Conciencia de enfermedad / Colette Capriles

Awareness of Illness

For me, the most brutal paradox of all this is the drama we now contemplate in astonishment: that the iron fist of power has been able to dissolve, without intending to, the structures of the State that should serve as its instrument. The situation in Venezuela today is that there is neither State nor public authority in the normal sense of these words; we live in the pre-political state of nature, with institutions substituted by “because I feel like it” and “whoever doesn’t like it can leave.” At this point Gramsci’s inevitable dictum is spoken by the acolytes of the “revolution:” “The old dies, the new emerges; it is the season of the monster,” now turned into a justifying slogan, a celebration of the original chaos that will give birth to the new era.

But the street smells chaos and its eternal companion, fear. One would have to remind the “Government” (it’s just a saying) that if the voters once obviated the uniform and the coup-plotting of Chávez the candidate, it was precisely because the mythology of military discipline and its promise of order presented itself as the final solution for a worn-out political cast. Today, that zeal for “final solutions” has ended up being characteristic of Chavismo; public work is conceived with the same short-sighted will, packaged in “missions” of limited reach and evanescent presence.

I’ve heard, from primary sources, that when general Ochoa, many years before he was killed in a firing squad by the Cuban regime, was sent to operate with Venezuelan guerrillas, he emitted a definitive diagnosis: that oil made revolution impossible in Venezuela. I have no doubt that the thousands of Cubans living among us now must think the same thing, as they observe the national obsession with Hummers and silicone breasts, and they thank God for that. But just as in Cuba the adoption of Marxism ended up being mixed together with nationalism, creating the “cold war” model package needed for justifying Castro’s personal power, the revolutionary combo in Venezuela is serving to justify not only the formation of a new oligarchy around the caudillo, but above all to legitimate chaos, paralysis and the abandonment of those who are society’s object. Using the revolutionary template and the format of the supposed Caribbean left, new meanings of the political map are being sketched: the adoption of the correct vocabulary guarantees, like a flying carpet, a perfect slide over the twists of reality.

It is true that there is an epidemic of what the protagonists have baptized a turn to the left in Latin America. With that name they camouflage the illness of populism and caudillismo that once again flowers precisely because it is baptized with new adjectives. We have not ceased being the West’s laboratory: if this continent has any importance it is to keep serving as an experimental space, like during the Independences whose failures or successes barely leave a trace in the world’s historical consciousness. The dance of the Latin American oligarchies continues: new elites are formed, new captains of industry, new political and union mafias, while the masses gather the few rations demagogic discourse concedes to them. The political fatigue of other latitudes has allowed for the fact that 21st century authoritarianism disguises itself as socialism so as to be seen with some sympathy, as if a tolerance towards the self-proclaimed left could redeem old Europe from its indifference and the United States from its egocentrism.

It looks like the governing elite don't know this country very well. It’s not enough with being or believing yourself to be Venezuelan to understand it, because understanding comes from reflection, from sensibility to the interpretations of what we are, and not merely from the particular experience of having been raised in the tropics or thinking of oneself as being more mestizo. Having substituted dogmatism for reflection, the fast-food of military authoritarianism in a socialist version, the disconnection suffered by the world of power with the one of the street can be understood. There is no comprehension of the inertial forces that Venezuelan society acquired during its modern transit through the 20th century and an effort is underway to make them submit to a pulse, as if more power and more control could erase what power and control have created. Before his transformation into Mr. Hyde, vice-president Rodríguez, as a psychiatrist, must have surely encountered the greatest obstacle to therapy, which is the lack of what is called “awareness of illness,” that suspicion that something is not right, which is absolutely necessary for beginning any cure. The Government (just to call it something) should consider the voices, attuned to the revolution’s 440, that are pointing out the symptoms of its illness, which amid euphoria and depression are keeping it too far from the real world.

{ Colette Capriles, El Nacional, 22 March 2007 }

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