By David Galland
March 24, 2016
By virtue of being tangentially involved in the creation of the international residential resort development here at La Estancia de Cafayate, I have gained an up-close and personal understanding of the concept of community.
On that rather broad topic there are, I hope, useful observations to be made, some of which may even provide service on a larger stage.
In the Beginning
While there are a number of nuances one could use in defining community, the following covers the basics: a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
At the onset of any new community, the pilgrims arrive full of hope and enthusiasm for what might be. In the case of La Estancia, the newly arrived could be described as a little bit “special.” Not because they drooled in their soup but because they uprooted their lives in order to move to a remote town in the Argentine outback. Which is to say, they committed to a new community that was not only physically far from their roots, but culturally as well.
I suspect the fledgling community here was very similar in attitude and character to the pioneers of old who packed their belongings in chests and set out in Conestoga wagons or sailing ships for distant destinations.
Of course, the motivations for relocating one’s life vary. Some might wish to escape a failing present in the hope of a better future. Some may be imbued with wanderlust, and some may simply want to be left alone by the nanny state whence they hail. Others will have woken up one day friendless or maybe even ostracized by their neighbors and decide their odds of successful societal connections lay elsewhere.
Having been involved with La Estancia from the very beginning, I’ve found it a fascinating experience to follow the travails of the new arrivals as they adjust to the life in a small pueblo three hours from the nearest city. The vast majority are what might be termed “regular folks”—with the exception that most are of a decidedly libertarian bent, people who believe in the idea of live and let live.
Yet, as will be the case with any largish group (in the case of La Estancia, there are about 250 owners from 33 different countries), ever so often damaged individuals arrived, some of whom were able to cause a lot of trouble for the community.
In the case of a line of Conestogas heading west, there’s no question the pioneers also had to deal with the occasional deranged individuals, most of whom would be armed. However, after having to deal with an unbalanced blogger, I almost think I would have preferred the guy with the gun.
Fortunately, the truly anti-social types invariably come to the conclusion that their particular “better future” would be found elsewhere, and so in a puff of steam and bluster, they head off to torment some other community. That has been the case here.
From the early birth pains to now, it has been a lot of work to overcome a long list of challenges of the sort faced by every community.
Though pioneers, we didn’t have to deal with wild Indians. But we did have to deal with just about every societal adjustment you can imagine—from setting rules everyone could live with, to chasing off corrupt employees, to pushing the interests of the community to something of a stalemate with the developers whose interests, while aligned, are not always in perfect harmony with the needs of the residents.
In any event, while no community is perfect—because while there may be something approaching perfection in the petals of the Rothschild’s Slipper orchid, there’s no such thing when it comes to the human ape—in the end, the community here works, and works rather well.
As examples, I would point to the many social interactions we enjoy here. A week ago Friday, a group of nine of us rode seven hours through the desert to a nearby town where we were joined by another 16 friends from La Estancia for an asado and a stunning party set against the backdrop of a rare early fall downpour.
Then there was a send-off party for a departing owner held at Bacos, a favorite local hangout, where we broke the prior record of 33 people at a long table on the curb. Yesterday, one of the owners prepared a massive paella to celebrate Easter Sunday and the inauguration of the Social Club. The photos I’ll include here will tell the story far better than words.
Simply, in the case of La Estancia, the owners have managed to work through the inevitable challenges, and it has now gelled into a group of friends committed to creating a smoothly functioning, harmonious community.
In fact, I sincerely don’t believe there is a better community in the world, at least not one that is so well aligned with my personal interests and world view.
When Things Go Wrong
As I don’t need to tell you, the history of the world is replete with examples of failed communities. While any of us could rattle off the usual examples—Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, and so forth—I’d like to mention one of the lesser-known case studies, this having to do with Colombia’s civil wars in the first half of the 19th century.
The first, the Guerra de los Mil Días—the Thousand-Day War—started in 1899, and by the end of the conflict three years later, in 1902, between 3% and 8% of the 4.6 million population were dead (I have read estimates as high as 20%, but have been unable to confirm).
