“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.”

-Abraham Maslow

In Venezuela, a great part of the population has been stepping back for too long, and December’s pernil protests hint that it won’t be an option for much longer.  Over the last week, reports of protests across working class areas across the country have been flooding social networks.

Unlike previous bouts of discontent, however, this time the people on the street are disenchanted chavistas, people who openly admit they voted for the Government’s candidates in the recent municipal elections because they were promised subsidized food, toys for their kids and —emblematically— the traditional Venezuelan Christmas leg of ham, or pernil.

It’s no fun to be added to the long list of marks the Venezuelan government has stiffed.

Protesting because the Government defaulted on its payment for your vote represents a new nadir for our civic culture. It’s easy to understand why people are enraged at the sight of this; but as much as I’d love to see these people standing in front of the Helicoide asking for the release of political prisoners, or at the doors of the Central Bank urging for desperately overdue economic reforms; I know it’s a pipe dream.

A hungry person will have to eat before he even grasps complex concepts such as personal freedom.

Not because they’re stupid or lambucios, but because they don’t really have an option.

Abraham Maslow, the great American psychologist, famously arranged human needs along a pyramid, with the most basic physiological needs such as breathing, sleeping or eating being at the bottom and the drive for more complex achievements (financial security, family belonging, self-esteem, respect, confidence and finally, autonomy and personal fulfillment) higher up. He defined the top of the pyramid as “self-actualization”.

The idea is simple: goals are sought sequentially, from the bottom of the pyramid up. Maslow argues that in order to even aspire to complex needs, an individual must satisfy his lower order requirements first.

A hungry person will have to eat before he even grasps complex concepts such as personal freedom, to say nothing of democracy. Chavismo understand this, and has systematically exploited it.

A great portion of Venezuelan society must struggle day after day to find a meal. It gets harder and harder. Leaving the subsidized, government-monopolized CLAP boxes, as their only option in order to eat.

Coincidence? Far from it. This is the result of a coldly calculated state policy with two clear objectives: first, while being the sole provider of “affordable” food, the Government is seen as the sole entity able to feed the hungry, making look an eventual regime change as a catastrophic scenario to some; but secondly and most importantly, it keeps a majority of the country trapped at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid; thinking only about when the next CLAP box will arrive, leaving them no time or energy to wish for anything else, much less actually do something to get it.

That’s why recent protests are relevant. They prove the Government’s inability to satisfy the most basic of needs carries political costs. The people protesting these days may not care about having a functional parliament, or an independent justice system; they don’t care if Maduro can give them that; but now they know that the current regime is not even able to give them food, as it promised less than a month ago. They must understand that without deep economic changes, no one will.

The French Revolution didn’t start with people asking for freedom, equality or fraternity; it started with hungry masses asking for affordable bread.

With a collapsing oil industry, completely obliterated by widespread corruption, crippling hyperinflation, and the the financial floodgate shut by default, the government will find making good on the bribes it’s promised harder by the day, forcing it to rely more and more on controlled looting and eventually, repressive violence. Just like it couldn’t give them a pork leg for this holidays, the Government soon won’t be able to give them a CLAP box, or anything at all.

The French Revolution didn’t start with people asking for freedom, equality or fraternity; it started with hungry masses asking for affordable bread. Still, it ended up reshaping the world. These protests should be seen as an opportunity for a heavily beaten opposition who just admitted its fatal disconnect from the people’s needs to finally make those who think the Government can keep this country running, that the time when they just let everyone starve to death will come, probably sooner than later.

44 COMMENTS

  1. One paradox here:
    A hungry person will have to eat before he even grasps complex concepts such as personal freedom, to say nothing of democracy. Chavismo understand this, and has systematically exploited it.
    –>
    That’s why recent protests are relevant. They prove the Government’s inability to satisfy the most basic of needs carries political costs.

    So if chavismo knew all they had to do was to keep the people almost-starving, how come they don’t even manage that? Making people eat garbage and dying from starvation must be a step too far?

    If chavismo had at least fulfilled the second level “Security” then they’d make a lot more people happy with their lives….

    • I think that at first they tried to do so. Subsidized goods during Chávez era were pointed at satisfying some second, even third level needs. Today there’s just no money for that. In any case, the point has always been the same, to make people dependant of the Government.

