Guruzilla's /var/log/knowledge-junkie
["the chatter of a missionary sysadmin"]

Latin America

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So, my prof for ME230 was for many years a canon in Honduras, working there to not only evangelize and minister, but to help Christians who're above the poverty line, middle/upper/educated/elite classes, to realize and take responsibility for their own country's poor, its own structural insanity, even evil. He's a man of a deeply sane piety, and fully aware, after his years there, of the complexities of the country, and the region. Although he's not a sterling lecturer, which often disappoints me, this is his first ever job as a prof (and he's team-teaching, which means he's not accumulating experience quite as fast as he might), so I'm working hard to cut him some slack in spite of my own prejudices, pathetic fellow that I am. And I'm finding my prejudices are broad.

In spite of wanting to be a good christian fellow and deeply care about the region, I can't. My every thought about the region is encircled with contradictions. My ignorance is willful. Although I could've taken opportunities in undergrad to learn more about the region, I avoided the topic, opting for more distant regions to delve into (Africa, East Asia). I don't care. I don't want to care. I don't like it, the whole area, the whole subject. It's entangled in all kinds of fuzzy thinking, false perceptions, stereotyping, cans of worms, incomprehensible entanglements with my life as an "American", my reactions and counterreactions to the Reagan era and Contras and Sandanistas and colonialism and corporate depradations, let alone language barriers, Catholicism in its lowest forms, poverty and squalor in its most nauseating aspects, and the stereotyping of aid-agency guilt-tripping, the 'rice christians' and dependency problems, or frickin' liberation theology tying itself in the center of all of it and tugging on strings and pushing buttons.

Perhaps you can see why I avoid thinking about the region.

My own mad shuffle to even apprehend my first reactions, to set them aside in order to listen/see more clearly dissolves in my hands like a jelly liquefying, slipping and sloshing all over the kitchen floor. Frickin mess.

I'm pretty sure there's nearly toxic doses of racist or stereotyping thinking in that sludge; it's a bit shameful to think that it's there, when I try (telling myself I succeed, too) to excise those things from my soul and mind in reference to blacks and Asians, to be aware of archaisms and archetypes from the cultural baggage. I guess my folks missed one; I guess I have this task ahead of me.

Part of me is glad to finally know that I'm just ignorant, and that my ignorance has left a vacuum filled with crap sucked up off the cultural floor. It's a shameful state, but more so to remain in it.

I still don't think I'm going to be able to focus on this other continent, this vast nearest region of millions that're closely linked to my own country's destiny and prosperity. A gibbering mass of idiocy is no condition for a historian.

I guess when they told me that I'd need to pick and choose, that I couldn't have everything, that omniscience was out of the question, let alone an informed, limited omnipotence, they were right. Confession is good for the soul. I confess things done and left undone, inwardly and outwardly. I confess that I have failed even to care about not caring. I acknowledge that things could have been otherwise.

For grace and amendment of life, I have assurance, too. (We have an Advocate...) In the present time, though, I'll have to pick a different hill or two to die on; I'll give my messiah complex another nail on my way to my next stop, too. Being limited is almost harder than being wrong; I'll just have to keep telling myself, "I'm not God"... (thank god god's god!)

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