Venezuela & the North American Academic Left / Carlos Padrón

a leftist academic in the humanities in the united states takes on as his subject of study (for a paper, let's say) Chávez's funeral, or the brand name clothes worn by the opposition activists who appear on TV, or simón bolívar's disinterred corpse, or the political potential of the misnamed “chavista hordes,” or the revolutionary potential of the communes in venezuela, or about the racial geography of caracas, or about the importance of the difference between the words “insecurity” and “criminality,” or about the new and necessary populism of the red tide starting from the venezuelan case, or about the re-semantization of the concept of “border” and of “sovereignty” based on the closing of the border between colombia and venezuela, or about the gochos (from the mountains of western venezuela) as a version of the tea party in south america, or about the rhetoric of telesur (and all the other chavista media) as a form of radically critiquing the coloniality of knowledge, or the topic of sifrinismo (middle & upper class mores) in venezuela as a political concept, or about the bio-politics of power in relation to the bodies submitted to the violence of the private media... all of this based on second-hand references, or because they saw it on tv, or because they went to venezuela as tourist-activists, or because it serves them to “prove” a theory they’ve already developed. they speculate wildly and with absolute certainty from a distance. then they publish the paper in a north american magazine no one reads. thus nothing changes at all in the space-time of the area of their object of study. but they accrue points to obtain tenure with a sexy topic in the north american academy. they obtain prestige among leftist intellectuals in the north american academy who are at the same time their best friends or their followers. they’re paid an astronomically high salary in comparison to the people that constitute the geographic area of their object of study. they get tenure. they become the petite bourgeoisie they always criticized, and based on that very same critique, they obtained their well-deserved academic position.

Translator’s Note: the title for this translation is my own, as the original post is untitled.

{ Carlos Padrón, Facebook, 10 September 2015 }


Boludo Tejano said...

or about the new and necessary populism of the red tide starting from the venezuelan case

While I am proficient enough in Spanish to have worked in Latin America for 4 years, and to have passed a teacher certification exam in Spanish without having taken a college course in Spanish, I am not as accomplished in Spanish as in my native English. When I first saw "Marea Roja" as it refers to Venezuelan politics, my assumption was that the translation was "Red Nausea." Some time after I made that instantaneous translation, I realized that it would not be likely that a Chavista would label his movement "Red Nausea," as irony is not a characteristic one associates with Chavistas. Sure enough, my trusty Cassel's informed me that "mareO" referred to nausea, but "mareA" referred to tide. Oh well.

This was a masterful article. I appreciate your translating it, as my 200 wpm reading speed in Spanish makes it easier for me to read translations.

Reading the article reminds me that I often get a "heist on one's petard" feeling about many oppo Venezuelans who, in spite of the depredations of 16 years of Chavismo, remain on the left when it comes to looking at politics in the US. In the US it isn't just lefty academics who have supported Chavismo. Consider former Democrat Congressman Joe Kennedy, whose Citizen's Oil, courtesy of discounted Venezuelan oil, enables him to keep a $400k/year job at Citizens oil. Doing well by doing good, as the song said. As ol’ Case said, you can look it up- including what some current Democrat Congresscritters have said in praise about Hugo Chávez.

But the right in the US- those troglodyte knuckle-dragging teabagging racist flyover yahoos- no “right-thinking progressive” person in the US would want to be associated with THOSE people. At least that is how many people on the left side of the aisle in the US look at matters. After all, progressives are good people. I will spare you most of the details of my conversion from a progressive of the left to an evil right-winger.

Seeds of the transition were planted in my childhood. One detail from my childhood follows, which I include because of a Venezuelan connection. A family friend, who was a friend of Betancourt before he became President, once said in my presence that the US was as bad as the Soviet Union. I said nothing, but thought there could well be something wrong with the political thinking of someone who concludes that.

Suffice it to say that my time working in Latin America was a leading factor in my changing from a progressive of the left into an evil right winger. One factor was reading Carlos Rangel’s masterful Del Buen Salvaje al Buen Revolucionario, which I purchased in a drug store in Anaco. Reading the book helped crystallize many of my on-the-ground observations of Latin America compared to what the left wing catechism taught me in university about Latin America. Given the influence that my time in Latin America helped put paid to my “progressive” tendencies, I find it doubly ironic that oppo Venezuelans tend to support the left in the US.

Guillermo Parra said...

Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful response. I wish I had more time to respond fully right now. I need to read Rangel's book, it's been on my to-read list forever and I own a copy. Being a Venezuelan American, born in the U.S. and raised in both countries, I have a complex relationship with both cultures. And although I identify as being on the left, I completely agree with you about your critique of the left. I've been debating with U.S. and European leftists about Venezuela for more than a decade.

Honestly, for me all of this is extremely complicated and my stances are always changing. Which is why my central focus in regards to Venezuela is its literature, and translating certain Venezuelan writers into English. But of course, Venezuela's crisis makes it impossible for me to ignore the political confrontation.

Lot's to make sense of and untangle. Thanks again for your thoughts.