What does forgiveness feel like?

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YinYangVenezuelans are angry, and they well should be. Beyond that, though, there is a question that has been lingering in my mind for quite some time – will we reach a stage at some point when we will forgive? And if we’re headed there anyway, why can’t we forgive starting now?

I thought about this as I read that chavista bases are disappointed with Maduro … but are unwilling to give the opposition a chance. While Aporrea is full of complaints against Maduro, not a single prominent chavista is willing to say the opposition was right, and the government was wrong. That points, perhaps, to a deep-seated aversion for those on our side, an inability to simply concieve of the idea of joining those of us who oppose the Revolution.

In other words, it’s what we normally call “hatred.”

Of course, it’s not only chavistas that are hateful. Can you imagine, just for a second, a post-chavista Venezuela, where democracy has returned, and where you consider voting for somebody from the PSUV?

Forgiveness usually requires putting yourselves in someone else’s shoes and seeing their point of view. It doesn’t mean agreeing with them, but understanding their logic.

Another example of virulence comes in the growing hatred of Henrique Capriles from within opposition circles. Whether it’s his reaction to the April election (a mistake, perhaps) or his willingness to sit down with Maduro or Rodríguez Torres (part of his job), people simply can’t forgive him for … not being what they wanted him to be.

Hatred is possibly the cheapest commodity in Caracas these days.

This inability to see the other as a human being, with flaws and virtues, is a dangerous toxin, and I’m as guilty as anyone of promoting it, so a mea culpa is in order. As we enter the decline of the Venezuelan Revolution, one is left wondering if we have become too entrenched in our points of view to consider ourselves a nation any more.

Koreans have an interesting concept: jeong. It’s hard to translate, but apparently it means the invisible bonds you have towards people – spouses, relatives, friends, even co-workers. Koreans believe a society without jeong is at risk of disappearing, and they should know given their long, tortuous history of being colonized and pillaged.

I wonder if the jeong between us is still there. Because when you can’t see beyond your own little clique, your own little clan, when the bonds between us have broken for good, you’ve hit the point of no return.

1 COMMENT

  1. Powerful post, tocayo. It’s a difficult question since HCF turbo charged the divisiveness and exposed the fault lines. Maybe things need to get worse before we deserve a Nelson Mandela. I do believe in walking in other people’s shoes.

  2. Juan,
    I have been trying to recall someone in German or British or Belgian politics who had ever publicly said “the opposition was right”. I can’t. I have seen people who have changed sides but a politician admitting such a thing? At best, they would say something like “at this stage and only at this stage we see that blablabla”.

    The different thing in Venezuela is the level of discourse – there is absolutely no debate in the original sense of the word – no peaceful linguistic fencing that a public can use to ponder and draw its conclusions but a very primitive set of parallel monologues and a particularly aggressive hatred campaign from Chavismo.

    And we haven’t known how to challenge them. It is not that I think they would cave in – they can’t because they are an ultimately repressive, utterly authoritarian lot born out of violence and sheer Machismo. But still we must challenge them to real debates over and over for the simple reason that that is the best way to show the ones still in the middle that it’s time to reject Chavismo.

    • I agree, not to say that hatred and intolerance aren’t a huge part of the problem but I think that the main problem now is pride… In the unlikeliness of hearing an “You were right all along” from chavvistas, perhaps we should drop hints that it’s ok for them to say “I was wrong”

    • The sad thing is that is a society-wide problem, not chavista specific.

      Trying to get oppo politicians to debate is like herding cats. The biggest accomplishment is getting them to answer some questions while standing in the same room, with a camera to record it.

      But having them all answer the same question, so the people can see the differences in their positions? no. Having them rebut one another so people can decide who’s right and who’s wrong? no. Having them answer questions with controversial answers? no. Politicians from both sides shun hostile interviews, and journalists from both sides are more likely to attack the person than the idea.

  3. I agree somewhat with the PSUV/MUD divide. It’s pretty hard to make that jump, at least directly.

    But that’s what gateway parties are there for. Remember when PPT and PODEMOS went critical, then rogue, then neutral, and then hostile towards PSUV? Leaders like Henri Falcon, El Gato Briceño and Ismael García have brought votes with them to this side of the talanquera.

    But definately not by joinig AD (or COPEI) or any other tainted brand. They brought their own brand (political party) and were thus more palatable.

    I strongly disagree on your asessment on HCR, though. It may be that some people criticize Capriles for being too soft, because they were expecting something like ORVEX. But mainstream criticism against Capriles is centered on specific actions like “Salserolazo”, going back to Miranda instead of becoming a National Leader campaigning all over Venezuela (à la LL), declaring to the media that there’s no need to devalue the VEF (or any other reform), turning the municipal elections into a national referendum (only to lose it), and so on and so forth; some criticisms are more valid than others (or less controversial). For what is worth, Quico was one of the pioneers in suggesting that HCR should be retired from his position as national leader.

