If you’re hungry and you know it CLAP your hands

Does the ruling clique really think the CLAPs are going to work? Do they seriously think having the ruling party distribute food door-to-door is a reasonable way to keep people fed over the medium term? Do they honestly believe this is the way to get on top of social conflict?

These are the questions that keep running through my mind as I stop to consider  CLAPs, Venezuela’s latest unfortunately-acronymed experiment in high-stakes, low-IQ social reform.

CLAPs are local committees set up by the ruling party in the wake the collapse of the price-controlled food retail system to take food to people’s homes, rather than having people go out and shop for it —Uber for Socialism, basically.

What’s worrying is how the government is putting virtually all its social stability eggs in into this one CLAPpy basket.

 

When this boondoggle fails, what we’ll be left with is a country that has lost even the basic infrastructure to put food in people’s stomachs.

Even in the best of circumstances, with no underlying macroeconomic chaos, a smart, well-run public administration and ample time to prepare, seeking to overhaul something as basic as the way people get access to food would be an enormous logistical and managerial challenge. But I the absence of a trustworthy administrative backbone, a plan as hare-brained as abolishing grocery shopping —the CLAPs have meant nothing short of that in large swathes of Central Caracas— is a recipe for entirely predictable disaster.

The thing that makes CLAPs so dangerous is that there’s simply no room for error. When Chávez talked grandiosely of building a train to Buenos Aires or a string of new man-made islands in the Caribbean, nobody had to pay for his delusions with their bellies. When this boondoggle fails, what we’ll be left with is a country that has lost even the basic infrastructure to put food in people’s stomachs.

Of course, the administrative apparatus taking on this momentous challenge is anything but Prussian in its efficiency. The infiltration of hardline pro-Cuban elements of the regime into the CLAPs structure, and their explicit partisan bias makes it easy to glean a kind of Zimbabwean strategy at work where hunger will end up being used openly and explicitly as a weapon for social control.

 
In Venezuela, what’s at play is different: the selective starvation of given households within a community depending on their political orientation.

But in Zimbabwe, discrimination was more geographically based, with whole regions that opposed the ruling party being deliberately starved. In Venezuela, what’s at play is different: the selective starvation of given households within a community depending on their political orientation, driven by the arithmetic impossibility of feeding everyone with the volumes of food available.

How on earth is selectively starving some neighbors and feeding others in the same area supposed to limit social conflict? Isn’t that an entirely explicit system for bringing people out on the street? How is a community half full of desperate people, on the edge, with nothing to lose, supposed to be stable?

I find the logic here really hard to understand. I can understand the ruling clique being entirely impervious to the needs of the people —we’ve grown used to that over the years. But I find it hard to grasp how they can be this catastrophically unable to grasp that this isn’t in their own interests. That the level of social conflict we’re seeing can and will only continue to mount if they sustain these policies. That their own continued rule is plainly incompatible with social conflict in the scale that they’re courting. That they’re not helping themselves.

 
Madness isn’t acting weird. Madness is acting against your own interests.

I remember, years ago, one especially drunk relative sharing some highly profane home spun wisdom with me, many years ago. “Quico,” he’d say, his breath on fire with whiskey, “loco es el que come mierda.”

Madness isn’t acting weird. Madness is acting against your own interests.

By that standards, estos carajos están locos de bola. 

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