Chronicles from the End of Civilization

All that’s left at this point – and it isn’t much, but it’s also not nothing –  is to chronicle the rot.

And I suppose it’s important to find comfort in the fact that some continue to do so competently:

Camino al liceo en La Bombilla, Petare, donde estudia Jenniffer de 17 años, todo transcurre normal. Unos muchachos tratan de subir un vehículo de baja cilindrada por unas escaleras que bordean la calle principal. Cuando estiran los brazos para enderezar el manubrio y ascender cada escalón, se asoma la punta del cañón de sus pistolas fuera del canto de la suave tela de la franela. Son cuatro forcejeando apurados para que no haya más testigos de dónde van a guardar la motocicleta, quién sabe de quién. La gente precipita el paso y ruega a Dios a que pase el jeep de la ruta troncal para no ver, no ser, no estar. Parecen temblar las piernas y acabarse la saliva, el miedo talla. Nada es anormal.

Con intensos ojos color guarapo de papelón, y bachaca por su crespo cabello amarillo lumbre, sale de clases y espera “La Flaca” en una esquinita. Chasqueando la goma del chicle, suelta que los jóvenes mala conducta de por su casa, “son chéverej”. La protegen. “Tengo amigos que son malandros.

Son novios de mis primas y ellas se la pasan con ellos.

Cuando va a haber algo nos avisan: ‘recójanse que vienen los del otro barrio y se van a entrar a tiros’, o también nos advierten: ‘no salgan de la escuela ahorita’. Así fue la semana pasada porque mataron a un chamo para robarle la moto.

Ellos cuidan a mis amigas y a mí”, se glorifica la joven.

Marianella Durán’s entire piece is really worth a read. It’s the Rositocracy seen from the other end of the telescope: the micro-social foundations of a way of life where might always equals right.

Again, the total lack of a sense of urgency about the reality depicted in the piece is the story here. We see a kind of wholesale collapse in the moral architecture of society that just goes on, day-in-and-day-out, provoking neither surprise nor outrage nor, much less, any kind of reforming zeal.

In this context, Chávez wins elections not by pitching himself as a source of moral order but by projecting himself  – explicitly – as the most malandro of the malandros: a kind of Gang Leader in Chief the entire country can look to for a heads up when los del otro barrio vienen y se van a caer a tiros. 

31 thoughts on “Chronicles from the End of Civilization

  1. I am sorry to say, we have not left civilization as of yet, on the road to humanity as your post happens to point out.

    But part of the problem besides corruption in the judiciary and the police ( hold over from 4th Republic) and crime in general is because the bureaucracy and reformists along with the Boli -bourgeoisie have thrown roadblocks up, have tried to derail and fought tooth and nail to take that path to humanity and true, real socialism.

    We will get their!
    “¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!” (“Until Victory, Always!”)
    Cort

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    • * sigh *

      Seriously? After 14 years in power you still blame the high crime rates to crooked cops and judges from the previous government? After the society gave Chavez carte blanche in 1998 to get rid of the rotten elements in the state you are still blaming Chavez shortcomings on Lusinchi, Blanca Ibañez and el chinito de RECADI (the RECADI’s scapegoat)?

      Just take a look at the numbers: under Chavez goverment the murders has quadrupled, the murder rate per 100.000 has doubled and after 19 security programas the problem gets worser and worser. What about the pranes and their arsenals inside the jails? When I was a kid the most dangerous thing a prisoner had was a chuzo. Nowadays they have grenades and assault rifles.

      If capitalism was the the root of the problem, then why in the US the yearly murder rate is just 1/10 of the murder rate in Venezuela (5 per 100.000 in the US vs.+50 per 100.000 in Venezuela)? And let’s not forget that in the US you can even buy an assault rifle at frigging Walmart, plus there’s no ban on violent video games.

      You can wish as hard as you can for the “new socialist man”. He will not come. In Russia they waited for him for about 80 years and never came. In China and Cuba they’ve been waiting for him for over 50 and there’s no sign of him yet. The people in Venezuela is not diffferent to that in China, Vietnam, Cuba or Russia. They are just simple human beings. They are not angels or demons. They are just naked selfish apes. Your socialist utopia will never happen. NEVER.

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        • If Greece was Western, why does Huntington’s Clash consider it part of the Islamosoviet block? Greek religion begat Islam and Communism because it rejects Original Sin. Fascist Sparta farmed Sicily and so begat Rome, but democratic Athens farmed Scythia and so begat Moscow. Westernism is the Carolignian idea of the Three Reichs: Charlemegne, Napoleon and Hitler. Who else promotes it but Pat Buchanan, protege of nazi collaborator Fr Coughlin.

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      • No, you can’t buy an assault rifle at Wal-Mart. Assault rifles are automatic weapons, and under extremely strict control. The number of licensed automatic weapons was fixed many years ago.

        What is for sale are “assault weapons”, a dubious category which includes any semi-automatic rifle that looks military, but are no more dangerous than other semi-automatic rifles.

