August 11, 2007

Lashing out in Montevideo

Quico says: Reading through the transcript of Chávez's speech in Uruguay on August the 8th - sorry, no link, I got it via email - is genuinely frightening. Not so much for the lunatic political rants sprinkled throughout as for what it shows about Chávez's mental state these days, about his increasing paranoia, his sense of victimhood, his serial bullying, about the bizarre extremes his narcissism has reached.

Certainly, his propensity to fly off the handle when he can't get what he wants has always been clear. But, in Uruguay, his outsized sense of personal grievance reached a scary new plateau.

In one especially telling riff, he railed against the media for lying when they said he'd given a ultimatum to the Brazilian and Paraguayan parliaments over Venezuela's accession to Mercosur. And how did such a queer idea wriggle its way into journos' minds? Merely because Chávez announced Venezuela is only interested in joining Mercosur if it can accede by September.

"We won't wait any longer than that," cryptochavista newswire IPS reported him saying last July the 5th, "The Brazilian and Paraguayan Congresses have no reason not to approve our entry: no political, legal, economic or moral reasons."

But in Uruguay this week, he slammed all who took that as some sort of ultimatum.
I was telling him [Uruguayan President Tabaré Vásquez], listen this is like if we were neighbors, good neighbors and good friends, and I decided for some reason to go knock on my neighbor's door. Knock knock! And I look through the window and I see there are people inside and the lights are on - knock knock knock! - I spend half an hour knocking and nobody comes to the door. I retire to wait for new conditions. They can't come to the door, they don't hear me, they have some problem in there so they can't open. It's something similar; it's very simple.
That anyone could have mistaken such a stance for an "ultimatum" seemed genuinely to baffle him. Chávez was even gracious enough to extend Venezuela's, erm, unilaterally set deadline ( use...U-word...) until the end of the year. Otherwise, he said, Venezuela would have to look at "other options."

On second thought, "baffle" is the wrong word: for Chávez, the solution to any such enigma is always at hand. If newspapers misreported what was merely a unilaterally set deadline as an "ultimatum", he could only surmise "they're playing the role of lackeys of the empire."

The fact that "ultimatum" is the word ordinarily used to describe a unilaterally set deadline never enters into it: the only material fact here is that something happened that Chávez hadn't wanted to happen. Ergo, the gringos must be involved somehow.

Obvio, ¿no?

The episode neatly captures the psychic niche Uncle Sam fills in Chávez's private demoniary. The US is a psychological crutch he can't do without, the all-purpose explanation for an otherwise intolerable, incomprehensible, baffling anomaly: that reality, sometimes, fails to bend to his will.

At some point, this debate ceases to be about politics in any recognizable sense of the word. The evidence is now overwhelming that Chávez does not share the cognitive style of a normal, well person. The ultimatum hissy-fit captures the extent of his pathology neatly: we're dealing with a man convinced that even the dictionary is in bed with the CIA.

Psychiatrists have a term for the amalgamation of traits Chávez exhibits: narcissistic personality disorder. The DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for NPD read like a journalistic profile of the guy. This has long been obvious, but now it's really, really getting out of hand.

Three years ago, I posted this essay by Stephen McDonnell. I really think it's worth reading again.

Narcissist Rage

by Stephen McDonnell

The narcissist who is frustrated, who is publicly humiliated, who can't get what he wants, usually will react with anger and rage. They are like frustrated children throwing a fit. Most adults can handle frustration, but narcissists have a low tolerance for denial. A narcissist is always boiling, always thinks others are conspiring against him. Narcissists are always conspiring against others, they tend to think other people are like them.

Paranoia is a problem with narcissists. They want it their way, they want their dream to come true and any deviation or anyone stepping on their toes sparks immediate anger. If they are in seduction mode, they will forgive for the moment, but years later the anger will come back in spades. They never forget a slight or an insult. They plan revenge. Or at least some of them do.

Other narcissists will act as though above the fray, not deigning to be upset. But they remember.

Think of a 6 year old child, think tantrum, remember how kids can say something terrible to you and then forget they said it, but if you reprimand them, they break into tears or they start breaking things.

