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A Writer's Advice For How To Read The Words Of Politics

Colombia's reformist president has promised to tackle endemic violence, economic exclusion, pollution and corruption in the country. So what's new with a politician's promises?

Image of Colombian President Gustavo Petro speaking during a press conference in Buenos Aires on Jan 14, 2023

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, speaks during a press conference in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 24, 2023.

Manuel Cortina/ZUMA
Héctor Abad Faciolince


BOGOTÁ — Don't concentrate on his words, I was once advised, but look at what he's doing. I heard the words so long ago I cannot recall who said them. The point is, what's the use of a husband who vows never to beat his wife in January and leaves her with a bruised face in February?

Words are a strange thing, and in literal terms, we must distrust their meaning. As I never hit anyone, I have never declared that I wouldn't. It never occurred to me to say it. Strangely, there is more power and truth in a simple declaration like "I love her" than in the more emphatic "I love her so much." A verbal addition here just shrinks the "sense" of love.

We shouldn't pin our hopes on words like love or even "so much" of it, but on the actions that prove it. If my wife leaves me a fortnight after I lose my job and break my hip, I then have sufficient grounds to doubt her love.

Degradation of democracy

In politics, we all know of the abyss that separates politicians' words from the reality of their actions once in office. Bolsonaro, the 'tropical Trump,' and the original Donald, presented themselves as defenders of democracy and vowed to make their countries great again. Their words became a different reality: a degradation of democracy and of public confidence in the future of the two richest countries of North and South America.

That kind of greatness is nothing short of a riot!

Both leaders provoked two of the gravest crises in their countries through terror-style rioting on the Washington capitol and in Brasilia (which were but a translation into deeds of their utterances).

Words like "greatness," when stated by them, really meant their own greatness. I'll have my greatness, and if "they steal it from me" through "fraudulent" elections, my followers will win it back by all means necessary. That kind of greatness is nothing short of a riot!

Image of an indigenous woman walking in a makeshift camp in Bogota, Colombia on May 9, 2022.

Embera indigenous communities start leaving the makeshift camp in Bogota, Cundinamarca, Colombia on May 9, 2022.

Chepa Beltran/ZUMA

Back to reality

The abuse of big, emphatic words, and epic comments on Twitter that generate waves of "likes," is inevitably confusing and ultimately disappointing. The promise to "Stop Now" the killings of community leaders in Colombia sounds great, but we have had 66 more killed just since the current government, led by Gustavo Petro, took office.

The next morning, we're back to our usual nightmare.

Obviously, the government didn't do it but while intentions matter, words have no magic power and do not automatically become action. Nobody has the perfect formula for turning a desire (stated verbally) into reality. "I'll write the best novel in this country." Watch out for any writer saying that, only to do what they always do — churn out another novel. I'm the president and I said no child should go hungry: so I demand to know why children are still dying of malnutrition!

In rhetorical terms, expressions (prized by our ambitious president here in Colombia) such as "total peace," making our country a "global power for life," making "prisoners work instead of rotting in jail," "plain-talking" politicians, "clean and renewable energy for all" can fuel magnificent, futuristic dreams.

But the next morning, we're back to our usual nightmare: with sinking roads, trucks spewing their filth into the air, and mobsters from Gang A gang murdering those from Gang B. The government may have vowed many thing, but let's just see what it does.

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How The 'Mom Advice' Industry Preys On Desperate Mothers — Even In Italy

Mothers everywhere are struggling with the pressures of parenting in an increasingly individualistic culture. Enter the rapidly growing empire of parenting influencers who promise to help – at a price. In Italy, where mothers have long been seen as models of strength, the novelty is particularly acute.

A mother holds her two toddlers as she looks into her cellphone.

A mother looks into her cellphone.

Vitolda Klein/Unsplash
Nadia Ferrigo

TURIN — Roberta T. is nearly 40 years old, holds a responsible job, and is raising a six-and-a-half-month-old daughter. Lately, she has been posting in the Facebook group Mami Club, which hosts 40,000 members exchanging parenting advice. Roberta has sought advice on how to paint a room without the baby inhaling paint fumes, the best sanitizing wipes, which baby carrier to use in hot weather, how to get her baby to fall asleep, and, most recently, which cup to buy to teach her child to drink water.

She is not an exception: in the vast world of the internet, there is an articulate answer for every maternal doubt. For example, on "how to teach a child to drink from a cup," there's a small treatise by Verdiana Ramina, a dietitian and published author with 240,000 followers on Instagram. The instructions are detailed - the child should sit with a straight back and be able to open their mouth by themselves, for example - and they come with a link leading to her Amazon page with "shopping tips." She claims a percentage of profit when items are purchased through this link.

Thousands of new mothers take to social media every day in search of childrearing solutions. They are the ideal customers for online courses, consultations, masterclasses, and webinars on parenting. There are coaches for breastfeeding and baby-led weaning, courses to learn "respectful parenting" and becoming "outstanding moms." Some of the internet personalities behind this growing empire are midwives, educators, or childcare professionals, while others have no formal education or professional qualifications.

Although their profiles vary, the narrative is often the same: their Instagram profiles are cheerful and well-curated, with advice interspersed with humorous parenting videos. They all encourage signing up to payment-based subscriptions or join their Telegram groups.

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