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  2. People who lives in barrios knows who is the power and then they attach to those who represent it, los malandros.

    “Set justice aside then, and what are kingdoms but fair thievish purchases? For what are thieves’ purchases but little kingdoms, for in thefts the hands of the underlings are directed by the commander, the confederacy of them is sworn together and the pillage is shared by the law amongst them? And if those ragamuffins grow up to be able enough to keep forts, build habitations, possess cities, and conquer adjoining nations, then their government is no more called thievish, but graced with the eminent name of a kingdom, given and gotten, not because they have left their practices, but because now they may use them without danger of law. Elegant and excellent was that pirate’s answer to the great Macedonian Alexander, who had taken him: The king asking how he durst molest the seas so, he replied with a free spirit; “How darest thou molest the whole? But because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief: thou doing it with a great navy, art called an emperor”. (St. Augustine)

    Malandros are the State in their territories. Barrio people comes from another country that we still believe are part of something called Venezuela. And you need to be in good relationship with the autorities of your own country, right?

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    • Malandros have always been the law in the slums. The big difference is that they have expanded their territory and have taken control of the entire country.

      Regardind St. A., I prefer the short version: “Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies?”

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      • Augustine then would call for a Christian and Justice-based polity…

        In any case: could it be that the Malandros are the new Caudillos? Some of them will grow old, marry into “alcurnia” (and be legitimised in their wealth) and become the new propertied classes.

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        • Speaking of christian-based polity, I listened today an interview of Emeterio Gomez on Fausto Maso’s radio show. He’s been talking about the need of bringing
          back morality and ethics to the political discourse for a while (+3 years?). I think we can agree that we need some of that desperately. He goes further and says that this ailment is not exclusive to us, but it is a problem of the entire western civilization (religion based morality, rationalism, etc.), but I won’t go there.

          I know it’s kinda hard to bring up the “j’accuse” without sounding too preachy or too Maria Alejandra Lopez, or without somebody trying to ruin your reputation. Of course, that brings up again the subject of where can we get someone with the proper moral stature. And even if that person exist, will somebody listen?

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  3. Estuve dándole vueltas a tu post sobre el Rosita-gate y posteo en este hilo por estar relacionado. Creo que hay que hilar fino en el diagnóstico sobre el estado general de putrefacción que uno observa –Porque uno lo observa en tiempo real- que ha caído la sociedad venezolana. Creo que no hay que dejarse llevar por lo obvio, y lo obvio es lo que uno observa, lo tangible. Me parece que es no controversial que Venezuela se ha convertido en una jungla, donde la ley del más arrecho es lo que impera en todas las esferas de la vida pública y privada. El abuso, la crueldad, el atropello y la denigración son la moneda de curso, y peor que eso, se han vuelto en señales socialmente valoradas como expresión de algo: poder y dinero. Pero eso es lo obvio y me parece que lo que uno observa es el síntoma y no la enfermedad. Creo que al decir que lo que observamos dice algo sobre el “verdadero carácter” del venezolano, es un error por simplificación. Siempre he sido un escéptico de las explicaciones culturales a un fenómeno complejo como el desarrollo. Simplemente la evidencia empírica no le da fundamento a esas tesis. Creo que las sociedades, como los individuos, actúan de acuerdo a incentivos. Lo que observamos en Venezuela es consecuencia directa de la operación sistemática de inclemente demolición institucional a la que ha sido en los últimos 14 años. En Venezuela se rompió el contrato social, porque lo líderes de esta no-República se han dedicado incesantemente durante 14 años a mandar un solo mensaje y es que no existen límites de ningún tipo al ejercicio del poder, y creo que a nivel individual el mensaje ha sido captado a la perfección y convertido en mantra para conducirse en el cuerpo social: Actúo sin límites porque eso demuestra que tengo poder (de fuego, en la cuenta corriente, conexiones, soy tu jefe, tu marido o tu vecino). Creo que en la idea de las instituciones vistas como reglas de juego en el contrato social, como represas de contención que impiden que afloren las más diversas conductas sicopáticas. Creo es que eso es lo que Chávez demolió tras 14 años. Las explicaciones tipo “el venezolano es una mierda”, además de incorrectas y con un insoportable tufillo racista, me parecen dolorosamente desesperanzadoras y desmovilizantes. Al fin al cabo es el pueblo Venezolano el objeto de nuestra acción política y si sentenciamos que no sirven para nada, pues apaga la luz y vámonos.

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    • Todo muy cierto, Omar. Yo no hablo – o trato de no hablar – sobre “el venezolano de verdad” ni sobre “la venezolanidad profunda” ni otras formulaciones vagas y esencialistas de ese tipo. Yo estoy tratando de hablar sobre la esfera pública y las normas que imperan en ella – sobre cómo consideramos que es apropiado relacionarnos cuando tratamos de ponernos de acuerdo sobre como vivir en sociedad.

