If you’re been following the news, you might have seen reports about civil unrest in Chile– the worst in decades.
I lived in Chile for more than seven years before moving to Puerto Rico; I still have business interests there, along with hundreds of employees (both foreign and local), many of whom I’ve been speaking to over the last few days.
First things first, Chile is ordinarily a quiet, stable, peaceful country.
The last time Chile went to war was 140 years ago back in 1879. They even skipped both world wars.
And while there are occasional protests, Chile is quite tame by Latin American standards.
It’s also the most modern and advanced nation in the region– this is not a destitute, impoverished country.
Chile has thriving industries and a large middle class that’s in better shape than just about anywhere else in the region.
But just like every other country in the world, there are countless imperfections.
Inflation has eaten away at the purchasing power of workers’ incomes, and a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet.
The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was a 3% increase in metro fares.
It’s nothing. But it was enough to make thousands of people become completely unglued, resulting in riots, looting, arson, and all-out mayhem.
Let’s talk about some of the key lessons from this:
1) It can happen anywhere.
It’s not just Chile. Looking around the world right now we can see major demonstrations and even violence in places like Hong Kong, Spain, Haiti, Lebanon, etc.
The ‘yellow vest’ movement in France in late 2018/early 2019 brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets to torch cars and destroy property, all apparently in protest of rising fuel prices.
Political tensions, social tensions, economic tensions… they exist everywhere, in rich countries and poor countries alike.
People everywhere are tightly wound, and it doesn’t take much for them to become unhinged. If you think this can’t happen where you live, think again.
2) It can happen faster than anyone realizes.
The weather in central Chile is one of the great benefits of living there; it’s warm, sunny, and dry… southern California climate.
And this past Friday was a particularly beautiful day. By lunchtime, people were out in the parks enjoying the weather. It was calm, peaceful, and joyful.
Within a matter of hours the city had turned into a war zone. Hours.
One of my team members told me on the phone yesterday, “If you had said on Friday afternoon that Santiago would be in chaos by nightfall, I would have laughed… And then it happened.”
3) It only takes a few idiots.
There are roughly 18 million people living in Chile. And there may even be a few million people nationwide who are deeply frustrated about the rising cost of living.
But only a few thousand have been stupid enough to cause such chaos and devastation; they’ve destroyed dozens of metro stations, buses, and even lit office buildings and grocery stores on fire.
Innocent people have died. And almost everyone else has had their lives heavily disrupted.
They can’t get to work. Schools are closed. Grocery store lines are crazy. There’s a curfew. Tanks are in the streets.
Most people are rational and peaceful. They might be angry about certain issues, but they know that torching property and killing innocents won’t solve anything.
Only a trivial fraction of a percent of the population are acting like cowards– the ones who steal a bunch of flat-screen televisions from the neighborhood electronics store before setting it on fire.
And they’re selfish and delusional enough to believe in their own righteousness– that their actions are justified as payback because of some economic injustice.
Yeah. Because nothing proves your moral superiority more than looting flat-screen TVs.
4) They often think Socialism is the answer.
Human beings seem hardwired to think that they can solve any economic injustice with Socialism.
More often than not, people don’t even think through the issues. They feel symptoms– difficulty making ends meet, difficulty getting ahead in life, etc. and they get angry.
And that’s where the analysis stops. There is no analysis actually. It’s just anger.
A rational person thinks things through– why is my cost of living increasing? Why aren’t I getting ahead? What’s the root cause of these problems? How can I fix it?
Again, Chile isn’t perfect. Not by a long shot.
But think about the 18-year old kid taking selfie videos while lighting a grocery store on fire because he’s angry… angry that his education was sub-par, angry that he can’t find a good paying job.
And he’s partially right. Public education in Chile is pretty bad, and he doesn’t have the skills for a high-paying career.
But I wonder how many books he’s read this year? How many free online courses has he taken? What has he done to solve his own problem?
Instead of torching buildings, he could have been at home watching countless videos on YouTube learning how to code in Python. For free.
And in developing real, marketable skills, he would become much more valuable and able to command a substantial wage and work remotely for prospective clients and employers worldwide.
But the Socialist mentality is not about solving your own problems.
Socialism means that you don’t have to lift a finger (except to light a match).
You just have to throw a temper tantrum until someone else solves your problems… even if you can’t even define your problem or present a reasonable solution.
I don’t want to make light of the issues; there are several problems that protesters have bought up which I agree with. But neither Socialism nor burning buildings ever solved any problems.
It may take time, but Chile is undoubtedly going to recover from this nightmare and move on. The ‘sane’ population (i.e. the vast majority) is already fighting back and defending their neighborhoods.
But I can’t help but wonder– where’s next?