Can you inherit hate? The karmic question is tested in an HBO documentary about the most notorious public enemy alongside Bin Laden and Hitler
BY PAUL KAIHLA – A DEA agent once told me a story he heard about Pablo Escobar, the late founder and CEO of the Medellin drug cartel. Escobar saw an attractive woman in a Colombian hotel. He ordered his henchmen to do two things: kill the woman’s husband, and bring her to his room, where he raped her.
The tale may be apocryphal, and it appears in no public accounts. But what is in the public record thanks to multiple investigations and sig-int intercepts is that Mr. Escobar ordered: the assassination of 3 Colombian presidential candidates, as well as 100’s of cabinet ministers, judges, prosecutors and cops; the bombing of an Avianca jet that killed 110 passengers . . . it’s a long list of atrocities.
In other words, if you’re going to document a case study on the origins and transference of hate, violence and sin, Pablo Escobar is a cardinal candidate. The first terrorist on a national scale in the western hemisphere, he is perhaps the most notorious misanthrope in our contemporary imagination, alongside bin Laden and Hitler.
We now have a fascinating and courageous inside view into the private life of Escobar in a new HBO documentary Sins of My Father (“Pecados de mi Padre”) — and it essentially asks in the Socratic extreme, like that famous phrase in chapter 20 of Exodus* suggests: Are you responsible for the acts and karma of your parents?
Can sin be inherited?
Carl Jung said, yes, through the collective unconscious or, if you will, an ancestral emotional memory. A variation on the theme is spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle’s notion of “the pain-body,” which includes both the personal pain of each of our formative years with family and the collected fears, hurts and hates of our social tribe.
You’d think that Escobar’s only son, who changed his name to Sebastian Marroquin and now works in exile in Argentina as an engineer, would have a lot of both pains to heal. But Escobar’s outward violence was not felt by his wife or children. He was a doting father who spoiled Escobar
Jr. with a vast collection of go-carts, a private zoo with millions of dollars worth of exotic animals – he even sang and recorded the Italian opera, Barber of Seville, to his loved ones.
When his father was shot to death in December, 1993 by commandos, Sebastian was 16. He publicly threatened to “kill the bastards” who were responsible. But quickly recanted, and embarked on a sojourn in search of solitude and inner peace. He doesn’t share his precise techniques, prayers or practices.
The centerpiece of the movie is Marroquin’s dramatic encounter with the children of Pablo Escobar’s two most prominent victims: a former Colombian minister of justice and presidential front-runner Carlos Galan, who was gunned down at a public rally by a machine-gun wielding Medellin Cartel hitman. The sons of the victims have worked through their pain, and now risen to leadership positions in their society.
What is moving about these scenes is how the sons on each side renounce their adolescent vows of vengeance against the other, sincerely make amends, and speak of their reconciliation as an act of collective healing for Colombia and human consciousness as a whole.
The sensitivity and sophistication of these characters stand in stark contrast to the cliche of Colombia as a backward, contaminated country. For example, Escobar’s son tells the filmmaker at the outset that he could get on peoples’ good side by simply denouncing his father but confesses it would be hypocritical. “We had a loving relationship with him,” reveals Escobar Jr. “We were a family.” On the other hand, he readily acknowledges the unspeakable crimes committed by his father, and it feels like he’s spent the past two decades in a deep energetic atonement for them.
I’m hard-pressed to find a level of intelligence and insight displayed among parallel American scions who have some voice with their generation. A Meghan McCain or, say, John Gotti III, make these guys in the above picture look like Aristotle by comparison
Things have radically improved in Colombia since the Escobar era, and this fascinating film is Exhibit A.
If Colombia of all places can serve as a case study for healing mega-divisions through personal acts of contrition, communication and kindness, maybe for the rest of us . . .
Paul Kaihla is a founder of Soul’s Code, and has written about the Medellin and Cali cartels for national magazines since 1995. His last article about Colombia was not about criminal syndicates but an eco mega-project, “This village could save the planet.”
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