      • Well said, I believe you are right! And when the people feel betrayed, some extra pernil will shut up the hungry for some days more…. But as long as they can blame it on somebody else they are safe…

      • Juan Carlos – Right. They tried to create the illusion of material success in order to make people believe they had the morality at the top of the pyramid right. The rest of it all descends into lies and actions which defy logic because absent the top of the pyramid, all you get is lack of logic and lack of functionality.

      • Making people dependent on the government is what socialism is all about, whether it’s a Chavez promising the masses something for nothing or a Leopoldo Lopez promising the masses something for nothing, the results will still be the same.

        • MRubio I always enjoy reading your comments but feel obliged to point out that the mess of Venezuela has never been about socialism. It’s been about obtaining and maintaining power and corruption, whatever the costs.

          • On that point we’ll just have to disagree O & G Guy.

            I firmly believe that this population’s overwhelming belief that there really is such a thing as a free lunch is what allows their leaders to get away with blatant corruption. An attitude by the populace of “as long as I get my share” never fosters accountability on the part of those chosen to lead, in fact, I’d say it encourages corruption.

            While I was limited in what I could read about Leopoldo’s book written in prison, what seemed to be hyped here was all about his ideas of how to better distribute the country’s wealth to each individual. WTF?
            To me that was shocking. It’s as though they were thinking, chavismo got the concept right, they just did it the wrong way.

            Instead of giving some yearly bonus to each and every citizen from PDVSA’s earnings, which they will surely piss away in short order, how about those proceeds in public works projects like building roads, bridges, reservoirs, and promoting free enterprise that ultimately creates jobs and benefits everyone for a lifetime? How about rejuvinating the agricultural sector to produce the food the population needs to survive from day to day?

            This country is FUBAR and I’m less convinced today than ever that it will recover.

          • OGG, you might have a point. While the rallying cry of the chavistas has been “socialism”, their usage seems inconsistent with the strict definition of “state ownership of factors of production” and more consistent with the belief of “Papa Estado”(state as provider of everything.)

          • MRubio I fully agree with you on these points. I don’t support the “something for nothing” concept that is so rampant in Venezuela. And I don’t support socialism. My point is this government is using the word socialism to stay in power. They are not practicing socialism.

          • The problems in VZ are due to etreme form of SOCIALISM practiced by Marx.

            Socialists kicked out private enterprise from their sole source of income.
            Socialists made promises left and right to the masses without any idea of how to manage it.
            Socialist leaders have been raping the coffers while hiding/cooking the books.

            There was no “capitalist swine” to blame in this, unless you want to point fingers at the “approved” list of vendors that helped line the pockets of Chavistas.

            How has capitalism been the cause of this mess?

    • “If chavismo had at least fulfilled the second level “Security” then they’d make a lot more people happy with their lives….”

      But then how could chavismo keep people from protesting if they weren’t completely paranoid about not daring to say a peep against the government or else the boogeymen of the colectivos would come and kill them?

  2. I have made mention of this before, but now even the most rabidly Chavista of my wife’s family have fled Venezuela. They haven’t disavowed Chavismo per se, but they are also realists who are currently content to extol the virtues of Chavez from someplace else, where they can complain about Capitalism with a full belly.

    Funny group them in-law Reds. “If only the rest of Venezuela (achievers, etc) had given Chavez a chance, things would be different”. Apparently, they are still of the belief that it is outsider interference that is preventing the oncoming Bolivarian Socialist Utopia from manifesting.

    Its hard to not be filled with an overwhelming sense of schadenfreude for the Chavistas who remain in Venezuela and remain steadfast.

  3. It’s too much to ask a hungry person to fight for freedom, but is it too much to ask him to understand where his hunger comes from? That’s where my contempt starts.

  4. There’s something inherently inaccurate in the famed Maslow thing – or in its popular interpretations – and that is simply that it superimposes upon the individual as if he could do nothing about it and has nothing to say about his own motivations. The only way I can read it as “good work” is to start at the top and work down. It is the individual’s own morality and direction of his own life that flows down to all the rest. If you have that, if you have the top, then the rest follows. And that is success.

