Cardenales, ateos / Fernando Rodríguez

Cardinals, Atheists

In a short wire published in El Nacional we read of an angry attack by the poet Ernesto Cardenal against Daniel Ortega for sabotaging his candidacy to the Nobel Prize in Literature, in revenge for his criticism of the government. For me, this awakens at least two curiosities.

The first is of a political order: the poet’s rupture with the Sandinistas and his harsh judgments of them are well known, and they’ve even been gathered in one volume of his memoirs [La revolución perdida, Madrid, Editorial Trotta, 2004]. That’s not the matter, but rather his devotion for Chávez. Because if Ortega is undoubtedly a political reject responsible for all types of somersaults and who has allied himself with anyone who might be of use to him regardless of their character, which has been quite low in many cases, Chávez is not precisely a revolutionary vestal, in the manner of Che or of Fidel himself. Instead, much of what Cardenal criticizes in Ortega has been carried out to the umpteenth power by our national hero in Venezuela. Every day this government plays a larger role in our red pages and in our rose colored ones devoted to leisure and social ostentation in the newspapers. It’s what we might call a case of political myopia, seeing the detritus nearby but not far off in the distance, an illness that’s quite generalized (as well as its opposite, hypermetropy).

The second matter that surprises me in such a brief news item is of an existential order: I have been a more or less assiduous reader of Cardenal’s poetry and, beyond the political commitment of his work, it contains an evident mystical spirit, in the strict sense of the word. He wasn’t a cloistered monk in vain and among his most beautiful texts are those dedicated to divine love. That St. John of the Cross ended up hand in hand with Che can be odd, but in his view they are two forms of sainthood. The point is that a soul as pure as that of the poet and priest, revolutionary and mystic, becomes so enraged with such a mundane thing as a literary prize, even if it is the Nobel. We already know what true Christians should think about the glory of the world. And it’s good to remember the example of Sartre, a radical atheist, who rejected the coveted laurel so that his work wouldn’t be institutionalized, because he wanted to continue being a ceaseless negativity. Such earthly anger from the Nicaraguan cleric reminds me that Luis Castro Leiva, in his book Insinuaciones deshonestas, exhibits the case of a priest who at the end of the colonial period solicits permission from his superiors to wear a wig, in order to increase the seduction of his faithful and inculcate them with faith. Luis uses this example – and others – to demonstrate how during its death rattles colonial life was already penetrated by the mundanity of the enlightenment spirit. In the case we’re now addressing one has to ask about the claim many have made regarding the mediatization of the Catholic religion, of which one of the greatest examples was that idol for the multitudes, John Paul II.

Returning to the case of the athenaeums [cultural centers] and related matters – it’s now being said that the academies are next – the latest issue of Todos adentro puts what will happen in the mouth of Farruco [Francisco Sesto]: in the meantime, the athenaeums can’t be controlled because they are private entities and, moreover, the Vice Minister of Culture recognizes their noble efforts. Now, if they aren’t democratized they won’t be able to count on funding or installations from the State.

Which means Socialism or Death for most of them. Democratize means reform the statutes so that communities can have access to their decisions and the election of their authorities. Of course, the communities that barely pay attention to culture and that usually prefer RCTV or Venevisión or the game of Bolas Criollas end up being hordes of red shirts who each day are more proficient in these types of tasks involving the displacement of anyone who doesn’t wear red, substituting merit with party affiliation, or membership in a Bolivarian circle or a mission or the militias or the armed forces. All of it legal, and above all, perfectly democratic.

{ Fernando Rodríguez, Tal Cual, 27 August 2007 }

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