The Right to Rave by Eduardo Galeano

BOMB 69 Fall 1999
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Article 2262 69 Posada

José Guadalupe Posada, woodcut.

The new millennium is already upon us,

though the matter shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

After all, the year 2001 for Christians is 1379 for Moslems, 5114 for Mayans, and 5762 for Jews. The new millennium starts on January 1st only because one fine day the senate of imperial Rome decided to end the tradition of celebrating the new year at the beginning of spring. The number of years in the Christian era comes from a whim as well: another fine day the Pope in Rome decided to put a date on the birth of Jesus, even though nobody knows when he was born.

Time pays no attention to the borders we erect to fool ourselves into believing we control it. Even so, the millennium is a frontier the whole world both celebrates and fears.


An invitation to flight

The millennium will come, the millennium will go, a good opportunity for orators of inflated eloquence to spout off on the destiny of humanity, and for the agents of God’s ire to announce the end of the world and other assorted calamities, while time itself continues its long tightlipped march through eternity and mystery.

The truth is, who can resist? On such a date, arbitrary though it is, everyone is tempted to wonder about the time to come. And just how is anyone to know? Only one thing is certain: in the 21st century, if we are still here, we’ll all be people from the last century and, what’s worse, we’ll be from the last millennium.

If we can’t guess what’s coming, at least we have the right to imagine the future we want. In 1948 and 1976 the United Nations proclaimed long lists of human rights, but the immense majority of humanity enjoys only the rights to see, hear, and remain silent. Suppose we start by exercising the never-proclaimed right to dream? Suppose we rave a bit? Let’s set our sights beyond the abominations of today, to divine another possible world:


the air shall be cleansed of all poisons except those born of human fears and human passions;

in the streets, cars shall be run over by dogs;

people shall not be driven by cars, nor programmed by computers, nor bought by supermarkets, nor watched by televisions;

the tv set shall no longer be the most important member of the family and shall be treated like an iron or a washing machine;

people shall work for a living instead of living for work;

written into law shall be the crime of stupidity, committed by those who live to have or to win, instead of living just to live like the bird that sings without knowing it and the child who plays unaware he or she is playing;

in no country shall young men who refuse to go to war go to jail, rather only those who wish to make war;

economists shall not measure “living standards” by consumption levels, nor the “quality of life” by the quantity of things;

cooks shall not believe that lobsters love to be boiled alive;

historians shall not believe that countries love to be invaded;

politicians shall not believe that the poor love to eat promises;

earnestness shall no longer be a virtue, and no one shall be taken seriously if he can’t make fun of himself;

death and money shall lose their magical powers, and neither demise nor fortune shall make a virtuous gentleman of a rat;

no one shall be considered a hero or a fool, for doing what he believes is right instead of what will serve him best;

the world shall not wage war on the poor, rather on poverty, and the arms industry shall have no alternative but to declare bankruptcy;

food shall not be a commodity, nor shall communications be a business, because food and communication are human rights;

no one shall die of hunger because no one shall die from overeating;

street children shall not be treated like garbage because there shall be no street children;

rich kids shall not be treated like gold because there shall be no rich kids;

education shall not be the privilege of those who can pay;

the police shall not be the curse of those who cannot pay;

justice and liberty, siamese twins condemned to live apart, shall meet again and be reunited, back to back;

a woman, a black woman, shall be president of Brazil, and another black woman shall be president of the United States; an Indian woman shall govern Guatemala and another Peru;

in Argentina, the crazy women of the Plaza de Mayo shall be held up as examples of mental health, because they refused to forget in a time of obligatory amnesia;

the Church, holy mother, shall correct the typos on the tablets of Moses and the sixth commandment shall dictate the celebration of the body;

the Church shall also proclaim another commandment, the one God forgot: “You shall love nature, to which you belong”;

clothed with forests shall be the deserts of the world and of the soul;

the despairing shall be paired and the lost shall be found, for they are the ones who despaired and lost their way from so much lonely seeking;

we shall be compatriots and contemporaries of all who have a yearning for justice and beauty, no matter where they were born or when they lived, because the borders of geography and time shall cease to exist;

perfection shall remain the boring privilege of the gods; while in our bungling messy world every night shall be lived as if it were the last, and every day as if it were the first.



Translated from the Spanish by Mark Fried.

Mark Fried has translated several of Eduard Galeano’s books and other works of Latin American literature. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.

—Eduardo Galeano is the author of 13 books, including the epic trilogy
 Memory of Fire and the classic history Open Veins of Latin America. He was the first recipient of the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom in 1999, and resides in Montevideo, Uruguay. His latest work, Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World, will be published by Metropolitan Books in 2000.

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