STOP SHOUTING!

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(Note: The following guest post, by longtime reader and fellow blogger Roberto Silvers, is an open letter offering some free political advice for Venezuela’s parliamentary opposition)

by Roberto Silvers
23 March 2011 (Caracas)

Honorable Opposition Deputies of the National Assembly of Venezuela –

It is time for a strategy change. I have watched you closely for three months, and last night’s display of ineffective reciprocal rudeness was the last straw. Therefore, to facilitate the needed change, I have prepared a simple three-step guide. I hope you are paying attention, because this is important. Really.

RULE #1: Stop Shouting!

Simple enough, right?! Regardless, I will explain how and why below.

RULE #2: “Be the better man”

This is the toughest of the three rules. Go ahead, surprise me.

RULE #3: Define yourself

Are you an “extremist right-wing imperialist” or are you just acting like one?

RULE #1 – STOP SHOUTING!

Dearest Deputies,

Nobody likes to be shouted at. You don’t. My mom doesn’t. Even chavistas don’t. Stop shouting at people. They don’t like it. It’s rude.

Besides, shouting is their game. As was evidenced again last night, Eeckout, Escarra, Flores and Isturiz love to get all worked-up and spiral uncontrollably into surreal revolutionary rhetorical diatribes before raising their voice to the top of their throats and inspiring righteous chanting from their compatriots. Shouting is unnecessary except under extreme circumstances. It’s sick. And annoying. And scary. Don’t do it.

Don’t copy them. Your role is to plainly and seriously call them out on their nonsense. Expose them. Some of their claims and Utopian interpretations of Venezuela’s present reality are utterly ridiculous. Calmly and respectively reveal them as such to the Venezuelan electorate. Be professional. Be smart. Be legislators, por Dios! Do not stoop to their level!
RULE #2
“BE THE BETTER MAN”

Dearest Deputies,

Perhaps you are familiar with the phrase. Though out of date in gender terms, “be the better man” is perfectly applicable to your current political predicament. The Venezuelan electorate is desperately waiting for someone to “be the better man”. Everyone but the most hardcore chavista is sick of all the insults and demagoguery (from both sides) and ready to praise examples of real democratic integrity, leadership and workmanship in the nation’s parliament. Be that example.

Do not respond to their insults with more of your own. I know you do not want to seem weak. However, in the face of sensationalism and hatred, your reasoned responses and educated commentary would undoubtedly shine. More so, at least, than your current expressions of spite and confrontation. The Venezuelan people are hungry for a change. You are currently presenting yourselves as merely more of the same from the opposite extreme. Stop it.

Reexamine and reorient. Step up. Be the better man.

RULE #3
DEFINE YOURSELF

Dearest Deputies,

Part of Chávez’ perpetual electoral strategy is the combination of blind anti-imperialism with the demonization of the opposition as extreme-right, ideologically. I know it is politically sensitive among the parties of the opposition coalition, but you must begin to publicly refute this dangerous and incorrect characterization.

PSUV deputies are consistently defining you in their own terms. It is now time to refute and correct every single false label utilized to describe individual deputies or the opposition in general. You must distance yourself from the past by defining who you are now. What do you stand for? And more importantly, what do you NOT stand for?

Perhaps you are unable to define yourselves collectively; but you can no longer let that stop you from defining yourselves individually. Every opposition deputy should be able to stand up and forcefully speak for themselves, their ideals, and their core beliefs. With elections next year, you can no longer afford to wait to define yourself. You must define, present and fiercely protect your political identity and ideology. If you do not define yourself, someone else already has. Get on it. Now.

CONCLUSION

Do not fight the politics of radicalization and division with more of the same. You must refuse that discourse. You must shift the paradigm. You must be the change that you promise.

Stop shouting! Be the better man. Define yourself.

Do it now. There is no time to lose.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Sorry but I felt shouted at by this post!

    Any emphatic, ‘injunction” given without leeway, and insisted on, sounds like a shout on ‘paper’.

