Among barbarians

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barroom-brawlDecember 2nd, 2014. 8:06 am. I am walking north from the Plaza Venezuela subway station toward La Florida. I cross Libertador Avenue. The blind man is there, as always.

A couple of weeks before, I witnessed how a National Guard unit blocked traffic in this same intersection to allow two black luxury SUVs with tinted glass to go by without suffering the dread of traffic. Some chavista, I thought. I remember I felt angry. I gave them the finger. I felt embarrassed, indignant even, at my gesture, at their gall. It was all visceral. Chavismo aspires for nothing but a utilitarian society – one where ‘their’ utility is maximized.

Back to December 2nd. I am walking, immersed in my thoughts.

“…me your cellphone”

I leave my thoughts and come back to reality.

“Give me your cellphone!” asks a young man in his twenties, wearing a sports jacket.

I still don’t understand

“Give me your cellphone or I’ll kill you right here!!”

The young man holds a gun, and it’s pointed at me. I finally get it. I am being robbed. I hand him my phone, and he leaves. He was walking calmly. I didn’t say a word.

January 4th, 2015. 8:30 am. I am walking on La Castellana’s Main Avenue, between the roundabout and Francisco de Miranda Avenue, right across the street from El Budare.

“Do you see that man behind you?” asks a guy in his thirties. He is wearing a hoodie. Behind him is another guy. I don’t understand.

“Well, he has a gun,” he continues while pointing a knife at me.

“Hand me your cellphone, watch and money.” I do as instructed. They leave.

I walk to El Budare. There is a cop having breakfast. I tell him. He calls another one. I repeat the story. It is too late now. They got away. I get home. We tracked the phone. They are in Libertador now. I call the police – there is nothing we (the Chacao police) can do. The Chacao officers say that the burglars probably belong to a gang from the Tuy valley, that they have been apprehended and released several times. It is frustrating to them too.

The guy selling me the new phone had his stories. He was robbed twice in 2014 – April and October. Everyone in his department had been robbed. I look around and I see about 30 people. He tells me that a coworker was shot in the subway. Some guy was trying to rob another one who refused to be robbed, and he started to shoot. His friend was caught in the crossfire. Fortunately, he said, it was shot in the forearm.

Venezuelan society seems to be divided into overlapping spheres. In one, the state exists. This sphere is populated by government hotshots, the PSUV, bureaucrats, businessmen. Common folk interact with it, but they don’t belong to it. There is some notion of order – some level of rank. There is a diminishing notion of modernity in it. Currency is the currency.

There is another sphere. This one is populated by common folks – working class fellows, shop owners, writers, artists. Good, honest people that get up everyday, manage a poorly dealt hand, and come back home with a meager pay. There is some sense of order here too, of social contract.

The last sphere is a hobbesian sphere. It is a sphere where the barbarians inhabit. It is the war of all against all in that sphere.

Sphere one has placed every resource in its arsenal to not deal with that war. Armored vehicles, bodyguards, the whole deal.

The sphere of the commons don’t have the resources to shield themselves.

And here we are – sometimes collateral damage, or sometimes simply pillaged by the barbarians fighting their war of all against all.

The funny thing is that this Hobbesian nightmare is the state of nature. It is the absolute freedom state. According to Moreno, barbarians get a rush from this feeling of absolute freedom.

One must wonder then. When opposition figure heads call for freedom, when the protesters call for freedom, is it really the right call?

It seems to me that the right call is for justice.

1 COMMENT

  1. No, they call for freedom. That some group of assholes get a rush by being free to rob the rest of their freedom is not freedom for anybody but them

    Justice too, but freedom is there. From feam and from violence.

  2. Those spheres you describe are probably the reason I haven’t felt homesick (not even for a couple of days) since I left Venezuela. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one of the deniers of their own culture and national identity. I don’t really feel proud of being Venezuelan, but I don’t have problems with my nationality as many of the commentators of the latest posts seem to have.
    But really, is a relief to live with rules and norms that are followed by the rest of the people. It doesn’t matter if they are not prone to physical contact (my wife and I call this “tocativos”), do not smile at all or are very happy not talking to each other. I don’t care, we don’t care. I’m not a sociologist, but I think that to live in society, human beings need rules and institutions to enforce those rules (law, religion, government, that kind of stuff…) When this apparatus start to crumble, society cannot work properly and living in that situation is quite difficult. Although Venezuela is not a failed state yet, it looks more and more like one…
    I’m sure we will overcome this situation, but the more we wait the more difficult it will be to restore some minimum standards to allow us to live as a modern society

