The Computer And Me

by Eduardo Galeano Translated by Mark Fried

 I pressed the COMPLAINTS key. And I complained about the wall
the United States is building on the border with Mexico. A steel wall
that is supposed to block the free circulation of people while the
free trade agreement guarantees the free circulation of money.
	The computer answered: "It is not a wall. It is a work of
art. A giant monument in memory of the martyrs of the ignominious
Berlin wall."
	I pressed DOUBTS. I thought I'd bring up the subject of laws
against immigrants. Laws already passed, like CaliforniaÕs
Proposition 187, that do away with the rights of illegal immigrants,
and laws proposed to eliminate the rights of legal immigrants too. My
doubt is: Are these supposed to benefit the Indians? Since the United
States is a nation of immigrants, only the Indians, the Native
Americans, would be spared. It struck me as a rather moving gesture: a
grand expiation after so much crime and scorn. But the machine set me
straight: In America everyoneÕs an immigrant, the Indians too. They
came from Asia 30,000 years ago. The laws will admit no exceptions.
	I pressed FEARS. I asked if there were some sort of magic ink
for bathing Latin American workers every day at dusk, so they'd be
invisible after their long day in the fields and streets of the
North. It might resolve the bothersome presence of Mexican and Central
American braceros in towns and cities across the United States.
	"Not yet," said the computer.
	I asked if it was true that they were going to open a
U.S. Embassy in the United States of America, right in Washington, so
the C.I.A. could organize coups in its own country.
	"Not yet," said the computer.
	I pressed DOUBTS again. I asked: Isn't it a mistake to call
the government agency in charge of the military the Defense
Department? IsnÕt it a mistake to call the money that supports it
the defense budget? "Defense" strikes me as the wrong word, since the
United States has not been invaded since 1812 but has devoted itself
to invading others at an average of once a year ever since
Independence. And before the computer could answer I added: Besides,
defense against whom, since the Russians are now the good guys?
	"The world threatens. No one can be trusted. The good guys of
yesterday could be the bad guys of today. The good guys of today could
be the bad guys of tomorrow."
	I asked for an example.
	"Tobacco," the machine answered.
	I remembered that yesterday cigarettes had looked good on the
lips of Humphrey Bogart or the Marlboro cowboy. Today they're
bad. Awful. The United States has declared war on smoking. Why? I
asked. Because it gives you cancer? Or because it gives you pleasure?
	Then the computer crashed. I couldn't ask if the Marines were
going to invade tobacco-loving countries to save the world from the
sin of smoke. With no other enemies in sight, it sounded promising.
	The machine refused to work. I wasn't surprised. IÕve never
trusted computers. IÕve always suspected that they drink at night
when no oneÕs looking.

Eduardo Galeano, "The Computer & Me", The Nation magazine, copyright
1995 The Nation Company, Inc. Reprinted with permission.  

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