Archive for May 13th, 2007

The Spring of the Patriarch by Alberto Barrera in El Nacional

May 13, 2007

Alberto Barrera has
this absolutely brilliant article
about militarism and the revolution,
which accompanies well the last post. I have the same problem as Alberto, for a
long time, even before Hugo Chavez I believed Venezuela should get rid of its
military, because they were an unnecessary and destabilizing force. Well,
somehow we have gone in the opposite direction the military run everything today
and they do not understand dissent or democracy. Now, Chavez seems ready to
turn the country and his political party into a single military and
militaristic unit. Adventures like that have always ended badly in Latin
American history and too much blood has been spilled. It´s hard to believe it
will be different this time.

The Spring of the Patriarch by Alberto Barrera in El Nacional

I never even did my
military service. One afternoon, in Barrio Las Brisas in Barquisimeto, some soldiers grabbed me,
pushed me inside a patrol car and detained me in a classical recruiting
operation. That afternoon, inside a patio at the Fort is the deepest I have
ever been to the army. In the demonstrations of those years, I was close, but
always for only a short time and on the opposite side. It is not a glorious
story: a raid, two hits with the back on the rifle on my left butt and a cadet
that let me go in exchange for hitting me with his helmet on the head. I
suspect now, however, that this ignorance about the military world, maybe has
barred me from better understanding what is happening in my country.

I have always had a
hard time understating what can be interesting, deep, fun or exciting to live
like a herd of men that sleep together, speak in shouts to each other, only
function on the basis of orders rather than agreements and on top of that,
dress the same way everyday. I have never been able to learn why obedience is a
value, an institutional dogma, a guideline for the exercise of human relations.
It is not easy either for me to value the military meritocracy. I am amazed at
such a static and definite structure. The experience of mobility that we have
in the civilian world-where we can vary roles, positions, status,
responsibilities, ideologies –. with relative ease-is probably unthinkable
with the Armed Forces.

Over there, to live,
more than a verb, seems to be a rank.

Maybe that is also
part of the sense of asphyxia that we have been feeling in the last few years.
The internal nature of the country, its mood, the culture, the values,
relationships have become more militarized. Now without any qualms, with
absolute transparency, it would seem as we are facing the reinvention of the
Latin-American caudillo. This is a new version, with oil and ultramediatic, of
the spring of the patriarch. Maybe we don’t know it and, nevertheless, the only
thing we are really inventing is XXIst. Century Militarism.

Or isn’t the unique
party promoted and managed from the State, a new military form of articulating
power? On what values do you create an organization that bumps off any
differences and only asks that you submit to the Commander? It is a marvelous
mirror of the project for a society that is being founded in the country.
Repression is no longer necessary. Censorship is not needed. To babble the
smallest dissent, to stay alive, it is necessary to ask for forgiveness. That
is the way the rest of the country seems to be going. We can all exist thanks
to the benevolence of the power.

Maybe it is the
unwritten law that begins to breathe underneath all of us. Allow me to be the
way I am. Can I be Chavista and belong to an independent chavistas coop? Can I
live in the country and watch cable TV? Can I not be Chavista and work at a
Ministry? Can my children study at a high school and not be subjected to
periodic intoxication of Trotsky and company? Can I have an ID card without
being a socialist? Can I stay in the country even if Simon Bolivar bores me?
Can I listen to Cesar Franck without being a traitor? Can I save in Guatemalan
quetzals? Can I say that the military world bores me and that the country’s
history is a bore? Maybe this is the new national protocol. A legal framework
is not needed. It is not necessary for it to have a presence on the
Constitution. Allow me to be the way I am. The military spirit is slowly
sequestering civilian life. A news item in the paper says that General Rafael
Eduardo Arreaza Castillo gave instructions pointing out that “subordinate
personnel should salute and respond to a superior and request permission to
leave saying “Patria, Socialismo o Muerte”. The press report, signed by
reporter Sofia Nederr in El Mundo, adds that they gave some concrete examples.
“Patria, socialismo o muerte, good morning my commander”. The
subtitle should have warned us: This is not a joke.

It already seems part
of the natural process that we live in. The delirium has become a daily
procedure. The armed forces are being turned into a political party, while
political parties subject their diversity and reorder themselves into a unique
organization of military character. Order us, my Commander.