    To reiterate, you do not start at the bottom and work up to achievement. You start at the top, and work down to material achievement. If you have your morals and goodness and heart in the right place, and keep all that there, always seeking to gain more of that top of the heap, the rest falls into place like a dumb-dumb falling off a log, water flowing downhill, bears in the woods, etc..

    And conversely, if you do not have the top of the heap in place, then you get things like the regime in Venezuela.

    Otherwise, cool article to start the New Year. And I hope everyone is over the raton, resaca, etc. and will find ways to make 2018 better than the decade ended with 2017.

      • Ira –

        Thank you. The hierarchy thing is actually fine, if you work it from the top down. And Mr. Gabaldon just used it as illustration. I didn’t mean to take him to task for using it, just meant to offer that the hierarchy thing is more functional from the top down, than from the bottom up. This doesn’t get as much “public traction” as a forest fire, but is more important.

        I don’t know if Maslow saw it top down originally, and ran into people who wanted to work it from the bottom up, and so just let them do what they wanted, but it was introduced to me decades ago in a sociology course as working from the bottom up. I discarded it intuitively, not knowing why I discarded it as it was presented, until years and years later.

        It’s a simple concept, that if a guy starts his day off thinking about how he can embezzle or cheat (upper top of the hierarchy wrong), he isn’t going to do as well within himself as the guy who starts the day off working on an ongoing plan to improve service or product. I mean, one can argue that the crooks get the spoils, but whom do you want as a friend?

        Since Maslow became part of “sociology” and apparently part of “political science”, it becomes fair game to talk about not just the effects on the individual, but also of the effects on the society when a government goes corrupt. Which is the thrust of the article.

        To me the big issue(s) “we” face today both as individuals, and as the societies “we” make up, around the world, is the determination of what exactly is moral and correct and “self-actualizing”. I think we all have it in us. Logic is part of it all.

  5. Interesting post, sound sociological theories. Sadly, however, much like Cuba, Chavismo knows they have to feed the people. They have to keep them poor, get them used to poverty, and above all dependent on the regime. Busy looking for food instead of education and ideals. Complicit with whatever murky jobs the corrupt system provides, hooked, misinformed and afraid of change, due to this dire dependency.

    This is where the virtual conclusion here is wrong: “the Government soon won’t be able to give them a CLAP box, or anything at all.”. With oil, and many more resources than Cuba, Kleptozuela will be able to continue with the Clap crap, the price controls, etc. Left-over crumbs will be available for all properly enchufados into the system. Cuba has been able to do this for over 5 decades. Cubazuela is almost there, young people expect everything from the corrupt regime: they haven’t lived in any other system by now, after 2 decades. Chavismo will continue to feed the poor, more or less, and continue to incorporate them in the dubious ‘ministerios’, ‘alcaldias’, and countless guiso-programs everywhere. There’s still some oil left for everyone to steal, some chickens and mangoes in the ranchitos’ backyards, some ‘mordida’ or ‘invento’..

    So don’t expect a French Revolution there. There will always be some harina pan and arepas left over. The middle and upper classes were already kicked out and disappeared, the poor get used to living in poverty. and people have adjusted to be dependent, poorer or richer, depending the level of corruption. Face it: Cubazuela is alive and well, stronger than ever. 2 decades and counting. Fidel would be proud. Y donde esta mi pernil, que vaina vale chamo… y mis prestaciones y mi aguinaldo, compañero”?

    Expect more of the same, for decades to come. Venezuela’s thorough, deep Cubanization and brainwash is almost complete. The solution will not be a Prise de la Bastille. People won’t get that hungry. It will be a Coup de Force, preferably from the right. That’s the only way out now.

    • Keep them poor and dependent on government largesse… why not? Throw in healthy portions of blaming someone else for your misery, and, “Viola!”

      It works in the United States. As a matter of fact, it works everywhere its used… until the money runs out.

    • Now that chavismo knows that bullets are cheaper than food, they’ve no need for pork anymore, didn’t you know a pregnant woman was killed by a GNB when she tried to reclaim the right to BUY one of those? Yep, the noble, 2-week trained GNB put a bullet in her head right there, in front of everybody.

