Yesterday I read an article that said according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Honduras was one of five Latin American countries lacking human rights last year. Honduras was the only one of the five countries (also including Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Haiti) that wasn’t on the list the previous year. The cause of the increase in problems was blamed on the coup of last June.
While some people here who support the coup would deny an increase in human rights violations, most international organizations disagree. The most recent news has centered on how Honduras has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. So far this year, 6 have been murdered. I’m also reading Working Hard, Drinking Hard, an anthropologist’s take on why Honduras has the problems it has. It’s both fascinating and depressing to learn more about what I see all around me, and it makes clear that human rights violations have been around a lot longer than since June, 2009.
While my life right now is personally sheltered from most of the problems here, of course it isn’t totally. It would be hard for me to find a Honduran I know who hasn’t been affected by violence. I know people out of work and struggling financially, I see children and old women on street corners asking for money and violent deaths on the front page of the newspapers nearly every day. Closer to home, a student at our high school has been kidnapped for ransom money and hasn’t yet been returned.
It is hard to be hopeful when surrounded by such desperate poverty, violence and corruption. Also, my sense is that most people here have accepted the way things are and don’t really see a way out of Honduras’s problems, or at least don’t see a way to the radical changes that are necessary if Honduras is really going to be a peaceful country.
I recently read an interview with environmentalist Alex Steffen, and there’s a bit I really liked about optimism. Though he’s talking about the environmental movement, I think it has a broader implication, and it is the type of thinking that keeps me hopeful.
Optimism is a political act. Those who benefit from the status quo are perfectly happy for us think nothing is going to get any better. In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience. What’s really radical is being willing to look right at the problems we face and still insist that we can solve them. A stubborn commitment to solving problems and a faith in our ability to do so doesn’t need to be naïve.