    But I’ve yet to see someone from the mainstream opposition disowning HCR completely and declaring that if he ran under MUD they wouldn’t vote for him, or disparaging him with ad hominems or calls to remove him from political office (or MUD or PJ). So there’s no irrationality and no hate in the oppo camp towards HCR, so far as I have seen.

    A good critique I read recently, doesn’t go into naming names, and doesn’t focus just on HCR, but in MUD/the oppo camp:
    http://www.eluniversal.com/opinion/140126/liderar-tener-valor-de-decir-la-verdad

  4. There is nothing people enjoy more than feeling big headed , and nothing makes people more big headed than professing a passion , a rousing feeling of righteous outrage against an enemy they can proudly loathe and despise . Thats what gives spice to religious , political and ideological confrontations, thats why tribal narratives are so full of innocent martyrs , hideous villains and great noble heroes . !! There are two phrases that sum up this basic fact of the human condition , one by Nietszche : ” how fine does bad music and bad speeches sound when youre marching against an enemy” the other by the father of Gnral Guzman Blanco , the founder of the Federalist Party (one of the main instigators of one of the most bloody of our civil wars) . ” If they had shouted Federalism we would have shouted Centralism” , referring to the Centralists , Federalists most loathed enemies: .
    Chavez exploited this raw primitive taste for outrage and hiperbolic confrontation among Venezuelas least fortunate., its what made his discourse so arousing , thus by insulting and threatening his enemies , he riled up his followers, made them feel great , its this discourse his succesors have inherited as part of the Chavez brand of politics . So to many followers of Chavez, not hating the opposition even if they are dissapointed in the govts performance is very difficult , because it would mean giving up the heady naricicistic joy that hating the opposition gives them . Most People are not guided in their politics by their rational interests but by their hyped up narcicistic passions . Thats a challenge that has to be faced.
    About forgiveness Hannah Arendt waxed sweet on the value of this most valuable of Political Virtues , she though that Christ by inventing it had brought to the world a ‘game changer’ , a very powerful instrument for opening up political discourse.
    Lincoln understood this very well when looking at the defeated south , The french who made the treaty of Versailles a vehicle of retaliation against a defeated germany did not . We know the consequences of that.!! .

  5. My two (random) 2 cents: as an economist you would understand that the group behavior leading to hatred of the other is typical of a struggle over allocation of scarce resources, ie class warfare! It brings back memories of a Jared Diamond interview from a few weeks back were he compared social bonds in New Guinea (personal, local) vs a developed society (impersonal, dispersed). The hatred is there because the social structure is relatively “primitive” and the latest cycle of class warfare wrapped everything up in an impenetrable blanket of obtuse ideology and nonsensical propaganda – think Maduro blaming opposition of promoting violence by distributing cocaine. In other words, reason is out!

  6. While Aporrea is full of complaints against Maduro …

    HIS HIGHNESS had this to spin:
    I like to fill my patria with cubanos
    For fun that will never end.
    My bonches are a great delight
    And often last for decades.
    And though I fail to be impressed
    By what I hear or see,
    I will not tolerate a guest
    Who’s just bored at me.
    So if I find an airline who
    Has no esprit de corps,
    I grab it with no more ado
    And throw him out the country.
    But let’s have no discussion
    About the things I do.
    I’m one eccentric Revolucionario:
    Chacun à son goût!

    And if we’re spending fit to burst,
    My bolos must be enjoyed.
    The others have to share my spite
    Or else I’m quite annoyed.
    I hate to see an oppo leer
    And often must be tough
    With someone who walked away
    And says he’s made enough.
    An oppo who’d make me stew alone
    Is frankly a disgrace,
    And very soon he’ll find I’ve thrown
    The sicad in his face.
    But let’s have no discussion
    About the things I do.
    I’m one eccentric Revolucionario:
    Chacun à son goût!

    with Apologies to Johann Strauss younger.

    • No need for hatred.
      No space for retaliation.
      We live in the same space,
      Unlike Romeo and Juliet,
      we need not die.

      À chacun son goût, Chacun son goût
      to each his own, there’s no accounting for taste.

    • Venezuela’s on its way to the bottom.
      Forget it.
      We are the surviving jetsams and flotsams.
      I’d throw out a helping hand even if it’s to a hateful parasite.
      Remember,
      feuds take two to fight. 🙂
      Odd couples we may be,
      yet both us and them lived
      through this nightmare,
      and will survive to quarrel again.

  7. One should forgive when the sinner stops sinning and repents, or has been rendered unable to continue the sin.

    Forgiving the unrepetent and incorrigible is just enabling them to sin more.

      • Not necessarily. In Catholicism and other religions, repentance is a necessary to be eligible for divine forgiveness, so there’s conditional forgiveness has a long tradition.

        Some people hold grudges even against those who repent and apologize (non forgiver); some people forgive if the person apologizes and/or makes amends (conditional forgiver); some people forgive motu propio (unconditional forgiver).

        • my choosing to forgive you has nothing to do with your actions. you can continue to do wrong, but it no longer causes me anger or a grudge because I choose to forgive you

          • Then you’re an unconditional forgiver. You being and unconditional forgiver doesn’t preclude the existence of conditional forgivers.