  6. I’ve said if before, but again. This is an opportunity. An opportunity that can be wasted by just sitting on that comfortable chair on the moral high ground and start saying they “deserve” it, they are “all Chavistas so eat shit”, etc, etc, etc.

    Most people from the barrios have been living their whole lifes and their parents were living also under the idea that oil money is everything and for everybody so the natural place is to just beg from the state. Lots of them are now feeling desperate and afraid for the future. Reaching out and finding how to channel that is a necessity. Just dont blow yet another opportunity to actually have the country moving in one direction for the cheap thrill of the I-told-you-so. Anybody from the barrios that ends up realizing there is no hope, ever, with Chavismo, is a win.

  7. The pyramid is wrong in that the strongest motivation is a desire for feeling heroic, proud , rightously angry at some hated foe and take up the role of the mighty avenger of the injustices one (or The People) suffer at the hands of that foe ………., people may be coaxed by the misery of their conditions to resentfully accept the rule of someone they loath , just to feed themselves but once the ruler starts to fail in that role , the resentment starts to fester and fester and the conditions are set for the creation of a powder keg one small spark away from exploding. Look at what happened in Tunisia , the regime was rock solid , had been in total control of the country for decades , then one day a street vendor is shaken down by a policeman who threatens to shut his kiosk down if he doesnt pay , the street vendor cannot make the payment his kiosk is shut down and the next day he commits suicide …….that solitary incident ignites a fire that makes the powder keg explode , Our regime is increasingly incapable of buying and distributing even the basic food allowance that it uses to keep people dependent , there is no gasoline , its financial situation is turning worse every day , next year it will almost certainly default and creditors will start taking action against whatever assets or income it still has, when that happens what do you think will happen ??, already the regime has announced that as of 2018 there will be a 40% reduction in the imports on which the country depends to continue to survive The sure sign that this scenario is playing on their mind will be an announcement of a decision to advance presidential elections , before the financial situation totally unravells probably sometime by the middle of next year , lets wait and see whether that happens !! Of course nothing is engraved in stone , events can be very fluid ………but behind the fachade of strenght there is an underlying weakness that has them deeply fearful of what can happen this year…time will tell…!!

    • The need for the presidential elections is a modicum of cover for the Fuerzas Armadas de Ocupacion Bolivariana. I say this because I had a debate with an old high school no-longer-friend, now a colonel in the Guardia Nationale Sozialisten. He would brandish the lame arguments that they are repressing the people because they are protecting the ‘constitutional order’. I know he is not stupid hence those arguments are just cop outs.

      Interestingly enough, another high school friend that was purged from the Guardia Nazi reported that they were selling perniles at precio solidario in Fuerte Tiuna, but the captains and below could not even afford them. The wives of the generals bought them by the dozens. All is not well with the men in green.

      • “The need for the presidential elections is a modicum of cover for the Fuerzas Armadas de Ocupacion Bolivariana.” Good one! I had not thought of that (no surprise, ever since early childhood there’ve been all kinds of things I never thought of). And of course if the generals (all what 1,800 of them?) have pernil then things are going right. I wonder if Colombia knows where their shipment will go.

    • Politically speaking, they ended the year with an almost total victory. But yes, the situation is becoming so unsustainable as to make that a phyrric victory; they may have kicked the MUD hard, there seems to be no hope at all from normal politics, but the country is racing toward total disintegration so its all a big gamble.

      So, more chances of a “Arab Spring-like” thing happening which, frankly, is not that great of an idea but is starting to look like the only think in the cards. Either that or Tropical North Korea.

      • “Politically speaking, they ended the year with an almost total victory.”

        For chavismo, another day slaughtering 50 more venezuelans and stealing one million dollars is a victory.

        “…they may have kicked the MUD hard…”

        Because the MUD was a minion that outlived their usefulness.

        “Either that or Tropical North Korea.”

        It’s not that “Venezuela will become a communist dctatorship and then everybody will be screwed” it is that “Venezuela IS a communist dictatorship and everybody IS screwed”

        Venezuela has been a communist dictatorship since shiabbe ordered cuban snipers to slaughter people in april 11 of 2002.

        • U-

          You stated it perfectly.

          Another way of saying, “its not that communism was not practiced sufficiently, it is that it was practiced at all”

          This is what happens with socialist dictatorships. Always.

