Problem Solving Colombian-Style

Published in The Ferndale Record, November 9, 2011

Wall Street occupants across the nation are tired of the one percent, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Protests, demonstrations, chants and signs are everywhere. Cities from Miami to Seattle are “occupied” with activists. Some participants don’t really know the facts, but enjoy a good rally. Others are well informed, even militant.

Personally, I like it when the people rise up, accept a call to action, however inconclusive or unlikely the cause may be. This is America and by darn, we’ll kick and scream and get the job done.

Or will we? What change has been effected? Maybe it’s too soon to call.

A few weeks ago, a story reported out of Colombia presented a creative solution to a pressing issue there, and within four months, the problem was solved.

The Associated Press reported that women of the small town of Barbacoas, about 35 miles from the provincial capital of Pasto, Colombia, had effectively demanded and achieved the beginning of building a paved road. The new construction from Barbacoas to Pasto will reduce travel time between the two cities by six hours.

How was it done? The female population of Barbacoas simply denied their partners sex until the Army Corps of Engineers began work on the road.

Brilliant. Complete genius.

The AP article admits, “It is not clear how many women took part, and compliance is impossible to prove.”  However, “Barbacoas Mayor Jose Arnulfo Preciado tells The Associated Press he’ll happily submit to a polygraph to prove the protest was honored. He says his wife slept in a separate room during the strike.”

Apparently, the women in this remote town of 35,000 announced their intention to withhold affection on June 22. By October 11, roadwork was underway and sexual favors were restored.

Maybe this is standard procedure in Latin countries, but I don’t think so. The whole scenario begs the question: Would this method work in the United States?

If American wives, mistresses, and other assorted partners withheld sex from bank presidents, CEOs, and politicians, demanding less big-business greed and more funds filtered to the masses, and they didn’t back down until they saw results, what would happen?

I don’t know the answer to this, but it certainly sounds simple enough. No flag waving and sign holding, no histrionics or public snarling. No taking it to the streets, just plain denial of a basic need to those holding the power.

Occupiers want to be heard. So did the women of Barbacoas. I’m not suggesting sweeping changes around our political process, the business industry, or the way things move in our country. And no, I don’t want to move to Colombia.

But really—just think about it.  Americans can be so full of our own virtue that we miss the point. We make it difficult when the hoped for outcome, in reality, doesn’t have to drag on forever.

Meanwhile, the town of Barbacoas, Colombia is back to connubial bliss and they all have a paved road to show for their efforts.

A simplification of the facts? Maybe. You decide.