Monday, March 06, 2006
Apes Are Apes, Though Clothed in Scarlet
WARNING: I can't stand Hugo Chavez !
Once upon a time in Venezuela a man named Hugo Chávez came about, who mixed religion, economics, social policy and oil into a concerted unison, much at the cost and expense of North American oil consumers such as you and I.
Under the tenets of the social philosophy and ideological stream known in that part of the world as the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chávez has proclaimed that Jesus of Nazareth was a radical activist who purportedly emphasized and sought redistributive social justice and democratic socialism. Chávez has repeatedly claimed that - in line with his own thinking - Jesus was a social, as opposed to an individual, savior and liberator who was active in class struggle, social justice, and human rights both individual and collective. Such statements have attracted the ires of a great many theological groups, with the Roman Catholic Church possibly at the forefront of them all, who traditionally place almost exclusive emphasis on Jesus as a personal, as opposed to a social, savior. Such groups promote the idea that Jesus's teachings did not address issues such as class conflict and exploitation, in that such issues were non-existent at the time when Jesus was around and, even if they were, they did not carry the political and social weight they have in our time.
Having thus established his socio-ideological platform in the foregoing terms, Mr. Chávez has then proceeded to set out his novel economic system of ‘self-sufficiency’ in food and consumers’ durable goods – a system that closely match autarchy as promulgated by the ancient Greek philosophers, with Plato topping the list. Back to prehistory then, Hugo. Unfortunately, since the intelligentsia of modern Venezuela – much less that of its leadership - does not even remotely come close to the acumen of the ancient Greek thinkers of 2,500 years ago, and to the vivid civilization such acumen brought about back then, the system of ‘self-sufficiency’ could not function properly if manned only by Venezuelans, who can barely read but not write. Hence, Chávez began importing ‘expertise’ from abroad, specifically from non other in fact than his friend in arms, senor Fidel Castro of Havana, Cuba. Hola’! So now Venezuela is providing Cuba with 53,000 barrels of below-market-rate oil a day in exchange for the service of thousands of physicians, teachers, sports trainers, and other skilled professionals.
With his economic strategy of ‘self-sufficiency’ now finally on track – save and except for the provision made in favor of Cuba, Mr. Chávez has proceeded then to invest his oil profits (US $25 billions in 2004, to be exact) to implement and carry out his “new socialist revolution”, possibly termed this way to distinguish it from the “old socialist revolution” of companero Fidel. American readers no doubt will be thrilled to know that Chávez’ leftist platform involves a remarkable increase in spending on social programs. For example, Venezuela has been involved in the purchase of a large number - 300,000 again to be exact - of Russian assault rifles as well as military helicopters. And "neighborhood defense units" have been established to protect the nation against a purported American invasion. Doesn’t it make you feel good to be held in so high regard and esteem, particularly since the $25 billions were initially yours?
Proceeding then to build his country’s foreign policy on the foundation laid out over the 300,000 Kalashnikovs paid for by the gringos, Hugo has embarked in what is possibly the most brilliant and superlatively innovative note of his political career: America-bashing. Venezuela, declared Chávez, must choose between "capitalism, which is the road to hell, or socialism, for those who want to build the Kingdom of God here on earth”. Making this choice himself on behalf of the entire country, Chávez has acted against the Washington Consensus - a formula for promoting economic growth in many parts of Latin America by introducing various market-oriented economic reforms, which are designed to make the target economy more like that of First World countries such as the United States - by supporting alternative models of economic development, and has advocated cooperation among the world's poor nations, especially those in Latin America to counter what he calls the Yanqui neo-imperialism (as opposed to the Yanqui old-imperialism, one would assume).
To this purpose, Chávez has gained a reputation as a price hawk in OPEC by pushing for stringent enforcement of production quotas and higher target oil prices. He has also attempted to broaden Venezuela's customer base, striking joint exploration deals with other developing countries, including Argentina, Brazil, China and India. His long-term goal is to cut oil supply to the United States entirely and has openly announced this intent, although for now he has not followed suit. In the interim, he has severed all military ties with the United States and has ordered all US soldiers and military personnel out of the country. And the last of a long series of political strikes has come this past week, with the interdiction and limiting of American air carriers schedules of flights to Venezuela.
The profound changes brought about by the "Bolivarian Revolution" have radically altered the economic and cultural landscape of Venezuela. Most notably, although recent economic activity under Chávez has been robust, supported mainly by crude oil high prices, per-capita GDP in 2004 has dropped over 25 percent from 1998 levels. And even his close mentor, Fidel Castro, seems to be growing somewhat skeptical of Chávez' policies – if not of Chávez the man.
All of which, somehow and by association of ideas, reminds me of Ben Jonson (1573–1637), the great English dramatist and his quote in The Poetaster: “A prince without literacy is a mariner without eyes. All his government is groping. And apes are apes, though clothed in scarlet”.
With Hugo Chávez reaching King Kong proportions.
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