Long time readers know that I occassionally blow a gasket when lazy Opposition talking heads describe the government as “totalitarian.” Following on Hannah Arendt’s classic definition, I’ve argued that a Totalitarian government is one that seeks to control every aspect of social life – even the non-political aspects – whereas a mere dictatorship is happy just to control every aspect of political life. Chavez, for me, is an autocrat – not even a full on authoritarian yet – because it’s controlling every aspect of the state that he has concentrated on.
For Arendt, the key to Totalitarianism is an irrational drive to control everything, even matters that are deeply apolitical. In a famous passage, she writes:
“If totalitarianism takes its own claim seriously, it must finish once and for all with ‘the neutrality of chess,’ that is, with the autonomous existence of any activity whatsoever. From the point of view of totalitarian rulers, a society devoted to chess for the sake of chess is only in degree different and less dangerous than a class of farmers for the sake of farming.
It always seemed to me like a crazy exaggeration to put Chavez in that league. But are there pressures in that direction? Well, read this Descifrado bit and you tell me:
Tha National Assembly’s TV Channel, ANTV, shows World Cup highlights from Germany 2006 each night. But it’s not a traditional highlight reel with goals and nice plays. The show has its ideological slant, and at this point it’s just laughable. That’s the revolution. For instance, last night dealing with Spain-Ukraine, the commentators explained that Ukraine was the victim of bad refereeing because it was a country that was part of the Soviet Union. The commentator recalled that in Soviet times, referees and FIFA had a conspiracy against Socialist Countries, which victimized the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, etc. The idea, he said, was that no socialist country should ever win the World Cup to cover up how great their sports were. The funny thing is that today in 2006, Ukraine is a democracy, but for these commentators it is still socialist and a victim of FIFA’s imperial power.
Sigh. This is so sad. Another shared social space where Venezuelans could come together irrespective of politics is extinguished. So much for the Neutrality of Futbol.