Photo: Cheo Carvajal retrieved

It’s comfortable to feel like Venezuela is chaotic because the government loves to generate chaos like, it’s their fault. And although the government is indeed a chaos machine, it’s only because we, Venezuelans, are too.

The subway is filthy because it’s not regularly cleaned… and people throw garbage on the floor. The streets are filled with potholes… but many use them as an excuse to drive on the wrong lane and cut distance to work. And why park on actual parking spots when you can park wherever the hell you want?

We live on the edge, stretching every penny while avoiding choros and hoping to not get sick so we can avoid spending a good chunk of change on a clinic. We do much and then some to try and keep our sanity and goods spirits, and if we juggle everything with a few seconds to take a breath, the fact that no one follows the rules is evident enough to make you lose the little peace of mind you’ve gained.

The fact that no one follows the rules is evident enough to make you lose the little peace of mind you’ve gained.

Just this week I spent 30-plus minutes trying to convince a neighbor that we had to do something to enforce the basic rules of our building, like putting a leash on dogs and not parking in no-parking zones. Not only she dismissed me, she added “Why bother? Everyone will keep on doing whatever they want.”

And this, my friends, is not the government’s fault.

What if we all did our best to fulfill our daily responsibilities? What if the cashier actually paid attention while charging me instead of talking to her boyfriend on the phone? What if the men and women behind the wheels respected red lights? What if young people were to give up their seats for the elderly? And what if my neighbors could simply put a leash on their dogs?

I am one of those naive citizens, I guess, that calls out the government on its terrible and irresponsible policies, but it’s just as necessary to call out Venezuelans on our terrible daily behavior.

This is basic coexistence, we can all have more of quality of life while surviving chavismo. You went to highschool, you can read and follow simple instructions; stop spitting on the floor.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.

52 COMMENTS

  1. During my time in Puerto La Cruz in 1999/2000, I ask my wife’s cousin how much was the income tax. He laughed and said it didn’t matter. He didn’t pay taxes. He said “why pay taxes if someone is just going to steal it. We also had problems with power outages back in those days as well. I remember many times coming home from Jose to find the same traffic lights out at a major intersection and absolutely no civility. The entire intersection would be packed full of cars to the point no one could move. Wow. And then folks riding the bumpers of ambulances to get advantage on the traffic. We are back in the states for a few years now and when our family from Venezuela visit, they are astounded by little things like the “four way stop” where people actually take turns crossing intersections. And then I remind them we are in Houston and many people are armed so you don’t want to be a bad driver 🙂

  2. Keep being a good citizen, Anabella. Some day your efforts will be rewarded. But I warn you this is not a quick process. Back in the 1940’s my mother took the initiative in Los Teques to place trash cans in every corner of the town to keep it clean. Back at home she would report to us that many tequeños would throw the trash NEXT to the can, in a gesture of defiance. They felt that this was a good way to show “independence”. Many years later, 1990-2000, I founded and ran for ten years a civic group called Pro Calidad de Vida and taught Anti-Corruption seminars to my fellow Venezuelans. I had response from the working class but never had any support from the upper middle class. They were too busy enjoying their own life to bother.
    Venezuela will change when good citizens are in clear majority. I think I know how to get there but it takes a couple of generations and our myopic political leaders cannot see that far. My plan is briefly described in my book “Venezuela 19181-2015, Una Memoria Ciudadana”, pages 25-32, which can be obtained from Amazon or read for free at my website http://www.armasdecoronel.com

  3. There are ‘self demanding’ cultures that highlight the importance of rules and order and discipline and meeting obligations , of punctuality, hard work, stability , which people find pride in strictly living up to conventional expectations, that have an spontaneous respect for authority , for the impersonal functional customs that regulate social exchange , that appreciate the values of self restraint and long term planning. One might call them nomofilic (who love rules) . If one thinks of the social customs of Germany, Scandinavia , Britain , Japan, Singapore this culture comes to mind .

    There are others ‘self complaisant’ or ‘self indulgent’ cultures that highlight the values of spontaneity, of natural exhuberance, of unbriddled personal freedom , who value relationships only if they are personal or with people who belong to ones same clique , that loath feeling constrained, bound to an impersonal purely formal or functional rule, authority or obligation , who are comfortable in disorder, and love improvization , who are happy go lucky, fun loving , carefree, and can only worry about the inmmediate never about the long term , we might call this culture ‘nomophobic’…….most caribbean countries folllow this cultural model .

    There are of course many cultures that move between these two distinct extremes !! Hoffstaders study of cultural dimensions in different countires contains a concept which resembles the one set out above , in his tudies Venezuela comes very high on the self indulgent cultural mode ……… , can someone venture why ??

