Hugo Chavez, saint or sinner?
What a stupid fucking question, admittedly I asked it myself, but lots of other people seem to be asking the same question, and they’re fucking stupid for doing so.
It’s centred on a totally false dichotomy, that leaders can only be heroes or villains. The truth is Chavez was somewhere between the two.
Chavez’s claims for sainthood are obvious, the man took power in a country that served a tiny white elite and used the oil revenues to transform the lives of the disenfranchised poor. His subsidised supermarkets, free medical care and cheap gas for the poor changed the lives of millions. When people attack the Chavistas for their die-hard support for Chavez they never stop to think how it must feel to go hungry, to have an illness go untended. When someone remedies that then you do tend to end up with a serious amount of affection for them.
Whilst Chavez is not without his faults there is a great deal of hypocrisy involved in attacks on Chavez from the west. Some people attack him for compromising the independence of the judiciary. Yet those same people seem to the ones cheering on Theresa May for her war on judges over the Human Rights Act. Others attack him for consorting with dictators, and I am not going to deny that the “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” adage is anything less than stomach-churning. But 192 other countries engage in exactly the same form of realpolitick. Cameron chums around the Communist heads of China, sells weapons to Saudi Arabia and offers support for Al Qaeda affiliated fighters in Syria. Blair backed Mubarak and Gaddafi, Thatcher’s record on giving succour to human rights abusing dictators – and if you want to know what a real Latin American dictator looks like try Augusto Pinochet – is well documented. Furthermore Chavez’s detractor’s claim he has concentrated power too much in the hands of the executive, they do so on the same day that Obama grants himself judge, jury and executioner of both US citizens and foreigners. It was against this sort of egregious abuse of the executive that Bradley Manning was reacting when he leaked sensitive US data to WikiLeaks, a crime for which he will be tried – without a jury – and likely receive a punishment ensuring he will never see the outside of a prison cell again. It is against this sort of thinking that Rand Paul’s filibuster in protest at Obama’s new drone policy is taking place.
Some on the conservative right have even had the cheek to criticise him for cracking down on the trade unions. I honestly don’t know how these people have the nerve. And more to the point why does no-one in the room call them on their bullshit? When some tweed-wearing, whiskered Lord Tufton Bufton starts complaining about Chavez’s battles with some sections of the organised labour movement how does no-one just scream at them, “COS YOU’RE SUCH A FUCKING FAN OF THE UNIONS AREN’T YOU? YOU’RE A REGULAR RED ROBBO YOU!” and slap the shit out of them? Though admittedly that sort of behaviour might not land you a job as an interviewer for Auntie Beeb or a Parliamentary Researcher for the Honourable Member for Little Bigot on Thames, or wherever it is Tories are bred.
However there is a flipside to this, just because your opponents are hypocritical doesn’t mean they’re wrong. My GP regularly tells me to lose weight, curb my drinking and give up the fags. The fact he’s a chubby, drunk smoker doesn’t mean his advice is any less medically sound. Should I find myself meeting my maker in twenty or thirty years’ time due to diabetes, emphysema or one of my patented “amazing drunken adventures” going awry it would be difficult for me to explain the I shouldn’t be at the Pearly Gates just yet because I was no worse than those that sort to criticise me for my falstaffian self-indulgence.
Chavez centralised power in his own hands, turned a blind eye to corruption and consorted with some fairly unpleasant people. All of those things are wrong. Just because he lifted people out of poverty does not change that fact. Just because those who are going after him now are guilty of just as bad themselves does not excuse that fact.
So what do we say about Chavez? Ultimately I think he was a force for good for the vast majority of the Venezuelan people, as seen by the huge electoral victories he won.
RIP Chavez, a flawed but decent bloke.
International Women’s Day.
March the 8th is the birthday of Cheryl Baker, Gary Numan, Kat Von D and James van der Beek (facts that I knew myself and definitely didn’t Wikipedia) but it is also International Women’s Day. Personally I am in two minds about International Women’s Day. I’m certainly not one of those morons who goes “There’d be uproar if there was an International Men’s Day” or some odious shit like that, though you can check out Twitter for a host of entitled shitgibbons saying just that if you like. These same people will pop up at other times of the year and say things like “Black Policeman’s Federation, imagine if there was a White Policeman’s Federation” and “Wonder if the council would pay for a straight pride march?” and the only acceptable thing to do with these people is jab them in the eye with a fork. The most egregious of these comments is always, “If there’s a MOBOs award there should be a MOWOs award” because that shows that the person in question is not only an entitled idiot that is unable to understand how privileged they are in that there has never been a sufficient campaign of hatred against people like them to necessitate organisations which exist to provide a way of celebrating minority achievements. But worst still it shows that they think there should be another award that can be won by fucking Mumford and Sons.
In fact my main complaint with IWD (as I shall now call it to save my fingers) is that it seems like such a small thing. People get angry that women own a mere 1% of the world’s wealth yet seem to not be similarly bothered they own one three hundred and sixtyfifth of the Gregorian calendar. That means women – Joan D’Arc, Debbie Harry, my mum, Jane Austen, the lead singer from Blondie, Golda Meier, Madonna, Boudicca and whoever it was that sang One Way Or Another – are deemed by calendars to be as worthwhile as people that talk like a pirate, a number of people which has year on year been steadily decreasing since the 17th Century. (Though admittedly there has been an upsurge since the breakdown of Government in Somalia has led to the destruction of the fish stocks and dumping of nuclear waste which had previously fed their people forcing some into hostage-taking as a means of making a living.) But whilst it’s not a perfect state of affairs that the world’s 3billion plus women are considered no more important than deceased Cornish actor Robert Newton, it is certainly better than nothing.
So what should we do with this important day? If you’re a boss of a multinational corporation you could try paying men and women the same wages, just for today as a bit of an experiment. If you live near Seth McFarlane you could punch him in his smug face for his lazy, hackish, misogynist turn at the Oscars. If you write for the website “UniLad” you could try not advocating sexual violence against women and describing inebriated teenage girls as “vulnerable”. If you fancy a doing a bit of AgitProp you could wear a purple and green sash, wave a Votes for Women placard and pour a Findus Lasagne over your head to recreate the tragic demise of Suffragette martyr Emily Davison; a woman that before meeting an early end at the hooves of the King’s horse at the Grand National is believed to have played a part in blowing up David Lloyd George’s house.
If you want some better suggestions then I would suggest reading blogs on the subject by Sarah McAlpine, Laurie Penny, Ellie Mae O’Hagan and a host of other excellent female writers whose conciousness raising polemics I have personally benefitted from in enabling to see the world outside my narrow window of privelege.
Personally I will be listening to Riot Grrl! groups all day. If you’d like to join me and you’re not acquainted with the genre may I suggest starting with the brilliant Bikini Kill, particularly Rebel Girl from the album Pussy Whipped which I am listening to as I type these very words.
However you choose to spend this IWD understand it for what it is; a very small attempt to balance society slightly more in favour of a group that is still demonised, objectified, harassed, besmirched, belittled and ignored.