Hand it to the alarmingly clueless kids behind Venezuela’s new viral video sensation, Caracas, City of Goodbyes: they’ve made an exceptionally compelling bit of content. Compelling, that is, in the way Rebecca Black’s Friday was compelling. You sit there, slack-jawed, disbelieving that kids could really be so dismally devoid of self-awareness that they fail to see what total asses they’re making of themselves.
One way or another, it’s physically impossible to resist the urge to comment. In that – and in exactly nothing else – you have to tip your hat to them:
To the non-Spanish speakers, what we have is a bunch of aggressively spoiled rich white kids sitting around feeling sorry for themselves that Venezuelans are so beastly that they can’t even exercise their core human right to party until 4 in the morning in relative safety. Their incessant whining about the fact that all their friends are leaving town are sprinkled with a failure of understand the world around them that just boggles the mind. This film is only superficially about emigration: really, it’s about a class that’s utterly failed to understand its own privilege.
What’s valuable about the video is that it peels back the curtain on a corner of Venezuela that’s more mythologized than understood: the very top of the socio-economic ladder. Here we have a generational self-portrait of heartbreaking earnestness: transparent in its inability to empathize with the third world country all around it, in its blasé sense of entitlement, in its unwitting determination to confirm every single chavista stereotype about itself.
I’m not even going to try to hide the successive waves of self-loathing that washed over me as I watched it, a horror born of recognition of too much of my own upbringing in these kids’ lives.
It’s staggering to think that even now, even at this stage in the game, kids who were maybe 6 or 7 years old when Chávez came to power exhibit no insight about the nature and injustice of the insane privileges they (we) enjoyed.
That even now their sense of Venezuelanness is made of nothing beyond eating arepas and empanadas.
That they could live through what they’ve lived through, enjoy the educational advantages they’ve enjoyed, witness the things they’ve witnessed, and come out the other side with such a black hole of civic engagement, of critical awareness, of minimal comprehension about dónde están paraos.
I find it impossible to suppress the thought that maybe, when all is said and done, the one good thing chavismo will leave in its trail is precisely that this bit of the elite really is saying its “goodbyes”, that a class that will always feel much more at home in Weston than in Antímano is fucking right off and going to live in Weston.
But then I think back at their counterparts – kids who I also know are out there, because I’ve met them – who grew up with amazing privilege and are now working their asses off to give something back, to build a democratic order far more inclusive and just than the one their parents and grandparents bequeathed them. I know that Caracas, Ciudad de Despedidas showcases the very worst of our economic elite, not all of it.
And I reflect that those kids – smart, engaged, conscious, hard-working and self-aware -they’re the ones I met working on Henrique Capriles’s campaign. And Pablo Pérez’s. Hell, even in María Corina Machado’s.
The political class that will run the Venezuela of, say 2030-2050, educated at elite Caracas schools and, in a lot of cases, foreign universities, is the political class that’s cutting its teeth in the fight against chavista petrocaudillism. They’re the ones who aren’t saying their despedidas, the ones who stayed behind, and who are doing the tough, grinding, day-to-day work on the ground to create the conditions for a return to democracy.
We’re unbelievably lucky to have them…and we’ll be better off for having them run a country that’s been self-cleansed of the detritus shown on that compelling, compelling video.
Incidentally, if you want to see a properly smart/biting video about the reasons to want to get out of Caracas…