    SO…. what can I say, except that your rules sound good to me for everyday proper behavior,to a degree, but when it comes to getting rid of Chavez things are not that simple.I invite you to analyze Chavez’s behavior, why he is popular, and the kind of values that support him.I am not suggesting that the opposition has to copy Chavez, but I am suggesting that there are quite a few people in Venezuela who do not appreciate and will not appreciate your idea of ‘proper’ behavior.

    And one other thing, being the better man does not necessarily mean eliminate shouting.There is a proper time and place for a certain amount of measured aggressive behavior.We cannot have a hard and fast rule.

    I have noted that in Venezuela, there is a huge polarization in this respect, from pretentious types who pretend to never lose their cool, and always be above arguing with others, or even showing any emotion whatsoever, and its opposite trend of uncontrolled speech.

    The intelligent integral man would know when to use what, in the appropriate measure.

  2. Thanks Miguel. And thank you for your constructive criticism firepigette.

    I agree that there is a time and place for measured aggressive behavior. However, when your opponent is consistently defining you as a heartless, evil war-mongering imperialist, you have an added incentive to present a different face. Spitting on he who spat on you does not gain the votes of anyone in the middle.

    I repeat: Stop shouting! Be the better man. Define yourself.

    • How delightfully naive of you. You’re still thinking votes will have anything to do with what happens in 2012. Do you believe in unicorns too?

      Chavistas aren’t human, stop pretending that they are. When you’re dealing with an angry wolf trying to eat your children, you don’t “talk” to it, you don’t “reason” with it, you don’t “try to be the better man”. Being the better man implies that the other one is also a “man”, with has been demonstrated not to be the case here.

      Chavistas aren’t just “mistaken”, or “wrong”, or “in need of a bit of rational discussion to help them understand their mistakes”. They’re delusional sociopaths completely incapable of any rational thinking. They’re not interested in reality, they’re only interested in power, money, and revenge.

      What Venezuela needs isn’t an opposition that plays dead whenever chavistas attack them. We need an opposition that demonstrates they’re willing and able to smack the shit out of the chavistas if they don’t stop behaving like retarded five-year-old children.

      But angry rhetoric aside, what the average person looks for in a leader is, well, leadership. Whenever there’s a dire situation (e.g., the Titanic just hit the iceberg), 99.9% of the people will invariably turn into sheep. Incapable of thinking, or reasoning, or solving even the simplest of problems (e.g., using the doors and the furniture in the Titanic to build boats for everyone). But there will be that 0.01% who won’t turn into sheep. That’s “leadership”. A leader is the one who grabs death by the lapel of his shirt, smacks him across the face a couple of times and tells him that if he doesn’t stop screwing around he’s gonna put that scythe where the sun doesn’t shine.

      The average person is instinctively attracted to leaders, even when they know that leader shows no fear because he’s too stupid to understand what fear is.

      Scholars, rationalists, philosophers, they aren’t leaders. Nobody will follow them because they know in time of an emergency they’ll be too busy politely asking the shark not to eat him to actually do anything.

      • They are currently acting like children, boasting and trading insults. I do not suggest lying down and taking it from the chavistas. Rather, I insist that making rational arguments as opposed to rash reactions will be more convincing to the Venezuelan voter.

        As a side note, I do not think it accurate or useful to regard chavistas as inhuman. Yes, they are radicalized. Yes, many are irrational in their support of their Supreme Leader. Yes, most have lost sight of reality. However, to completely disregard them and all of their policies outright is simply replicating their strategy. The opposition should not be the “new chavismo of the Right”. For the rescue of Venezuelan democracy, a different discourse is needed all together.

        You may call that naïve. I call it necessary.

        • Rational arguments do very little in Venezuela.

          Just look at a typical teacher’s meeting in any private school.Believe me I have way too much experience working in group situations in Venezuela for 30 years to be taken in by this argument.