    • And in the U.S., we have varying degrees of both/all types from sea to shining sea.

      Which makes us a textbook argument against multi-culturalism.

      • The US is the result of the combination of several different british and european cultures ……but the cornerstone culture was the calvinist culture of the Puritans , with overlays from other cultures ……there is an element of esquizophrenia in US culture because it also developed into the archtypical Consumerist society which reflects a ‘Self Indulgent’ kind of culture as a means of fostering habits of consumption that enrich the business worshiping culture which is one of the manifestations of the Puritan ethos…….!! Us Culture has many different strands thats part of its inmmense appeal to the world. !!

    • The good German plans for a Saturday night party right after work at 5pm on Friday. He attends. Around 10pm, as planned, the party is over.

      The good American has a couple of beers after work on Friday, gets a good night’s sleep. Saturday evening he stays out until the bars close at 2pm when he must, by law, go home, and the party’s over,

      The good Venezuelan parties all weekend long. When he wakes up on the beach Sunday afternoon, he remembers that the party’s over.

      The good Brazilian, if you tell him “the party is over”, he has no idea what you’re talking about.

      (True stories, all of them!)

      • Sorry but that is not true for the German side or even the Flemish.
        In Germany most parties that will take place Friday 29 June
        were planned at the latest on 9 of June.
        The word “spontan” like in ‘laß uns ganz spontan’ + verb (let us very spontaneously + verb) means to start planning
        only about two days in advance.

        But then Germans and most Germanic people in Europe have at least 21, very often more days of paid vacation days a year, which they plan to enjoy without any mercy.

        • Kepler – No offense intended! And thank you for the necessary correction. I have been in Germany only once. Being American and having lived and worked in Venezuela … well, your good humor indicates you understand.

  4. good luck trying to convince everyone to follow rules without the state, that’s the whole point of having a goverment in the first place, to enforce rules to make human coexistence possible, you can’t just blame everyone like the goverment does, venezuelans are not a chaos machine, most of those that emigrate find a way to follow the rules or their new countries, if there is anarchy even in life’s basic aspects it’s a 100% goverment’s fault, guarding the rules is like their only freakin job and they fail at it because either they fail to enforce the rules or are the promotors of unlawfulness at all levels from matraquero/bachaquero/kidnapper policeman to unconstitutional constitutional assembly

    • I will just place 1 particular example which goes to show that a peoples attitude will be what they will be regardless if big government is watching or not…
      If you have been watching the world cup (safe assumption most here have been) you will have noticed what the Japanese fans do after the Japan team finishes their games…they clean up the area around where they were sitting. Did some Japanese government office get sent to Russia to make their citizens comply?? Naturally not…they do this simply out of their own volition. Why? Because Japanese citizens.

      Now…this is not to say that the people in positions of authority are not 110% useless in enforcing the laws in Venezuela! They absolutely are! But as Anabella’s article points out, who is the “police” in her building? There isnt any of course…so its up to the residents living there to have a modicum of decency and treat the building they live in accordingly. And sadly, in general terms, that is lacking in Venezuela…

      • if the team is disorganized and underperfoming you fire the manager not the 11 players, each person has an individual responsability but if chaos and assholery is generalized you have to blame the top of the piramid 100%

    • so when tere is no police around to beat you with a stick you feel free to dump garbage on the street and spit on the sidewalk? you know you are being a pig, but is the state´s fault for not bashing you over the head?

      tremendo marginal…

      • obviusly there’s not going to be a policeman in every corner, but using the garbage example: if education is broken, no police to arrest at least some litterers and aditionally no garbage collection, it’s the state’s fault that the country is swimming in garbage 100%, I would buy the “it’s everyone’s fault argument” if at least the state was trying to fix it but it’s not, I’m pretty sure that even in japan there are litterers and they would eventually swim in garbage if the get a few decades of lawlessness

      • btw I do not dump garbage, but I can only influence my family and friends to not litter, if we are to have clean streets we need a coordinated effort from the state, saying that the problem is that venezuelans are chaos machines to me is like saying that there is not enough water because people speend too much time in the shower or that there is not enough food because we simply eat too much

  5. Glenn, I recall the very first time I experienced a traffic signal malfunction at a major intersection in Maturin. This was almost 20 years ago.

    Of course, I was accustomed to the practice of arriving at an intersection with a malfunctioning light, stopping, giving the driver to my right the right-of-way, and then waiting my turn as the other drivers did the same and eventually everyone proceeded slowly and safely through the intersection.

    In this case though, traffic from all four directions jammed into the intersection like sardines, traffic came to a complete standstill, and everyone sat on their horns as though it would do any good.

    Had I been smart, which I’m not, I’d have fled the country as soon as possible never to look back.

