Espíritus burlones / Juan Cristóbal Castro

Mocking Spirits

The ghosts are alive in Latin America. Perón continues to rule in Argentina with Kirchner, and Evita seems intent on being reincarnated in his wife who has decided to be candidate. Without even mentioning Martí in Cuba and of course Bolívar in Venezuela; Zapata also appears once again with subcomandante Marcos.

It is a case, however, of a peculiar art of simulation, because it’s from the power of the living where the ostracism of the dead is being discussed. In Venezuela it has served to revive the victims of February 27th, 1989, the poor of the neoliberal years, the disappearances of Ojeda and Rodríguez, the exclusion of the Communist Party from the Punto Fijo Pact, the social and racial discrimination of minority groups, among other victims.

In an essay on Marx where he revived the communist specter of his Manifesto, Derrida observes that on some occasions those spirits can mock us because they don’t always embody the necessary person. Dictatorships that speak of the “new man” are a good example: they know the use of the dead generates silence, pain, fear. In those systems of oppression, mourning appears like a theatrical representation that manages to diminish criticism and dissent.

Authentic mourning for those the system has relegated is one thing (the ones who “don’t have a name,” Benjamin would say), while the spectacle created by forms of totalitarian power in order to legitimate their dominions in the name of those not living is something else.

Power disguises itself with this mechanism and becomes a sacred space, where dialogue with the beyond would seem to be fruitful and recurring. Not long ago, Rafael Rojas spoke of how the Cuban revolution has been fabricating a spectral politics of Castro, so that he might continue governing from the shadows in case he disappears. We should remember, on the other hand, how Lenin’s cadaver was mummified in order to be seen by everyone in the Stalinist dictatorship: the mourning of his death appears in a Vertov film as the impetus for revolutionary change.

You have to be careful with this mechanism of emotional blackmail. Chávez is very much alive and kicking, and no one speaks through him: neither Christ, nor Bolívar and much less the “Venezuelan people.” His necrological obsession with representing himself as a martyr for the fatherland, as someone who fears he will be assassinated, is nothing but the product of that spectral politics. But there’s no need to keep playing his game. He is responsible for his own words.

{ Juan Cristóbal Castro, TalCual, 14 May 2007 }

No comments: