AMERICASOPINION

Paraguay: Culture, faith and politics

By Peter Tase

In Paraguay, religious culture consisting of rites and customs of the past, such as the notion of “ñande mboriahu” (we the poor), imposes a fatalistic mentality of mystic thinking, which employs the power of saints, fortune and progress, and ignores the values of self-esteem and intellectual potential of every individual as well as underestimates the incentive and efforts of rural Paraguayans. The search of land without evil (“maraney”) of the indigenous culture perhaps explains the tendency of abandoning places, in search of a better opportunity, that does not depend upon the individual’s potential but on the imaginary and mystic powers that one encounters spiritually.

According to Archbishop Sinforiano Bogarín “in a nation with a mentality of special perseverance, before anything else its people prefers good assurances” so that Paraguayans should proceed as Neufeld would state in his book, “fortiter et suaviter,” therefore God has destined these people to stay at home, work and obey. Neufeld raises a legitimate question, whether this statement is not even oriented towards some variations of slavery, apparently not only the miscegenation had its effects in the conduct of Paraguayans but it was also reinforced through the kind of thinking from proper institutional leadership that is typical of closed and dominated societies.

Paraguayans in their tribal culture always link the image of the leader with power, this explains many of their leadership style showcased in a working environment, including relations with their superiors, and in relation to their subordinates, embodying a strong culture influenced by popular religion and folklore shaped by myths, superstitions, that impose a perception of fatalistic resignation and of permanent dependency.

Tribal culture recognized only a single authority, the “mburuvicha” or the leader, which carries the role of being the father or namely “ru” in Guarani. Such an environment perhaps highly generates the great dependence of Paraguayans and instills in them a significant lack of initiative, lack of “entrepreneurship” or entrepreneurial capacity.

In Paraguay’s tribal culture all are considered equal, but there is one “mburuvichá”; no one can give an order to his subordinates, with the only exception of the recognized leader, the President, therefore we see strong ties between the leader and his potential to exert a recognized set of powers. Tribal Culture has a number of disadvantages in the present world.

1. No one understands the moral dimension of a government entity. The government for the tribesman is absolutely unnecessary, the law is in force, but what matters is the usual customs, this produces ignorance towards knowing the laws. Therefore it is valuable to mention the strongman’s law, known in Paraguay as “la ley del mbareté” (The law of the strongest).

2. The fact that tribesmen are uncomfortable to act upon their own and always depend on the procedural guidelines ordered by their chief, is a recipe that prevents innovation, forward looking attitude and one’s vision for the future. The leadership authority in a tribe resides in personality and not in a structure itself.

3. Tribal life is overall much simple, frugal, without any other aspirations besides living in peace and with basic amenities and clothes. This includes the tendency of contemplation, conformity with limited resources, and the inertia of the past in the Paraguayans’ attitudes.

4. Team work and dialogue is almost impossible to effectively implement in Paraguay’s government offices or in any other hierarchical environment. The only one who has the status of being unequal to the rest of the population is the “mburuvicha” (Commander in Chief); in today’s context is the President of the Republic. Everyone else owns its own actions, and difficult to work in a team.

Paraguayan society is not only a tribal oriented society but also it is known to be a closed society. As Karl Popper has noted, “closed societies are restrictive, intellectually starving, and most of their people excert authoritarian attitude.”

This is why the Paraguayan society is of great concern towards fostering its messianic leaders of the XXI century that ought to reinforce the magic thinking of solving problems and instant practical thinking. Eradicate the attitude of dependence, and promote intellectual innovation – thinking of how to become an active participant and not simply a follower; to be the owners of each ones’ present and control the fate of their future.

Social welfare and dependence on overall government assistance, brings back the ideas of Victor Emil Frankl, the architect of logo therapy, who said that “he who depends on government support and gratuities, cannot be free, on the contrary, he depends on others and neither owns his future nor his present.

The analysis of a study conducted by Alejandro Vial (2006) “Political culture and democratic governance. Tension and uncertainty between the gaps of old and new dreams” shows the adherence of 86 percent of Paraguayans who trust the Catholic Church, and only 27.2 percent trust the National Government.

These statistics, may explain that Paraguayans are tired of long lasting negligence, deception and broken promises by their previous governments and in the ballots of April 21st, 2013, general elections entrusted a person who is not a typical politician, indeed he is the wealthiest man of Paraguay; and this magical thinking makes you elect a president whose origins are rooted in spiritualism, religious worshiping and in employing over five thousand Paraguayans in his family of companies. Almost three years after President Horacio Cartes swore in as president of Paraguay, Asuncion continues to experience serious challenges on its struggle against corruption and organized crime as well as in its efforts to promote a transparent, ethical justice system and rescue the national education system.  The Toro Kandil of Paraguay must confront head on the rising poverty levels, poor education infrastructure system, poor training of its educators and human talent.  Additionally, Asuncion should gather all its energies in order to make Paraguay a premier logistical hub of South America therefore crushing its mindset and stop being a prisoner of geography.  The presidential palace named after the son of Carlos Antonio Lopez (Paraguay’s first constitutional president), Francisco Solano Lopez, the emblematic office of President Cartes; has to improve its effectiveness on public policy programs that have been ignored during the last twenty six years of democratic governments, in order to uphold and evoke the admirable economic progress that Paraguay had accomplished during the administration of President Lopez in the 1850s.

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Peter Tase

Peter Tase is a contributor, freelance journalist and a research scholar of International Affairs, Paraguayan Studies, Middle East Studies and Latin American Affairs, located in the United States. Educated at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and Marquette University Les Aspin Center for Government; Tase is the author of “Simultaneous Dictionary in Five Languages: Guarani, English, Italian, Albanian and Spanish” and “El Dr. FEDERICO FRANCO y Su Mandato Presidencial en la Historia del Paraguay.” He’s a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy News. His personal website is www.petertase.com

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