      Que haya millones de venezolanos decentes no lo dudo. Lo que dudo es que la decencia tenga cabida en la esfera pública que hemos construido…o que haya manera de reconstruirle un espacio en esa esfera. Creo que es un pelo distinto.

      Por otra parte, yo puedo estar de acuerdo con tu diagnóstico sobre cómo hemos llegado a este punto sin que eso implique que tenga fe alguna en que podamos superarlo.

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        • Especialmente considerando qeu “decente” fue, durante décadas, código para “gente blanca y de familia”. (¿vieron el documental sobre Yolanda Leal (para la gente vulgar) y Oly Clemente (para la gente decente)?…)…

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          • Sí. El código se escuchaba muuucho en la Caracas de antes. Y aunque fui muy jóven para tener conocimientos de la competencia beisbolista, no dudo que haya despertado pasiones perfectamente aceptables por los amos del valle.

            Decencia: still a loaded word that needs a public re-definition before usage.

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      • Quico,
        Yo concuerdo contigo en el estado general de decadencia de la esfera pública venezolana. Pero la distinción entre el origen institucional y otras explicaciones es que las instituciones son susceptibles a ser reformadas, la “naturaleza humana” no. Cambiar las instituciones es posible, se sabe como, otros lo han logrado. No hay nada que me haga pensar que el venezolano promedio es peor o mejor que digamos un coreano en el año 65, o un chileno del 80, o (damn!) un peruano del 92. En realidad mi opinión la daba por algunas de la ideas que se expresaron el el otro hilo, no necesariamente por tu post. Abrazo

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  4. BTW Q,
    Great article. The other day a was discussing with a coleague of mine that Venezuela hiving the highest rate of adolescent pregnancy could be a biologically rational choice not only in terms of “parirle a un malandro”, but also since the murder rate among urban young poor males is atronomically high. When your life expectancy is 34 years old or so, an early reproductive effort is rational in a darwinean way.

    http://globovision.com/articulo/venezuela-encabeza-cifras-de-embarazo-precoz-en-suramerica

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  5. Toro,
    Aren’t you way too old for the whole “emo phase” thing? Please, read this excerpt of “Los adolescentes” by Augusto Mijares and stop being such a downer:

    http://es.wikieducator.org/images/0/05/LosAdolescentes_Americanismos.pdf

    If you don’t want to listen to me, then listen to Laureano Márquez:

    “Esta novela de Augusto Mijares fue publicada en 1958. El capitulo VI, aquí reproducido,
    lleva por título “Americanismos”. Ruego encarecidamente su lectura por todo
    venezolano que quiera entender lo que nos sucede, de la mano de la lucidez brillante
    de Mijares, que parece habernos legado estas páginas para descifrar este momento.”

    Even if you’ve already read it. Read it again.

    p.s. Didn’t you predicted Chavez’ victory on October. Then why the long face?

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  6. Oh Christ. Contents aside, first I read on the graphic “Carcel o Inierno” (acaso se olvidaron poner la ‘f’, o es que ahora se habla de esa manera?), then Cort’s ‘We will get their’ (sic) with a translation which I never, in a million years, would have guessed. Enough said.

    I suspect there are hundreds of stories like the ones Marianella Durán portrays. I also wonder about the statistics over time. That is, to give an indication of the evolution of this ‘libertinaje’, borne out of decaying social values, and reinforced by the disrespect for order and traditional morals, as voiced, acted out, and mocked by the country’s leader, over the past 14 years.

    We will get their (sic). How long does it take, Cort, to establish basic law and order, by way of financing a police force, one that’s very much needed, but at one time made your idol very angry, when the force did not submit to his irregularities? Another 14 years?

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  7. How is this different from Rio or Mogadishu? Or Baltimore and Detroit? Drug money, guns and corruption of the judiciary and police systems has helped, But so has social anomie, and the plain fact that the government-State-Party plays along in this game. If it were a holdover of the IVth republic (which at least tried police reform and judiciary reform, before it was trashed in 1999 by Mr. Arcaya in the Interior Ministry, and Rene Molina in his intervention of the country’s judges), why have the statistics (even the spotty official ones) show such an spike (of a trend that was almost frozen from the 80s by decentralisation). Most criminals are between their teens and 25 years old, so their socialisation has occurred mostly during this very regime.

    To be fair, real socialism held a modicum of control given the fact that it had an enormous police force, scant weapon ownership by the citizenry and, well, much less drugs. The judicial system was slanted in favour of covering up most crime statistics and letting top echelons of the hook for grievous violations (unless they were deemed as an ideological deviation). But this control came at a price: the expulsion of half the country, and the focus on internal security and intelligence (aiming to the control of ideologues and misfits and petty bourgeois). However, prostitution, petty scams, muggings and the occasional murder were ubiquitous, especially after the Brezhnev era and the decay of Soviet economy (much like in Cuba after the special period and, well, even with today’s prosperity).

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