Gatopardismo — we need this word

I was sitting around — not doing what I should be doing. To better justify it, I started reading an Argentine site called El Ojo Digital (the digital eye). One article quoted an Argentine politician using the term “gatopardismo.” I had never seen this word before and so I did a little reading and it has an interesting literary history beginning in an Italian novel. It means changing things so they remain the same.

It refers to the case of a reformer or revolutionary who makes changes that create an illusion of progress while leaving the underlying reality intact. I wonder if it has to do with spots since gatopardo is a leopard in Spanish. Anyway, the politician was talking about natural resource exploitation in Argentina. He suggested that the incumbent beneficiaries had ensured that a new agreement was nothing more than gatopardismo.

I think we could use gatopardismo in talking about the chokehold the financial industry has over our politics. We knew that, if Hillary was elected, Goldman Sachs would have plenty to say about what the government does. Some people, desperate for change, chose the other option as at least offering the possibility of change.

But, alas, the higher ranks of the federal government are once again filling up with GS alumni and the grip is as tight as ever. What we have is gatopardismo without a word for it. Sadly, I doubt any foreign term, much less one with a Spanish sound can take root in this environment. But it really would be nice to have a word that we could use to talk about this. “Cosmetic change” is too high brow. I can’t see any orator rallying a crowd with it. The child in my head thinks of a quarter tattooed on someone’s ankle.

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