Photo: EFE retrieved
At this stage, it would be ludicrous to expect the dictatorship recognizing its massive failure with the future it promised. Chavismo turned the page from the script of a country destined to materialize the 21st century socialism, politically leading the south and conquering space with satellites, to one that deals with the electrical crisis by changing light bulbs. Government leaders disavow not only factic reality, but even mathematics, happily stating that their economic supervision has “reduced prices 130%.”
But I confess to the candid wish of hearing an opposition leader (any!) recognizing their own failures.
Considering that a year has passed since the massive protests and a civil society referendum as a powerful weapon to defy illegal elections (only to see the rapid deterioration of the country and the opposition), one might expect someone to own up.
I confess to the candid wish of hearing an opposition leader (any!) recognizing their own failures.
I clearly remember the anxiety before the presidential elections of 2006 and 2012, where almost all polls predicted Chávez’s victory, thinking that someone had to consider the possibility of failure and anticipate the loss of confidence that would follow in opposition faithfulls. When speaking with political actors, they repeatedly said that the argument of failure is not a sexy idea to win over supporters, it’s rather a beast to run away from. Hope is the main product politicians sell. Even false hope.
In psychology forums, I heard requests to plan the reconstruction of the country, as if the end of an era was around the corner. It’s not that I’m a pessimist (though I’m a bit weary of positive thinkers), it’s that I find it wiser to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
But even in a manic-depressive country that can go quickly from “nos jodimos” to “ahora sí es verdad que se acabó esta vaina,” it seems like false hope can run dry, and I believe we’re witnessing an extended hopelessness and distrust. Politicians of all colors are discredited.
Hope is the main product politicians sell. Even false hope.
In the Vanderbilt Public Opinion Poll that gathered data at the beginning of 2017, the country was already at its lowest point in support for democracy, and 76% of the population considered most politicians to be corrupt (far higher than the rest of Latin American countries, which are not precisely cozy with their governments).
Yet, we haven’t heard an actual reflection of how and why all efforts and proposals have so utterly failed. Political figures have either retreated into blaming each other, or are trying to rebuild alliances with the broken pieces that remain.
Venezuelan psychiatrist Fernando Rísquez once described our nation as manic-depressive, oscillating from total hopelessness to sudden denial, where everything is wonderful and possible. What manic-depression fails to do is to deal with loss by mourning that which cannot be recovered, so conditions can be reevaluated.
Another psychiatrist who developed his work in Venezuela, Rafael López Pedraza, warned of “titanic” personalities who disavow failure, loss and limitations, such as a president who denies being sick and treads on against doctor’s warnings. López Pedraza suggests that the only cure for titanism is an acute awareness of failure and recommends Rafael Cadenas’s Fracaso as the best medicine.
Venezuelan psychiatrist Fernando Rísquez once described our nation as manic-depressive, oscillating from total hopelessness to sudden denial.
To cite one last mental health expert, Ana Teresa Torres, novelist and psychoanalyst, also reflected on the place of mourning in our political landscape. In two recent texts, she describes the state of confusion and distrust that the country’s moral tragedy has generated, warning that even though it might be deserved, history doesn’t end, life does, and there are lives that have been lost in this tragedy. It’s necessary to tread through this painful fact, if we’re to identify new possibilities that we can truly believe in.
Public opinion often looks towards psychologists and psychiatrists that can offer tips on how to handle suffering. Some people want a pep talk; talking about mourning may trigger depression and news about suicides suggest that indeed some surrendered to melancholia.
If the work of politicians is to simplify reality, the task of reflection is to make it more complex and, therefore, more authentic. I surely can’t tell you where do we go from here, but it’s urgent to recognize where we are, and maybe the answer lies among lesser known, but very important compatriots.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.