Years have gone by and I’ve finally learned to accept myself for who I am: a beggar for good soccer. I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: “A pretty move for the love of God.” And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it. ~Eduardo Galeano
Without a doubt, the Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano is my favorite South American author, probably in my top ten authors of all time. With the completion of “Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone” while lying in a comfy bed this morning, I have read five of his books with plans to read more.
All five of the books I have had the joy of reading are of the same format, a format that I have not seen in any other literary work. Eduardo wrote them in vignettes, one to two pages in length, succinct stories. Despite the compact size of the vignettes, their impact is formidable. His words are at once poetic and image filled and thought provoking and horrifying.
Like all five of the books, Mirrors is historical in nature. However, this is not the history I grew up learning in my US based, middle class, catholic schooling where all historical events are viewed from the US perspective which is, by definition, the ‘correct’ interpretation. This is history from the a decidedly non US point of view. It’s a chronicling of the events that have formed or, in many cases, destroyed the peoples of this world, brings to center stage the harsh realities that most in modern times are either unaware of or, if we were aware, would like to think never existed because, to believe them, to even contemplate their existence would give us frightful insights into the evil perpetuated by man, an evil of which we may even harbor in our hearts. If we acknowledge these historical events we may be forced to acknowledge modern day atrocities. If we are forced to acknowledge the modern day atrocities, such as young children being forced into prostitution in many parts of the world, we may not be able to look at our reflections in the mirror for those reflections would accuse us, would bore a damning hole into our soul until we quit worrying about acquiring the latest gadget and used some of our resources to right the wrongs that our silence enables.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. ~Edmund Burke
The first book of Galeano’s that I read was “Soccer in Sun and Shadow” a history of the beautiful game. I read this book multiple times and reviewed passages, such as the quote at the beginning of this blog, many more. I would still be reading it had it not been misplaced in one of my changes of residence.
I am a football (soccer) aficionado. In this respect, Eduardo and I are kindred spirits for, his love of the beautiful game permeates the pages of this book. His description of the great players of the game casts them in an almost mystical hue.
He chronicles the history of the game from pre-history through the modern game which, too frequently, is a game of brutality instead of it’s roots in finesse, is a game controlled by big money interests without the skill to kick a ball, by big money interests that hide their profits and ill gotten gains in secret Swiss bank accounts.
As he points out, no where was this more evident than when the World Cup was held in Mexico City during the Summer of 1970. One of the overarching phrases in the referee book put out by FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, is that the referee must apply the laws, first and foremost, with the safety of the players in mind.
Mexico is brutally hot in the Summer and to host a game under those climatic conditions was dangerous for the health of the players. The game was held there despite the protestations of the players who are mere pawns in the enterprise that is football. It was held there for political purposes. It was held there with knees bent at the alter of the almighty dollar, peso, franc, etc.
One would think that FIFA would have learned from the experience but such is not the case for the corrupt organization voted their secret ballot to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a desert country which is even hotter than Mexico. For the good of the game? No. For the financial gain of those that cast their secret ballots.
The trilogy titled “Memoria Del Fuego” (Memory of Fire) is my favorite Eduardo Galeano creation. This is the history of the world form the Latin American point of view, a point of view that gives precedence to describing world history through the eyes of the vanquished instead of the more common eyes of the victor.
I have seen this trilogy denounced as leftist, Marxist, and other ists. As being a one sided distortion of the real facts. So what? What are real facts? Are real facts the ones I choose to believe because they record what I want to hear? Do real, objective facts exist anywhere?
I submit that all historical works are one sided, not only historical works but all written works are one sided. None of the modern historians were there when history played out on the world’s stage. All knowledge of history is gained from reading what others wrote, others who may or may not have been witness to the events, and those ‘historical’ writings are
colored by the author’s own beliefs. Modern historians then read the colored history and interpret what they read through another set of colored lenses. The modern author may use many sources but, the words they choose to put down on paper along with the words they choose to omit, are tainted by their own biases, by their own prejudices. As a result, there can be no truly objective historical facts.
I think it’s healthy to read various interpretations of events. One of my favorite news source is the BBC. In America, I read news from the perspective of people raised in the US, I read news biased toward the the ideology of the news source. And that’s ok because I understand that this is the case. With the BBC sources, I also get news biased by the ideology of the source. The thing is, though, that I get the news from an alternate source, a source that is decidedly unAmerican in its bias. I don’t stop there. I also read news from other sources that write in English such as Blogs and the Times of India. I only wish I could read other languages so I could feel the thought so other writers.
Each of the sources offers me a view of one facet of truth, of the facts. Having many of these at my disposal, as we do in the age of the internet and seemingly unlimited sources, engages my mind in ways that were impossible in the age of my parents when news was tightly controlled.
Eduardo, in his trilogy, gives me a facet of the truth that I covet, that I covet because it requires me to engage my mind and think critically, that I covet because it tends to be diametrically opposed to what was pushed down my throat while growing up by the institutions that were supposed to educate me. How can one be truly educated if most of the facts are omitted because they aren’t the facts authorized by the power structure of the conquering nation?
If you are person that likes to be challenged, that likes to ingest many facets of truth instead of being fed just one, myopic perspective, then Eduardo is for you. On the other hand, if you like being blissfully ignorant. If you like a world that is comfortable and safe. If you like not being required to think critically about the history blended into mushed for easy ingestion, then Eduardo is not for you. For, love him or hate him, believe his words or find them implausible, one cannot help but having your world view rocked upon reading his trilogy.