  3. 1. Venezuelans generally do live within a state of relative social order , but its a frail and frayed social order, one which can turn to chaos unexpectedly , which rules can be broken with impunity almost at any time , which doesnt cover all situations . One never knows absolute security , only the constant threat that you can be abused and mistreated by others who dont feel bound to maintain such order , or the rules that in the abstract hold it together . This is the basic existential fact of living in Venezuela !! ask anyone.
    2. taking another approach you could say that we live in chaos , a badly administerd chaos , with some isolated pockets of order here and there, what little order there is can protect you in some situations but not in others where chaos reigns supreme or is a constant intruder.
    This chaos is not only present in our daily life but in the political life of the country where institutions are sabotaged and abused by all powerful cliques of corrupt men bearing the regimes banner.
    3. those living within the priviledged circles of the regime leadership are protected from such chaos , by a system of privileges built through the heavy use of public resources, one which caters to their sole comfort and personal benefit. The world of the enchufados.
    4. Because chaos is omnipresent and in some ways favours the regimes interests , a criminal class has burgoined and taken social spaces which used to be protected from them , the criminal is tolerated , there are ‘peace zones’ where they are free to act with total impunity from persecution by the ‘forces of order’ .
    They are part of the Chaos but one which the regime presumably entrusted with the maintenance of order has deliberately decided to let loose .
    5. The barrio criminals who people this criminal class are made up normally of emotionally and materially abandoned , abused or neglected children whose only possible claims to a degraded form of manly dignity comes from being able to break that order and use force and violence to abuse others and show the world how mighty and powerful they are.!! What Father Moreno has studied is the way the disfunctional unstructured family life of the barrios cause many male children to develop into young men who find in the practice of brutal crime a way of asserting themselves as worthy of respect , a crude savage form of respect. !!.
    6. One way of defining modernity is a system where social order functions to make the life of all better through the efficient operation of impersonal institutions , which play no favourites , which treats all the same way , where all conducts are ruled by duty and the exercise of responsability and not by crony or clientelar favouritism or the disparagement and persecution of politically demonized enemies . In that sense we are a long way from Modernity. !!

  4. A call for justice insofar that it is not a veil for revenge and retribution.

    Justice as in the the Truth Commission in South Africa.

    If forgiveness is not an option we will end up like the Palestinian conflict where claims are replied by counter claims, and those in turn have counter-counter claims… all the way back to the dawn of history (something Chavistas already do to justify their actions).

    • “A call for justice insofar that it is not a veil for revenge and retribution.”

      And that’s exactly the opposite of what chaburrismo did, they called for vengeance and named it “revolutionary justice”.

  5. Freedom can be a very slippery term. Anytime we are part of a society, our personal freedoms are necessarily limited by the rules necessary to coexist with others. The story of civilization has been a continuous struggle to find the right balance that maximizes personal freedom while creating the order and stability necessary to make and execute our plans for the future. This regime has failed at both.

  6. “Sphere one has placed every resource in its arsenal to not deal with that war. Armored vehicles, bodyguards, the whole deal.”

    I couldn’t help thinking, as I read that, of Gabriela Ramírez, who until last month occupied the post of Defensora del Pueblo, or ombudsman.

    In that role she famously denied there was a crime problem in Venezuela, attributing concerns over crime to a “sensation of insecurity” fomented by the media. As ombudsman, la Gabriela enjoyed the protection of six bodyguards.

    No sooner had she left the job than she was allegedly assaulted by an indignant woman in a restaurant, with no serious consequences – except to her alleged assailant, who ended up behind bars at Sebin headquarters, where political dissidents are held.

    No bodyguards any more – but Gabriela can still count on the protection of a skewed justice system that lets over 90% of murders go unpunished but imprisons anyone who dares say ‘boo’ to a member of ‘sphere one’.

      • The “efficient” Chavista justice gang got hold of the lady who threw her water at the “ombudsperson” immediately but somehow have failed to nab the murderers of Adriana Uriquiola & her baby or Monica Spear and her husband.

        Oh, well, I guess you can’t have it all, eh?

        • Wasn’t one of the Eternal Commadante’s sayings, “for my friends everything, for my enemies the law.” From my experience Venezuela has an overabundance of laws combined with a total disregard and lack of respect for any and all laws which has helped create today’s anarchy.

      • Interesting.. I missed that. What were the good-for-nothings doing while she was allegedly being assaulted, one wonders. And does she pay for them herself?

