Becoming Barbarians

When lynchings have gone from headline-worthy to commonplace in less than a year, the social contract has clearly failed.


Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.

-Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

The Government doesn’t really seem interested in governing. By governing, I mean the rock-bottom basics: allowing people to live in peace. And I mean peace in a literal sense: the absence of an acute, ongoing threat of violent death.

Civil peace is the first thing, you can’t build anything until you’ve ensured it. When the government betrays society’s trust on this regard, society will figure out ways of replacing it. It all starts when people take the matters into their own hands and lay down the weight of “the people’s law”.

So those who once feared violence now perpetrate it. Condone it. Lynching has become a thing. Videos showing extreme brutality are shared constantly over social media. I won’t post them here because they are simply too graphic – sadly, it only takes a few minutes on a search engine to dig them up.

The scene is always similar; only the actors change. There’s a guy or two at the center of an enraged circle of people. Their clothes are ragged, your brain has only begun to understand what’s happening when the mobs gets busy.

In one of the videos making the rounds, a man in jeans, with a tucked-in polo shirt steps in. He starts kicking the guy in the middle of the circle: first to the head, then to the rib-cage and the back. Then he steps out, a second man steps in, motorcycle helmet in hand. Unspeakable damage is done to the criminal’s head. Then a third man steps in, then a fourth. You hear shouting, sometimes in maracucho, sometimes in caraqueño: “Do you like to steal motorcycles, huh? Do you?” Demands for more punishment are heard from bystanders: “Vamos a prendelo!” Cheers are heard when the punishment is dealt.

It’s a roman circus right there in your neighborhood and all the maddening violence ready to be shared on 2.0.

In other videos making the rounds, all kinds of things are used as weapons: Baseball bats, motorcycle helmets, chains, whatever is at hand. Blood starts gushing out of the victimizers-turned-victims. Bodies are dragged around. Bodies are tied to light poles. Guns appear and then, as abruptly as it started, makeshift savage footage ends, leaving you wondering if they really gunned the guy. Whether they really lit him on fire. The story always starts and ends the same way. A scourge is overpowered. Crime is squared with crime.

The feeling is only made worse when a National Guard or a Police Officer approaches you and you know that they could very well be the ones that harm you.

To date, 24 crime fighting plans have been put forth with little to show. One has hardly started to be implemented when the next one is announced. None of them amount to anything. Those in charge are replaced not due to their failures, but because they became political liabilities.

Normal life is impossible under the constant threat of violence: thieves, burglars, muggers and murderers, constantly hovering around common folk and their families. The feeling is only made worse when a National Guard or a Police Officer approaches you and you know that they could very well be the ones that harm you.

There is no place for industry where you know that courts are rigged, that justice is served to the highest bidder, that judges flee under pressure, that prosecutors knowingly jail innocent men, that prisons are operated by kingpins, some benevolent some cruel, all beyond the reaches of the state.

Facebook wasn’t around in the 17th century when Thomas Hobbes was writing, of course, but he would recognize what is happening in these videos in an instant. Hobbes knew what happens when the state forfeits its central task. A war of every man against every man. The state of nature. Our day to day.

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  1. IMO a well executed retreat plan to leave chaos behind and be able to rejoice in the golden exiles these saqueadores have funded after 15 yrs. + of stealing from the public coffers in venezuela.

  2. Roderice Auguste,

    Ave! Romani hoc non toleramus! Lex in circo romano imperat! In Venetiola lex non est, non est! Placet: Venetiolam ad Romam non compara!

    Keplerus Maximus

  3. Interesting post Rodrigo.I have been somewhat disconnect from the news in Venezuela , basically because my friends don’t complain…many who come here on vacation cannot wait to get back so i got to a point where I don’t believe too much of what I hear and just figure that things must be more or less okay if nobody wants to stay here( and I am referring to US citizens who tell me they cannot wait to get back)and a few Venezuelans who claim that they just don’t like it here.I am not saying all are like that.No I have Venezuelan friends here who tell me they never want to go back….but there are groups of people who fall into the enthralled category.

    Something must still be working for some people there or they wouldn’t be so positive.What that something is , is a gigantic mystery to me, and I wish someone would publish their investigations on this very subject.Help us.Enlighten us….it is so beyond my comprehension.

    I felt I have to leave only 4 years after Chavez was elected.For me the energy was unbearable, and yet so many still find it charming.

    Life is a mystery.One human being is from Mars, the other from Venus, and another still quite Uranian.I myself am so sensitive on the psychic level that just the thought of being there gives me the shudders abd I was a great lover of Venezuela always….there is just so much evil I can be around.

    Thanks for the post

  4. “A war of every man against every man. The state of nature. Our day to day.”

    Not really, most of us do not fight, or even yell at anyone. In some countries it’s a severe, dumb religious problem, in Venezuela it’s basically because of the terrible economy. The vast majority of people are peaceful and quite afraid right now.

    “When the government betrays society’s trust on this regard, society will figure out ways of replacing it. ”

    But why?

    Does it have anything do do with massive corruption and massive ignorance? It’s not just the “government” doing all the stealing and the killing. It’s not just Maduro, or Cabello or 500 thugs.

  5. Like they say in Venezuela: “Justo en la Patria”.

    A depressing yet spot-on piece that goes to the core of our problems as a nation.
    On a related note, this weekend I saw on social media a video depicting 4 malandros apparently shooting and stabbing an alleged PNB officer, right in the middle of a street in the Tuy Valley and in broad daylight (I didn’t pass from the 00:15 mark and I don’t recommend watching it). The viciousness of the attackers was unbearable. I agree fully to the premise that a country in such shape is doomed.

  6. Just before Salvador went to war with Honduras and some time later exploded into civil war , US writer Paul Theroux wrote of how he found a temper of barely repressed anger and violence in the people there, how once after a football match he attended he witnessed how throngs of fans roamed the streets in search of stray dogs to batter to death or set on fire !! deep constant frustration raises peoples temper so they are always close to exploding into violence at the least provocation.

    What we now see as a daily ocurrence in Venezuela is not only the lynching of criminals but the lynching of policemen by criminals (Daniel dixit above) , murders are becoming increasingly brutal , this may be a sign that what happened in Salvador is starting to happen here. This is a bad sign of what can happen if we ever go thru a social explosion .!!

  7. a) El estado se da cuenta de que la gente no culpa al gobierno por la delincuencia.
    b) El estado deja de perseguir criminales
    c) La gente se da cuenta de que la policia no sirve.
    d) La gente se vuelve su propia policia.

    La idea de que el estado es algo fundamental y necesario es una ilusion que solo puede ser mantenida con mucho esfuerzo y wishful thinking. En ultima instancia lo unico que estas viendo es la privatizacion de la policia cuando el estado deja de ejercer el monopolio de la violencia. Un linchamiento es aterrador por el hecho de que no se realiza el debido proceso y no se garantiza aquello de que: “inocente hasta lo que se demuestre lo contrario” pero el problema es que eso tampoco se garantiza en las cortes venezonalas ( si algo, lo contrario) – los lichamientos no son un sintoma de la enfermedad, sino una reaccion del sistema inmulogico.

  8. En Cleptozuela desde hace 2 decadas no hay ni “gobierno” ni “republica” eSencillamente hay 10 millones de personas robando y matando y llenando cuentas de banco. Desde el “pueblo” hasta los militares, Que se sigan jodiendo hasta que aprendan, los pocos que queden en el pais destruido para robar mas.


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