Tomgram: Constantino on our Black-and-Blue World
Filipino columnist Renato Redentor Constantino, in a return to Tomdispatch, offers a quick whirl through the bruising backstory of imperial history -- from Haiti to the Philippines -- on his way to today's Iraq, and he does so in black and white as well as in color. Constantino is something of a man for all seasons: writer, columnist, and Greenpeace activist, he reminds us that out there in the world so much is happening just beyond the bubble we live in. As a thinker, he connects. As a writer, he displays the strange and wondrous connections that can exist, across so many thousands of miles, in our instant world. After all, the writer of which his work most reminds me is that Uruguayan man-for-all-seasons, Eduardo Galeano -- journalist, novelist, historian, cartoonist, activist, archivist of the people. Constantino not only has something of Galeano's sense of imagery, politics, whimsy, and anger (not to speak of his writing rhythms), but, as you'll see if you check out his footnotes, he's a Galeano fan.
So I thought I might take a moment to urge you to brighten and deepen your lives by trying Galeano's work. If you don't already know his books, don't sit there... stand up immediately; reach for your wallet; head for your nearest independent bookstore; look for the section marked, "Eduardo Galeano, troubadour of resistance to global domination and injustice"; and begin stocking up. Galeano first became well known for his fierce book about American imperialism, Open Veins of Latin America (still available from Monthly Review Press with an introduction by Isabel Allende). He has written a remarkable three volume history of the Americas from the first native myths to late last night (at least on the night when I published the first of these books in the U.S. back in the 1980s), a trilogy so idiosyncratic and beautiful it could only be true. We're talking here about the Memory of Fire threesome, which is history the way we should have been taught it. Try the first volume, Genesis, and you'll never turn back. Probably there's nowhere better to start in on Galeano, though, than his most recent book, Upside Down, A Primer for the Looking-Glass World, a real gem -- a series of Alice-in-Wonderland "lesson plans" for teaching how the world actually works when viewed with horror and bemusement from the south of the planet looking northwards.