          • According to my understanding of chavista law, if you are not a high ranking chavista lord of the people you have to sit still, shut-up and accept any abuse thrown your way, otherwise, if you react, you are guilty of an unpardonable crime.

          • … and could get thrown into jail like, say, Leopoldo López or the dozens of protesters from the February protests who are still in prison awaiting “trials” after multiple deferments. These deferments are absolute hell, given the state of Venezuela’s penal infrastructure, for people like Marcelo Crovato —worth a full story on his own— a lawyer who was jailed by a Chavista judge for exercising his clients right to legal counsel(!) and is battling bouts of severe depression.

            The judge that sent police commissioner Iván Simonovis away to 30 years in hell was recently appointed to a Supreme Court bench, so … how does one begin to understand this “law”?

  7. I wanted to use the term of ‘justice’ as a way in which society finds what’s just. Not with the limited scope of judges and how they administer crime punishment. I really like this passage from Kymlicka:

    “One of the most striking features of Rawls’s theory is its claim that ‘justice is
    the first virtue of social institutions’ (Rawls 1971: 3). Justice, according to
    Rawls, is not one amongst a number of other political values, like freedom,
    community, and efficiency. Rather, justice is the standard by which we weigh
    the importance of these other values. If a policy is unjust, there is no separate
    set of values one can appeal to in the hope of overriding justice, for the
    legitimate weight attached to these other values is established by their location
    within the best theory of justice.”

    In political philosophy, how we decide what’s fair is how we make a social contract. I hope to elaborate on these ideas more.

    • I would argue that “absolute freedom” state is a misconception. I think we can all agree there’s a big chunk of the population that simply does “lo que les da la gana” all the time. Whether it’s robbing (I’m glad you didn’t get hurt, buddy), evading taxes, parking literally anywhere it’s physically possible, littering, etc. Is that really freedom? True, the guy who robbed you wanted your cellphone and got it, but I’m guessing he also doesn’t want to be robbed himself minutes after that. And even if he believes he can protect himself with his gun, he has to sleep at some point, right? And he must have a family, what about them? What happens when the other barbarians get to them? It seems to me these barbarians also want the safety of institutions. They just don’t realize it because they live immersed in an world of violence, fear, hatred, and misery. What I’m trying to say is, the call for freedom is universal. It goes hand in hand with the call for justice, but it doesn’t take a second place in my hand.

      In any case, I think the problem can be reduced to simpler form: rule of law, or lack thereof. I think what we really need now is rule of law. Almost any law will do, as long as we stick with it. We could do wonders with the current legal system, all of its vices included, if we just did things by the book. Like in any engineering analysis, you need a reference system, something solid to which you can refer all variables, to make sense of things. Once you figure things out, switching to other systems is a simple operation. To me, the most immediate problem is not about the amount of justice or freedom we enjoy (those are problems alright, but not as immediate) but instead the absence of anything resembling a rule of law. We don’t even have a state anymore, we have a sort of horde at best.

      Great article by the way. It’s nice to talk philosophy every so often.

      • The point you make in the first paragraph is precisely Hobbes’s point. In absolute freedom you live in fear. I am sure the thug lives in fear. We concede liberties and rights to the state in exchange for safety. This transaction feels natural. Intuitively.

        I disagree with you that the discussion of justice, or to put it in other words, the discussion of what’s just is secondary. I think it is a fundamental point in how we draft a social contract that provides a state of Rule of Law that is effective and suited for our needs (even those affective ones).

  8. This reminds me of the idealist who joined Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt in search of Russeaus “Noble Savage” only to be raped and pillaged by Bedouins. But beware Linages both Freedom and Justice take have many meanings.

      • I agree with Aquilesher.
        Words have no meaning per se, we are the one that puts meaning onto them, we are constantly changing them and dictionaries are constantly updating meanings according to how we use them.

  9. My sense is, you too could have your own black suburban with bodyguard if you were just willing to abandon certain ideas about how people should behave and show deference to that hierarchy. Giving them the finger is one of the small and sparse privileges of choosing freedom of conscience over consorting with what Vaclav Havel called, cunning shits.

    Glad you are safe.

  10. Venezuelans abroad follow the rules of their host country, maybe more so than other visitors. Within minutes of setting foot in Venezuela their law abiding experiences are conveniently dismissed. It`s as if Venezuela only exists to be abused even by those who know better.

    • “Venezuelans abroad follow the rules of their host country, maybe more so than other visitors.”

      That’s not true, in my experience. Yes, they behave better, but they still are prone to litter as they please, ignore stop signs, parking restrictions (until they are towed enough!), etc. My wife has been exasperated by the behavior of a few of her Venezuelan friends in Florida, saying it’s giving the community a bad reputation among native born Floridians in the town. There was even a guest post about it on this blog, if I recall correctly.

