Rage against the machine

Katy says: One thing I learned during the past year is that writing regularly can be a chore. The best posts are the ones that combine insight, common sense and plain old human emotion. But it’s not always easy to tap into that emotion, what with all those bills that need to be paid and diapers waiting to be to changed.

This is my first post of the new year. It’s been a long time coming, but my problem during the last few days has not been lack of inspiration, but rather an inability to channel the state of mind that I equate with good writing: one leading to reasoning, patience, tolerance. I’m filled with rage, and usually I don’t like coming across as angry.

The expression of rage is usually identified with animal behavior, but it is also deeply human. We’re taught us to shun and repress rage, but a total lack of rage can be dehumanizing. At times, it’s best to just let it rip, and there’s certainly lots to be angry about lately.

The incompetents at the top have made a decided shift into stupidity, and we are all along for the ride. While the memories of CANTV’s horrible service during the 70s and 80s are still fresh in my mind, the government ignores this and decides to purchase the telecoms industry from private investors that had, with caveats, done a fine job in bringing it into the XXIst Century. The argument? “Strategic” reasons, whatever that may mean in the “minds” of the failed soldiers that govern us.

I mean, think about it. Thirty years ago, you could’ve made a reasonable case that Telecoms was a strategic sector. Old style telecoms were a “natural monopoly” – there was no sense in laying out more than one expensive national network of wires connecting every home and office in the country. And if you wanted to communicate electronically, the phone was your first and your last option.

That was then. Today, we have four national mobile telephony operators, satellite phones, voice-over-IP, internet, internet-via-satellite, internet-via-cable-TV, Cable-TV-via-internet, Skype, etc. etc. etc. CANTV long ago ceased to be a monopolist, long ago ceased to be strategic. These days, it is just the biggest company in a crowded, fiercely competitive market. Head firmly planted in the sand, the government just ignores all that and waves its hands around shouting “strategic! strategic!” End of the argument.

There are even fewer reasons to privatize the electricity sector. While most of it is state-owned, the government has never really had a beef with allowing Electricidad de Caracas to operate as a private business. The only conceivable calculus behind these secret strategic reasons – which include the nationalization of all the extraction and refining activities in the Orinoco Tar Belt – has to do with the strategic interests the government’s cronies have in lining their pockets.

Perhaps Jorge Rodríguez strategically wants more expensive cars, more houses in Margarita or yet another condo in Caracas’ poshest neighborhood. Perhaps Oil Minister Ramírez and his family – including his brother-in-law, who is rumoured to have become somewhat of a “toll booth” in Venezuela’s gas “business”, an industry where millions of dollars are traded but not a single dollar of export revenue is produced – strategically need even more discretionary control over the oil and gas industry.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Coronel Chávez insults our intelligence by claiming that nobody in the opposition is worth talking to because we don’t reason, because we don’t provide constructive criticism. If Chávez had enjoyed the benefits of formal university education, if he were anything more than a stupid “cadetico”, this wouldn’t ring so hollow. What “argument” can be made when Telecoms Minister Chacón (another “cadetico”) says that the reason behind CANTV’s nationalization is to make sure rural areas get more phone coverage?

This point is so dimwitted it’s not even worth debating. Apparently, the Military “Academy” didn’t teach “Tenientico” that there are any number of ways of regulating an industry to get it to do what you want. If it’s rural services you need, there are plenty of incentives you can provide a company so that it does just that, if it doesn’t, there are plenty of ways you can sanction it. However, there is some doubt about rural areas even needing fixed-line service, given how widespread wireless technology has become. Fixed-line telephony has been leap-frogged in rural Venezuela.

The CANTV nationalization scheme (where fat-cat corporate America will be paid handsomely for their shares while small Venezuelan shareholders are fleeced) is part of an ideological drive to turn us into another Cuba, something that is now looking more certain than ever. And while Tenientico Chávez would have certainly preferred to raid CANTV and tear-gas its executives, he decided to “buy them off” for fear of reprisals, lest a US Court confiscate Hugo’s assets in the U.S. such as Citgo and the refineries on the Gulf Coast. The same story goes with AES, foreign owners of a big chunk of Electricidad de Caracas, who will probably be paid off handsomely while thousands of small Venezuelan investors lose their money as share prices plunge.

The RCTV case is even more pathetic. Chávez claims that he doesn’t hear intelligent arguments from the other side of the aisle, but how can you provide an intelligent argument against a decision that has no logic? Whatever RCTV’s sins may or may not have been, the proper place to vent those is a court of law. The RCTV case is pure censorship. Anybody supporting this move is supporting censorship and is therefore not a democrat – end of story, end of argument.

The opposition has also been showing signs of being comprised of stupid, short-sighted politicians. While Manuel Rosales went for a holiday in Miami (crikey!), the Primero Justicia gang is engaged in a fratricidal war that leaves nobody unscathed. While the country makes a decided turn towards radicalism, opposition leaders play into the hands of the government by taking their eyes off the ball. Instead of focusing on Venezuelans’ many needs – housing, personal safety, jobs, economic stability – they’re letting the government set the agenda…again!

So while Mr. Chávez bemoans the fact that nobody in the country is on par with his enormous intellect (the lieutenant-colonel has no clothes indeed), he proposes half-brained, stupid ideas such as setting up a common South American currency, building 200,000 homes in Nicaragua or giving Constitutional status to his regular raids on the Central Bank’s vaults (Mobutu Sese Seko would have had trouble topping that last one). And while Venezuelans in the slums die by the thousands in a virtual civil war, the government does nothing and names its most cerebrally-challenged “cadetico” to the post of Minister of Interior.

In the meantime, The Guardian profile foreign sandalistas who visit Venezuela’s barrios in propaganda tours and come back singing the praises of Chavez because in the slums, one hears Bach on the streets. Perhaps Bach is the best music to drown down the sounds of gunshots…

Arguing with the dim-witted can be exhausting, but I guess it should be done, and we will probably come back to our reasonable selves and try to make some sense of this mess in a purely logical, measured fashion. “El año viejo” didn’t leave me an old jenny nor a white mare, but it did open my eyes to just how stupid Chávez is. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am not under-estimating him: he is shrewd, calculating, malicious and has a great tactical mind. He is also very popular and a great communicator. But he is dumb as a rock. He is basically an electoral machine with nothing in his head, and today, against that, I don’t have reason, I have rage.

The “Godzilla” Chávez cartoon courtesy of www.coxandforkum.com.