I lived and worked for seven years inside Hugo Chavez’s revolutionary Venezuela. Mostly during the times when it still had energy and purpose and when the revolution was still exciting; to the committees and clubs and marchers and voters but also the “second hand dealers” who would arrive every few weeks from Miami to pay homage to the man they hoped would finally make communism work.
How could he not? Venezuela has more oil than Saudi Arabia. If he just handed out the oil money to the people from the back of one of those trucks painted red with huge speakers on the back blasting Reggaeton music, it would have been $12,000 a year per family. No frills – isn’t that what some call “universal basic income”? And couldn’t he then do exactly what he wanted? Who would oppose him? They’d all be sitting home watching TV or at the beach drinking beer. Throw open the borders to multi-national companies looking for markets, and just sit down to rest.
Silly me. I learned quickly that wasn’t the point at all. Chavez’s communism wasn’t about eliminating poverty – he could have done that simply and cleanly. It was about Chavez – it was about the violence. It was about the formation of a new culture – built using the symbols and images of the past to entrench a new governing model that was stifling and complete and guaranteed perpetual power. It was about revenge. And it was totalitarian – control of actions and opinions and eventually the mind itself. “Within the revolution, everything goes. Against the revolution, nothing,” is what Fidel Castro used to say.
But forget Chavez for a minute, “Universal basic income”, isn’t that what the people wanted in Venezuela? Do away with poor, with (most) rich, everybody is the same. Equality of conditions – at least at the bottom rung? At least starting out? Wasn’t it just a mis-managed implementation of a great idea? Um, no – turns out that’s not it at all. How do I know that? Because Manuel Rosales, when he ran for president against Chavez in 2006, proposed exactly that – with a debit card called ‘Mi Negra’ automatically topped up monthly by a government deposit. He was ‘shellacked’, by more than 20 points. Turns out that without the hate – redistribution alone is just as boring as cashing a social security check at the local pawn shop.
Turns out what Chavez was doing was exactly the opposite. He gave people a father; gave them a new culture; gave them pride and purpose – and he gave them an enemy to hate. Then he took away their money.
I recently read an insightful article on this topic. You see, the process of civilizational suicide in the United States is advancing quite well, led by the social justice warriors and the know nothings and the second hand dealers as they leave behind Lenin and Marx and instead read Gramsci to their children at night before bed. Yet as they infiltrate the universities and the churches, they are confronted with a weird predicament. As the article says:
“(…) without a healthy culture, people are not natural Marxists but natural couch potatoes. With no extended family, no effective church, and no healthy local community to support their lives, people don’t form revolutionary cells: they buy a case of beer or renew their Xanax prescription and spend their non-working hours watching NFL games and the Lifetime network and various types of pornography.”
The social justice warriors are learning what Hugo Chavez already knew – they have to give people an enemy, and then they have to take away people’s money. Why else would certain (large) segments of America’s political class be proposing policies that have never worked – unless those policies have actually worked perfectly; if only folks were honest about their goal.
Long live the revolution.
I mention this because I’m concerned about the United States – that all we are focused on is politics, anger and hate; and in doing so we are perhaps inadvertently doing the bidding of those who would control us. Politics dividing friendships and families. Politics on the front pages of the newspapers. Politics all over Facebook and Twitter. Politics in the soup and the wedding cakes and the topless coffee shops; preached from the speeches of artistic award ceremonies and from sports luminaries and from the seats of the highest churches in the land. Lumped into sides, our ‘leaders’ telling us who the enemy is and who to hate; spinning us up and pointing us in the direction of a strange-hatted march or a Jewish cemetery or a family-friendly bakery and off we go. This is not a recipe for peace and prosperity – it is a recipe for revolution. Gramsci knew this – Chavez knew this – would that we would learn it too, before it’s too late.