The Green Wall: A Libertarian Classic

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Readers
of LRC recognize that Hollywood is generally statist. For example,
a businessman is almost always portrayed as the bad guy in the movies.
So I think it behooves me to report to you about a film that I think
should be a libertarian classic called The
Green Wall
. I recently viewed the film for the first time,
through it was produced in 1970. It was reported to be the fourth
feature film made in Peru (the version I saw is in Spanish with
English subtitles).

It
is art because it depicts truths about the human condition. Furthermore,
the film depicts these truths in a beautiful way, which goes against
the grain of modern art. In fact, going against the grain is a theme
of the movie.

The
movie loosely describes the experiences of the director Armando
Robles Godoy. The film opens with one of the most beautiful love
scenes I have ever seen. As the rain is destroying their potential
for economic security in the jungle, Mario and his wife Delba respond
to their anxiety by making love. The mosquito netting around their
bed becomes a cloud, and the troubles of the world are left behind.
They are brought back to earth by the plea of their son Romulo for
a drink of water.

As
told through flashbacks, Mario became disenchanted with life in
Lima while many of his countrymen are moving to the city. He decided
to take advantage of a government program for homesteading in the
jungle. Despite the fears of Delba, and the protests of family and
friends, he moves his family to the house he has built in the jungle.

A
major theme of Latin American literature is the battle against nature.
In this case the jungle, the eponymous Green Wall, certainly is
a difficult host to the family. But it is also beautiful and fertile.
At times a Bach air is played to evoke a sense of tranquil beauty
when jungles scenes are shown.

However,
the greatest danger, the greatest obstacle, to the family's well
being is the government bureaucracy that is supposed to help the
settlers. During a Kafkaesque series of frustrations, Mario attempted
to gain title to his land. The individual bureaucrats recognized
his heroism (he could be described as a Randian hero, he tells the
clerk he wants "to produce"), even if they also believed
it was tragic and misplaced. Thus they did try to help him on occasion.
As he finally learns that the proper form has been signed and he
owns the property another group of government workers make a boundary
through Mario's land, purposely destroying his coffee plants. This
is in spite of the fact that he had previously informed the bureaucracy
of the error in placing the boundary through his claim.

The
waste, hypocrisy, and harm that the government causes the people
are illustrated by way of the subplot of a presidential tour of
the district. The presidential motorcade wound its way like a serpent
toward the town closest to Mario's house. It bodes danger, like
the snake that is also shown moving through the jungle grass towards
the home. Among the examples are that the road is only repaired
for the president, and will not be maintained after he leaves. The
presidential entourage visits the local agriculture station. The
staff proudly displays a large palm fruit for the president. In
a side comment we learn that they have spent 20 years working on
this project. Furthermore, farmers like Mario do not even grow palm
fruit, thus they believe it is not profitable to produce. In the
end, this tour hinders the family in an emergency causing tragic
results.

The
film reinforced my observations
from a recent visit to South America; the gist being the misfortune
of good, intelligent people who are checked in their economic advancement
because of government.

May
17, 2005

Ira
Katz [send him mail] teaches
mechanical engineering at Lafayette College.  He is the co-author
of Handling
Mr. Hyde: Questions and Answers about Manic Depression
and
Introduction
to Fluid Mechanics
.

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