To begin the day reading the news in Venezuela is a complex experience. To keep on browsing through newspapers like Últimas Noticias filled with government propaganda is a sign of either bravery or folly. Lately, it’s made me go from shock to fits of laughter. On the 9th of this month Mariano González Gómez wrote a piece that will, I believe, stand the test of time as a wonderful example of bolivarian Big Brother newspeak. He called it “How to wait in line sin amargarse la vida – without getting cranky.

It is a hilarious text of positive thinking stupidity that tells people to just take it easy in the unending queues venezuelans have had to endure in recent months to buy almost any necessity because of the economic nightmare we’re in.

“Whatever the reason” that we are having to suffer this reality, he argues, you will still have to do your time in line so you might as well make the best of it. He writes: “for those who follow a religion or spiritual practice or philosophy, it is a wonderful opportunity to put to test how advanced your state of consciousness and spirituality is.” I do suppose he isn’t referring to a state of consciousness in a marxist sense. The image that pops into my mind is of happy faced Venezuelans levitating for hours under the scorching sun as they wait to buy toilet paper.

The “power of positive thinking” is another of our bolivarian revolution’s strategies to minimize the state of profound shit we are in. Mariano might or, at least, should work at the Vice-Ministry for the Supreme Social Happiness of the People that, unbelievably, still exists hidden somewhere among the innumerable absurd ministries our country flaunts.

In a fascinating critical review of positive thinking and its deleterious effects titled “Smile or Die”, Barbara Ehrenreich, examines among other things, the role positive psychology buffs played in the market crash of 2008. She documents the amounts of money wasted on positive thinking coaches and look-on-the-bright-side self-help gurus and how the financial sector looked down upon and isolated those who predicted the downfall, urging the party poopers to get a better attitude. She describes “investment fund sickness” and executives trapped in a narcissistic upbeat optimism brought on by early successes that convinced them that if they always looked for the positive, they would always come out on top. Positive thinking can end up as license for untrammelled stupidity and denial.

Our curious brand of Venezuelan new age happiness recommended by a number of chavistas, shows how positive psychology is not only a product of “neoliberal individualist, all-you-need-is-the-right-attitude” cliché, ghastly as that may be. Turns out you can just as well wheel it out in defense of revolutions.

The preposterous combination of revolutionary and positive thinking rhetoric is not only dumbfounding, it is also symptomatic. “The pretty revolution” as it calls itself, or the “peaceful but armed revolution”, filled with military hugs and loving acts of repression is a combination of horror and kitsch, a tropical brand of good humoured authoritarianism. But it’s also a symptom of how chavismo is trapped in its own contradictions. On the one hand the rhetoric of revolution invites “the people” to stand up for themselves and fight, on the other it counsels them to take it easy, accept things as they are, see the glass half-full. Truth seems to be that chavismo is stuck on a high speed course to oblivion.

In contrast to the puffed up claims of positive psychology, critical psychologist Erica Burman writes “that to be distressed in an unjust and oppressive society is a more politically healthy condition than to be happy”. One would think that a person who has experienced the hour long queues to find half empty shelves in a country where people are dying of easily curable illnesses because of lack of medicines and food and recommends good humoured acceptance is close to delusional. But it is not so. Because the editor of a major national newspaper also finds that article fit to publish. Caught up in the trap they’ve built for themselves, they share the capacity to dismiss the horror we are experiencing.

In “How to wait in line sin amargarse la vida the nauseating combination of psychopathy and romantic light-headed stupidity at the heart chavismo finds its fullest expression. Maybe the best description was written by Nabokov, who knew a bit about totalitarian traps. Mariano González Gómez seems, like Humbert Humbert and many fellow chavistas, to be: “as naive as only a pervert can be”.

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  1. En realidad Manuel se queda corto…there are layers and layers of irony here. The story advising you on how to chill the head out while waiting in line is served up by a newspaper recently bought by secret investors widely believed to be waist deep in the currency scams that created the lines in the first place!

    Los que no se amargan son ellos…

    • Because it already happened, right now we (with “we” i mean the government) know this phenomena exist, what we did wrong and should we do.

      When it happened Venezuela wasn’t expecting it, Venezuela didn’t know this existed?

        • Read

          There are little groups of disgruntled people starting a barricade somewhere every damn night of the year, and there have been for decades.

          In that sense, you could say no protest is ever “spontaneous” – there’s always *some* seed group trying to spark things off.

          The thing is that what started on Feb. 27th, 1989 as a protest totally indistinguishable from what happened in Guarenas several nights last week somehow took off, spread from barrio to barrio and city to city, and engulfed the country. THAT part you can’t engineer…

          • Yet there aren’t hundreds of armed thugs killing soldiers and cops everywhere, that’s the little detail no one wants to remember from that so-called “caracazo”.

            Who armed said malandros? Well, momia-con-diarrea castro is said to have infiltrated lots of weapons to Venezuela through diplomatic cases in the previous year, said weapons were distributed among “marxist agents” that were spread and hidden withing several spots in Caracas, one of said parts was the 23 de Enero buildings.

    • Yes, the Caracazo was “spontaneous”, started by a small Guarenas bus-gas hike protest, but fanned by Adeco party street people, who were against the “paquetazo” of CAP, and the Jaua-type Communist street rabble-rousers, with the difference now, that, in spite of the economic situation at street level being many times worse than then, the Jauas/et. al. are running the Govt. and the thug-armed repression of the hapless Pueblo.

    • Mr. LLorens, thank you for your absolutely brilliant insight, and, also, thank you FT, for your continually outdoing yourself on the content of your Blog.

  2. There’s a Instagram campaign among my instagramers friends that I truly despise. #AquiNoSeHablaMaldeVenezuela This # is usually used with gorgeous photos from los Llanos or la Gran Sabana or El Avila or Merida… You get it…

    Self denial at it best. Or self help. For me it’s the same BS.

    I love my country. However, to pretend that because we have gorgeous landscapes and truly amazing places, one can’t talk about what it’s going on is totally wrong.

    My point is that I really hate self help stuff and the “positive attitude” way, from whatever source they come…

  3. If you google the “highly sensible” email adress you can kinda picture the kind of disasociación voluntaria he and a lot of his panas must be looking for right now…

    Man, he is into a lot of hippie bullshit for someone supporting a military regime.

  4. Heh, de los mismos creadores de “las colas sabrooooooosssaaasss”, del “¡yo hice una colita! ¡pa’ comprá una entraíta a este partío!”, y del “acostúmbrense a vivir con control de cambio porque es una medida política!”

    Realmente los chaburros se alimentan del sufrimiento y de la arrechera que le provocan a los venezolanos.

  5. One of the first newspapers that is sold out by mid morning, due to high demand by pet owners (and piñata makers, Ihave been told…) It has best price / pages ratio


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