The next civil war in Colombia broke out in 1948. Called La Violencia, the death toll of the internal conflict came in at around 300,000 people, with approximately another million seriously wounded.
It was over the course of these two conflicts that the Colombian people justly earned their reputation as masters at the art of murder, conceiving a litany of horrible ways to inflict the maximum amount of pain on their victims. The picar para tamal involved slicing bits and pieces off the victim over a lengthy period of time until their hearts finally gave out. And, of course, there’s the better-known Colombian Neck Tie, a particularly gruesome act I won’t bother describing here.
What I find most interesting about the conflict is that, unlike many of the innumerable instances where communities have broken apart violently due to tribal, religious, or ethnic differences, in Colombia the conflict involved people with shared genetic, cultural, and even religious values.
Instead, the years of madness, mayhem, and murder most dark occurred solely due to political differences and, interestingly, rumors of great conspiracies to which the opposition was purportedly a party. Among members of the Colombian Liberals party, the rumor spread that the Conservative party, in concert with militant priests, were conspiring to shunt aside increasingly more progressive government policies in order to replace them with a Nazi/Falangist regime.
On the other side of the conflict, the Conservatives came to believe that the Liberals were in cahoots with an international cabal pushing a Judeo-Masonic agenda.
Tragically, as a result of bad information and a lack of critical thinking fueled in no small part by the superstitions inherent in heavily religious communities, the situation quickly morphed into neighbors slaughtering neighbors solely because of their political leanings.
On a Broader Stage
In the 2012 US presidential election, Democratic candidate Barack Obama won the popular vote by a margin of just 4% over Mitt Romney.
And that’s a landslide compared to the 2000 election, when Al Gore actually won the popular vote by 500,000 votes, only to lose by one vote in the tally of the electoral college.
While people tend to view the two key parties in simplistic terms, for example that the Republicans are the pro-business party and the Democrats the more socially progressive, that narrative barely skims the depth of emotions felt by a large percentage of the closely divided population.
For example, many who skew Republican acutely believe the Democrats are in the process of instituting a New World Order, a progressive dictatorship determined to forcefully bend everyone to their politically correct will.
On the other side of the trenches, the Democrats believe to the core of their bleeding hearts that the Republicans represent a tightly controlled cadre of elite mercantilists. And that these one-percenters, in connection with their cronies on Wall Street, are operating what is essentially a national slave camp in which the little people, trapped by their many debts and the persistent struggle to keep food on the table, are forced to labor thanklessly from cradle to grave.
Which brings us to the current US presidential cycle.
In my opinion, what we are seeing in this election is not a contest between the best the country has to offer—the worthy leader who, through diligence and hard work, has risen from among the multitude to lead the nation into harmony and prosperity.
Instead, what we are seeing is the equivalent of the residue at the bottom of a pot after centuries of slow boiling.
On the one side, we have Hillary Clinton, an individual of such clear character flaws, she could slip seamlessly into the role of Cruella Deville.
For the conservatives, Hillary represents the very essence of evil, a manipulative, soulless creature of the Deep State whose strings are pulled by New World Order power brokers such as George Soros.
On the other hand we have Donald Trump, whom the liberals see as the ultimate stereotype of the conservative movement—an arrogant billionaire who has gotten to where he is through white privilege and by stepping on the heads of the little people. In the view of this half of the population, Trump is synonymous with Hitler. (Ignoring, of course, that many of Trump’s closest advisers are Jewish and, oh yeah, his daughter converted to Judaism in 2009.)
Adding to this polarized mess, we have a variety of players and agents, most prominently the popular media, which have tossed away any pretense at being unbiased and now have entire departments dedicated to destroying Trump.
I recently came across this article by Jim Goad on TakiMag that puts the orchestrated attempt at delivering the presidency to Hillary by destroying Trump in clear perspective.
As we humans tend to be herd animals and quite easily influenced, in the end the media and their allies in the Democratic party may very well get their way. But that’s where the problems begin.
