Horizontalidad / Fernando Rodríguez


There is something at the heart of the student protests now underway, a characteristic that I haven’t seen highlighted very much, except – imagine that! – in the students’ own discourse. More than anything else, it repeats words such as freedom, civil rights, citizens equality, peace, dialogue, national unification. It is a political discourse and, moreover, a liberal one. Liberal in the best sense of the word, which is political and not economic.

Even among the opposition, a social discourse tended to emerge – poverty, exclusion, confrontation, prostitution of powers… – which, in good measure, wanted to compete, certainly at a disadvantage, with the official discourse, which was much more intense and above all much realer; it’s not the same to give a scholarship than to promise one. This is the source of the governmental chaos when facing this new conceptual horizon that doesn’t fit within their limited understanding.

And this is not something new, many theorists of previous revolutions, the one of the assault on the Winter Palace and the fall of the Berlin Wall, pointed out that Marxism’s great void was specifically its conception of politics, of the State. Althusser went as far as saying that the latter didn’t exist, except in a few adventurous pages of 19th century classics and in Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?, even with the dictatorship of the proletariat that we now know ended up becoming wretched despotism. Or, in other words, the impossibility of conceiving socialist democracy. It wasn’t in vain that the most ostensible abuses and horrors of its long march were committed on that level which was the preferred target of its multiple antagonists.

What’s been said up to this point doesn’t mean, in any sense, that these young people don’t have a socially-minded, surely very varied thought, from the kids at the Universidad Metropolitana to the leftists in the School of Economics at UCV. But it seems as though it will enter the scene during a second episode. For now that limitation has provided an important virtue: the ample unity of dissimilar groups, all of them humiliated by military boots, arbitrary and discriminatory justice, violence, the robbery of public spaces, by the establishment of first and second class citizens… Something along the lines of privileging above all the inalienable principles that defined the rights of man over two centuries ago.

The notable Spanish philosopher Eugenio Trías, along with a few other diagnosticians of these times, has noticed that power no longer tends to function vertically, by means of coercive imposition, but rather through seduction, through the manipulation of desire. It’s enough to notice how codes – sexual ones, for example – have lost their imposing and punitive character in favor of an obvious opening, excessive for some. (Let’s not get into Foucault and his labyrinthine and brilliant topography of disseminated power, but let’s acknowledge his paternity in many of these topics.) If this is the case, the forms of power that subjugate the individual – and these continue to exist, theocratic and lay fundamentalisms – have a limited future. Now, in such an inversion, from the vertical to the horizontal, from the Marines to Hollywood stars, since the latter seem to penetrate more deeply into the structure of human personality, the strategies of power must change.

Developing countries are not exactly one – despite their founding fathers, flags and other items. Generally separated into a modern and cosmopolitan elite and the large majorities submitted to suffering poverty, this scheme doesn’t seem to easily tend toward universality. It isn’t strange then that this vindication of the individual, this formal equality, this condition of the dignity of the human won’t easily reach those for whom primary necessities are a priority. And the red and blind herd substitutes the individual. One has to look at the whole.

{ Fernando Rodríguez, Tal Cual, 25 June 2007 }

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