  11. The day I see a massive manifestation coming out of El Valle, Petare o Catia (really massive, hundreds of thousands) protesting against impunity and violence… that I will have hope for Venezuela.

    • And that day, the polinazi will kidnap people to be tortured, the people’s guard will crack skulls open with their helmets, the milicos will come to asphyxiate people with “gas, the good one”, the chaburro-controlled police forces will fire shotguns on people’s stomachs and the colectivos will shoot everybody in the head, trying to rack as many kills as possible.

      All ordered by the big, fat fishes.

      And after that, the murdered folks will be called “bat-shit-insane morons”, “radicals”, “golpistas”, “escuacas”, and all sorts of dehumanizing insults.

      Hope is the last thing to go down, pal.

      • And opposition “TruthWielders” (TM) will also bash them, tagging them as “Salideros”, “Antidemocraticos” and “Atajistas”, right before turning up that salsa compilation quemaito they just bought from your nearest buhonero

        The sad thing about venezuela is that decent people aren’t faced only by chavernment thugs

  12. Rodrigo i think you are confusing freedom with anarchy. Freedom has many faces, the freedom as understood by the US (the land of the free…) is totally different to what we have traditionally considered “freedom” in our country (as freedom to literaly do anything we want.. drive at 150kmh with a beer in hand at 4 am totally drunk).

    i remember having met a german living in Margarita a few years back who told that he had decided to stay because he didnt fit in his country´s restrictive and oppresive society, whereas here he enjoyed the “pure anarchy, i can do literally anything i feel like” he told me, while he lit up a joint in broad daylight…

    • I am using the term freedom in Hobbes terms.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellum_omnium_contra_omnes

      Indeed, it is also anarchy. Here is how Webster’s dictionary defines anarchy:

      an·ar·chy
      noun ˈa-nər-kē, -ˌnär-

      : a situation of confusion and wild behavior in which the people in a country, group, organization, etc., are not controlled by rules or laws

      Full Definition of ANARCHY
      1
      a : absence of government
      b : a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority
      c : a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government
      2
      a : absence or denial of any authority or established order
      b : absence of order : disorder

      The thing is that is counter intuitive to think in terms of absolute freedom. We rather some order and some freedoms. As an example: I am willing to not have access to your goods in exchange to keep you and others from mine (even if mine are less). There is a concession that grants a right.

      • That’s the danger of reading old philosophers.

        Freedom no longer means what Hobbes meant and the problems he struggled with have been closed. No one in a civilized society thinks of freedom as a state of being feral, save for objectivists :-).

        • read the comments down bellow. Freedom is a gradient. Not a quantum object. There are many freedoms. Malandros have ALL of them.

          Healthy societies are willing to give up some in exchange for security.

          ” the danger of reading old philosophers. ” Oh, not reading them is far more dangerous.

          • You are quite correct in your comment , freedom is indeed a gradient and there can be too much of it or too little of it or as Montaigne wrote ‘ there can be excesses even in the practice of virtue’ .

            Old philosophers must be read for inspiration but also with a grain of salt , they had brilliant intuitions but they had no access to what modern science has revealed about human behaviour and the habits of the human mind so we must also complement their reading with the study of more recent discoveries and studies that shed light on the human condition.

  13. Cheo is right, but so is the author. In the popular vernacular, especially in the United States, the word “freedom” has been hijacked by so many special interests that it is often used to justify violence and intolerance. Keep writing from Venezuela, Rodrigo — your voice is being heard and appreciated.

  14. I will say it in Spanish: no confudan libertad con libertinaje
    We are used to libertinaje and we celebrate it, Venezuelans are used to do what ever we want without consequences and that is the main reason we are here. They day we understand we have to pay for our action we will stop doing many things.

  15. “One must wonder then. When opposition figure heads call for freedom, when the protesters call for freedom, is it really the right call?

    It seems to me that the right call is for justice.”

    Besides what you’ve mentioned, which is a compelling call for rethinking the campaign, ‘freedom’ has an additional meaning which doubly adds to it’s inadequacy in this context; it is a generic US chant bullet point.

    • That’s actually a good point and worth discussing in length.

      PJ has nothing in its doctrine that discusses justice (other than its name). PJ defines its self as ‘humanist’ whatever that means.

      In fact there isn’t a big party today in Venezuela that openly talks about a certain doctrine and acts based on it. This is, in my opinion, a major issue in the Venezuelan public sphere.