    • Expect vicious attacks against him for being a fascist in 3, 2, 1…

      I’m not sure I like the idea much, mainly because it doesnt have any reality under it. No country whatsoever will come to the rescue of Venezuela with troops. Thats money and lives and resources and political capital wasted from their point of view. They may do something if the regime threatened to go the time-honored way of fabricating an international conflict to hide their problems, but if the country implodes without touching them in hard ways? Well, sucks to be you Venezuelans, but everybody looks first for themselves, and is not like most of the continent is not already in deep political turmoil.

      But I can understand that the situation is becoming so desperate as to make people start searching for unlikely solutions – all the normal options seem to have disappeared.

    • BTW, I dont really think the Chavistas have that much of incredible planning and oversight and discipline to follow some evil master plan, but well… their perfect view of the country is one in which all Venezuelans have to depend on them for stuff, that has been clear since the beginning; the infamous quote about not wanting to get the poor out of poverty or they become “squalid” is clear. In their perfect world, they have the resources to give to people enough so they dont lack anything big but are there are no other providers whatsoever, so they have to depend and support the “revolution” forever.

      Of course, chasing that “ideal” (for them) view is what brought the country to the current situation and then is where basic desperation comes in and the plan shift to “VOTE FOR ME OR NO FOOD”, which is the apocalyptic destilation of that view.

      • “I dont really think the Chavistas have that much of incredible planning and oversight and discipline to follow some evil master plan…”

        Because they don’t plan anything, they are the cuban invaders’ minions.

  8. Heh, the first paragraph instantly puts the reader against the middle class in Venezuela.

    Nice way to begin, dude, “The middle class is guilty for everything and thus DESERVES chavismo”

    • Amazing, every word in that last sentence is wrong. I don’t think the middle class is guilty of anything rather than being systematically terminated by chavismo, and I don’t believe anyone deserves chavismo.

      Seeing these people protest for not getting what the government promised in exchange for their votes enraged me. All I’m saying is that it’s not really surprising and that instead of investing all our time showing our contempt on twitter, we could seize the most of this situation.

      Happy new year, bro.

      • “Seeing these people protest for not getting what the government promised in exchange for their votes enraged me.”

        People aren’t protesting because “they didn’t give me the FREE thing”, they are protesting because they PAID for the so-called clap boxes (Because they’re paid, not free) and then they got SWINDLED of their money.

        That’s why the communal council people that work with the clap at a community near I live said to the people “don’t deposit for december’s box because the party said that there won’t be box for this area, period, go and buy your food elsewhere.”

        The box that included pork was being sold to people from around 200.000 – 300.000 Bs, at a time when people barely earned more than 400.000 Bs from their salary, so yes, when chavismo comes and directly steals three weeks of your phyrric income and leaves you starving it’s normal for people to protest for that.

        Because for chavismo it’s cheaper and easier to put a bullet through any protester’s head than is to do a damn work for anything.

        “…instead of investing all our time showing our contempt on twitter…”

        There it is, worrying about what two or three schmucks wrote there rather than inquiring about the actual reasons for the protest is the easy way to get into the most popular opinion trend in Venezuela: “Middle class is guilty”

        • You’re right in pretty much anything. Yet I don’t see how I’m blaming the middle class. I just think we must take any chance we have to show those who haven’t seen it, who the real enemy is.

      • He is:

        We get more value and insight from his and others’ posts here than we do from the actual articles.

        I applaud this website, but to me, the articles get it wrong way too often. Granted, they’re opinion pieces, so what is “wrong” anyway?

        But with the depth of knowledge here regarding VZ, one would hope to expect better.

  9. as long as the government’s “bozal de arepa” ( muzzle made of arepa) works, we will be screwed. unfortunately these are the same people who vote so as to not lose their jobs…Cuba should be an example for many of us.

    • “vote”

      Yeah, “vote”.

      As if whatever the people putting into a ballot would matter at all when the chavista law states that the voting system is purely electronic, paper ballots be damned, and if they see they can’t win that way either, they’ll simply change the numbers as they see fit like they did in july 30 where they ass-pulled more than 8 million fake votes.

Leave a Reply