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Chewing On Coca Leaves (I Wish)

If you think that I would not, if I had the chance, go to Bolivia and chew on coca leaves with old timers that have been doing it their whole lives-and still have all their teeth-then you don’t know me*. The thingy about it is, I would not want to go somewhere and f*ck up the peeps. Afterall, isn’t there a drug war going on down there (there is), isn’t the politics corrupt and isn’t it all, well, f*cked up down there. Answers: yes, but it’s not what you/we/Americans think, yes, but no, and yes, it is all f*cked up down there-but not for the reasons Americans think.

Yeah baby. Kriss approved.

If you ever get a chance to work in an iconic cafe that is filled with college kids, professors, nestled in an upper class neighborhood, with great workers and the best boss, then you should. Oh wait, there is one more thing. If said cafe is so awesome, then it will also have old school revolutionaries from the 60’s and 70’s, that you (which is really me) can pick their brains. Really, it’s the coolest thing. I have a black history dude, a Mexican/Native American bro, and a whole cafe full of old school revolutionaries. One, let’s call her Joan Kelly, is so freekin’ awesome. A couple of years ago I asked her about South America and why is it all messed up. She didn’t forget and a couple of weeks ago, she let me borrow a book called “The Price of Fire:Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia.”

What the hell do I know about the world, I’m American. I thought NAFTA and the drug wars were good things (and if you expect this book review to explain why, then you have never read any of my book reviews and you, again, don’t know me.) The single most important thingy that I learned from reading this book is my new word, neoliberalism. Basically, neoliberalism is an open and free trade, unregulated capitalism at it’s best (most greedy) and the solution for third world ills.

Philosopher Mark Lila refers to the “The forces of globalized nation that have given us a ‘neoliberalism’ that people everywhere associated with unregulated markets, labor exploitation, environmental degradation, and official corruption (wiki).”

OK, I guess not. What happened in Bolivia, and South America in general, is that foreign powers influenced their form of capitalism, and guess what, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. To stimulate economic growth a country needs investors. In this case the investors were conglomerate companies that wanted to mine the natural resources of the land on the backs of the people. Recently there was a landmark court decision against a major oil company for not cleaning up their laughing to the bank and leaving toxic oil sludge and polluted rivers for the indigenous peeps (but hell if they will ever see any money, time will tell) after they went neoliberalism (thanks NAFTA). Gas and water are privately owned in Bolivia and the average Bolivian peep cannot afford what Benjamin Dangl (the author of the book) calls the Price of Fire.

“The Price of Fire” means the cost of living. Foreign companies monopolized the natural gas and privatized water to such an extent that all basic goods, all essential needs, rose in price so much that the average Bolivian peep could not afford it any longer. Were are talking not being able to eat enuff everyday, while breaking your back for the company, not having having a secure place to live-besides the drug gang violence-I mean electricity, gas and a place to sleep.

This craziness is happening in a macho culture where the only respect a woman can have is by having children and even when that happens, and it happens a lot, women still do not have a voice anyway. The American drug war is trying to eradicate coca, at the expense of innocent lives, but the product keeps coming (coca and cocaine are totally diff things. One is traditional, cultural and harmless and the other is deadly and harmful). The U.S. government is fighting, yet again, another war on foreign soil, but (at least this time) the real problem is the demand. If the U.S. did not have a craving for cocaine, then why would there be a supply-there wouldn’t.

This open market for capitalism (neoliberalism) was successful in the bringing rich foreign investors that took over the natural resources of a country to the detriment of the land, the indigenous peeps and the women. There are positive movements from the youth (hip hop) and the cocolera president, Evo Morales, at least in this book, has the support of the people. Not only in Bolivia is the War on Drugs a failure, it is everywhere the American War on Drugs is currently being fought (hello, Mexico). Free trade and globalization seem like great ideas on parer, but look at what it is doing to the land the people (I think it fails everytime).

Here is where I ask that question…Is everything getting better, or worse. After reading this book it looks like worse: but, I do have hope for the future.


“Most Americans know nothing of Bolivia, an ignorance that only plays into the hands of empire. Ben Dangl’s book is both informative and inspiring, a cure for the apathy that grows from that ignorance. A must-read for those already interested in solidarity with Latin America and indigenous people.”—Tom Hayden, author of The Zapatista Reader and Street Wars.


* Read a real review.

* Pretty much, I’m always down for the experience.

* I didn’t mention all the revolutionary action going on, the protest, the politics, the Gas wars of 03 etc…If you want that stuff, I’m sure there are better resources than my thoughts and feelings…with no editing, off the top of my head, no prep…no worries. If you are interested in that stuffs, then check it out, yo. Awesomeness.

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