      But this is a different discussion.

      • The contrast is between radicals (LL, Maria Corina, Ledezma, UNO, RAV) who appeal to anarchy and the moderate opposition (PJ, AP) who abide institutions to a greater extent. It’s not meant to draw upon idealist chants of which both groups are lacking.

        • I don’t see LL, MCM or Ledezma as radicals. Nor PJ or AP as moderate. And if they were I don’t think that’s a problem. The problem that I see is that they lack any ideology or doctrine. The same issue occurs in the GPP with the exception of Barreto’s party (anarchy-communist). But again, that’s tiny.

          In the opposition the only party that I see with an actual doctrine is COPEI. Also tiny these days.

          I hope I can write about this topic in length in the near future.

          • “I don’t see LL, MCM or Ledezma as radicals.”

            Surely you consider UNO (Baduel’s coups d’état) a radical movement. MCM and Ledezma have protested for Baduel Jr.’s liberation, and his incarceration is due to his promotion of UNO. I don’t see LL and VP diminishing la salida (insurrection) any time soon, as PJ and AP have. The difference is there wehter you admit it or not, and it’s understandable if you can’t if your permanency in CC is at stake. I’m sure other VP members likewise weigh their opportunity; they’re *free*, like you, to juxtapose different opposition parties and arrive at *just* conclusions.

          • “The difference is there wehter you admit it or not, and it’s understandable if you can’t if your permanency in CC is at stake.”

            Cada ladrón juzga por su condición.

          • de acuerdo, esa acusación me pareció fuera de lugar.

            Acá todos hemos podido comentar lo que se nos da la gana dentro del respeto, y el disenso entre los autores es *central* al blog.

          • I see. You assume goodwill in your political analysis. Well, but do you also think highly of your readers?

          • Rodrigo,

            You touch upon something very important here, in my view.

            You might say the present plethora of separate, competing opposition parties could be termed ‘vanity’ parties. Each is centered around one charismatic individual. (It is interesting that even Chavez didn’t start his PSUV until 2008, and he failed to get the many small chavista parties to give up their individual identities inside the PSUV … s,o this is clearly not only an opposition phenomena.)

            I would venture to say that this factionalism and lack of ideological character among the opposition has something to do with the low level of development–i.e., the immaturity, in the historical sense–of both the business classes (capitalist classes) and the working classes in Venezuela, So too, the peasant class has long been decimated as rentismo killed agriculture and drove them to the cities.

            The old, paternalistic/elitist first-wave democratic, mass parties that established Venezuela as a democracy and that had some elaborated and coherent ideological identities decayed under the puntofijismo system As the modern urban middle class developed and demanded the complex public services and protections afforded by a modern state with responsive, democratic institutions, the old parties failed to adapt to the times and were abandoned by voters.

            For its part, Chavismo clearly has a rather elaborated ideological basis, albeit a mish-mash of several nationalist and pseudo-socialist ideas. (But, it has a very low theoretical development — which is another matter from ideology). In any case, the opposition seems to have been pretty reactionary at first, dominated in large extend by elements of the old , corrupt and paternalistic puntofijo parties and state-functionary elite that had been displaced by the popular chavista (electoral) revolution. However, a new, younger group started to grow up (i.e., Lopez, Caprilles, Ocariz, etc.) who clearly had more modern ideas, asociated with a more participatory, civil-society-centered politics. But, at some point, rather than becoming the core of a new political movement/party, they went the way of each having their own vanity party (and also disagreeing on what activity is key).

            It is easy to talk of caudillismo in looking at both chavismo and the opposition; however, that is rather facile and lacks historical specificity. I would just say that the decimation of the modern middle class, which would have been expected to provide the cadre and much of the mass base of any such new, civil-society-centered opposition political party grouping was both caused by the failure of Chavez to address the interests and needs of the modern urban middle class and, as time went on and that class more and more opposed his rule, he rather consciously destroyed their conditions of life. He clearly, and correctly came to see that class as his mortal enemy, and even spoke of them as part of the ‘oligarchy’.

            With so much of the professional and student base of any such new opposition party and civil society movement driven from the country, it is difficult to see how the opposition could now be transformed into a more ideologically and organizationally coherent and united, civil-society-centered party.

          • “In any case, the opposition seems to have been pretty reactionary at first, dominated in large extend by elements of the old , corrupt and paternalistic puntofijo parties and state-functionary elite that had been displaced by the popular chavista (electoral) revolution. However, a new, younger group started to grow up (i.e., Lopez, Caprilles, Ocariz, etc.)”

