The human race as an entity does not learn well. We are not very teachable – are we? We aren’t quick to identify patterns, likenesses; those times when your gut tells you ‘Wait, I’ve seen this before somewhere’. Maybe this is why we approach every impending tragedy the same – automatically denying what we don’t want to see, hoping against hope that it won’t happen again, fearful of saying something pessimistic lest we be called out by the haters or the mockers as ‘unbalanced’. “Woooww there tiger,” they are wont to say, their sneers echoing through cyberspace, “don’t get carried away now,” when we bring up the impending catastrophe.
Inaction rests nicely upon the cushion of disbelief.
I wasn’t around during the Second World War, but the stories describe well the skepticism. “That can’t be true,” the experts said about the holocaust, “this is the 20th century, that can’t happen now! This is Europe, that can’t happen here.” Yet happen it did. The same was true during the Rwandan genocide – UN commanders sending their increasingly desperate cables back to the mother-ship in New York, to rest buried in a pile of others upon the abandoned desks of the bureaucrats who had gone to happy hour, or the theater or the opera. “Don’t exaggerate,” their response, “we cannot afford to be hysterical.” Were the circumstances similar for Stalin’s death camps? Was this how the famine in Ethiopia started? The disintegration of Yugoslavia? Don’t we still behave this way about North Korea’s torture prisons? 250,000 political prisoners; ‘No that can’t be. I’ve seen the pictures, doesn’t seem so bad to me… Don’t exaggerate.’
Venezuela’s government is becoming increasingly Khmer ‘Rouge’. Not Castro-Communist, the oppressive weight of the old bearded godfather stifling any dreaming, thinking, reading; any activity, economic and other. A protracted standstill, a nation sitting on the curb, aging. Boredom – with intermittent bouts of starvation, sporadic violence only. But nothing for the newspapers, right? Not Stalinist either – a massive organized purge amid exalted acts of national defiance; exceptional universities and great gulags; majestic theaters and prodigious prisons – astronauts and athletes, philosophers and physicists – and slaughter. Nor is it really Maoist – the planners’ great leaps forward into starvation. These were the dreams of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarianism.
No, Nick Maduro’s Venezuela is decidedly ‘Rouge’ – the glorification of ignorance, stupidity; a warden-government turning the lights out on a civilization.
I wasn’t born either during the days before the killing fields, so I don’t have a sense of the nature of that denial. “They can’t be that bad,” must have been some of the reactions, and “no, they’d never do that” or, most probably, “they can’t last any longer – they are a spent force, they will have to surrender soon.” In that regard, I imagine it felt a lot like what’s going on in Venezuela. As the professional commies flee, rapidly disassociating themselves from yet another failed experiment, the government has become more foolhardy. The decay has made it more wanton – somehow more carnal. The old discussions of ideals and utopias are absent; now they talk about bodily functions. They snicker about sex; their torture has become more corporeal – excrement and nudity and rape. As the great thinkers flee the world their misbegotten ideas created, and former allies fall away or turn their backs on the grotesqueness, the nouveau leadership falls back desperately on arguments of self-sufficiency, spawning forced-labor laws, rationing, and a more sinister discrimination, based on identity. Starvation again. Extreme nationalism has replaced Hugo Chavez’s ill-fated pan-Latin Americanism. Disappearances. Expulsions. Silence.
None of this bodes well for the future. Yes, I will surely be called an alarmist. I was called that a decade ago, when Hugo Chavez’s oil boom had inebriated a continent. No matter. Avoiding the Bolivarian killing fields must now be our primary goal.