Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Chavismo without Chavez

The title of this post has always been an insult to intelligence as it assumes that Chavez has novel and interesting ideas that could transcend his persona. There is nothing new in the Chavez message, chavismo being a regurgitation of past failed ideas which in addition are misunderstood by their current advocate. The light varnish that pretends to refresh what Chavez would like to call “his” ideas is just a thick charisma and an even thicker oil price make up. But fascist movements have never been innovators, not even able to create new hatred, too content on serving hatreds inherited from the past.

Nevertheless some folks have been murmuring about a “chavismo without Chavez”, as if the “ideas” expressed by Chavez could be better served if someone else with better managerial skills would take the helm. That these ideas are by definition alien to good management shows already that the proponents of such action have no idea of what they are talking about, that we are just in front of some power struggle. Or are we? Sometimes I wonder if it is not Chavez himself that start such rumors to promote the regular purges that regimes such as his require to compensate their lack of democratic values: wishes for changes are inherent in human nature and sacrificing once in a while an acolyte that talked too much is one way to fulfill, for a while, such yearnings.

It is thus with the greatest interest, almost sickening pleasure, that I have read one of the most insightful articles written in a long time over chavismo. Using the excuse of examining what “chavismo without Chavez” means, Daniel Romero Pernalete in fact gives us a gritty portrait of what chavismo has become. The impact of the article comes not only from the strength of its words but also from the realization by the reader that such an article could not have been written 3 years ago. It is thus an eloquent account of the perversion of chavismo, in how it brings forth the worst vices of Venezuelan society and culture in order to secure the hegemonic position of Chavez, even without him if necessary.

The original in Spanish can be found here. The translation by Alek is here. I have reposted it below anyway.

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Without Chavez or Chavismo
By Daniel Romero Pernalete (*)

Chavez´ mad behavior has brought him some grudge among his own army of supporters. International rejection and internal discontent are feeding a dislike of the Cacique (local chief): chavismo without Chavez begins to kick the underbelly of the governing body.

For those feeling outraged, chavismo without Chavez may seem a desirable option, with a low economic and social cost. I do not subscribe to such alternative. Those who are weaving Chavez´ shroud come from the same stock as he. They were born under his shadow and grew up drinking the same milk of insanity.

Chavismo is not the emotional identification with a charismatic leader, it has become something else: a perverse national subculture, a way to misrepresent the world, a vicious manner to exercise politics, an unsavory way to look at life, with or without Chavez.

To be a chavista is to believe one has the right to connect his own greed to the national coffers, through the numerous corruption channels, for those at the upper echelons, to the recurring handouts, for those living downstairs.

To be a chavista is to cover with a thin film of social worries the selfish eagerness to gain attention and personal privileges, whether you are a minister or a neighbourhood leader, or if you carry some kind of badge or wear a red T-shirt.

To be a chavista is to criminalize dissidence, to demonize your opponent, to think you have the right to kill, politically or morally and even physically, no matter if the hangman hides behind a gown or under a red beret.

To be a chavista is to use cynicism as a tool, to see the mote in one’s neighbor’s eye and not the beam in our own´s, to apply an elastic morality for measuring attitudes and behaviours, never mind if the preacher has the rank of vice president or is a simple Mayor.

To be a chavista is to reward mediocrity and hinder ingenuity, to extol banditry and smear straightness, to encourage vices and frighten away talent, to lilliputize the environment in order to feel yourself a Gulliver.

To be a chavista is not to believe in consensus but in imposition, to assume that your ends justify your means, to negate democracy, to crawl away from the future, to live by regurgitating old ideologies.

Chavismo, as a vice, has experienced a metastasis, it has infected the entire social body. It has inverted the values and has speeded up the breaking down of the country. And it will be able to continue doing so without Chavez.

Any attempt to recover Venezuela´s future has to undergo the eradication of chavismo as a culture. This is the culture of clientelism and submission, of corruption and impunity, of cynicism and pusillanimity, of war and death, of authoritarianism and improvisation.

There isn´t much point in vanquishing Hugo Chavez and then continue living with his excrescences. The inertial force will go on pushing towards disaster, even after the initial impulse has been cancelled. Expelling Satan would not improve the climate of hell.

Venezuela can not choose between a chavismo with Chavez and a chavismo without Chavez, between a deified Chavez and a chapel without a saint. The alternative is a country without chavismo. This may sound hard, even intolerant, but tolerance, beyond a certain limit, ceases to be a virtue.

(*) Sociologist, Permanent Professor, Universidad de Oriente, Venezuela.

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