SFP LOGO, Peter Tase.

Secretaria de la Funcion Publica
Perfil de la Cultura y Estilos de Liderazco

Culture, Faith And Politics In Paraguay – OpEd

June 15, 2013

By Raquel Elizabeth Iglesias, M.Sc.

In Paraguay, religious culture consisting of rites and customs of the past, such as the notion of “ñande mboriahu” (we the poor), imposes a fatalistic mentality of mystic thinking, which employs the power of saints, fortune and progress, and ignores the self-esteem and intellectual potential of every individual as well as underestimates the incentive and hard work of rural Paraguayans. The search of the land without evil (“maraney”), of the indigenous culture perhaps explains the tendency of abandoning places, in search of a better opportunity, that does not depend upon the individual’s potential but on the imaginary and mystic powers that one encounters spiritually.

According to Monsignor Sinforiano Bogarin “in one nation with a mentality of special perseverance, before anything else they prefer good assurances” so that Paraguayans should proceed as Neufeld would state in his book, “fortiter et suaviter” therefore God has destined these people to stay at home, work and obey. Neufeld raises a legitimate question, whether this statement is not even orient towards some variations of slavery, apparently not only the miscegenation had its effects in the conduct of Paraguayans but it is also reinforced through the kind of thinking from proper institutional leadership in closed and dominated societies.

Paraguayans in their tribal culture always link the image of the leader with power, this explain many of their leadership showcased in a working environment, including relations with their superiors, and in relation to their subordinates, embodying a strong culture influenced by popular religion and folklore shaped by myths, superstitions, that impose a perception of fatalistic resignation and of permanent dependency.

Tribal culture recognized only a single authority, the “mburuvicha” or the leader, which carries the role of being the ​​father or namely “ru” in Guarani. This environment perhaps highly generates the great dependence of Paraguayans and instills in them a significant lack of initiative, lack of “entrepreneurship” or entrepreneurial capacity. In Paraguay’s tribal culture all are considered equal, but there is one “mburuvichá”; no one can give an order to his subordinates, with the only exception of the recognized leader, the President, therefore we see strong ties between the leader and his potential to exert a recognized set of powers. Tribal Culture has a number of disadvantages in the present world.

1. No one understands the moral dimension of a government entity. The government for the tribesman is absolutely unnecessary, the law is in force, but what matters is the usual customs, this produces ignorance towards knowing the laws. Therefore it is valuable to mention the strongman’s law, known in Paraguay as “la ley del mbareté.”

2. The fact that tribesmen are uncomfortable to act upon their own and always depend on the procedural guidelines ordered by their chief, is a recipe that prevents innovation, forward looking attitude and one’s vision for the future. The leadership authority in a tribe resides in personality and not in a structure itself.

3. Tribal life is overall much simple, frugal, without any other aspirations besides living in peace and with basic amenities and clothes. This includes the tendency of contemplation, conformity with limited resources, and the inertia of the past in the Paraguayans’ attitudes.

4. Team work and dialogue is almost imposible to effectively implement in Paraguay’s government offices or in any other hierarchical environment. The only one who has the status of being unequal to the rest of the population is the “mburuvicha”, in today’s context is the President of the Republic. Everyone else owns its own actions, and difficult to work in a team.
Paraguayan society is not only a tribal oriented society but also it is known to be a closed society. As Karl Popper has noted, “closed society are restrictive, intellectually starving, and have people with authoritarian attitude.”
This is why Paraguayan society is of great concern towards fostering its messianic leaders of the XXI century, that reinforce the magic thinking of solving problems and instant practical thinking. Eradicate the attitude of dependence, and promote intellectual thinking of how to become an active participant and not simply a follower; to be the owners of their own present and future fate.
Social welfare and dependence on overall government assistance, brings back the ideas of Victor Emil Frankl, the architect of logotherapy, who said that “he who depends on government support and gratuities, cannot be free, on the contrary, he depends on others and neither owns his future nor his present. The analysis of a study conducted by Alejandro Vial (2006) “Political culture and democratic governance. Tension and uncertainty between the gaps of old and new dreams” shows the adherence of 86 percent of Paraguayans who trust the Catholic Church, and only 27.2 percent trust the National Government. These statistics, may explain that Paraguayans are tired of long lasting negligence, deception and broken promises by their previous governments and in ballots of April 21st General elections entrusted a person who is not a typical politician, indeed he is the wealthiest man of Paraguay; and this magical thinking makes you elect a president whose origins are rooted in spiritualism and religious worshiping.

Translated from Spanish: Peter Tase


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