  8. Juan, I am with you on this one 100%.

    I think you nailed it when you states that one has to put oneself in the shoes of the other in order to understand.

    This is what is new in Venezuela after 16 years of chavismo: not being able to understand the other point of view and letting hatred overcome rationality. This is exactly the worst Chavez legacy. Worse than the economy, the un-institutionality, etc etc . It is the seed of hate.

  9. The instigation of hatred – a variant of one of the seven deadlies – is part of the strategy. The idea of asking an advesary to relinquish his most potent weapon is pie-in-the-sky: it would leave him defenseless and, in real terms, sort of obligated to accept HIS advesary on equal terms. There’s no question of it because it falls entirely outside his essential mindset options, out there somewhere in a parallel universe. The opposition will never get a debate because debates aren’t on the cards at all at all. Once hatred and ever louder assertion that ‘we are right, period’ suffers any inroads by right thinking, or indeed, any actual thinking, the cause is irretreviably lost.
    Forgiveness has a place in all human discourse and ultimately, is a healthy part pf the human condition but both being sorry and expressing sorrow tangibly (redress) are its foundations. It’s easy enough to grasp why just a ‘sorry guys’ from a massive embezzler, say, or ransacker of national treasure for instance won’t cut it on any level: so too with the prevailing situation.

  10. I live in the US and deal with similar feelings towards Republicans. I lived in Venezuela for many years and remember how wonderful the people were at all levels of society (well, mostly the middle class and below). I hope to come back to live with my Venezuelan husband. I left in 2003 to be with my college aged children and have struggled with how hard things have been for them in the States-not what I imagined their futures would be like.
    But neither Americans and Venezuelans have not had to struggle with the hatred that comes of the genocide that took place in Rwanda and some other areas of Africa that are now working to live peacefully together. They have some interesting ways of making peace and living alongside people they know were responsible for the deaths of friends and family. I don’t know if I could do it, but I guess I could learn to think kinder thoughts about Republicans and Chavistas.

    • “I live in the US and deal with similar feelings towards Republicans. ”

      Similar, maybe, but hardly on the same level. A completely different magnitude.

      • I agree. I try not to use that comparison (even though I think it all the time), because in the states we don’t have the sheer amount of violence or poverty the way it exists in Venezuela. The average American has never been kidnapped. Perhaps neither has the “average” Venezuelan but considering the short amount of time (1+ yr) I have lived in Caracas, I sure know a LOT of people who have suffered violence first hand, be it armed robbery, kidnapping, or having a close family member murdered. The violence and pain is far more tangible in Venezuela. Yea the Republicans piss me off too but I don’t think people are dying because of them.

    • I don’t know if I could do it, but I guess I could learn to think kinder thoughts about Republicans and Chavistas.

      I find it interesting that you much prefer Democrats to Republicans, given that Chavez-supporting PSFs in the US are much more likely to support Democrats than Republicans. Do you think that Sean Penn and Danny Glover support Republicans? Consider this: Former congressman Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.)..joins Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) among the few American politicians to praise Chavez after his death Tuesday. Not to mention Two Corrupt Dems Head US Delegation to Chavez Funeral.
      Please square the circle for me. The friend of my enemy is my friend, perhaps? 🙂

      One reason for my changing from a progressive of the left into an evil right winger was reading a book I purchased in Venezuela: Carlos Rangel’s Del Buen Salvaje al Buen Revolucionario

      • I personally just tend to hate all politicians! But I do identify more with the left side certainly. I just don’t think it’s very fair to even compare American society to Venezuelan society. We’re so very different.

        Are you really a tejano? Me too. Viva.

  11. Bullshit. Coming from a family of deep-rooted in political fanaticism on both sides, forgiveness is as realistic as a 6.3 BsF/USD
    This post is just out of touch with reality: In the jungle that is Venezuela, there is no room for forgiveness.
    the ability in understanding the logic behind an opposing argument, is more attributed to one’s intelligence, not mercy.
    While I can’t say the same for every chavista, I understand why many of my closest, chavista family members voted for Maduro. I understand why they support Cabello and his underlying cronies. Their logic is highly complicated and difficult to separate from blind fanaticism.
    I admit I am simultaneously baffled and fascinated by their enigmatic, almost cathartic point of view. But understanding a chavista, let alone forgive one, takes an initiative that runs almost contrary to Venezuelan culture.
    Even in these interviews between myself and hard-core fanatics, it was clear, that my efforts to understand them was at first met with suspicion, incredulity, and to unrelated chavistas even hostility.
    In the end, if in twenty years from now when I’m old and bitter, an ex-chavista, (hopefully ex-maduro) asks for forgiveness (a highly unlikely hypothetical.): The my visceral response would be,
    “Callate, perdonarte es irrelevante, a trabajar es lo que’e.

    • I am with Beth on this one. Regardless of how different chavistas think, in no way we have the same type of differences that led to Rwanda genocide or other cruel civil wars around the world. Yet, those people put aside their differences to be able to rebuild their future.