    Then there was the night I left my office after a long and difficult day. I was not in a very good mood. It had been one of those days where you’d like to walk into a brick wall swinging. Anyway, approaching the main boulevard the traffic flow in my direction, towards the light, consisted of two lanes, one to turn left, one to turn right. The oncoming traffic leaving the signal used a single lane. As usual, both lanes in my direction were packed for about two blocks.

    As our two lanes began moving briskly towards the light, some asshole from way behind comes racing down the lane used by oncoming traffic trying to cut ahead of everyone. He finally ran out of room because of oncoming traffic and swerved his smoldering-pile-of-shit car to an angular stop right in front of me, partially blocking traffic in the oncoming lane. Fortunately, the front passenger’s window was down and the occupants in the front seat were now about a foot in front of the grill of my truck. I, laughing like a maniac, flipped my bright lights into the car to blind the asshole driver and then sat on my horn (which was the loudest I had ever heard for a truck) for as long as all three lanes of traffic were tied up.

    It was truly a thing of beauty.

    I felt better.

  6. It is very venezuelan to think that “if we all follow the rules, everything would be better”. Though well-intended, this is misguided. The fundamental problem with this is similar to the prisoner’s dilemma, or playing a board game with a cheater, where the deviant has a HUGE incentive to not follow the rules. Ever seen the shitshow that results when all the cars are cueing for something and then one car jumps the cue and gets away with it? The focus has to be on THE SYSTEM, on having the rules enforced. I remember being absolutely shocked one time in the 90s that I returned to Caracas and saw that not only did the cars stop at the stoplight, but the cars actually stopped before the crosswalk as should be! I was floored! I subsequently learned that the new mayor had started to enforce the traffic laws with fines, and caraqueños miraculously started to follow the rules.
    Instead of focusing on vacuous imposition of individual moral standards, we need to focus on the systematic enforcement of the rules. It starts with the cops and ends with the supreme court, that’s the solution.

    • Pilkunnussija – How does one enforce being polite, or doing a favor like helping someone across the street, opening a door for someone, or some other small thing, when those things are not even included in rules?

      • Simple little things kids get taught at an early age by their elders:
        Like the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments.
        And the Boy Scout Oath, Law, and Motto.

        • “On my honor I will do my best…

          “To help the Girl Scouts get undressed!”

          First Class Boy Scout Ira here, Beaver Patrol (I swear), Troop 292, Canarsie, Brooklyn reporting for duty!

          We met at Remsen Heights Jewish Center, but I quit when I discovered pot and vagina.

  7. When the caracas metro was first inaugurated the cleaniness and orderly ambience made people become as rule abiding as people can get , people spoke in whispers as if in church ….that lasted several years , in the end however it got contaminated and just became an ordinary part of Venezuela …In NY the reverse happened with the subway system , it started with a zero tolerance attitude towards graffiti and people who jumped the styles to get a free ride…..!! A study was once done on the corporate culture of the old Venezuelan oil industry ( which was a creation of intekrnational oil companies) and it was basically a self demanding culture with some self complaisant culture features ……, In the head quarter companies the kind of chair and desk you had was strictly regulated , In venezuela much less so ….!!

  8. Let us know when your local Chavista officials and their henchmen fear showing up to work, or going out in public. Because the answer to Chavismo isn’t national level marches and boycotts and one time strikes.

    Do you know where a local PNB/GNB lives? Why doesn’t he fear showing up to work, if his antics are so horrific? EITHER HE REPRESENTS YOUR SUBJUGATION, or you are apathetic about it.

    The Chavista alcalde? He has a home? His bodyguards? DO THEY HAVE A HOME? Apparently, they don’t fear leaving home each morning. Did the local Chavista media mouthpiece complain about a rash of PNB resignations? The bodies of several GNB found in an alley?

    Either fight for your country, leave it or quit bitching.

    • Mrs. Guapo will from time to time read my opinions on Venezuela, and I will be taking a step back.

      I am viewing the goings on in Venezeula through the prism of the American experience. Culturally, the United States and Venezuela are very different. We came from an English based system, and Latin America from a Spanish based paradigm. Whatever that difference is (cynicism? tolerance?) the difference is real.

      Part of my personal experience has been that those in authority act professionally, not just because it was what was expected, but because they also realized that that authority, if abused, could and would bring summary justice. There is no way that our local officials would act the way that the Chavistas are acting.

      So, I will be taking some time away. Keep up the fight.

        • Not so much giving me problems, just explaining to me that asking why Venezuelans won’t take matters into their own hands is folly. “Venezuelans aren’t like the United States” has been drilled into my head since 1984. She thinks I am “banging my head against the floor”* and I think she is right. So its time to take a breather.

