By Avi Tuschman, author of Our Political Nature (Prometheus Books, September 2013).
In 2002 I found myself traveling to the far corners of Peru, visiting the country’s largest mining and energy investments for a political-risk consultancy. Peru still had fresh scars from the recent Maoist guerilla war and counterinsurgency; and the conflicts festering over the earth’s assets kept these ideological specters very much alive. While gathering field intelligence, I encountered an unlikely collection of movers and shakers: the CEOs of fantastically wealthy corporations, communist defense fronts, indigenous leaders, priests, and authoritarian thugs. I also saw greed, corruption, and coercion. These experiences exposed me to radically different worldviews – and to political extremism. I was riveted by how one group’s notion of good represented another one’s idea of evil.
Since the mining-and-energy sector had billions of dollars at stake in the country, we also kept close tabs on the political dramas that unfolded within the national government. I grew fascinated by the story of the president and first lady, who was also a Stanford alumna and anthropologist. Soon after meeting her I became the youngest advisor in the Palace, where I worked on indigenous people’s affairs. Eventually, I was recruited as President Toledo’s Senior Writer. In this role I crafted articles with the seasoned statesman to shape public opinion. As we traveled around the world after his term, I had the privilege to work with numerous other presidents, and to meet prime ministers, secretaries of state, and legislators from five continents. Continue reading