La violencia que somos / José Delpino

Our Intrinsic Violence

Are we keyboard citizens? Or citizens made of slogans? I write words in a republic made of air founded in a plague. Of people who know how to get away with things. Standing tall and completely lost. Exalted. A Rafael Cadenas, less Zen, more Tabla Redonda than the one today, might have told us we are snake eaters. I don’t know, but the list of people I love and fear —and I’m not referring to any specific social class, nor to any political faction as a source of that fear—, the list of those people I can’t distance myself from, doesn’t give me a sum of homeland, nor of the people or anything. Despite that, their tangible presence is not diminished and it’s not as though there aren’t rivers of consciousness that move through their ruptures.

Maybe I’m mistaken: I don’t feel optimistic. I hope I’m wrong, but this is a country of numerary strangers. And yes, sometimes the sensation of a mass joined together that runs through it is emotive, exalted. Yesterday the 6th of March I saw it, I walked through it, I tried to become a part of it, I was successful to a certain point, I was able to enter its endless preserve of emotions, consciousnesses and slogans. But I remained more or less silent. Something very big changed in Venezuela and I don’t know yet what the 5th and 6th of March mean yet amid this process I’m living alongside all of you since my childhood, since the late 1980s, to be exact. I can’t deny it, something really big changed in Venezuela. We aren’t in 1989 anymore, nor in 1999, but eventually, no matter who wins the upcoming elections, I don’t think we’re going to be left in the hands of responsible politicians, ones prepared for the mountain of sweat this country requires. I hope I hope I’m mistaken again and these lines are a series of pessimistic errors. I feel somber but also moved, upset. I hope we never embalm these days and that from them we understand something more than intelligent cynicism and wild and visceral slogans.

There’s so much day to day work to be done in this place, in this we insist on calling homeland or country, or whatever it might be, and not leave what must be done in no one’s hands; what must be done but beyond the bubbles, beyond what we naively call “politics,” further on, toward an encounter with various possible and strictly necessary “us” (and “them”) that we have yet to conceive. Possible “us” that we don’t imagine as so pure, dear compatriots of the absent homeland; and at least that way, I feel it’s absent, my unknown brothers from all factions. To the degree that we understand that politics is everything we might be able to survive as a country, as a homeland. Politics is to act in everything but it’s not just emotion and slogans, nor is it the technocracy of elites, intellectual hyperawareness, or delivery benefactor State.

Chávez was, Chávez is a necessary wound, though I don’t plan on idolizing him, nor did I ever, nor will I ever. We have to understand that, I think. And I know that I sound dogmatic, but I’d wager everything on that phrase. Chávez was, Chávez is a necessary wound. A living wound. Highly beloved by many. But yes, also, precisely because that wound is something living and being here among us, lovers or detractors, distanced, impassioned or ill-gotten opportunists, we have to understand that life and politics are more than just leaders who save us from something —or who protect us for altruistic purposes—. My syntax is fucked up writing this down, because it hurts me. I have to correct these lines over and over. The hurdles insist, even though I “correct them.” Or maybe they’re visible. The slogans cover them up pretty effectively: the errors, the hurdles and, finally, the disgraceful things. Chávez’s death hurt me and still does, and I was with the people who follow him (and others who don’t) yesterday the 6th of March in the street around Los Ilustres. And I was there and it hurts, not because I follow Chávez, or idolize him or anything like that, but because all of this from our recent history (1989-2013) has been since his arrival and just a little bit before that a necessary wound, a ritual violence —surprisingly contained considering what it could have been—, a ritual violence over a sick nation, so sick. Chávez is in a certain manner a manifestation of that wound. I don’t cry for him but it hurts me, and if had hate —which he did—, I don’t plan on repaying it now with more hate. I prefer to repay it, and collect, with other actions that have nothing to do with hate, but neither with idolatry. I don’t think I’m better because of that, but I think it’s necessary and it comes out like that. I never hated the guy. At least not completely, not without profound doubts.

I can’t think all this in any other way. At least now: the death of Chávez and the history that marks backwards.

My face is sunburnt from spending March 6th on the street. I was with Oriette, it was her idea to go, not mine. I hadn’t thought about it. I wanted to remain on the margins, but she insisted, I’ll never know exactly why. It was like an instinct and I decided to. I ended up appropriating her idea for myself during that transit through the streets as soon as we head there. I don’t regret trying to be a part of the goodbye ritual or the birth or whatever so many have called it. Chávez’s death hurt me and in that measure I join in mourning with those who love him, without expecting them to love me. I don’t love Chávez. I live him like a country’s wound, a necessary wound. That is, not as a necessary caudillo. There’s a difference. Chávez wasn’t just a caudillo or an authoritarian or charismatic leader. He was also something else.

My face is sunburnt and that reminds me that I’m not sure if we’ve understood that we’re a country crossed by violence within and from all of us, and that we have to see how we assume this so that it won’t explode soon. We’ve grown in number by many, and in other ways, under the protection of petroleum since the beginning of the 20th century: a token played with a great deal of sweat, much hard work and blood and bone sacrifices —there you have my deceased grandfathers who worked so hard for the petroleum industry, one in the Amuay refinery, the other in a towboat at the Lagoven refinery—. Petroleum has also been a token played with great improvisations and excessive confidence placed on infinity, with excessive looting. One of my grandfathers, the one on the boat, also had sunburnt, tanned, forever tanned skin. Under the protection of petroleum we have postponed violence many times, but it’s always been there, in all these generations that precede us.