            Your idea of displacement has no factual backing: your supposed post-reactionary new faces were involved in the Carmona coup.

          • That is true. However, that coup was a complex affair. There were various forces operating, with different intentions. There was a legitimate mass movement of various sectors, especially from the urban middle class, but significant numbers of people also from below (e.g., unions and workers) who had become disenchanted with Chavez. And, there were of course others who had much less democratic intentions.

            Indeed, right-wing elements opportunistically used the mass movement to execute their own plans — a fact that led to many people becoming demoralized with the mass movement when they realized that a character like Carmona had seized power and illegally threw out the constitution and dissolved the Assembly, etc. This is much of why it was then so easy to soon reverse Carmona’s seizure of power–Carmona et al did not have the confidence/support of much of the anti-Chavez masses.

            In any case, simply participating in those events by no means indicates that this or that individual was necessarily a ‘golpista’. There was a genuine and legitimate mass movement and there was a parallel conspiratorial movement. (Meanwhile, Chavismo is of course no stranger to that sort of activity. It arose as a purely military-conspiratorial movement that, after one or two miserable failures with such tactics, turned to elections and making alliances with the more traditional left and popular movements. This late turn to democratic electoral politics is part of the reason it had no experience at all in exercising power, even at a local level, and no sense of party politics whatsoever when it came to power. It was unprepared to run a state, and had to rely on the personal authority of a charismatic personality as opposed to collective, party-centered, politics.

            My point, in the comment earlier above, was that the new generation of opposition did eventually succeed in pushing aside the sort of people who constantly focused on coups and pure emotionalism; esp. by the time of the Nov. 2008 elections. As a result, the opposition made a very good showing at the polls. The younger leaders had pushed aside the old-school types (or at least got them to be quiet) and kept the focus on bread-and-butter sorts of issues.. However, indeed, as time went on, they did not sufficiently break with the old ways of organizing and did not develop a sufficiently unified political movement based on civil society. However, again, much of that is because of the deterioration of conditions of life that have forced the emigration of so many urban professionals and middle class university students — people who are the most capable of producing a more vibrant, united, theoretically aware and democratic movement, one capable of punishing leaders who don’t get with the program.

            Anyway, this has been my impression.

  16. Rodrigo, I’m not sure it was you, but some commenter of similar name, who mentioned he was kidnapped in Los Palos Grandes some years ago, stuffed in a car trunk, and “ruleteado” por Caracas streets before finally being let go; anyway, this commenter didn’t seem to be too overly-worried by this experience; at the time I commented, as I will to you now, he/you were damn lucky to not have been hurt and to still be alive.

  17. In a Hobbsean state of nature every one is not equally free , rather the freedom of an individual or group is dependent on its capacity to forcefully and violently impose its will on others who are thus subject to the loss of their freedom . It is the freedom of the strong to rob the weaker of their freedom through the exercise of their superior force . It is not that individuals surrender their freedom but that they are restored to their freedom because one party having gained the exclusive exercise of force decides to prevent the weak from becoming the happless prey of any other among the strong and establish a public order where all can enjoy such measure of reedom as it is willing to allow .

    The thing is that such concentration of power in a single group or party can ocurr without the consent of all in that society , it can be due to the fortunes of war , to one group being more cunning and ferocious than others or just more lucky in how it wages war. or in its capacity to invent an embroidered and colourful myth that gains the acceptance of all about who should rule . In one group gaining such power that no other group dares challenge it . .

    Hobbes idea that such concentrated power could only rise as a result of the free consent of all is of course no only unhistorical but highly unlikely . hence the notion that the freedom of all represent the original Hobbsean state of nature is perhaps not quite credible.

    .

    • That is a timeless post… really great writing by Toro, takes some of the pain from knowing how deep in excrement Venezuela is buried.

  18. The issue is that both extremes, the enchufato te turno elite, and the barbarians, as you call them, surviving on poverty income, have similar values regarding this “freedom” concept you are trying to discuss.

    The little bourgeois middle class that was, and the remains of it now days were struggling in the middle with modern values such as merito, justicia, libertad de prensa, etc.

    Those in the taking , knew how the guanababa was played. Now days, the Guanabana is still there, at 100+ $ /bbl. and red, but same same, while their M.O. has been to systematically promote chaos in the whole society to have people distracted and busy fending for themselves.

    Again, middle class values, so over represented in this dear blog are caught in the cross fire.

    In Venezuela, what we have as references (Me as part of this modern, middle class group) are the exception to the majority rule. The 5% on the nomenclature and 80% in the proletariat to use current terminology rule over the rest!