That’s because Trump’s rise in popularity is a veritable fireworks display of warning flares expressing the reality that an unhealthy percentage of the population isn’t just fed up with the status quo — they have reached the point where they aren’t going to take it anymore. Should their candidate be wrong-footed out of the presidency by the institutionalized smear campaign, there will be consequences.
If you thought the Obama presidency was unpopular among the conservatives, you haven’t seen anything yet. A Hillary presidency will be met with more than rumblings of discontent, it will lead to active resistance.
While I doubt that resistance will result in anything more than sporadic outbursts such as we saw in the recent standoff on BLM land in Oregon, the potential is certainly there for another large-scale attack like the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma by Timothy McVeigh in 1995 that killed 168 people.
On the other hand, should Trump prevail, it would not surprise me if, whipped into a frenzy by the media, disaffected members of a group such as Black Lives Matter adopted the corollary to that phrase by deciding that White Lives Don’t Matter, leading to the emergence of a violent group akin to the Black Panthers.
More to the point, however, regardless of which candidate is elected, the polarization of the American community is going to harden to a dangerous edge, creating not just strong differences in opinion but visceral animosity between supporters of the winners and the losers. As we are talking about groups that are roughly equal in size and geographically interspersed, the opportunities for direct interactions—and thereby flashpoints—are unlimited.
Returning to the lessons learned from La Estancia, the reason we were able to come together as a community was largely attributable to the reality that most of us share a certain world view. As a consequence, we rarely talk politics, because we don’t need to.
Some people may like Trump, others (admittedly only a few) might like Hillary, many don’t believe in voting at all… but we are pretty strong in our live-and-let-live attitude. Believe what you want as long as you don’t try to force your beliefs on me, and we’ll get along just fine.
Now, imagine the community were as polarized as that of the US. For example, if roughly half of the residents started commanding the other half to do this or that, forcing them to quit smoking cigars on the patio after lunch, or to recycle, or to stop eating fatty steaks, or whatever.
In no time at all, the community would devolve into bickering camps, antagonistic groups that would shred the fabric of peaceful cooperation, and our little corner of paradise would become like the US and so much of the Western world.
I really can’t say what’s ahead for the United States, but it seems impossible that this depth of polarization and antipathy can continue indefinitely. Maybe it won’t happen in our lifetime, but at some point or another, the other half are going to decide that having their future decided by as little as one vote in the electoral college just isn’t going to cut it anymore… and do more than just gripe about it.
Civil war? I find it hard to believe it could come to that, but it will have to come to something as the status quo is being shredded to pieces by the coarse grit of an increasingly divided and disillusioned population.
I plan on observing the elections this November from a comfortable chair in the Social Club here in La Estancia. Should be a doozy.
An Election Prediction
While waiting for the paella at the Social Club here Sunday, a group of us starting chatting about the elections, a fairly rare occurrence, and I shared the following scenario. While no one can tell the future, I think I could be directionally correct.
On the Republican side, Trump ultimately ends up winning the required number of delegates to gain the nomination. While he will have won straight up, it will be a lock once Cruz is taken down by the rapidly emerging scandal over his string of mistresses.
However, shortly before the convention this June, the press—aided and abetted not only by the Democrats, but the establishment Republicans—will reveal “just discovered” information proving connections between Trump and organized crime. After all, how could a guy run a casino in New Jersey for as long as he did without bumping up against the mob? There will be photos of him shaking hands with shady characters and maybe a witness or two.
In the convention, Paul Ryan, the clean-cut, fair-haired boy in the wings will be drafted by the Republicrats. Without having spent a dime in campaigning or months on the road debating, he’ll step into the role as the Republican candidate.
On the other side of the contest, despite Bernie Sander’s strong showing providing clear proof that many Democrats are unhappy with Cruella as the candidate, she’ll end up taking the prize.
In a Ryan vs. Clinton showdown, I actually think Ryan might win. Because, you know, pretty much no one trusts Hillary.
In that case, the citizenry might slip back into somnolence and the status quo remain intact for another four years as Ryan, while largely a sock puppet for the political elites, won’t be nearly the lightning rod Hillary or Trump would provide.
And with that, I’ll sign off for now, wishing you happy trails and an interesting life path as I do.