          People shouting on top of each other, as the one who wins out in the end( if anyone)…’ cause usually things do not get settled) are those who have the most power in the group.

          It is naive to think that in any given political situation in Venezuela that there will be enough people who will politely listen to rational arguments.Venezuelans( as a group) are highly emotional types who favor contacts and friends over meritocracy.To some extent this could be said of all countries and politics in general.People do not vote with their heads.Look at the studies.

          This analysis needs more realistic thought.

          • I am not really agreeing with Firepigette on this one, but I have participated in a couple of really memorable condo association meetings, that nearly came to blows. I came to realize that you need to allow everyone their chance to “vent”, and the ones who “vent” most vociferously often prevail. From an American’s perspective, it is messy, undignified, inefficient, and lacking in decorum. But that is the way it is.

      • Rational (according to oxford dictionary): the power or faculty of reason.

        Is it rational to say that Chavistas are not human?

        I hope I don’t need to look up the definition of human…

    • You cannot define yourself by reacting to how others are defining you.They will always define us by what they think is evil or wrong.

      ‘Spitting’ is never a word I would use.Measures aggression is.

  3. Good letter.

    I would be more specific. See: Chavistas have real, actual training in provoking people, in manipulating to make others acts for them. This is something some of their groups – just some of them are into it, but that is enough- got from the extreme left.

    Venezuelans lose their temper very easily. It is OK if we get angry, but we need to keep control.

    They have received actual training in 1) making demostrations become violent, 2) provoking particular groups so that these react in a silly way and violence insues anyway to their advantage

    Example:
    a) 2010, elections in Southern Valencia: a group from the opposition started to distribut flyers at the Avenida Michelena. Chavistas posted themselves a few yards from them and started to make obscene gestures, insult, etc. Oppos ended up going to them and one stroke. Chavistas had screwdrivers and counter-attacked as planned. Oppos were wounded, oppos had only their flyers. One chavista later called cops and fained “pre-heart attack”. 2 oppos ended up in the clinic. Consequence? One oppo was jailed (even if he was the one really wounded) and the other escaped because some people told him the cops were going to his floor.

    b) Diosdado Cabello planned to make Jorge Luis Borges lose his temper with those accusations about his work with Sumate. That was not “out of the blue”. That was completely planned. And Borges fell for it and lost his temper and the others were prepared.

    c) The fighting at the AN with the UNT guy, just in front of Soto: that was also planned. This is not conspiracy, it’s daily bread for them. They do that and they are trained for that.
    Only if you see the whole RIGHT video you see who started. Most people who were not watching that (70% of the population who have no Internet and no Globo) could not see how shameless the whole thing was.

    Iris Varela and people like that do genuinely lose their temper, but in reality many of the actions some of the others do are much more coldly planned than anything we do.

    When Rangel talks about us doing “guarimbas”, it is actually because they think we can do part of what they have been doing for decades now. The students’ actions have been much more candid than anything the Chavistas think possible.

    I don’t know, but here in Europe it is normal to have politicians get training: they get grilled by specialists (sometimes they get “surprised calls” or fake journalists paid by their own parties) so that they are ready in real life when the grilling does take place. Could we not have that in Venezuela? In Venezuela most politicians think everyone has to treat them like unas mamis.

    So, instead of “don’t shout” I would rather say
    THIS

  4. Venezuelans have proven to be extremely weak to propaganda, and well,let me put it as a famous member of the Nazi party said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”

    People believe the shit their polititians say.In the face of the chavista venezuelan crowd,they are all psy-ops,sleeper agents and on the CIA’s payroll.They are all extreme right and imperialists.

    You do not get rid of this behaviour by being passive.Look at Belarus’s last elections, you need aggresiveness,massive, extreme aggresiveness and violence(not physical),not being quiet,tranquil or mildly aggresive.

