umair haque

Umair, have you ever heard of José Enrique Rodó?

He was an author who is often cited as one of the main inspirations of Aneurin Bevan, influential on his thought and on his drive to make the NHS a reality in Britain.

I reckon the language barrier probably made Rodó’s warnings go largely ignored — he wrote in Spanish, was not often translated, and used a baroque style that rings horribly boring and archaic to modern ears — and the politics of his day also made him a relatively obscure figure for most people Uruguay, even if he is well known in Latin American literary circles (he was an anti-positivist progressive, but the financially successful, US-friendly positivist progressives were in power, and had the louder megaphone).

Rodó wrote about the concept he called “Nordomanía”, what he saw as an exacerbated fascination with the negative aspects of blindly uncritical American industriousness, and urged the new generations to instead focus their attention on the better aspects of foreign cultures, as well as the rich, millennial cultural heritage of his (our) Latin ancestors.

He wasn’t a nationalist, and he wasn’t a knee-jerk anti-American, but he warned that a lack of genuine cultural identity and the substitution of all traditional values with the all-engulfing profit motive was a sure way to lose ourselves.

And so we did.

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