Friday, March 8, 2013

Oil and Water: A Recipe for Fire

I often forget how over the course of my professional life I have been privy to a lot of information about people and world events that many people are not. I had one of those days this week. And knowing just amplifies the stupid that passes for discourse among those who believe they are entitled to their opinions, no matter how uninformed they are.

The world is a small place, much smaller today than it was even a few decades ago, and it isn't difficult to connect with nearly anyone in the world with a little work and a little luck, and it certainly isn't difficult to be informed. You have to if you want to truly understand what is going on on this big rock we call home. However, too many of the globe's denizens don't or can't make the effort, and for most people, that's fine. They don't go spouting off about things about which they have little practical knowledge or partake in nefarious activities based on ideological brain blindness. It's the vocal minority of ideologues who make a mess of the world, the miscreant shepherds leading the unassuming flocks astray.

We saw plenty of it upon the death of Hugo Chavez.

He was hailed as a hero by champions of the poor across the globe, at least those who claim they are champions of the poor, but only when it's convenient for them. They pick up pieces here and there that fit in nicely with their ideologies without concern for the consequence food chain. This holds true for ideologues of all flavors.

Chavez supporters can be broken down into a few groups:

  1. The poor in Venezuela who received homes and other gifts from the Venezuelan government under Chavez. It's understandable that they would support him.
  2. People who hate America and saw him as “standing up to the United States.” Among these are Castro, Assad, and Ahmadinejad, dictators who don’t hesitate to murder their own people. Also, the Arab world put out plenty of praise for him, even as it bitches about its own dictators who pull the same tyrannical stunts as Chavez.
  3. The above-mentioned champions of the poor, including many American liberals and Western leftists, who can’t or won't see through Chavez’s do-gooder veneer to the powermonger core. The end does not justify the means. The end does not justify the means. The end does not justify the means.

Chavez may have begun his presidential ambitions in earnest, and people who know him say he really did care. But like so many leaders in third world/developing/exploited countries, he succumbed to the lust for power that swallows the souls of weak men. We’ve seen it over and over in Africa, where leaders arise from the masses with the genuine desire for reform, but once they sip from the cup of power, they morph into dictators, ensuring that Africa remains mired in “almost.” Once upon a time Chavez may have had democratic ambitions, but he was no democrat.

You don’t change a country’s constitution to eliminate term limits for yourself if you’re a democrat.

You don’t intimidate people prior to elections, threatening their jobs if they don’t vote for you, and use thumbprint machines during voting if you’re a democrat.

You don’t prevent journalists from publishing stories about you if you’re a democrat.

You don’t close 34 private television and radio stations in one year or build up state media if you’re a democrat.  You don’t monopolize the airwaves during an electoral campaign and preempt the opposition’s few chances to get their message out on television if you’re a democrat.

You don’t give housing to people in exchange for votes if you’re a democrat.

You don’t expel human rights organizations from your country for publishing a report that is critical of you if you’re a democrat.

You don’t seize control of your country’s supreme court if you’re a democrat.

You don’t befriend thugs and tyrants who don’t hesitate to murder their own people if you're a democrat.

You don’t run for a another presidential term when you are dying of cancer if you care about your country.

You don’t champion the poor and keep them just poor enough that they can’t challenge you.

You aren't embalmed and entombed in a "Museum of the Revolution" like Ho Chi Minh, Lenin, and Mao if you are a democrat.

More than half of Venezuela belongs to lowest class of people, and two-thirds still live in poverty, though their lot in life has improved a bit. But at what cost? Since Chavez took office, crime has grown rampant, especially violent crime, and the central government has consolidated power, stifling civil liberties and crushing the private sector. Sure, unemployment is down, thanks to public sector jobs. That’s not sustainable. It’s paid for with oil money. Venezuela has been gutted; the private sector is weak and the country’s institutions are weaker. The country had one of the lowest rates of economic growth in the region during the 14-year reign of Chavez. Inflation is high and shortages of basic goods are commonplace. In the end, he exploited the poor for power.

There is a reason that Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Peru, and Colombia haven't jumped on the Bolivarian Revolution bandwagon. Those last three have had great success in lifting their citizens from poverty, and they did it without throwing civil liberties and the private sector down the toilet.

As much as I hate to agree with organizations like the Heritage Foundation, in this case they are mostly correct, except that they portray socialism as the root of all evil and part of their beef with Chavez is that he nationalized Venezuelan oil so American oil companies can't grab it. Also, one of their criticisms of Chavez is that he conducted “an inflammatory campaign aimed at deepening polarization and inciting fears.” Um, can we say "GOP strategy in the US." Hello? Earth to Heritage? And Chavez supporters in the West? Earth to you?

You can’t claim to support human rights and deify someone like Chavez. You don’t get to pick and choose. You can’t accept the qualities while ignoring the glaring authoritarian actions. There’s one word for that type of person: hypocrite.

Beams in too many eyes.

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