          *The colloquialism is “head against the wall”… she still screws them up even after 30+ years. It’s cute. It’s even funnier to see her 5’2″ frame yelling at her 5’11 husband and 6’3” son and seeing them cringe. My daughters say its like a Chihuahua barking at to cowering German Shepherds.

      • Democracy died when first Americans married Venezuelan women and the rule of law was instituted. Proof? El Guapo and Ira. This is the true conspiracy of ages; all the rest is trivial. Two good men, down!

  9. I’ve told this story before…I know MRubio will remember…how I was appalled by Caraquenos’ pre-Chavez discourtesy while waiting in line for something, how they would cut ahead or yell over your shoulder to be served first.

    I wanted to kill, and got into several arguments during my visits. I finally realized you can’t fight City Hall, and this is just the way they “are.”

    But in an incredible twist of irony, Chavismo really taught them how to properly wait in line, huh? I guess it’s just a matter of PRACTICE!

  10. Me too, Tom. It takes a special kind of convoluted logic (or insanity) to argue that food privation in Venezuela is a good thing. She argues that ithe starvation brings citizens back to their roots in terms of food preparation. “Theyre dying! Buts it’s really for the best because we eliminate GMO’s!”

    • I just wasted quite a bit of time reading this article and rereading some of the passages.
      I would like to be able to see things from the authors perspectives but I can’t get my head that far up my ass.

      • What John said, I do not care if you want to go live on a hippie commune but please do not subject the rest of a population to your fantasies.

        At least they took the effort to use citations if not evaluate their conclusions against the data. $55/barrel is way more than any other administration had seen. Losing assets left and right that guarantee the country to be worse off because of loans/policies of El Pajarito and to say the revolution was not extreme enough. Glad I stopped halfway through and had another beer and took a shower.

        About as bad as reading this, seems to come from a Facebook group of one.

        https://chicagoalbasolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/doc_sanctions_ver_-7_jun_-ingles.pdf

  11. @KathyfromAustin….as MRubio said the other day when referring to a different article…” Here is proof positive of a parallel universe!” Lol.

  12. This reminds me of a passage in Carlos Rangel book “Del Buen Salvaje al Buen Revolucionario’ in which he points out how US laws are flexible and realistic and are always enforced while in Latin America rules are draconian and riguid and are usually ignored ……the law invites violation when it is too harsh or unnatural in its assumptions …..also the old colonial custom in hispanic america where the King ennacted laws that were ignorant of local conditions so on their receipt the local authorities would declare that they ‘would be honoured but not applied’ ……..

  13. @Bill Bass…sometimes the gap between “the spirit of the law” and “the letter of the law” is quite large!

  14. Good manners are not heavy to carry .
    You may need to appoint someone like Draco to change your ways , and enforce consequences for your actions.

  15. Basic coexistence rules were deemed as “burgeoise, middle-classer and effeminate” by the chavista regime to be replaced with the anti-values it imposed on society, it’s no coincidence that a good chunk of the people in the country cranked their asshole level up to 11 right after the first days Chávez took over and spat his most infamous words:

    “YOU CAN STEAL AS LONG AS YOU CLAIM YOU DID BECAUSE YOU ARE HUNGRY”

    Did you really expect that the country would hold for long when being an inssuferable imbecile became state policy?

    The only fault “the people” could be blamed on this would be that they allowed the fake opposition to deceive them into “keep playing” the bottlecap game of rigged elections for the following 18 years.

  16. this is the fault of afrocaribbean culture , european descendants are as morden and well behave as citizens of any nation, thats why they adapt to other countries better.

  17. El vivismo criollo. Nobody wants to be el pendejo that follows the rules. Just put up a sign that states that something is not allowed, in 5 minutes you will have people asking to make an exception. Remember this is the country where the signs don’t say PROHIBIDO (Forbidden), they say TERMINANTEMENTE PROHIBIDO (Absolutely forbidden). Following the rules is socially reprehensible.

  18. Quoted book above, Del Buen Salvaje al Buen Revolucionario” is a must-read for anyone interested in the Spanish-America development and nuances. It explains to detail the fascination to Castro’s revolution and the lack of appeal to an orderly, civilian, rule based rulers.

    Briceño minotaur’s book being another must read.

    The cultural traits run deep, and the problem is that the rulers do not have incentives to implement and enforce rules, given they just want a kick at the can to enrich themselves, hence, they become all accomplices to the system.

    PDVSA’s collapse and the State colapse may provide an opportunity, along with all the hard learned lessons of the last 40 years post viernes negro, to regain a sense of normalcy in the society, and to institute a less chaotic and jungle like system.

    Totally agree with comment above RUles>>behaviours.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here