  12. like rome after being sacked, vzla is now entering the middle age with a primitive economic system ruled by competing feudal lords and their hordes. im afraid the capriles initiative of peaceful cooperation and coexistence represents a final surrender of the official oppo to the chavista order (economic, judicial, and political chaos).
    this period however opens an opportunity for the reconquista if the opposition (meaning the whole opposing collective) comes up with a more solid and simple mission and its willing to carry it out at any cost. the opposition needs to figure out whether it can tolerate the regime at least 5 more yrs or whether its freedom is not negotiable.

  13. Is the opposite of “forgiving” the keeping of a “grudge”? I suppose they are opposites in a spectrum, where there is something in the middle, what the Greek philosophers would call “moderation” that is between the emotional polar forces and rests on logic and pragmatic reasonableness. At this time, it is my hunch that the revolution needs to fail dramatically and completely. When there needs to be a recovery, there will be space for debate.

  14. The “trolley problem” suggests racial, ethnic or cultural separation (think Venezuelan apartheid) makes it harder for people to feel sympathy for others and so chavistas/escualidos find it easy to allow the trolley to crush escualidos/chavistas if doing so will benefit chavistas/escualidos. Mind you, trolley problems test morality judgements only (not whether people will have the discipline to behave in accordance with those morality judgements). There are many web articles about the “trolley problem,” some discuss racism, ethnicity etc. Once a society establishes separation along the lines of apartheid, hate follows.

    • I respectfully disagree. It’s pragmatic! Chavismo has a compelling narrative that will likely remain persistent, possibly as an violent insurgency that will continue to sabotage future attempts to establish an effective democracy. The trolley, if you meant the Venezuela, has passengers of all political persuasions on board.

        • Ok, this trolley is crashing into people. I get it. However, the paradox as I understand it involves causing one person to die versus allowing more people to die. That is the moral choice? Could you please explain?

          • These trolley problems are usually answered the same way independently of religious belief or culture, so they point to a biological element underlying our moral judgements. All I am saying is that Chavismo is a Fantasy Ideology (I learned this term on THIS website, many many thanks) that distributes privileges and handicaps on the basis of Fantasy Racism (chavistas consider themselves of the amerindian race-consciousness and consider escualidos of the european-conquistador race-consciousness). Actual racial biology is irrelevant, what matters is race-consciousness.

          • Yet notwithstanding the fantasy part of Chavista racism, in the end, racism affects the outcome of the “trolley problem”
            even if it’s just visible in the color of the T-shirts.

          • I have been groping with this issue as well. However, I don’t see it as an ideological fantasy but as a consciousness. I proposed this once to QC, that a “nation” is a collective “consciousness” where a collection of people see themselves as a “nation”. I’m suspicious that Chavismo sees itself as a nation within a nation, where the “others” are western invaders who brought Western institutions that have exploited them and treated them as they are doing now back at them. They see these invaders as “foreigners” who serve their own interests and do not care about them or their aspirations. The foreigners only use them for their own purposes. The ideology, I suspect was vehicle that crystallized their “class consciousness”, but went even further than class… to a national consciousness that includes endogenous racial dimensions as well.

  15. Don’t focus on what we can teach them, but on what they can teach us: if the opposition cannot see in which ways the chavistas have been in the right, then we haven’t learned anything.

    • I like to think of Chavism as an economic experiment. What are we learning from it? What are THEY learning from it? If we step back, what is it that they want to achieve, and are they willing to examine other paths?

      • Your comment is a mixed reply to mine. You ask what are we learning from it, but then capitalize THEY when asking what they are learning from it. My comment is precisely about worrying less about them, and more about US.

        In the next statement you do a parallelism, asking a question that may help us learn, but then redirect to whether “they are willing to examine other paths”. Again, I say, what about US; are WE willing to examine other paths.

        Let’s focus on what we can control most readily, and that is OUR learning. So, again, I ask, what did chavismo get right?

        • Focus on what we can control? Well, I have an opinion about their experiment. That’s under my control! They are in control of the government, and they are producing results that they lie about, hide, forbid others to report, and blame others for. What do you think I can do that I should be doing?

          • he tells you

            “Don’t focus on what we can teach them, but on what they can teach us: if the opposition cannot see in which ways the chavistas have been in the right, then we haven’t learned anything.”

          • There isn’t much there to focus on. My discussions with Chavistas usually end up with “We just need more time!”

          • gordo, you first have to be willing to look before you focus… Let me get you started: chavistas prefer having “uno de los nuestros” wasting the oil money than “otros” ruling over them. Here’s another one: chavistas prefer the nation becoming poorer, so long as the poorest in the nation (i.e., them) are richer.

          • They prefer to be poorer? Well, then, let’s see how they like it! They might find out that the value of a free market plays an important role that government cannot replace. Then, maybe we can move forward!

          • Gordo, you misread, I did not say “They prefer to be poorer”; I said they prefer that the poorest be *richer*, and that rather than getting ruled by someone else, they would let one of “theirs” be less efficient. Neither of these imply their preferring to be poorer.