Chávez ritualized the violence and the tragedy of a sick country, of a country that has outgrown the clothes it ordered for itself. (We sometimes forget he was a professional from the Military Academy, an officer, sown by this era.) Chávez ritualized the violence and the tragedy of a sick country. Chávez made it a voice, that tragedy and that which day by day was more excluded. He gave it a meaning and he contained it. (It would also be good to think about what president Rafael Caldera did.) When I think like that I don’t forget that in these years there has been a great deal of physical violence. Many deaths. Many bullets. Many criminals. But I think you’d have to be crazy to blame Chávez for all those deaths. Let’s not fool ourselves regarding an extremely complex situation. Think about it. And it’s true, one can’t simply forget all the retaliations, the black lists, the persecutions, the insistence on not understanding the other as anything beyond a ghost enemy. The other faction, to which I belong, also has an account. Let others say if I participate in it.

It hurts me that he’s died, with all his faults, his great errors. Maybe he could have helped a little more in that ritual task that I’m talking about; as president or whatever his role might have been. I think his life was the best option. But he’s gone. Some people hoped for his death, we can’t hide that fact, but I wish Chávez had beat that cancer. Today some people celebrate. They are naive, and quite sadly naive. Let’s not create false ideas. I’m sure (and I say it with conviction) that the majority of those of us who aren’t with Chávez are disgusted by that notion of going around hoping someone dies. I don’t want hate to be repaid with hate, but I don’t want to turn the other cheek. The Chavista brothers, their leaders, should think too: the millions, I repeat, the millions of us who aren’t with Chávez are something more complex than what some people want to believe, or make others believe. We’re much more than knaves of the empire or a traitorous mush. That’s all a false specter to avoid looking at what’s right in front of you. You should take advantage of these days to think about it, Chavista brothers: what is the collective image of us that you’re going to create for these years? Are you simply going to look through slogans at those millions of us who don’t follow Chávez and don’t idolize him, just because you are millions? There are hatreds among you as well. Do you plan on justifying them all with a clean moral wand?

Yes. Chávez’s death hurt me. His agony hurt me. And I join you in mourning. He’s gone. His laid out body can no longer return, nor his mind or ritual cunning to be truly present among us. His particular and unrepeatable ritual violence over us cannot return. And we, all of us who remain here while we can, what will we do? What do we want to do with the country he leaves us and with our innate violence. The more we pronounce from all corners and factions (from all corners?), separately, the word “unity,” what I notice the most is an immense generalized obstacle against meeting and knowing about the other, the different one; I’m not a judge, nor am I a leader. But if that’s all we do, you should know we’re fucked, fellow citizens from both factions. This matter of national unity is laughable but also frightening, suspicious, paranoid. It’s not a matter of forgetting our differences, our irreconcilable points, the skirmish in order to be a country. We will have to think deeply about our innate violence.

If we don’t move beyond the slogan at the tip of our nose, the illusion of saving the world, and if we don’t escape the precariousness of the locks and gates, or from the glance over our shoulder toward the one we might consider inferior or a spoiled brat, none of that will save this petroleum mine, this massive quantity of drinking water that we are, this vast earth of exalted numeraries, more violent that we’re willing to believe ourselves. Nothing will save us. Nor can we remain expectant, repeating our usual gestures, watching TV, writing on these networks and praying to the god of the State or the vote, or of cynicism, or of the easy chair. We need to have the new elections, but no matter who wins they won’t save us.

We have to exist as a collective, as collectives, strong and receptive in our differences and our efforts, without stupidly pretending to annul them with a utopian unity, we have to exist well above the “politicians” and the leaders fate has given us, that so much history has left us in its wake, on the streets. They won’t really make this thing walk. It’s the work of ants, the politics of one brick at a time, and the daily encounter with difference that can create something good for the years ahead and to serve as a ground and a demand against so many leaders who are willing to lose wander off. The years ahead will be hard, we should know. If we aren’t strong and don’t acquire a consciousness of bricks, and ants and streets, then reds, blues, yellows, whites or blacks, mature or not, blinded by our own supposed glorified virtue, or naive believers in false freedom and tolerance, what we’ll end up doing is selling off not a country but an oil field of a country to the first person who walks by, with treaties, accounts and investments, believing in stories of progress or stories of anti-imperialist slogans. Let’s not be foolish, please. A country can be sold in many ways. And we can’t pretend we don’t know this in the meantime. And we have been experts in selling it off throughout our history. In selling many things. Violence won’t save us from selling off this desired earth that we are, full of numerary people.

Miguel (my father), Rita (my mother), Gustavo, Ernesto, Eduardo, Camilo and many others I know, who followed and follow Chávez, are my brothers on this earth we were given, they have first and last names and they aren’t something abstract; the people I was with on the street today —some of them knew that Oriette and I weren’t Chavistas, they realized it—, none of them are an abstract people. All of them, even though we might not ever agree, are my brothers. (I cling to that word though it might be precarious.) I don’t know if we’ll be able to escape even from a certain verbal violence, or from certain partial violence, but they’re my brothers. I want to cling to that. Not agreeing can also be a motor and a wealth, if we know how to take advantage of it: political systems of factions and parties in “consensus” can sometimes be the most sterile thing in the world.

We have to be different, but without glorifying ourselves. I write this at dawn on March 7th and I hope the future dawns will be good; and not because violence might wake us at dawn. The worst thing that could happen to us is to turn the one who’s different into a spectral enemy. Specters can number in the millions. And to stand on the ground. Ideas, surely, and perhaps happily they definitely won’t die.

{ José Delpino, Autopista Inmóvil, 7 March 2013 }

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Stunning piece of love for your country and country's people. It radiates with deep-thinking purpose as you attempt to get to clarity as one who mourns the "wound": a life, a past, a future, the believers, the doubters, the opportunists primed for power, the ex-partiots--all people breathing again, and again in this hard life: we're all connected.