The imaginary country

There is a country blessed with enormous natural resources whose head of state is a monarch who resides thousands of miles away from its shores.

Every time Her Majesty comes to her dominion she lays flowers in the Cenotaph, visits schools where children wave flags that carry in one of their corners a symbol of a colonial past and talks to her subjects in civic centres.

During her stay she is dutifully escorted by her representative in the host country and its political, economic and military classes.

The arrangements for the royal visit are carefully choreographed but the cost of the pompous display is borne by the local taxpayers.

However, in a referendum held some years ago the majority of the citizenry voted to continue the country’s ties with the monarchy and rejected an ambivalent republican model.

Meanwhile, the dominant classes are interested in maintaining some of the myths surrounding the actions of men who fought in far away theatres of war.

In this context the most influential sectors within the capitalist state exploit the sympathetic feeling of the populace for the men killed in military actions and therefore the existing socio-economic disparities are somewhat masked in the name of a so-called national unit.

The authors of the narrative involving armed conflicts do not elaborate on behalf of which interests thousands of gullible young men lost their lives in European and African trenches or in the mountains or jungles of Asia.

The ideological alliance with a powerful northern nation allows the latter to have strategic bases in the imaginary country but ironically the local authorities have no access to the military installations.

Until the end of the Second World War the country largely based its economy on the export of agricultural products, but in recent decades the commercialisation of its vast mineral resources has been its main source of revenue.

Due to the necessity of the owners of capital in some Asian nations for minerals to sustain their fast expanding economies, the billionaires who control the exploitation of those natural resources have made astronomical profits.

The new magnates of the mineral sector have enlisted politicians and journalists to carry out a relentless campaign in both the parliament and in the mass media to distort the reasons behind the refusal of the owners of the mining industry to pay fair taxes on their profits.

In the imaginary country the mainstream media are controlled by a group of powerful individuals who are involved in a wide range of financial and economic activities, a situation that raises serious questions about their influence in the coverage of issues regarding the public interest.

According to some analysts, the recent acquisition by the richest woman in the country of more than 12% of shares in an important media outlet could compromise the editorial independence of the organisation.

Meanwhile multiculturalism, a state sponsored policy, has failed to be the vehicle through which socio economic changes affecting minority groups could be implemented and it has been reduced to foreign films with English subtitles, sporting events, exotic recipes or artistic festivals. Multiculturalism has also deliberately ignored the political history and often cultural differences within the same ethnic group.

Therefore, under multicultural policies, ethnic groups become homogenous, bonded by the same language and it does not matter whether a person supported a dictatorship in their homeland and another was imprisoned and tortured by the same regime.

In the imaginary country, the financial institutions and banks have a legal licence to make exorbitant profits at the expense of their customers while their executives earn obscene salaries and protect the interests of the shareholders.

In recent decades, companies that were once national icons have been sold to foreign conglomerates and the privatisation of public assets has figured prominently in the agendas of the main political parties.

The union bureaucracy has been more preoccupied with its own personal and factional interests than those of its members and acts of corruption by high officials are reminiscent of similar occurrences in the US when the mafia controlled some of the syndicates.

Meanwhile, a recent report about the state of education has confirmed what many already knew; that the resources of the schools attended by the children of working people are significantly less than the ones attended by the sons and daughters of the dominant classes.

Finally, but not less concerning, is the disgraceful treatment of people escaping the horrors of war in some of the places in which the imaginary country has been militarily involved, when they reached its shores.

Any similarity to the country where we live is purely coincidental.

[Manuel Rodriguez is an Argentinean journalist who holds a BA (Communication) from the University of Technology, Sydney.]

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