            You are also back to the what THEY learn, instead of about what YOU can learn. You’re not a self-learner, I take it. Well, neither are they, yet you expect them to learn advanced economics from their limited observations and lack of data from the failed chavismo experiment?!

  16. There are people who emotionally feast on their hatreds, they profess their devotion to a particular sectarian narrative not because conceptually it has any intrinsic merit compelling their conviction but because it gives them an alibi to cultivate with gusto certain delectable passions, passions that gratify their taste for moral conceit or their appetite for histrionic grand standing, or for the practice of proud righteous cruelty, or for staged hubristic protagonism . , Chavez was such a man and gave his followers a discourse to allow them to revel and thrill at the same brutal passions that intoxicated him . One particular aspect of those passions is that to maximize their enjoyment the object of their hatred has to be demonized, de humanized , turned into an stereotype of emblematic wickedness , its much more difficult to hate a particular human being you have a personal relationship with, People in our country are often able to have a cordial relationship with someone from the other side , it happens all the time , always under the guise ‘he is one of the good chavistas’ or ‘one of the good escualidos’ , the exception !! .That doenst necessarily imply a forgiveness , but rather a good nature tolerance for someone whom ones sees as a fundamentallly good person even if he holds to wrong beliefs !! In a way it represents a form of civility , of humaneness which allows us to treat an ideological adversary as a decent and honest man behind that ugly ideological tag or hat he likes to wear. !! forgiveness as an emotion is perhaps too full of pathos , maybe we should strive simply to bridge the chasm that divides political opponents and have them learn the habit of civility , of simple humane tolerance which is at the heart of any authentic democracy. . I read that much of the difficulty affecting the functioning of Congress in Washington is that congressmen no longer cultivate the trans partisan personal relationships that they used to cultivate in the past . Maybe thats a more practical objetive to go for. The regime is certain to oppose it because they feel fortified by instilling partisan hatred on their followers , a feeling that they feel strenghtens their fanaticism .

  17. It’s been some time since I wrote anything, anywhere, about Venezuela. Attrition is a powerful noun, one that can explain dislocate reactions from the opposition side, lately.
    Reading this blog helps me to understand several questions about something I understand as Venezuelanness; what that means abroad, where it attains an all new dimension, is very revealing. But sometimes, I’ve got the perception that, whenever the discussion gets deep and treacherous, like this one post, lines blur and knowledge about what Venezuela really is, in counter to what we want her to be, seems to be very shallow (no offense intended).
    A quick look to any Venezuelan history book might cast a very common pattern since, at least, the beginning of times, i.e. Independence War and its sequels. Gran Colombia’s rupture is very well explained by the clash of caudillos. Páez ascension to power, if written in El Universal in 2006, night have seemed to be a very good copy of Chavez destructive rhetoric. The famous Pronunciamiento of Valencia´s municipality, was just possible thanks to the terror sown by Paecist hordes, which even threw a couple of human bodies in front of the legislative body to pressure for the “right” pronouncing. Isn’t that what chavism and its motorizados have institutionalised in countless elections since 2002?
    Likewise, Juan Crisóstomo Falcón, the Monagas brothers, Antonio Guzmán Blanco (who happened to be, for the sake of Venezuelans, afrancesado), Castro, Gómez et al. all have been notorious strong characters, defiant, and arrechitos. How better to explain hordes of chavistas or oposicionistas insulting each other than by looking to those who followed first Boves, and after his tragic demise, Páez?
    How better to explain our horrible pile of bodies every weekend than reading Viajeros de Indias? Written more than 30 years ago, already by then, Venezuela was above LatAm average regarding violent deaths, not to mention world average (a different question is whether Herrera Luque’s hypothesis was spot on, or just a hallucination caused by reading too many history books about our mythological Independence war and Spanish colonisation).
    15 years is a long time, but recently, I bought a book called El Mundo según Cabrujas, from Alfa. Cabrujas’ refreshing humour is always more than welcome; this air of frankness and sharp intelligence. But one is left in wonder and amaze while reading the author’s strong comments against CAP, when the latter even bothered to call those “notables” who were conspiring openly against him, many of them dangerously bordering apologia del delito, and sit with them in Miraflores for a quick chat, Cabrujas included. Did Cabrujas ever foresee the mutation that was about to lure the whole country towards the abyss? The answer is that he was well prepared intellectually, but he preferred to keep vulturing that dead body that CAP was by 1992. As Chavez, and Moses first, he died too soon to swallow his own words and look the country in awe.
    Aren’t we being too optimistic about what Venezuelanness is? Or is it just me smoking too much stuff?

    • I agree. To me, Venezuelan democracy refers to voting for who you want to steal from you. There are the people in power and making money and the people out of power and getting trickle down corruption. Very few understand democracy. Most do not understand social compacts beyond La Famalia, To be fair most of LatAm has many of the same problems. But, they don’t have oil money waved in their face like a dog bone.
      I don’t think that this can changed by Venezuelans themselves. Even groups like the Andean Pact, Mercoursur, and others seem to be a place to eat meet and retreat. They have solved nothing that matters for their people. Bolivar was the first to try and failed. Chavez might have made it work had he not been a petty dictator waving oil money around.
      Perhaps Venezuela will have to fail in order to change. Venezuela is no small country and that would suck the whole region into it?

