March 31, 2004

Eight disconnected thoughts about Venezuela

  1. The amazing thing about the unquestioned "The US did it" consensus on the April coup is that it is always assumed or hinted at, never specifically described. CIA involvement is an article of faith.

  2. Today's Seijas poll in TalCual spells trouble for the opposition. Only 48% of Caracas area respondents say they would vote to recall Chavez, vs. 40% who would vote to keep him. Plainly not good enough for the coordinadora. 56% see Chavez's performance in government as neutral or good. (Though, on the upside, in a hypothetical presidential election 50% say they would vote for an opposition candidate, only 36% for Chavez.) If these numbers hold, then the ultimate of ironies is at play: the opposition is fighting like hell to get to a referendum they will lose, while the government goes all out to block a referendum it stands to win.

  3. The central lie in the marketing of the revolution is the claim that the revolution is for the poor and against the rich. Nothing could be further from the truth. The revolution is for those willing to take orders from Chavez without question, and against everyone else.

  4. The question of whether the poor are for chavez depends on your definition of poor. If you take income as the marker of poverty, then 90% of Venezuelans are poor, including any number who had an unprecedented tertiary education and can't get proper jobs now. From a social point of view, these people are middle-class. Due to the opportunities they had under the old regime, they affiliate with the values people acquire through education. Venezuela has a whole cohort of children of campesinos and children of factory workers who had the chance to go to university and improve their lives. They are middle class by culture, poor by economic status, and antichavista by democratic conviction. That impoverished middle class remains the last best hope of a country that's already lived through too much.

  5. The only fundamental ideological commitment the government has is to nonsense. Nonsense is non-negotiable. Systematic nonsense, carefully crafted, radically divorced from reality nonsense applied as part of a broader strategy of mayhem and confusion. The absurd is systematically presented as self-evident. Systematic deception is spread with a kind of malicious pleasure. The breakdown of civilizational standards this forces is the point of the exercise. A Supreme Tribunal can rule that temporary documents, although temporary, are final, and nobody bats an eyelash. It's the principles of aristotelian logic that are under siege here.

  6. Asking a philochavista first world leftie to picture himself in a situation of total impunity, absolute breakdown in the rule of law, political sequestering of all institutions and a revolutionary rhetoric used to justify and celebrate the violation of the rights of a large portion of the population is like asking a fish to imagine what it would be to live on dry land. The questions they ask are exactly like the questions the fish would ask - how does one swim there? is it very deep? They can't seem to quite picture it, because they can't imagine such a thing happening to them. The tendency therefore is to exoticise the nonsense inflicted on Venezuelans. They would have a massive, simultaneous coniption/constitutional crisis if their own governments tried to get away with 1% of the shit Chavez gets away with, but can't see those who march in Caracas as anything more than bored oligarchs.

  7. Hugo Chavez is the single biggest calamity ever to befall the cause of social justice in Venezuela. Not only has his mismanagement and maximalism deeply impoverished millions, but his discourse has discredited left-wing messages to such an extent that, in future, all progressive arguments will be vaguely discredited by an association with the Chavez era. The divisions Chavez has exacerbated will haunt the country long after he's gone.

  8. One day, if I'm lucky enough to have grandchildren, I will gather them around and bore them stiff with stories about this time. When they ask me what I did about it, I said "well, they had these things called blogs back then..."