A Kindle In the Dark

One night without electricity in one of the most dangerous cities in the world is stressful. Two, three, four nights in a row, amidst a nationwide blackout, is absolutely terrifying. Priorities, customs, expectations are subjected to all kinds of changes. But one old British novel on a screen can provide shelter.

It’s 5:39 a.m. while I write this. Power came back to my Caracas neighborhood around an hour ago. During the last three days, Venezuela has experienced a nation-wide blackout: we’ve only had power intermittently in Caracas and many states in Venezuela have had none. I’ll know how my day will go, driving around to try to buy food or find a place to charge my phone if the power goes out again, all of this before the sun sets and that dreaded darkness falls again upon us.

The nights are the worst for me. We have to lock ourselves in our houses to avoid the unthinkable dangers of the darker version of the most dangerous city in the world. People shout from the windows to vent out their anger: “¡Maduro, coño de tu madre!”. They start counting from one from each apartment, they sing the national anthem… anything to release anger, ease fear and keep themselves sane.

The artificial character of the modern world has never been starker for me than during these days. Now that only cash, especially U.S. dollars, is accepted in the few stores that are open, the relative value of money is an abstract idea; the money in the bank is only worth something as a unit of exchange if there’s power and a system to process it. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of figures in a computer that only people who live in a non-failed state can see.

However, one recent innovation on an old technology, that of books, is helping me a lot. I know hating Jeff Bezos is trendy nowadays in the U.S., but my charged Amazon Kindle is my last remaining connection to any idea of civilization. E. M. Forster’s vivid description of the class system in an Edwardian England that has more electricity than Caracas in 2019, in Howard’s End, is a balm for my exhausted soul.

After 20 years of hatred, incompetence, viciousness and lies, it’s difficult to find a shred of hope amid the chaos, even when you have the luxury of going online. Compared to telling your frantic family and friends abroad that you are ok, writing a burn in 280 characters about an already ravaged country plummeting to death while the psychopaths responsible for this remain at large seems painfully naive, seems a waste of precious bandwidth that should be used for more important business. But then I’m reminded that the written word is one of the few tools left to document these dark hours, and I’m using this precious time while I have power to state that I refuse to be broken by an evil system that has been trying to crush me into submission for 20 years.

I also need to ask anyone reading this to help Venezuelans see the light again. We need you. We’re a resilient nation, but we can’t do this on our own.