    • Although I lack your nuanced grasp of Venezuelan history I think one can ignore the subtle details and focus on one fundamental aspect: the desire for wealth from those who have felt it was beyond their grasp and were promised riches by Chavez as part of a bizarre revolutionary narrative. Anyone growing up in SA knows that income disparity (and its causes – real or perceived) has been and continues to be the central political issue driving politics there today (that is, how we decide how to slice up the pie). In addition, although there is obviously a historical continuum, IMHO the current social and economic situation in Venezuela is so unique as to render of dubious value a comparison to the social and political circumstances of even 30 years ago, and of even less importance a comparison to circumstances occurring further back in time. Such historical incidents may be regarded as symbolically important, but reference to them has only been meaningful as a means of manipulating public opinion, for instance in building up the feigned democratic and populist credentials of the current regime ( … bolivariano …). The collective memory is not sensitive to historical accuracy and will only retain convenient, abstract, and often inaccurate distillations of past events. So, basically, you have the unfed, poor huddled masses promised bread by some nut with political savvy but otherwise clueless about economics. While all this is going on, the real story of how we got to where we are is forgotten. Chavez had enough time to reset the clock and wipe out the collective memory. The result is present Venezuela.

      I extrapolate to the population at large from a personal account of how someone with my limited mental bandwidth digests history.

      Another of the troubling things about Venezuela today is that, reading about it from abroad, one no longer feels one is reading about Venezuela, one feels it is closer to Palestine or Cuba or Iran or some other majorly f*** up place. If Chavez succeeded in anything it is to put Venezuela in the same league.

  18. I think forgiveness feels like lower levels of inequality, rising standards of living for everyone, productive employment, a functioning justice system, and a transparent system of government with robust checks and balances.

  19. So… looking at other examples cruder than what we had lived such a Chile or Argentina a mixture of justice and forgiveness was absolutely necessary.

    I think the key word here is ‘maturity’. Could we be able to see beyond the difference and the mistakes of what, for many, was a true attempt to build a better society? Justice has to be delivered to those who did wrong doings. Such as handling unfair trials, corruption, etc. But would I like to see some greater fool like Saman suffer for his poor understanding on how economies work? I personally do not. Some people may argue that he committed negligence. But so did the person who put him in charge, twice.

    It would be a great mistake to alienate those that have alienated us. We would become them in that sense.

    To me it seems like the only agenda the opposition is pushing is doing the same as chavismo is doing with a little better management and somewhat less corruption.

  20. I dont think that reconciliation in the current state of things is possible, I dont think necessary for it that they admit they’re wrong, they just have to admit that change is needed, but right now there’s just too much resentment on both sides, I don’t have any particular hate toward anyone, just can’t understand how they’re happily willing to keep wasting oil’s revenue like this leaving nothing for the future.

    Also we’re not even in the decline of chavisms, like Churchill said, it’s not the beginning of the end, but it’s perhaps the end of the beginning, I can easily visualize at least 3 more years of the current phase of chavismo.

    • Why do they have to admit anything? And if you can’t understand how they are willing to do anything, that’s not necessarily a problem with them.

      In a democracy, everyone’s opinion is worth one vote. So we don’t have to convince others to want the same things we want; we have to convince ourselves to be willing to offer something that they would want more than anything else. The real question then becomes, what can you offer them that they can understand and that they would want more than any alternative, and that you’re willing to offer?

        • No, gordo, it wasn’t. You have to try to listen to Capriles’s message from the chavista perspective. He did not offer anything that promised to be better for them than sticking with Maduro. In fact, some of the things he said were worse, or maybe better in some things in exchange for being worse in others.

          You have to presume that they did not vote for a worse option *from their perspective*. Given that assumption, you have to figure out how things look from *their* perspective. And the more you think that they lack education, the more it is on you to figure them out, and not expect that they figure you out. So, I ask again, what have WE learned?

      • well, a majority needs to admit that change is needed for change to happen in an electoral way, that admission may come by someone convincing them of something or by his own mental process.

        I can understand that someone who lived in worse conditions in the fourth republic would like to keep voting for the 5th to continue, but what I can’t understand is how someone who have been watching the steady decline of the living conditions in the last 15 years would be happy to support this, no one who lives on a minimun wage should vote for this.

        It’s not only that we have failed to provide an easy-ignorant-mass-proof proposition, we’re not only fighting the goverment’s offer, we are also facing a massive difamation apparatus, some people don’t even wan’t to believe that improvement is possible under an opo’s goverment out of delusional resentment against the rich, the educated, the middle class, the empire, the [insert boogeyman here] etc, that is a big component of chavism, we may not need those to form a majority but they are in the way.

