to the point of causing terror and resulting in people accepting authoritarianism in order to protect their values. I think it became very clear when reading Dawson’s chapter, that the governments in Latin America used the catholic view on leftist to their advantage and by making them the number one enemy justified their actions to purify their societies from anyone who was opposing their regimes, leftist or not. I agree with you that conflicts should always be resolved by trying to find common ground. It seems so crazy and illogical that people would see violence as the only way to solve conflicts instead of believing that different beliefs could coexist harmoniously in one society. Unfortunately we still find that narrative around the world today.
    Have a good weekend,

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