An Affective Picture of Chavismo Part V – The Human Tragedy

Reinaldo Iturriza

“As always, there is the mass of the people and I embrace it, sweat with it, cry with it and become a part of it. Because there is the drama, there is the pain, and I want to feel that pain, because only that pain, united with the love that one feels, will give us strength to fight a thousand years if we had to fight against corruption, against inefficiency, and for the good of a people which is a noble, dignified, courageous people, like the Venezuelan people. There is not much to look for in order to achieve tragedy” (1).

Such words, hovering between revelation and declaration of principles, define what Hugo Chávez was.

This attitude towards the drama, the popular pain, speaks to us of the material of which man was made, but it also allows us to understand the genuinely Chavista way of doing politics.

It is not a matter of going to the encounter of human tragedy in order to plunge into infinite sadness and transhumance as an apostle of misery would do, allowing himself to be consumed by resentment.

On the contrary, that search, that collective weeping, only made sense if it was a matter of getting on with oneself, of finding the strength to continue fighting.

An abyss separates this attitude of Chavez with what is usually done by what could be called exploitation journalism, very much in vogue in recent years.

Exploitation journalism is the journalistic correlate of the “humanitarization” of politics, a phenomenon that takes hold around 2015, when the anti-Chávez political spokesmanship makes its own the discourse of the “humanitarian crisis,” which would come to justify not only “humanitarian aid,” but above all “humanitarian intervention”.

Millions of human beings who never mattered to the elites, the expendable, the historical invisibles, appear in exploitation journalism as the subject of the narrative, suddenly, always in the role of “dehumanized” victims of a regime, of course, inhuman, tyrannical, cruel.

The “dehumanized” victims of exploitation journalism have much of Foucault’s infamous:

“Not having been anyone in history, not having intervened in events or not having played any appreciable role in the lives of important people, not having left any trace that could lead to them, they only have and will have existence under the precarious shelter of those words” (2).

The eye that rests on them is the humanitarian eye, which would come to give back to the victims something of their stolen humanity.

Whether they are migrants or “refugees”, ruinous beings who feed on garbage or die in hospitals, victims of criminal violence, government repression, tortures in the dungeons of the regime, they are always worthy of pity.

It is no coincidence that in the same period there has been a proliferation of charity campaigns aimed at helping the victims of an absent state. No campaign against brutal imperial sanctions, against food oligopolies or against private clinics, the owners of which finance many of these charitable initiatives.

The “humanitarization” of politics translates into a pitiful policy, which can only prevail and achieve its objectives if it arouses an equally pitiful subjectivity, which it has partially achieved: people inside and outside the country are pitiful, in some cases declaring themselves persecuted or simply victims, for one reason or another, and who narrate in great detail the Venezuelan hell, not so much to appeal to the solidarity of the interlocutor, but to beg for help.

Now, the tragedy is real. And as Chavez said, we don’t have to look for much to achieve it.

Politics that is not capable of empathizing with popular tragedy, could be anything else, including pitiful politics, but not Chavista politics.

To those of us who have the opportunity and in some cases even the privilege of intervening in public space, it is incumbent upon us to hold each other with that pain that is our pain, and also to fight against corruption, inefficiency, against deviations, omissions, what is badly done.

It is necessary to tell the story of the people who overcome suffering and struggle, with that infinite joy that defines us, but also that of the people who are dejected, frustrated, disoriented, not to comfort us in dejection, but precisely to breathe life into them, to let them know that their dignity makes us more human, to guide them, which often also serves to reorient us. In other words, to accompany them, which is also a way of conjuring up our own solitude.

To accompany the downtrodden people does not mean to show ourselves as weak, but to make ourselves stronger.

“I see that Dantesque picture and another child behind, also in the mother’s arms, and the face disfigured here. The jaw a little sideways there and the disfigured head. I think a horse kicked him and fractured his jaw. He was cured alone, because the mother couldn’t find anyone to take care of him. Then the boy is misshapen, he has two jaws. This is happening here in front of mayors, governors, presidents, doctors, everyone” (3).

And that cannot continue to happen.

(1) Orlando Oramas León and Jorge Legañoa Alonso. Tales of the spider. Vadell Hermanos Editores. Caracas, Venezuela. 2013. Pages 173-174.

(2) Michel Foucault. La vida de los hombres infames, en: Strategies of power. Essential Works, volume II. Paidós. Barcelona, Spain. 1999. Pages 394-395.

(3) Orlando Oramas León and Jorge Legañoa Alonso. Tales of the spider. P. 174.