        • vagonba, I would be less worried if what you described were what I am seeing, but the sad thing is that I don’t see the opposition even offering something that seems better for them from their point of view. So, it’s not that they don’t believe us due to a discredit aparatus; it’s that if they did believe us, they still wouldn’t vote for what we offer! We truly have learned nothing if we don’t realize that our offer is lousy to them.

          • How do you convince children that wholesome vegetables and healthy foods are better for them than candy, sweet treats and soda pop ?? I fear that the best discourse or message that the oppo is honestly able to offer will involve hard work, tough times and sacrifices that most ordinary people are bound to reject, brain washed as they are with the illusion that this being a rich country all the good things they want are automatically to be had with little or no effort, through the largesse of an infinetly munificent government , !! therein lies the challenge !! ordinary people dont vote to promote or protect their long term interest (which they cannot recognize) but to gratify their grossest appetites and most primitive of passions .!!

          • I agree, that’s the dilema in wich we currently are. Wathever the opposition may propose will get a hammer from a lot of people. It seems the goverment will have to fall on its own weight or a new organic angry-mob-like movement would have to emerge from the currently silent masses.

          • vagonba, assume the government falls by its own weight, do you think the chavismo supporters will have *learned* to think like you, or do you think that they will continue to choose from whatever options are available with their current thinking?

            So the question is, will the oppo have *learned* to propose something for which chavismo supporters are willing to vote? Or are we going to lose to anyone else simply because we insist on making a lousy offer?

          • bill bass,

            How to convince children that healthy foods are better for them than sweet treats? The incorrect premise of the question that the voting choice of food intake is cerebral. Even if children are convinced that healthy foods are better for them, they would continue to choose the sweet treat just because they *like* sweet treats more. Your fear about the oppo’s best discourse seems to be based on the same incorrect premise as with the healthy foods. Also note that the analogy is limited in that we’re not talking about children…

            As to the challenge, the only reason the oppo can’t meet it is because it would involve a proposal that, though is healthy, long-term, would have to be perceived as immediate gratification. And there seems to be visceral pushback against anything that sounds populist *even* if it is long-term healthy.

            So the real question is: are WE willing to support something for which THEY would be willing to vote? More and more, I get the feeling that Marx’s quip about not being willing to belong to a club that would have him as a member applies to the opposition. We just don’t seem willing to support any platform that chavistas would be willing to vote for. So our only message to chavistas is perceived, correctly, as “you’re going to hurt more with us than with chavismo”. Why would they vote for us?

          • My dear Ex, dont get excited , take it easy , Lets put things in perspective, There may be things in a platform or program which we can support and which an open minded Chavista might also support but inevitably there are bound to be items on which there will be differences , important differences , where agreement is very difficult to impossible , then you can either pretend those differences dont exist by papering them over with vague formulas or simply lie that you agree with them (to get their support) . Some people balk at dishonesty , but hey thats always been part of practical politics since ages. Thats obstacle one , the second obstacle is that a die hard Chavistas have already made up their mind that we are incorrigible Meanies , intent on destroying every thing they cherish so that anything we propose is automatically tainted with the bad odour coming from our dirty diabolical hides..By the way even we will be a bit contaminated with that attitude, In psychology it has a name , its called confirmation bias, your are always right in what you think and your opponent is automatically wrong in every thing they stand for .
            So , you are right,, gaining the acceptance of chavistas die hards to a rational program Oppo’s can endorse also has a strong irrational component , an emotional one if you will , My fear is that irrational component in the Chavista mind will make them reject the rational component that our view of things has. and maybe that there are some among us who also are burdened with some confirmation bias which might prevent a coming together of both polarized groups around a sensible common program . I’m just pointing out some facts which any one can understand . But these are all abstract considerations , we dont know what specific problems might arise until get to work on that program . Do you have any ideas (other than your endearing UCT fixation) as to what such program should include which would bring the country out of its doldrums and be acceptable to both die hard chavistas and die hard oppo fellows. ?? if you do, please tell us what they are..!! Your opinions will be welcome ..

          • bill bass,

            If I understood your comment correctly, it is focused almost exclusively on die hards. I hardly include die hards from either side in my considerations for the very reasons that you explain, and then some.

            My comments, however, are mostly with non die hards in mind. I’m talking about chavismo supporters that vote for chavismo because they considered both chavismo and opposition platforms and *rationally* chose to vote for chavismo quite simply because it offers greater probability of benefit to them. I’ve been emphasizing that the opposition has not learned in all these years how this subset of the population thinks. Worse, the opposition seems to believe that this subset of the population does not know how to think; that if they knew how to think, they would be voting opposition. That, in my opinion, is incorrect. The fact is, this subset of the population is quite clear with regards to their preferences, and, whether we like it or not, short term benefits are of greater importance to them. And whether we like it or not, that thinking gets one vote for each one of them. That’s the fact we need to accept and, if we are democratic, assimilate into our proposals.

            To answer your question, directly, no, quite simply because you are referring to die hards. But if I ask the same question regarding non die hards, yes, I have several other ideas, but none would come close to achieving the level of success of UCT, so I’m sticking to it.

