The Old New Normal

Beitrag von Denis Antonio Darce

After almost 28 years of the end of the so-called needed revolution, most Nicaraguans learned how to cope with the normalization of poverty, corruption and the day-to-day ideological struggle with the revolution and its heroic connotation.

From a personal point of view, I was raised to praise our revolutionary heroes, founding members of the FSLN and martyrs who gave their lives for the well desired freedom from Somoza’s dynasty, who took away many of Nicaraguan’s basic rights. Among these rights; education, freedom of speech and participation were taken from many marginalized groups such as peasants, the working class and even women and the youth.

The Sandinista ideology was based on the fight for equality and the love for the homeland and its people, who were mostly the needed, the left-outs, the Nicaraguans. The messianic view of Sandino became a mix of patriotism and rebellion against everything and everyone who was considered a vende patria (homeland seller): a term used to describe a sell-out who cared more about his/her interests than about the interests of all Nicaraguans, especially while in the middle of the Cold War during which the US wanted to control any type of communist activity in Latin America.

Being a rebel became part of the population’s vision of what is right. All actions and forms of rebellion became acts of vandalism and treason from the perspective of Somoza’s government. This caused fear and anger among the dictatorial oligarchy, who reacted with violent repression against all kinds of opposition against them. Being an outlaw just because you didn’t agree with the government became normal. As did regular kidnapping, persecutions, extrajuridical detentions, death threats, and killings… This stayed “the norm” even after the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution in June – July 1979 until the mid 90’s where remaining acts of war continued atop the mountains among guerrilla groups fighting for land ownership.

Since then, Nicaraguans have been trying to avoid these types of conflict from ever happening again. We have put up with the corruption that characterizes most Latin American countries. As well as the marginalization of the same groups that were marginalized before, the inclusion of conservative damaging laws, the rise and growth of institutional patriarchal behaviors, the maximization of the neoliberal market, which hurt the economy and the developing of the internal mainly farming economy, and many other neoliberal mechanisms, just like in most Latin America. This all became the “norm” and we played along with “normality”.

After 17 years of “not being in power”, Daniel Ortega, the FSLN and his populistic speech took advantage of the social and economic situation they helped to create, if not blatantly, were at least responsible for most social issues in the country at the time. Ortega was back on the presidential chair. His populistic plan of government opted for the poor, using assistencialism to create a “democratic control” in order to win over the popular vote. This worked at the beginning; many marginalized families started to get noticed, many said that even though the government was being corrupt, they gave back to the poor, not like the past right wing governments.

Over the last 10 years, and through this government’s assistencialistic policies, many not so marginalized families became the new bourgeoisie, those who had the power to decide who gets what, those that controlled the small villages, the small towns and neighborhoods, just through nepotism and corruption. There wasn’t (isn’t) any room for the inclusion of others: the new marginalized. This also became normal.

Our generation, the post-war generation, was asleep, enclosed in a safety bubble, caring so much about the little we own without caring about those who have nothing, those whose dignity was taken away. We were numbed, blinded by the brightness of a screen. In a country were the little things we have are worshiped, we forget and discriminate against those who have less. Which is paradoxical when the sandinista option for the poor even makes us divide ourselves from those who have more. The low- middle class has never been divided so dramatically. We were never left time to really be an inclusive society after the overthrown of the first dictatorship- Everything divides us: religion, gender, sexual preferences, which team we like, and even what kind of smartphone we use.

The events triggered in mid-April 2018 have taught many of us that unification is the key to democracy. Many of us were united by the displeasure and indignation of the government response to pacific protests. But the pragmatics of this speech remain within many of us, pro-government groups and protesters alike, and only united within the understanding that peace and democracy only happen under our participation in action together and not from a caudillo.

Caudillo, or the messianic picture of a male leader has led us to believe in everything that is said by him, because it gives us power, because it gives us the right to be above the law and above everyone else without the heavy load of guilt (because I do it for a cause), because the messiah is always right. He leads our way like no one else will ever do. The messiah himself thinks that.

We already had other messiahs from the 30s throughout the 70s. The Old Normals thought they were right until we united; the non-believers, the nonconformists, the rebels. Our mistake? – We made Sandino our messiah, when he never asked for it, and we found his successor. Today, this new messiah became our generation’s New Normal; the one who brings peace to some and the one who brings division and chaos to most of us, and calls it normality. The one who’s only fighting for the greater good, the hand that feeds you and thou shall not bite. Those who are not with him are against him, those who died deserved it because they are rebels and vandals that want to destabilize new normality.

The Old and New Normal have taken away so many basic human rights from many different population sectors: peasants, children, women, elderly, LGTBQ+ community, showing us how patriarchy can lead to a messianic picture, which, as we all know, can lead to the normalization of totalitarianism.

Normality is what we let normality be. Nicaragua does not need an old new normal. No country needs a normal. We have to start from scratch without forgetting about our mistakes. We have to re-educate ourselves and our children to be abnormal, to be different. Only by being different can we understand others and be inclusive. We want a free Nicaragua for everyone.