Felicidad y felicitadores / Colette Capriles

Happiness and Congratulators

Maybe you need to have been educated, as I was for example, in the religion of the future and perfect society whose example was thought to exist in the Soviet Union, in order to have one’s head furnished by the most common or communicable images regarding the happiness we’d be given by a classless society: Eisensteinian drama and agrarian innocence, geometric order and broadsides flapping freely in the wind, barefoot doctors and happily disciplined children, consummate chess players and exultant workers gratefully marching before the Olympus of the Supreme Soviet, swollen with a warrior’s patriotism facing the military panoply. An ample collection of faded images that concealed the fear and subjection to the infernal and impersonal machine of the State and which have remained as relics, testimonies of the vain attempt to create ex nihilo a distinctive culture (and cult).

It’s not that I’m trying to give [Andrés] Izarra and his people a lesson, as I suspect they’re actually trying to create the visual dictionary of Chavismo in order to pull it out of the apologetic image of the “poor man with a uniform” who evokes such a scarce future, but I can’t help noticing that the events of the past few weeks don’t really help the selfless functionaries accomplish their corporate task, at such a hurried electoral pace. The predictions that contemplated the emergency of the intestinal contradictions in the government’s field (from the very moment when it seemed to bask in the hegemony of the 2006 presidential elections) are inexplicably coming true, like a well tempered curse, and they’re unveiling not political factionalism (that, most definitely, is normal) but rather a terrible blind spot for this government: the immeasurable mediocrity and coarseness of its spokesmen and decision makers.

The effect is so vast that even the calls to discipline (that is, to silence) are willfully ignored. On the contrary, they amplify them, because they’ve provoked a type of competition of adulation that convokes the most extraordinary verbal juggling and the most astonishing conceptual pirouettes, revealing a shameful intellectual nakedness. We already know the art of congratulation is only effective when it is undetectable and that requires a refined verbal repertoire.

It’s also due to arrogance, though it would be an arrogance that’s somehow naïve. I suppose the members of the government, starved of sane intellectual commerce with the well-trained people who’ve been excluded from the national project, have developed a type of private language (like univiteline twins) and have forgotten the public tongue. Maybe that’s what explains the profusion of crude terms so many official spokesmen use to whip their auditoriums: most definitely, they speak “domestically,” because the country is like their plantation. And as I was saying, it sometimes seems they genuinely believe, these peculiar speakers, that their private world is universal. The gravity of this is that they’ve lost their original language and no longer understand the tongue everyone else uses. The Greeks, inventors of democracy, never ceased to think about it and recognize (or almost, celebrate) the constant struggle against their own defects. The starting point of democracy is that every citizen has the capacity for judgment necessary to evaluate political life and speak in the assembly.

In Athens this simply meant that he could govern. But this natural wisdom was in no way spontaneous: it stemmed from what they called paideia, which is precisely a general education, not a specialized one. It is the apprenticeship of justice and reverence, of decency, as we’d say now.

The Government doesn’t need to be more efficient. Better said, efficiency is not what it lacks. It’s not a matter of administrating better the handouts for the “slight” demands of the masses, as the President qualified them not too long ago. What’s lacking is decency, consideration, common sense.

{ Colette Capriles, El Nacional, 1 May 2008 }

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