Photo credit: Leo Álvarez (@oelzer)

“Do not go gently into that good night
rage, rage against the dying of the light”
Dylan Thomas

I walked down the Francisco de Miranda avenue last Thursday; everything was shut down, not a single car on the street and small groups of people walked here and there. Most were young, dressed as the protest dictates, and three of them stood out, their attire carefully crafted, a combination of creativity and irreverence. One wore a version of a black tuxedo and a white shirt, ragged tennis shoes, a white garden glove on one hand and a huge papier maché African war mask. He had the look of rebellious defiance, a celebration of youth and vigour. A Caribbean punk fighter and performance artist.

These months have been an intense expression of youth subculture. I see them greet each other with joy as they gather around the plaza in a mix of passion, camaraderie, urgency and recklessness. They play with the authority and their lives in a vibe between war and a rock festival.

Serbian activist Srdja Popovic, in his book Blueprint for Revolution, points out that a key to the movement that toppled Milosevic was that “activism doesn’t have to be boring; in fact, it was probably more effective in the form of a cool punk show than as a stodgy demonstration… Our little demonstrations were the hottest parties in town; if you weren’t there, you might as well have kissed your social life goodbye.”

Videos of youngsters calling themselves La Resistencia have appeared on social media, defying both the government and the opposition. It’s controversial stuff. Some have fought to transcend bureaucratic and political channels, others worry about anarchy, as different anonymous actors perform the protest as they see fit. There’s no agenda or centralized direction, and this invites confusion. As the groups decide on the go what the protest of the next day will be, people wonder if what they’re doing is reasonable, if it serves a strategic purpose, or it’s all self-expression for the angry. People have been trapped in their own homes, shops have been vandalized and yes, lynchings have occurred.

Our little demonstrations were the hottest parties in town; if you weren’t there, you might as well have kissed your social life goodbye.

When you ask them what they believe they’re achieving by fighting the National Guard with rocks, the chamos answer along the lines of “we want to show them that yo no me la voy a calar.” They are not going to take it.

You may bully me, you may beat me, you may intimidate me or jail me, or kill my friends. But I will not bow my head.”

They have a right to be enraged and they are a force to be reckoned with. The problem is that a political protest is not a temper tantrum. The derecho a pataleo may not be a human right, but it’s a Venezuelan one, the only we have left. Also, youth is a strength, but it lacks foresight. Adulthood ought to be a counterbalance, the site of deliberation and strategy. In the midst of the struggle, furious youngsters confuse cunning with cowardice. One can understand youthful rage, but are these expressions effective in the long run?

Many political analysts and strategists, like Colette Capriles are outraged by chaotic independent protests, defying agreed-upon actions and timeframes. Many of these actions are clearly self-defeating, often dumb. The club of middle-aged doñas, mixed with over-exercised bodybuilders and rioting teenagers chanting about liberty while closing down the street people use to get to a hospital is one of the most unlovely sides of La Resistencia. They put at risk the cause they are fighting for.

Still, I believe this wild array of shield-carrying, rock-throwing, scarf-wearing punk teens, disoriented with rage, have something important to say. They fear that political leaders will back down, capitulate, negotiate away this wave of protests. They seem to be demanding us all to not go gently into the night. Obnoxious and simplistic, they nurture the spirit that will be needed to resist the new levels of authoritarianism we may soon be facing. The opposition needs to channel this energy into something new if adult leaders are really to be leaders, and to demonstrate the capacity to listen as well as transform.

7 COMMENTS

  1. It makes me sad to read many of the opinions and disquisitions about the current situation in this blog because they are detached, aloof. It seems like all this is happening in a place far away, happening to somebody else but the writers.

    And all of them blame somebody else. The author says:

    “The opposition needs to channel this energy into something new if adult leaders are really to be leaders, and to demonstrate the capacity to listen as well as transform”

    Are you part of the opposition?

    • Wow, is it impossible to make constructive criticism without being tagged as “not part of the opposition”?

      • You read more than what I said. I asked a question.

        It follows to me that if I am part of something I would do my best to improve that something. And “constructive criticism” in a blog is not my best. My best is to go and knock on the doors of whomever I believe oversees these youngsters and offer my help.

        Don’t you think that “constructive participation” would be better than “constructive criticism”?

        These are dire times!

    • “Still, I believe this wild array of shield-carrying, rock-throwing, scarf-wearing punk teens, disoriented with rage, have something important to say. They fear that political leaders will back down, capitulate, negotiate away this wave of protests.”

      Sadly, their concerns are based on experience from last year’s oppo debacle. It would be wise to admit that the only reason that the protest today exist is because those “punk teens” decided that it was rime foe a change and wagered their life on it. More than 110 paid the price so far for everyone’s freedom so I choose to call each one of them “HERO”

      I am proud to fight among them

  2. La cerebro muerto de Colette me blockeo después de los escraches…. “lamentablemente” no puedo iluminar mi limitado conocimiento político con sus siempre acertados tweets. Becerra

  3. Mr. Llorens, really brilliant observations. The Resistance fighters, so valiantly risking their lives, falling horribly wounded, and DYING on the front lines of protests, are to me the MAIN reason virtually unanimous international opinion so solidly condemns the NM regime. They are not strategists/politicians, nor need they be–they are HEROES of this fight for democracy, and have every reason to be skeptical about the political strategists at the top, who perhaps are still capable of selling them out, as has happened in the past….

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