    We are just looking into our navels here IMO.

    The incumbents of the Cuarta, remain jugando agachados hoping to have another go at the helm.

    For the exception of notable persons and institutions, esto es lo que hay!

  19. OT, but just had to share…

    Socialismo:

    1. Print LOTS of money to…you know, help the people.
    2. When prices rise (due to increase in money supply, econ 101), why, what do ya do? PRICE CONTROLS!!!
    3. Price controls means EVERYTHING SELLS OUT.
    4. Everything selling out means, duh, BLACK MARKET
    5. Socialismo gov’t “cracks down” on unreasonable people who want to eat.
    6. People finally get p’d off enough to overthrow the idiot marxists (Marx was an educated idiot who never left the library).
    7. Normalcy returns to the country.
    8. People get rich and send their kids to leftist (educated) universities.
    9. Their children learn about Marx, then take important positions in gov’t. where they:
    10. Print LOTS of money to…you know, help the people.

    • Continuing my plundering of the rich resource that is wikipedia, catch this:

      “Following Napoleon’s rule, the triptych dissolved itself, as none believed possible to conciliate individual liberty and equality of rights with equality of results and fraternity.[2] The idea of individual sovereignty and of natural rights possessed by man before being united in the collectivity contradicted the possibility of establishing a transparent and fraternal community.[2] Liberals accepted liberty and equality, defining the latter as equality of rights and ignoring fraternity.[2]”

    • Contrast the previous paragraph with the next (thank you wikipedia!):

      “Early Socialists rejected an independent conception of liberty, opposed to the social, and also despised equality, as they considered, as Fourier, that one had only to orchestrate individual discordances, to harmonize them, or they believed, as Saint-Simon, that equality contradicted equity by a brutal levelling of individualities.[2] Utopian Socialism thus only cared about Fraternity, which was, in Cabet’s Icarie the sole commandment.[2]”

    • The French clearly gave all of this much thought. The results undoubtedly of being ruled by despots for hundreds of years (no, during their entire history!). Which is why one should learn history – and probably also philosophy, preferably of the political french kind – in school, following a liberal curriculum, so one does not forget why despots are a bad thing.

      • Equality , liberty and fraternity was the motto of the French Enlightment ( the Encyclopedists , Rousseau) , the motto of the British Enlightment was Life Liberty and Property ( Locke) which Jefferson transformed into Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness when writing the US declaration of independence . ( Property sounded so venal) . The French have always been very vain people , more so that the Brits , it rankled them to have an aristocratic system which made those who werent aristocrats feel humiliated , thus the worship of equality and of the Grandiose Glory of the angry mob. The dour sober british of course just wanted to be respectable and .practical people that they were, to be left alone to carry on with their businesses without let or hindrance from the monarch .

  20. Completely and utterly off-topic, but surely reflecting a deeper truth regarding the relative state of governance*, here is (courtesy of El Nacional) …

    Clasificación de la FIFA del mes de enero:

    1. Alemania
    2. Argentina
    3. Colombia
    4. Bélgica
    5. Holanda
    6. Brasil
    7. Francia
    . Portugal
    9. España
    10. Uruguay

    14. Chile
    16. Costa Rica
    20. México
    26. Ecuador
    27. Estados Unidos
    53. Perú
    55. Panamá (+2)
    72. Honduras (-2)
    73. Guatemala (-1)
    76. Paraguay (-1)
    84. Bolivia (+1)
    87. Venezuela (+1)
    90. El Salvador
    105. República Dominicana (+1)
    113. Cuba
    161. Puerto Rico
    173. Nicaragua (+1)

    (*granted, Venezuela is actually improving in the rankings!!!)

  21. There are three assumptions in Hobbes ideas :
    1. That absent govt all men would be free to do as they please
    2. That such freedom would be used by every individual to wage war against all others, and .
    3. That men to avoid the chaos that such universal strife causes would (as a matter of convenience) enter into a compact whereby each surrendered their individual freedom to a Leviathan who would concentrate all power in itself and impose an order which all would agree to . hence govts legitimacy rested in the consent of the governed

    These assumptions of course are lacking in any empirical or historical accuracy .

    Societies are not the result of the deliberate decisions of individuals to form them , just as animal societies they are the result of natural processes which has men organize themselves spontaneously in groups beause it helps them to survive the challenges of nature , these societies in turn develop rules and customs which guide the behaviour of their members from birth and are structured so the strongest and most cunning create a system of dominance all the weaker find it convenient to pay obeyance to .These rules and customs dont allow every individual an untramelled freedom to do what they will but imposes on them a habit of obeyance to certain rules which organize their common life .

