I’m welcoming May with Ana Tijoux’s Shock, which celebrates Chile’s student protests for universal access to education and an equitable future. The title is a reference to the neoliberal “Shock Doctrine” imposed on the country through the CIA-backed coup of September 11, 1973 and the dictatorship that followed. The regime combined brutal military rule with harsh economic austerity, which included public school closures and the implementation of enrollment and tuition costs which restricted access for students with limited means. I won’t attempt to summarize the history, but for anyone unfamiliar, a good starting-point is Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, which gives a useful perspective on the Chilean coup as well as its relationship to the broader era it helped to usher in.
Today’s student protesters invoke this history to resurrect the demand for equitable distribution of democratic and economic power, beginning with education for all. Some concessions have been won, including a reduction on the interest rate on student loans, but the work is not done: in November, four student leaders won seats in Chile’s Parliament. There is good reason to hope that the struggle for justice will continue.
Ana Tijoux, whose family was forced into exile by the coup, describes the protests as “a huge lesson about the ability to unite. This is reflected in her refrain: “No permitiremos más, más tu doctrina del shock:” we won’t allow your shock doctrine any more. It’s easy for all of us to feel disempowered by the forces that govern our lives and constrain our sense of what is possible. But by standing together, we demonstrate to each other the timeless truth that when we support each other to envision a better future, almost anything is possible.
Source Note: Since I’ve started sharing music here, I got a request to include the story of how I found each artist, when I can remember it. I’m pretty sure I first learned about Ana Tijoux when she was featured on Control Machete’s “Como Ves,” although it was several years later before I got a hold of her solo work, which is even more powerful. I saw Tijoux perform live two summers ago, and it was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time – if you get the chance, don’t miss her.