    Although it looks like “savagery”, it’s not. With enough aggresiveness you can make quite a few ears listen. Chavismo keeps “exposing” all the dinosaur polititians past actions,like el Caracazo and coups and neo-liberalist moves and “massacres”.
    What about exposing Cuban lies and human rights violations?Soto Rojas murders,Chavez’s activation of plan avila and the coup attempts, the calls on violence,the handing of guns to bolivarian militias(the new military law),,etc.

    The opposition has been quite modest and passive already. This is not a fight in school where you can shut up and turn around.
    And frankly, the oppo has been called many names since 99,and it’s time to start fighting back, with aggresiveness and dominance. To those who understand spanish.

    Ya basta de que dejen de actuar como los huevones sifrinos calladitos y empiezen a soltar la lengua. Se trata de demostrar lo que eres a Venezuela, no a ellos mismos, o a su ego

    It’s about showing what you really are to Venezuela, not to themselves or their egos.

    • Precisely! My point is that they are focusing too much on childish insults and not getting to the real meat of “showing what they really are”. Being aggressive and dominant is fine, but currently they lack substance.

      I.e. Imagine if I have a forceful and loud argument with my wife about how she washes lettuce. It won’t matter how effective, aggressive or dominant I am in presenting my argument. The neighbors will think me a fool regardless.

    • Metodex,

      To a great extent I agree with you. Still, I don’t think the issue should be of “violence versus non-violence”. Whatever you do, you should plan it. This is not a caimanera. Chávez can be a cabeza de chorlitos for anything but for politics.
      This is chess or rather, Go. Oppos are only planning things to step 2 – at most-. Chávez does think several steps at a time, even if he is incredibly primitive in everything else.

      As for the Belorussians: I definitely would NOT use them as an example. Trust me. They don’t even have a common candidate. They do not have very eloquent speakers and they are even worse at failing to penetrate areas outside Minsk (in their case it is more difficult as Belarus has not even the 40 years of dysfunctional democracy we did have over 12 years ago and Luka is not a bad Kolkhoz manager)

      We cannot take ready-to-use solutions from any one country, even if we can learn from many movements across time and space. We still need to mind the differences and, as I said in Miguel’s blog, we need to understand the set of mind of the average Venezuelan in the average city. That is NOT an El Universal reader with Internet connection in Caracas.

  5. Tocayo:

    Decent letter. I think you are missing one point.

    The opposition needs to learn how to talk LIKE the people they want to convince. Not necessarily sounding like morons, but using language and terms that “el pueblo” can identify with.

    They need to talk barrio, pueblo and caserio. If they keep speaking “caraqueño”, they’re not going to get far.

    One reason the POS in Miraflores does so well is that he speaks in a language that “el pueblo” can identify with.

    To Juan Bimba from San Constancio de Cochino Frito, whatever could come out of Chavez’ mouth has more weight than what Ramon Guillermo Aveledo or just about anyone else in the MUD usually says on the same subject, never mind who’s right. Only because to Juan Bimba, Chavez sounds like the mayor of SCCF and RGA sounds like those “imperialists” that are trying to “joderlo”.

    So even when Chavez claims Mars is Dead because of capitalism, Juan Bimba will listen because it is said using language that Juan can understand, regardless of whether it is actually true or not.

    • I like this point. Although I believe this is beyond the scope of my letter, I agree that any potential opposition candidate has to be able to relate to the general public. Unfortunately it is precisely this point of weakness that none of the current opposition pre-candidates appears capable of overcoming. Sad but true.

      To play devil’s advocate, though, I disagree that one needs to talk like Chávez to beat Chávez. Again, that is allowing the chavistas to define the tone and the terms of the debate. A “change candidate” must be just that: something different.

      • man, seriously, loose the bold fonts and the exclamation signs… You don’t want them to shout, but you keep doing it, and you are not in the assambly being atacked by chavistas.

        I agree with you, to a point. Let’s say I prefer the queen video kind of response.

        But you don’t need to shout here to make your point. It’s rude.

        cheers.