            My question to you is, if you don’t have an alternative that would more probably win non die hard chavismo supporters over than UCT, why aren’t you supporting UCT (i.e., is it rational or irrational)?

  21. This echoes the historic dispute after WW2 between Albert Camus and François Mauriac:
    “Mauriac had a bitter dispute with Albert Camus immediately following the liberation of France in World War II. At that time, Camus edited the resistance paper (now an overt daily) Combat while Mauriac wrote a column for Le Figaro. Camus said newly liberated France should purge all Nazi collaborator elements, but Mauriac warned that such disputes should be set aside in the interests of national reconciliation. Mauriac also doubted that justice would be impartial or dispassionate given the emotional turmoil of liberation”.
    Albert Camus would later go on to say he was wrong, and that Mauriac was right. It’s a tricky issue: up to what point is it legitimate to hunt and track down dictatorships collaborators? How do you get over the past and move forward? Uruguay also had to pass a law in order to turn the page. But it’s a difficult choice, a bitter one, since the sentiment of “getting away with it”, or building your new justice system upon a huge injustice, can crush whole generations.
    Cheers

  22. I am reminded of one of Borges phrases ” ante el agravio , ni el perdon ni la venganza …., el olvido” which roughly rendered into english translates as ” before a grievance , neither forgive nor avenge , … forget ” Borges explained himself this way:. to forgive is usually dishonest , not everyone has it in their heart the capacity to forgive a harm done to them , on the other hand vengeance morally poisons the soul of those that seek it , while forgetting is the best vengeance because it doesnt allow the grievance to embitter your memory , to extend the effect of the harm done to you . ( the words are from memory so they may not be exact).
    The first instict of men who suffer from others abuse is to go for retribution , for justice , to seek to punish those who have harmed them , thats very natural. More difficult is to forgive , that requires a generosity of spirit which few men genuinely posses , its something for people endowed with a superbly heroic moral character , seldom for ordinary people , The best most can manage is to forget , to turn the page , to leave the memory of past abuses behind , to avert the eyes and not dwell on the harm thats been suffered , to put ones attention on something else. This is Borges advise .
    Countries that have gone through traumatic historical experiences have responded different ways Some as a practical matter have covered with a mantle of silence the crimes and abuses of the past or even given a broad official pardon to all but the most corrupt and brutal of past offenders . the country moves ahead into reconciliation and the past is …forgotten !! (that was probably Mauriacs position) Others have made retribution and punishment the centre piece of their response to past sins . in a spirit of outraged justice ( that was Camus) , yet others have had truth commissions ( South Africa) where past sins are forgiven provided the guilty come forth and recognize their crimes and abuses , which constitutes a kind of collective catharsis that helps the agrieved ‘move on’, experience ‘closure’ and leave their hatred behind..
    Something like this happened in the history of the roman church , there was a period when the Church was persecuted by certain Roman emperors , some priests under threat of losing their lives publicly renounced their beliefs , others bravely stood by them and either took refuge in a clandestine life or became martyrs to their faith. After the persecution was over a huge dispute rose up , many wanted to defrock the weak priests , in a spirit of outraged rignteousness, others wanted to forgive them as all men are weak . The latter were called donatists afte the name of the priest who advocated punishment . The church ultimately decided to forgive , in part beause once a priest , the person became endowed with a sacred condition that could not be easily taken away. .

  23. Forgiveness is of course largely a cultural question, in some countries blood feuds lasting many generations can arise, as in Albania. In some political violence becomes the norm, as in Colombia.

    But:
    (1) How? Forgiveness can take on many forms – personal, collective, institutional.
    (2) What? Forgive what exactly? Bureaucratic incompetence? Costly mismanagement of the economy? Political abuses?
    (3) Who? How will appropriate punishment be meted out? Mass firings of public employees? Exclusion from business opportunities? Black-listing?

    If there is a change in regime there will be more than one chavista moving abroad, but except for a few near the top or those who clearly stuck their hand in the public tin, few will see a courtroom. Political crimes may come to court. Beyond that I believe also the practical aspects of business being business and Venezuela being Venezuela will naturally lead to a forgiveness of sorts, but if growth peters out, all bets are off and a change in regime may not significantly help calm social tensions.

  24. Good Post!

    Simply put, which is the way I like it: A country cannot build or rebuild when it is divided by too much self hatred.Yes, “self hatred” because we are all part of the ONE/
    Mental constructs can rarely get us beyond that point.The ordinary minds divides and doubts- only the ordinary heart can go beyond into greater understanding

    If we do not go there we will never rebuild.

    Music can help.Respectful dialogue can help.Using our empathic skills can help,even while denouncing what we consider wrong.That’s the difference between being assertive and being aggressive.We also need to look at the sty in our own eye.

  25. Yo generalmente dice mucho sobre el foro de este tipo porque es difícil saber
    qué decir, pero la verdad es que tu artículo o post que me gustó mucho
    lo que escribiste y actualmente lo has dicho merece ser reconocida.
    No leo los disquisición de los demás, pero yo creo que a manera
    yo. Desde en aquel lugar, recibirá un nuevo fanático.

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