Going back to work to start the year was no different than working last week; most Venezuelans are certainly not working and will likely not go to work for at least another week, a phenomenon that I have always marveled at. It is in fact pretty amazing that a country with such low productivity practically shuts down for three weeks every year at Christmas. And let’s not talk about Easter week and carnival week when similar slowdowns take place. But maybe I should lighten up.
The slowdown is general. The best part is that politicians also disappear from view for equivalent periods of time, so that real news is hard to come by. Reporters also disappear, I have always found it amazing how virtual newspapers like Descifrado, simply shut down for two weeks and a “real” newspaper like Tal Cual Digital simply shuts down. I guess they must have done an economic study, but there is something about it their absence that bothers me, if doesn’t truly annoy me.
Same thing with Op-Ed writers and those that contribute to the opinion pages. Most of their articles at this time of the year are reviews of the year or pieces that you know for a fact were written only to fulfill their duty. Most of them I can skip over without any problem. But the worst part is that much of this also leaves me with of feeling of isolation, as most of those that “know” what is going on, also go away. Thus, regular sources of good information or interpretation of what is going on, also are missing in action and this makes it sometimes hard to figure out what is happening. For example, I have not been able to verify yet why Chavez came home from China a few days early. And this is important to know, as Chavez is clearly playing his own China card of attracting Chinese investment vis a vis US investment. To me, this is actually a good development, since Venezuela needs lots of investments and Chavez was doing almost nothing to try to attract American one.
Quite annoying that people leave, given that I do exactly the opposite. To me, Caracas at Christmas and New Year’s is at its best. No traffic, no lines, few people. The air seems crisp and clear, so why do people go away? Maybe only to annoy me. But I certainly will not let them.
There is something else that is quite annoying. Besides newspapers having daily reviews of what happened last year just to fill space, they also have huge sections about your horoscope in 2005. They not only have them. They flaunt them! They advertise them! Astrology, much like populism, really sells. Populism is right as often as Astrology, but people seem to forget the misses and concentrate on the promises. Which is also quite annoying, at least to me.
I still remember when I first got back to my country after graduate work, how annoying it was to have a radio program called “Nuestro Insolito Universo” (Our Amazing Universe), which despite its scientific sounding name, devoted itself to the supernatural, myths, superstitions and the like. I marveled at the fact that serious private organizations would sponsor such a well produced program only to propagate half-truths, the paranormal and the unexplained, while devoting no funds to explaining the basic facts of scientific phenomena. The truth is, the paranormal sells, the scientific fact is only of interest to a very limited part of the population.
Recently, a good friend was annoyed by a website I recommended in this same pages as having good news, for propagating the “news” that a Venezuelan “researcher” was saying the recent Tsunami in Asia was actually caused by a meteorite hitting the Pacific. According to this wise Venezuelan researcher (Venezuelans love to use the word “sabio”), world powers wanted to hide the fact that this was the cause, as they had sponsored movies to make people believe that the world could actually defend itself from such an impact. How did this researcher know? Easy, he had predicted the meteorite impact based on his careful work in decoding the prophecies contained in the Bible. Moreover, he has a whole range of additional predictions based on his decoding of the whole Bible, including the fact that the Bible foresaw the Danilo Anderson assassination. As if the Bible did not have more important things to predict on a cosmic scale!
But if this annoyed my friend, it annoyed me even more when I wrote to the Editors of this website suggesting that such an article was not in line with the seriousness of their enterprise and that if they wanted to be successful, they should think about not giving space to such a story. Their reaction? Outrage! Don’t newspapers have horoscope sections, they said? Wouldn’t restricting this guy’s space be a limitation of his freedom of speech, they said? Wouldn’t that be censorship, they said?
So, annoyed, I gave up on trying helping these guys. If they don’t understand why newspapers have horoscopes or why the meteorite story puts their website in a bad light, this is certainly their problem, not mine. Unfortunately, and to my utterly annoyance, the same can not be said of populism. If populism wins, everyone loses, including me. Moreover, I have to live with it. I can ignore Astrology, but I definitely can not ignore populism. So I won’t