      • The best way to overcome any shortfalls is to visit the 355 municipios in Venezuela, one by one by one.

        I’m not proposing a mirror Chavez! One’s enough, coño! Hablando como pueblo and hablando como Chavez are two different things. Chavez speaks pueblo, but uses it to offend.

        You can speak pueblo and impress, too. The trick is not to try too hard.

  6. I would recommend the book: Taking the War Out of Our Words:The Art of Powerful Non-Defensive Communication by Sharon Ellison. In this book, two types of communication strategies are described: (1) Defensive Communication, which obeys the principal “rules of war:” (2) And non-defensive communication that attempts to bridge the gap between people with the theme: “how can we take care of each others needs?”

    Just being identified as the “Opposition Party” creates a theme of conflict: attack and defend strategy. I like the name “Partido Unificación Democrática” much better.

    Wilson Mandela was a colossal success in transforming South Africa to a multi-racial and multi-cultural state. It might be possible to invite him to Venezuela to help break the partisan deadlock.

  7. I just want to follow up. The non-defensive strategy doesn’t work if you are communicating with a moral enemy who want to eat your flesh.

  8. I think what a lot of posters are missing is that Robert’s Rules of Order aren’t what will push out Chavez. The real legwork for removing Chavez will be done by mass protests and some cold, hard calculating by community organizers, student leaders and politicians, many of whose names will probably never be known to the public. In the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with sucking it up and not allowing yourself to get goaded into dumb punch-ups in the AN. Legislators trading back and forth insults helps Chavez because nothing gets done and serious accusations against the government don’t get leveled as long as there’s a good circus going on in the Asamblea. You’re not naive or a pushover if you don’t play along with Chavistas and their yelling, you’re simply reclaiming the debate. When they start yelling and the opposition responds, they are allowing the Chavistas to set the boundaries of dialogue and in effect control it. By not playing that game they can at least open up some space for claims of their own.

  9. The question (as some have already pointed out ) is who’s willing to (or even capable of) changing their positions based on those discussions at the Assembly…and that applies to both sides! Here’s a flowchart to help our dear legislators determine whether they should be engaging in those fruitless discussions

    (Hint: the answer to any or all of the first three questions rimes with GO)

    A flowchart to help you determine if you can have a rational discussion:
    http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/how-to-have-a-rational-discussion/

    • This is an excellent flowchart: simple, logical, succinct. Now, seriously, is there, or could there be, a similar example in Spanish? And REALLY send it to the AN?

    • I see your point. However, it seems out of place, particularly in light of Venezuela’s recent past. Should opposition deputies determine that a rational discussion is not possible, the logical conclusion is to dismiss themselves from the conversation and from their responsibilities as legislators.

      That doesn’t seem like a viable option.

      • Roberto, I’m not disagreeing with you. All I’m saying is that there’s no conversation possible in the first place:

        A discussion is feasible, but don’t expect it to be rational. Likewise, oppos can give rational arguments, but don’t expect them to be part of a discussion (chavistas automatically go and insult, distract or simply ignore them).

        The oppo legislators need to understand they are not there to “win” arguments or convince anyone in the chavista gang bang in the first place. I agree with you in that they are there to portray themselves as a viable and desirable alternative not to them but to the rest of the world (ie the better man).

        Will their role in the Assembly have a tangible effect on the Dec-12 outcome? If they screw up: Yes. If they don’t: not much.

  10. Good news! It appears that several opposition deputies have heeded my advice. On April 12, 2011, two National Assembly deputies stood out as they took to higher ground, did not shout and presented themselves as “the better man”.

    To that end, I offer most sincere congratulations to Miguel Pizarro (Podemos) and Juan Carlos Caldera (PJ) for their reasoned and convincing interventions in the National Assembly this week. We can only hope that opposition leadership takes note of their contributions and makes the appropriate and necessary changes in tone going forward.

    Although not quite as praiseworthy, the intervention of Deputy Gerardo Blyde (UNT) deserves a mention as well.

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