When the obvious is the enemy of the true

“In cases of this kind, the obvious is the enemy of the true,” Gabriel Stolzenberg wrote in a reply in the Science War debate. The quote is very appropriate for the events in Honduras the last year.

When then-president Manuel Zelaya was thrown out by the military on June 28 2009, it was an “obvious” “military coup d’état.” It was so “obvious,” that for the majority of observers it has been absurd to even consider the possibility that it was something else. In fact, anybody who even entertained the idea that one should analyze the legal facts would typically be labeled a “golpista” (coupster), and all debate would stop before it started.

This mentality even reached the highest hall of the world, when the General Assembly of the United Nations condemned the events as a coup d’état without even listening to the democratic institutions of Honduras.

In my book Atlantis from a Geographer’s Perspective – Mapping the Fairy Land I spent some ink on the issue of how to analyze observations and use logic, and how not to fall for terms whose meanings we don’t understand (which was a key point of criticism by Alan Sokal in a Science War argument to which Stolzenberg responded with that dictum). I also pointed out that the greatest threat in science is that we fall prey to our assumptions, and that life is not different from science. To say that the obvious is the enemy of the true is another way of putting it. Also I saw it as an obvious military coup d’état, but following my own advice, when I heard claims that it was a legal maneuver, I went to the bottom of it, sought out legal documents from Honduras, and concluded that indeed it was not a coup. In fact, it was an anti-coup; they stopped a coup d’état.

The real truth about the events of Honduras is that there are dark forces at play, hidden agendas that have not been brought sufficiently to light because so many don’t look beyond the “obvious.”

Amazingly, even the new president of Honduras, “Pepe” Lobo, seems to have had a blind eye until now. Last week he said about the land conflict in lower Aguán, “I think that behind all of this there is a political interest in some sector to generate a problem for this government … to damage it using the theme of human rights.” The interim president, Micheletti, was acutely aware of how the enemies of the Constitution tried to stage conflicts and force a reaction from the state, so that the (legitimate and necessary) response could be portrayed as human rights violations, but Pepe Lobo apparently has not understood what went on in his own country while he was running for president. He seems to have been quite naive, at least until now.

The first task of the president is to defend the nation, but to do that he or she has to understand the nature of the threat. Honduras’s threat now is of a revolution. Those involved in the land occupations are trying to divide the people and force the government to use force, so that some segment of the population will be misled to believe that it is an illegitimate government, and join in a revolution against it. The land conflict in lower Aguán is the center stage for that fight. The goal is expressly stated as overthrowing the form of government; it is not a conclusion or inference on my part, it is what the self-labeled “resistencia” openly says.

Until now I have wondered what in the world Pepe has been up to, but with this news it seems clear. He has not understood the nature of the conflict.

Fortunately, he has realized now what an ugly game is being played against him, and that he needs third party observers who can get the truth out, so that the “obvious” cannot continue to suppress the “true.” Better late than never.

Of course, Pepe needs to vamp up every aspect of the justice system. He promised more prisons, but the country also needs better resources in the courts, prosecution, investigation, and police. Crucially, the police must have popular support, so any hint of corruption must be dealt with. In a country where everyone knows that you can bribe a policeman to avoid a traffic citation, that is a huge mountain to climb.

In my opinion, president Lobo needs to raise his ambition level by many notches, and fast.