For a narcissist, rage is the ultimate response to loss of control, and they use it to gain back control over the situation and others. They can be physically abusive and hurtful. If all their words of seduction and gifts do not work, then they will physically intimidate you. Rage can either be feigned or real. As long as it works.

Is it real? Is it a game? Even the narcissist doesn't know. He is playing out his life out of touch with his real self, so who knows what he's really feeling.

I have watched narcissists use rage to get their way, to vent their frustration on someone, then I have watched them walk away, cool as a cucumber, as if nothing happened. Other times, I have seen them break things. No doubt the prisons of the world are filled with narcissists who let their rage get the upper hand. The murderers and rapists with narcissistic disorders learned to like the rush of adrenaline, the loss of control that gave them more control over their victims in the end. If someone dies when a narcissist is angry, he blames the victim for "provoking him." Remember, the narcissist is never wrong, never remembers his own mistakes, and is always in control.

If you want to see them enraged, disagree with them, make fun of them or their opinions, fight back when they attack you. If they feel they're loosing, they will fly off the handle, in a desperate attempt at control. Or they will break down in tears and try to get attention that way; beware, they are experts at manipulation.

August 10, 2007

Projection Chronicles

Chávez says: Demonize someone, demonize him and then you can justify anything. That's the empire's plan. They satanized everything, I remember Tabaré [Vásquez, president of Uruguay], when I was a teenager you would read things about a president there was in Africa, in Uganda. Now I have my doubts, because back then we believed, for sure, that he ate children, that he ate human flesh, he was a cannibal, Idi Amin Dada, I remember it clearly, I don't know if he died yet, that African. He lives in France, he must be very old now, because it was about 30 years ago when I was a young man and you could read that Idi Amin ate human flesh. I have my reasons to doubt, because they say almost the same about me, that's about all that's missing, for them to call me a cannibal. [They say] I persecute people, kill people, I shut down media outlets, all those gigantic lies and all you can say is, "my God!"

-From his speech in Uruguay 2 days ago

August 8, 2007

Labor's love lost

Quico says: One abiding irony of leftist authoritarianism is the way the self-described vanguard of the working class cannot abide working class organizations it can't control.

Interior Minister Pedro Carreño makes it clear that this is one of the many, many points of congruence between 20th and 21st century socialism. In the context of a society-wide transition towards socialism, "all organizations must become agents of that transformation."

The typical rhetorical ticks, the ropaje de palabras involved, barely conceals the authoritarian drive involved. We've all been conditioned by long experience to understand that when chavistas talk about the "urgent need for profound changes in the labor movement," that's code for subordinating it to Chávez's personal dictates.

The particular alibi chosen - the appalling corruption and racketeering flavor of the labor movement - is both genuine and immaterial: chavistizing the unions will mean replacing anti-chavista racketeers with chavista racketeers.

Unions are a prime source of patronage opportunities, in Venezuela and everywhere else...and exactly what is it that's supposed to dissuade the new class of chavista union bosses from using them as such? Contraloría oversight? The prosecutor general's watchful eye? Right.

Back in 2001, Chávez's decision to force CTV into a CNE-organized renewal election gave us one of our first, clear peeks at the scope of his autocratic ambitions. Six years ago it backfired. Newly emboldened by now nearly-complete hegemony over the apparatus of state, he's up for another go. It doesn't seem like a fight the unions are likely to win.

August 5, 2007

The heat is on

Katy says: And the rhetorical about-face continues.

I saw some recent polling data that shows that the only way the Constitutional reform could pass is if Chávez bundles his proposals for indefinite re-election with something more popular. Without missing a beat, Chávez comes up with his latest scheme: to include his "misiones" social programs in the Constitution.

Since these are the most popular of the government's programs (never mind how ineffective they are), it seems like a move destined to make the reform referendum winnable. So now, instead of a referendum for indefinite re-election, we have a referendum to include "misiones" in the Constitution, with a little side-order of indefinite power. I wonder if Misión Cadivi will be included in the Constitution as well?

This campaign is beginning to heat up. It's up to the people on our side to convince the majority that, all rhetoric aside, they should not end up voting for something they clearly do not want.