The revolution of those that felt included

August 27, 2003

Good article by Gustavo Coronel: The revolution of those that felt included, taken from petroleumworld:

Between 1940 and 1999, for almost sixty years, Venezuela underwent a significant social transformation. In spite of the high levels of government inefficiency and corruption prevailing during several democratic presidencies and, in spite of a ten-year military dictatorship, which created much physical infrastructure but also killed and tortured hundreds of Venezuelans, the country surged forward in almost all fields.

The most glorious and respected civic leaders emerged and became fully active during this period: Uslar Pietri, Picon Salas, Briceno Iragorry, Diaz Sanchez, Otero Silva, Pizani, Garcia Maldonado, Egana, Gabaldon, Tejera, Betancourt, Leoni, Machado, Villalba, Gallegos, Larrazabal, Soto, Otero, Carreno…

Only us Venezuelans … or those who made Venezuela their homeland … can remember these names with awe and add many others to the list.
Venezuela still had a relatively small population, considerable oil income and a critical mass of illustrious men and women who created a Venezuelan school of decency, frugality and hard work. In turn, this group influenced thousands, even millions of younger Venezuelans who read their works and listened to their words.

Even allowing for the conservative fashions of the day in dress, manners and speech, which made everybody look better than today, the Venezuela that grew during those decades looked, behaved and sounded more articulate, purposeful and elegant than the country we have now.

Especially, it was a much cleaner Venezuela … Sabana Grande, in Caracas, became a grand boulevard where people could stroll at leisure, sit at the open air cafes or shop in an atmosphere which rivaled Buenos AiresFlorida or Rome’s Via Veneto.

The roads connecting cities were impressive, the bridge over Maracaibo Lake had been inaugurated, shacks had been replaced by apartment buildings, hospitals were well managed and properly equipped, universities were less crowded and were turning out decent professionals.

Vicente Emilio Sojo and Pedro Antonio Rios Reyna were conducting the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra … which was excellent, except in the wind section. Celibidache was a frequent guest conductor. Jose Antonio Abreu was starting on his extraordinary project to form symphony orchestras with children and adolescents.

There was good theater and opera. Books were written and printed. The younger generations produced extraordinary intellectuals like Antonio Pasquali, Guillermo Sucre and Ernesto Mayz Vallenilla. The program of “Mariscal de Ayacucho” scholarships sent thousands of Venezuelan students to Europe and the USA and brought most of them back converted into biologists, engineers, playwrights, medical practitioners or architects.

The petroleum industry was now managed by sophisticated Venezuelan executives, trained all over the world.

Venezuela was clearly taking off into the first world.

During the 1960s and most of the 1970s the country was a showcase of relative prosperity … a strong middle class was on the move. This was a middle class … which received the benefits of good government strategies in education … and also benefited from the open Venezuelan social atmosphere, which welcomed talent, no matter what their social background might be. This native middle class was strongly reinforced by hundreds of youngsters who had arrived from Europe as immigrants and were now incorporated into the social stream as young professionals.

Antonio Pasquali comes to my mind … he arrived in Venezuela, as a 10-year-old or so, from Robato (Italy). He studied primary and high school in Venezuela, went to France and Italy for philosophical studies, and came back to Venezuela … where he has for decades become our leading expert in mass communications. He has written extremely authoritative studies on this subject as well as environment and, above all, is a passionate Venezuelan who has influenced the career of thousands of his pupils at the University of Caracas.

Moises Naim, the current editor of Foreign Policy, is another one of those bright youngsters who found his niche, received the proper opportunities and encouragement and became an outstanding university professor and an intellectual of world rank.

Alberto Quiros is one more example of a person coming from modest social origins, starting as a roust about in the oil industry and crowning his career as president of three petroleum companies and editor of two main national newspapers.

The common denominator these native or imported Venezuelans had was the clear and strong sense of being socially included, of belonging to a society where merit, perseverance and hard work were the main ingredients for success. If we talked to each one of them separately, we would surely find out that they shared two main feelings: one, the feeling of being socially accepted and helped along by their family, teachers, friends and work colleagues; and, two, the immense feeling of gratitude they have developed for the society that made possible their self- realization.

This feeling of gratitude is something that will accompany them to the end of their lives … no matter what they have done and still do for their country, for the society which has given them the opportunities, they always feel the need to do more. In this manner they have become constant builders.

What these generations of Venezuelans have accomplished in my country during the last 60 years can only be called a revolution.

Due to their collective effort, they have transformed Venezuela from a very backward and predominantly rural society into a much more modern, predominantly urban and better-informed society. They have done it out of love, in happiness, being good citizens of a country that seemed to be headed in the direction of a first world country.

The abrupt reversal we are witnessing today … a barbaric assault on modernity conducted by a tribe of those who have felt excluded … will only be a short lived process of involution, a couple of steps back, so that the country can gain more momentum for the strong and clear surge forward.

And … in this new surge forward … we should now make sure that most Venezuelans, without exception, receive the opportunities that only the most determined and the most perseverant members of our society received during the last 60 years. Because in those who, rightly or wrongly, have felt excluded there is a lot of talent to be put to good use.

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