Paraísos artificiales / Juan Cristóbal Castro

Artificial Paradises

Large cities have gotten into the habit these years of belonging to the third world. Each summer they've decided to recreate one of the best marvels of that season: the maritime landscape, the inclement sky's intense blue and the whitish sand of its virgin beaches. Last August in Montreal one could see, in Ile Saint Helene near the Jean Dreapou park, an immense lagoon which has been surrounded by dirt and a scattering of tropical plants.

Likewise in Paris all along the Seine they've placed small sandy areas where citizens can, with umbrellas and all, enjoy the sun's luminous rays.

The proposal doesn't cease to surprise us. The horrible cement and concrete spaces are transformed into exotic locations that revive the praises of a Saint John-Perse or a Paul Valéry when singing to the sea. Everything has been a product of a researched decision. Mayors, governors and neighbors have given themselves the task of rebuilding these spaces, of implanting these places as if it were merely a matter of artificial stitching. Huxley's utopian dream is around the corner. Already the first world citizen, lover of exoticism, will be able to hedonistically enjoy its artificial paradises; borrowing a few words from Baudelaire that, while they do refer to drugs, designate these territories as toxic as the pharmaceuticals the poet sampled.

Suddenly a novel by Bioy Casares came to mind. In Plan de evasión prisoners are submitted to an infamous experiment for life. Always locked behind four walls they are built a tropical world, thanks to technology. The deception is less a salvation than a mechanism of punishment. But it's also a way of redemption because the invention was intended to be incorporated with other people. And aren't all forms of messianism thais way? Controlled dreams of radical change.

Perhaps these first world citizens, forced into the order of Capital, are living beneath that fiction; I don't doubt that eventually they could even reach the point of recreating revolutions for a while, to escape monotonous bourgeois life. Something that generates a certain amount of distrust: Are we perhaps a part of that simulation? At least one thing stands out: that the Adamic words of our revolutionaries might be so similar to the Edenic projections of a Christopher Columbus when he discovered America. Now I understand Ignacio Ramonet and his partisans. They're calmly catching some sun with us.

{ Juan Cristóbal Castro, TalCual, 11 October 2005 }

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