The Revolution Inside

From Latin American Odyssey, to a profound investigation of the Bolivarian revolution. Hugo Chavez says: Socialism or Death! Leftists rejoice, and Capitalists squeal. But what do the people of Venezuela think about all of this?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Luxury of Irony

I have a friend in Venezuela, a Belgian friend, from Belgium. He works with the indymedia there. Sounds like a pretty together one, too. Anyway, we were up really late drinking like westerners, and he got to showing me some of his work. He`s a videographer, and he`s made some pretty slick short videos about protests in Belgium... one was a bank action. The bank has interests in some company that produces depleted uranium products. So, a bunch of folks dressed up as biohazard folks and walked into the bank, loudly announcing that they were looking for radiation. It made the bank customers think twice, and the presence of cameras there made it less likely that bank personnel would overreact. In fact, they pretty much let them take their geiger counters around and look for radiation.

He put images together with some sort of funny music, and the result is entertaining, and makes the point about the bank`s involvement in less respectable enterprises.

But what we got to talking about was how he felt like this strategy, his favorite technique, wouldn`t work in Venezuela. He had been spending a week or two with a group of former gang members in Cumana, on the coast. They showed him their guns, let him stay there for a while, told him how this gangs to volunteer projects had turned their lives around. And he says to me: how do I make a short, ironic video, with funny music and shenanigans? That`s because you can`t. It would amount to making fun of them.

And it reminded me of some of the conversations and discussions I`d had in Central America, about how we, folks from privilege, just don`t get it, can`t see the reality. It`s not like everyones depressed all of the time, far from it. People are happy, they joke around, especially in Venezuela. In fact, folks are much less depressed then we are, certainly less likely to be clinically depressed. But the thing is, when people make their life changes down here, the stuff we want to report on, irony doesn`t make sense. Irony is a luxury of being disconnected with suffering. Laughing, on the other hand, is a solution to suffering.

I think the age of irony must die. It`s a solution for cynics, in order to deal with a big bloody world, a world that doesn`t work, especially when you are the beneficiary of some of this luxury (simply meaning you can go to work everyday, you have a car, you shop at a mall, all things that a lower middle class united statesian would take for granted. We´re not talking golden bathtubs and ivory doorknobs). When you´ve gotten an education, and you realize how messed up it all is, and you feel completely powerless, the only way you can acknowledge the situation is by smirking and shrugging it off, or making some wry, intelligent comment.

So, who is more worthy of respect: the cynical political science major with a great record collection, or the ugly street sweeper with 4 fingers on his right hand who doesn`t know too much about Machiavelli, but knows that nothing is going to change if he doesn`t do something. Though he doesn`t have much work, and he drinks too much in the evening, he goes to the campesino organizational meetings, because, you know, he just can`t see any way that things will be different for his children. He can`t see any other way.

Organizing is serious business. It doesn´t mean we can`t laugh, it`s just, when you see suffering, either you distance yourself from it, rationalize, analyze. Or you feel it, and then you have to do something about it. And then we work, in earnest, and save the cynicism for whatever`s on television.


At 1:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi guy ! i'll go in Cumana in july and i really want to talk with you or your friend about people from this place...
gracias amigo
(it's important)

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hola Angstrom... Long time no see!
Mi pana, your post just slapped me in da face: I've been somehow active in different activities recently: hospital clowning, direct action for Animal Rights, organizing things with GLBT community so I can help'em on the struggle so the Organic Law for Respect of gender and Sexual preference gets passed... and those groups are very different but have things in common: Creativity for Ironic Protest, conmitment and wealthy members... I happen to be the only one with working class background in one of 'em coño!
Man I guess you are right, Irony (my beloved Irony) is a display of the prievilege for those who have time and resources enough not to be dead-tired after spending 8hours plus commuting time in a job that sucks their lives, energies and hopes out of them so they can make a living... I recently finished reading We Are Everywhere, and I kept asking myself why those fantastic protests were so foreign to me or my society... Now I know, I am a privileged Bo-Bo! (as much as it hurts accepting it!) Anyway I am not clinically depressed and grassroots movements that are urgent to the people are directed by them: less ironic and more happy direct action like people :)
Un abrazo de tu hermano venezolano!
Leo Lameda

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous auelitaromo said...

AND, you have to live outside your own country, wander around in another language or two to understand these simple truths about self deprecating humor, irony and simple straightforward humor.

Isn't it delicious to have shoes/sapatos in two houses?? To have ears in two languages, to have a doubled over heart?

Thanks for writing to me on FB. Mercy's mom.


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