    This system of dominance and subordination is also present in animal societies but it is not the result of any conscious deliberation and agreement among its members seeking to avoid the chaos of universal strife but the result of the strongest and most cunning members of that group causing all to accept their rule , sometimes using methods of violence and intimidation , but many times out of the passivity that is induced by blind habit and ingrained custom. once a strongman has established himself as the boss.

    The consent if developed is not of all the members , only of the strongest and most influential . Hobbes narrative is a pious and endearing fable to make men flatter themseles in feeling that being naturally rational and free then they are able to create political society from thin air by virtue of their entering into a mutual contract which requires their consent to exist. The fact of the matter is that in nature men are not equal in strenght and personality and capacity for making themselves obeyed , nor are they free to do whatever they desire , instead they create bonds both of dominance and mutual affiliation which restrict them in the exercise of any freedom which they may imagine themselves born into !!

    • The most basic unit of human societal organization is a Band. This is a group of several individuals up to as many as 15 to 18, most being blood-related. People lived in such Bands for most of the history of the species Homo Sapiens. It was only with the advent of agriculture and herding that humans began forming more complex social and political structures: Tribes, Kingdoms, Nations, etc…

      There is nothing “natural” about rights. Any “right” is that which an individual asserts and is able to defend, or which society asserts and defends on his/her behalf. The historical trend of human civilization is to develop larger and more complex social structures, while assuring ever greater levels of personal freedom and security. In spite of everything we read in the news, the world is a far safer and secure place for human beings to live than it has ever been before. In the process of this development, we have explored a lot of blind alleys. We have made gross errors and experienced anomalies that have resulted in horrific genocides. And we seem to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

      I like the discussion that “gro” started. I also like Bill Bass’s questioning of Hobbe’s assumptions. The French philosophers did give this subject a great deal of thought. Theirs and others ideas gave berth to modern liberal democracy, which has been massively successful and brought us a security and prosperity never before known in human history. Nevertheless, it is time that we revisit the issue and root out some of the fallacies and produce a more scientific foundation for social organization. Perhaps we can tweak the systems to avoid the more gross oscillations that our political systems are subject too.

      Done properly, politics should be boring and should seldom result in noticeable changes in social and economic policy.

    • Hobbes lived in a different era. And he described the application of common law. It was natural in the day that the priviledged landholders were subject to different rules and entitled to different rights, much like upper crust chavistas. I am reminded of keplers description of venezuelan society as feudal.

      • British Thinker Hobbes wrote at a time of fierce civil war in England , He and his family where rabid parlamentarians and thus opposed to King Charles I who invoked the divine rights of kings to legitimize his rule , hence he was very keen in finding an argument to support the idea that kings depended on the consent of their subjects , who really held ultimate sovereignty and who might be entitled to despose their kings when these misbehaved . Feudalism had nothing to do with his ideas (please !!) . Parlamentarians included a great many high born aristocrats as well as most of the prosperous country gentry ( who were not aristocrats) . To understand how feudalism really functions its useful to read, for example modern French HIstorian Ferdinand Braudel . It was much more complex a historical phenomena than was thaught us in high school.!!

  22. There are failed liberal democracies where there is no civil order protecting peoples lives and interests but instead a predatory state that allows the criminals to have their way and prey on the lives of ordinary people. liberal democracies which degrade into chaotic dysfunctional systems of governance . Venezuela is one such case where a liberal democracy with mayority consent obtained through fraudulent demagoguic inducements to transfor itself in to one such predatory and dysfunctional state . Maybe as Ana Teresa Torres has written our national ethos prevents us from achieving a perfect form of liberal democracy , maybe the dear old principles of popular sovereignty dont apply to us quite the way Rousseau or Locke imagined . Maybe we have to seek a different form of governance which coming as close as possible to a liberal democracy is more realistic in the consideration of our national weaknesses and can allow us to achieve a functioning state that respect the basic liberties of people . !!

  23. I prefer Locke’s view over Hobbes’s: Freedom based on natural rights (respect for liberty, property and life) is the only way to achieve a truly just society.

  24. Que asco que ven las plumas, y en los esqueletos no las ven!, estamos cansados todos!, le pido a la luna que se confiese ante el universo de cuanto le lloramos, y que ella no tenia la culpa que le obligamos a escuchar! nos enseño que podiamos ser sombra! y reflejo de tantos que le grito a la luna como mensajera!

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